With the last week of the season upon us, it’s a good time to take a fun look ahead to next season. And the form that takes today is a stab at what the first installment of the Stash List might look like in six-and-a-half months. And yes, that means the Stash List will live on for another season.
Of course, this sneak preview will only take into account a small part of the player pool that goes into the list, since there will certainly be players who are either injured or beat out for jobs in the spring included come April. But for now, we will roll ahead with the group of players we pay the most attention to—prospects yet to get the call to the majors. And as an added wrinkle, I’m not going to include a few high-profile prospects who I believe have a better than even chance to be on their team’s Opening Day roster. Among those are the following potential future stars:
It’s tough to envision a scenario (barring an injury) where Bogaerts wouldn’t start 2014 as the starting shortstop in Boston, and his ADP in the spring is likely to be astronomical. But if you’re fortunate enough to own him in a keeper or dynasty format, you certainly don’t need me to finish this sentence.
The Reds have come out publicly and said that they want to retain Shin-Soo Choo this off-season. And I’ve come out publicly and said that I want to win the lottery. With the way Hamilton has impacted the Reds over the last couple of weeks, the Reds will have a tough time sending him back to Triple-A.
Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets
He may have significantly less upside than the two names ahead of him, but the Mets will look to give d’Arnaud all the playing time he can handle in 2014. There’s zero catching depth in the organization after they shipped John Buck off to Pittsburgh, but then again, that only matters if he’s healthy.
Carlos Martinez, SP/RP, St Louis Cardinals
The odds are not terribly high that the Cardinals will have room in the rotation for Martinez at the outset of next season, but if history is any indicator, look for Martinez to start the year in the St Louis bullpen. In the long run, I still believe in Martinez as a starting pitcher—even more so than 2013 model Trevor Rosenthal.
There are enough question marks in the Royals’ 2014 rotation that I like Ventura to slot in at the fifth spot out of spring training—and that’s even if they re-sign Ervin Santana. There’s still a reasonably chance that the young fireballer ends up in the bullpen long-term, but Ventura can take advantage of the way the Royals are balanced (very strong ‘pen, mediocre rotation).
Without any further ado, here is what the first Stash List of 2014 might look like:
1) Oscar Taveras, OF, St Louis Cardinals
The biggest reason why Taveras is on this list and is not with Bogaerts and Hamilton isn’t the ankle injury or anything to do with his performance—it’s the emergence of Matt Adams. The Cardinals have such organizational depth that they can afford to keep Taveras in Triple-A for the first month or so of the season while Adams plays first and Craig patrols the outfield. But don’t let the 2013 season sour you on Taveras; he’s still the best pure bat in the minor leagues.
Oh, what do we have here? Just a shortstop-eligible player who hit 37 homers and stole 20 bases between High-A and Double-A this season. The word out of Cubs camp is that Baez is skipping the Arizona Fall League to rest up for a big Spring Training battle, in which he’ll get time at other infield positions. Of course, he’s likely to lose that battle since there are service time concerns here, but Baez has the bat speed and #rig to put up some crooked numbers upon his arrival.
Yes, the player who reached Triple-A and nearly went 40-40 this year finds himself third on the list, but that’s how intense the bats of the two men ahead of him are. Springer has had long-standing contact issues, but he made great strides in that department in 2013, lowering his strikeout rate to 24.4 percent in 266 Triple-A appearances—his lowest rate at any full-season stop in his career thus far. However, he’ll have his work cut out for him while making the toughest jump of them all.
There’s really no doubt as to who the top arm would be on this list. And even though the Diamondbacks have a surplus of arms, none can impart the type of blunt force trauma that Bradley can on opposing bats. He’s also a big dude who threw over 150 innings this season; meaning he should be good for around 180 next year.
The Twins are usually notoriously slow with promoting their prospects, but Sano is the type of prospect who changes philosophies. Even in his “struggles” at Double-A this year, he still managed a .915 OPS with 19 homers in just 233 at bats. We should all struggle so much. And with just Trevor Plouffe (he of the -0.4 WARP this season) ahead of him on the depth chart, Sano and his merry group of dingers may be on the move quickly in 2014.
One of the toughest decisions on the list, there is a real chance that Walker begins the season in Seattle. But even after having spent the last two seasons entirely in the upper minors, Walker will still play the majority of the 2014 at the age of 21. The desire to rush Walker may also depend on whether or not Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik survives the off-season (not literally, just job-wise).
On one hand, Andy Dirks has hit .299/.372/.429 since the All-Star break. On the other hand, Nick Castellanos doesn’t wear batting gloves. You tell me who the better hitter is without knowing any other information.
It’s strange to think of the Pirates as a team with real pitching depth, but then again they’re also about to make the playoffs for the first time since the Bush administration (yes, the first one). And while many have cooled a bit on Taillon, the talent is certainly there to break into the rotation come May or June even without an injury to their starting five.
9) Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
All I have to do is type Gregory Polanco and Zach Mortimer will blush. The potentially special outfielder has all the tools you want from a fantasy perspective—he can hit for average, steal bases and muster up some power. There may be a Marlon Byrd-sized hole for the Pirates to fill in the outfield next season, and frankly that may be true whether they re-sign Byrd or not.
10) Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
There are few pitchers in the minor leagues who took a bigger step forward in 2013 than Syndergaard, who positioned himself to take his place as the third leg of the Mets’ Ace-Pod. Ace-Pod is a registered trademark of The Stash List and Baseball Prospectus, and we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.
11) Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros
The 2013 season was a huge disappointment for Singleton, who served a 50-game suspension and returned to poor performance (687 OPS in 245 Triple-A at bats). Fortunately, 2014 is a new season and the Astros’ major-league roster has more holes than the story line of TKTK.
12) Matthew Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres
Outside of Andrew Cashner, can you name a single person who is a lock for the 2014 Padres rotation? Probably Ian Kennedy? Maybe Tyson Ross? Wisler had a very strong season and will more than likely begin 2014 in Triple-A where he’ll await his turn to pitch in PETCO. He may not have to wait very long.
I’m torn here. On one hand, Franco was pretty ridiculous this season, hitting .320 with 31 homers across High-A and Double-A. On the other hand, I’m not so sure I believe in his bat at the major league level (at least not to anywhere near that extent) and he may not be long for third base. But on another hand, he will be playing at Citizens Bank where righties get treated extremely well, especially if they have power. And wait, how did I get three hands?
14) Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals
It was a true tale of two seasons for Zimmer, who spent most of the first three months of the season getting knocked around in one of the best pitchers’ parks in the minors. But in his last eight starts of the season (he pitched his last game on 8/14), he had a 1.84 ERA, 63 strikeouts, and eight walks in just 44 innings between High-A and Double-A. If he picks up where he left off, he should move very quickly.
15) Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs
Not only did Alcantara survive the Double-A test in 2013, he flourished—hitting .271 with 15 homers and 31 steals. On top of that, he cranked a homer off Anthony Ranaudo in the Futures Game, putting an exclamation point on a great season. Alcantara’s biggest obstacle in 2014 may be the fact that he could be competing with Javier Baez for a shot to play 2B on the North Side.
Every year there is one pitcher who just puts on a show at the Futures Game and gets everyone amped—this year it was Butler. A supplemental first round pick in 2012, Butler started the season by making his full-season debut and ended it with a 0.65 ERA in Double-A. There will likely be a spot for him in Colorado if he proves ready, but Coors Field puts a bit of a damper on his value, even though it’s not the behemoth it used to be.
17) Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
I’m just going to throw this out there: if I had to bet, I’d say Buxton doesn’t get a single major league at bat next season. But with a talent like this, I’d also be crazy not to at least consider the possibility that he gets up early enough to get 200-250 at bats. His speed alone would help him accumulate value given any reasonable length of playing time in the short-term. In the long run, he projects to be a fantasy stud, but having 2014 expectations will likely break your heart.
The development of Lindsey was part of the reason why the Angels were shopping Howie Kendrick around the deadline, and likely will continue to do so this off-season. He may not have the stolen base ability of Alcantara, but he barrels up balls and can make a well-rounded impact for fantasy.
It’s both important to look at Romero’s stat line and to ignore it. The 110 strikeouts and 73 walks in just over 140 innings are bad, but the 2.76 ERA and only nine homers allowed (for a fly-ball pitcher) are good. In the end, he has the stuff to succeed even in the AL East, it’s just a matter of whether he can piece together the command to take advantage of it.
20) Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
The second player on this list who has yet to cross the all-important moat to Double-A, Bryant is also the only 2012 draftee here. A lot would have to go right for Bryant to get him into the majors before August, but he has enough upside to warrant inclusion even with that being the case. The power is real and it’s fantastic.