Baseball is indeed changing. Prospects are being moved up more quickly and the result is a fun alternative to watching a fading former star play regularly because he has a big salary.
It is refreshing that teams want to move towards youth, and even with that, there is a great push towards players who can do a few things. And, I am not just talking tools: it is more a case of players who can be brought up and learn the ropes while having the skill to play a few defensive spots.
This year is particularly rich in the Junior Circuit, so this week let's look at five guys I really want to try and grab for my keeper leagues.
Brock Holt (3B/OF, Red Sox): Holt is one of those hard nosed throw back players, not unlike his teammate Dustin Pedroia, who might not look like they are good as they are, but in reality, are way better than we first imagined. A ninth-round selection of the Buccos in 2009, the Pirates, ostensibly deep in the outfield, swapped Holt to the Sox as part of the Jerry Sands/Mark Melancon/Ivan de Jesus deal of 2012. Too bad, because Holt would have played anywhere the Pirates wanted, meaning they missed out on a solid player with a profile to play anywhere. In the Minors, he posted a strong .307-15-181 line with 101 doubles and a good .372 OBP. Then he is .315-2-15 with five swipes since being inserted in the starting lineup. When they talk about guys playing the game the right way, this is the example.
Mookie Betts (SS/OF, Red Sox): Boston might be struggling this year, but sometime in 2015 they will take off and dominate the AL East for the next few seasons, based upon Holt, Xander Bogaerts, Garin Cecchini and Jackie Bradley, Jr. Oh yeah, and Betts, who might have the best eye of any minor leaguer brought forth over the past few seasons. In the Minors, he collected 164 walks to 120 whiffs, with 88 swipes. He is just 21, so give the kid a few weeks to get the hang. Then look out.
Nick Castellanos (3B/OF, Tigers): Castellanos earned a starting job this spring after blasting through the Tigers system. A first-round pick in 2010, Castellanos arrived at Comerica last fall and hit .278-0-0 over 11 games. This year, he started slowly, hitting .233-3-14 in April, .233-1-6 in May, but in June, he is showing he is getting the hang with .337-2-10 totals and a couple of swipes.
George Springer (OF, Astros): 65 games in the Majors and his 162-mean extrapolates to .245-40-107. He does strike out still, but it is only 65 games. The kid is a monster.
Kole Calhoun (OF, Angels): Calhoun actually lost his rookie status last year, with a .282-8-32 line over 58 games. That earned him a starting right field gig in Anaheim to open 2014, but a sprained ankle sidelined him for five weeks. And, though he was slow to get in a groove, he now carries a .284-7-19 line, .375-3-10 of which he earned over the last three weeks. Dude can rake.