It’s that time of year again, when pitchers and catchers report to Arizona and Florida for spring training and baseball fans get ready for their fantasy baseball drafts.
And that means reacquainting yourself with the top prospects in the minor leagues. Here are 10 guys to keep a close eye on when the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues get underway:
Mark Appel, SP, Houston Astros:
2013: 3-1, 3.79 ERA, 38 IP, 33 SO, 1.18 WHIP
The 2013 No. 1 overall pick needs a little more seasoning in the minors, but the Stanford product could be on the fast-track to Houston if he dominates minor league hitters during the first half of the season.
Archie Bradley, SP, Diamondbacks:
2013: 14-5, 1.84 ERA, 152 IP, 162 SO, 1.21 WHIP
Bradley, arguably the best pitching prospect in baseball, will likely start the year in the minors due to a crowded Diamondbacks rotation, but could be first in line if one of Arizona’s starters falters or gets injured. Think of Sonny Gray and Michael Wacha from last year.
Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs:
2013: .336/.390/.688, 14 2B, 9 HR, 32 RBI
After tearing up High-A pitching, the Cubs sent Bryant to the Arizona Fall League where he continued crushing the ball. He hit .364 with six home runs in 20 AFL games. The Cubs are expected to send Bryant to Double-A to begin the season, but he may not stay there long.
[RELATED: Cubs Prospect Watch: Bryant ignores the hype]
Byron Buxton, CF, Minnesota Twins:
2013: .334/.424/.520, 19 2B, 18 3B, 12 HR, 77 RBI, 55 SB
Widely consider the top prospect in baseball, Buxton doesn’t have much standing in his way. Alex Presley and Aaron Hicks will compete for the Twins’ center field job, but Buxton could steal it with a strong showing this spring.
Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers:
2013 (Minors): .276/.343/.450, 37 2B, 18, HR, 76 RBI, 54 BB
2013 (Majors): .278 (5-for-18)
Castellanos has been blocked at third base by Miguel Cabrera the last two years. But with Prince Fielder gone, Cabrera is moving back to first base, opening the door for Castellanos to play every day.
Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks:
2013 (Minors): .330/.359/.482, 31 2B, 8 3B, 12 HR, 81 RBI, 20 SB
2013 (Majors): .291/.361/.382, 5 2B, 5 RBI
With Didi Gregorius’ struggles in 2013, Owings got a brief chance in September, hitting five doubles in 20 games. The two will compete for the starting job, but the there's a good chance the 22-year-old Owings gets the job to start the year.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates:
2013: .285/.356/.434, 30 2B, 12 HR, 71 RBI, 38 SB
If the Pirates didn’t have MVP Andrew McCutchen in center field, Polanco might be their center fielder of the future. He’ll probably have to settle for right fielder of the future. All he has to do is outperform Jose Tabata this spring.
Addison Russell, SS, Oakland A’s:
2013: .269/.369/.495, 29 2B, 10 3B, 17 HR, 60 RBI, 21 SB
Everyone is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Russell. But don’t expect Russell to break camp with the A’s. And his only chance of an early season call-up is an injury to Jed Lowrie or an ineffective second base platoon.
George Springer, OF, Houston Astros:
2013: .303/.411/.600, 27 2B, 4 3B, 37 HR, 108 RBI, 83 BB, 45 SB
If Springer didn’t strike out so much (161 SO in 2013), he’d be more highly thought of. But his combination of power and speed makes him extremely attractive. A good spring could land him in right field in Houston on opening day.
[RELATED: Astros farm system ranked No. 1]
Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals:
2013: .310/.348/.471, 13 2B, 5 HR, 32 RBI
Injuries derailed Taveras’ 2013 season. But he’s likely to get a chance to compete for the starting right field or fourth outfielder job this spring with the departure of Carlos Beltran.
[RELATED: Taveras feels ‘100 percent’]