*The following list is based solely on future fantasy value projected for each player during the prime years of their career. Defense is not taken into account whatsoever in this list. Comps are based on who a player will profile most comparable to during the prime years of their career in terms of fantasy value. Prospect value is based on a mix of future fantasy value along with how soon they will be contributing to fantasy teams.
1) Oscar Taveras – The Cardinals top prospect was a non-drafted free agent signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2008. The Cardinals knew they had a talented player on their hands when they signed Taveras, but he made a name for himself in 2012 and became a top prospect by hitting .321 with 23 HR’s in Double-A while being just 20 years old. The outfielder started the 2013 season off well, earning a selection to the Future’s Game. But in August Taveras elected to have surgery on his hurting ankle, which put him on the shelf for the rest of the year. Without the injury, the Cardinals might have been tempted to bring Taveras up to play the outfield alongside Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran to finish the year. Beltran is a free-agent now, opening up another starting spot in the outfield for the Cardinals next year if the ball club chooses not to resign him. Taveras is expected to be completely healed and ready to play to start the 2014 season. If Taveras doesn’t start the season in Busch Stadium, expect him to arrive there shortly.
Future Fantasy Comp: Troy Tulowitzki
2) Gregory Polanco – This outfield prospect was another non-drafted free agent signing out of the Dominican Republic by the Pittsburg Pirates in 2009. Polanco started the 2013 season in the High-A Florida State League, was promoted midway through the year to the Double-A Eastern League, and then finished the season in the Triple-A International League playoffs. He combined to hit for a .285 BA, 12 HR’s, 71 RBI’s, 66 R’s, and 38 SB’s in 2013. Not bad work for the blue chip OF prospect. And to top that off, he is currently swinging a hot bat in the Dominican League. The organization started to give Polanco starts in RF in the minors for the first time towards the end of August. Many thought this move was made in order to get him ready to bring up to the majors for the Pirates playoff stretch run. But a few days later, the Pirates traded for Marlon Byrd, which allowed them the luxury of not rushing Polanco up. Take it as a good sign that the Pirates think their top prospect is ready for his call to the show. Polanco should get his call sometime during the 2014 season, and he has an outside chance of starting the season with the big league club.
Future Fantasy Comp: Carlos Gomez
3) Jorge Soler – In 2012, the Cubs signed Soler to a 9 year $30 million dollar contract. He began his baseball career in America after having a long layoff of not playing the sport for almost 2 years. Soler quickly demonstrated his amazing raw power and decent speed during his debut in the minors. The Cuban prospect uses his strength to generate great bat speed, which is translated into immense power. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus wrote," In the 2011 draft, Soler could have been a top ten pick. In the 2012 draft, he certainly would have been among the top eight, and likely top five." In 2013, Soler started off strong, earning a trip to the Future’s Game, but then suffered a stress fracture to his left tibia that caused the young prospect to miss the game and the rest of the minor league season. He has since returned from injury and is currently playing well in the Arizona Fall League. Soler is just one more blue chip prospect in the Cub’s loaded farm system.
Future Fantasy Comp: Nelson Cruz
4) Albert Almora – The 2nd Cubs prospect on this list was selected with the 6th overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft. The Cubs drafted Almora on June 4th, and then signed Jorge Soler later that month. In a span of just a few weeks, the Cubs were able to assemble 2/3 of their outfield of the future. Almora was named USA Baseball’s 2011 Athlete of the Year. John Sickels recently ranked Almora the #22 overall prospect in baseball. Part of the reason he gets ranked so highly on prospect lists is due to his superior defense. But Almora can also rake, using his quick bat speed as he continues to develop into an outstanding hitter. So far during his minor league career, Almora hit .321 in 2012 after signing, then batted .329 in 2013. The 19 year-old is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League alongside teammates Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler, holding his own against some of the other top prospects in baseball. Reinaldo Albert Almora looks like the future CF and top of the order hitter for a Cubs organization that has a very bright future on the horizon.
Future Fantasy Comp: Shin-Soo Choo
5) Joc Pederson – When the Dodgers were looking for help at the 2013 trade deadline, Pederson was the guy other teams were asking for. This OF prospect has shown a nice mix of power and speed in the minors. The Venezuelan hit .278 with 22 HR’s and 31 SB’s in the Double-A Southern League this year. Pederson played in the Arizona Fall League last year and was named an AFL Rising Star. He is currently playing well in the Venezuelan Winter League. With all of the outfielders already on the roster, it will be interesting to see if the Dodgers will eventually make room for their top OF prospect, or if Pederson will be used as a trade chip. He should be capable of contributing decent HR totals, along with healthy stolen base totals. Pederson could become the type of hitter that provides a HR/SB combo that fantasy owners covet.
Future Fantasy Comp: Shane Victorino
6) Billy Hamilton – The Cincinnati Reds speedy prospect made his debut towards the end of the 2013 season. Hamilton was used mostly as a pinch runner in high pressure situations, and he delivered with a SB almost every time. In 13 games, the outfield prospect was 13 for 14 in SB opportunities. He only accumulated 19 AB’s, so the .368 BA is too small a sample size to put much stock into. I believe the batting average will determine how much fantasy value we can expect to place on Hamilton in the future. We know he can steal bases, but what he can’t do is steal first base. The difference between batting .235 and .290 in the majors could result in the difference between stealing 40 and 100 bases for Hamilton. Most likely, the Reds will let Shin-Soo Choo walk and give the CF job to Hamilton to start the 2014 season. This outfield prospect has a wide range of possible outcomes, but he should be an exciting story to follow in 2014.
Future Fantasy Comp: Juan Pierre
Honorable Mention: Austin Meadows (PIT), Hunter Renfroe (SD), Rymer Liriano (SD), Phillip Ervin (CIN), David Dahl (COL).
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