Five Hitting Prospects Set To Break Out In 2014
1. Xander Bogaerts SS, Boston Red Sox
When you look at Bogaerts numbers from the end of 2013 with the Red Sox, you aren’t impressed. He only hit .250 in 18 regular season games last season with just one home run. But if you actually watched him in those games, in the field and at the plate, it’s obvious he’s a star in the making.
Having just turned 21 before the Red Sox started their postseason run, it was to be expected that Bogaerts would be a little gun-shy, expected that the stage could be a little too big for the young prospect. But after just a few games, it was clear Bogaerts wasn’t scared of the environment, who he was facing, or when he was facing them.
He’s a great at bat machine.
Bogaerts posted an impressive .412 OBP in 34 plate appearances in the 2013 postseason, and there’s no reason to think he can’t put up huge numbers at shortstop for the Red Sox with a full slate of at bats if Stephen Drew isn’t brought back. At 6’3″ 185lbs, Bogaerts has plenty of time to fill out his power stroke, as well.
2. Jurickson Profar 2B, Texas Rangers
The #1 prospect in baseball a year ago, Profar has fallen victim to lofty expectations and erratic playing time. Valuable because of his ability to play all over the field, it was obvious he never got comfortable in 2013, batting just .234 in 324 plate appearances and playing 2nd, 3rd, SS, and LF for the Texas Rangers. Rushed to the MLB at 19, some are concerned Profar’s development could be ruined.
I’m not there yet. Still just 20-years-old, and now slated to get a full compliment of at bats while locked in at the 2nd base position with Ian Kinsler‘s departure, Profar should get a chance to show off the skills that made him an elite prospect in the first place: His ability to get on base, and his surprising power hitting toward the bottom of the Rangers lineup. He’s not a big kid, but he’s got serious pop. Expect Profar to make that next step in 2014.
3. Kolten Wong 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
Kind of an old man compared to Bogaerts and Profar, the 23-year-old Wong played sparingly with Matt Carpenter and David Freese blocking his playing time, but was valuable as a pinch-runner down the stretch and in the postseason, although he’s famously known for getting picked off by Koji Uehara to end a World Series game.
In 2014, with Freese gone and Carpenter expected to move back to 3rd base, Wong has 2nd base all to his self in St. Louis. The 2011 first round pick has a low ceiling, but there’s no reason to think he can’t hit .280+ with a bunch of stolen bases while playing great defense for the Cardinals this upcoming season.
4. George Springer OF, Houston Astros
Maybe one of the biggest mysteries in the MLB prospect world in 2013, Springer played the entire season without getting a call-up despite shredding AA and AAA pitching all season to the tune of a .408 OBP, 37 HR,and 108 RBI. Springer also stole 45 bases in the minors in 2013, making him one of the games most exciting up-and-coming power-speed combos.
Already drawing comparisons to Matt Kemp, Springer should have a good chance to start in left for the Astros in 2014 and put up numbers that should satisfy plenty of fantasy baseball owners. With his big swing, he still swings and misses a little too much, but his ability to take walks masks his high strikeout totals. Expect a huge season for the UCONN product if he gets the at bats he deserves in 2014.
5. Javier Baez SS, Chicago Cubs
The #1 prospect in the Cubs system, Baez smacked 37 home runs across two levels in the minor leagues last season. Known for his violent swing, Baez hit four home runs in a single game and although he’s likely to outgrow the shortstop position, has shown enough growth there defensively to stay there for at least one more season.
Starlin Castro blocks him at SS, but it seems the Cubs organization has soured on him recently and 3rd base is wide open in Chicago. Expect Baez to make an impact around mid-season for the Cubs in 2014.
Follow Shawn Ferris on Twitter @RealShawnFerris for more MLB news and updates.