MLB Top Prospects Preview: The International League
The International League will play home to MLB top prospects waiting for their service clock to pass midnight. In 2013, Nick Castellanos, Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Billy Hamilton, and Gerrit Cole spent time at the level, and 2014 will be another strong season in terms of top prospects with impact potential. This season, more than a dozen current and former top-100 prospects will open the year in Triple-A with a shot at MLB glory.
MLB Prospects Preview: International League Hitters
Gregory Polanco, CF, Indianapolis Indians (Pirates)
Polanco brings an exciting set of tools to the International League. Coming off a Spring Training in which the 22-year old turned heads, the top-20 overall prospect will look to continue to hone those tools into skills, and it would not be surprising to see him make an impact in Pittsburgh at some point in 2014. Coming off a season in which he cemented himself alongside other MLB top prospects not named Buxton, Polanco is the best position player to start 2014 in the International League.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies)
Many ways exist for a prospect to break out nationally, perhaps the most clear-cut path is to hit. In 2013, all Maikel Franco did was hit. After posting a slash line of .299/.349/.576 in 289 PAs for Clearwater in the Florida State League (a pitcher-friendly league), the top-100 prospect was promoted mid-season to Double-A Reading in the Eastern League. An absurd .339/.363/.563 slashline in 292 PAs followed. He performed so well, the Phillies chose to jump Franco to the International League just one full season after playing in the Single-A South Atlantic League. Franco will need to answer questions about his future position (3B or 1B?), and show that he can continue to hit over larger samples against advanced pitching to rank amongst elite MLB top prospects. At this rate, he’ll push his way to Philadelphia by summer.
Garin Cecchini, 3B, Pawtucket Red Sox (Red Sox)
ROTOscouting’s own Mike Newman once wrote that Garin Cecchini is not a “sexy” prospect (although his top-100 rankings say otherwise), but as we saw with Franco, hitting ability often speaks louder than tools. Part of a family with baseball bloodlines (brother Gavin is in the Mets system, father is a high school coach), Cecchini brings a high-IQ, gamer mentality to the field which allows for his tools to play up. Having never hit below .296 in the minors, nor posted an OBP lower than .394, Cecchini comes into Triple-A looking to prove he can provide defensive value at 3B, and that he will hit for enough power to profile as a first-division type there for Boston.
Brian Goodwin, CF, Syracuse Chiefs (Nationals)
For a player drafted in a single-digit round out of high school, played baseball at a major DI program at North Carolina, and hit .324/.438/.542 as a 21-year old in 2012, earning his way to Double-A, Brian Goodwin receives little love from the prospect community. Coming off an age-22 season in which he hit .252/.355/.407 in Double-A, Goodwin will look to refine his raw tools on the way to Washington. A loaded Washington outfield of Bryce Harper, Denard Span, and Jayson Werth means Goodwin has time to develop, but it will still be important for him to make progress in terms of consistency both at the plate and in the field.
Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Durham Bulls (Rays)
After getting off to a red-hot 15-game start to the 2013 season, Lee sustained an ugly knee injury on a play at second base. A defensive whiz at shortstop, Lee needs to show that he can provide some value with the bat in order to solidify himself as the Rays’ shortstop of the future. With a team option on Yunel Escobar for 2015, the Rays will monitor his progress closely to see if Lee is ready to take over. This is what ROTOscouting wrote about Escobar earlier this week:
Acquired in the Matt Garza deal, offers athleticism and a chance at being the everyday shortstop in Tampa next season. Unfortunately, Lee injured his knee and missed the rest of the 2013 season after a torrid start. Since accepting his limitations and becoming more of a slap hitter, his hitting has taken off. Lee has been impressive in Rays camp this year, catching the attention of manager Joe Maddon before yet another injury which will rob him of a month. For Lee to prove himself as MLB ready, he’ll need to spend more time on the field than off of it..
MLB Top Prospects Preview: International League Pitchers
Jameson Taillon, SP, Indianapolis Indians (Pirates)
Despite not having dominant numbers, Taillon has the potential to be a front line starter for the Pirates. Like Gerrit Cole, Taillon has posted good, but not great numbers at every minor league stop. ROTOscouting’s Mike Newman once wrote Taillon projects “for both power and durability, it’s easy to envision Taillon averaging 200-innings pitched per season in much more than the generic “workhorse” capacity.” The top-20 overall prospect is working through elbow soreness, and was shut down in Spring Training. Assuming Taillon regains his health, the right-hander is the best pitching prospect in the International League.
Kevin Gausman, SP, Norfolk Tides (Orioles)
While Gausman will start the year in the International League, but may not be there long. The fourth pick in the 2012 MLB draft zoomed through the minor leagues, earning a promotion to Baltimore where he struggled. Gausman had a 33/9 K/BB ratio in 35 2/3 innings for Norfolk last season. A bit more consistency and the top-20 overall prospect will be a mainstay in the Baltimore rotation.
Alex Meyer, SP, Rochester Red Wings (Twins)
Do you like size? Stuff? Power fastballs? If so, Alex Meyer is your man. The top-100 prospect is finally coming into his own at age 24, close to earning his way to Minnesota. Acquired for Denard Span, he offers an upper-90s fastball (per Mike Newman), hard slider, and developing changeup. At 6-foot-9, Meyer is an intimidating presence who creates excellent downward plane on his pitches.
Marcus Stroman, SP, Buffalo Bisons (Blue Jays)
A controversial prospect in the scouting community, Stroman offers the raw stuff of a stud pitcher. However, the right-hander is just 5-foot-9. With athleticism, command and a big-time fastball. ROTOscouting’s Jeff Reese wrote this on Stroman after seeing him pitch his sophomore season at Duke:
The fastball overpowered hitters; the slider made them look silly with awkward, half-hearted swings; and the change up – while a bit firm – gave hitters another pitch to take empty swings at. Sonny Gray has been given the opportunity to prove that he can start in pro ball; hopefully the Blue Jays give Marcus Stroman the same opportunity. If they avoid the temptation of immediately throwing him into their bullpen, I think he’ll prove to be capable.
The top-100 prospect will look to pass his final test before moving onto Toronto, and if he has a strong campaign in Buffalo he could be making starts north of the border by mid-season.
Enny Romero, SP, Durham Bulls (Rays)
The Rays are known for developing pitching, and Romero is an exceptional talent that simply needs honing. As ROTOscouting wrote about him earlier:
Romero is a 6-foot-3 left-hander who flashes two potentially plus-plus pitches. After posting a 110/73 K/BB ratio in 140 1/3 innings for Durham in 2013, the 23 year old will have to find his changeup (the unintentional thesis of this article), and consistency in order to leapfrog Odorizzi and Karns on the depth chart.
Romero will showcase his electric stuff in Durham while working on command and the development of a third pitch, allowing evaluators to take a wait and see approach with the top-100 prospect.
- Slade Heathcott, OF, Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Yankees)
- Mikie Mahtook, OF, Durham Bulls (Rays)
- Christian Bethancourt, C, Gwinnett Braves (Braves) (Top-100 Prospect)
- Tommy La Stella, 2B, Gwinnett Braves (Braves)
- Trevor May, SP, Rochester Red Wings (Twins)
- Sean Nolin, SP, Buffalo Bisons (Blue Jays)
- Anthony Gose, OF, Buffalo Bisons (Blue Jays)
- Matt Davidson, 3B, Charlotte Knights (White Sox) (Top-100 Prospect)
MLB Top Prospects: Late-Season “Gets”
Some guys who could make their way up to the International League in 2014 include Byron Buxton (Twins), Francisco Lindor (Indians), Dylan Bundy (Orioles), Robert Stephenson (Reds), and Aaron Sanchez (Blue Jays).
4 Apr 2014 / Spencer Schneier /
1-On-1 ROTO Strategy Session
The Best Of RS
- Can Alex "Chi-Chi" Gonzalez Crack the Texas Rangers Opening Day Rotation?
- Fantasy Baseball Trade Deadline 101: A Former MLB GM’s Take
- Felix Hernandez and Solo Home Run Situations: A Blueprint For Longevity
- JR Graham: Is He Still An MLB Arm For The Atlanta Braves?
- Mason Williams: Is It Time To Label Him A Bust For The Yankees?
- Mike Newman's Top-50 Fantasy Baseball Prospects Scouted in 2014
- Nick Kingham Scouting Report (2014)
- Rangers Joey Gallo, Marlins Giancarlo Stanton And Strikeouts
- The ROTOscouting Baseball Podcast
- Top-10 Fantasy Baseball Prospects By Team
- Will Mike Moustakas Finally Put It Together Next Season?