Bryant, Betts highlight First-Half All-Prospect team
Cubs 2013 first-rounder, trio of Red Sox among young players who have shined
All-Star Game time, while technically past the midway point of the Major League season, is often an opportunity to reflect on the season's first half.
The Minor League season is even further past the point, but using the Midsummer Classic as a marker, it seemed the right time to take a closer look at the prospects who performed the best during the first half of the 2014 season.
That resulted in the MLBPipeline.com First-Half All-Prospect team listed below. The only requirement for a player to be considered is that he was on a team Top 20 Prospects list at the start of the 2014 season. Some have graduated off those lists to the big leagues, with their strong performances at the highest level a major reason for their inclusion. All stats mentioned are through June 30.
1B: C.J. Cron, Angels
The former first-rounder bounced back from a so-so 2013 season to hit .319/.369/.602 in 28 Triple-A games, earning a callup to the big leagues. He hit eight homers and drive in 22 runs over his first 42 games for the Angels.
2B: Mookie Betts, Red Sox
Sure, he's playing outfield now, but that's just been to get his bat in the big league lineup. Betts hit .355/.443/.551 with 22 steals in Double-A to earn a promotion to Triple-A, where he promptly hit .322/.425/.444 in 23 games to earn the bump to Boston.
SS: Corey Seager, Dodgers
Yes, it's the California League, but it's hard not to be impressed by the 2012 first-round pick's numbers: .347/.401/.611 with 14 homers and 55 RBIs all while playing a solid shortstop. He was third in the Minors in total bases through the season's first three months.
3B: Kris Bryant, Cubs
About as big of a no-brainer as there is on this list, Bryant hit .352/.451/.717 with 28 homers and 73 RBIs while earning a promotion from Double-A to Triple-A, all in his first full season of pro ball.
C: Blake Swihart, Red Sox
The catching group didn't perform exceedingly well, but Swihart has handled himself well in his first taste of Double-A, hitting .296/.348/.482 with nine homers and 42 RBIs in 66 games. He's also thrown out better than 50 percent of would-be basestealers.
OF: George Springer, Astros
He needed just 13 games in Triple-A to prove he was ready, hitting .353/.459/.647 with three homers and four steals. He's provided a huge boost in Houston, with Springer finishing the end of June with 16 homers, 43 RBIs and three steals.
OF: Gregory Polanco, Pirates
Another callup who's given a big league team a lift, Polanco was hitting .347/.405/.540 with 15 steals when he was summoned to join Pittsburgh. He hit .288/.374/.375 with a pair of homers, 10 RBIs and four steals in 19 June contests following the promotion.
OF: Joc Pederson, Dodgers
In another organization, Pederson probably would have earned a big league callup by now. All he did in Triple-A was hit .319/.437/.568 with 17 homers and 20 steals, and that was with missing the last handful of games in June with a shoulder injury.
DH: Joey Gallo, Rangers
Gallo's first half, along with Bryant's presence at third, necessitated a DH spot. The Rangers prospect trailed only Bryant in total bases in the Minors. He did top the list with 29 homers, driving in 71 runs and hitting a robust .313/.443/.726, earning a promotion to Double-A in the process.
RHP: Jimmy Nelson, Brewers
Many of the "bigger names" have either been hurt or underperformed, but it'd be tough to find a right-hander who's been better than Nelson. In 15 appearances, Nelson went 9-2 with a 1.66 ERA. Over 97 1/3 innings, Nelson allowed just 62 hits (.180 average against) and 29 walks while striking out 105. That doesn't include his strong start for Milwaukee in late May.
LHP: Henry Owens, Red Sox
Owens continues to be one of the tougher southpaws to hit, going 10-3 with a 2.25 ERA over 15 starts in the Double-A Eastern League. Over 92 innings, Owens allowed 59 hits (.181 average against) and 37 walks while striking out 95. He gave up no runs in seven of those outings.
RP: Shae Simmons, Braves
Simmons was about as dominant as possible in Double-A during this season's first half, going a perfect 14-for-14 in save opportunities, holding hitters to a .183 batting average, posting a 0.78 ERA and striking out 11.7 per nine in 23 innings. It carried over to Atlanta, as the undersized right-hander gave up just two runs and struck out 13 over his first 13 big league innings.