Some prospects are highly touted heading into a season and then live up to advanced billing. Others are a bit more under the radar, either because they are coming off of injuries, haven't performed up to expectations or perhaps are just getting started on their pro careers. MLB Pipeline selected one of these type of prospects from each organization as a 2018 breakout candidate. We might not be talking much about the prospects below now, but they could jump on the scene in a big way this season.
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Chicago: Bryan Hudson, LHP (No. 24 on Cubs Top 30)
Hudson might have been the most projectable pitcher in the 2018 Draft, standing 6-foot-8 with plenty of room to add strength to his lanky 220-pound build. The Cubs paid him an over-slot $1.1 million as a third-round pick out of Alton (Ill.) High -- also the alma mater of the tallest man in recorded history, 8-foot-11 Robert Wadlow -- and knew his development would take time. After struggling in his first full pro season and the beginning of his second, he showed signs of improvement by going 7-0 with a 3.39 ERA in his final 11 starts of 2017 in the Class A Midwest League.
Hudson did a much better job of repeating his delivery and maintaining his strength last year, and his stuff improved as well. He ranged from 87-94 mph with his fastball (up from 86-88 mph in 2016), finishing second in the Minors with a 3.1 groundout/airout ratio thanks to the sink and extreme angle he creates. His curveball is his best pitch, a true hammer at times when he stays on top of it, and he's making strides with his changeup and control.
"Bryan Hudson has thrown well this spring," Cubs farm director Jaron Madison said. "He's been about as good as we've ever seen him and we're so excited about him. He's showing good feel to both sides of the plate. He's a big guy with feel to spin the ball and projectable velocity to come."
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Cincinnati: Tyler Stephenson, C (No. 9 on Reds Top 30)
The Reds loved Stephenson's upside enough to take the high school catcher No. 11 overall in the 2015 Draft. Developing a prep backstop can take longer, given all of the responsibilities of the position, but Stephenson has been particularly slowed by a string of unrelated injuries, from a concussion to a wrist injury and, most recently in 2017, a broken thumb that shut down what had been an encouraging season in the Midwest League. The Reds think he's going to pick up where he left off, and then some, in 2018.
"He's primed to have a good year," Reds farm director Jeff Graupe said. "He has a chance to make an impact offensively and defensively, but he stands out with the chance to produce high-quality at-bats. He did take a huge step forward with his receiving and his game-calling, and he's maximizing his abilities back there."
Milwaukee: Tyrone Taylor, OF
A two-sport star for Torrance (Calif.) High, Taylor was selected by the Brewers in the second round of the 2012 Draft and emerged as one of the club's better position-playing prospects in 2014 in his second full season, when, at age 20, he paced the Class A Advanced Florida State League with 36 doubles while also stealing 22 bases. But Taylor has struggled in each of the next two years in Double-A, hitting a combined .246 in 919 games, and was then limited to just 25 games at the level in 2018 on account of a nagging hamstring injury.
Although Taylor, when healthy, stands out most for his above-average speed and outfield defense, the Brewers also believe that the 24-year-old still has untapped potential with the bat. He has good bat speed and advanced bat-to-ball skills from the right side of the plate, with a knack for pounding the gaps that ultimately could translate to more over-the-fence pop.
"Tyrone Taylor is a guy who really battled injuries last year. He's fully healthy. He's had a chance to get over into some big league games. The power stroke seems to be coming back. It's just great to see him healthy. He's been a sleeper in the past," said Brewers farm director Tom Flanagan.
Pittsburgh: Cody Bolton, RHP
Never an organization to shy away from high school pitching in the Draft, the Pirates took Bolton out of Tracy High School in Northern California in the sixth round of the 2017 Draft and gave him slightly over-pick value ($300,000) to sign him away from his commitment to Michigan. The 6-foot-3 right-hander has some projection to him and the Pirates liked what they saw from him this Spring Training after a solid debut in the Gulf Coast League last summer.
"He's just really mature and goes about his work in a different way and his outings with a different level of precision and intentionality that you don't usually get with a 19-year old," Pirates farm director Larry Broadway said. "And the stuff has been good. He's taken a nice step forward in this camp."
St. Louis:Conner Greene, RHP (No. 21 on Cards Top 30)
Greene's size and arm strength have always excited evaluators, but the results haven't always measured up. His Double-A season in 2017 with the Blue Jays was a rough one, but the Cardinals felt there was more than enough to work with to acquire him in January in the Randal Grichuk deal. He's already made some adjustments to how he attacks hitters, both physically and mentally.
"He made a good impression in big league camp," Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque said of his No. 21 prospect. "He got innings over there, and he needs innings to develop."