It seems like yesterday that the San Francisco Giants were celebrating yet another World Series title in the center of the diamond in Kansas City. Many teams left the 2014 season hoping that in 2015, they could take that next step to try and be the next Giants dynasty, a club which has won the World Series three times in the last five seasons.
Teams will begin reporting to spring training in just about a month, and with it there’s going to be plenty of hope for many of the prospects on rosters that they can be on the field on opening day for their respective clubs.
Trying to figure out which prospects in the Majors are going to turn into stars is by no means an exact science. There’s been plenty of ‘5-tool players’ that have turned out to be major busts over the last 20-30 years, players who have cost scouts their jobs, and players that have set franchises back due to the amount some had to trade to acquire those players.
It’s never easy to try and predict which 18 to 21 year old youngster is going to turn around a franchise and make them World Champions, but that doesn't mean we won't try to do it every year.
Today we start to look ahead, looking at those young studs. Those young players that are going to look to lead their teams for years to come, hoping to help them reach the promise land. With that, here’s a list of the ‘Top 20 Prospects to watch in Major League Baseball in 2015.’
20 Kohl Stewart - P - Minnesota Twins
Stewart was the fourth pick in the 2013 draft, and was a two-sport star in high school, playing both football and baseball. He committed to Texas A&M to play QB, but instead went the baseball route after the Twins took him with the fourth pick. He throws a nice slider, and his offspeed stuff is better than most draft picks coming out of high school. His fastball has hit as high as 96, and the Twins don’t seem concerned and feel it will develop more now that he’s fully focused on baseball as opposed to trying to split his time between two sports.
19 Austin Hedges - C - San Diego Padres
The top catching prospect for the Padres, Hedges was the club's second round pick in the 2011 draft. He played in the All-Star Futures game in 2013, and made it to the teams AA club, where in 20 games he hit .224. While his bat needs a lot of work, his defense behind the plate is the reason he’s on this list and is one of the good young prospects in baseball. He has shown solid footwork, as well as a strong arm that can get runners out trying to steal. Hedges will get every opportunity to improve his batting in 2015, and he should continue to make strides in the minors.
18 Robert Stephenson - P - Cincinnati Reds
Picked by the Reds in the first round of the 2011 draft, this Reds pitcher has already topped 98MPH with his fastball, and also has shown his potential with a good breaking ball, as well as his changeup. He needs some seasoning and needs to still smooth out his delivery. The one big thing he’s got going for him is his ability to throw all his pitches for strikes, which is a reason why the Reds are tickled about his future. He’s your classic power pitcher that was so good in high school, he threw a pair of no-hitters, giving the Reds even more excitement for this young thrower.
17 Andrew Heaney - P - Los Angeles Angels
Heaney reached the Miami Marlins rotation after just two years of being in the minors, but it’s evident he has a way to go to be a starter every five days in the Majors. Heaney went from the Dodgers to the Angels in a wild pair of deals five hours apart during the Winter Meetings, and this lefty prospect should reach the Angels rotation after likely starting the season in the minors. His fastball has been solid, and his slider and changeup have been a work in progress, but are getting better. Don’t be surprised to hear more from Heaney in the coming year.
16 Carlos Rodon - P - Chicago White Sox
This North Carolina State product was the third pick of the 2014 draft, and has a very good fastball, as well as a slider that is going to make him tough to beat if he can keep going in the upward direction he’s currently on. The one downfall for this solid lefty is his changeup, which needs a lot of work, and may be the biggest thing that keeps him from getting to the Majors sooner rather than later. Once he gets that down, he will be right up there at the top of the White Sox rotation with fellow lefty Chris Sale, which is going to make Chicago tough to beat.
15 Tyler Glasnow - P - Pittsburgh Pirates
This towering 19-year-old led the Pirates minor league system in K’s in 2014, and Pittsburgh and their fans are excited about seeing what he can do in 2015 to follow up. He has a solid fastball that can hit the mid to high 90’s, and a curveball that is a very good secondary pitch. Glasnow has to still work on his changeup as well as being consistent, but there’s no doubt he has a ton of upside, and he should find a way to the Pirates rotation in the near future.
14 Joc Pederson - OF - Los Angeles Dodgers
Pederson was an 11th round pick of the Dodgers in 2010 who has been a whole lot better than scouts expected. He put up a .497 slugging percentage last season, best in the Southern League, and has all five tools to be a force for the Dodgers for years to come. A patient hitter who is on the verge of becoming a better player than his dad, who actually played for the Dodgers for a few minutes back in 1985. The younger Pederson seems to certain to wind up being the better player, if he stays on the pace he’s on right now.
13 Noah Syndergaard - P - New York Mets
He was part of the R.A. Dickey deal, and has been solid ever since that deal, doing enough to start the All-Star Futures game in 2013 for the U.S. team. The righty is a solid downhill pitcher, throwing close to 100 MPH with his fastball, and his curve has gotten better in the last two years. The 22-year-old is still slated to be a front line or middle of the pack starter, and while he has to overcome some minor injuries from 2014 at Triple-A, 2015 is a big year that could land this native of Texas in the big leagues with the Mets.
12 Julio Urias - P - Los Angeles Dodgers
This 18-year-old was inked as a 16-year-old by the Dodgers, and they are willing to wait for him to get more seasoning in the minors before you see him at the Major League level. He’s got a fastball in the low to mid 90’s, and since going to the Dodgers A club, his velocity has gotten better as he continues to grow. He was the Dodgers ‘Minor League Pitcher of the Year,’ but despite that he’s still just a kid, and will continue to undergo growing pains as he tries to continue his development in 2015.
11 Archie Bradley - P - Arizona Diamondbacks
Reports say that Bradley is close to being with the big league club, this after being drafted in with the seventh pick in the first-round in the 2011 draft. He’s got a solid sinker that should make him a pitcher that can get a lot of groundballs, and also can hit the mid 90’s with his fastball. At 6-4, 225 pounds, he’s a force on the mound, and last season he spent time working on improving his command, which is a major reason you could see him in the Arizona rotation at some point duing 2015.
10 Miguel Sano - 3B - Minnesota Twins
The Twins did an excellent job for a ‘small market’ team going out and grabbing Sano, who signed with the team in 2009 for an international record at the time of $3.15 million. He missed the whole 2014 season after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament, but before that was hitting everything in sight, slamming 35 homers between A ball and AA ball in 2013. He needs to work on his defense once he’s ready to get back on the field, and some think he will eventually make the move to first base. As long as he’s recovered, he will be back and a threat again in 2015.
9 Joey Gallo - 3B - Texas Rangers
21 homers and 56 RBI in 250 at bats in AA last season has Rangers fans excited about this young player's future, but he still has plenty of room to grow. Gallo may wind up being better suited for either first base or DH, but the team wants to give him more time to try and develop his glove to see where he truly fits on defense. His .232 average in AA last season shows he also needs more patience at the plate, and he also needs to be more consistent, as he seems to strikeout often, a problem with a lot of young players as they try to get better in the minors.
8 Dylan Bundy - P - Baltimore Orioles
Tommy John surgery for Bundy in 2013 was a big setback, but in 2014 he was back to form. The injury hurt his development, but his comeback showed that the youngster has the right attitude. The righty had an unreal 0.25 ERA in 71 innings in high school, striking out 158 batters. He’s got stuff in the mid to upper 90’s and has been able to hit 100 MPH more than once. He’s been getting better with his offspeed stuff, and his curve and change have also steadily improved. Bundy is a pitcher with a lot of potential to watch as he goes into the 2015 season.
7 Lucas Giolito - P - Washington Nationals
Giolito has come back strong after spraining his ulnar collateral ligament in 2012, making it to the Futures Game in 2014 and going 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA in single A last year. He was also the South Atlantic League's Most Outstanding Pitcher. Many wonder how he will do as he moves up the ranks using his solid fastball that reaches into the 90’s and at times up to near 100 MPH. He could have been the first overall pick until his injury, and now that he’s healthy, he could be a steal for the Nationals.
6 Corey Seager - SS - Los Angeles Dodgers
The 20-year-old put up a big average at AA last season, hitting .345 in 148 at bats. He is the younger brother of Mariners 3B Kyle Seager, and was the 18th pick of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. Seager may have better bat speed than his brother, and could wind up playing at second or third, as the Dodgers don’t have the dire need at short for him. In three minor league seasons he’s hit .313, showing that he’s got great patience at the plate for a young prospect. Look for Seager’s power to get better as he puts on some size and eventually climbs the ranks in the minors in 2015.
5 Francisco Lindor - SS - Cleveland Indians
The 8th overall pick of the 2011 draft is the number one prospect of the Indians, and it was one reason the team didn’t mind moving two-time All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera during the trade deadline in 2014. He’s ready to go with his glove, but it’s his offense that still needs to get better before he’s at the Major League level for the long haul. He hit 11 homers, 62 RBI and had 28 steals last season between AA and AAA, and should be able to get big league at-bats in 2015, with the thought of being the team's full-time SS in 2016.
4 Addison Russell - SS - Chicago Cubs
The soon-to-be 21-year-old could wind up with a full-time opportunity with the Cubs in 2015, as he’s one the best hitting prospects in the minors. He’s got great athleticism, and while his bat appears ready, the big question long term with Russell is whether he's better suited to play short or make the transition to third base. He also saw some time during the Arizona Fall League at second before the Cubs shut him down as they felt he had played a full season. He’s got a high ceiling, one that many Cubs fans are excited about.
3 Kris Bryant - 3B - Chicago Cubs
Bryant has a big swing, and could be the next superstar in Chicago, as he hit 43 homers between AA and AAA for the Cubs in 2014. He’s got an above average swing, and not many feel that his power is going to falter once he finally makes the jump to the big league level. One of the few questions is if he can handle playing third defensively, which could be about the only question mark about this rising star. Look for Bryant to start the season in the minors, but to be a call-up by the All-Star break and to get steady at bats for the Cubs by the end of the season. Don’t be surprised to see Bryant as a possible future HR leader in the NL and the Majors.
2 Carlos Correa - SS - Houston Astros
It’s been a tough go of it for the Astros the past few seasons, but things are looking up thanks to their young talent, led by the dynamic Correa. The 20-year-old isn’t expected to be in the Majors in 2015, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him get some time with the big league club come September. He’s got solid power potential and an excellent work ethic, which makes him a player that many Astros fans will watch closely this season. A five-tool player with power at short isn’t easy to come by, and the Astros have to be excited about Correa’s potential to lead them into the future.
1 Byron Buxton - OF - Minnesota Twins
The 21-year-old is a pure five-tool player, already getting put in the same class as current MLB superstar Mike Trout. He’s got great speed in the outfield, excellent base stealing ability, good bat speed, and has thus far surpassed many scouts initial expectations. Buxton did suffer a wrist injury in spring training in 2014 and missed much of the season, but if he makes it back as expected, look for him to continue his rise with the young Twins and to continue to be the top prospect in the minors entering the 2015 season. It won’t take long for this youngster to show his stuff during the spring in 2015 and he should get at bats with the Twins in 2015 at the big league level.