Hot on the heels of some top prospect pitchers being promoted to the Show last week, this past week was no different with another cluster of potentially awesome young arms arriving to ideally take a spot in baseball stats and lore.
Of course the local buzz was that of Sean Manaea, the Royals' first-round selection in 2013 out of Indiana State, whom the Royals swapped at the trade deadline last July to Oakland as part of the Ben Zobrist deal. With a 16-9, 2.82 minor league record (257 K over 214 IP), Oakland was clear that Eric Surkamp and Chris Bassitt (now injured) were not the answer to the bottom of their rotation, so the Athletics gave their top pitching prospect the ball Friday. The results were iffy: four runs, four hits, four walks, three whiffs, but not unlike Manaea. I say this in that I saw him pitch both at the Fall League, and then again this spring, where the big right-hander (6'5", 245 lbs.) would take a hitter or two to lock into a zone, and then be fine. As in during the spring, Manaea walked a batter, then whiffed the next four in a row and got six out more than efficiently. Obviously, Oakland is a good pitcher's park and for sure, times have changed with respect to grabbing rookie twirlers. Manaea does have a pedigree, if nothing else.
Detroit nabbed 23-year-old hurler Michael Fulmer in much the same way that Oakland copped Manaea: The Mets drafted Fulmer in the first round in 2011, and then swapped him to the Tigers as part of the Yoenis Cespedes trade, again at the trade deadline last season.
Fulmer has started 78 games over his six years as a minor league professional, accumulating a mark of 27-25, 3.21, with 385 strikeouts over 398 innings to accompany a 1.261 WHIP. Fulmer had a better debut than Manaea, earning a win with five innings (seven hits, two runs, four whiffs). Fulmer might have an easier initial adjustment to the Majors, but Manaea looks to be a better prospect.
Another arm that garnered looks this past week belongs to Adam Conley, who went 7 2/3 frames against the Brewers on Friday. Conley did not allow a hit, but he did walk four, and finally succumbed to a pitch count of 116. A second-round selection of the Marlins in 2011, the Southpaw turned in 81 starts over 439.6 innings, with 397 strikeouts and a 1.251 ratio. Conley debuted last year for the Fish, posting a more than respectable 4-1, 3.76 mark over 11 starts and 67 innings, with a good 59 strikeouts, acceptable 1.281 WHIP, and worth considering seven dingers. Conley, now 26, has seemingly stepped up his game this year with a 1-1, 3.67 record over five starts and 27 innings with 29 punchouts. He makes a decent gamble in an NL-only format and is worth tracking in anything mixed.
OK, there is even one more starting arm out there in 22-year-old Jose Berrios, the Twins flame thrower who fanned 484 over 457.3 minor league innings after being a first-round selection in 2012 out of Papa Juan High School in Puerto Rico. The slender (6', 185 lbs.) righty chalked up 38 wins to 20 losses, with a 2.91 ERA prior to his promotion before taking some lumps with his first start Wednesday when the Tribe roughed him up for five runs, six hits, and a pair of walks, and it could be that Berrios is up before his time. However, the Twins, who are scrambling right now, could well choose to keep Berrios, who was 8-3 over 16 starts and 97 innings at Triple-A, meaning the next level is The Show. Berrios could well be the most talented of all these arms, so the issue is whether he has the skills and personality to grow at the highest level. But, if I were to pick one of the four, Berrios would be the guy.
With Huston Street broken, Joe Smith appears to be the heir apparent to saves for the Angels, at least until Street is back on the street, or gives a reason to turn to Cam Bedrosian. Smith earned 15 saves with the Halos in 2014, and five more last year, making him as safe a bet as there is. Do watch out for Bedrock II, who bagged 29 saves in the Minors.
Turning to some hitters, I like Mallex Smith, the fifth-round selection of the Padres in 2012 who went to the Braves as part of the 2014 Justin Upton swap. Over five minor league seasons, Smith assembled a .295-12-108 line, although with 226 steals and 296 runs over 337 games. Smith managed a decent 190 walks to 300 whiffs (.380 OBP) in the Minors, and surely, at .188-0-7, on a sorry Braves team, things might be bleak for a spell. But, do keep an eye on the speedy centerfielder, for learning with a team like this is a lot different than say the pressure on Fulmer, who is trying to find a niche on a team that is contending.
I am not sure if it is worth the mention, but I have long been a fan of Brett Wallace, who has stumbled around the Orioles, Jays, Athletics, and Astros organizations before landing with the Padres. To be sure, Wallace was a first-round pick of the Cardinals out of Arizona State in 2008 with a minor league line of .304-99-373 with an .858 OPS and .377 OBP over 650 minor league games. However, the talent just never seemed to move to the big leagues with a .246-34-121 line over 390 contests at the highest level. Wallace will be 30 in August, and I have no idea why the third sacker has caught my eye, other than I always imagined him performing better, and he is starting at third for the Pads (hitting .174-0-3 over 15 games). Call me a patron saint of lost causes (actually that would be St. Jude), but keep an eye on Wallace in an NL-only format, at least till the break (if he can manage to stay in the Majors that much longer). There has to either be a hot streak or his stepping up to his skill set at some point.
Toronto will likely not miss the suspension of Chris Colabello nearly as much as the Marlins will miss Dee Gordon, but Derek Dietrich, with his .278-2-8 line, looks like the man. Dietrich, who qualifies at all the infield spots and played 26 games in the outfield last year, sports a .237-26-72 line over 214 games. Dietrich is getting playing time, but if his stick cannot deliver, Martin Prado can indeed play second. The Fish also have Chris Johnson, who hit .286-3-18 over 83 games split between the Braves and Indians last year. Johnson could sneak into the hot corner and move Prado, so check out the playing time there, as well.
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