By Scott Barancik, editor
Jews make up an estimated 1.7 percent of all Americans and an even smaller percentage of professional baseball players. But ESPN Insider’s 2014 ranking of the Top 100 Minor Leaguers features three Jews, a 3 percent rate. And Baseball America’s 2014 list of the Top 10 prospects per franchise includes four Jews.
Joc Pederson appears 41st on ESPN’s list and #1 on Baseball America’s list of the top Los Angeles Dodgers prospects. A 21-year-old center fielder, Pederson earned L.A.’s Minor League Player of the Year award in 2012 and afterward played for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifier. In 2013 he hit .278 with 22 HRs, 58 RBIs, 31 stolen bases and a .381 OBP for the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate. Baseball America predicts he’ll reach the Majors sometime in 2014, possibly by Opening Day.
Max Fried ranks 48th on ESPN’s list and #3 on Baseball America’s list of the top San Diego Padres prospects. A 6-foot-4-inch lefty who studied video of Sandy Koufax as an adolescent and was drafted straight out of high school, the 20-year-old Fried earned a $3-million signing bonus from the Padres in 2012. In 2013 he went 6-7 with a 3.49 ERA for the team’s Single-A club. Baseball America says he’ll “zoom through the minors if he throws more strikes.”
Rob Kaminsky caps off ESPN’s list at the 100th spot, and he ranks 9th on Baseball America’s list of the top St. Louis Cardinals prospects. Drafted out of high school last year by the St. Louis Cardinals, the 19-year-old pitcher went 0-3 in rookie ball but finished with a respectable 3.68 ERA while striking out an average of 11.5 batters per nine innings. Baseball America says Kaminsky has the best curveball in the Cards’ system, and he’s expected to open 2014 in Single-A.
Zach Borenstein didn’t make ESPN’s cut, but he ranks 9th on Baseball America’s list of the top Los Angeles Angels prospects. A 23-year-old outfielder, Borenstein hit .337 in 2013 with 28 HRs, 95 RBIs, and a 1.034 OPS for the franchise’s A-Advanced team, and he came close to winning the league’s Triple Crown. That he made the list at all is somewhat miraculous, given that he was left off the Angels’ Top 20 list at the end of the 2013 season, but a change in authors led to a different outlook. Baseball America says Borenstein could spend a good part of 2014 at Triple-A.
Thanks to Kaplan’s Korner for the tip on ESPN Insider’s new rankings.
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