One of the most important factors in evaluating prospects is age. A 19-year-old finding some success in Double-A is typically much more promising than a 25-year-old dominating Triple-A. It’s a notion that every scout I’ve discussed prospects with weighs heavily.
Bryce Harper’s MLB promotion last month left Triple-A with zero teenagers. Of the 90 teenagers playing in full-season leagues as of May 1, only 11 were in High-A (7) or Double-A (4).
Utilizing data from Minor League Central, I’ve combed through the minors to put together an all-teenager prospect team. Many of the players on it are ones I’ve scouted in person or studied on film. I also put weight into how each player is performing this season as well as long-term defensive value.
Part one of a two-part series, this article profiles teenage hitters who are playing in full-season minor leagues. The second part of the series will profile the minor’s top teenage pitchers.
Austin Hedges, SD, Low-A
Very polished behind the plate and physically mature, Hedges is hitting for power, making regular contact and showing patience in the Midwest League. It’s rare to see high schoolers arrive in pro ball with such a well-rounded skillset. A case could be made that Hedges is already the best catching prospect in baseball, particularly among the players who are likely to stick behind the plate.
Honorable Mentions: Gary Sanchez (NYY, 19.4, Low-A), Gabriel Lino (BAL, 19.0, Low-A) and Jorge Alfaro (TEX, 18.9, Low-A).
Teenage first baseman isn’t a very good prospect profile. The amount of offensive output required at the position makes it almost unfair to call out any teenagers. Miguel Sano (MIN, 19.0), who I have listed at third base, may hit enough to move to first base and remain an elite prospect.
Rougned Odor, TEX, Low-A
Similar to first base, second base isn’t a great present position to find future big leaguers. But as the youngest player in the minors, Odor certainly deserves mention. He’s hitting for an exceptional amount of power given his age and size (5-foot-11, 170 pounds). Odor could enter 2013 as a consensus top 100 prospect if he keeps up his offensive pace in the South Atlantic League.
Honorable Mentions: None
I’ve written up four shortstops below, as it’s a position where many athletic teenagers play and it’s loaded right now. Each player below would be among the game’s top second base and/or third base prospects if he was moved off short.
Jurickson Profar, TEX, Double-A
At 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, Profar isn’t built like a potential superstar, but he’s hitting for a ridiculous amount of power. His bat speed and arm are elite. And his outstanding makeup was surely a factor in the Rangers’ decision to skip him over High-A entirely. Last off-season was too early to talk about what Texas will do with Andrus and Profar. Next off-season won’t be.
Manny Machado, BAL, Double-A
Similar to Profar, Machado is making a smooth transition to Double-A in just his second full season, an amazing accomplishment. Machado passes the eye test as a potential shortstop with power. There’s a non-zero chance that he moves to third base long-term but he’s a better bet than most prospects his size to remain at the short.
Xander Bogaerts, BOS, High-A
One of the biggest knocks on Bogaerts last off-season was his strikeout rate. He’s made huge strides in that area this season but his power numbers have also taken a big hit. That said, he’s one of six teenage hitters in High-A and the only one who’s finding success at the plate. Bogaerts is the least likely of the four shortstops on this list to remain at the position. He has enough bat to perhaps be an all-star third baseman someday.
Francisco Lindor, CLE, Low-A
Lindor doesn’t have a weakness, though he doesn’t have as much offensive upside as Profar, Machado or Bogaerts. He’s a solid bet to stick at shortstop, hit for above-average power for the position and reach base regularly.
Honorable Mention: Alen Hanson (PIT, 19.6, Low-A)
Trevor Story, COL, Low-A
One of the main reasons I have Story over Sano here is because Story, who’s primarily playing shortstop right now, is a much better bet to stick at third than Sano. Story brings a well-rounded skillset, mature, projectable frame and advanced feel for the game. I haven’t seen many teenagers who identify pitches as well as he does. His power and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect to follow.
Honorable Mentions: Miguel Sano (MIN, 19.0, Low-A), Cheslor Cuthbert (KC, 19.5, High-A), Hanser Alberto (TEX, 19.6, Low-A)
Luigi Rodriguez, CLE, Low-A
Center field typically has some athletic prospects who don’t have the hands for the infield. It’s relatively weak right now, though. Rodriguez split 2011 between rookie ball and Low-A. He’s striking out less and hitting for more power in his second time facing Low-A competition.
Honorable Mentions: None
Oscar Taveras, STL, Double-A
One of the hardest-swinging prospects I’ve ever seen, Taveras makes an amazing amount of contact and hits for a ton of power. He’s primarily playing center field in the minors now -- with some right field -- but he’ll likely end up in a corner. Like Profar, he made the jump from Low-A in 2011 to Double-A in 2012. Taveras also played in the Arizona Fall League last year. He could be in the big leagues at some point this season.
Jorge Bonifacio, KC, Low-A
Built quite dissimilarly from his older brother Emilio, Jorge has potential above-average power and an outstanding arm. He currently expands the zone a bit too much, leading to strikeouts and some weak fly outs. But he squares up on the ball regularly, generates a lot of leverage and has elite bat speed. Bonifacio holds his own in right field but he may slow down as he continues to mature.
Honorable Mentions: None