Which Prospects Will Be Debuting Next, Not-so-distant Opening Day?

Here is how far we are from Major League Baseball’s Opening Night:

  • 4 months, 10 days
  • 18 weeks
  • 130 days
  • 3,120 hours
  • 187,200 minutes
  • 11,232,000 seconds

So, yeah, we’ve got some time. But I can’t wait. Can you?

I’m already wondering which members of MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects will make their first Opening Day roster next spring. Here are some guys you’d think would be in the mix, depending of course on injuries/trades/free-agency signings that will happen over the next 11,232,000 (OK, make that 11,231,999) seconds. As we do in our annual prospects-ready-for-the-show piece, which I wrote last year, we are including players who have made their MLB debut but haven’t accrued enough service time to lose their status as a prospect. The Minor Leaguers below with zero MLB service time are in italics.

  1. SS Jurickson Profar — Rangers
  2. SP Dylan Bundy — Orioles
  3. OF Wil Myers — Royals
  4. SP Trevor Bauer — D-backs
  5. SP Zack Wheeler — Mets
  6. SP Gerrit Cole — Pirates
  7. SP Tyler Skaggs — D-backs
  8. IF/OF Mike Olt — Rangers
  9. SP Shelby Miller — Cardinals
  10. SP Julio Teheran — Braves
  11. IF Nick Franklin — Mariners
  12. SP Jake Odorizzi — Royals
  13. SP Martin Perez — Rangers
  14. SP Tony Cingrani — Reds
  15. SP Casey Kelly — Padres
  16. OF Brett Jackson — Cubs
  17. 3B Jedd Gyorko — Padres
  18. OF Bryce Brentz — Red Sox
  19. SP Jarred Cosart — Astros
  20. SP Dan Straily — A’s
  21. SP Chris Archer — Rays
  22. SP Tyler Thornburg — Brewers
  23. SP Wily Peralta — Brewers
  24. SP Jeurys Familia — Mets
  25. IF Grant Green — A’s

Twenty-five top prospects (eight of them with 0.00 MLB service time) could begin next April in the Majors … so what? Why am I bring this up now 11,231,999 (OK, make that 11,231,998) seconds before it matters?

Here’s why: When I wrote last year’s prospects-ready-for-the-show piece, we included a crop of nine ballplayers who were selected to Opening Day rosters — nine. (And that was including guys like Drew Smyly and Drew Pomeranz, who were awarded rotation spots but didn’t officially make the Opening Day club because it didn’t need a No. 5 starting pitcher to begin the season.)

Yep, just nine. That’s 16 more than the 25 candidates I have above. And while a bunch of them won’t make the jump right away (Jurickson Profar and Dylan Bundy will very likely get more seasoning at the Minors’ higher levels), I would argue that at least 17 of the guys above are strong bets to do so. Here would be my most-likely-to-get-the-call 17:

  1. OF Wil Myers — Royals
  2. SP Trevor Bauer — D-backs
  3. SP Zack Wheeler — Mets
  4. SP Tyler Skaggs — D-backs
  5. IF/OF Mike Olt — Rangers
  6. SP Shelby Miller — Cardinals
  7. SP Julio Teheran — Braves
  8. SP Jake Odorizzi — Royals
  9. SP Martin Perez — Rangers
  10. OF Brett Jackson — Cubs
  11. 3B Jedd Gyorko — Padres
  12. SP Jarred Cosart — Astros
  13. SP Dan Straily — A’s
  14. SP Chris Archer — Rays
  15. SP Tyler Thornburg — Brewers
  16. SP Wily Peralta — Brewers
  17. IF Grant Green — A’s

So 17 is still quite a bit more than nine.

And while we’re at it, I’d like to review how I predicted the seasons of the nine Opening Day prospects in 2011. All the results (and statistics) are in, so I’ll let you decide for yourself how accurate my best-versus-worst-case-scenario forecast played out in reality. Direct from the article:

Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Best Case: MLB.com’s No. 1 prospect begins and ends the season as the Majors’ best No. 4 starter in the Majors’ best rotation. The lefty proves that his seven innings of two-hit ball opposite the Texas Rangers in the 2011 American League Division Series was merely a preview. He receives most of the AL Rookie of the Year votes and even steals a few in the Cy Young Award race from teammates David Price and Jeremy Hellickson. They forgive him.
Worst Case: Moore’s fastball straightens out, allowing batters to ignore his unhittable curveball. The 22-year-old hits a wall, is replaced on the staff by Wade Davis and finds himself back at Triple-A Durham looking for answers. He reaches his innings limit, in the range of 175, before he figures things out in time to help the Rays toward another postseason push.

Jesus Montero, C, Seattle Mariners
Best Case: MLB.com’s No. 12 prospect sprays the ball all over the field from day one, making M’s fans forget Michael Pineda (the pitcher he was traded for) and remember designated hitter Edgar Martinez (the slugger he emulates with every swing). Montero’s .328/.406/.590 marks in 19 games as a Yankee in 2011 descend slightly in 2012 because of two inevitable variables: Playing at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field and without much support in the lineup. But Seattle couldn’t be happier with its offseason acquisition, especially because Montero, 22, stays healthy and behind home plate.
Worst Case: Montero struggles with the bat in his new environs and is shuttled back and forth between the catcher and designated hitter roles, leaving him — and his starting pitchers — in a tailspin. Questions about attitude and work ethic that were raised behind the scenes in New York are asked front and center in Seattle. Oh, and Pineda exits the 15-day disabled list and approaches 20 wins for the Yanks as buyer’s remorse sets in.

Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds
Best Case: MLB.com’s No. 14 prospect shows why former fellow Reds catching prospect Yasmani Grandal was expendable in the Mat Latos trade. Plugged into a lineup featuring Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce, Mesoraco feels little pressure to produce … so he does. Many of his would-be two-baggers at Triple-A Louisville become home runs at Great American Ballpark. By July, the 23-year-old assumes full-time catching duties, relegating incumbent Ryan Hanigan to a backup role. He still receives plenty of days off as manager Dusty Baker looks to preserve his backstop of the future for the future.
Worst Case: Splitting time behind home plate stunts Mesoraco’s growth defensively. Plus with too many days between starts, he sputters offensively. Baker sees the hitter who batted .180 in his first 18 big league games rather than the hitter who batted .289 in his last 120 Minor League contests. Mesoraco stays in the bigs, contributes occasionally on a playoff team (remember, there are two Wild Card teams) but fails to emerge in the fashion many Cincinnati fans expected.

Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Colorado Rockies
Best Case: MLB.com’s No. 24 prospect wins more games than the man he was traded for (Ubaldo Jimenez, Cleveland Indians) despite working half the time from his home office (Coors Field). His nasty curveball helps his cause. He dominates National League West lineups in his first go-around through the division and stays ahead of the competition until he reaches a career-high 150 innings. He and Moore make sure pitchers sweep the two leagues’ Rookie of the Year honors.
Worst Case: The 6-foot-5-inch, 240-pound hurler spends more time on the disabled list than on the mound. (He missed 11 days in Spring Training due to a “strained right glute muscle.”) When his health returns, his command does not. Left-handed hitters still don’t have a prayer against him, but righties are timing his fastball and doing enough with his curve to get into Colorado’s bullpen by the fifth and sixth innings of his many so-so starts. The Rox still have a top-of-the-rotation anchor for years to come, but the club’s decision-makers regret not handing his roster spot to a right-hander: Tyler Chatwood or Guillermo Moscoso.

Yonder Alonso, 1B, San Diego Padres
Best Case: MLB.com’s No. 38 prospect does what Anthony Rizzo could not: Bat .300 at Petco Park. He collects twice as many doubles as he does homers — and surprising some, eclipses 20 in the latter category — while becoming the best RBI man on a team sorely lacking RBI men. His Rookie of the Year campaign falls just short, but an MVP award in future years seems possible, if not probable.
Worst Case: Alonso does what Anthony Rizzo could not: Bat .280 at Petco Park. But his sub-.450 slugging percentage leaves Padres exec Josh Byrnes and company wondering just how valuable a singles-hitting, average-fielding first baseman can be. Friars fans hoping for the next best Adrian Gonzalez are left with a player sharing instead the worst qualities of alumni Wally Joyner and Ryan Klesko.

Randall Delgado, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Best Case: MLB.com’s No. 41 prospect pitches so well in his first three or four starts that when veteran Tim Hudson returns from injury, the Braves’ front office has to make a move and deals from its greatest position of depth. At 22, the Panamanian officially arrives. While he doesn’t have quite the ace potential of the man he bested in March, MLB.com No. 4 prospect Julio Teheran, Delgado shows off improved command and less susceptibility to the longball. He approaches 200 innings with ease, aiding Atlanta toward an National League East Division title.
Worst Case: Delgado’s Spring Training struggles carry over into the season. He takes the ball three times before Hudson’s expected return boots him back to Gwinnett, where he completes his first full season at Triple-A. The Braves, teeming with starting pitching, are no worse for the wear and neither is Delgado, who refines his game until he’s called back to help the club (perhaps as a reliever) coast into the postseason. The only possible regret is not giving those three April starts to Teheran, who unlike Delgado, could have used the opportunity as a springboard to sustained success.

Wilin Rosario, C, Colorado Rockies
Best Case: MLB.com’s No. 63 prospect begins the season backing up veteran Ramon Hernandez but is thrust into an everyday role — or nearly everyday role, for he is a catcher — when Rox manager Jim Tracy realizes he can ill-afford to write out a lineup without Rosario’s name on it. His gaudy Spring Training stats — the numbers that allowed him to force his way onto the Opening Day roster — taper off considerably, but he’s a complementary slugger to the Troy Tulowitzi-Carlos Gonzalez duo at Coors Field. Though he doesn’t have Hernandez’s experience behind home plate, he is helped by his familiarity with fellow first-year big leaguer Pomeranz (above) and fellow Dominican Juan Nicasio. He learns the rest as he goes along.
Worst Case: Those gaudy Spring Training stats? They prove to be a virtual Arizona mirage. Rosario hovers just above the Mendoza Line — he batted .204 in his first 16 big league games in 2011 — and the defensive flaws Tracy thought were fixed reappear as the games start to count. Rosario plays a game or two a week, pinch-hits occasionally but his development is disturbed. The 23-year-old is sent to nearby Colorado Springs, where he should have been on April 1.

Drew Smyly, LHP, Detroit Tigers
Best Case: MLB.com’s No. 82 prospect makes 30-plus starts and records a sub-4.00 ERA as the lone lefty in the Tigers’ able stable of hurlers. His cutter cuts, his curveball curves and an impressive differential between his fastball and changeup helps keep hitters off balance. Thanks to his presence in an already strong Detroit rotation — and the offseason addition of one Prince Fielder — the AL Central is the first division to crown its winner.
Worst Case: Like his first pro season in 2011 split between Class A Advanced Lakeland and Double-A Erie, Smyly throws strikes. Lots of strikes. Without Verlander- or even Scherzer-type stuff, however, Smyly doesn’t get away with much, lengthening his learning curve. Whether it’s because he gets hit around, or worse, his old elbow injuries resurface, the 22-year-old finds himself at Triple-A Toledo before his 23rd birthday in June. Detroit lives to regret not picking runners-up Duane Below, Andy Oliver or Jacob Turner to round out the rotation.

Addison Reed, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Best Case: MLB.com’s No. 99 prospect begins the 2012 season how he finished 2011: By blazing fastballs and breaking sliders past big league hitters. The 23-year-old right-hander who earned four separate promotions last year earns a fifth by June when first-year skipper Robin Ventura picks the closer he wants to grow old with. Reed doesn’t disappoint, saving the few games the middling Sox are in a position to win.
Worst Case: Reed learns that striking out Major Leaguers is more difficult than their Minor League counterparts, at least on a consistent basis. His mid-90-mph heater ends up in the outfield seats more often than he and Ventura would like. Chicago remains a club without a reliable ninth-inning option (apologies to veteran lefty Matt Thornton), and Reed returns to the Minors for more seasoning at Triple-A Charlotte. Ventura counts the days he’s gone.


Yasiel Puig getting no love on here? Is that because the Dodgers are loaded in the OF, or is it because he needs time developing. I know he only played 22 games in the minors, but maybe by the end of the year he could be ready in the case of injury? Just maybe… after all he is making 6 million a year.

Puig was left off because he’s only played as high as Class A Advanced and the Dodgers won’t necessarily be in a hurry to bring him to the bigs. I would expect him to be in the Majors by 2014, but ’13 might be pushing it.

Good stuff. Great research. You know your prospects!

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