For Major League Baseball owners, trying to win now is only part of their jobs. Owners make an investment in a team because they want a long term return. That means that another part of their job is looking to the future. They have to make sure that their team is able to win over a long period of time. Winning over a long period of time usually results in more fans, more passionate fans and a lot more money.
It’s easy to get lost in the numbers. Many prospect lists look only at statistics. Which players have the best batting average? Which players have the best ERA? Those aren’t the only things to look at. Players need to be evaluated on how they can most benefit their team.
For example, if the Yankees had a great shortstop prospect seven years ago, he shouldn't be ranked very high. The reason is because they already had a future Hall of Fame shortstop in Derek Jeter. But next year, they’ll need a great shortstop. If that same great prospect were to come along now, he’d be more valuable to his team and be able to make a bigger impact.
Because of this, teams spend a lot of time looking at and evaluating the prospects in their minor league systems. Prospects are a very important part of any good and profitable baseball franchise.
Let’s look at this years top 10 minor league prospects in Major League Baseball.
10 Francisco Lindor - Cleveland Indians
Francisco Lindor was drafted in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft. He attended Montverde High School in Montverde, FL. Lindor doesn't have amazing hitting numbers, but they’re good and consistent. Some would argue that he could be the best defensive player in the minors. That is what the Indians are looking at in Lindor. He also has explosive speed at the plate.
His ability to be a team leader is already showing through. The timing of Lindor may end up being perfect for the Indians. They lack a young shortstop who could hold the position for many years to come. By the time he’s ready to move up, it would be easy for the Indians to make room.
9 Kris Bryant - Chicago Cubs
Kris Bryant was selected as the number two overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs drafted Bryant out of the University of San Diego for his pure power hitting ability. According to Bryant, he starting hitting home runs at the age of eight. With last year split between college baseball and minor league baseball, Bryant hit a total of 40 home runs over 118 games. There’s no doubt that he has the ability to make it to Chicago.
The questions surrounding Bryant will be about his strikeouts and his position. Bryant has a lot of power, but he also has a lot of strikeout potential. The Cubs will need to make sure he has patience before they bring him up. He also is currently playing third base.
Between Bryant and Javier Baez, the Cubs will have to decide who will develop best at which positions. There’s no doubt that Bryant will make his debut sooner rather than later.
8 Carlos Correa - Houston Astros
Calos Correa comes from Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico. He was drafted as the number one overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft by the Houston Astros. He currently is playing shortstop, but there is speculation that he could develop into another position before he makes his way to Houston.
Correa didn't hold back last season. He finished the season with a .320 batting average, 86 RBI and he added 10 stolen bases to that list. Those are pretty good numbers. They’re even better when you consider that he was only 18 years old at the beginning of last season. There’s no doubt that he will develop into a great player. The only question is when.
7 Gregory Polanco - Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Polanco to a minor league contract in 2012. Polanco comes from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Polanco has shown great ability and consistency all around. Polanco is a center fielder who is able to offer both power and speed. That’s a great combination that’s hard to find. Many players excel at one or the other. Polanco excels at both.
The Pirates could bring Polanco up to Pittsburgh now. The problem is that Andrew McCutchen is already filling the position of center fielder and is doing so at an All-Star rate. If Polanco is willing and able to switch to Right Field, then he could see some time on the major league field this season. Expect to see him in some capacity next season at the latest.
6 Addison Russell - Oakland Athletics
In the first round of the 2012 MLB draft, the Oakland Athletics selected Addison Russell. Russell is an extremely athletic shortstop. His speed and athleticism allows him to play at any level. His hitting statistics don’t seem overly impressive yet, but he does shows solid consistency at the plate. That is something that the Athletics are in desperate need of.
Russell's true strength comes in his fielding. His speed and agility raise him above many other shortstops. Russell most likely won’t see playing time in Oakland until next season, but he offers the team a bring future right where they need it.
5 Noah Snydegaard - New York Mets
The New York Mets traded R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012. One of the prospects that the Mets received in the deal was Noah Snydegaard. Now Synegaard is the top prospect in their system. His natural strength and stature gives him an advantage over most hitters. He is 6’6” and 240 lbs, that’s mostly muscle. His fastball comes across the plate at a blazing 98 mph.
His pitching fits exactly what the Mets need. He will more than likely see playing time in New York this year. The Mets might hold him back part of the year for contract reasons, but expect to see him in the starting rotation, or at least the bullpen, by the end of this season
4 Javier Baez - Chicago Cubs
Javier Baez is another player who joined professional baseball out of High School. He graduated from Arlington County Day School in Jacksonville, FL. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the first round of 2011. Baez has the offensive power to produce in the major leagues very soon. He hit a monster 37 home runs last season with 111 RBI in A and AA ball. That makes him one of the top offensive producers in all minor leagues.
There are two hurdles in his way. First of all, he needs to develop his fielding. Many argue that he commits too many errors. The second hurdle is Starlin Castro. Baez is currently a shortstop in the Cubs system. If he wants to speed his way to the majors and help his team, he will have to learn third base or second base. Those are both positions that will likely be open in the future.
3 Archie Bradley - Arizona Diamondbacks
Archie Bradley is a stellar right handed pitcher. The Arizona Diamondbacks drafted him in the first round of the 2011 draft. He pitched in college for the University of Oklahoma where he grabbed the attention fans and scouts.
Bradley is the top pitching prospect in all of major league baseball. He’s earned this by being able to pitch well at every level. Last year he gathered 14 wins and had an ERA of only 1.84. With those numbers, it won’t be long before he makes his major league debut.
The fact that the Diamondbacks are in need of quality young pitchers helps Bradley. His skills are a great match for the Diamondbacks needs. That should make his rise to the big leagues even faster. It wouldn't be surprising to see him pitching in Arizona by the end of this season.
2 Oscar Taveras - St. Louis Cardinals
Oscar Taveras has been a solid prospect for a few years for St. Louis. His career batting average in the minors is .320 and he’s finished almost every season over .300. That’s the type of consistency that any baseball team would love to have in their system. His natural ability has been matched with the spectacular development of the Cardinals farm system. He has been able to produce numbers every season.
The downside to Taveras is injury. He’s had multiple injuries including an injury requiring surgery last year. That has slowed his progress to St. Louis, however, the Cardinals are still investing in this future big league player. As long as he stays healthy he will be a great asset at the plate.
1 Byron Buxton - Minnesota Twins
Byron Buxton is without a doubt the number one prospect in the minor league. He is performing well everywhere he goes and in every situation. Buxton comes from Baxley Georgia where he played baseball for Appling County High School. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 2012 and was the second pick overall.
Some players don’t respond well to all the hype surrounding them but Buxton seems to be feeding off it. His numbers from the minor leagues only tell part of the story. He finished last season with a solid .334 batting average, 12 home runs and 77 RBI. Add that to his pure athleticism and speed and you have the makings of a future star.