Athlon looks at the top stars of tomorrow on the baseball diamond.
Only hard-core baseball junkies are familiar with these names now, but in a few years all baseball fans will recognize these stars. Here’s a brief look at stars of the future who have yet to make their debuts in the major leagues.
Taijuan Walker, Seattle
With above-average fastball, curve and change, Walker is clearly a future starter, but he must harness control issues. Through 10 starts at Double-A Jackson, opponents are batting just .190, but he has issued 27 walks in 59 innings.
Zack Wheeler, New York Mets
Acquired from the Giants for Carlos Beltran, the righthander possesses a fastball that nears triple digits. Fine-tuning his command and breaking pitches will get him to the majors, and that isn’t far away. In nine starts and 48.1 innings at Triple-A Las Vegas, he has 49 whiffs and allowed only 45 hits.
Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh (pictured)
Last season, his first in pro ball, he progressed from High-A to Triple-A where he made one start. In 10 starts at Triple-A this season, opponents are hitting just .207. Cole owns a major-league ready fastball and curve. He’ll be in Pittsburgh by August.
Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh
Pitching at Double-A this season, Taillon’s fastball will reach the upper 90s. He has 63 punchouts in 55.2 innings this season with a 2.19 ERA. As soon as he develops other pitches, he’ll join the
Pirates’ rotation, which should be in 2014.
Danny Hultzen, Seattle
The second-best left-handed prospect shined in his first four starts at Triple-A but hasn’t pitched since mid-April due to a rotator cuff problem. Red flag.
Archie Bradley, Arizona
After five tremendous starts at Single-A, Bradley has been even better at Double-A this season with a 0.69 ERA in five outings. He turns 21 in August and is on a fast track to the big leagues, although the Diamondbacks are adamant about not rushing him.
Chris Archer, Tampa Bay
With a fastball that reaches 98 and a tight slider, Archer could end up in the bullpen. Tampa Bay is his third organization and he’ll be 25 before the season ends.
Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets
Obtained in the R.A. Dickey trade over the winter, Syndergaard hasn’t disappointed the Mets. In nine starts at High-A Port St. Lucie, the 6'6" righthander has 52 strikeouts in 50.2 innings and has given up just one home run.
Jonathan Singleton, Houston
Long considered a top prospect in Philadelphia, Singleton is currently serving a suspension for a drug violation. He’s probably better suited for DH.
Keon Barnum, Chicago White Sox
The strong 20-year-old has prodigious power. The question will be whether he can develop consistency at the plate.
Kolten Wong, St. Louis
Nothing about Wong will wow you except that he is a ballplayer. Speed, bat and glove are all just a tad above average, but his instincts, will and work ethic should land him a job in the majors and keep him there a long time.
Delino DeShields, Jr., Houston
Speed is his greatest asset, and the son of the former major leaguer has solid makeup and athleticism. He projects as a sturdy leadoff hitter and if his defense doesn’t cut it at second, he’ll make a solid center fielder.
Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore
Originally a shortstop, Schoop can play all over the infield. Second base seems to be where the Orioles need him most.
Nick Franklin, Seattle
Originally a shortstop, Franklin has split time at both middle infield positions this season. In 2010, he had 23 homers and 25 steals at Single-A Clinton.
Miguel Sano, Minnesota
Sano turned 20 a few weeks ago and is tearing up the Florida State League with a .354 average and 23 extra-base hits including 11 homers in his first 40 games.
Francisco Lindor, Cleveland (pictured)
A few years ago, Lindor was the youngest player in the Futures Game. He’s considered the best defensive shortstop in the minors, and is batting .331 at Single-A.
Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
While not as refined at the plate as Lindor, Baez has more power. It will be interesting to see who eventually moves to third base, Baez or current Chicago shortstop Starlin Castro.
Xander Bogaerts, Boston
If Jose Iglesias ever blossoms for Boston, Bogaerts could move to third, shifting Will Middlebrooks to first.
Carlos Correa, Houston
His glove is well ahead of his bat, but his .410 OBP this season at Single-A isn’t too shabby.
Addison Russell, Oakland
He’s scuffling at .189 this season, but hit .369 across three levels in 2012.
Hak-Ju Lee, Tampa Bay
In the midst of a breakout season at the plate for Triple-A Durham, Lee suffered torn knee ligaments and will miss the remainder of the year.
Oscar Taveras, St. Louis
Without question, Taveras is the highest-prized prospect not yet called up to the big leagues. The Cardinals’ expectation is that he will be a regular in the Redbirds’ outfield next season.
Wil Myers, Tampa Bay
Outside of Jurickson Profar, Myers has received more attention than anyone in the minors this season. Only a matter of time before he’s helping Evan Longoria carry the Rays’ offense.
Christian Yelich, Miami
The 21-year-old has 20 extra-base hits, 23 runs and 23 RBIs in his first 26 games at Double-A.
Byron Buxton, Minnesota
Twins fans have been dreaming of an outfield that includes Buxton and Aaron Hicks. Buxton is still a few years away, and Hicks has appeared overmatched so far this season.
Nick Castellanos, Detroit
Originally a third baseman, he moved to the outfield this season, which is his quickest track to Detroit. Castellanos is a pure hitter with developing power.
Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati
Most fans are familiar with his 155 steals last season. But in his first foray into Triple-A, he’s struggled at the plate with a .228 average and .286 OBP.
Bubba Starling, Kansas City
Drafted in 2011, Starling chose the Royals over the opportunity to play quarterback at Nebraska. He hasn’t exactly exploded onto the scene, hitting just .213 this season at Single-A.
Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are excited about the young outfielder, currently hitting .296 and slugging .528 at Single-A Daytona.
Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Signed to a seven-year, $42 million deal out of Cuba last year, Puig has raw power and gave the Dodgers a glimpse during spring training just how good he can be.
Mike Zunino, Seattle (pictured)
The third overall pick in 2012 progressed quickly up to Double-A last season hitting .333 in 15 games. Success hasn’t come as easy at Triple-A this season, but the Mariners are convinced he is their long-term solution behind the plate.
Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets
Multiple knee injuries have prevented d’Arnaud from being in the bigs already. His forte is his bat with some power. He’s worked diligently to improve his throwing. The Mets would love to see him completely healthy and in New York in 2014.
Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
He won’t turn 21 until December and has serious power. He hasn’t mastered the nuances behind the plate, but he has a terrific arm. He’s currently hitting .279 at High-A Tampa.
Austin Hedges, San Diego
The Padres spent $3 million on their 2011 second-round pick believing he would be a long-term solution behind the plate. Defensively he has all the tools to be one of the best. His bat will probably never grade as high as his glove, but he has 11 walks and only 11 whiffs so far this season at High-A
Lake Elsinore, which lifts his OBP.
Christian Bethancourt, Atlanta
The Panama native’s prowess behind the plate and outstanding throwing arm may alone be enough for him to replace Brian McCann by 2015. If he improves his plate discipline, that could happen sooner.