Top 100 Prospects 2015 - 60 - 51

Mother Nature has decided to place another layer of coconut frosting on the D.C. landscape. Myworld is getting a little tired of the coconut frosting and are counting down the days when we will be in Florida to enjoy the baseball and sunshine. Waiting for the snow to stop has given us the opportunity to put together prospects 60-51.

60. Michael Taylor OF (Nationals) 3.38 - Michael was a 2009 sixth round pick. With the shoulder injury to Jayson Werth he will get a lot of time to prove himself in spring training this year and could get an opportunity to begin the season in the major leagues, depending on the health of Werth and opportunities for playing time. As he has matured physically his power has increased, and while there are some that question his ability to hit for average he has the potential to be a five tool player. Last year he showed he could hit for average, hitting .313 with 22 homeruns and 34 stolen bases in AA. Except for the stolen base totals all those numbers were career highs. He got a September callup to the major leagues where he only hit .205, but .333 against lefthanders. He also hit his first of what the Nationals hope are many major league homeruns. Michael has the speed and the instincts to play a gold glove caliber centerfield, perhaps not as polished as Denard Span is yet, but it will get there. Expect him to settle in AAA after Werth returns from his shoulder rehab.

59. Kyle Zimmer RHP (Royals) 3.4 - Zimmer was a 2012 first round pick out of the University of San Francisco. Injuries have prevented Kyle from making a fast ascent to the major leagues. His fastball hits three digits, sitting in the low to mid-90s and he complements that with a good slider and curveball. His change still needs some development. Shoulder soreness limited him to 22 starts in 2013 but the Royals did not anticipate any lingering effects. Last year a variety of injuries limited him to five rehab starts limited to five innings in rookie ball. Minor shoulder surgery after the 2014 season ended will delay the start of his 2015 season. The Royals hope the shoulder issues are past him so he can have success in AA where he finished his 2013 season. This would make a 2015 September callup a possibility. If nothing else, it could make him available for the rotation in 2016.

58. Kyle Freeland LHP (Rockies) 3.52 - Kyle was the Rockies first round pick in the 2014 draft. His fastball sits in the low 90s, but his big pitch is the slider. As a college drafted pitcher he is expected to move up the system quickly. Last year Freeland dominated both rookie level and Low A ball, finishing with a 1.56 ERA at rookie ball and a 0.83 ERA at Low A, both in five starts. He does have more success against lefthanded batters, limiting them to a .059 average at Low A. He also has shown excellent command, walking less than 1.5 batters per nine innings, while whiffing close to eight per nine. The Rockies will probably start him at High A with a promotion to AA if he sees success. The Rockies have no reason to promote him this early to the major leagues and speed up his service time if they are not contending, so expect a 2016 debut to the major leagues.

57. Albert Almora OF (Cubs) 3.52 - Albert was a 2012 first round pick by the Cubs. While he signed for $3.9 million, his Cuban heritage must have him smiling at some of the contracts the players leaving Cuba are getting from major league teams. If his parents had waited a little longer leaving Cuba he might have won a better lottery ticket. Almora is expected to be the Cubs centerfielder of the future once Dexter Fowler has slowed down. He lacks the speed of Fowler, but he has excellent instincts to cover the position. His Spanish speaking ability was a big help for Jorge Soler to get acclimated to the United States. Almora had a good year in High A (.283) but struggled when promoted to AA (.234). The Cubs would like to see him draw more walks to get his OBA above the .350 range. The AA experience last year was his first hiccup where he saw failure for the first time. The Cubs will have him repeat AA and with success he could be making his major league debut in September.

56. Aaron Blair RHP (Diamondbacks) 3.53 - Blair was a first round supplemental pick by the Diamondbacks out of the 2013 draft. At 6′5″ with a fastball that hits the mid-90s he should be an innings eater in a rotation. His change is a plus pitch already, with a breaking pitch (both slider and curve) still being developed. As the highest drafted player ever out of Marshall he is expected to rise quickly through the ranks. After starting the season in Low A he quickly was promoted to High A. At both levels his ERA was over 4 and while he struck out a batter per inning there was still a lot of barrel of bat on ball. When promoted to AA his pitches must have clicked with his ERA at 1.95 in eight starts and his opposition average down to .185. He also continued to strike out a hitter per inning. The Diamondbacks would like to see him continue his AA magic, perhaps having him repeat at AA to avoid the high altitudes of AAA. With success he should see a spot in the major league rotation by mid-season.

55. Brandon Nimmo OF (Mets) 3.6 - Nimmo has the distinction of being the first player drafted in the first round out of Wyoming when the Mets drafted him in 2011. It stays a little too cold in the Cowboy state up through May, so high schools in Wyoming don’t even bother to put together baseball teams. Nimmo has the range to play center field but not the blazing speed to cover a lot of ground or steal bases. His bat has also been short of power, which could restrict him if he has to move to a corner. Some say that the power will come as he matures. Last year Nimmo hit .322 at High A with a 50/51 walk to whiff ratio, giving him an impressive .448 OBA. Only a quarter of his hits went for extra bases. When promoted to AA close to 40 percent of his hits went for extra bases, including six homeruns, more than he hit in High A with fewer at bats. The down side is his average dropped to .238 and his walk to whiff ratio suffered (36/54). Another year in AA won’t hurt. It would be surprising for the Mets to promote him to the major leagues this year to begin his service time clock early, so expect a 2016 major league debut.

54. Lucas Sims RHP (Braves) 3.62 - The Braves have been trading a number of veteran players and getting back young pitchers in the deal. Lucas was drafted in the first round by the Braves in 2012 in their own back yard of Snellville, Georgia. His fastball sits in the low to mid-90s and he complements that with a good curve and change. The Braves let him see all his time in High A where he got 28 starts and ate up 157 innings. His success did not justify a promotion with an ERA of 4.19 and a walk to whiff ratio that was under 2. Lucas was not a big mystery to the bats at High A despite his premium stuff, but a slow start inflated those numbers. He came on at the end of the season which justifies the Braves promoting him to AA to start the 2015 season. The Braves can only hope he starts the 2015 season as he ended the 2014 season which could lead to a September callup.

53. Jose Pereza SS/2B (Braves) 3.62 - Jose was signed out of Venezuela in 2010 for $350,000. He has the tools to play shortstop, with the arm the biggest question mark, but with Andrelton Simmons covering the position the Braves have been getting him playing time at second base. Jose does not have any power but he is one of the fastest players on the team, slashing singles to all fields. Some of those singles are stretched into doubles. Last year in High A he hit .342, but .435 against lefthanders, stealing 35 bases. Promoted to AA the hits just kept on coming with a .335 average but .349 against righthanders. He added 25 more stolen bases to his total to give him 60 for the year. The Braves traded Tommy LaStella, their starting second baseman last season and there is not a major impediment for him to take over the role by mid-season in 2015. Alberto Callapso and Phil Gosselin will keep the position warm for him until he is ready to take over.

52. Stephen Piscotty OF (Cardinals) 3.83 - Piscotty was a first round supplemental pick of the 2012 draft. At 6′3″ you would expect him to hit for power. In 2013 he hit 15 homeruns, but last year in AAA those numbers dropped to 9. He lacks the speed to play centerfield so as a corner outfielder the Cardinals hope the power will come. Piscotty has hit for average every place he has played (.288 at Memphis) and shows the patience to take walks (.355). The Cardinals have a loaded outfield so he will continue to play in AAA to begin the season, but don’t be surprised by his major league debut in 2015. He is good at making contact with the ball so perhaps he will sacrifice some of that contact with a harder swing to generate more power.

51. Dalton Pompey OF (Blue Jays) 3.87 - Pompey has a reservation for centerfield for the Blue Jays in April. He hopes a poor spring will not cancel that reservation, or at least postpone it until mid-season. Pompey was a 16th round pick in 2010 out of Canada. Sometimes those Canadians don’t develop as quickly because of the artic air and the hockey skates. Dalton saw three seasons in rookie ball and two in Low A before he broke out this year. He has the five tools you want in a centerfielder, though until this year his batting average tool could be questioned. He started the season in High A (.319), got a promotion to AA (.295), got a cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito in AAA (.358) before getting a promotion to the major leagues (.231). All this success has given the Blue Jays the confidence he can be the Blue Jays starting centerfielder in 2015. He makes contact, has shown the patience to take walks, all he has to prove is he can do that in the major leagues.

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