With 2017 a done deal and the postseason, along with Fall and Winter leagues ahead, there are a bunch of youngsters I will be looking at anticipating a bigger role for all during the coming 2018 season. Note that several of these players have been mentioned over the past weeks as I covered call-ups.
Let's begin our Hot Stove run by taking a look at some of these guys, starting with Walker Buehler, the Dodgers hurler who was a first rounder out of Vanderbilt in 2015. Buehler has made 37 appearances, including 20 starts, since signing with a composite 4-3, 3.17 mark over 93.6 frames. Buehler has 131 whiffs over that span, walked 34 while posting a 1.08 WHIP and allowing opposing batters to hit just .199. He should compete for a rotation gig next year.
As long as we are talking #1 2015 pitching selections out of Vanderbilt, the White Sox Carson Fulmer was also one. Fulmer was spotty at Triple-A this past season, going 7-9, 5.79 over 126 innings, but his time with the Pale Hose was better spent. Fulmer was 3-1, 3.86 with a 1.24 WHIP and 19 strikeouts over 23.3 frames. He should challenge for a rotation spot next spring.
Texas swapped Yu Darvish to the Dodgers for a bevy of prospects including Willie Calhoun, a 22-year-old diminutive (5'8", 185 lbs) hitter with a position to be named later. Do not underestimate Calhoun's power and skill in deference to size for Calhoun assembled a .300-31-93 line split between Round Rock and Oklahoma City, with a .355 OBP that included an excellent 42 walks to 61 whiffs, with 43% of his hits going for extra bases. Calhoun has been a second sacker and left fielder, and is a likely DH candidate sooner rather than later, but there's no question the dude can rake.
The Indians seem pretty well stacked but somehow they will have to work Francisco Mejia, a 21-year-old Dominican, into their on-field mix. A catcher in the Minors, Mejia hit .297-14-52 over 92 minor league games, making pretty good contact with just 24 walks and 52 strikeouts (.348 OBP). Mejia made a brief September stop at Progressive, but at worst should back up Yan Gomes in 2018.
Mitch Keller was a second-round selection of the Pirates in 2014 out of Xavier. The righty burned through three levels, finishing at Double-A Altoona, going an aggregate 8-5, 3.03 over 116 innings with 116 strikeouts and 32 walks (1.00 WHIP). Over 293 minor league innings, Keller has 318 punchouts and a 1.05 WHIP.
Boston drafted Sam Travis in the second round back in 2014, and he probably would have been the Sox first sacker this past season, but a leg injury that sidelined him for the bulk of 2016 put that on the skids. However, Travis hit .307-9-78 over 131 games in 2015 and in 2016 was .272-6-29 over 47 games before the injury at Pawtucket, and went .270-6-24 at Triple-A and .264-1-6 over 76 big league at-bats. Travis, 24, has Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez standing in his way to regular playing time, meaning he will likely get that opportunity shortly.
The Rays' Willy Adames, a 22-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic, should soon be ready for a big league try. At Durham last year, Adames was .277-10-62 with 32 doubles and 11 swipes. He walked 65 times to 132 whiffs, good for a .360 OBP, but those numbers should equal out if the infielder's past (56 walks to 44 strikeouts in 2013) and experience tie together.
Oakland is flush with hot prospects, but the future shortstop is 21-year-old Venezuelan Franklin Barreto, who went .290-15-54 with 63 runs and 15 swipes at Triple-A this season. Barreto needs to improve his zone judgement, as witnessed by his 27 walks to 141 whiffs (.336 OBP), but he should move Marcus Semien to second and be a fixture in Oakland shortly.
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