The Peoria Javelinas, affiliated with the Braves, Orioles, Reds, Padres and Mariners, are being skippered this year by Rod Barajas and include many names of interest for fantasy players in 2016. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
Getting in enough innings has been an issue for James Paxton. Yes, the Mariners' James Paxton, who is currently in the MLB rotation. The 26-year-old is far from a rookie and it remains to be seen just how long the Mariners keep him out in the AFL. The lefty is still hitting the mid-nineties and works with a good curve and change. Staying healthy and commanding his pitches remain the issues here.
2012 first-round pick Lucas Sims (Braves) is still a work in progress. The righty has upper end of the rotation stuff and it is readily apparent in his strikeout rates with an 8.3 and 10.6 K/9 at A+ and Double-A. The 21-year-old, however, appears to have been pushed beyond the level where he's really ready and perhaps should have remained in A+ for another complete season. His command and mechanics still need quite a bit of work (5.2 and 5.5 BB/9) and it looks like he has a date to repeat Double-A once again. Given his age, there is still time for him to develop as a starter, but he could be a prime candidate to be converted to relief work.
Sims’ teammate, Andrew Thurman (Braves), was a former second-round pick in 2013. A former Astro, Thurman’s issues are not in the control department, where he has consistently posted sub-2.0 walk rates. Instead, he has yet to really translate his secondary offerings to the higher levels of play and has not gotten many swings and misses at either A+ or Double-A. Slight improvements in his changeup and curve could still net him a career as a middle to back end of the rotation starter.
Reds hurler Nick Travieso had a near mirror image to his 2014 campaign, making 19 starts in A+ with a 7.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. A 2012 first-round pick, Travieso has a plus fastball/slider combination but is still working to refine his changeup. The Reds like him as a potential #3 starter/innings eater type given good mechanics and a durable frame, but 2016 could be a make or break year as he’ll have to acquit himself well in Double-A.
The Braves selected Dan Winkler from the Colorado Rockies in the Rule-5 draft even though he was recovering from Tommy John Surgery. The righty was only just recently activated from the 60-day DL and is therefore very much in need of innings. A former 11th round pick, Winkler’s fastball is not a great one, but he throws it for strikes and has a deep repertoire of weapons he can utlize against lefties and righties alike. Prior to injuring his elbow, he had a 9.1 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in Double-A. He’ll try to win a spot in the Braves' Triple-A rotation in 2016.
Chance Sisco (Orioles) continues to show advanced plate discipline and an ability to make contact at every level of play. At just 20 years of age, he has legitimately earned his way to Double-A after hitting .308/.387/.422 in A+ ball. He’s developing well defensively and has a strong throwing arm. The question that remains is whether or not he will develop any power. Again, the former 2nd round pick is just 20 years of age and will see a full season of Double-A ball in 2016. He’s shown an aptitude for hitting doubles and has time on his side in the strength building/physical maturation department.
Alex Blandino (Reds) was the 29th overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft. A+ ball was a success for him as he hit .294/.370/.438, but despite continuing to make contact, the righty struggled in Double-A, batting just .235 albeit showing improving plate discipline skills. Expect him to start there again in 2016. A shortstop now, Blandino profiles better over at second base long term where he could hit for average with solid on-base skills and developing low to mid-teens home run power.
D.J. Peterson (Mariners) was coming off a 30-plus home run season between A+ and Double-A and was widely expected to advance quickly from Double-A to Triple-A and to potentially claim the starting first base job well before the season ended. That plan did not happen as Peterson managed just seven home runs and hit .223/.290/.346 before straining his Achilles in mid-August and taking the rest of the minor league season off. The righty’s strikeout rates were up slightly, though not significantly, so it doesn’t seem to be a question of being overmatched or a massive shift in plate approach. One has to wonder if he’s been playing injured all year given the decline, though there were no signs of that. The 23-year-old now goes from being one of the best prospects in baseball to having to prove he actually is in fact still a prospect. The power is for real.
Considering Phillip Ervin (Reds) stole 30 bases and hit 12 home runs while making contact over 80% of the time in Double-A, it’s a bit baffling to see him hit only .242 and then .235 over a small sample in Triple-A. Ervin, however, has occasional issues with his swing and has holes in it that can be exploited even though he has the speed and plate discipline skills of a potential leadoff hitter. Ervin still profiles as a legitimate centerfielder with 30+ stolen base skills and mid-teens power. He’ll return to Double-A as a 23-year-old, so expect to see him promoted quickly if he proves adept at handling Double-A pitching.
Travis Jankowski (Padres) missed most of 2014 only to make it all the way to the Majors this year. A 24-year-old supplemental first-round pick, Jankowski has little to no pop, but focuses his game on his ability to get on base, make contact and steal bases (32 stolen bases and counting between three levels of play). Jankowski hit .316 and .392 in the Minors but is the type of hitter who is often overmatched once he reaches the major league level. The Padres have him on a fourth outfielder/pinch runner trajectory.
Tyler O’Neill (Mariners) launched 32 home runs in the California League while stealing 16 bases. However, he also struck out 31% of the time, walked under 7% of the time and posted a .260/.316/.558 slash. O’Neill is also capable of manning a decent corner outfield spot and is not just a slugger. The power is legitimate and should be fun to watch in batting practice, but hopefully the 20-year-old begins to learn a bit about selectivity if he wants to have more than a minor league or platoon player career.