The National League prospect 'Dream Team'
Four Cubs, two Pirates and two Cardinals farmhands among league's best
Baseball scouts are used to those times when their opinions differ from those of others -- even within the same organization. By nature, scouts have certain qualities they seek in the complete, elite player.
Bottom line: It is not unusual for scouts and baseball analysts to differ in their opinions. As a matter of fact, that's why they make chocolate and vanilla ice cream. We don't all like the same thing.
So when I got the opportunity to formulate my "Prospect Dream Teams," I was enthused and eager.
Given the prospect pool prior to the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, here is the team I would choose to field in the National League:
Catcher: Austin Hedges, Padres, 21
Hedges brings everything I look for from a catcher. He has a solid bat and defensive mechanics that can dictate the ebb and flow of a game. Hedges can throw with accuracy and strength, has good footwork and calls a great game.
First Base: Dan Vogelbach, Cubs, 21
This is not a very deep position in the NL.
Vogelbach can flat-out hit, and he has produced at every level of play. He is a wide-bodied guy at six feet and 250 pounds. Vogelbach's fielding leaves something to be desired, but in a slim group of first baseman, he gets my nod.
Second Base: Kolten Wong, Cardinals, 23
In the NL, second base isn't deep. However, Wong has the bat and enough defensive ability to play second base for the Cards.
Shortstop: Javier Baez, Cubs, 21
I saw Baez hit some of the longest home runs ever struck in the Arizona Fall League. He has lightning-quick hands through the ball. Baez will be an offensive force.
Third Base: Kris Bryant, Cubs, 22
I am not convinced Bryant will continue as a third baseman. He's a big man at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds. Bryant may be best suited using his outstanding arm in right field.
Bryant is a power hitter with a sweet stroke. He has advanced hitting ability with a chance to fly through the organization.
Outfield: Oscar Taveras, Cardinals, 21
Injured this past season, Taveras has everything a scout looks for in a player. A left-handed hitter, he has raw power and the ability to hit for average and drive in runs. Taveras is strong at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, and he could be a game-changing impact player for years to come.
Outfield: Gregory Polanco, Pirates, 22
Polanco is still a bit of a work in progress. For me, he's more potential upside than finished product at this point. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Polanco really hasn't shown us all his capabilities. I think he will turn it up a notch and become an impact player.
Outfield: Albert Almora, Cubs, 19
Almora has the ability to play an outstanding center field without great fanfare. He'll hit. He'll run. He'll play outstanding defense. Almora is a complete player with knowledge of his role. A line-drive hitter, Almora knows how to use the entire field as his personal playground.
Pitcher: Archie Bradley (RHP), D-backs, 21
Pitchers are getting bigger and bigger. How about the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Bradley, who has a fastball in the high 90s? Command and control have been issues at times, but he's close to a finished product. Bradley should see some action in the D-backs' rotation this season, maybe sooner rather than later.
Pitcher: Noah Syndergaard (RHP), Mets, 21
Another huge guy at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, Syndergaard can get great torque on the ball pitching downhill. He has an outstanding curveball to go along with his intimidating fastball, making a combination of pitches that miss bats. Syndergaard is a "can't-miss" pitcher in my book.
Pitcher: Jameson Taillon (RHP), Pirates, 22
This is the season we should see this big guy break into the Bucs' rotation. At 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, Taillon has the ability to be a big-time winner. There are times, however, he loses his release point and doesn't repeat his delivery. Once Taillon gains total confidence, he will shine.
Pitcher: Jon Gray (RHP), Rockies, 22
This is a guy to watch. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Gray could be a steady workhorse in Colorado. But pitching at Coors Field is an issue. If he gets the ball up, he'll get hit, regardless of his velocity. If Gray can get sink on the ball, he has a chance to succeed. He has a full repertoire and can throw his fastball in the 100 mph range.
Pitcher: Andrew Heaney (LHP), Marlins, 22
The only lefty to make the team, Heaney has a chance to add to Miami's promising pitching staff, eventually slotting right behind Jose Fernandez. Heaney has a complete repertoire that he can throw for strikes.