Five Breakout Hitting Prospects In 2014
1.Xander BogaertsSS, Boston Red Sox
When you look at Bogaerts numbers from the end of 2013 with the Red Sox, you arent 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, its obvious hes 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 wasnt scared of the environment, who he was facing, or when he was facing them.
Hes a great at bat machine.
Bogaerts posted an impressive .412 OBP in 34 plate appearances in the 2013 postseason, and theres no reason to think he cant put up huge numbers at shortstop for the Red Sox with a full slate of at bats ifStephen Drewisnt brought back. At 63? 185lbs, Bogaerts has plenty of time to fill out his power stroke, as well.
2.Jurickson Profar2B, 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 Profars development could be ruined.
Im 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 withIan Kinslers 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. Hes not a big kid, but hes got serious pop. Expect Profar to make that next step in 2014.
3.Kolten Wong2B, St. Louis Cardinals
Kind of an old man compared to Bogaerts and Profar, the 23-year-old Wong played sparingly withMatt CarpenterandDavid Freeseblocking his playing time, but was valuable as a pinch-runner down the stretch and in the postseason, although hes famously known for getting picked off byKoji Ueharato 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 theres no reason to think he cant hit .280+ with a bunch of stolen bases while playing great defense for the Cardinals this upcoming season.
4.George SpringerOF, 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 toMatt 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 BaezSS, 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 hes likely to outgrow the shortstop position, has shown enough growth there defensively to stay there for at least one more season.
Starlin Castroblocks 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.
Shawn Ferris is a MLB, NFL, and Fantasy Sports writer for sportstalkflorida.com. Follow him on Twitter@RealShawnFerris.