Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2014 season approaching, MiLB.com takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.
Shining star: Taylor Lindsey, 2B
One could make an argument here for third baseman Kaleb Cowart, as MLB.com did in its latest prospect rankings, but Lindsey gets the nod following a solid 2013 season during which he displayed an impressive set of skills at the plate.
For starters, the 37th overall pick in the 2010 Draft enjoyed a breakout campaign in the power department last year, hitting 17 home runs to go with a .274/.339/.441 slash line in 134 games with Double-A Arkansas. That nearly doubled his pre-2013 Minor League career home run total of 18 over three seasons. Lindsey earns extra points for putting up such numbers in Dickey-Stephens Park, the worst Texas League stadium for homers, according to MiLB.com's Ashley Marshall. (The left-handed hitter slashed .242/.320/.373 with seven long balls at home last year compared to .301/.357/.500 with 10 round-trippers on the road.)
"Taylor made a lot of strides last year," said Angels director of player development Bobby Scales. "He made an effort to go the opposite way more. His defense improved big time over the previous years. We were very, very encouraged by his season and aren't worried that he'll have a problem carrying that over."
With that in mind, it certainly won't hurt Lindsey's reputation as an offensive second baseman when he moves to the more hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League to start 2014, even though the 22-year-old will face more advanced arms.
"To me, Double-A is where you prove you can hit," Scales said. "Triple-A is where you prove you don't get yourself out. That's something we preach to all of our guys headed that way, and Taylor is no different."
Major League-ready: Nick Maronde, RP
After making his Major League debut in 2012, Maronde seemed to be in line for a permanent role in the Los Angeles bullpen last season, but control issues, especially with his secondary offerings, during separate big league stints led to him spending most of 2013 in Arkansas, where he posted a 3.51 ERA, 63 strikeouts and 37 walks in 56 1/3 frames.
The Angels' No. 13 prospect was much better control-wise at Double-A in the second half of the season (3.6 BB/9) than he was in the first (8.2 BB/9). That's something he seemed to carry into this Spring Training, where he's posted a 1.35 ERA with eight strikeouts and three walks in 6 2/3 innings, thanks in part to a revised pitching strategy.
"Nick's been great," Scales said. "From what I've seen, he's a different guy. Last year I think he was trying to be too perfect. He was working on developing a slider, and that became a delicate situation. His calling card is to pitch to either side with the fastball and really establish that. He was trying too hard with the slider instead of using what makes him, him. … He's worked hard to fix that, has got some good results, and he's returning to who he's capable of being."
Maronde is expected to open the year as the only left-hander in the Angels bullpen as Sean Burnett rehabs from elbow surgery.
Breakout prospect: Eric Stamets, SS
A 70 grade is rare in the scouting world in any category. Among MLB.com's top 100 prospects, only Billy Hamilton, Byron Buxton, Delino DeShields and Luis Sardinas got a 70 or above for their running tool, and each of those speedsters stole at least 32 bases in 2013. Stamets received a 70 in the category but swiped only 16 bags on 20 attempts at Inland Empire last season.
Stamets, the Angels' No. 16 prospect, utilized his speed in plenty of other ways, most noticeably at short where he exhibited solid range. What's more, 21 of his 142 hits last year came via the bunt, and a .315 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), buoyed by the speed, helped him slash .281/.335/.375 in his first full season.
The Halos hope to see more line drives in 2014 -- and they certainly believe Stamets is capable of gap-to-gap power -- along with plenty more steals.
"Twenty [stolen base] attempts is not acceptable from him going forward," said Scales. "He should be able to get 30-plus [steals]. That's something we have to encourage him to do more because it can be a big weapon for him."
More to keep an eye on: Like Lindsey, C.J. Cron will look for a power boost in the PCL after hitting 14 homers with Arkansas. The first baseman turned in an impressive Arizona Fall League campaign during which he slashed .413/.467/.700 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 20 games. ... The Angels, who didn't have a first-round pick in 2013 after signing of Albert Pujols, selected Hunter Green with their first pick in the second round (59th overall), and the left-handed pitcher could be a steal, according to MLB.com's Jim Callis. ... Zach Borenstein earned California League Player of the Year in 2013 after slashing .337/.403/.631 with 28 homers and 95 RBIs. The Angels' No. 11 prospect won't duplicate those numbers, but another impressive hitting performance in Double-A could send his prospect stock even higher.