MLBPipeline.com's 2014 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Thursday, Jan. 23, on MLB.com, as well as on a one-hour show on MLB Network, airing at 10 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com takes a look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.
Three players on the 2013 list of Top 10 left-handed pitchers graduated to the Major Leagues last season, including previous No. 1 Tyler Skaggs. This year's Top 10 has five holdovers and five newcomers. In Skaggs' absence, Andrew Heaney rises to the top of the list after a sensational first full professional season.
1. Andrew Heaney, Marlins: A strained lat kept Heaney from making his season debut until May. It was worth the wait, however, as he reached Double-A and ended the year by dominating the Arizona Fall League. Heaney's advanced pitchability and three-pitch mix have helped him quickly move through the Minor Leagues and give him a chance to make an impact in Miami soon.
2. Henry Owens, Red Sox: Building on his impressive debut in 2012, Owens broke out in '13 and reached Double-A Portland shortly after his 21st birthday. He has a deceptive delivery, helping his low-90s fastball, changeup and curveball play up. Owens' command has been shaky as a professional, but if he can refine it, he has the potential to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter for Boston.
3. Max Fried, Padres: The top high school pitcher taken in the 2012 Draft, Fried had a solid first full professional season. His fastball, curveball and changeup give him a solid three-pitch mix, and all three have the chance to be at least average offerings. Fried earns high marks for his athleticism and intelligence.
4. Jesse Biddle, Phillies: Drafted by his hometown team, Biddle took a step forward in 2013. He pitched in the Futures Game and ranked third in the Eastern League in strikeouts. Biddle has an effective three-pitch mix that keeps hitters off balance. He has struggled with command issues and will need to work those out to reach his projection as a middle-of-the-rotation starter for Philadelphia.
grading the prospects
5. Julio Urias, Dodgers: Just 16 years old for most of the season, Urias flourished while making his U.S. debut in the Midwest League. The Mexican native attacks hitters with a low-to-mid-90s fastball, and his changeup and curveball are promising offspeed pitches. He combines projectability with a feel for pitching that is well beyond his years.
6. Eduardo Rodriguez, Orioles: The Venezuelan native took a step forward in 2013, reaching Double-A Bowie and ending the year as the starting pitcher in the Arizona Fall League Championship Game. He has grown into his big frame and now throws his fastball in the low-90s with good action. Rodriguez's changeup and slider give him two more quality pitches with which to attack hitters.
7. Justin Nicolino, Marlins: Part of the return the Marlins received in their blockbuster trade with the Blue Jays in November 2012, Nicolino is a polished left-hander. His low-90s fastball, changeup and big, sweeping curveball all play up thanks to his above-average command and intelligence on the mound.
8. Edwin Escobar, Giants: Originally signed by the Rangers, Escobar was dealt to the Giants as a 17-year-old in 2010. He has developed into a solid prospect with a good feel for pitching. Escobar's fastball, slider and changeup are potentially above-average offerings, and he commands them all well. He profiles as a durable middle-of-the-rotation starter for San Francisco.
9. Trey Ball, Red Sox: An elite two-way player during high school, Ball was the seventh overall pick of the 2013 Draft. While his athleticism gave him potential as an outfielder, Boston determined he was best suited for the mound. There, Ball combines a low-90s fastball with a good curveball and changeup, as well as projectability, as he matures and gains experience.
10. Robbie Ray, Tigers: Just a few months after finishing the 2013 season with the most strikeouts of any Nationals Minor Leaguer, Ray was a part of the package dealt to the Tigers in exchange for Doug Fister. Ray relies more on pitchability than overpowering stuff, but his low-90s fastball, slider and changeup give him a solid arsenal. He has proven to be durable and profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter for Detroit.
Enny Romero, a 2013 Futures Gamer, made a spot start with Tampa Bay in late September. He has the stuff to soon become a more regular member of the Rays' rotation, but he will have to refine his command first. He throws his fastball in the low-90s and mixes it with a slider, which is a plus offering at its best. If Romero can solve his command woes, he profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.