This is going to be a bit of something I told Kenny I wasn’t going to do – a prospect ranking. But fear not, people who shake their heads at lists like these in much the same way I do, this is not strictly a ranking of who I feel was the best MWL prospect in order! Instead, this is going to be a hybrid of who I enjoyed watching play the game the most, who I feel has the ability to succeed at higher levels, and who I actually got to see! Unfortunately, I was unable to lay eyes on a game played by wunderkinds Byron Buxton and Julio Urias, flamethrower Robert Stephenson, and a whole host of other Grade A prospects whose names will not be on this list. So please, no “why isn’t player X on here”, because the answer probably lies in the fact that I wasn’t able to see him. However, feel free to quibble away on my relative rankings in the comments below!
Correa was the first Big Time Prospect I saw this year, and he left one heck of an impression on me. Despite a physically imposing, 6’4″ 205 lbs frame, Correa’s play at shortstop was impressive in both its smoothness and the confidence with which he executed. At the plate, Correa showed much more pop and feel for the zone than I expected from such a young player. On a cold April afternoon, I saw Correa hit a ball roughly 420 feet down the left field line, power I saw only a few more times in-game in the MWL the rest of the season. Correa impressed with his hit tool as well, making solid contact on a majority of the pitches he connected with, including pitches he was fooled on. Did I mention he was only 18 to start the year and hit .320/.405/.467? He’s got all the tools to be an absolute monster in very short order.
Almora showed up to Kane County late thanks to a broken hamate bone, but when he got healthy he did nothing but hit. His .329/.376/.466 line was 5th best by OPS in the Midwest League among players under 20, establishing Almora as one of the elite players in the league, right up there with the likes of Corey Seager and Carlos Correa. Every time I saw Almora, I was astounded by his ability to put the barrel on the ball. Even when Almora was fooled he made solid contact from an off-balance swing. In the field, Almora made the most of his average footspeed by getting great reads off the bat and taking perfect routes to fly balls. He’s not without flaws, but they are relatively minor parts of his game (his basestealing, for example, needs plenty of work) and nothing I’ve seen makes me think he wont succeed at every level.
Albert Almora looks every part of the real deal on the field. The confidence with which he carries himself is evident and his superior baseball instincts are quite easy to see in game action. I am very excited to see what he can do with a fully healthy 2014 season.
3. Corey Seager
I really wish I had seen more of Seagar this summer, who hit .309/.389/.529 in his full-season ball debut. I only saw him for one game, but it was enough for me to send about 30 excited DMs to a friend who owns him in a dynasty league. Seagar is big, and he made extremely hard contact with a few baseballs, including one that one-hopped the wall in right-center field. He also walked twice in the game, and looked alright at shortstop. By the end of the game, I was trying to get out of work for a few days so I could see him play more.
Pierce started the first game of the Cougars’ season on a cold April night, and struggled through 2+ innings before getting pulled. After that start, though, Johnson shredded Midwest League lineups, posting a 2.54 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 67.1 innings. He attacks hitters with a 92-94mph two-seam fastball/sinker and a power breaking ball that serves as a definite out pitch. Perhaps the most impressive performance I saw all season was delivered by Johnson on June 16th vs. the Timber Rattlers. Johnson struck out 5 over 7 scoreless innings, and he was able to maintain 94 mph on his heater throughout the game. If he can maintain velocity like that in the future (and avoid an arm injury that many feel may be inevitable given his mechanics), I feel that Johnson has a very, very bright future.
I really like Dan Vogelbach. Maybe it’s because everyone loves rooting for the unathletic looking dude who can hit a baseball 500 feet, and maybe that’s the truth, but for me it’s something much deeper. Over the 50 or so plate appearances I saw him take, the #want Vogelbach displayed was unmatched by anyone in the league. The guy cares more than anyone else in the league would let the crowd see, and was often down on himself after even somewhat poor at bats. He has the drive to do great things in this game if his swing doesn’t fall apart. Oh, and that swing? It’s beautiful, and he used it to post a very solid full-season debut.
6. Niko Goodurm
Speaking of #want, it’s time to talk about Niko Goodrum, who almost killed himself trying to run through brick-sh*thouse catcher Wilson Contreras in the middle innings of a Class A game in June. He went to the hospital and was eventually released, and continued his strong season by posting a .260/.364/.369 line. He was a slick fielder at shortstop, has a fantastic arm, and can fly around the basepaths. Kenny and I are big fans of his.
The Athletics shortstop prospect looked amazing when I saw him play in Beloit. The supplemental first round pick hit for a decent .277/.353/.401 line that was inflated by a home ballpark that is TINY, but I was most impressed by two plays he made in the field. On one play, Robertson ranged very far to his right and made a perfect jump-throw to first to get the runner. Soon after, Robertson made a charging play, throwing from a near impossible angle to nab the runner. Fun player to watch.
We’re all still waiting for Jeimer’s great approach and swing to turn into solid production, but watching a player with such an advanced feel for the plate at his age was special. Jeimer also put in a lot of work at 3B over the year, and has turned himself into a pretty solid defensive 3B. I hope he’s able to turn his doubles power into more over the fence power as he matures.
Honorable Mention: Adam Brett Walker, who would have ranked somewhere in the second half of this list if his throwing arm wasn’t the single worst tool I saw all season long.