Under-The-Radar Prospects in the NL West

Posted: March 5, 2014 in by Freddy Berowski

The NL West is filled with top name prospects who have recently debuted and are expected to debut, to much fan-fare, this season.  From Archie Bradley to Yasiel Puig, the names of the best NL West prospects are on the tip of the tongue of most prospectors.  Here are some that you may not be aware of, that could end up making an impact on big league rosters in the not too distant future.

21-year-old toolsie outfielder Noel Cuevas was drafted in the 21st round by the LA Dodgers in 2010.  Cuevas excelled at High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2013, putting together perhaps his finest all-around minor league campaign in full season ball.  In addition to his 66 stolen bases, Cuevas put up a .284/.341/.454 line.  There are two questions surrounding Cuevas coming into 2014.  The biggest question is how he will handle Double-A? Will there be any regression and how much? Will he be able to figure things out and continue to build on his impressive 2013 season?  The second question concerns the Dodgers, with their plethora of talented outfielders, four at the big-league level, three of which are signed to long-term deals, and Joc Pederson waiting in the wings at AAA, is there a place in LA for Cuevas to play?

21-year-old backstop Will Swanner put together an impressive season, all things considered, for High-A Modesto.  A 15th round pick in 2010 out of high school in Carlsbad Ca., Swanner has slowly worked his way up the ranks in the Rockies system over the last four seasons.  The only thing that keeps me from calling 2013 a break-out campaign for Swanner is his horrible April and July months.  A streaky hitter, Swanner can hit for power and average, but strikes out a lot.  His bat it typical for Coors field and I could see him replacing Wilin Rosario behind the dish (with Rosario moving over to first), or vice-versa, in a few years and the Rox are lacking a true first base prospect.  Swanner should begin the season at Double-A, and if he continues to perform and September call-up in 2015 seems likely.

The Giants shelled out big bucks with preemptive strikes to keep Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum this off-season, sacrificing their spending in other areas, one of which, is the bullpen.  That is why Josh Osich is so intriguing to me.  Through his first two pro-seasons, Osich has been on the fast track, spending half the year last year in Double-A Richmond.  With a stellar strike out rate and good walk totals, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Osich is a guy to keep an eye on this spring.  His live arm is something that the Giants could use in a middle relief role.  Osich has the stuff to eventually be an 8th or 9th inning guy, once he gets a few years under his belt.

20-year-old Mallex Smith of the Padres is probably one of the fastest prospects in all of baseball.  Not only is he fast, but he is a smart baserunner as well.  Smith exploded on to the scene in his second pro-season putting up a .367 OBP with 64 steals in 110 games at Class-A Fort Wayne.  Not quite Billy Hamilton territory, but who is?  A speedy centerfielder with range, Smith has shown the ability to get on base and use his speed as a game changer.  Smith will turn 21 this way and looks to kick off the season in Double-A.  If he continues to play like he is now, by the end of the season he should be at Triple-A and be on everyone’s radar.  Look for him to emerge at the top of San Diego’s line-up by 2016.

Rounding out the NL west is Arizona hurler Daniel Gibson.  A 7th rounder in last year’s draft, Gibson was originally drafted by the Brewers in 2010 but chose to play for the University of Florida Gainesville instead.  Especially tough against lefty’s Gibson dominated A-ball in 2013.  With a fastball averaging 92 mph, Gibson profiles as a left-handed specialist at the big league level- not flashy, but every team needs a couple and it gets the job done.  There is a feeling among experts that Gibson may be one of the first players from the 2013 draft class to reach the big leagues, possibly as early as 2014.

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