With the minor league regular season wrapping up, we polled scouts and executives to pick Yahoo Sports' all-minor league team. Boston and Texas lead the way with five players, followed by Houston, Minnesota, the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets with four apiece.
The team leans prospect heavy, with a few veterans who put up massive numbers in Triple-A mixed in. Weight was given to age and performance, as a 23-year-old tearing up recent college players in Class A isn't nearly as impressive as a teenager holding his own in Double-A.
Twenty-seven teams are represented. (Sorry, Milwaukee, Toronto and Washington.) Shortstop and second base are absolutely loaded, as is starting pitching. And at the end are the big awards: Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, Prospect of the Year and a few others, including the first-ever Most Awesome Fat Guy. Without further adieu:
C: Austin Hedges (A+/AA, San Diego) – While Hedges' offensive numbers quiver next to some of the minors' best catchers, scouts say he is peerless defensively. Throwing, receiving, game-calling, framing – Hedges could catch in the major leagues today and give Yadier Molina and Salvy Perez a run for best fielding catcher. Considering he turned 21 two weeks ago, the Padres can take their time and let his bat catch up to his glove.
Honorable mention: Jorge Alfaro (A/A+, Texas), Tom Murphy (A/AA, Colorado), Peter O'Brien (A/A+, New York Yankees), Michael Ohlman (A+, Baltimore), Kevin Plawecki (A/A+, New York Mets), Max Stassi (AA, Houston), Blake Swihart (A+, Boston).
1B: Chris Colabello (AAA, Minnesota) – He turns 30 in October. He spent the first seven years of his career kicking around the Can-Am League. He is hitting .193 after a month in the big leagues. And all of that is entirely irrelevant, because Colabello bullied his way onto this list otherwise peppered with prospects due to his sheer excellence this season. Perhaps if there were a first-base prospect worth much of a damn in the minor leagues he would relegate Colabello to honorable mention, but there isn't, and so we're left with his .352/.427/.639 line, his 24 home runs in 89 games, his inheriting the mantel of Roberto Petagine and Calvin Pickering and Kila Ka'aihue as the 4-A first baseman who deserves to be loved.
Honorable mention: Greg Bird (A, New York Yankees), Ji-Man Choi (A+/AA/AAA, Seattle), Dan Vogelbach (A/A+, Chicago Cubs).
2B: Mookie Betts (A/A+, Boston) – Baseball has gone more than 20 years now without a Mookie, which makes Betts' arrival even more exciting than what his game brings. And that is shocking power for a 5-foot-9, 175-pound 20-year-old (.314/.417/.506), excellent speed and baserunning instincts (38 for 42 in stolen-base attempts) and the sort of plate discipline (81 walks to 57 strikeouts) reminiscent of another short second baseman at the top of the Red Sox's second base depth chart. Betts isn't unseating Dustin Pedroia anytime soon, so ultimately he's likely to serve as trade bait.
Honorable mention: Delino DeShields Jr. (A+, Houston), Wilmer Flores (AAA, New York Mets), Rougned Odor (A+/AA, Texas), Marcus Semien (AA/AAA, Chicago White Sox), Devon Travis (A/A+, Detroit).
SS: Javier Baez (A+/AA, Chicago Cubs) – There may be no more polarizing prospect in the minor leagues than Baez, onto whom Cubs fans have transferred 100 years of yearning and wanting with the idea that he is baseball Yahweh, or at very least Ernie Banks 2.0. Meanwhile, those who choose not to deify him are the enemy. OK. Let's find a happy medium. He is a 20-year-old who hit 37 home runs, and even if he does have to move to third base (probably) and strikes out too much (definitely), his bat speed is otherworldly and his swing a thing of beauty. Just watch this video. Focus on the lower body, because everyone else seems to fixate on the Gary Sheffield waggle he's got going on. The load, the stride – it's Miguel Cabrera. The ballhawks on Waveland are smiling already.
Honorable mention: Xander Bogaerts (AA/AAA, Boston), Carlos Correa (A, Houston), Rosell Herrera (A, Colorado), Francisco Lindor (A+/AA, Cleveland), Addison Russell (A+/AAA, Oakland), Corey Seager (A/A+, Los Angeles Dodgers).
3B: Miguel Sano (A+/AA, Minnesota) – For raw, unadulterated, seam-splitting, leather-cracking, string-unwinding, ball-annihilating power, Sano, 20, is the minor leagues' co-champion (with the other to be revealed later). His game is very much like Baez's, with a lot of swing and miss, some defensive deficiencies and a big enough bat to render both moot. While the Twins would be foolish to start him opening day 2014, what with service-time considerations and all, he will arrive next year. And when he does, it will be loud.
Honorable mention: Garin Cecchini (A+/AA, Boston), Maikel Franco (A+/AA, Philadelphia).
OF: George Springer (AA/AAA, Houston)
OF: Byron Buxton, CF (A/A+, Minnesota)
OF: Joc Pederson, CF (AA, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Springer's regular season ended Monday with 37 home runs, 45 stolen bases and a spirited run at the minor leagues' first 40-40 season since Len Tucker of the Pampa Oilers in the Class B Southwest League managed it in 1956. No matter. Springer is the sort of catalyst the Astros need desperately to rescue them from the morass that is their being.
Buxton is just 19, a full four years younger than Springer, which is why scouts look at him and see a young Eric Davis, only better. He's got crazy speed, an unfair throwing arm, outfield range, burgeoning power and the sort of preternatural plate discipline that infuriates pitchers and incites jealousy among hitters not born with it. Even if his numbers don't say so, he is the best thing in the minor leagues right now, and it's not really close.
Next to his outfield mates, Pederson, 21, pales a bit. There is zero shame in that. Pederson does everything well. He hits for power, steals bases, draws walks, covers ground at all three outfield positions and has a tremendous arm, as he showed off at the All-Star Futures Game. He also happens to be in an organization that already has a $429 million glut of outfielders, so Pederson will be a name bandied about all offseason as the Dodgers chase David Price and others.
Honorable mention: Zach Borenstein (A+, Los Angeles Angels), Michael Choice (AAA, Oakland), Reymond Fuentes (AA/AAA, San Diego), Adam Brett Walker (A, Minnesota), Jesse Winker (A, Cincinnati).
SP: Archie Bradley, RHP (A+/AA, Arizona)
SP: Tyler Glasnow, RHP (A, Pittsburgh)
SP: Eddie Butler, RHP (A/A+/AA, Colorado)
SP: C.J. Edwards, RHP (A/A+, Chicago Cubs)
SP: Henry Owens, LHP (A+/AA, Boston)
The combined line of our All-Star rotation: 51 wins, 21 losses, 2.06 ERA, 793 strikeouts in 664 1/3 innings, 425 hits, 291 walks, 34 home runs. Not bad.
Bradley, 21, is the lead dog here in both pedigree and performance. Once thought Robin to Dylan Bundy's Batman, he'll pitch meaningful innings for Arizona next year while Bundy rehabs his elbow after Tommy John surgery. After five dominant starts in high-A, Bradley settled in at Double-A and was just as good, putting up a 1.97 ERA over 21 starts. If he can better harness his pitches – 59 walks in 123 1/3 Double-A innings – he can be an ace.
Same goes for the 20-year-old Glasnow, a 6-foot-7 steal by the Pirates in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. Batters are hitting .142 against Glasnow this season. He has 164 strikeouts in 111 1/3 innings. Were it not for his 61 walks, Glasnow might have put together an even better season than Bradley.
Butler, 22, saw his stuff tick up a couple notches since Colorado took him with a supplemental first-round pick in 2012, and he and Jonathan Gray, the No. 2 overall pick this season, could find themselves in a revamped – and suddenly dangerous – Rockies rotation by next summer. Edwards, and not Mike Olt, was the main piece going back to the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal, and even if at 22 he's old for Class A, executives see him as a No. 3-level starter because of plus stuff and good control. Owens, on the other hand, is a complete lottery ticket. He is like a lefty Glasnow: ridiculous strikeout rate, damn near unhittable and prone to starts like on Aug. 22, when he walked seven in three innings. He's 21. He's got time to figure it out, and if he does, it could be scary.
Honorable mention: Miguel Almonte (A, Kansas City), Kyle Crick, RHP (A+, San Francisco), Kendry Flores, RHP (A, San Francisco), Andrew Heaney, LHP (A+/AA, Miami), Kyle Hendricks, RHP (AA/AAA, Chicago Cubs), Luke Jackson, RHP (A+/AA, Texas), Erik Johnson, RHP (AA/AAA, Chicago White Sox), Rafael Montero, RHP (AA/AAA, New York Mets), Lucas Sims, RHP (A, Atlanta), Robert Stephenson, RHP (A/A+/AA, Cincinnati), Noah Syndergaard, RHP (AA/AAA, New York Mets), Taijuan Walker, RHP (AA/AAA, Seattle).
CL: Kirby Yates, RHP (AAA, Tampa Bay) – Rare is the minor league reliever who turns into a major league reliever. The system just doesn't work that way, and if half the relievers from this list stick in the big leagues, it will be a massive upset. It's one of the reasons Yates, 26, still hasn't gotten a crack at the show despite two straight incredible years at Triple-A. This season is even better than last: 93 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings, just two home runs allowed and a reasonable 23 walks. Yates doesn't look like much at 5-foot-10, but he confounds hitters with a slight pause in his delivery and fires 95-mph fastballs to excellent effect.
Honorable mention: Alex Claudio, LHP (A/AA, Texas), Shae Simmons, RHP(A/AA, Atlanta), Preston Guilmet, RHP (AAA, Cleveland), Corey Knebel, RHP (A, Detroit), Ben Rowen, RHP (AA/AAA, Texas), Nick Wittgren, RHP (A/AA, Miami).
Player of the Year: George Springer – Power, speed, dynamism. Everything in a nice, neat package as seen in this inside-the-park homer that sees Springer round the bases in an incredible 14.1 seconds.
Pitcher of the Year: Archie Bradley – Will battle Patrick Corbin for opening day starts for a long time and give the D-backs a nice 1-2 punch to go against Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
Prospect of the Year: Byron Buxton – A .334/.424/.520 slash line with 55 stolen bases and Gold Glove-caliber defense? Watch out, Trout.
Destroyer of the Universe: Joey Gallo, 3B (A, Texas) – Remember the power co-champ with Sano? Meet Gallo, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound monster whose 40 home runs lead the minor leagues. His absurd 42.1 percent of at-bats ending in strikeouts also is top among all minor leaguers. Not only is Gallo the rightful heir to Adam Dunn, he's only 19 years old, which means we can watch the entirety of his fascinating future unfold.
Next Teenage Star: Julio Urias, LHP (A, Los Angeles Dodgers) – Until his birthday three weeks ago, Urias had spent his year in the full-season Midwest League as a 16-year-old. The next-youngest player, Roberto Osuna, was a full year and a half older. Were he American, Urias would've been a junior in high school. And over 18 starts and 54 1/3 innings, he struck out 67 and put up a 2.48 ERA. From Mexico, playing for the Dodgers, he is going to be an absolute sensation – and people within the organization aren't dismissing the idea that he could arrive in the major leagues as an 18-year-old.
Most Awesome Fat Guy: Japhet Amador, XL (Mexican League/AAA, Houston) – Amador is listed at 315 pounds. The scale cries otherwise in between gasps of, "No mas, por favor, no mas!" There may be nothing more entertaining than a fat guy hitting, and the 26-year-old first baseman is the biggest ballplayer multiple scouts say they've ever seen. After destroying the Mexican League for years, including 36 home runs this season, he signed with the Astros in mid-August and has managed 13 hits in 43 at-bats. All singles, of course.
Best Name: Rock Shoulders, 1B (A, Chicago Cubs) – As if it could be anyone else.