Barring graduations, there's a lot to be said for consistency when it comes to an MLB team's farm system. After all, it's easier to believe in a prospect who has jumped through the rankings and then stayed there than in a new face being shuffled up from obscurity to replace last year's breakout.
So it's nice that the top two spots of our list are completely unchanged for 2014. Xander Bogaerts came in at #1, and now Jackie Bradley Jr. is locked in at #2. It wasn't quite the same level of landslide that Bogaerts' victory was, but it was a landslide all the same.
- Xander Bogaerts, SS
- Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
No, Bradley did not have the dream year in 2013 that some had hoped for when he made spring training look like Little League. MLB pitchers found he could be fooled inside, and went to work. Unfortunately for Bradley, this is all some people remember, and have labeled 2013 a disappointing year for the center fielder.
Simply put, that group is mistaken. Jackie Bradley Jr. had played in a grand total of 61 Double-A games before his MLB debut. He had never once even set foot in Pawtucket. When eventually he did make it down to Rhode Island, Bradley hit .275/.374/.469 in 374 plate appearances, adding 33 points to his slugging while remaining level in OBP despite the promotion to the highest level of the minors. That slugging bump came thanks to 10 homers, eclipsing his 2012 total in 200 fewer plate appearances.
Bradley didn't have the best MLB debut, but it came earlier than it really should have, and in his brief return trips to the majos later in the season, he was noticeably improved, boosting a .097/.263/.129 line at the time of his demotion to .189/.280/.337 by season's end. Last offseason was enough to see Bradley go from a .271/.373/.437 hitter in Portland to a .275/.374/.469 hitter in Pawtucket. If this winter provides even half as much progress, he'll be perfectly ready to go come April.
As per usual, the further down we get, the more interesting the voting becomes. Bradley wasn't a shoe-in like Xander, but he seemed pretty close. I don't know if #3 is the spot where things actually get close between two players, but it's certainly not far off.
A reminder of how this works: I'll name candidates in the comments below, and you rec the comment of the player you want to vote for. For those unfamiliar with how to go about that, just click "actions" underneath the comment and then "rec." Nice and easy, though you do have to be a member to join in.
On the off chance I forget or otherwise leave someone out, you are free to start your own voting thread for that player. I'll even give it a rec of my own to make up for your vote.
As for rules, please stick to just the one vote. That's about it.