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March 27, 2012

Future Shock

AL East Prospect Preview

by Kevin Goldstein

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Baltimore Orioles

Affiliate to Watch: While Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop at High-A Frederick make for an easy call, the Low-A Delmarva roster is more stocked, with 2011 first-round pick Dylan Bundy leading a rotation that should include power righty Parker Bridwell and possible fellow 2011 draftee Nick Delmonico at third base.

Trade Bait: Obviously sellers and not buyers, but who really has value to help stock the farm? As an aside, don't be surprised to see third baseman Josh Bell move elsewhere to even up a deal as a change of scenery candidate.

Breakout Candidate: While he will likely not appear in a box score until the New York-Penn League season begins, Venezuelan lefty Eduardo Rodriguez already has two plus pitches–fastball and curve–and an ability to throw strikes.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: Outfielder Xavier Avery still has plenty of holes offensively, but his ability to run and play defense could get him a September look as a future fourth outfielder.

Fans Are Too Excited About: Bridwell has plenty of upside, but some Orioles fans seem to be already penciling him into the future rotation; there is still much work to be done. He gave up more than a hit per inning last year, and he still needs to refine everything about his game.

Odds to Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Dylan Bundy: 11-5
Manny Machado: 11-5
2012 No. 4 overall pick 25-1

Boston Red Sox

Affiliate to Watch: While Triple-A will be stocked with players we will see in Boston soon–like third baseman Will Middlebrooks and, assuming the roster shapes as expected, shortstop Jose Iglesias and catcher Ryan Lavarnway–High-A Salem will have their top two prospects, slugging shortstop (for now) Xander Bogaerts, and outfielder Brandon Jacobs.

Trade Bait: Lavarnway is the obvious candidate, as he’s a good hitter but below average catcher who might fit in better elsewhere. Outfielder Bryce Brentz could end up in that Josh Reddick-like hole of good, but not good enough to play every day in Boston.

Breakout Candidate: Third baseman Garin Cecchini's 2011 season was cut short by a wrist injury, but he's one of the best pure hitters in the system, and making his full-season debut at Low-A Greenville.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: Finally healthy, right-hander Junichi Tazawa has looked good this spring and could get a look at some point in a relief role.

Fans Are Too Excited About: Anthony Ranaudo's scouting reports are a far cry from his glory days at Louisiana State, with some seeing a future back-end starter, and others no more than a middle reliever.

Odds to Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Xander Bogaerts: 5-3
Brandon Jacobs: 8-1
Will Middlebrooks: 8-1
Garin Cecchini: 15-1
Blake Swihart: 25-1

New York Yankees

Affiliate to Watch: While Triple-A Scranton is the obvious choice with Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances in the rotation, the most exciting club should be Low-A Charleston, as outfielder Mason Williams and infielders Dante Bichette, Angelo Gumbs and Cito Culver make much anticipated full-season debuts. The pitching staff there should be headed by high-ceiling righty Jose Campos, who arrived in the blockbuster Pineda/Montero deal.

Trade Bait: The Yankees just traded Jesus Montero, and have a long history of placing little faith in their own young talent, so every prospect could be on the table if the deal is right.

Breakout Candidate: After a full-season debut marred by struggles both on and off the field, catcher Gary Sanchez finished the year strong and has been the talk of minor league camp. Even in the Florida State League, he could be primed for a big year.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: While nowhere near the top of any prospect lists, right-hander D.J. Mitchell is a groundball machine who could turn into a valuable bullpen piece.

Fans Are Too Excited About: While he threw eight shutout innings this spring, Betances remains a messy, inefficient pitcher with an ugly injury history; that combination screams a future in relief rather than starting.

Odds to Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Gary Sanchez: 3-1
Manny Banuelos: 4-1
Mason Williams: 5-1
Jose Campos: 12-1
Dellin Betances: 15-1
Ravel Santana: 25-1

Tampa Bay Rays

Affiliate to Watch: While there will be arms like Alex Torres and Chris Archer at Triple-A Durham, Low-A Bowling Green is the team to watch. Can Drew Vettleson and Ryan Brett really hit? Can 2010 first-round picks Josh Sale and Justin O'Conner rebound from dismal 2011s? Their lineup should be filled with players to watch, with potentially some players from their deep 2011 draft class.

Trade Bait: Torres and Archer are both close, both have big league stuff, and neither has room in Tampa.

Breakout Candidate: Left-hander Enny Romero has arguably the best stuff in the system and could become the best pitching prospect, but only if he can somehow harness his command.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: After an injury-plagued 2011 season, right-hander Wilking Rodriguez has the stuff to move quickly as a reliever.

Fans Are Too Excited About: 2011 first-round pick Mike Mahtook is the kind of player who could put up some big numbers in the minors, but it won't change his prospect status. He's going to be a big leaguer, and possibly a good one, but he lacks star-level tools.

Odds to Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Hak-Ju Lee: 5-2
Taylor Guerrieri: 3-1
Alex Colome: 10-1
Enny Romero: 12-1

Toronto Blue Jays

Affiliate to Watch: Either of the A-ball affiliates, as no team in the game can match Toronto's lower level talent. Low-A Lansing should have a monster rotation, headed by Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino and Aaron Sanchez, while the High-A Dunedin outfield will have Jake Marisnick and Michael Crouse, who is coming off a huge camp.

Trade Bait: Still not quite ready to compete, the Blue Jays are likely to stick to the long-term plan as opposed to being big players in July.

Breakout Candidate: After hitting .261/.352/.475 last year in Lansing, Crouse is showing more signs of converting his tools into skills this Spring, and his athleticism is off the charts.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: The team will open the year with both Brett Cecil and Dustin McGowan in the starting rotation, so if Kyle Drabek continues to falter, that could lead to an opening for last year's breakout pitcher, Drew Hutchison.

Fans Are Too Excited About: Centerfielder Anthony Gose combines 20 home run power with blinding speed and outstanding defense, but he's yet to prove he can hit; he enters 2012 with a career minor league batting average of .258 and 183 strikeouts in 164 games as a Jays farmhand.

Odds to Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Jake Marisnick: 2-1
Travis D'Arnaud: 5-2
Daniel Norris: 20-1
Noah Syndergaard: 30-1
Justin Nicolino: 40-1

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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