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March 26, 2012

Future Shock

AL Central Prospect Preview

by Kevin Goldstein

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Chicago White Sox

Affiliate to Watch: It's the worst system in the game, but Triple-A Charlotte bears watching, as any number of arms compete for future bullpen roles, while Nestor Molina gets his first extended test at the upper levels.

Trade Bait: More likely to be seller than buyers, but in that sense, they could be an ideal trade partner, as they need anything and everything.

Breakout Candidate: Outfielder Trayce Thompson has all sorts of tools and has already tapped into his plus power. More contact is what's needed for a step forward now.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: He's gotten a long look this spring thanks to improved secondary offerings, and righty Nathan Jones has always had one of the best fastballs in the system.

Fans Are Too Excited About:  The Twins returned Rule 5 pick Terry Doyle to Chicago, and he has a career 2.94 ERA and is coming off a fantastic showing in the Arizona Fall League. The bad news is that scouts just don't see a big league out pitch.

Odds to Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
2012 No. 13 overall pick: 3-2
Trayce Thompson: 5-1
Jake Patricka: 10-1
Miles Jaye: 50-1

Cleveland Indians

Affiliate to Watch: Hard to say until we figure out what the team does with all of the young talent. Some will be pushed to the full-season, and some will wait until June, but top prospect Francisco Lindor will surely be joined by some intriguing players at Low-A Lake County.

Trade Bait: It's hard to see the Indians as buyers in June, and even if they are, it's hard to get the right value for young, risky talent, which is where the strength of the system lies.

Breakout Candidate: If you focus on Ronny Rodriguez' .274 on-base percentage, you are doing it wrong, as this is a legitimate shortstop who was making his pro debut at 19 while showing power and speed.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: Righty Tyler Sturdevant has two plus power pitches: a 92-94 mph fastball and a plus cutter, which could earn him a look in the big league bullpen.

Fans Are Too Excited About:  It's getting close to that time where we need to stop wondering when Nick Weglarz will hit in the middle of the Indians lineup. At 24, he's no longer young, and he hasn't combined health and production since 2007.

Odds to Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Francisco Lindor: 4-3
Dillon Howard: 15-1
Ronny Rodriguez: 20-1
2012 No. 15 overall pick: 25-1
Robel Garcia: 30-1

Detroit Tigers

Affiliate to Watch: Triple-A Toledo's rotation should be interesting, with whoever loses out on the Tigers’ final rotation spot joining Jacob Turner and Casey Crosby. As their top position prospect by a mile, Nick Castellanos makes High-A Lakeland worth watching, and he'll be joined by intriguing one-tool guys in Bruce Rondon (throws hard) and Dixon Machado (great glove).

Trade Bait: While the Tigers enter the year as the overwhelming favorites to win the division, they're not in the best of positions to improve the team via trade, with the extra arms at Toledo being the most likely targets for trade partners.

Breakout Candidate: 19-year-old Dominican righty Brenny Paulino already combined plus velocity with above-average command, and could become a much more well-known name following his full-season debut.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: While recovering from shoulder surgery will delay his season, Cale Iorg may not be able to hit his way out of a paper bag, but he's a plus-plus defender who could have value as a late-inning replacement.

Fans Are Too Excited About: I'm as big a fan of Castellanos as anyone, but because he's all the Tigers have, there's a bit too much hype for me as well. He still has to prove that the power will come, as well as improve his defense to stay at the hot corner.

Odds to Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Nick Castellanos: 4-3
Jacob Turner: 12-1
Brenny Paulino: 20-1
Drew Smyly: 35-1

Kansas City Royals

Affiliate to Watch: Lots of choices here. At the upper levels, Omaha could have a slew of pitching, as Mike Montgomery and Chris Dwyer try to get back on track, John Lamb could join them when he returns from Tommy John surgery, and Jake Odorizzi could get there with a strong first half in the Texas League. There's some chance that by the second half of the season, the outfield at Low-A Kane County features Bubba Starling flanked by Jorge Bonifacio and Elier Hernandez.

Trade Bait: The Royals are entering the most difficult point in their transition to contenders, as they decide who they are going to keep and who they might market in order to improve. Will they stick to the long-term plan or will they be tempted to trade prospects with the extra wild card making the post-season more realistic? They have plenty of talent to shore up the roster, if so.

Breakout Candidate: It's not Bubba Starling, who will likely struggle in his first year as a pro. Bonifacio, a 19-year-old Dominican with a plus hit tool and above-average raw power is the one to watch on a more immediate level.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: Odorizzi gained considerable ground on his organizational mates in 2011, and suddenly is the best pitching prospect in the system. He won't make a big league impact in 2012, but a September look is not out of the question.

Fans Are Too Excited About: After an ugly spring, is it time to be concerned about left-hander Mike Montgomery? At this point, he hasn't been very good since the first half of the 2010 season, and the world of prospects is very much about What Have You Done For Me Lately.

Odds to Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Wil Myers: 5-2
Bubba Starling: 3-1
2012 No. 5 overall pick: 10-1
Cheslor Cuthbert: 18-1
Jake Odorizzi: 25-1
Jorge Bonifacio: 40-1

Minnesota Twins

Affiliate To Watch: The top two prospects in the system, Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario, hit 20 and 21 home runs, respectively, in the Appalachian League last year; they'll be hard pressed to do it over a full season in the tough-to-hit Midwest League as they begin the year at Low-A Beloit. They’ll be joined by some 2011 draftees, along with intriguingly toolsy infielder Niko Goodrum.

Trade Bait: The Twins are sellers, not buyers, and they're the worst combination of both a bad team, and one without much to appeal to buyers.

Breakout Candidate: Goodrum showed signs of figuring things out at the plate at Elizabethton last year, thanks to an improved approach, and his tools remain among the best in the system.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: While he's been a disappointment since being selected in the first round of the 2008 draft, reliever Carlos Gutierrez still has one of the best sinkers in the minors, and more strikes should get him a look in the bullpen.

Fans Are Too Excited About: While he's a career .307/.382/.420 hitter in the minor leagues, infielder Brian Dozier lacks the fast-twitch athleticism to be a shortstop on an everyday basis, and his upside is limited due to his tools. He's a big leaguer, but not a future star.

Odds to Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Miguel Sano: 2-1
2012 No. 2 overall pick: 3-1
Eddie Rosario: 20-1
Oswaldo Arcia: 30-1
Aaron Hicks: 60-1

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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