The finishing touches of the 2013 Minor League season are being applied right now, with the playoffs just about wrapped up. That means it's the perfect time to review which prospects stood out the most over the course of the season, even if some of them are still playing currently in the big leagues.
Who were the top performers in the prospect world in 2013? Jim Callis and I have picked our "All-Prospect Teams" -- one player for each position -- as well as the top overall position player and pitcher. We've also chosen the prospects we think made the biggest jumps on the prospect landscape, those whose stock fell the most, and those who have the most to prove in 2014.
Any player who was considered a prospect (i.e., had rookie eligibility) at any point during the season was up for consideration, including players who spent most, if not all, of the year at the Major League level.
There was considerable consensus, with agreement on nine of the 15 categories, including position player and pitcher of the year. We differed at shortstop, third base, left-handed pitcher, biggest jump, biggest fall and most to prove.
There's strength in the middle of the infield and in the outfield, but not nearly as much in other positions when trying to round out this All-Prospect Team.
A strong case could be made for at least six shortstops for a squad like this. Want to go offense-heavy? Take a guy like Javier Baez. But plus defense at the premium spot is hard to come by, which is why Francisco Lindor got the nod here. The fact he hit .303 with a .380 OBP and 25 steals, earning a promotion to Double-A while still just 19, didn't exactly hurt.
Second base was packed with options, which may surprise some who see it as a non-prospect position. Kolten Wong continued to hit (.303/.369/.466) and run (20 steals) in Triple-A before earning his first call to St. Louis. He edged out other candidates like Nick Franklin, Delino DeShields and Eddie Rosario.
2013 season-end superlatives
|Catcher||Mike Zunino||Mike Zunino|
|First baseman||Dan Vogelbach||Dan Vogelbach|
|Second baseman||Kolten Wong||Kolten Wong|
|Shortstop||Javier Baez||Francisco Lindor|
|Third baseman||Miguel Sano||Maikel Franco|
|Outfielder||Byron Buxton||Byron Buxton|
|Outfielder||Yasiel Puig||Yasiel Puig|
|Outfielder||George Springer||George Springer|
|Right-handed pitcher||Jose Fernandez||Jose Fernandez|
|Left-handed pitcher||Andrew Heaney||Henry Owens|
|Pitcher of the year||Jose Fernandez||Jose Fernandez|
|Position player of the year||Byron Buxton||Byron Buxton|
|Biggest jump||Adalberto Mondesi||Gregory Polanco|
|Biggest fall||Trevor Bauer||Mike Olt|
|Most to prove in 2014||Jonathan Singleton||Trevor Bauer|
The outfield, as one might expect, is packed with talent, meaning worthy players like Wil Myers were left out. The same can't be said for catcher and first base, though it's important to look past the numbers for Mike Zunino. He's going to be an everyday catcher in the big leagues for a very long time.
The pitching selections could have gone in any of a number of directions. Archie Bradley and Taijuan Walker deserve honorable mention and are the best of the right-handed pitching crop still considered prospects heading into 2014. But it's impossible to overlook what Jose Fernandez did in the big leagues this season.
There were multiple choices for the left-handers as well. Tony Cingrani's numbers, both in the Minors and in the big leagues, are quite impressive. The Red Sox's Henry Owens didn't turn 21 until July, yet he managed to earn a promotion to Double-A late in the year, and performed extremely well. He's a lefty who finished second in the Minors in strikeouts. How often do you see that?
Position Prospect Of The Year: Byron Buxton, Twins
Before people scream that, according to our parameters, Yasiel Puig is the only possible choice here, take a look and see what Buxton did in his first full season of pro ball. He won't turn 20 until December, yet he managed to hit a combined .334/.424/.520 with 55 stolen bases. Buxton was among the Minor League leaders in a host of offensive categories, he played in the Futures Game and he continued to hit extremely well after getting promoted up to the Florida State League. After a turn in the Arizona Fall League, it may not take long for the top prospect in baseball to be ready to help out in Minnesota.
Pitching Prospect Of The Year: Jose Fernandez, Marlins
With the way he pitched for the Marlins, it's easy to forget that Fernandez is just 20 years old. Or that he hadn't previously pitched above A ball. Instead, the talk is about how Fernandez may have just turned in the greatest performance for a rookie starting pitcher in history.
Biggest Jump: Gregory Polanco, Pirates
Last year, in the Arizona Fall League, a scout approached me and told me that Polanco, who had cracked the Top 100 list late in the year, would have to move up. Boy, he wasn't kidding. Polanco began the 2013 season as the No. 65 prospect and now, after the midseason re-rank, he's No. 13. Big, strong, fast, some see a future Dave Parker type, especially as the power starts to come more consistently. Polanco's taste of Triple-A could help him make the leap to Pittsburgh in 2014 to play alongside Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen.
Biggest Fall: Mike Olt, Cubs
Blurry vision, caused by an incident in winter ball, caused Olt to get off to an awful start. It appeared like he was turning things around for a bit, but he never could get himself going in quite the same way as he did in 2012, even after the trade to the Cubs. Olt still has outstanding power potential and can play a good defensive third base, but his stock has dropped tremendously and, at age, 25, the prospect clock is ticking.
Most to Prove: Trevor Bauer, Indians
When the Tribe got Bauer in that big three-team deal last offseason, fans in Cleveland likely rejoiced, and it seemed like the right-hander was a sure bet to be a part of the rotation on Opening Day. While he's made four starts in the big leagues this year, he hasn't cemented himself as a big leaguer. Far from it. Bauer struggled in Cleveland and in Triple-A at times, and it was noticeable the Indians didn't call him up when rosters expanded. He still has great stuff, but he'll have to prove he can get out of his own way to refine his delivery and his command before he can fulfill his potential.