Once upon a time, Cheslor Cuthbert and Jefry Marte were top prospect third basemen for the Royals and Mets respectively. Both now find themselves suddenly thrust up to the Majors. Are they ready? What role will they have? And have they turned their careers around? Let’s find out.
Cheslor Cuthbert is still just 22 years old. After three-plus seasons of ineffectiveness, his shine dimmed and he was no longer considered amongst the best young players in the organization. Early 2015 has been much kinder to the young Nicaraguan as he has shown a bit more power and a decent approach that has led to a .256/.318/.389 line. The righty is starting at third while Mike Moustakas spends some time on the bereavement list after which he will likely be sent down. While he has improved and is staying healthy, Cuthbert looks like he is headed on the utility player/organizational career path. He does have the luxury of youth and could turn things around, but no sign of that occurring is present.
The Tigers were dealt a huge blow with Miguel Cabrera hitting the disabled list for the first time in his career and it will cost him much of the rest of the summer. In his place, the club will likely go with a variety of faces to man first base, but one such option is Jefry Marte. Marte is now in his third organization after spending his first five seasons with the Mets and his next two with the Athletics. The 24-year-old has been having a similar Triple-A season to Cuthbert though slightly better with the best power numbers of his pro career (13 home runs – a career high in just 323 plate appearances) while making contact 85% of the time and producing a .226 isolated power. The righty has always been an adept contact hitter, so it will be interesting to see if the power is for real. Marte has not had any playing time at first base, however, so it may be difficult for the Tigers to get him into the lineup. On Monday, they started Andrew Romine. Expect Detroit to try and get a bat with more punch into the lineup soon, and it may yet be Marte.
Not So Mixed Feelings
I’ve been avoiding talking about Tim Anderson for some time now, but it is hard to hold back when he keeps hitting. The 22-year-old shortstop is hitting over .300 with 27 steals in Double-A, and he could be a late season call-up. I still just don’t see him as a long-term major leaguer given his consistently high strikeout rates (20%) and ultra-low walk rates (3.4%). Anderson also lacks pop, so it will come down to his speed, and as it is written, “you can’t steal first base.” Until Anderson starts making a lot more contact and gaining some control of the strike zone, I really can’t recommend him as a long-term keeper, though his speed, even given a small opportunity to start at the MLB level, will force $10-plus FAAB bids regardless.
First Base Check-In
Time to catch up with a few of my favorite lower-level first base prospects. Casey Gillaspie is the more well known of the duo. The Rays selected him in the first round of the 2014 amateur draft. He is the younger brother of Conor Gillaspie. 2015 was to be the litmus test to see if he a) inherited the family plate discipline and b) actually had more power than his brother as expected when the Rays drafted him. The answer is “yes” on both counts. The switch-hitter had collected 16 homers at A-ball while making contact 84% of the time and walking over 10% with a .278/.358/.530 slash. That effort earned him a promotion to A+ ball. At 22-years of age, he could finish out the year in A+, but would then head to Double-A and be an Arizona Fall League candidate who would likely finish 2016 in Triple-A, if not the Majors. Keep an eye on his A+ progress. He could move even faster than I have indicated.
Rowdy Tellez is the second of my first basemen. I first started tracking Tellez after the Blue Jays drew him away from a college career with a 30th round selection. He has massive raw power and it showed up quickly in rookie ball and I was hoping for big things in his first season of full-A ball in 2014. Well, things did not go quite as planned as Tellez was out for the season after just 49 plate appearances. He returned to A-ball with a vengeance, hitting seven home runs while making contact 81% of the time and batting .296/.351/.444. Not bad for a 20-year-old who missed a year of development. Like Gillaspie, he too has earned a promotion to A+ ball and has swatted another five home runs while making even more consistent contact and walking frequently in the FSL over a small 52 plate appearance sample size (.356/.442/.711 with a 90% contact rate). The Jays can afford to be more patient here given Tellez’s youth. It would be surprising to see him make it to Double-A this year, although not so much if he keeps hitting like this. If everything goes well, Tellez has a 2017 ETA.
The Red Sox have been spending a lot of time shuffling their starting outfield in 2015 due to injuries and ineffectiveness. Add another name to slide into that mix in Manuel Margot. The 20-year-old was only recently promoted to Double-A from A+ ball after batting .282/.321/.420 with three homers and 20 steals, so it’s premature to add him to the MLB mix, though he could enter the big league picture next season. Since being promoted to Double-A, he’s hit another home run to go along with four stolen bases. Margot has a very quick bat and is known for his ability to make contact, doing so well over 90% of the time at each of his prior two minor league stops. The righty’s power is still emerging, so it’s possible Margot could be a 15+ HR/30+ SB threat with the ability to hit for average at the MLB level.