Coming into the 2014 season, these seven top prospects were expected to battle for a big league roster spot by seasons’ end. But things did not go as planned for these youngsters in 2014. Check out who headlines this year’ edition of Grading on the Curve Most Disappointing Prospect List. You’ll be surprised.
When MLB.com named Albert Almora the #19 prospect in baseball entering the season, it was apparent that the former first round pick was a big part of the Chicago Cub’s future. However, after a miserable 2014 season, Almora’s future is less clear. The 2014 campaign started of well enough, with the 20 year-old hitting a solid .283 for the High-A Daytona. But when the Cubs promoted Almora to Double-A, his season took at turn for the worst. Following his promotion, the outfielder hit only .234, with two home runs and nine extra base hits in 141 at bats. Almora also continued to display his lack of discipline, walking in only 1.4% of at bats while striking out 16.3% of the time. However, even after a poor end to the season, there is still hope for the Cubs’ prospect. Almora was 4.5 years younger than the average Southern League ballplayer, and only in his first attempt at Double-A. It isn’t over for Almora, but if the young gun wants to be part of a bright Cubs’ future, he needs to step up his game next season.
Coming into the 2014 season, Rafael Montero was viewed as a Major League ready prospect, who would potentially slot into the Mets’ rotation sometime before midseason. However, Montero didn’t do much to prove his worth as a big-league starter in 2014. The Dominican hurler faltered with his control, something unusual for a pitcher that walked only 2.0 batters per nine in 2013. Also, when Montero finally received the much-awaited call, he struggled, posting a 5.40 ERA and walking an astounding 11 batters in 20 innings. Absolutely unacceptable for a pitcher who calls control his calling card. After four awful May starts, the Mets optioned Montero back to Triple-A, and he wouldn’t see Citi Field again until late August. Now, Montero has become somewhat of a forgotten man in an organization that is rich in pitching depth. Rafael Montero has to improve in 2015 if he wants any chance at a Major League rotation spot.
#5 Gary Sanchez
After signing with the Yankees out of Santo Domingo, all eyes have been on Gary Sanchez ever since his age-17 season, when the catcher hit .329 with 8 home runs in just 47 games. However, Sanchez’ rank in Baseball Prospectus’ Top 100 has fallen every year since 2011, and the catcher has never eclipsed the .300 batting average mark after his first season in pro ball. Sanchez needed a bounce-back season in 2014 to reclaim his top prospect status, but he showed us more of the same. The backstop’s final numbers rank as the best on this list, but after concluding the season with a .270 average, 13 home runs, and a .738 OPS, it’s becoming more and more clear why the Yankees spent big money on Brian McCann last season. These aren’t terrible numbers, but Sanchez isn’t improving defensively and his potential is starting to show more of an average major league catcher than the star many experts once projected him to be. In short, Sanchez needs a big 2015 season to force the Yankees to recognize him as their catcher of the future once again.
The 22 year-old right-hander garnered all the hype entering the 2014 season, and reportedly was offered for former Cy Young winner David Price in the offseason. However, the prized hurler took an unexpected step back in 2013. Walker started the season with Triple-A Tacoma, and earned a major-league call-up on July 22nd. But after a poor start against the Mets, Walker was immediately option back to the minors. Taijuan did not take this demotion in stride, posting a 5.79 ERA after being demoted, along with a 1.50 WHIP, and an unimpressive .290 Batting Average Against. Walker was recalled as a September call-up, and now he looks more up to the challenge, posting a 1.93 ERA in his first 3 games since the call. However, all of this success has come in relief, and Walker will need to prove his value as a starter if he ever wants to reach that sky-high potential so many scouts dream about. 2015 will be a big determinant on where Walker lies in Seattle’s plan for the future.
Archie Bradley started the 2014 season as Baseball America’s #9 prospect in all of baseball. But the Dback’s top prospect struggled in 2014. After starting the season in Triple-A Reno, Bradley faltered right out of the gate. The righty posted an uninspiring 5.18 ERA and allowed 26 hits (and 4 home runs) in only 24.1 April innings. His performance was so poor that Arizona optioned Bradley back to the Double-A Southern League, a league he dominated in 2013. However unlike last year, when he posted a 1.97 ERA, Bradley stumbled to a 4.12 ERA and sported an unimpressive 1.48 WHIP. Recently, Bradley was selected to play for the Diamond Back’s Arizona Fall League team, which signals that the young hurler won’t be called up to the Major Leagues this year. Bradley’s 2014 was a step back from his stellar 2013 season. Like Walker, 2015 is a big year for towering righty.
When Jonathan Mayo named Austin Hedges the #1 Catching prospect in the game over Mets’ Travis d’Arnaud, big things were expected out of the young backstop. However, things have not gone as planned for the 22 year-old from California. After hitting .270 in 2013, Hedges’ batting average fell all the way down to .225 in 2014, and he reached base only 26.8% of the time. On top of all that, Hedges slugged a powerless .321 with a paltry .589 OPS, even more horrific considering the catcher played the entire season in the hitter-friendly Texas League. Even though scouts praise Hedges’ incredible prowess behind the plate, the top prospect will never amount to more than a Major League backup, unless his hitting skills improve.The 2013 #1 overall draft pick headlines our list after posting a 6.91 ERA in 2014.
#1 Mark Appel
When the Astros took Mark Appel #1 overall in the 2013 draft, some experts projected the righty to fly through the minor league ranks and join the big club in 2014. But after a bumpy 2014 campaign, Appel’s prospect star isn’t shining quite as bright as it was on draft night. The righty began his first full professional season with High-A Lancaster, and the 6’5” hurler did not get off to a good start. In 12 starts with the Jethawks, Appel posted an abominable 9.74 ERA, gave up 74 hits in just 44.1 innings pitched, and allowed opposing batters to hit for an unreal .372 Batting Average Against. Despite these appalling numbers, the Astros promoted their first round pick to Double-A Corpus Christi, which angered members of the Astros farm system that had been toiling in the minors for years. Appel did improve with Corpus Christi, putting up a 3.69 ERA and bringing down his HR/9 from 1.8 with Lancaster to a minuscule 0.5 HR/9 in Double-A. Although he finished his season relatively strong, Appel needs to inspire more confidence in an organization that invested over six million dollars in him last summer.