Pipeline Inbox: Taveras could be tops in 2014
Cardinals outfielder most likely to make biggest impact in Majors
We're introducing a new feature at MLB Pipeline. Welcome to the Pipeline Inbox, where each week prospect and Draft experts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo will take turns answering your questions.
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Jim will take your questions this week. Let's get to the inaugural edition of the Pipeline Inbox:
Which player will have the bigger impact in the Major Leagues next season: Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Twins third baseman Miguel Sano or Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras?
-- Nick S., Topeka, Kan.
After Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, the next-best batting prospects in the game are Bogaerts, Sano and Taveras. As 20-year-olds in the upper levels, Bogaerts (.297/388/.477, 15 homers) and Sano (.280/.382/.610, 35 homers) had two of the best Minor League performances this year. Taveras, also 20, played in just 46 Triple-A games, batting .310/.348/.471 before sustaining a right ankle injury that required surgery in August.
Of the three, I think Taveras will have the best big league performance in 2014. He's the best pure hitter in the Minors, so he's a better bet to produce immediately than Bogaerts or Sano, and Taveras will have the clearest opportunity for regular playing time.
Assuming Carlos Beltran departs St. Louis as a free agent and Taveras' ankle heals as expected, Taveras should be the Cardinals' regular right fielder in 2014. The Red Sox could turn to Bogaerts if they let Stephen Drew leave as a free agent, but that's not definite. The Twins aren't going to contend next year, so it would make sense to give Sano some time in Triple-A before calling him up.
Where would Pirates right-hander Tyler Glasnow rank if he were eligible for the 2014 Draft?
-- Andrew R., Pittsburgh
A fifth-round pick from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Glasnow had one of the most impressive breakthrough seasons in the Minors this year. His 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings and .142 opponents average easily would have led the Minor Leagues if he had the required 112 innings to qualify (he had 111 1/3). Glasnow's control and command are still works in progress, but his mid-90s fastball and his hard curveball seem allergic to bats.
If Glasnow hadn't signed for an above-slot $600,000 two years ago, he would have attended Portland and been eligible for the 2014 Draft as a junior. Given his size (6-foot-7, 195 pounds) and stuff, and assuming his dominant 2013 performance would have translated even more dramatically to the college level, I believe he'd project as a top-10 overall pick next June. There are some similarities between Glasnow and Vanderbilt right-hander Tyler Beede, who will go in that range next year.
Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez got promoted to Double-A for the final month of the season, but he seems to be losing the love of prospect evaluators. Is it his defense? The old attitude concerns? Not the bat?
-- Stephen P., Windsor, Mass.
Like most of the Yankees' top prospects, Sanchez had a decent, but not overwhelming season. He batted .253/.324/.412 with 15 homers in 117 games, mostly in high Class A, and while he had some receiving issues (13 passed balls in 96 games behind the plate), he did throw out 44 percent of basestealers.
Sanchez is still just 20, and he still ranks as one of the top catching prospects currently in the Minors, perhaps even the best. I think it's more a case of evaluators wanting to see more production out of him than truly souring on him. Sanchez has well above-average arm strength and raw power, but he needs to show more consistency with his throws and his approach at the plate.
Who's the under-the-radar Astros prospect whom nobody is talking about but will be soon?
-- Sean F., San Francisco
For "under the radar," I'm going to consider anyone who doesn't rank among MLBPipeline's top 10 Astros prospects. Using that criteria, I'll give you one hitter and one pitcher: third baseman Rio Ruiz and left-hander Josh Hader.
Ruiz signed for $1.85 million as a fourth-round pick in 2012 and might have been a first-rounder had a blood clot in his neck not truncated his senior season at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, Calif. He hit .260/.335/.430 with 12 homers as a 19-year-old in low Class A this season, and he has the bat speed and strength to grow into above-average power. Ruiz will need to improve defensively, but he should stick at the hot corner.
The Orioles stole Hader in the 19th round of the 2012 Draft before shipping him to Houston as part of the Bud Norris trade in July. There's still a ton of projection remaining in the 19-year-old's 6-foot-3, 160-pound frame, and he already can hit 95 mph with his fastball. Hader's slider and changeup could give him two more solid pitches, and he has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter.
If first baseman Rowdy Tellez supposedly had the best left-handed power in the 2013 Draft, and the Blue Jays were willing to give him second-round money ($850,000), why didn't he get taken in the second round, rather than in the 30th?
-- Joe M., Toronto
The ratio of importance of signability vs. ability is much higher in the baseball Draft than in any other sport. With the rules that have come into play the last two years with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams get a set amount of money to spend on the Draft and face severe Draft-pick penalties if they exceed that total by more than 5 percent. As a result, more than ever, clubs try to pin down draftees on what it will take to sign them.
Tellez had expectations of going in the middle of the second round, and when that didn't happen, he didn't lower his asking price. If a player doesn't sign in the first 10 rounds, the team that selects him loses his pick's assigned value from its allocated bonus pool. No club decided to risk taking Tellez early and not getting a deal done, so he plummeted to the 30th round.
The Blue Jays signed several players for less than their assigned value in the first 10 rounds, leaving enough money to give Tellez $850,000 and blow past the $100,000 limit for players taken in rounds 11-40. (They also signed 11th-round left-hander Jake Brentz for $700,000.) Tellez was a legitimate second-round talent with tremendous power, which he displayed by besting No. 5 overall pick Clint Frazier (Indians) in the home run derby at the 2012 Perfect Game National Showcase.
Supposedly, the White Sox system's strength is outfield depth. But their top outfield prospects (Courtney Hawkins, Trayce Thompson, Brandon Jacobs, Jared Mitchell) all seem to have taken a step back this season, just like the Major League team has. How soon should White Sox fans expect to see any of them on the big league club?
-- Jonathan J., Bolingbrook, Ill.
Outfielders do stand out the most among White Sox farmhands, but that's one of the thinnest systems in baseball. As Jonathan noted, Hawkins (.633 OPS, 160 strikeouts in 383 at-bats), Thompson (.704 OPS, 139 K in 507 AB), Jacobs (.727 OPS, 140 K in 455 AB) and Mitchell (.555 OPS, 123 K in 300 AB) all had rough seasons.
All four of them probably would be best served by returning to the level where they finished 2013, which would mean high Class A for Hawkins and Double-A for the other three. The closest to the big leagues at this point is Thompson, a center/right fielder with solid or better tools across the board. If he can make more consistent contact, I could see him reaching U.S. Cellular Field by the end of 2014.