This is part-nine of a ten-part series taking an in-depth look at when the top prospects in the game will reach the majors. For the rankings on this list, I used the Baseball Prospectus Top-101.
We hear fabricated fluff pieces about the chances of prospects making Opening Day rosters every year, but in Gausman's case, it's not fluff. It's not a given, but he does have a shot. Regardless of whether it's on Opening Day or not, Gausman is a part of the Orioles plans this year and will be in the majors this year.
What Could Speed It Up: A strong spring will get him there in a month.
What Could Slow It Down: Gausman did not pitch well in the majors last season. That's not an indictment on his talent, but if it happens again, he could need extended time in Triple-A, where he made just 8 appearances.
You're going to hear even more fluff pieces about Syndergaard than you will about Gausman, and rightly so, as he's certainly one of the Mets five best pitchers. But there is little chance he breaks camp with the team unless the Mets spring pitching injury rash continues. Unlike the Orioles, who expect to compete, the Mets have little incentive to start Syndergaard's service clock until after the super two deadline. Barring a bad decision from the Mets, it's pretty easy to predict that Syndergaard will be in the majors sometime in June.
ETA: June 2014
What Could Speed It Up: If the Mets starters continue to get injured and the Mets get desperate.
What Could Slow It Down: It's hard to see him getting called up any later than June unless he gets hurt.
Ventura has the best shot of these three starters to make his team's opening day roster, as he battles for the final spot in the Royals rotation this spring. They may elect to hold him off for a few months, but for a team desperate to compete before James Shields potentially departs this winter, they need all the additional wins they can get.
What Could Speed It Up: Could easily be Opening Day if he has a strong spring.
What Could Slow It Down: The Royals do have some other options, like Danny Duffy, who can take the final spot in their rotation, which could delay Ventura until May or June.
This is about as high as you'll see a player on a list like this who hasn't even reached full-season ball. Giolito is worthy of the ranking, however, and will be the best pitching prospect in baseball once the names above him graduate to the big leagues. Giolito has a long way to go and already has one Tommy John surgery scar on his elbow, but that appears to be behind him now and he could hit the ground running this year. He'll start in Low-A ball, but could finish in the Carolina League. The biggest thing holding him back at this point is the amount of time it will take for him to build up an acceptable workload for the majors.
What Could Speed It Up: Giolito has a truly elite arsenal of pitches that could prove the low minors to be too easy for him.
What Could Slow It Down: He threw just 36 2/3 innings last year so the Nationals will probably restrict his innings this year. That will make it hard to build up to what he needs for a major league season in the little amount of time it will take him to be good enough to pitch there.
Sano made it all the way to Double-A last year as a 20-year-old. Once there, he struggled with contact to a certain extent, but still hit 19 home runs in 67 games. The power is for real and is the best in the minors. You could put him in the majors tomorrow and he'd hit 20-25 home runs, but it's what kind of hitter he'd be in the process that we're still unsure of. The Twins major league futility and strong farm system will make it hard to hold off on promoting Sano as the season progresses, but he could use at least a few months in Triple-A this year to further refine his approach and allow his power to play.
ETA: Late 2014
What Could Speed It Up: When Sano has 30 home runs in the minors in July and the Twins are 20 games below .500, it will be hard to justify not calling him up.
What Could Slow It Down: If he continues to hit .230 while displaying that power, the Twins could hold off, but not for long.
15. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Unlike most players on this list, Bundy's ETA has nothing to do with his development. Bundy is already throwing on flat ground in his recovery from Tommy John surgery and is aiming to be back by June. It's not a given that he'll head directly to the majors when that happens, but it's not a crazy thought that if he's healthy this fall, he'll get a few starts down the stretch for the Orioles.
ETA: Late 2014
What Could Speed It Up: He'll be healthy this summer, and could head straight to the Orioles rotation.
What Could Slow It Down: Any setback in his recovery or if the Orioles want him to build up arm strength in the minors.
Gray made it all the way to the High-A California League in his draft year and dominated once he was there. That could be all the justification the Rockies need to get him out of a tough pitcher's league and start him in Double-A. If he does, he could make a late-season cameo in the majors, but that would be aggressive.
ETA: Summer 2015
What Could Speed It Up: If he starts in Double-A and has success, he could get a few late-season starts once the Rockies are out of contention.
What Could Slow It Down: More likely is that he starts in the California League, which can rough up even the most advanced pitching prospect.
Like Gray, Bryant finished his draft year in High-A ball and was dominant once there. The Cubs have the same decision to make with Bryant - Florida State League or Southern League. If they jump him straight to Double-A, he too could see a late-season call-up. For the Cubs, however, some positional blockage does factor in, with Javier Baez also in contention for a call-up and potentially having to slide over to Bryant's spot at third base in order to get at-bats in the majors. Between an aggressive promotion and a crowded infield, it may be difficult for the Cubs to get Bryant time in the majors this fall, but it won't be because he doesn't deserve it.
ETA: June 2015
What Could Speed It Up: A strong season could easily get Bryant to the majors by August or September.
What Could Slow It Down: If Starling Castro returns to form and remains at short stop, Baez will have to slide to third and Bryant will have to go somewhere else, potentially slowing down his assent.
For Hedges, the glove is ready now. The only question for the Padres is how long they want to wait for the bat to catch up. Hedges will return to Double-A this season where he got just 20 games last year. He could make the jump to the majors from there, but it won't be right away. The Padres actually have some strong catching depth at the major league level, allowing them to take their time with Hedges.
ETA: Summer 2015
What Could Speed It Up: With catchers, injuries are always a concern. If they end up with an opening in the majors, Hedges could come fill it and do more than hold his own.
What Could Slow It Down: He is slightly blocked, though it shouldn't stop him long-term. It may be just enough to keep him in the minors until he's absolutely ready, however.
The Pirates are pretty transparent when it comes to handling their prospects, so we can pinpoint, almost to the day, when Taillon will probably be promoted. He will be on the same schedule that Gerrit Cole was on last season, and while he's not the same kind of prospect as Cole, there's no doubt he'll improve the Pirates starting rotation when he arrives in June.
ETA: June 2014
What Could Speed It Up: The Pirates are very strict about promoting prospects too early and have plenty of pitching depth to prevent them from making a bad decision.
What Could Slow It Down: If the Pirates rotation is crowded and guys are performing well, there may not be a spot for Taillon even after the super two deadline passes.