It has been a fun year following the progress of many top prospects and watching the emergence of others that should now be considered top prospects going into 2015. Last week, we looked at the “breakout” pitchers that had progressed through multiple levels this season and have either reached the major leagues or are on the cusp. The primary criteria was that these pitchers have played at a minimum of three levels this season and there were many excellent pitchers that made the cut. If you missed this piece, check it out here. Pitchers with either two plus pitches or an exceptional advanced approach. It is not unusual to see one or two pitchers reach the major leagues within a calendar year of being drafted. The hitters need to be evaluated using a different criteria as it typically takes longer to adjust to pro pitching and overall life of a professional. Therefore, I am altering the requirements to a minimum of one promotion this season plus some tangible level of success or tool development that warrants “breakout” consideration. Without any further introduction, the final baseball installment of “Alluhring Strategy” for 2014, All “Breakout” Prospect Team Part 2: The Lineup…
- Jose Peraza, 2B (ATL) — Jose was known coming into 2014 as a plus speed and glove guy, but reached “breakout” status with a surprising development of a hit tool. After hovering slightly below the .300 mark for his minor league career, he has slashed a combined .341/.366/.445 between AA Lynchburg and AAA Mississippi. His speed projects him as a leadoff-type hitter (60 SB in 75 attempts), but only 16 walks (3.25%) hamper his potential. That is just not going to get it done for a leadoff hitter. He will never be mistaken for a power hitter, but if he can improve on his plate discipline, he will get his chance at the next level sooner rather than later. He has the best pure speed of this lineup so he is firmly entrenched at the leadoff spot.
- Michael Taylor, OF (WSH) — Taylor spent most of 2014 having a fantastic season at AA Harrisburg. This was a long-awaited development after four seasons of underwhelming performances. He got promoted to AAA Syracuse and quickly got the call to Washington after Jayson Werth goes down with an injury. Taylor likely got the call to hold down the fort due to his advanced ability with the glove, but he has had a breakout season with a developing power tool that took a huge jump from last year. He has slashed .315/.401/.547 with 22 HRs between AA and AAA this season which are career highs by a significant margin. His 34 SB in 42 attempts keeps him toward the top of my lineup but he needs to improve his plate discipline to stay there and cut down on his 130 Ks. He has improved in his BB% but still can be exposed by good breaking pitches and will likely chase out of the strike zone by top MLB pitchers
- Corey Seager, SS (LAD) — At only 20 years old, Corey has worked his way through A+ Rancho Cucamonga and nearly 100 plate appearances for AA Chattanooga. Whereas, Seager had decent numbers in the last two seasons as a teenager, he took a huge step this season by slashing .353/.403/.609 in 470 plate appearances. His impressive slugging percentage is highlighted by 44 doubles and 19 HRs. His plus hit and power tools make him one of the top SS prospects in the game at a position with up and coming star power. He might not be the top SS prospect but he had the biggest “breakout” season at the position.
- Kris Bryant, 3B (CHC) — I’m not sure a lot needs to be said here. Every website that overs prospects will likely have articles on this guy and with good reason. In his first full season of proball, he has 40 HRs and 103 RBIs between AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa. He has slashed a combined .333/.441/.678. The Cubs will likely keep him in AAA this season to work on cutting down his strikeouts, but with a plus hit tool and plus, plus power tool, they won’t be able to keep him down for long. He is putting up video game numbers and will likely be in Chicago early in 2015. He has the ability to stay at 3B but I think he will move to RF as that is a greater need for the Cubs. His arm and power profile well at that position.
- Peter O’Brien, 1B (ARI) — Peter might be better suited to DH, but since he got traded to Arizona at the July 31st Trade Deadline, I am going to put him in the field. He came up as a catcher, but I’m not sure he projects to remain there and probably is best suited for 1B. He has plus power and ranks only behind Bryant and Joey Gallo in HRs with 34 combined between A+ Tampa, AA Trenton (NYY) and AA Mobile (ARI). He may hit for a respectable average but his only plus tool is power and that will be what gives him a chance at a productive major league career. He doesn’t walk much and strikes out a ton so he may get exposed by top major league pitchers. His breakout power surge this season should put him on your radar as someone to watch for as early as 2015, especially if Arizona moves Mark Trumbo this off-season.
- Aaron Judge, DH (NYY) — So I’m a homer and found a way to get a Yankee on the list despite a perceived “weak” farm system. Judge may be way under the radar to many dynasty league owners because 2014 was his first season. 2013 was wiped out after getting drafted in the first round due to a leg injury. Aaron is a beast at 6’7” and 230 lbs and his raw power should continue to develop into a plus power tool. He is prone to swing and miss (23.3 K%) but he has surprising shown the ability to get on base with .304/.416/.485 with a BB% of 15.7%. The power will come, it was a breakout performance in my opinion due to his ability to get on base at both A Charleston and A+ Tampa. Find a way to stash him now in dynasty leagues. The rest of you have another year or two to watch him develop for a potential impact in the Bronx in 2016.
- Kyle Schwarber, C (CHC) — OK, so Schwarber seems to be transitioning to LF during his second promotion since the June draft that put him in A+ Daytona. The fact that they also drafted C, Mark Zagunis and traded for 2013 Atlanta draft pick, Victor Caratini, leads me to believe that Kyle will continue this transition despite 17 games behind the plate in proball this season. For the purpose of this list and lineup, he is our starting catcher. He burst on the scene with a slash line of .333/.433/.576 and 11 HRs in just over 250 plate appearances. He may only have had a half season of proball, but the tools are showing to be legit. He is showing a plus hit and power tool. His plate discipline and approach is very advanced as evidence by his slash line and 0.75 BB/K ratio so far. Kyle should continue to move quickly through the Cubs system and if he locks into a position, could be in Wrigley by September 2015 and make an immediate impact on your fantasy league.
- Rymer Liriano, OF (SD) — After missing all of 2013 with Tommy John surgery, Liriano has finally had a breakout season in the minors that has earned him a promotion to San Diego last week. Ironically, I have him listed as 8th in my batting order due to a stacked lineup of breakout prospects when he has been batting mostly 5th and 6th in the actual San Diego lineup. Rymer has been thought of as a potential five tool player. Not sure there is any true plus tools here but could be above average in all five areas. Coming off the injury he has slashed a respectable .291/.362/.473 between AA San Antonio and AAA El Paso this season. 14 HRs and 20 SBs shows he can contribute offensively in different ways. As with many prospects, he does need to work on cutting down on strikeouts, but it hasn’t seemed to affect his productivity so far in 2014. He could provide some points across the board in all formats as the season winds down. He could be hitting in the heart of the order in San Diego next season and be a solid fantasy contributor going forward.
- Mookie Betts, OF (BOS) – Betts has put a lot of miles on his bus pass this season as he has spent time in AA Portland, AAA Pawtucket and two trips to Boston. He began the season as the #7 prospect in Boston’s system according to Baseball America and MLB.com now lists him as #1 in the organization. He has shown a plus hit and speed tool this year as evidence by his minor league slash line of .346/.431/.529. He has stolen 33 bases out of 40 attempts and flashed some leather with only one error playing three positions in the minors and one in the majors. Perhaps, arguably, his most impressive feat is a 1.22 BB/K ratio over the course of the season in the minors that speaks to his advanced plate discipline.
My primary focus in writing about prospects every week is to give those in dynasty leagues and deep keepers leagues guys that they should be targeting as well as large roster redraft leagues some guys down the stretch that can make an impact on their playoff push. I hope you have found this column useful during the course of the season and that you will continue to read it when it returns next spring.Bryan Luhrs Real Deal Dynasty Sports, Creator & League Commissioner MajorLeagueFantasySports.com, Fantasy Baseball Writer http://www.realdealdynasty.com @realdealdynasty