Tagged: Byron Buxton

2015 MLB Mock Draft: Pitchers and Catchers Edition, Part 1

The 2015 MLB Draft Order has officially been set, thanks to the San Diego Padres electing to sign James Shields. With their forfeiture of the 13th overall pick, the start of the college baseball season, and of course, pitchers and catchers reporting for Major League Baseball’s Spring Training, it seems appropriate to do yet another mock draft.

You all know how this works by now, the selections are done based on organizational (as in top 20 prospects) need, the draft will be split up so as to not have this take all day, after the draft is complete, I’ll release the full results, etc. etc. etc.

So without further delay, here are the first seven picks for the 2014 MLB Mock Draft

1. Arizona Diamondbacks

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Like the center in basketball, the quarterback in football, and the goalie in hockey, shortstop is often considered one of the most important positions. While one is mainly valued for his defensive abilities, a shortstop that can hit is considered a major boon, and for the Diamondbacks, who have the likes of Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings piloting the position now, it couldn’t be a better time for them to have the number one pick.

Brendan Rodgers of Lake Mary High School is arguably the best prep player in the country. I’ve used the term HAPS, or Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop to describe players like him, prep shortstops with advanced tools and the ability to go through a minor league system quickly. His bat alone could have him in the majors in three years, and his defense while currently decent enough to allow him to stay at his current position, will only improve with time in the minors.

Rodgers would be the perfect complement to Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas, who would be 31 and 27, respectively. Having three potent bats with power potential would certainly allow Arizona to complement what is likely going to be a solid up-and-coming rotation, allowing them to compete in the NL West.

2. Houston Astros

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The Astros have managed to build a system that many teams would kill to have, especially with the high floor college talent they’ve acquired in the past draft. While they have a solid foundation of righthanded pitching, thanks in part to Mark Appel and Lance McCullers, their lack of a future impact left-handed pitcher is what holds the team from having a solid system.

Virginia’s Nathan Kirby may not have the upside that 2014 draft pick Brady Aiken had, but he also doesn’t have the history that Aiken has with the Astros. This isn’t to say that Kirby is your prototypical safe pick, rather, he has the potential to be a staff anchor. In his opening start, Kirby only allowed three hits in seven innings of work against East Carolina, which is one of the American Athletic Conference’s toughest teams.

Kirby has a solid three pitch mix, a fastball, slider, and changeup which will only get better due to his commitment to filling out his frame during the summer. He has solid command, and will play the zone in order

The Astros would also benefit from drafting Kirby, as his old college teammate, Derek Fisher, is already in their system, and building upon that preexisting chemistry will do them a world of good in developing confidence in their starter.

3. Colorado Rockies

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I mentioned it in my last mock, but I think it bears repeating: By developing their own starters instead of buying them, the Colorado Rockies will have an advantage that no NL club has: pitchers who are used to throwing in the thin air of Denver. And it doesn’t matter if the pitcher is left or right-handed, the idea is that in developing their own arms, they form a pitching staff that allows them to compete in the NL West. Having Jon Gray, Eddie Butler and Kyle Freeland starting the staff is good, but what they need is another bona fide arm.

The past five years have been kind to teams who have had the number three pick in the draft, and 2015 will be no exception. Brady Aiken’s decision to forgo his UCLA commitment has catapulted him to the top of what is already a vaunted arms class, and significantly improves the talent level of a limited left-handed class.

Whether or not he does have an issue with his throwing arm will be negligible, given his upside as a pitcher. His fastball-curveball-changeup combination are incredibly advanced for his age, and his build is similar to that of top right-handed pitching prospect Kyle Funkhouser.

Aiken will complement fellow southpaw Kyle Freeland quite well, and will allow the Rockies to develop variety in their rotation with Gray and Butler as righthanded starters.

4. Texas Rangers

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You can make as many jokes as you like about the state of the Rangers rotation, because currently, aside from Yu Darvish, there is little upside. Sure, getting Anthony Ranaudo from Boston may offer some hope, and Chi Chi Gonzalez could turn out to be a better draft choice then I thought, but truth be told, even if the Rangers had a lineup of players that possessed Joey Gallo’s attributes, it still wouldn’t make up for the fact that the rotation will need to be fixed in the future.

Sometimes the stars align, however, and an advanced college arm will fall into your lap. Louisville ace Kyle Funkhouser is that arm. While I had a feeling that he could be one of the best arms in the draft, but was wary of whether or not his ability and potential demand for a big contract could drop him a few picks, his 12 strikeout performance against Alabama State is pretty much him saying to me, “Give me some credit and put me in the top 5 already!”

Funkhouser certainly deserves credit where it’s due, as he was Team USA’s top prospect last summer, but what really makes him attractive to teams is his pitch arsenal, which currently would grade as league average, but has the potential to improve to ace levels.

While Alabama State isn’t exactly a baseball powerhouse, should Funkhouser continue pitching the way he does even if he drops his strikeout totals, there’s no doubt he could be in conversation to be the top pick.

5. Houston Astros

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Legacy prospects are as much of a gamble as any other prospects. Some turn out to be as good, if not better than their fathers, while others fail in that regard. There’s no doubt that Delino Deshields could have been a solid prospect, but the Astros organization was running out of patience and understandably, with plenty of talent and few 40 man roster spots open, left him unprotected for the Texas Rangers to take. Of course, Deshields was known mainly for his speed; Houston’s hypothetical pick here has more dimension to his game.

Daz Cameron, of Eagles Landing Christian Academy, is the son of Mike Cameron, who was probably one of the most underrated players of his generation. Cameron the younger, at one point was viewed as a top pick, but a drop off in his junior year has him somewhere between top ten and top fifteen. However, Cameron’s current ability affords him the opportunity of improving his draft stock.

A solid contact hitter now, he has the potential to add power to his swing, and while he has average speed for the basepaths, he does have the ability to cover his position well enough to compensate defensively.

Cameron is a prodigy, however, as he is part of the very exclusive club of players who have played in the All-American Game twice His talent will be hard to ignore, and it wouldn’t surprise me if, should he improve, the Astros end up taking him second overall.

6. Minnesota Twins

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Minnesota’s future will be bright for as long as Byron Buxton continues to prove he is a top prospect, and the Twins will have a solid staff to look forward to with the impending arrivals of Alex Meyer, Kohl Stewart and Nick Burdi. However, how do you repopulate the system? Who becomes the next top pitching prospect?

Kolby Allard of San Clemente High School has taken a meteoric rise from where I originally slotted him, 16th, to where he stands now, as a top ten prospect with the potential to be top five. He has similar attributes to Brady Aiken, but the stigma of his height drops his value.

What he lacks in height, Allard compensates for in the ability to pitch in big games; he made it out of the summer as USA Baseball’s top prep pitcher.

Pairing him up with Kohl Stewart will do nothing but good, as two young and lively arms anchoring the Twins rotation will give them a solid future hold in the AL Central.

7. Boston Red Sox

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Rarely does a team have a plethora of Major League ready left-handed pitching like the Boston Red Sox. Guys like Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Edwin Escobar and Brian Johnson make up 2/5 of their top ten prospects. However, the point here is that these pitchers are practically Major League ready, and when they graduate, Boston’s system will need to adjust. Given the amount of prep options, it’s entirely possible that the Red Sox opt to go for a long term project in the hopes of replenishing their pitching stores.

Cathedral High School righty Ashe Russell has seen his draft position rise, mainly because he has that much growth potential. Even though Indiana is starting to develop a reputation as a northern prospect pipeline, it’s still in its developing stages, and as a result, Russell has plenty of potential to grow. A two pitch man now with a solid fastball and up-and-coming slider, Russell does have a changeup, but it probably will suit him better once the talent level adjusts.

Russell does have the build to be a pitcher, but he’s still raw, and should he be taken by Boston, he probably will start out as a reliever and be developed into a spot starter or closer. Still, his potential is too great to pass on, and Boston has developed some solid pitchers as of late.

 

 

2014 MLB Mock Draft: Spring Training Edition, part 1 of 3.

As much as I wanted to wait until all the free agents with draft compensation signed, I feel that it’s time to make the first mock draft of the year for MinorLeagueMadhouse. While picks are usually done as either Best Player Available, Easiest To Sign, or General Manager’s Draft Philosophy, I’ve decided to go by need in the minors. To be more precise, which position in the top 20 is the weakest, or, if there is a clear cut pick, or if the general manager has a philosophy that they have publicly disclosed (like Jeff Luhnow of the Astros or Sandy Alderson of the Mets,) So without further delay, here is the first mock draft of the year for Minor League Madhouse.

1. Astros: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State

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Carlos Rodon is the consensus number 1 pick in the draft right now, and nothing short of a Rick Ankiel-type meltdown will change that. The Astros have a strong enough pitching presence in the minor leagues right now, but Luhnow will be hard pressed to give up on the potential that Rodon has. With a major league caliber slider and fastball, as well as a preference to strike out hitters. Rodon, who helped NC State make the College World Series last year, is definitely going to fit in what could be the best future rotation in the league.

2. Marlins: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd High School, Texas

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The Marlins have reaped the benefits of one high school arm that they drafted, why not go for another that looks Major League ready? Kolek is arguably one of the best prep arms in this year’s class. He has a fastball that is better than some collegiate pitchers, in addition to a well rounded arsenal of secondary pitches. Kolek’s only knock is is command and control, which is common for flame throwing prep arms, not to mention he’s behind on his development thanks to an injury he suffered in his sophomore year, but in showcases, he’s looked like the genuine article, and would be a perfect developmental athlete, as he can only get better.

3. White Sox: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo High School, California

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Last year, I pointed out that Chicago’s weakest position in the minors was catcher. And they did have the opportunity to grab a catcher early with Nick Ciuffo and Jon Denney on the board. However, they whiffed on both. Now, they have a golden goose in Alex Jackson, who comes from the same high school as Cole Hamels. Jackson is a well rounded high school catcher, although he does need improvement in commanding a game. He has plus power, decent speed, basically, he has the chance to be one of the better prep catchers in the last few draft classes. If Jackson fails behind the plate though, he could make it as an outfielder, where his arm would be his best strength.

4. Cubs, Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina

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The Cubs have bolstered their position player ranks in the past few drafts, now it’s time to go back to pitching. Hoffman, who pitches for a smaller school in East Carolina, is tall and gangly, but pitches like he’s in prime athletic shape. Hoffman’s fastball is something to behold, and his curveball is almost at the same level. He controls the ball well, but he will need to work on his finesse if he wants to be a high end starter.

5. Twins: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic High School, California

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You can never have enough pitching, especially when it comes to lefties. Brady Aiken is a bit of a reach for the Twins, but given that they don’t have a top ten left handed pitching prospect at the time of this writing, it may be a good idea, both position wise and money wise, to go after him. This isn’t to diminish Aiken’s skill set, the young Southern California hurler is definitely even and well rounded in his skill set. He’s a jack of all trades pitcher, with no set primary pitch, which is good, as it serves as a reminder to the better days of Johan Santana. Aiken’s athleticism is also a plus, although now that his future has been set as a pitcher, he should focus primarily on that. Still, Aiken and 2013 pick Kohl Stewart would headline a young, and powerful pitching class should the Twins decided to pick him.

6. Mariners: Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State

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The Mariners don’t seem to have a problem with a specific position, what they need, however, is speed. NC State shortstop Trea Turner is the answer to that problem. Turner has major league legs, and while his hitting is developmental right now, he is somewhat respectable in that category. Turner is still fully transitioning from third base to shortstop, which is fine, but if he wants to advance a few levels, he will need to improve on his fielding. Still, Turner profiles as a #1 or #9 hitter in an American League lineup, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for him.

7. Phillies: Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville High School, Georgia

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Byron Buxton was the star of the 2012 draft class and Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier were the stars of the 2013 prep class, now, Michael Gettys becomes the next high level hitter from the state of Georgia. Gettys’ game is focused now on his legs and his arm, but his hitting, when properly developed, could make him into the next prep hitting star. Given Ryan Howard likely will retire when Gettys comes around, and there really isn’t a power presence to back him up yet, it would be a good idea for the Phillies to capitalize on the Georgia Prep slugger trend.

8. Rockies: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis High School, California

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We got an early peek at Jacob Gatewood last year at Citi Field’s high school home run derby, and he certainly put on a show, but besides that, Gatewood is a well polished athlete who despite his body, has the potential to be one of the better hitting shortstops in history. Tall and lanky, he does have the potential to lead the league in home runs, especially in the thin air of Denver. Given the injury history and likelihood that Troy Tulowitzki may not finish his mega contract extension, taking Gatewood would be a wise insurance policy for the Rockies. He and 2012 first rounder David Dahl could make a lethal power combination for years to come.

9. Blue Jays: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt

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Surprised that Toronto would try again? You shouldn’t be. Beede was drafted by the Blue Jays out of high school as a first rounder in 2011, but he turned down the money to honor his college commitment. Three years later, Beede has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the SEC and after a historic campaign with the Commodores, brought himself into the Golden Spikes conversation. Beede’s offerings, particularly his fastball, are devastating to hitters, but what he needs improvement on is his control. Beede has the chance to continue the legacy of excellent Vandebilt pitchers started with David Price and continued with Sonny Gray this past year. If he can improve his control, he should be in the majors by late 2015-early 2016.

10. Mets: Touki Toussaint, Pitcher, Coral Springs High School, Florida

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If what Keith Law speculates from his interview with Sandy Alderson is true, then Alderson must be talking about Touki Toussaint. Here’s a guy who has come out of nowhere, established himself as a truly different pitcher who, with some help, can control and even expand the strike zone with his fastball and major league curve. Touki has the potential to make an impact in any rotation, and his curve should allow him to strike out plenty of batters, provide catchers are able to handle it. The only knock on him is his lack of experience; Toussaint did only start playing his sophomore year of high school, and his international background; while he is from the Caribbean, Haiti isn’t exactly a baseball hotbed. Still, his arm is very loose and worth looking at, and having it in the same rotation as Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey would be scary.

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So this is part one. Stay tuned part 2, which is due to come out some time next week.

My Day at the Futures Game and the Celebrity Softball game.

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Yesterday, after waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I finally made the trek over to Citi Field to attend All-Star Sunday. I had planned this weeks in advance with my dad, and two of my cousins.

Right about where we sat.

Right about where we sat.

We bought tickets out in right field, in section 106 in the 23rd row: the seats were pretty close to the field. It was agreed that my dad and I would meet our cousins at the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Due to unforeseen complications, however, one cousin had to back out, as he had been “roped” into meeting his girlfriend’s friend from Miami. And that, my friends, is the true definition of being “whipped”. He gave his ticket to my uncle, so there wasn’t that much issue there.

We had a late start however, as the car needed gas, thanks in part to me sharing the car with my sister, who needed the car for delivering flowers. So when we finally made it to the ballpark, it was about 1:20, and because nobody had thought to get a parking pass, we had to park in the satellite lot across from the park. Incidentally, it cost $35 to park. Yes, $35. Highway robbery? Yes. Fortunately, those prices are for the All-star festivities only, and will revert back to the normal $15 by the time the festivities end, because if that was the actual price, you can bet that going to a ballgame is going to be more of a challenge than before.

We made it to the stadium by 1:30, and after finding out that my cousin (the non-whipped one,) was still waiting for the 7 train to arrive, and my uncle had mistakenly driven all the way to Coney Island thinking the game was there, and would predictably be late, we ended up trekking to our seats, but not before purchasing the official program for the game, and getting a free All-star Sunday handout.

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Interestingly enough, Citi Field was selling both this program, which was the special edition one, and the regular program for the same price. Guess which one I took?

It didn’t take long to reach the seats, to which I then took some photos. I apologize in advance for the quality, these were taken on an old Iphone 4.

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This was a picture of the outfielders for Team USA.

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This is Noah Syndergaard, the Mets pitching prospect acquired this past offseason for R.A Dickey.

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This is Padres catcher Austin Hedges

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This is the All-star Game Apple.

I stopped taking pictures for a while, and enjoyed the flag ceremony as well as the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) ceremony. After that was done, the Futures gamers were announced. Predictably, the Mets, especially Brandon Nimmo, who had been voted into the game, were cheered, and all Yankees players were booed.

The first inning was pretty quick. Noah Syndergaard set down Padres outfielder Reymond Fuentes, probably best known for being included in the Adrian Gonzalez trade two offseasons ago, then future Cub Arismendy Alcantara before giving up a single to Red Sox Super Prospect Xander Bogaerts. This was followed by an impressive strikeout of Twins prospect Miguel Sano.

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The bottom half of the inning saw Mets fast riser Rafael Montero pitching for the World Team. He was untouchable, as he set down Billy Hamilton, Delino DeShields, and George Springer without batting an eyelash.

I then took another photo of Taijuan Walker and Matt Davidson in the second inning. Again, pardon the blurriness.

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It’s kind of hard to see, but Walker was wearing stirrups while pitching, a nice touch.

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Here’s a better look.

My cousin finally made it by that time, so that was good. He told me that the wait for the train was so long that he bought a sandwich and snacks while he was waiting.

Team USA drew first blood by the way, thanks to Christian Yelich’s base hit in the second. Yelich went 2 for 2, and likely would have been named MVP if Anthony Ranaudo had not coughed up the lead later in the game.

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After that came a generally quiet third inning which was used more to showcase Arizona’s Archie Bradley more than anything else. Bradley got a hold, probably the only hold he will ever get in what will likely be a long career.

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The real damage done by the World team happened in the fourth inning. With Boston’s Anthony Ranaudo on the mound, Alcantara ripped a right field home run that tied the game. Yes, this is a .gif, I’m not cheap after all. This was followed by Xander Bogaerts scoring on a single in which he beat Austin Hedges on a tag. Unfortunately, I missed the live play, as I was in the concession line getting an early dinner of two Nathan’s hot dogs with ketchup braised onions and an Aquafina water. (MLB likes to hear their sponsors names, so don’t call me a sellout.)

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My uncle finally arrived in the middle of the fifth inning. Better late than never, I suppose. How he came to believe that the game was in Brooklyn is still beyond me.

Fortunately, he didn’t miss Joc Pederson reaching on a double, then Matt Davidson crushing a Michael Ynoa pitch into the left-center field seats for the go-ahead home run.

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Nice tounge, Davidson

The game was fairly uneventful after that. Jesse Biddle came into the game to a chorus of boos, obviously because he’s a Phillies product, and earned the win.

Brandon Nimmo, who I had hoped would play today, finally made his way into the game, along with Byron Buxton.

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As a prospect writer, I try to follow a lot of prospects on twitter, and friend the occasional ones on Facebook. Yes, I sent them links to my futures game articles, and yes, I told them that I would be there, and yes, they “liked” it. I love my hobby.

I sent a tweet to Nimmo for him to read later, saying that I was glad that he had made it into the game.

Eventually, the heat, which I neglect to mention, got too unbearable, so we beat a hasty retreat to the air conditioned confines of the Caesar’s club, where we watched the rest of the game in comfort. Garin Cecchini, top Red Sox prospect and brother to Mets prospect Gavin,  scored an insurance run, and AJ Cole of the Nationals earned the save.

Did I mention that during the game, the mascots for most of the teams came out during the t-shirt launch, and seventh inning stretch? While my favorite mascots are Mr. and Mrs. Met, seeing mascots like Dinger of the Rockies, (the purple triceratops) Orbit of the Astros (the alien, and a major improvement over Junction Jack, the previous mascot) and Sluggerrrrr of the Royals (the lion) was pretty cool, especially since I had never seen them in person before. What was funny about it was seeing Dinger really get into the “Lazy Mary” number.

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Because the tickets were for both events on All-star Sunday, we stayed for the Taco Bell All-star legends and celebrities softball game. Having moved from the Caesars club to a covered part of the stadium, we had a bird’s eye view of everything.

My favorite celebrities at the game were Kevin James, Brian Kilmeade, (boy were they ribbing on him during the game)

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Jennie Finch (although I wanted Kate Upton to be there)

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and finally, the wounded warrior, Josh Wege, who won MVP honors with James.

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It was also interesting to see Frank Thomas pitch, and Mike Piazza back behind the plate, as well as Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden both playing.

All in all, it was a fun day, and certainly one heck of a way to promote the All-star game. Sure it was slightly expensive, but beyond that, the games were enjoyable, the prospects were fun to watch, and all in all, it was worth the hour and a half long drive.

 

Futures Game 2013: What you need to know about Team USA.

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All-Star Sunday is only 16 days away. What is considered the precursor to the big game consists of the All-Star Legends and Celebrity softball game and the Futures game. While we still do not know which celebrities will be playing, we were treated to the 2013 futures game rosters.

Here is the full list, from CBS Sports.

As you can see, the rosters are a little different from last time. Now, there’s no Jurickson Profar, Zack Wheeler, Dylan Bundy, basically, those who have reached the majors are all off the list. Still, there are some interesting names to look for.

Today, we look at part of the roster for Team USA.

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Team USA’s staff consists of plenty of high school arms. Among them are Phillies top prospect Jesse Biddle, Diamondbacks top prospect Archie Bradley, Giants top prospect Kyle Crick,  Rays 2011 top draft pick Taylor Guerrieri, Mariners top prospect Taijuan Walker, and the most interesting USA pitcher, Noah Syndergaard, acquired by the Mets in the Dickey deal in the offseason. Syndergaard is interesting in the fact that he blazed through Port St. Lucie en route to a well-deserved promotion to Double-A Binghamton. Syndergaard is turning heads, and may be considered the real top prospect in the Dickey deal, as Travis d’Arnaud has been sidelined with a broken foot since April. It is widely believed, and in some ways, hoped, that Syndergaard will start, although in all likelihood, Walker may get the ball, as he is the only pitcher in Triple-A.

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In the catcher/infield department, the two big standouts are Padres backstop Austin Hedges and Addison Russell of the A’s. Hedges, who needed a lot of money in order to break his college commitment, tore through the Midwest league, and is now playing for the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm, where he has done similar work in the California League. Addison Russell was the first pick in Billy Beane’s Anti-moneyball philosophy era, and he’s proven to be one wise choice. Having dazzled in his pro debut last season. Russell is now playing for the Stockton Ports, where he faces Hedges. Russell will not see any major league action for a while, but when he does come up, expect the label #1 prospect in baseball to come with him.

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In the outfield, the two notable names to look out for are Twins prospect Byron Buxton and Reds prospect Billy Hamilton. Buxton was the number two pick in the 2012 draft and while he started out slowly, he’s really turned himself around this season, and has already made it to the Fort Myers Miracle in the Florida State League. On the other hand, Hamilton is a name that has been on the radar for quite some time. Last year, Hamilton broke the minor league record for most stolen bases in a season, and although he has yet to be promoted, given the future of the Reds outfield, expect him to suit up in either August or September.

This year, Major League baseball has decided to add a little fun to the game, by having the people choose the final representative. a la the final vote in the MLB all-star game. There are five candidates to choose from.

Tyler Austin, outfielder, Yankees

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All you need to know about Austin is that he’s a converted catcher, and has been the most hyped Yankees prospect since Robinson Cano.

Nick Castellanos, outfield, Tigers.

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Castellanos caught national attention when he was named MVP of last year’s game. A return appearance would be welcome, although if Castellanos is promoted, he will no longer be eligible.

Garin Cecchini, Third baseman, Red Sox

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Cecchini is probably the most hyped Red Sox prospect not named Xander Bogaerts. He is currently leading the minors in batting average, and may be the clear favorite for the final spot.

Courtney Hawkins, outfield, White Sox

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Hawkins currently stands as the White Sox best prospect, and his athleticism and tools certainly have put him on the map. He has made a quick jump to the Carolina League, and would be a darkhorse for the final spot.

Brandon Nimmo, Outfield, Mets

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Nimmo is the ultimate underdog here. Not only is he at the lowest level among the Final Vote prospects, but he was drafted out of Wyoming, a state that does not sponsor baseball. Nimmo is toolsy with speed, and he can hit. He can make the final roster based on hometown popularity, though.

To conclude this post, there is a poll, which will ask who you want for the final spot for Team USA.

(Update: Brandon Nimmo is currently leading in the real poll with 39% of the vote. Trailing him with 23% is Garin Cecchini, followed by Castellanos at 20% while Austin and Hawkins bring up the rear at 9%)

Up next: the World Team profile.