Much of the attention and preparation is spent on the draft, but many leagues are won – or lost – due to mid-season pickups of prospects. The performances of Mookie Betts, Jake Marisnick, Joe Panik, Marcus Stroman and Jesse Hahn rewarded owners who tracked prospects all year long with good performances while being nearly-universally undrafted in most leagues. This list is in alphabetical order:
1. Mark Appel, Right-Handed Pitcher, Houston Astros
Why he could be big in 2015: Elite stuff, former #1 overall pick and multiple potential openings ahead of him in Houston.
What could go wrong in 2015: Appel may struggle in 2015, and the Astros may take it slowly with Appel to delay the starting of his arbitration clock.
My prediction: Appel’s season started so poorly that it’s almost as if a different pitcher was responsible for the season’s second half. If he continues to pitch well, and I believe he will, he could be in line for a promotion in July.
2. Archie Bradley, Right-Handed Pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks
Why he could be big in 2015: Elite stuff, poor pitching staff ahead of him in Arizona.
What could go wrong in 2015: Bradley had a disaster 2014, and the Diamondbacks front office may want to see more extended domination before he makes his major league debut.
My prediction: A promotion around Memorial Day and huge strikeout numbers, though Bradley’s command woes, the good hitting environment in Arizona and potentially horrific defense could limit his effectiveness.
3. Jon Gray, Right-Handed Pitcher, Colorado Rockies
What could go wrong in 2015: Colorado is a horrible place to pitch, knocking any pitching prospect down a few notches.
My prediction: Gray takes over in early June, putting up an ERA around 4 with a high strikeout rate.
4. Micah Johnson, Second Baseman, Chicago White Sox
Why he could be big in 2015: Johnson’s good contact ability and ability to wreak havoc on the bases could give Johnson the ability to displace Gordon Beckham.
What could go wrong in 2015: The White Sox clearly think Beckham figured something out during his time with the Angels in 2014, and Johnson could spend much of the season stuck in AAA Charlotte.
My prediction: Beckham’s career .245/.307/.375 line gives more than a glimmer of hope that Johnson could see substantial time at the keystone in 2014, and he should make his major league debut in early July.
5. Mikie Mahtook, Outfielder, Tampa Bay Rays
Why he could be big in 2015: Mahtook has the potential to hit .300 with 10-15 stolen bases over the course of the season, and is likely the next man up in the event of an injury.
What could go wrong in 2015: Blocked by Desmond Jennings, Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza, as well as David DeJesus and Brandon Guyer, Mahtook will need to continue to hit in AAA and is unlikely to get promoted unless consistent playing time is available.
My prediction: Mahtook will get called up in mid-June, and will get time due to his ability to play all three outfield positions.
6. Aaron Nola, Right-Handed Pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies
Why he could be big in 2015: Mid-90s fastball, above-average command and the Phillies need something to energize their fans in what appears to be another bleak season.
What could go wrong in 2015: Only 55 1/3 professional innings may lead to more development time being necessary.
My prediction: Nola should make his major league debut around when local schools get out for the summer, mid-June, and should be able to put up a mid-3 ERA with solid peripherals.
7. Jose Peraza, Second Baseman, Atlanta Braves
Why he could be big in 2015: Peraza plays great defense and has the potential to hit .300 right away, something that a rebuilding team may want to see.
What could go wrong in 2015: Peraza has only 44 games in AA and has yet to see AAA pitching, so his big league debut could be delayed if he struggles.
8. D. J. Peterson, Third Baseman, Seattle Mariners
Why he could be big in 2015: Peterson started 2014 slowly, but hit well and flashed his 25-plus home run potential by hitting 31 home runs at two levels. He is unlikely to spend any real time at the hot corner in the big leagues, but profiles well at first base.
My prediction: Peterson will make his debut in mid-July, and will hit .260 with 10 home runs for the rest of the season.
9. Carlos Rodon, Left-Handed Pitcher, Chicago White Sox
Why he could be big in 2015: Rodon’s mid-90s fastball and hard-breaking slider, combined with an organization known for pushing pitching prospects could be the perfect recipe to see Rodon log innings as a starter in 2015.
What could go wrong in 2015: Rodon’s development path seems similar to Chris Sale, who spent his first full major league season as a reliever.
My prediction: Rodon makes his debut as a reliever, but puts up a huge K/9 rate similar to Dellin Betances in 2014, rewarding anyone who is willing to use a reliever who won’t get many saves.
10. Noah Syndergaard, Right-Handed Pitcher, New York Mets
Why he could be big in 2015: Potential for 9 K/9 from the start, Syndergaard held his own despite pitching in one of the most offense-friendly environments outside of Colorado in 2014.
What could go wrong in 2015: Syndergaard is buried behind six starting pitchers, including three (Harvey, Wheeler and deGrom) on the upswings of their career, nearly eliminating the likelihood of a single injury opening the door.
My prediction: The Mets will trade Dillon Gee and “Thor” will force his way into the Mets’ rotation before the summer solstice.
11. Blake Swihart, Catcher, Boston Red Sox
Why he could be big in 2015: Swihart has the potential to hit .280 with 15 home runs, and is the most talented catcher in Boston’s entire organization.
What could go wrong in 2015: The Red Sox could decide to start with Christian Vazquez as the starter and Ryan Hanigan as the backup, leaving Swihart to toil in the minor leagues until an opportunity arises.
My prediction: Swihart comes up and begins splitting time with Vazquez in July, eventually becoming the starter due to his offensive superiority and above-average defensive ability.