Every year, some prospects burst on to the scene while some fall flat on their faces. Today, the Talking Chop prospect team discusses the prospects that we believe have a chance to break out this season. On Friday, we'll discuss those that we think may take a step back. Without further ado, here are our picks for a breakout season!
Victor Reyes, Left Fielder
Reyes, a 2012 international signee from Barcelona, Venezuela, is a prospect with the potential to have a massive breakout season in 2014. Reyes will play the entire 2014 season at 19 years old and has the potential to take a major step forward and become one of, if not the, best non-pitching prospects present in Atlanta’s farm system. Reyes, a long and lithe outfielder at 6’3", 190 pounds, has massive upside and the potential to be an impact corner outfielder in the future with the ability to hit for both average and power, decent speed, and the ability to play solid defense.
Granted, there is are many variables that come with that potential, as Reyes has yet to develop the power in his slender frame to produce power at the plate, and he has yet to play an inning of professional baseball at a level higher than rookie ball. I do expect Reyes, however, to gain muscle and fill out his projectable frame as he continues to mature physically, although that will likely be at the expense of some of his good speed that he currently possesses. Reyes will likely spend much of the season in Rome in 2014, and it will be interesting to follow his development. It would be nice to see some of his projectability turn into actual power production in the Sally League in 2014, but I think it’s clear that there’s much to be excited about, regardless of how much of that potential power presents itself in 2014. High-ceiling, left-handed hitting outfield prospects are rather uncommon, so Reyes is absolutely a player to keep an eye on during the 2014 campaign. He’s sort of like the position player equivalent of Carlos Salazar, in my eyes; he's a talented, "toolsy," 19-year-old who could end up skyrocketing up prospect rankings and becoming a hot commodity with a season of production and development in 2014.
Mauricio Cabrera, Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
Mauricio Cabrera came in as Talking Chop’s 6th ranked prospect coming into the 2014 season. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumps to a top-2 spot by season’s end.
Why a breakout? I’m in the camp that as Cabrera will eventually learn to tame his big arm will mature, turning into more of a "pitcher" than "thrower." The hope for me is that Cabrera will get a better feel and gain consistency with his breaking ball. There is also the fastball command that is a work in progress. He struggled with that facet of his game last season, as his walk rate take a step back. The ability to add this secondary will dramatically improve his stock.
He will be playing all of 2014 at age 20, so there is still plenty of time for him to iron out the wrinkles. If he can do that, there is no question he has the frame, particularly in the lower half, to become a durable top-of-the-rotation starter. He has one of the highest ceilings in the Braves organization, so I know this isn’t exactly the boldest call, but Cabrera is my breakout candidate for the 2014 season.
Alec Grosser, Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
An 11th-round selection in 2013, Grosser signed for $400,000 — roughly 4th round money — to lure him away from a commitment to George Mason University. Grosser began his professional career in the Gulf Coast League, hurling just over 29 innings, missing 23 bats and showing a bit of rawness by walking 15 batters. The 19-year-old did, however, hold opposing hitters to a .125 batting average and sported a shiny 2.15 ERA.
The Alexandria, Virginia native boasts a lanky, athletic frame that offers plenty of room for projection — one could see an added 20 pounds of additional mass on his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame with no problem. The arm action is very short and quick, offering loads of deception from his low-to-mid three-quarter arm slot. He touches the mid-90s with his fastball with some arm-side wiggle and his slider is quite projectable, flashing sharp two-plane slice. While he’ll likely start out in extended spring training, Grosser could potentially spend time in Rome this season where he will look to build upon a stellar debut and solidify himself as a high-ceiling pitcher to watch in the system.
Jose Peraza, Shortstop
The inclusion of Peraza on this list may raise a few eyebrows, as he's already shown great skills in the minors so far in his career. But I think he can take it to another level this year, for several reasons.
First is his age. Peraza put up a .288/.341/.371 line with 64 steals at Rome last year, despite being only 19 for the majority of the season. He actually even played the first month of his season at age 18. To put this in perspective, of the 504 plate appearances he had last year, only *one* came against a pitcher who was younger than he was. To put up those kind of numbers in your first taste of full-season ball at that age is truly impressive and bodes well for his future growth.
Second are his continued improvements. After putting up a .260/.320/.342 line with 26 steals in the first three months of the season, Peraza turned it on down the stretch, posting a blazing .318/.364/.401 line with 38 steals in the final two months. BABIP fluctuations may explain some of the difference (his BABIP jumped from .309 to .347) but likely doesn't explain it all, especially considering how much more comfortable Peraza looked at the plate in the second half. Additionally, he also showed marked improvement on the basepaths as the season wore on, becoming more confident and picking his spots better.
He's already an excellent player, but it wouldn't surprise me if Peraza takes another step forward this year with Lynchburg. If that happens, expect to see him popping up on prospect lists around MLB.
- Dan Simpson