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The Prospector


Young Guns PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 15 April 2014 00:00

This week, we continue our focus on some of the lesser known rookies who should be on your radar this season.

Some of the more intriguing options come from the pen. I already discussed Daniel Webb as a potential closer candidate, but there are indeed other options out there. 26-year-old former top starting pitching prospect Dellin Betances has emerged as a reliever with the Yankees. The huge 6’8", 260 pounder throws regularly in the mid-nineties with a plus cut fastball and solid slider. Control and command have always been elusive for him, but if you keep striking out batters at a rate of 16.6 per nine innings, it doesn’t matter too much if you walk about 4.

Moving across town, the Mets bullpen is once again in shambles. Jose Valverde is actually pitching fairly well, but he is not the dominant flame-thrower of his youth. Enter Gonzalez Germen, who received a few cups of coffee last season. Unlike Betances, Germen has never been a top prospect, but like Betances, he moved to relief and has found success in that role since making the full-time conversion in Triple-A last season. He’s now throwing 93 mph and has shown a quality changeup and slider to boot. Gonzalez has been a successful strike thrower throughout his minor league career and has translated that skill to the Majors too. One significant caveat, however, are fly balls. So far, German has shown extreme fly-ball tendencies (56% of the time) over a tiny sample and 40% last year. The righty is most likely destined for middle relief or setup work, but this is an organization that could easily have openings.

Vic Black was supposed to have been the sleeper as the Mets’ potential closer. Instead, the righty failed to make the big league roster out of spring training. Acquired in the Marlon Byrd deal, Black throws in the upper nineties and has a nasty fastball/slider combination, but like many young throwers, he has trouble commanding it. So now Black is back in Triple-A working on it as the Las Vegas closer. The former Pirate should be up and down all season long with the big club, but given an up and down history, he is far from a safe bet to even be a consistent major league setup man, let alone a closer.

Staying in the NL, Chris Withrow has been missing bats to the tune of a 15.4 K/9. Like Germen, Withrow converted from starting last season and has done so with success, striking out well over a batter per inning at each stop he’s made since. The former first-round pick is blessed with a plus fastball/slider combination and is throwing strikes, but it remains to be seen if he can continue to do that over a larger sample.

Over in the batter’s box, we have Robinson Chirinos. The injury to Geovany Soto and the inability of J.P. Arencibia to make contact could give the former Ray an opportunity. The righty is a bit long in the tooth for a rookie at 29, but he has always been something of a personal favorite. Chirinos’ most notable skill has always been his plate discipline, regularly walking as often or more often than he has struck out throughout his minor league career. The former Cub combines that with high single-digit home run power potential and is worthy of note in OBP leagues. When he was with the Rays, it looked like John Jaso and Chirinos could form an ideal platoon. Thus far, Chirinos has yet to translate his contact skills to the Majors and as such, he has failed to stick. He might be a quadruple-A player and this is likely his last chance at getting an extended shot in the Majors. Keep in mind that the Rangers do have a few veterans at Triple-A in the form of Chris Gimenez and Chris Snyder. Neither create excitement, but they are available options that could deny Chirinos a long look. While we’re talking about Rangers' minor league catchers, I’ll give a quick update on top prospect Jorge Alfaro. Alfaro has premium power potential and actually runs well for a catcher to boot, making him one of the more intriguing prospects in the game. This year, he was advanced to A+ ball. So far, there is not much to report given a 38 plate appearance sample, but the early results have not been pretty with a 32% strikeout rate. I continue to worry, despite Alfaro’s excellent bat speed and power, that his overly aggressive approach from the right-hand side could lead him to have a career more similar to J.P. Arencibia than anything else.

Maladroit Middle Infield

The Jays just lost Maicer Izturis for 4-6 monthswith a torn UCL, forcing them to utilize Ryan Goins almost every day. Goins has struck out nearly a third of the time and most recently was a .250s hitter in Triple-A with gap power and no speed or exciting defensive skills to speak of. With glove-only Jonathan Diaz seeing the bulk of the time at shortstop while Jose Reyes is out, that leaves Chris Getz as the next most likely option to receive a call-up. So yes, the Blue Jays long term solution to second base currently is not in the organization.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 April 2014 09:17
 
Rookie Round-Up PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 08 April 2014 00:00

One week into the season and there are 29 rookie batters and 48 rookie pitchers who have been or are still on MLB rosters. Sample sizes at this point are rather tiny, but it is important to note some of the players receiving a significant amount of playing time and determine their ability to stay in the lineup or even on the roster.

Eye of the Needle

The Mariners are carrying Abraham Almonte, Stefen Romero and James Paxton. Paxton is the most likely member of this trio to remain in the Majors. The hard-throwing lefty had already asserted his ability to miss bats and has worked hard to improve his control. He’s mostly a two-pitch pitcher, relying heavily on his fastball, and it will be interesting to see how batters adjust as the season progresses. Almonte currently holds down the starting centerfield gig and has little internal organizational competition for the job. The small switch-hitter has mostly been viewed as a fourth or fifth outfielder, but he does own plus-speed skills, has a long history of drawing walks and possesses doubles power. Almonte’s strikeout rates have varied up and down over the years, but once comfortable at a level of play, he has demonstrated an ability to make contact about 84% of the time. There is enough skill and talent here to stick, and Almonte should be taken quite seriously by AL-only and mixed leaguers as a speed source. Romero got the nod to win a bench job as the Mariners would rather Nick Franklin play every day in the minor leagues so they can continue to showcase him as trade bait. Romero is an aggressive hitter with low-single digits home run power, but he is a sub-par defensive second baseman and lacks the tools expected of a corner outfielder.

Chicago Hot Corner

Mike Olt claimed the starting third base job for the Cubs. The former Ranger prospect acquired in the Matt Garza deal remains well regarded for his patience and 20-plus home run power potential. Olt, however, is a right-handed batter who strikes out about a quarter of the time and is not someone who is likely to eclipse a .250 batting average with any frequency. The 25-year-old has been on base just once, via a home run, over his first 13 plate appearances. This comes after an injury-abbreviated season that saw Olt struggle at the Triple-A affiliates of two different organizations. If he can at least hit .230, Olt could still produce an acceptable starter’s OBP, but that is a big if at the moment. Keep in mind that the presence of Christian Villanueva in Triple-A and first-round pick Kris Byrant in Double-A means Olt may end up on a short leash should one or both of those two perform well.

Journeyman’s Chance

Yangervis Solarte has played for the Twins and the Rangers without a whiff of MLB air despite playing each of the past two seasons at Triple-A Oklahoma. A strong spring and a need for infield bats won the 26-year-old a bench job with the Yankees. The 5’11” switch-hitter has a fairly disciplined and contact oriented plate approach, meaning he may not walk much, but he sees quite a few pitches and puts the ball in play. To back that up, Solarte has reached double-digits in homers in each of the past two seasons, albeit under favorable hitting conditions. The former Twin still profiles best as a utility guy, filling in at third base and second base, but he has enough skill to hit for average and manage a single-digit home run output. Given that this roster contains an aging cast, there may be plenty of opportunities for Solarte to receive playing time over the course of the season, making him a very reasonable addition in deep AL-only leagues.

Boston Bee Party

Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. receive most of the attention in Boston, but Brandon Workman deserves a mention as well. A starter throughout his minor league career, Workman made the Sox as a reliever. The former second-round pick has a plus fastball/curveball, cut-fastball and a change. His sinker allows him to keep the ball on the ground with high frequency as well. He’s a sleeper in the Red Sox bullpen right now as someone with enough stuff to be a setup man or as someone who could slip into the rotation and become a viable #3 or #4 starter.

You Can’t Steal First

Billy Hamilton is off to a rather rough start, striking out nearly half the time over the first three games of the season, and he was subsequently benched for two games over the weekend before getting into Monday's game and actually managing a double and a run scored. The sample size is of course very tiny and conclusions cannot be drawn from it, but Hamilton will need to demonstrate some on-base skills and some ability to make contact. Given a true “80” speed and almost non-existent power, the Willy Mays Hays doctrine applies in Hamilton’s case. He needs to put the ball in play and on the ground with high frequency to generate infield hits. Unfortuantely, Hamilton is not a Juan Pierre/Ichiro type who makes extremely high contact and can hit for a high average and produce starter-worthy on-base numbers. Instead of being a 90%, if not 95% of the time contact hitter, Hamilton is more of a 80% to 82% of the time contact hitter. So while Hamilton’s speed makes him extremely valuable for fantasy players, his probable long-term outcome is as the next Rajai Davis and not the next Ricky Henderson or even the next Vince Coleman.

 

Last Updated on Monday, 07 April 2014 23:59
 
2014 Minor League Outlook: The Padres PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 18 March 2014 00:00

Today, we continue our tour of the MLB farm systems from a 2014 impact as well as dynasty/keeper league standpoint with a scan of the San Diego Padres.

Catcher
Keeper League: Austin Hedges is an elite all-around defender with a superb makeup and will without a doubt be a major leaguer. The righty offers a solid offensive ceiling as well given a short swing with perhaps 15 HR or better per season power and an ability to make consistent contact that should let him be a .260s, if not a .270s hitter at the MLB level. Hedges could be a very good player, but not necessarily a fantasy stud. ETA: September 2014 cup of coffee to mid-2015.

First Base
2014 Impact: Right-handed Tommy Medica has high-teens pop and a decent approach at the plate. The soon-to-be 26-year-old made his MLB debut last season and will report to Triple-A in 2014 as roster filler/possible fallback option for Yonder Alonso. Medica profiles best as an organizational player. ETA: 2014.

Alex Dickerson will challenge or platoon with Medica in Triple-A. Dickerson could see outfield time too, though the oft-injured Medica may see a lot of DH duty to clear 1B playing time for Dickerson. Dickerson has similar power potential – mid to high-teens as Medica, is a mediocre defender and has a history of making fairly consistent contact and hitting for average. Both players are long shots as starters. ETA: 2014.

Second Base
2014 Impact:
Former first-round pick Cory Spangenberg will likely make the Majors this year, though not as a starter as originally planned. When the Padres drafted him, Spangenberg looked like a potential leadoff hitter with an excellent approach and plus-speed. While the latter has been there, the former has not at all and as a player with marginal pop, his profile now looks like a utility player. The speed could make him useful to NL-only leaguers. ETA: 2014.

Third Base
Keeper League: Dustin Peterson is probably a first baseman long-term with average to plus power potential and a quick bat that should allow him to hit for average and, like his older brother D.J., a good feel for the strike zone. The 18-year-old won’t be reaching the Majors anytime soon, but he is a prime dynasty league pick as someone who could vault into the Padres’ top ten prospects as soon as this season. ETA: 2018.

Gabriel Quintana is a bit closer to the Majors than Peterson and has greater raw power as well as good enough defensive skills to stay at third. On the other hand, the righty is an extremely overly aggressive hitter who walked just 3% of the time last season while whiffing a quarter of the time. The 22-year-old may have hit .305 in low-A ball in 2013, but that will not hold up as he advances. ETA: 2017.

Shortstop
Keeper League: The constant knock on Jace Peterson is that he does not have any one particular plus skill. Quite frankly, that’s not a bad thing when you consider that we have a legitimate starting shortstop with superior on-base skills, contact-making skills, decent speed, gap power and very good instincts on the base paths (42 steals). His overall line at A+ ball in 2013 was .303/.382/.454 with a near 1:1 BB/K ratio. Potential starting shortstop and leadoff or #2 hole hitter. ETA: Mid-2015.

Outfield
2014 Impact: Reymond Fuentes was once one of the top prospects in the system until an absolutely miserable 2012 Double-A campaign derailed him. The 23-yaer-old bounced back in his repeat and did well in a short promotion to Triple-A. Fuentes features good defense, doubles power/high-single-digit home run power and 30-plus stolen base talents. Fuentes is now a dark horse starter and more likely a fourth outfielder given a lack of power-hitting skills. ETA: 2014.

Keeper League: 2013 first-round pick Hunter Renfroe is a traditional right fielder with a strong arm and 25-plus HR power. The 22-year-old did well in rookie ball but needs to improve his plate approach substantially if he is going to repeat a .308/.333/.510 or better line at full season ball. His upside is a middle of the order Nelson Cruz type, but that projection carries quite a bit of risk. ETA: Late 2015/Early 2016.

Rymer Liriano will likely get more time in Double-A, but could be up in Triple-A well before the season ends. The righty is a true centerfielder with excellent speed and stolen base skills, but has only low to mid-teens home run potential and like Refroe is on the over aggressive side of things. As such, I remain skeptical of both players' potential to be everyday players regardless of their respective plus tools. ETA: 2015.

Travis Jankowski does not have Renfroe or Liriano’s sheer volume of physical gifts but is blessed with some of the best speed in the Minors combined with tremendous stolen base efficiency. That in addition to superlative defense should get him a look as at least a back-up and worthy of consideration in NL-only leagues. At the plate, Jankowski is pretty much devoid of pop and might be overpowered at the higher levels of the Minors, but at least he has a fairly patient approach and does not strike out at an egregious rate. ETA: Late 2015/2016.

Pitching
2014 Impact: The Padres' best young pitcher, Matt Wisler, offers two plus power pitches and an effective changeup to go along with good command. At just 21 years of age, the righty was able to more than hold his own at Double-A, posting a 8.8 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. Wisler has #2 to #3 starter potential. ETA: Late 2014/2015.

Casey Kelly missed all of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery. The former Red Sox has already made his MLB debut, but could spend most of the season at Double-A and Triple-A as he works his way back into form. When healthy, Kelly pounds the zone and generates both strikeouts and ground balls, making him a potential #2 starter. ETA: 2014/2015, health permitting.

Burch Smith received a late season MLB look, but was unable to translate his above average minor league command and control to the Majors at all, going from a 2.5 BB/9 to a 5.2. Given a second shot, this will improve. Burch is not a high-end prospect but does own three average to plus pitches. Possible #3 or #4 starter. ETA: 2014.

Keyvius Sampson may be moving to the bullpen this year and that could put him on the path to becoming a closer. The 23-year-old has a power/slider combo and an average changeup. Like many power pitchers who get converted to relief, Sampson has had difficulty finding the strike zone in the past, though he did post an encouraging 2.9 BB/9 in Double-A last year before falling apart in Triple-A (6.9).

Former Ranger Joe Wieland is currently slated for the Triple-A rotation. Like Kelly, he too is coming back from Tommy John surgery. The 24-year-old features a good fastball/change/curveball combination and a history of throwing strikes with consistency, but the overall package lends itself more towards #3 and #4 starter rather than top of the rotation. ETA: 2014.

Keeper League: Max Fried is certainly the best lefty in the Padres’ system and is arguably a better prospect than Wisler or Kelly, but his ETA is more distant and his overall game is still raw. The 20-year-old has a plus fastball/curve combination but like many young pitchers, he is still raw, flashing a plus changeup but mediocre at best command. Fried has a good build, may yet add velocity in time and owns smooth mechanics, so it is quite possible that dramatic improvements are in store for him. ETA: 2017/2018.

Former first-round draft pick Joe Ross is a high-risk/high-reward play. There are some plus pitches in his arsenal, but none are currently a strikeout pitch. Right now, he is a ground ball producer who throws a fair number of strikes. The righty might find more success in the bullpen. ETA: 2016.

Wrapping Up: When looking at this system from a fantasy/likely to make it perspective, I focus on Jace Peterson and Austin Hedges. Dustin Peterson and Max Fried are the most intriguing for long-term focus. Meanwhile, Wisler and perhaps Kelly could make an impact as soon as this season and will certainly do so in 2015. Burch Smith is someone to watch for on the waiver wire this year at the MLB level and is a decent late-round minor league selection.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 March 2014 23:47
 
2014 Minor League Outlook: The Blue Jays PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 00:00

Today we continue our tour of the MLB farm systems from a 2014 impact as well as dynasty/keeper league standpoint with a scan of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Catcher
2014 Impact: When the Jays traded away Travis D'Arnaud to the Mets last year, they left their farm system relatively barren of catching prospects. Now they are committed to 30-year-old Dioner Navarro for the next two seasons. If Navarro cannot continue what he accomplished in a breakout season with the Cubs, the mantle could fall to A.J. Jimenez.

 Jimenez, 23, is a MLB-ready defensive catcher with a great throwing arm. Offensively, Jimenez has a fairly low ceiling. The righty makes good contact and has gap power, but like most catchers is a slow runner, which will undermine his ability to hit for average.

First Base
Keeper League: Rowdy Tellez is not quite yet 19, but should already be on your prospect radar. A definite long-term 1B/DH type, Tellez brings it well with the bat, showcasing well above average raw power (30-plus homers), a quick bat and a very advanced approach for someone his age. For those in dynasty leagues, he’s a very interesting late-round speculative play. Barring a tremendous spring training, it’s quite possible he moves up to a higher level of short-season ball in 2014, so that ETA might be closer to 2020 than 2015.

Second Base
2014 Impact: Ryan Goins is currently the favorite to open up as the Blue Jays' starting second baseman, and that is perhaps the only reason he makes this list. Good defense is the lefty’s calling card while the bat is not. The 26-year-old has some doubles power, but is otherwise an overly aggressive hitter with a slow bat and slow foot speed. Even if he wins the opening day job, Goins is a utility guy long-term.

Third Base
2014 Impact: Andrew Burns is coming off a nice A+-ball and Double-A campaign in which he hit 15 homers and stole 33 bases. Heading into the season, Burns profiled best as a utility type, but now may make a passable starter given 15 home run or better power potential, a solid plate approach and good base running instincts with solid defensive skills. Burns should advance to Triple-A this season and may get a MLB call-up as well.

Keeper League: Mitch Nay is technically still a third baseman and will remain there for now, but is likely a first baseman long-term. As with Tellez, his value is bat-related and it will be interesting to see which of the two turns out to be the better player. Right now, I am leaning towards Nay, who has similar, if not better, raw power to Tellez and combines that with a disciplined, high-percentage contact approach, putting him possibly on the .300, 25+ homer path. The former supplemental first-round pick will probably receive his first exposure to full-season ball this year.

Shortstop
Keeper League: Dawel Lugo received 70 plate appearances at full-season A-ball and will likely be staying at that level. The 19-year-old has projectable above-average power and a build suited better for third or second long-term. The righty’s plus bat speed allows him to make very consistent contact, but he also needs to rein things in a bit as he now owns a career 2.0% walk rate in the Minors.

Franklin Barreto, despite standing 5’9”, has some interesting tools that could make him a 10-15 homer and 15-20 stolen base threat. The righty’s overall game needs a lot of work, particularly defensively, though he does have the raw athletic ability to stay at short given more experience. Like Lugo, Barreto needs to work on his plate discipline and in particular to play within his game. Players with decent, but limited power potential should not be striking out greater than 20% of the time.

Outfield
2014 Impact: Kevin Pillar made his MLB debut in 2013. The 25-year-old is a tweener with average pop and speed who makes some contact but isn’t a great on-base threat. The combination of skills and talents, however, has at least allowed him to hit for average at every level of minor league play. Pillar could win a fourth outfielder job with the Jays this year and could be useful as a fill-in player in AL-only formats.

Keeper League: D.J. Davis is probably the best pure athlete in the Jays system. The lefty has excellent defensive, power, and speed potential. At the same time, this former first-round pick remains extremely raw in most facets of the game. On the positive side, Davis does draw walks frequently, but also has had a lot of difficulty making contact. Because of tools, Davis is likely to be selected in most keeper and dynasty leagues, but only as a later round selection given that it is more likely he’ll be a bust than a success.

One of my sleeper picks is Dalton Pompey. The 21-year-old has above average speed, doubles and mid-teens home run power and is a true centerfielder. Unlike many others in the organization, Pompey has a more refined approach, drawing walks at high rates. One red flag, however, was the rise in his strikeout rates in full-season A-ball last year. He’ll need to improve in that area to be considered more than a backup.

Pitching
2014 Impact: Former first-round draft pick Marcus Stroman has an outside shot of winning the fifth starter’s spot this spring. Even if he fails, the injury history of Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ and contenders such as Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek might provide further opportunities. The righty has multiple plus or potential plus pitches, throws strikes and has enough weapons to get out lefties and righties alike. The constant knock on Stroman is his size and lack of downward play, which makes many envision him more as a potential closer. Regardless of his role, Stroman is a valuable commodity. He does, however, have enough stuff and skill to stick as a starter and will be given every opportunity to do just that.

Lefty Sean Nolin will return to Triple-A, most likely alongside Stroman. At 6’5”, 235, Nolin does not throw as consistently hard as one might think of someone his size, but it doesn’t matter. The 24-year-old is more of a strike zone pounding innings eater with good command of all his pitches. While he does not have much projection left, he profiles well as a fourth starter.

John Stilson made the move to full-time relief in 2013 and found success there. The righty added some velocity and created greater separation between his mid-nineties sinker and plus change. In Triple-A, Stilson posted an 8.9 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 and profiles well as a setup man long-term provided his violent mechanics don’t catch up with him first.

Keeper League: While Stroman is the pitcher in the Jays system to target immediately, Aaron Sanchez is the best long-term option. At 21 years of age, Sanchez has already held his own at A+ ball and will be moving up to Double-A and has an outside shot at receiving a September call-up. While Sanchez has quite a bit of work to do in the control and command department (4.2 BB/9 in A+ ball), the righty is a groundball machine with a plus to plus-plus heavy fastball, plus-curve and at least an average slider and workable changeup.  He projects best as a #2 starter.

Daniel Norris is a hard-throwing lefty who, like Sanchez, is still learning to consistently throw his above average stuff for strikes. At 20, he’ll pitch most of 2014 in A+ ball, where he will work to improve his mechanics and refine his pitches, at least three of which have plus potential. He already was showing improved mechanics in the second half last year and is someone who could take a big step forward this season.

For those in deep dynasty leagues, Roberto Osuna may be worthy of your consideration. Currently recovering from Tommy John surgery and unlikely to pitch in 2014, Osuna still has middle of the rotation potential. Unlike many of the club's younger arms, the 18-year-old has at least two plus pitches and has already established himself as a strike thrower. His ETA is a ways off and pending a complete return to health.

Following the very long range theme, Chase DeJong is a potential middle of the rotation starter who will pitch in full-season ball for the first time in 2014. The righty, at 6’4”, projects to add more velocity, already throws his fastball and a plus curve consistently for strikes and also projects to have a solid changeup. His ETA, however, is likely late 2017 to mid 2018.

Once again, the Jays are well stocked with good arms that are very far away from having an impact at the major league level. Add Alberto Tirado to that mix. This 19-year-old has two to three potential plus pitches, including an already very effective changeup. As with all pitchers, let alone ones as young as Tirado, the odds of making it to the Majors are stacked against him, but he does at least have a sound basis of skills and talent to be successful as a starter.

Wrapping Up: The Jays' short-term prospect excitement pretty much begins and ends with Marcus Stroman. Redraft leaguers should keep in mind that the Jays do have many in-house options already with MLB starting experience who may get the ball over Stroman, so do not be surprised to see him stay in the Minors until the All-Star break unless there is a rash of injuries. Longer term, Nay and Tellez offer an interesting combination of on-base and power skills while Sanchez has top of the rotation potential.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 March 2014 02:51
 
2014 Minor League Outlook: The Nationals PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Monday, 03 March 2014 22:59

Today we continue our tour of the MLB farm systems from a 2014 impact as well as dynasty/keeper-league standpoint with a scan of the Washington Nationals

Please be sure to check back as the pre-season progresses, I will be updating as necessary. All players who have retained rookie status are eligible for this series.

Catcher
Keeper League: Twenty-year old Pedro Severino will make the majors. His glove and throwing arm are just that good. However, it is most likely as a back-up. While the 6’1” righty has a bit of project left in his frame, it is unlikely much power will ever develop. Severino makes a fair amount of contact, but has little speed and a raw approach at the plate and managed just a .241/.274/.333 slash  in A-ball. The best catching prospect in the National’s system is not recommended for fantasy baseball purposes.

First Base
Keeper League:
Matt Skole is technically still a third basemen and has good enough hands and throwing arm for the job. However, he’ll be moving to first base this year as not only is Ryan Zimmerman is ahead of him on the depth chart but Skole has mediocre range and is coming off of an injury that essentially wiped out his entire 2013 season. The former Yellowjacket has a quick bat and plus power, hitting 27 HRs in A-ball in 2012 and projects as a 25 to 30 home run hitter at the MLB level. The lefty couples that with a ultra-patient approach that leads to both high walk rates and high strikeout tallies, so he’s not likely a significant batting average threat, but still very much a viable everyday player. Skole might have been a potential 2014 call-up if not for the injury, but will now instead repeat Double-A. Adam LaRoche is coming off a disappointing season and is in an option year, so there is a small window of opportunity for Skole given quick progress to Triple-A and more struggles from LaRoche.

Second Base
The Nationals already have Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa, provided he is not traded, at second base and have no other standout minor league second basemen in their system, but do have a few dark-horse candidates.

2014 Impact: 25-year old Jeff Kobernus was once a second round pick out of California. The righty has excellent speed, stealing no fewer than 41 bases in any of the three previous seasons and is also a very good contact hitter to boot. Besides those two facets, there is little to recommend given a weak glove and an utter lack of pop that might cause him to struggle against MLB level pitching. Regardless, if Kobernus can make the Nationals as a utility player, he warrants attention as a $1 Willie Bloomquist type.

Keeper League: Tony Renda is a 5’8” righty who absolutely controls the strike zone, walking frequently and making contact even more frequently (89% of the time). The 23-year old even managed 30 stolen bases last year, despite average speed. In other words, Renda knows how to play the game and get the most out of his all-around limited tools. How he handles the upper minors will determine his trajectory.

Third Base
Keeper League: Drew Ward is not yet a high profile prospect, but could be one in time. At age 18 the Oklahoma native showed an already capable glove and arm at third base as well as a more advanced than expected approach at the plate. At 6’3”, 215 pounds, Ward already has some doubles power and may project to have 20-plus homerun capabilities over time. The Nationals may take things slowly with the 19 year old and could have him play another year of short-season ball rather than promote him to full-season A-ball already. Ward’s ETA is at least three seasons off if all goes well and his power does indeed emerge to point where the righty is worthy of starting.

Shortstop
2014 Impact: Zach Walters had a brief cup of coffee in D.C. last year, but will most likely spend most of 2014 at Triple-A. The switch-hitter came almost out of nowhere to hit 29 homers in 2013 after hitting just 12 the year prior, but at 6’2” 220, it appears to be legitimate. The switch hitter profiles better at third or in the outfield given his size and throwing arm. An overly aggressive hitter, Walters is not likely to be much of an OBP or significant batting average threat. Unless there are significant injuries, the 25-year old will most likely remain in Triple-A or a bench role for the Nationals, but the power is worthy of note should the opportunity arise.

Outfield
2014 Impact: The Nationals outfield is so deep that they were able to sign Nate McLouth to a two-year deal after coming off of a solid season as a starter to serve as a fourth outfielder. In other words, there may not be much opportunity here for youngsters. Still, the Nationals have three outfielders who are close to MLB ready.

Brian Goodwin is the most highly regarded of the Nationals upper-level outfielders. The toolsy 23-year old has at least 15-20 HR/SB potential and is a legitimate centerfielder. The former supplemental first round pick also possesses good on-base skills, but possibly almost to a fault as the lefty struggled to hit for average, posting just a .252 batting average alongside a .355 OBP and struck out 23% of the time. Given Goodwin’s limited power ceiling, a slightly more aggressive approach might actually benefit him.

Every time I write this player I accidentally type in “Scott” without thinking. (Way back Masterball readers will remember Scott Souza who once upon a time wrote for this site). Anyway, no relation that I know of - Steven Souza will proceed to Triple-A alongside Goodwin. A former third basemen, Souza also has above average across the board tools, but because of his third basemen’s arm, is well suited to right field.  In 323 Double-A plate appearances, Souza produced a 15 HR/20 sB line with a .300/.396/.557 slash and indeed has 20-20 or better potential. As a right-handed hitter who strikes out close to a quarter of the time, it will be interesting to see if he can maintain his ability to hit for average at Triple-A and the majors.

Eury Perez is technically closer to the majors than either Goodwin or Souza having played in Triple-A each of the past two seasons.  The nearly 24-year old righty, however, profiles best as an extra outfielder with superior defensive and top of the charts speed. Perez’s shortcomings are in the power and on-base department as a good, but extremely aggressive contact hitter.  Perez has an outside chance of becoming the next Endy Chavez.

Keeper League:

Michael Taylor provides the Nationals with yet another 5-tool player with the defensive chops to start in centerfield. Like many of the other outfielders in the system, Taylor employs a patient approach, but has a long swing and has struggled to make contact because of it. While the righty has 20-30-plus potential, it will take a great deal of refinement to actually harness it. Right now Taylor might be a very good right-hand half of a platoon or fourth outfielder with a chance to be much more given some mechanical adjustments to his swing.

Former supplemental first round pick Drew Vettleson was only very recently acquired from the Rays.  2013 was a disappointing season in which the lefty failed to get on base or hit for power, producing an otherwise fairly empty .274 batting average in the Florida State League. There is some pop lurking here and he remains a power/speed threat from right field. 2014 will be quite pivotal for the 22-year old.

Pitching
2014 Impact: A.J. Cole is the Nationals best upper-level pitching prospect. The righty owns at least a plus fastball which he can touch the mid to upper nineties with and does a good job of keeping the ball on the ground with his two-seamer. Cole’s other secondary pitches get mixed reviews and has a change-up and curve that are both works in progress that occasionally flash average to plus potential. Cole is adept at throwing strikes and commands his fastball well. He’ll begin 2014 in Double-A, but could move up to Triple-A in a hurry given the success he had there already late last season. Keep your expectations at a September call-up for now.

Reliever Aaron Barrett could find his way to the Majors this year. The 26-year old righty has moved through the system one level at a time, but is now coming off of a 26-save, 12.3 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 season. The former 9th round draft pick will move up to Triple-A and has a shot at being a right-handed specialist reliever, given a plus slider, in the coming months.

Keeper League: Lucas Giolito feels like the next Dylan Bundy with the exception of having already recovered once from Tommy John surgery. At 19 years of age Giolito has perhaps already the best fastball in the minors and one of the best curves to boot and has a fair feel for throwing them for strikes. The righty’s changeup already flashes plus-potential too. Get on board now as Giolito is likely to be moved through the system at a rapid pace and could be up for a cup coffee as soon as 2015.

Sammy Solis has no experience above A+ ball, but has been to the Arizona Fall League on three separate occasions mostly attributable to recovering from Tommy John surgery. The lefty will move up to Double-A this year. Solis throws hard and changes speeds well, but struggled to make hitters swing in miss to the degree that they did prior to Tommy John surgery. More importantly for TJS recoverees, Solis’ good control had returned and there is hope for more as he builds arm strength this season. Long-term he profiles best as a third or fourth starter.

2013 second round pick Jake Johansen showed his plus fastball in A-ball this season and also made strides with his curve and changeup too. The righty can reach triple-digits on his fastball and was able to show decent control of his pitches in rookie-ball, but was has a long way to go before he has true command of any. The most likely scenario has Johansen in the bullpen given his excellent sinking fastball and a potential out pitch in his curve.

Jefry Rodriguez made the hitter to pitcher conversion in 2012 and while still mostly a thrower, is improving his ability to find the strike zone. Like Johansen, he’s probably a reliever, but does offer an interesting mid-nineties fastball/curveball combination. The 20-year old will remain in the rotation as he moves up to full-season ball this year.

Wrapping Up: The Nationals system offers up one of the most intriguing arms in the game in Giolito. The righty is probably available in most NL keeper leagues and makes him one of the very top selections as a result. Cole has #2 or #3 level quality starter potential while Skole, if healthy, has the attributes to be a very similar, if not better player, to current first basemen Adam LaRoche. Drew Ward is an intriguing sleeper and a good last pick in NL only leagues if you are looking for upside. The Nationals are full of five-tool outfielders albeit with none deserving the “sure-thing” label. All have their weaknesses and barring injury there is little opportunity for the upper level ones to play in the Majors. Goodwin and Taylor have the most raw upside, but Souza of the group, may be the best balanced in terms of tools and applied skills.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 March 2014 01:38
 
2014 Minor League Outlook: The Indians PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 25 February 2014 00:00

Today, we continue our tour of the MLB farm systems from a 2014 impact as well as dynasty/keeper league standpoint with a scan of the Cleveland Indians.

Please be sure to check back as the pre-season progresses, as I will be updating these as necessary. All players who have retained rookie status are eligible for this series.

Catcher
Keeper Leagues:
The Indians have become deeper in long-term catching prospects, particularly as a result of converting infielder Tony Wolters to the position. Formerly a shortstop, Wolters is a good athlete and is making the transition, though a work in progress, quite well. Offensively, Wolters’ ceiling is fairly limited, though possibly good enough to be considered for starting duty. To his credit, the lefty has gap power, solid bat speed, and a disciplined approach that should allow him to post decent on-base and batting average numbers, though exceeding single-digits in homers is unlikely.

18-year-old Francisco Mejia carries greater upside compared to Wolters, but also greater risk. Mejia is a strong-armed receiver with developing, though quite raw, defensive skills who should be able to stay behind the plate long-term. A switch-hitter, Mejia is a solid contact hitter who projects to develop upper-teens to low-twenties HR power. Mejia will not turn 19 until after the 2014 season and has an ETA of late 2017 and quite possibly not until 2018. Until then, he will have to improve his defensive skills and work on his over-aggressive approach at the plate.

First Base
2014 Impact: Jesus Aguilar is not likely to see much time in the Majors in 2014, but will be at Triple-A looking for an opportunity. A big right-handed hitter, Aguilar has produced solid numbers at every level in the Minors thus far, showing patience and improvement in his ability to make contact. The lone question in his game is the development of power. The righty certainly has the natural size and strength to be a 20-plus HR hitter, but has yet to provide it in game. At 23 years of age, it is too early to write it off, so keep an eye on him this season.

Second Base
2014 Impact: The speedy Jose Ramirez made it to the Majors last season after jumping Triple-A and will likely receive that experience this season. Ramirez possesses above average speed (38 steals) and a very good batting eye. In his brief professional career, Ramirez has yet to make contact less than 92% of the time and his walk rates have been essentially even with that mark all the while. The result is the switch-hitter’s OBP numbers are therefore heavily batting-average dependent. This is not surprising considering his contact-oriented, speed-based approach. Ramirez is a low-single digits home run hitter whose bat and all-around game best profiles that of a utility player, though his plate discipline/speed skills keep him on the fantasy radar.

Keeper League: 23-year-old Joe Wendle hit very well in his first full season of professional ball, hitting 16 homers and stealing 10 bags. The former 6th round pick has a good approach at the plate and managed a .372 OBP against his .295 at A+ ball last season, but was old for his level of play. Defensively, Wendle is sub-par even at second base as he has limited range, hands, and a below-average arm. Given the presence of Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis, it is unlikely that Wendle will ever start for the Indians, though he could possibly do so in a weaker organization. A lack of defensive versatility makes him a poor choice as a utility infielder too, so he’ll have to improve his second base game and continue hitting to make it to the Majors.

Shortstop
2014 Impact: Ronny Rodriguez will be Ramirez’s Triple-A double-play partner. The nearly 22-year-old is a solid defender and a good athlete with power potential and a quick bat. However, Rodriguez is the epitome of over-aggressive, having never walked more than 3.9% of the time in any minor league season, and has only once produced even a .300 OBP. Despite intriguing teens home run potential from the shortstop spot, he’ll probably end up in a utility role given his inability to get on base.

Keeper League: When looking at Francisco Lindor’s hitting skills, stolen base game and tremendous defensive skills, one is left thinking the Indians have finally found their answer to Omar Vizquel. Well, they may indeed have just that. The switch-hitter made it all the way to Double-A at 19 years of age and already has an extremely advanced plate approach. He is a long-term threat to hit for average as well as provide top of the order OBP skills. Lindor’s power and speed skills get mixed reviews with some scouts expecting him to add as much as low to mid-teens home run power as he physically matures while others see him as more of a single digits guy. On the speed side of things, reports have his speed anywhere from average to above average, albeit with excellent base running instincts as his stolen base totals so far can attest. Despite his age and experience, it would not be surprising to see Lindor up for a cup of coffee in September and manning shortstop full-time before 2015 is over. Lindor is most likely a better real baseball player (and sim/strat-league player) than a fantasy player, but the skills he does possess are noteworthy and make him a top fantasy pick until he proves otherwise.

19-year-old Dorssys Paulino is currently listed at shortstop, but fortunately he will not be stuck behind Lindor long term as his physique and glove skills are already suggesting a long-term move to the hot corner or second base. Right now, Paulino has a very aggressive approach and failed to produce an OBP above .300 in A-ball. The righty is a high-risk type given an aggressive approach. If he ends up at second base, it’s possible he could be a 15-15 player, which would fit well for that position. I need to see a lot more before I get excited, but he is way too young to consider writing off.

Outfield
Keeper League: 2012 first-round pick Tyler Naquin handled his first full season in the Minors well, but did not dominate either. The lefty has the defensive skills to handle centerfield, but his offensive skills are uninspiring as a low double-digits home run and stolen base threat with mediocre contact skills. Unless Naquin shows a lot more this season, he’ll end up a fourth outfielder.

2013 first-rounder Clint Frazier is raw, but is already battling Lindor for status as the #1 prospect in the system. The projectable righty has excellent power potential (at least 25-plus) and a very quick, short swing. Currently playing centerfield, he has enough speed to be a double-digit stolen base threat too. Long-term, the best case scenario has Frazier as a traditional, slugging right fielder complete with the arm requisite for the position. Right now, the Georgian will need to significantly cut down on the strikeout rates (31%) if he wants to make it past Double-A. There is a high risk here that Frazier could end up a wrong-side of the platoon split slugger, but he does have plenty of time to show he can live up to his potential with an ETA that is hovering around 2018.

Pitching
2014 Impact:
When the Indians acquired former first-round pick Trevor Bauer from the Diamondbacks last winter, the hope was that he’d crack their rotation and become an integral part of it heading into 2014. That didn’t happen and Bauer has since had to redo his mechanics and so far appears to be closer to the pitcher he was before last season. When on his game, Bauer possesses upper end of the rotation swing and miss stuff with an excellent fastball/curve. Finding the strike zone, let alone commanding his pitches, has always been an issue for Bauer. This spring, he’ll get a long look and will battle Carlos Carrasco for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Reliever C.C. Lee made the Majors last year and actually pitched at four separate levels in 2013, striking out batters at high rates wherever he was. The righty owns a plus fastball/slider combo that could earn him a relief job with the Tribe this spring.

Austin Adams is the oldest prospect on this list at 27. Once a starting pitcher, Adams injured his shoulder in 2011 and made it back to the mound last season as a reliever where he discovered his velocity and posted a 12.4 K/9 in Double-A. In the lower minors, he showed better tendencies for throwing strikes and commanding his pitches, but struggled with that last year. Like Lee, he is a possible candidate for late-inning work, but might have better stuff and a deeper arsenal, though not quite Lee’s command.

Keeper League:
Cody Anderson is a big righty but does not throw quite as consistently hard as his size would suggest. He does indeed throw his fastball for strikes and has the makings of a decent slider that he can also throw for strikes. The 23-year-old will pitch in Double-A where he’ll continue to work on his secondary offerings. Anderson is not a high-end prospect but could be a #4 or better starter given pretty good control and command of all his offerings.

Dylan Baker emerged as someone to watch in his first season of pro ball, posting a 7.3 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in A-ball. The 21-year-old may profile best as a reliever given a good fastball/slider combination and the lack of development of a changeup, but he’ll be given a chance to prove otherwise first.

20-year-old Sean Brady is already progressing on the “crafty lefty” moniker as a fairly soft-tosser with excellent command (1.7 BB/9) of a solid curve and a changeup with at least average or better potential. This is an interesting set of tools for someone just coming out of high school, but he has a lot to prove as he progresses through the system.

Wrapping Up: The Indians’ farm system is well stocked with talent and hope but much of it is raw and risky. Lindor is the only prospect worth really getting excited about as his bat and glove are already MLB starter-worthy. Still, it remains to be seen if he has any significance as a fantasy player. Mejia and certainly Frazier have tools worthy of selection in dynasty contests, but both certainly are high-risk/high-reward. Wendle, Wolters, Aguilar, Ramirez and even Rodriguez all have interesting talents, but all are sleepers looking for an opportunity to seize and are unlikely to be handed many such chances.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 February 2014 04:12
 
2014 Minor League Outlook: The Pirates PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 18 February 2014 00:00

Today, we continue our tour of the MLB farm systems from a 2014 impact as well as dynasty/keeper league standpoint with a scan of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Please be sure to check back as the pre-season progresses, as I will be updating these as necessary. All players who have retained rookie status are eligible for this series.

Catcher
2014 Impact: Once upon a time, Tony Sanchez was the 4th overall pick in the baseball amateur draft and he initially showed some promise, hitting for average, getting on base and displaying some power. Recently, things have not gone as well, but the now 25-year-old had a decent season in Triple-A with a .288/.368/.504 line in 296 plate appearances. Sanchez does offer some value on defense, but is behind 31-year-old Russell Martin. Expect Sanchez to see some MLB playing time, but it will be for call-ups here and there barring a significant injury.

Keeper League: Reese McGuire has moved ahead of Sanchez on the long-term catching depth charts for the Pirates. A 2013 first-round draft pick, McGuire will make it to the Majors on the strength of his glove and throwing arm alone. The lefty showed a very good approach in his debut with a quick bat and doubles power that should develop into high single-digit to mid-teens home run per season totals long-term. McGuire also follows a bit in the footsteps of former Pirates backstop Jason Kendall as a catcher with some running speed too and could be a high single to mid-teens stolen base threat as well. That remains to be seen, however, given the wear and tear of catching and the fact that the nearly 19-year-old's ETA is likely 2017, if not 2018 as a first full season.

First Base
2014 Impact: Chris McGuiness has passed beyond prospect status but is worth mentioning since the Pirates have given their first base job to Gaby Sanchez, letting Garrett Jones walk. The nearly 26-year-old had a rather unimpressive season in Triple-A in 2013 but continued to show excellent plate discipline and posted a .369 OBP despite hitting just .246. When on his game, McGuiness has high-teens to low-twenties home run power in his bat. He is just someone who needs an opportunity and will look to exploit it when it happens. The most likely scenario has the former Red Sox and Ranger spending all of 2014 in Triple-A.

Keeper League: Former first-round pick Stetson Allie converted from pitching to first base and so far it looks like a good decision. The righty has 30-plus home run potential and owns an all or nothing approach. In A-ball, Allie blasted 17 homers for a .607 SLG while striking out 28% of the time. Upon reaching A+ ball, his long right-handed swing was exploited and the same exact approach from low-A ball failed. Allie will turn 23 this year and has a lot to prove at even A+ ball, but the power is hard to ignore and worthy of note.

Second Base
At 28 years of age, Neil Walker is rather entrenched as the Pirates’ starting second baseman. Last year, the Pirates also dealt away Walker’s primary long-term competition in Dilson Herrera to the Mets. It is possible, however, that shortstop prospect Alen Hanson could make the move to second long- term given a mediocre at best throwing arm.

Third Base
Pedro Alvarez has never translated his on-base skills from the Minors to the Majors but does own back-to back 30-home run campaigns and only just turned 27. The Pirates have a very strong system, but not much of anything to fall back upon should Alvarez get injured.

Shortstop
Keeper League: The Pirates are expecting big things from Alex Hanson and hope to have him as their starting shortstop come mid to late 2015. Hanson has the tools to play short, but as alluded to earlier, has an arm that is on the weaker side of things. Hanson’s bat will play well at either short or second. The switch-hitter is a good doubles hitter with high single to low-teens home run power. Hanson’s primary offensive calling card, however, is speed. In the past two seasons, the 21-year-old has stolen at least 30 bases each year. While Hanson has a quick bat, his approach is fairly mediocre and it would be nice to see him make more consistent contact. He still looks like a .270s 10-homer, 25-steal candidate.

Outfield
2014 Impact: The Pirates’ most exciting prospect is perhaps also the closest to the Majors. Gregory Polanco cruised all the way to Triple-A in one season and will return there to begin 2014. The 22-year-old boasts 20-30 potential and has done well to refine his approach at the plate and now both makes consistent, hard contact as well as showing some aptitude for getting on base. It is possible that the lefty could push his way into the starting right field job after the All-Star break.

The Pirates acquired Jaff Decker from the Padres this off-season. The 24-year-old left fielder will challenge for a back-up job and has an outside chance of pushing his way into a starting role depending upon the play of Jose Tabata. In a tools-laden crop of outfielders, Decker stands out. At 5’10”, Decker is limited defensively and is mostly noted for his extremely disciplined approach and mid to upper teens home run power. Decker would thrive in a platoon role if given the opportunity.

Keeper League: 2013 first-round pick Austin Meadows adds to the Pirates' outfield riches. The toolsy Georgian is a five-tools player who is already displaying a fairly advanced feel for the strike zone. The question is what do those tools translate to in the long run? His power could range anywhere from the mid-teens to 25-plus in terms of home run output and while the lefty has above average speed, it is more of a factor defensively speaking and may not be much of a factor as a base stealer. Overall, the combination of raw tools and already developing skills should lead him to an everyday job, but at just 19 years of age, Meadows has plenty of time to figure it all out.

Harold Ramirez will be advancing through the Pirates’ system alongside Meadows. Like Meadows, Ramirez has some exciting tools and already is a plus runner who is expected to add power as he fills out. Ramirez’s approach is more contact oriented than Meadows and it will be interesting to see whether that aspect remains as the righty’s power grows. This season will be this duo’s first in full-season ball and it will be interesting to see how the two of them adjust to higher levels of competition.

Josh Bell is a year ahead of Meadows and Ramirez. A former second-round pick out of Dallas, Bell has good and still developing power. The switch-hitter has done well to hone his plate approach, making contact 83% of the time last year while walking 10% and producing a .279/.353/.453 line. He is not in the all-around athlete class of the former two, but has the makings of a potential everyday corner outfielder with an ability to not only hit more than 20 home runs per season, but hit .280 or even better as well.

Pitching
2014 Impact: The Pirates are fortunate not only to have their top hitting prospect in Polanco likely to push his way to the Majors this year, but their top pitching, if not overall, prospect in Jameson Taillon to challenge for a job too. It may be a bit of a race to see which one makes it first. Taillon is a 6’6” right-hander who had success at both Double-A and Triple-A last year. With just six Triple-A starts under his belt, his likely ETA is also after the All-Star break. Taillon is a power pitcher, armed with a plus-fastball/curveball combination. The righty generally throws strikes, but does not have the best command of either pitch within the zone and his changeup is a work in progress. The righty may have upper end of the rotation potential but still needs to improve in several areas to come close to achieving it.

Joining Taillon in Triple-A will be Nick Kingham. A fourth-round pick, Kingham does not have Taillon’s upside, but may be a safer bet to have a MLB career. Kingham is not a soft-tosser and regularly throws in the 90s. Unlike Taillon, he does have at least an average changeup and possible plus pitch in his curve, all of which can be thrown for strikes. Like Taillon, the 22-year-old is still working on commanding his pitches better within the zone. Right now, he projects as a potential #3 starter, but is a better bet as a #4.

Keeper League: 20-year-old Tyler Glasnow gives the Pirates another tall (6’7”) power pitcher. Glasnow can throw even harder than Taillon, reaching almost triple-digits. The former fifth-round pick has some good raw tools and is still very much a work in progress in terms of commanding his fastball and refining his curveball and changeup. Glasnow could be a #3 or better starter or even a reliever, but has a lot to prove first. He’ll advance to A+ ball this season.

Wrapping Up: The Pirates have one of the deeper farm systems in baseball, including an exciting array of outfielders. Redraft leaguers should take note of course of Polanco, Taillon and Kingham while keeper leaguers should certainly consider Hanson, McGuire, Meadows, Bell and Ramirez as a legitimate group of long-term selections.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 February 2014 00:35
 
2014 Minor League Outlook: The Angels PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Monday, 10 February 2014 00:00

Today, we continue our tour of the MLB farm systems from a 2014 impact as well as dynasty/keeper league standpoint with a scan of the Los Angeles Angels.

Please be sure to check back as the pre-season progresses, as I will be updating these pieces as necessary. All players who have retained rookie status are eligible for this series.

Catcher
Jeff Mathis and Hank Conger were each supposed to have been the Angels’ long-term solutions at catcher. Conger may yet get that opportunity, but time is running out on the 26-year-old. Beyond Conger, the Angels have John Hester, Yorvit Torrealba and Luis Martinez in camp with no prospect of prominence likely to challenge for playing time in 2014 or sadly to say, over the long-term.

First Base
2014 Impact: C.J. Cron’s prodigious power was not always on display in 2014, but it still remains the righty’s best tool. Despite having such good raw power, Cron has been able to translate his good bat speed and contact-making abilities upwards through the Minors. The result makes him more worthwhile in batting-average based fantasy leagues as someone that can hit for average and 20-plus home runs, but whose defense and OBP talents are lacking for simulation or strat play. Cron could see playing time at the MLB level should Albert Pujols get injured or should the Angels’ DH options of Raul Ibanez/Carlos Pena fail to succeed.

Keeper League: Michael Snyder has some power, but he is a right-handed strikeout machine with weak on-base skills and a long swing. Worth noting if he improves, but looks most likely to be an organizational player. Wade Hinkle does not have Snyder’s raw power and is certainly a fringe prospect as a former 27th round pick, but he has done well since the Angels drafted him. Hinkle’s a 1B/DH-only type with mid-teens HR power, but unlike Cron or Snyder has shown some aptitude for controlling the strike zone and getting on base. Hinkle turned 24 in September, quite old to be in A-ball, and is need of a challenge. I would be interested to see what the lefty could do at Double-A.

Second Base
2014 Impact/Keeper League: Taylor Lindsey might be the best position player in the Angels’ system right now, particularly with respect to Kaleb Cowart’s struggles. Lindsey has never been noted for his defense, but he has steadily improved to the point where he can be competent enough to stay there. Howie Kendrick, however, is signed through 2015 and is an obstacle for now. A lefty, Lindsey has good power for his position and combines that with good bat speed and contact-making abilities despite a somewhat awkward swing. His Double-A numbers may be a good mirror for his long-term line as a solid, but unspectacular regular who can hit .270 to .280 and reach the mid to upper teens in HRs.

Keeper League: 23-year-old Alex Yarbrough will replace Lindsey at Double-A Arkansas this season. The former fourth-round pick, like Lindsey, is a passable at best defender. Also, like Lindsey, Yarbrough is a more offensive minded second baseman with little foot speed, but modest pop and an aggressive, contact-oriented approach that resulted in a .313/.341/.456 line in A+ ball. Lindsey offers a bit more plate discipline and pop than Yarbrough, so it will take a failure or injury on the former’s part to push Yarbrough beyond a utility role.

Third Base
Keeper League: Former first-round pick Kaleb Cowart suffered through a miserable first exposure to Double-A and is in desperate need of a mulligan. A switch-hitter, Cowart’s swing was pretty much a mess last season and his above-average raw power was not on display. Cowart does at least play a very good third base and could make the Majors on that basis alone. The 21-year-old has a lot to prove, but on the other hand does have some time on his side given that most players his age were playing A+ ball and not Double-A last season.

Keeper League: 2013 17th round draft pick Cal Towey may be a longshot, but his rookie-league debut was solid enough to warrant watching him. Towey was noted throughout his college days as a very polished hitter and he showed that again in his pro debut, posting a .317/.492/.543 line while walking over 21% of the time and striking out just 19%. The lefty can hit some doubles and has at least low to mid-teens HR pop. At 24, Towey needs to be advanced through the system and to be challenged. I’ll be very curious to see how he performs in the upper levels of the Minors.

Shortstop
Keeper League: Jose Rondon is a target for only the deepest of leagues. As a 19-year-old out of Venezuela, Rondon showed some very solid skills for someone of his age and experience, including a disciplined approach in which he walked as often as he struck out and made contact about 90% of the time. At 6’1”, he projects to add some pop over time and already has slightly above average speed. It remains to be seen whether or not he will stay at shortstop or move to second base long-term where his arm may be better suited.

Outfield
2014 Impact: 2009 first-round pick Randal Grichuk will advance to Triple-A this year and could see time in the Majors too. After hitting 18 HRs in A+ ball, he followed up strongly in that department with 22 HRs at Double-A. His season, however, was not earth shattering given the righty’s over-aggressive approach that resulted in a .256/.305/.474 line. At least, to his credit, Grichuk makes a fair amount of contact for a power hitter (83%), which means he might have some success as a streak-hitter who could surprise with a .270-.280 plus season given his power/contact combo. Unlike many Angels prospects, Grichuk is actually an asset in right field where he displays a good throwing arm.

Keeper League: Zachary Borenstein, a former 23rd round pick, has hit his way into prospect status after perhaps being drafted as more of an organizational type player. Instead, the lefty has shown a good deal of power (28 HRs in the hitter-friendly California League) while batting .337/.403/.631. Borenstein is not much of an athlete beyond his bat and is limited to left field defensively. He is perhaps better suited to 1B/DH work. His move to Double-A this year is very worth watching to determine whether his power is indeed for real.

Pitching
2014 Impact: Mike Morin has far from the best fastball in the system, but could potentially have the best career. The 22-year-old reliever pitched very well in A+, Double-A and the AFL, showing an ability to throw strikes and miss bats (9.6 K/9 and 1.5 BB.9 at Double-A) with 24 saves at three different stops. The righty is a fastball/plus changeup guy who should at least have a career in a middle relief or setup role.

Keeper League: Mark Sappington reached Double-A last season for five starts at 22 years of age. The 6’5” righty throws hard and is armed with a plus slider, but has a history of command issues on all his pitches and has no changeup to speak of. This is a fairly typical assessment of a middle to back-end of the prospect list type pitcher, yet Sappington is one of the best arms in the Angels’ system. Right now, after posting a 4+ BB/9 in A+ ball, he looks more like a reliever (and a chance of being a decent one at that), than a starter. Expect him to repeat Double-A.

Former third-round pick R.J. Alvarez is not as imposing a presence on the mound as Sappington, but has a fairly similar plus-fastball/slider profile. Alvarez, however, throws harder, but the righty also has a rather obvious max-effort delivery that makes him a potential injury risk. Unlike Sappington, the Angels have already wisely made him a reliever and the results in A+ ball were impressive with a 14.6 K/9, albeit with a 5.0 BB/9. Just a little bit of command improvement can go a long way for a potential setup man/closer.

Cam Bedrosian started piecing things back together after coming back from Tommy John surgery and is doing so by following in his father’s footsteps as a reliever. For now, he is armed with a plus fastball and has displayed decent command of it, but he needs a better secondary out pitch to succeed at the upper minor league levels.

Wrapping Up: The Angels have one of the weaker farm systems in the Majors. Taylor Lindsey and C.J. Cron are worth noting for outside chances at contributing in 2014, but are more likely to see significant playing time in 2015. Even then, neither project as All-Stars, but merely everyday players if they can manage even that. Caleb Kowart has shown the skills and talents to be the team’s top prospect, but has a lot to prove. Note that it would not take much to unseat Lindsey for that seat given the second baseman’s limited ceiling.

As for the pitching side of things, there really is nothing to note or to concentrate upon on draft day. Mike Morin might have an outside shot of helping a deep AL-only club or a sim/strat team someday. Alvarez is worthy of note given his upside as a possible high-end reliever. Sappington will be more worthy of note once the Angels decide to move him to the pen.

Last Updated on Monday, 10 February 2014 09:45
 
2014 Minor League Outlook: The Mets PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 00:00

Today we continue our tour of the MLB farm systems from a 2014 impact as well as dynasty/keeper-league standpoint with a scan of the New York Mets.

Please be sure to check back as the pre-season progresses, as I will be updating these as necessary. All players who have retained rookie status are eligible for this series.

Catcher
2014 Impact/Keeper League: Only an ankle injury kept Travis D’Arnaud from exhausting his rookie eligibility. He did at least recover in time to play a bit at Triple-A Las Vegas and spend September with the big club. The righty heads into 2014 as the opening day catcher. D’Arnaud is a true two-way catcher, receiving good grades for his defense, ability to handle a pitching staff, and for his offense. The former Blue Jay and Phillie has a short, quick stroke and solid power behind it to allow him to hit for average and to perhaps eclipse the 20-HR mark in time. The question regarding his long-term viability as a starter will be D’Arnaud’s ability to translate his lower-level contact skills while retaining his power in the Majors. The righty’s strikeout rates started going over the 20% mark in the upper minors while showing an almost overly aggressive approach, which when combined with his “catcher speed” could limit his long-term batting average potential. (see John Buck).

Keeper League: Kevin Plawecki gives the Mets a near-ready fall back option for D’Arnaud. Plawecki’s defense is not as strong as D’Arnaud’s, but the righty does bring tremendous control of the strike zone to the table along with gap power and low-teens HR potential. A knee-jerk reaction might be to compare him to former Met Paul Lo Duca, but Plawecki has a bit more of a patient approach and is potentially more capable of producing a solid on-base percentage.

First Base
2014 Impact: With the Mets unsure who, if anyone, will ultimately claim their 1B job, the Mets have brought in veterans such as Brandon Allen and Matt Clark to fill in at Triple-A. Both are power hitters who could either end up in Triple-A all season or could surprise given an opportunity to play. Oft-injured Zach Lutz is also in Triple-A. The righty has a patient approach and 20-plus HR potential. His 466 plate appearances last year were the most he had achieved in any season of his professional career. Former Padre Allan Dykstra had a nice season in Double-A, with 21 HRs, while walking 21% of the time and striking out a quarter. While a good OBP is possible, it is hard to see someone like Dykstra hitting much above, if he can manage it, .250 at the MLB level. No player in this group is below 26 years of age, and they should be seen as long-shots, but if given an opportunity, all are notable for NL-only purposes.

On the even greater dark horse side of things is Jace Boyd, who will be in Double-A this year. A former 6th round pick, Boyd has completely controlled the strike zone at every level of professional play, hitting for average and getting on base at high clips. A good defender, the only question in Boyd’s game is his power. When drafted, this was thought to possibly be a strength, but instead he has shown more doubles and low to mid-teens single digit home run power.

Keeper League: The one true first base prospect in the system is 2013 1st round pick Dominic Smith. Smith gets good reviews for his advanced approach, quick bat, and good glove, but his power has gotten mixed reviews, from line-drive/teens HR hitter to potential 20-plus home run hitter. Given Smith’s overall skills, it’s likely he’ll be the Mets' starting 1B a ways down the road. Smith has a shot at playing full-season A-ball this year and could be on the one-level at a time path to the Majors, which would put his ETA at around late- 2017/early-2018.

Second Base
The Mets would love to upgrade defensively at 2B right now, but have no ready prospect capable of hitting enough and lack a viable alternate position for Daniel Murphy. Murphy’s best position is 1B, but his bat (hits for average, low-teens pop), plays much better at second.

2014 Impact: Danny Muno could get the call as a back-up at some point. A switch-hitter, Muno has very advanced plate discipline and is capable of double-digit stolen bases. Despite his plate skills, he still managed to hit just .249 as a 24-year-old in Double-A (.384 OBP). Muno will move up to Triple-A this season.

Keeper League: Dilson Herrera came over from the Pirates in the Marlon Byrd deal. The righty played full-season ball at age 19, showing some pop and speed, and could be a 15-15 guy from the middle infield. His approach, unsurprisingly given his age and the level he has been pushed to, is in need of further refinement, but this is not a dire situation.

Third Base
2014 Impact: If Wilmer Flores was truly a second baseman, it is possible Daniel Murphy would have been moved this off-season. But no, that’s not the case. A third baseman, Flores does not currently have a clear path to the Majors other than in a back-up capacity. Like Murphy, Flores' bat would play very nicely at second. Flores makes consistent contact and has mid to upper teens home run potential and has hit over .300 at each of his past two minor league stops. The bat should play in the Majors, but opportunity is the key issue.

Shortstop
If the Mets had any upper level shortstop prospects, the Stephen Drew talk would have ended a long time ago. But all the Mets currently have is Ruben Tejada, Omar Quintanilla and Wilfredo Tovar. This makes us leap to keeper league considerations.

Keeper League: Gavin Cecchini was selected 12th overall by the Mets in 2012. While still well thought of for his defensive prowess, Cecchini’s stock is dropping quite a bit. The righty has shown little to no power while making weak contact at the plate and producing a .273/.319/.314 line. In other words, I’m writing this more for those who may have drafted him in keeper leagues last year who should now consider dropping him. He's looking like a utility player at best barring a massive resurgence/getting serious pointers from his older brother.

Amed Rosario, meanwhile, could be the best position player in the Mets’ whole farm system. Rosario has only rookie-ball experience and first turned 18 after the end of the season. At the moment, he has the tools to still handle and perhaps be above average at shortstop though at 6’2”, he could outgrow the position in favor of third base as he matures. As one would expect from a 17-year-old, he has a very raw approach, but a quick bat should help him hit for power, and he has enough speed to achieve at least double digits in stolen bases. It will be interesting to watch his progress. Right now, he’s in the high risk/high reward category. With only 212 at-bats of professional experience under his belt, there’s a lot here to still prove.

Outfield
2014 Impact: Cesar Puello is one of the more dynamic position playing prospects in the Mets organization, regardless of PED suspension. Despite 20-20 potential, he’s often been dismissed for having a way too aggressive approach that would fizzle at the MLB level. In 2013, the 22-year-old actually made some progress by cutting down on his strikeouts and showing some more selectivity. The result was a .326/.403/.547 season. A strong showing in Triple-A could get him a quick call to the Majors with the Mets, as at this time, they are intending to play defense-only Juan Lagares in centerfield on a regular basis.

Keeper League: Like fellow prep-pick Cecchini, former first round pick Brandon Nimmo’s stock is fading. The lefty is patient, but overly so, walking 14% of the time each of his first two seasons but also striking out more than a quarter of the time and showing little power to support such an approach. At just 21 years of age, there’s a chance Nimmo could still yet tap into his power, but there are too many ifs at the moment to get overly excited about him as a keeper league selection.

Pitching
2014 Impact: Rafael Montero is the most likely Mets pitcher to make an impact in 2014. As is a common theme amongst the Mets starting pitchers in their minor league system, Montero is a strike-thrower. But unlike many, Montero projects as a middle of the rotation starter, possessing a low-to mid-nineties fastball, quality change, and slider.

Noah Syndergaard universally rates as the Mets' top prospect at the moment. How soon he makes the Majors is up in the air after handling A+ and Double-A without too much difficulty, which could get him to Triple-A right at the start of 2014 even though he is only 21 years old. Syndergaard actually improved upon being promoted from A+ to Double-A, posting an 11.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 while showing one of the best fastballs in the Minors and a plus curve and work-in-progress changeup that should be at least an average pitch at the MLB level. He profiles as a #1 or #2 starter when considering the combination of his raw stuff and his excellent pitchability. It’s more likely he receives a September call-up at the earliest. He is more of a factor for 2015 and beyond than for 2014.

Jake DeGrom probably has a better shot at MLB playing time than Syndergaard this year. DeGrom projects more as a #4 or #5 starter but does indeed throw fairly hard, reaching the middle nineties. He commands his stuff well and generates plenty of ground balls given its good sink. DeGrom made 14 starts at Triple-A last year with a 7.5 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. The real question regarding his long-term success as a starter will be his ability to consistently spin the ball. At the very least, he’ll make it in the Majors as a fastball/changeup middle reliever.

Vic Black, another part of the Marlon Byrd trade, found himself pitching frequently late last season after Bobby Parnell went down. The 25-year-old is regularly in the mid to upper nineties on his fastball. The most shocking item was his improved control (3.2 BB/9), which was well out of context with that of the rest of his professional career (usually 4-plus). Armed with a plus fastball/slider combo, if Black can continue throwing strikes, the righty could be a key part of the Mets pen and has an outside shot at getting some save opportunities too.

Keeper League: Former 2009 second round pick Steven Matz resurrected his career after finally coming back from Tommy John surgery to produce a 10-plus K/9 as a 22-year-old in A-ball. The lefty throws hard and has a good curve but needs to stay healthy and is in need of an aggressive promotion considering his age/level of play to get more of a challenge.

Gabriel Ynoa, 20, is a tremendous strike-thrower (1.1 BB/9). At 6’2”, 158 pounds, Ynoa has a projectable frame and should gain velocity as he matures which should help create even more separation between his fastball and plus changeup. The righty has middle of the rotation potential depending on the development of his other secondary pitches.

Wrapping Up: The Mets farm system is the best it has been in quite a few years. The pitching staff is very deep and armed with ace-potential starters as well as some middle of the rotation types, and extremely deep with back-end of the rotation types who throw strikes and who could eat a lot of innings. On the hitting front, there are several not fully tested, but exciting types in Dominic Smith, Dilson Herrera and Amed Rosario that should interest deep dynasty leaguers. For the near term, D’Arnaud, Plawecki and Puello should all generate draft day picks.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 February 2014 10:27
 
2014 Minor League Outlook: The Orioles PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 28 January 2014 00:00

Today we continue our tour of the MLB farm systems from a 2014 impact as well as dynasty/keeper-league standpoint with a scan of the Baltimore Orioles.

Please be sure to check back as the pre-season progresses as I will be updating these as necessary. All players who have retained rookie status are eligible for this series.

Catcher
Matt Wieters is a free agent at the end of the season. Given the depth in the Orioles system and the contract the switch-hitter will likely demand, it’s a good thing the Orioles have some organizational depth at the position.

2014 Impact: Caleb Joseph may not rank amongst the organization’s finest prospects anymore, but he is a potential sleeper should the Orioles opt to part with Wieters mid-season. The 27-year-old is coming off of a 22-HR campaign in which he hit .299/.346/.494 and has a fair approach and contact skills. The bad news? This was Joseph’s fourth straight season at the level. It’ll take a quick transition at Triple-A to get a shot at the Majors.

Keeper League: Chance Sisco and Michael Ohlman provide greater long-term hope. Ohlman’s hope, however, may be more with his bat than his glove as one does not see too many 6’5” catchers in the Majors. He profiles as average at best behind the plate. The 23-year- old enjoyed a good year with the bat at A+ ball after missing time due to injury and drug suspension, hitting .313/.410/.524 with 13 HRs in 361 at-bats. A right-handed hitter, Ohlman strikes out fairly frequently for a righty with mid to upper teens HR to low-twenties power, but has shown fairly good selectivity throughout his minor league career and might be able to hit in the .270s at the MLB level.

Sisco, who will turn 19 in February, was a second round pick last year and has already shown a fairly advanced glove. Sisco also has pretty good potential with the bat, the reason he was selected so early. At short-season ball, he was already showing good bat speed and a polished approach at the plate and projects to be able to hit doubles and reach double-digits in HRs as he matures. He’ll get his first taste of full-season ball in 2014.

First Base
Keeper League: There’s not much to choose from here. Christian Walker is probably the best bet.  The 22-year-old is best suited to DH which limits his utility. A 2012 fourth round pick, Walker has at least shown some hitting chops, batting .288/.343/.479, but was unimpressive upon his promotion to Double-A. First basemen with his level of pop (high-teens) typically have above average gloves, and Walker does not, which could destine him to become an organizational player.

Second Base
2014 Impact: Jonathan Schoop is technically behind Jemile Weeks on the depth chart but has a real chance of beating the former Athletic for the job this spring. The righty has decent pop for a middle infielder, hitting 14 HRs in 2012. Otherwise, Schoop is not a very high ceiling prospect, possessing mediocre at best on-base skills and two straight seasons at Double-A and Triple-A that were far from dominant, as he failed to hit above .260 in either season and produced a sub-par .301 OBP last year.

Third Base
2014 Impact: Michael Almanzar was a Rule-5 pick from Boston. Ryan Flaherty is slated to be the Opening Day 3B until Manny Machado returns, so there may well be room on the roster for Almanzar too. The 23-year-old has some interesting raw offensive talent and 20-plus HR potential but is a long shot to stick as a starter. The righty has an aggressive approach, mediocre on-base skills and is below-average to average defensively at the hot corner.

Shortstop
Keeper League: Adrian Marin, with Schoop moving over to second base, is the closest the Orioles have to a shortstop prospect. His glove will get him to the show, but Marin will need to show a lot more with the bat to be more than a utility player. Marin has above average speed and has some doubles power, so if the 19-year-old's plate discipline improves, there could yet be a prospect of note here, but that’s a pretty big if.

Outfield
2014 Impact: Henry Urrutia made his MLB debut last season but retained his rookie status and will likely begin 2014 in Triple-A. The soon-to-be 27-year-old Cuban defector has some interesting skills, but lacks any single standout skill on offense or on defense. He dominated Double-A as a 26-year-old and hit well in Triple-A too. In Double-A as well as in the Arizona Fall League, Urrutia showed a very advanced feel for the strike zone and gap power and should be able to hit for average at the MLB level, but he does not project hit much more than 10 HRs and is not a base stealing threat. He profiles best as as a utility player who can fill in as a starter for extended periods when necessary.

Keeper League: Josh Hart was the Orioles' supplemental first round pick in 2013. The lefty is a long ways away from the Majors, but projects as a centerfielder with plus speed and 30-plus stolen base potential. It remains to be seen whether or not he can develop any power and on-base skills. Hart is only recommended in the deepest of leagues, for those interested in raw talents.

Pitching
2014 Impact/Keeper: Kevin Gausman is almost a lock to open as the Orioles' #5 starter. The former first round pick may have been hit hard in his cup of coffee late last season but still displayed very good control and an ability to miss bats with a 9.3 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 47.2 innings. Gausman owns at least two plus pitches, including an upper-nineties fastball and changeup as well as a slider with plus potential. The righty has top end of the rotation upside.

Mike Wright could also make the Majors in 2014. A former third round pick, Wright projects as more of an innings eater/back end of the rotation starter. He throws strikes with multiple pitches and generates ground balls. Wright managed an 8+ K/9 in Double-A but was in the 6-range his previous two campaigns and is more likely to be at that level in the Majors given his average but solid stuff. Wright will begin the year in Triple-A.

Keeper League: A healthy Dylan Bundy is a potential ace. When on his game, Bundy has command of three to four plus pitches, including an upper nineties fastball, multiple plus breaking pitches and a change. It all comes down to how he comes back from Tommy John surgery. There is a remote possibility he makes it back in September, but it is more likely he challenges for a rotation spot in 2015.

Eduardo Rodriguez will likely be staying in Double-A to begin 2014. The nearly 21-year-old lefty throws 95 and has a slider/changeup complimentary selection that has plus-potential. Rodriguez showed superior command at the lower levels, but slipped slightly to a 3.6 BB/9 at Double-A alongside an 8.9 K/9. Rodriguez could make it to Triple-A this season and has an outside shot at a cup of coffee in the Majors. Like Bundy, he could be a member of the 2015 rotation and has #3 starter potential.

Moving up to Double-A this year will be lefty Tim Berry. Berry throws fairly hard for a southpaw, reaching the mid-nineties, and owns a good curve and a work-in-progress changeup. Berry is another good strike-thrower but will need to continue to improve that change in order to have long-term success against righties. His fastball/curve gives him a nice fallback option as a left-handed reliever. For now, he is a potential #3/#4 starter.

19-year-old Hunter Harvey impressed quite a bit at short-season ball in 2013. The Orioles' first round pick can touch the mid-to-upper nineties with his fastball and at 6’4”, 178 pounds, he projects to add more strength as he matures, like his dad, former Angels/Marlins closer Bryan. Harvey gets good grades for his curve and has shown some promise with his changeup. He is also noted for having very smooth mechanics. It is going to be awhile before we see Harvey in the Majors, provided he stays healthy, but he does have a fairly high ceiling and given his pedigree, he may fit well in his dad’s old role.

Zach Davies should be on your radar, but probably not on your draft list. The righty is more of a #4/#5 starter based on pure stuff, but gets rave reviews for his ablity to harness what he has. In A+ ball, the 20-year-old produced an 8.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9.

A third round pick in 2013, Stephen Tarpley pitched very well in short season ball with a 10.7 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9. He throws into the lower-nineties and has good command of multiple pitches with average or better potential. He could move up through the system quickly.

Wrapping Up: In most keeper leagues, both Bundy and Gausman have been long since snapped up, though Gausman should certainly be considered for this year in redraft leagues too. The Orioles system is not lush with hitting prospects. Some of the most interesting are their catchers Ohlman and Sisco, but neither are a help in 2014. For redraft leaguers, Mike Wright is the most likely sleeper of the bunch as someone who could slide into the rotation and provide some quality innings. While Urrutia is not the most exciting of athletes, at his age and with his plate skills, he could have no problem hitting for average in the Majors and stealing time away from the unexciting combination of David Lough, Delmon Young and Steve Pearce.

For longer term consideration, Hunter Harvey and Eduardo Rodriguez should both be on draft day lists.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 10:04
 
2014 Minor League Outlook: The Rockies PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Monday, 20 January 2014 00:21

Today, we continue our tour of the MLB farm systems from a 2014 impact as well as dynasty/keeper-league standpoint with a scan of the Colorado Rockies.

Please be sure to check back as the pre-season progresses, as I will be updating these as necessary. All players who have retained rookie status are eligible for this series.

Catcher
2014 Impact/Keeper League: Despite being under 25 and having already twice posted a 20-plus home run output, Wilin Rosario’s tenure behind the plate is not assured given mediocre defensive skills and a lack of OBP skills. That combination could get Tom Murphy some playing time as soon as this season, albeit a limited amount (September call-up). Murphy has superior catch and throw skills to Rosario and similar power potential to Rosario too.  While he showed some selectivity at A+ ball, he’ll need to translate that to the upper levels of the Minors while cutting down on the strikeouts. The combination of right-handed hitter, 20%-plus strikeout rates and being a slow runner probably makes him a sub .260s hitter at the MLB level.

First Base
2014 Impact/Keeper League: Kyle Parker is generally listed as an outfielder, but has been introduced to and will be a first baseman long-term, so for the purposes of this article, I’ve listed him here. The 24-year-old is the likely short-term solution for the Rockies, possessing mid-twenties, if not 30-plus HR potential. The righty also owns a quick bat and makes fairly consistent, hard contact, so he should be able to hit for average as well, though his overall OBP skills are on the mediocre side. I don’t think he’ll be a star, but he could be a solid regular.

Second Base
Keeper League: The Rockies middle infield prospects of note are really at shortstop. Taylor Featherston is perhaps the closest thing to a prospect at second base for now, though he probably profiles best as a utility guy with a decent bat off the bench. Featherston has good power for his position, reaching double digits in HRs each of the past two seasons, and slightly above average speed, reaching double digits in steals too over that same time period.

Third Base
The Rockies are hoping Nolan Arenado is their guy at 3B for the foreseeable future. His rookie season was nothing to write home about, but what he did accomplish was without the benefit of Triple-A playing time and at 22 years of age.

Keeper League: Ryan McMahon, their 2013 second round pick, does provide another possible option with a substantial offensive upside and perhaps enough defensive skills to stick at 3B. McMahon is no speed threat, but he does have a quick bat with projectable power and did produce 11 homers and 32 overall extra-base hits in 251 rookie-ball plate appearances. It will be interesting to see how his selectivity translates to full season ball this year.

Shortstop
2014 Impact:
Cristhian Adames is the closest to the Majors of the Rockies shortstop prospects and has a glove that will get him there, at least as a utlity player. He has slightly above average speed and will hit some doubles, but did take a slight step backwards as his OBP skills slipped a bit upon being promoted to Double-A. He’ll start 2014 in Triple-A with a chance to move up.

Keeper League: Trevor Story was once the best shortstop, if not the best prospect period, in the Rockies’ system. A former supplemental first round pick, Story can handle his position and has mid-teens or better HR power and 20-plus stolen base skills. Both skills were on display at A+ ball, but his pitch recognition and swing mechanics completely fell apart as he produced a 33% strikeout rate and a .233/.305/.394 line. There’s enough potential to stick with him for now considering he first turned 21 after the end of the season, but the righty will need to show significant improvement to warrant an endorsement.

Rossell Herrera, at 6’3” 180 pounds, is currently a shortstop and has pretty good hands, but his range suggests he’ll being moving over to 2B long-term. As disappointing as Story’s season was, Herrera’s was good. The 21-year-old switch-hitter showed some pop (projects to low-teens), and a much improved approach at the plate which resulted in a .343/.419/.515 line. Herrera stole 21 bags, but given his size and average speed, that may end up being more of a career high/outlier. For now, Herrera may have jumped ahead of Story on the prospect charts, but time will tell.

Outfield
2014 Impact: 26-year-old Tim Wheeler may get some time as a back-up corner outfielder. A broken hamate ruined his power, but he can still hit doubles and play solid defense, though he lacks any standout tools that says he can still be a regular. Kent Matthes will join Wheeler in Tripe-A. Matthes has intriguing raw power (20 HR between Double-A and Triple-A last year), but has a long history of being an overly aggressive right-handed hitter who struggles at times to get on base and/or hit for average.

Keeper League: Former first round pick David Dahl lost significant time due to a team disciplinary suspension and a torn hamstring and managed only 40 at-bats. The lefty will first turn 20 on April 1st and is still very worthy of consideration for keeper leagues given a very quick bat, solid approach and 15-20 HR potential along with 25-plus steal potential.

Raimel Tapia may end up eclipsing the barely younger Dahl. It will be interesting to see which of the two ends up in center or right field. Like Dahl, Tapia has well above average speed, but has greater power potential, and has shown an excellent ability to make consistent contact (89%). There’s a potential 20-20, if not 30-30 talent here, but it is likely a long time coming given that Tapia has yet to even play at full-season ball.

Pitching
2014 Impact: Chad Bettis actually pitched 44.2 innings in the Majors last year and will return to Triple-A to begin 2014. Bettis skipped over Triple-A last year and was hit fairly hard upon his promotion. A former second round pick, Bettis has #3 or #4 starter potential, or given a good fastball/changeup could have a successful career in relief.

Tyler Matzek will advance to Triple-A this season and could make his MLB debut. The former first round pick has seen his stock drop dramatically as he continues to struggle mightly with his command and control, his mechanics and his secondary pitches. He worked entirely in relief in the Arizona Fall League and could be converted to relief, where the lefty’s fastball/hard-curve combo could allow him to develop into a reliever.

Tommy Kahnle was a Rule-5 pick from the Yankees. The righty has a good arm and throws hard, posting an 11.1 K/9 in Double-A, but is more of a thrower than a pitcher and lacks a secondary pitch beyond his fastball (6.8 BB/9). It’s more likely that he’ll be returned to the Yankees than stick.

Keeper League:

The third overall pick in the 2013 draft had a successful first year of pro-ball and is on the fast track that should see him begin 2014 in Double-A. Between Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler, the Rockies could end up with one of the most dominant front-duos in the National League. Gray owns two plus to plus-plus pitches with his fastball/slider combination and an average to plus changeup, all of which he commands extremely well. NL-only leaguers should be considering him with their top pick as Gray projects as a true ace.

In many, if not most organizations, Butler might rate as a team’s top pitching prospect. The 23-year-old made it to Double-A (6 starts) and dominated with a 8+ K/9 and sub 2.0 BB/9.  A 2012 supplemental first rounder, Butler owns three plus pitches that he can both command well and throw for strikes. The righty is a power pitcher with weapons against lefties (changeup and cut-fastball). He projects as a #2 to #3 starter and given his deep repertoire, his strikeouts should be able to translate well to the MLB level.

Lefty Tyler Anderson will likely join Butler and Gray in Double-A. The former first round pick has been slow in working his way towards the Majors due to injuries, but none are career threatenting. Anderson is not a hard thrower and figures more as a #4 starter with possibly #3 starter upside. Anderson throws strikes, keeps the ball on the ground and changes speeds well, but needs to show he can continue to miss bats at the higher levels of the Minors.

Wrapping Up: The Rockies system’s strength is definitely in the long-term rather than the short. Kyle Parker and Tom Murphy are the only likely bets for playing time in 2014. Beyond that though there is a wealth of talent of NL-only keeper/dynasty leaguers. Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler should light up keeper league/dynasty leaguer’s eyes and should be prominent selections this year. David Dahl and Raimel Tapia both have tremendous potential, but both also carry significant risk, making them intriguing mid to late round selections. McMahon, Herrera and Story are also very worthy of your consideration in deep keeper leagues.

Last Updated on Monday, 20 January 2014 09:34
 
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