We're nearing the end of the Minor League season, with the Triple-A Championship on Tuesday serving as the last official event. Thus, it's a fine time to review all that has transpired this year, and Jonathan Mayo and I are doing exactly that.
We've each selected an All-Prospect Team, based on a combination of talent and performance. Anyone who qualified as a prospect entering the year was eligible, which made dominant big leaguer Jose Fernandez (Marlins) an easy choice.
Jonathan and I agreed on seven of the 10 positions. I opted for Javier Baez (Cubs) over Francisco Lindor (Indians) at shortstop, Miguel Sano (Twins) over Maikel Franco (Phillies) at third base and Andrew Heaney (Marlins) over Henry Owens (Red Sox) among left-handed pitchers.
We also have chosen some superlatives, including identical picks for our position and pitching prospects of the year: Twins outfielder Byron Buxton and Fernandez.
2013 season-end superlatives
Pitcher of the year
Position player of the year
Most to prove in 2014
Most of the positions were pretty obvious, as there was an elite talent who enjoyed an outstanding year. I though the two most difficult decisions were at catcher, which didn't have a top prospect who had a standout season, and at shortstop, which had too many options to choose from.
Mariners catcher Mike Zunino's batting average and on-base percentages have been disappointing, but I cut him some slack for spending his first full pro season in Triple-A and the Majors, and gave him credit for hitting for power and playing decent defense. Travis d'Arnaud could have beaten Zunino out if he hadn't missed three months with a broken left foot.
At shortstop, Baez led the Minors with 75 extra-base hits and 111 RBIs while destroying Double-A pitching as a 20-year-old. But the Red Sox's Xander Bogaerts played well in Triple-A and the big leagues at the same age, and Lindor, Carlos Correa (Astros) and Addison Russell (Athletics) also had fine years.
Position Prospect Of The Year: Byron Buxton, Twins
The best prospect and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 Draft, Buxton had a modest pro debut after signing for $6 million. In his first full pro season, he was the most spectacular player in the Minors, batting a combined .334/.424/.520 with 12 homers, 55 steals and 76 walks between two Class A stops. Buxton reminded Midwest League observers of Mike Trout, only with more power at the same stage, and Buxton doesn't have a single tool that grades as anything less than above average.
Pitching Prospect Of The Year: Jose Fernandez, Marlins
Because we're considering players who began the year as prospects, the obvious choice is Fernandez, even if he didn't spend a day in the Minors. He had no difficulty jumping from high Class A to Miami at age 20, as he currently leads the Majors in hits per nine innings (5.79) and the National League in strikeouts per nine (9.75). Fernandez's mid-90s fastball and hard slider are both out pitches, and his changeup has been effective as well. If we only looked at pitchers who spent some time in the Minors, my choice would be Archie Bradley (D-backs).
Biggest Jump: Raul Adalberto Mondesi, Royals
The son of former all-star Raul Mondesi, Raul Adalberto signed for $2 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 and made his pro debut by arriving in the Rookie-level Pioneer League last year as a 16-year-old. The Royals pushed him to low Class A this year at age 17, making him the second-youngest regular in a full-season league, and he responded by batting .261/.311/.361 with 24 steals. Once Mondesi matures physically, he should be a solid hitter with surprising power, and he's already a quality defender. Add it all up, and he has become one of baseball's best shortstop prospects.
Biggest Fall: Trevor Bauer, Indians
Shin-Soo Choo is helping lead the Reds to the playoffs and Didi Gregorius has filled the Diamondbacks' hole at shortstop. Both were part of a three-team, nine-player trade last December, but the other club involved hasn't been as delighted with its centerpiece. The Indians thought they were getting an immediate rotation help in Bauer, the third overall pick in the loaded 2011 Draft. But he was ineffective in four starts for Cleveland, and the club didn't bother to recall him in September. Bauer's stuff and command regressed, and he perplexed the Tribe by pitching out of the stretch full-time for a while. Scouts once regarded Bauer as a frontline starter, but now many question whether he'll be able to be a No. 3.
Most To Prove: Jonathan Singleton, Astros
Singleton's status as baseball's top first-base prospect hasn't changed, but he has lost a bit of his luster. He missed the first 50 games of the 2013 season after drawing a suspension for violating Minor League Baseball's drug policy for a second time (Singleton said he tested positive for marijuana). Once Singleton joined Triple-A Oklahoma City, he batted just .220/.340/.347, well below his previous .291/.394/.470 career numbers. Perhaps he was just trying to make up for lost time, but Singleton seemed more aggressive and swung and missed more often than usual.