The lineup below is a group of players that never played a Major League game until 2014. It’s also a list of prospects that were not on an Opening Day roster when this season started, but that have since been called up.
If I were picking the best overall prospects, a player like third baseman Kris Bryant (Cubs) would be in the lineup. But Bryant wasn’t called up (amazingly), and so he isn’t penciled in here.
C Christian Vazquez (Red Sox)
There has been a lot of love for Vazquez’s defense. He’s potentially a future Yadier Molina, in terms of his play behind the dish. When it comes to catchers, the ability to handle a pitching staff and call a quality game will always outweigh their ability to hit. Vazquez, 24, is hitting just .219 through 42 games with zero home runs. But if he can become a gold glove candidate each season, that will suffice for Boston.
1B Jon Singleton (Astros)
He reminds me of Ryan Howard: big left-handed hitter, long swing, a lot of strikeouts and the ability to launch home runs. If Singleton, who will soon be 23, can maintain a decent on-base percentage and hit between 30-40 home runs each season, Houston will accept the high number of strikeouts. He’s currently hitting .179 with 13 home runs and 118 strikeouts in 84 games.
Aug 15, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Houston Astros first baseman Jon Singleton (28) bats during the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
2B Joe Panik (Giants)
With the Giants struggling for production at second, they eventually turned to Panik and were rewarded for the decision. A first-round pick in the 2011 draft, Panik is living up to expectations so far. What stands out is his .316 batting average in 206 at-bats. He’s more of a singles hitter, a perfect batter to have in the two-hole.
3B Maikel Franco (Phillies)
Franco has pop and is smooth at the hot corner. His defense is good, with the ability to be really good, especially if he keeps making plays like this. And this. Hitting at home-run-friendly Citizens Bank Park should give Franco the chance to consistently crank out 30-home run seasons. I think it might take some time for his power to fully develop against big-league pitching.
SS Javier Baez (Cubs)
Power. And lots of it. But he needs to limit his strikeouts, as he’s already accumulated 65 of them in 146 at-bats. While I think he projects more as a second baseman, possibly even a left fielder, Baez is currently playing shortstop for the Cubs. While Starlin Castro is out for the rest of the season, he’s still signed to a sizeable contract. Chicago also has shortstop Addison Russell stashed in their loaded farm system. Baez figures to be a vital middle-of-the-order bat in the Cubs’ lineup, but it likely won’t come as a shortstop.
OF Jorge Soler (Cubs)
What’s been a very small sample size has still brought a lot of excitement to the Windy City. Soler, like Baez, has incredible power. The 22-year-old Cuban defect joins a group of Cuban talent that has taken the Majors by surprise. He’s 16-for-45 (.356 AVG) and has four home runs. And his swing is a pretty one. A power-hitting outfielder, Soler gives Cubs fans hope for the next Sammy Sosa, minus the steroids.
Aug 30, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielder Jorge Soler (68) hits an RBI single against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
OF Mookie Betts (Red Sox)
Betts, who is 5-foot-9, has made the transition from second base to centerfield, since Dustin Pedroia is locked at second for the foreseeable future. Betts provides athleticism in the outfield and he has a nice mixture of speed and pop for a smaller guy. It will be interesting to see what the Sox do with Betts when it’s time for Rusney Castillo to join the team.
OF Gregory Polanco (Pirates)
He came up to the Pirates and quickly proved he belonged. His struggles not long ago had him sent back to Triple-A, but he’s back now and a definite fixture in Pittsburgh’s lineup. Of the entire bunch in this lineup, I think Polanco will turn out to be one of the most consistent, productive players in the league. With his speed and power ability, he should be a 25-25 threat when he enters his prime.
SP Jacob deGrom (Mets)
With Matt Harvey lost for the season, it didn’t seem like the Mets would have a strong starting rotation. But in May, the Mets called up deGrom, and since then he has pitched really well, giving New York’s rotation a needed boost. He’s gone 8-6 with a 2.62 ERA in 20 starts. In 127 1/3 innings, he has 121 strikeouts. Put deGrom with Harvey and Zach Wheeler next season, eventually add in Noah Syndergaard and the Mets will pitch their way to a postseason birth within the next five years.
Aug 29, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning of a game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Notable players missing: OF Oscar Taveras (Cardinals), OF Joc Pederson (Dodgers)