Amazingly, we are almost a month into the 2013 season, and I have to say I am feeling ok about my teams and prospects for the season. I am also feeling pretty good about our Top 250 Prospect List (which you can indeed get by signing up for our Platinum Plan) because this year, in addition to producing the list, I also made a comment about each player, and then highlighted a dozen or so players I really liked as "prospect sleepers," if you will.
One of those guys was Jose Fernandez, of whom I wrote (and caused a lot of buzz) a couple of weeks back. Fernandez scored #19 on the Top 250. Well, another guy I targeted was Reds hurler Tony Cingrani, who has pretty much generated as much hype as Fernandez this past week.
A southpaw, Cingrani was drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft out of Rice, and trucked right off Billings and the Pioneer League, logging 51.3 innings, a 3-2, 1.75 mark, and whiffing 80. In 2012, Cingrani started at Bakersfield (5-1, 1.11), then moved to up to Pensacola (5-3, 2.12), then to the Great American Ball Park (0-0, 1.80) to finish the year. He almost made the big club out of spring training, but went to Louisville (1-0, 0.00 over three starts) and was then summoned back to the Show this week. Cingrani had his first Major League start Thursday, allowing a run over five innings, and I really think highly of this kid, mostly because it seems his work ethic is quite strong.
Cingrani placed #248 on my Top 250, but a lot of his rating is rooted in his age (23 years old). For example, Fernandez is just 19 years old, and he ranked 230 spots higher. Either way, I really like this kid and think he will stick now and become one of the best rookies this season.
Another guy I featured--and took some grief for--is the Rangers diminuitive reliever, Joe Ortiz, who landed #6 on the Top 250, right between Dylan Bundy and Taijuan Walker. Why, you ask? Well, as I wrote last December when the list came out, Ortiz tossed 62.2 innings last year, whiffing 52, and though he surrendered 57 hits, how about nine walks (1.053 WHIP), As a minor leaguer, Ortiz tossed 276.1 innings, whiffed 278, walked 62 and allowed 232 hits (1.064 WHIP) and saved 28. He also pitched 31 innings at Triple-A Round Rock last year at age 21 (two years younger than Cingrani, again showing the age factor in my algorithm). Ortiz has done 11.1 innings with the Rangers, going 2-0 with a 0.77 ERA, eight hits allowed and ten strikeouts to just one walk. He is just 5'7" (175 lbs.) but don't forget, Billy Wagner was a shorter player, as is the Royals' Tim Collins.
25-year-old Hiram Burgos made his debut for the Brewers this week as well (1-0, 1.80, five innings, five hits, and a punchout), and the right-hander has a pretty decent minor league resume of 27-23, 3.58 over 477.1 innings (74 of them as a starter) striking out 411 and walking 130 while allowing 464 hits (1.246 WHIP). I cannot say I feel as good about Burgos as I do Ortiz and Cingrani, but he makes a reasonable gamble in an NL format.
However, I really like another Rangers hurler, Justin Grimm, whom I liked a lot last year, and who promptly melted down as soon as I endorsed him. The Rangers selected Grimm in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, out of the University of Georgia (Athens). Grimm had one good start (six innings, three runs) and one really scary one (one inning, six runs) and then went back to the Minors where he split between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock (11-6, 2.81 over 134.2 innings). A year older and after a Sunday win (six innings, one run, nine whiffs, a walk and six hits), I am still willing to go out on the same limb and recommend him again.
Looking at some hitters, I think Didi Gregorius might have my favorite name of any player these days. He is also a decent enough hitter, with a .267-23-177 line that includes 76 doubles, 23 triples, and 45 swipes over 486 games (1893 at-bats). Hailing from Holland, Gregorius does have 130 walks to 258 strikeouts, good for a .319 OBP which is of a little concern, but he did homer for the second time Sunday (.545-2-2). Part of the complex three-team deal that sent Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds and Drew Stubbs to the Tribe, Gregorius could get some playing time this year and is an interesting option for the Diamondbacks' future. He makes for a pretty good pickup in an NL-only format.
The Pirates recalled outfielder Alex Presley, who has a pretty good minor league line of .292-50-308 over 651 games. An eighth-round pick of the Buccos out of the University of Mississippi in 2006, Presley has had a few chances in the Bigs, including some nice power last year (.237-10-25) but a lot of missed swings (18 walks to 72 strikeouts) over 104 games and 306 at-bats. I think I would pass on Presley at this point.
With Ryan Zimmerman hurt, the Nationals advanced Anthony Rendon, their first-round pick in 2011 out of the same Rice University as Cingrani. Last year, the then 22-year-old debuted and climbed four levels of the Minors from Rookie up through Double-A, putting together a .233-6-12 year over 133 at-bats. Rendon also had a very encouraging 23 walks to 29 strikeouts and was hitting .292-2-7 over 48 at-bats along with 14 walks to nine strikeouts. Rendon is an acceptable replacement for the present and a really nice gamble for the future.
Oswaldo Arcia is a 22-year-old Venezuelan flychaser, promoted by the Twins this past week when Darin Mastroianni went on the DL. With a very nice .316-56-268 line over 384 games, Arcia has a .912 minor league OPS (.539 SLG; .373 OBP). He does have just 123 walks to 298 whiffs, suggesting Arcia is a free swinger, but he clearly can hit when in his element. So far this year at Triple-A Rochester (.394-3-8 over ten games), he was indeed that, and like Rendon, if Arcia is not a full fledged pick now, he probably will be shortly. Meaning grab him now and stash, if nothing else.
Finally, I like Blake Tekotte, a third-round pick of the Padres in 2008, who was swapped during the hot stove last year for Brandon Kloess, thus making the outfielder a member of the White Sox. Tekotte has stuggled over 49 Major League at-bats (.163-0-1) but he did have a solid 2011 (.285-19-87) at San Antonio. He had lesser numbers last season while shuttling betwen the Majors and Minors (.243-9-26 at Tucson when not struggling in the big leagues). Still, I think the former University of Miami alum could be ok, and while Dayan Viciedo is down, Tekotte will get some chances to show he has arrived. We are all probably better off waiting though before jumping on the Tekotte bandwagon.