The first round of 2014 Augusta GreenJackets player briefs belongs to position players. The team is loaded with young prospects, highlighted by two highly-touted teenagers playing in the infield.
Tyler Ross - Ross should get the majority of the playing time behind the plate in Augusta this season. He was a 12th-rounder in 2013 out of LSU. Ross has a true catcher's build and is built for the long haul. He hasn't hit a ton yet, but he shows a plan at the plate. Defense is his calling card, as he is said to have a strong overall profile behind the plate.
Eric Sim - Sim's assignment to Augusta is his third. He continues to serve well as an organizational catcher who handles pitchers well and is very solid behind the plate. He has a strong arm and good mechanics. Sim struggles with the bat, but he shows some power potential when he barrels the ball.
Gabriel Cornier - Cornier has spent five years in short-season ball but is still 21 years old, and this is his first full-season assignment. Interestingly enough, despite playing five seasons in the rookie leagues, he didn't see his first time in Salem-Keizer until 2012. Cornier hasn't done much with the bat statistically.
Ryan Tuntland - Tuntland is a 22-year-old getting his first full-season assignment after getting drafted in the 29th round in 2013 out of West Virginia. Considering his age and polish, he should hit in the South Atlantic League. His swing is geared for power to the gaps and occasionally over the fence. He has some bat wrap, but he also has quick hands and good bat speed, and there is solid lift to his swing. He should be one of the team's better power threats. If he impresses this season, the Giants popping him so late could prove rewarding.
Christian Arroyo - Arroyo is the prize of the team after getting drafted 25th overall last year out of a Florida high school. The 18-year-old is expected to play a good amount of time at second base after getting drafted as a shortstop and playing there his first pro season. There had been questions regarding whether Arroyo would stick at short because of his range and athleticism, and those were quickly answered when manager Mike Goff said he would be at second often this season. Arroyo's glove should play well at second. His swing is short, quick and clean, and he barrels the ball hard and often. Despite being 18 years old, he's expected to hold down a spot in the middle of the Augusta order, and his pure hitting ability should help. The hit tool should also help the gap power to play up some, but he probably won't have anything more than average power in the future. Arroyo commands the field well and makes his presence known, and he appears to have solid makeup. He's a smart kid who "gets it."
Ryder Jones - Jones played shortstop a good bit on the back fields this spring, so the indication that he could play short some this season has some backing. I talked to sources who doubt his ability to stay at short, but the full-season test will tell us more. Jones will grow. He has big feet with smaller legs, so his lower body will develop more, and the same should happen for his upper body. His listed 6-2 height might actually slight him. He's geared for power in the box and uses his body well in his swing. His hips fire early, so he gets all of his body into each swing, but he has to make sure the bat follows in a timely manner. Like Arroyo, Jones should barrel the ball hard and often, and that should help the power play up. He was a second-rounder last June out of a North Carolina high school, and his father is a college baseball coach, so that's a plus for the 19-year-old.
Brandon Bednar - Bednar was a seventh-rounder out of Florida Gulf Coast last June, and Baseball America tabbed him as a potential fast-riser in the system. He's very lanky and should develop some in the upper body, which will only help what is already solid power potential. Bednar can also run some, but I need to time him before grading him. He sprays the ball with authority from a quick swing, and he should hit in the SAL. I'm not sure what to think of his defense yet, but based on his body and feet, I'm guessing he has a corner future depending on the arm. He will probably spell Arroyo and Jones up the middle at times, but he will likely see third base more than any position this season.
Leo Rojas - Rojas was drafted in the 15th round in 2012 out of Miami-Dade College, but he basically lost a season of development after a banned substance suspension last year. He will be in Augusta for the first time this year anyway, and he's 23 years old, so he needs to move quickly. Rojas was previously a catching prospect, but he's more likely to see time at 3B/DH in Augusta. His swing can get long from a noticeable bat wrap, but he has quick hands and good bat speed, and the ball jumps when he barrels it. He has an athletic frame that's best suited for an infield spot rather than behind the plate, but time will tell regarding his defense.
Matt Chavez - Chavez is a local kid from California who is 25 years old. He was signed out of Indy ball but was originally drafted in the 44th round by the White Sox in 2010. He will serve as a backup.
Tyler Horan - Horan was drafted in the eighth round in 2013 out of Virginia Tech, and he's a polished bat who should hit in Augusta. The 23-year-old has a plan at the plate to combine with a strong frame that spells out power potential. His first batting practice session showed what could already be above-average power, and there's certainly room for more. He has a smooth swing with some lift, so he should barrel the ball enough for the power to play. I'll need to see Horan's defense before I make a judgment there, but he is likely to play right field, so we'll see how the arm plays. Horan probably won't run much in the future. His game is suited for power from a corner profile.
Randy Ortiz - Ortiz will likely be the table-setter for the GreenJackets, playing center and hitting leadoff. The numbers say he runs well and is efficient stealing bases so far, but the step up to full-season ball will be a better test. Also based on the numbers, Ortiz strikes out often, so we'll see what the swing produces in Augusta and whether he'll walk enough to stay at the top of the order. Speed should help his range in center field, but we'll see what the routes and reads look like when the 20-year-old starts playing.
Cristian Paulino - The 22-year-old Paulino is a small runner who plays across the outfield in a utility role. He spent three years fighting to get out of the Arizona League, and this will be his first full-season assignment.
Shawn Payne - Payne is a Georgian from Stone Mountain who attended Redan, Middle Georgia and Georgia Southern. He's now 24 and playing in Augusta for the third time, but he hit his previous two times in the league, so he shouldn't stay long. Payne will hit and run well in the league, and he's capable of putting a few over the fence. He's athletic for a corner outfielder and makes good plays, but he also fights his reads and routes at times.
Rafael Rodriguez - Rodriguez will return to Augusta for the third time, but he's still only 21. The tall, lanky outfielder has always opened scouts' eyes with his size and projection, but he hasn't put it together on the field. He continues to have good power potential when he barrels the ball, but he struggles with velo because of bat speed and pitch recognition concerns. Rodriguez should see time in left field this season.
Note: Reports are developed by personal observations, sources, and reports from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.