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The Prospector


Amateur Draft Class Update PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 25 August 2015 00:00

Before the prospect-happy call-up barrage that is September 1st, this week we update the progress of some key members of the 2015 Amateur Draft class.

The first overall pick, Dansby Swanson, has seen some action in the Northwest League (short season ball). While he has not dominated the level (a trifling 41 at-bats mind you), Swanson has shown a disciplined approach and power, slugging over .500. It would not be surprising to see his name on an AFL roster when those rosters are announced, likely later this week or next, followed by a promotion to A+ ball to begin 2016.

The Astros, meanwhile, have been more aggressive with second overall pick Alex Bregman. The shortstop started at full-season A-ball and was quickly promoted thereafter to A+, making a start at Double-A in 2016 a real possibility and a major league promotion a possibility too, though he’s blocked defensively at his natural position. So far, the righty has been a disciplined, contact-oriented line drive hitter with modest power and above average speed (13 stolen bases in less than 250 plate appearances). He projects as a solid regular, not necessarily a star.

Dillon Tate, the top college pitcher in the draft, has pitched sparingly (5 innings over four games) albeit at least at two different minor league levels. The 21-year-old has battled some dead arm issues and may simply need time off after heavy usage during his final college season. When healthy, the Ranger can touch the upper nineties, works regularly in the mid-nineties and has a deep repertoire that gives him upper end of the rotation potential.

Illinois left-hander Tyler Jay was pushed directly to A+ by the Twins, entirely in relief. The 21-year-old has excelled, posting an 11.3 K/9. A college closer, Jay has multiple plus pitches and has MLB closer potential, but it’s also possible the Twins may try to extend him next year to have him work on his repertoire and see if he can indeed build up the stamina to be a starter. If he remains in relief, he could easily be the first player from this draft class to reach the Majors.

Andrew Benintendi is probably my favorite hitter in the draft and so far my enthusiasm is still rather high. The Red Sox have played him at two levels and thus far he’s shown plenty of power (nine home runs in 178 plate appearances, stolen eight bases and made contact over 90% of the time at each level of play while walking quite a bit more frequently (16% walk rate in A- ball). At just 5’10”, it will be interesting to see just how much of that power translates to the upper levels long-term. For now, he is on track to being a potential centerfielder and a 20-20 candidate who could possibly also be a .300 hitter if he maintains his approach and can handle upper level pitching. Expect him to move up to A+ ball next year.

Like most college first round picks, Carson Fulmer is on the fast track and is already in full-season A-ball where he has struck out over a batter per inning pitched. Like Tyler Jay, Fulmer has worked as both a reliever and as a starter in college. The Vanderbilt grad so far has been used exclusively as a starter by the White Sox. Fulmer does more than just throw hard. He has a good curve and change speeds with some success too. All that said, given the White Sox history of breaking in starters as relievers in the Majors, it might make sense in the case of Fulmer given his history and his power fastball/curve, which could make him a dominant reliever as well as a starter.

The Cubs selected outfielder Ian Happ 9th overall. He signed quickly and has received over 100 plate appearances at two different levels of play, giving us a good idea of his game. Happ is a patient switch-hitter with mid-teens or better home run power (eight home runs) and above average speed (ten stolen bases). There was some talk of using Happ at second base, but the Cubs have used him in the outfield for now. It remains to be seen whether or not Happ will be able to hit for average as he has struck out over 20% of the time and nearly 25% of the time with his promotion to A-ball. But the overall combo of skills and tools do make him a rather attractive target for fantasy purposes.

Cornelius Randolph is awesome not just because his name is. The 10th overall pick out of a Georgia high school by the Phillies, Randolph’s pro career is off to a good start. So far, he has slashed .297/.422/.439 and has been showing an excellent feel for the strike zone, making contact 84% of the time while walking 15% of the time. While his long term position is unsettled, he projects to add a good deal of power to his frame. Randolph should advance to full season A-ball in 2016 and could be a .290+ 20 HR threat down the road.

Giants first baseman Chris Shaw showed he could hit with a wood bat in the Cape Cod League and has continued to rip the ball since being drafted 31st overall. The Boston College alum is at least a 70 on the raw power scale and has seven home runs in rookie ball. Thus far, he’s been adept at being patient and making contact, slashing .291/.381/.500. Shaw is definitely in need of a greater challenge and it's surprising that the Giants haven’t promoted him to full-season ball to get a better test. That test will come though as a jump to A+ ball would seem logical for 2016.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 August 2015 07:55
 
Trade Deadline Booty: Braves, Indians, and Mariners PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 11 August 2015 00:00

Here at the prospector, we’re mostly concerned with the long-term, so with that in mind, we’ll continue our look at some of the prospects acquired at the trade deadline and their value as future fantasy players.

Braves
The Braves traded prized prospect Jose Peraza to the Dodgers but received a MLB ready second baseman in return, Cuban defector Hector Olivera. I reviewed the then Dodgers farmhand just a few short weeks ago and my opinion remains unchanged. While he may not have Peraza's ceiling in the speed department or be 21 years of age, Olivera, when he comes up in the next week or two, will at least be a solid defensive second baseman. He also offers more power, a batting eye that should help the Braves overall OBP game, and bat speed that will let him hit for average too. Olivera looks like a possible .280s+ guy with modest power/speed skills who could be worth at least a mid-teens bid in NL leagues next season.

Zack Bird (from Dodgers) – Bird is a 21-year-old righty who has perhaps been pushed up the minor league ladder a bit too aggressively. A very hard thrower, the former 9th round pick has potential as a mid to upper end of the rotation starter or as a late-inning reliever but really has not refined any of his secondary pitches to the point where they are consistent weapons. I suspect he’ll end up in relief. If he can improve his curve, which flashes plus potential on occasion, he could be a name worth remembering.

John Gant (from Mets) – Gant was a fairly late-round pick and had been climbing up through the Mets system one level at a time. He’s done very well in the lower minors, putting up spectacular strikeout rates and showing above average command, but most of his stuff with the exception of his changeup rates at fringe to average at best, making him an unlikely fantasy target.

Rob Whalen (from Mets) – Whalen was the better prospect in the deal and could develop into a big league starter. The righty has a plus sinker/curveball combination and a workable changeup and slider. After a good year in A-ball in 2014, his follow-up in A+ has not been as strong, however, his strikeout rate dropping below 7.0 and his walk rate jumping a full point to 3.7. At 21 years of age, expect him to finish the year in A+ and to spend all of 2016 in Double-A with an ETA of late 2017 or 2018.

Indians
Rob Kaminsky (from Cardinals) – The trade of veteran Brandon Moss yielded a young lefty with some upside and some question marks. Kaminsky was a first-round pick for his pitchability and mid-nineties fastball that he commanded well. While he can still reach that level on occasion, he works frequently in the lower nineties and despite having a plus curve and solid change, is starting to look more like a middle to back end of the rotation starter. There is MLB ability here, but much of it rests on Kaminsky’s ability to increase his separation between his fastball and change and curve in velocity. At 20 years of age, he has plenty of time to work on it.

Eric Stamets (from Angels)The declining David Murphy did not net a player of tremendous upside, but it did bring back a player who should at least give the Indians some potential bench depth. Stamets is a well above average defensive shortstop who could make the Majors on that attribute alone. The righty makes frequent contact but lacks the power or speed to do much of anything with it, hitting just .248/.306/.360 for the Angels.

Mariners
Dustin Ackley brought back two fairly fringy prospects in Ramon Flores and Jose Ramirez from the Yankees. Flores, a 23-year-old outfielder, gets on base, makes good contact and has hit .286/.377/.417 in Triple-A, but he has only gap power and is not much of a runner. It is difficult to see him beyond a Quad-A player, though his bat and glove might be decent off the bench. Ramirez, 25, has excellent raw stuff, posting a 10.2 K/9 as a reliever in Triple-A. Once considered a top prospect as a starter, his inability to stay healthy and to throw his multiple plus pitches for strikes with any consistency made him expendable. The Mariners are keeping him in the bullpen and he can still be filed under “you never know” as a potential late-blooming, late-inning reliever.

Rob Rasmussen (from Blue Jays) – The 26-year-old Rasmussen has now been a member of five different organizations and has just 14 innings of MLB service to his credit, so it speaks a lot to the desirability of his left-handed arm and his effectiveness. The move to the pen full-time in 2014 has helped his career quite a bit as he has added velocity to all of his pitches and now may have a future as a left-handed relief specialist, though he still needs to improve his command of said secondary pitches. The Mariners have opted to throw him right into things in middle relief where he’ll likely stay.

Nick Wells (from Blue Jays) – Wells is a highly projectable left-hander. The 6’5” starter has done well in rookie ball, posting an 8.7 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9, working with a plus fastball that is steadily gaining velocity as he fills out and a curve with plus potential. At just 19 years of age, Wells will need to stay healthy and develop a changeup before we get too excited, but he is one to track particularly once he starts at full-season ball in 2016.

Jacob Brentz (from Blue Jays) – The Mariners did well to acquire projectable arms and Brentz is no exception. Like Wells, he too is a lefty, but this 20-year-old already touches the mid to upper nineties and throws much harder with regularity. His secondary stuff has potential but is a project, as evidenced by his 6.6 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in rookie ball this season.

Until next week, happy prospecting.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 August 2015 08:29
 
Trade Deadline Booty: The A's and Brewers PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 04 August 2015 00:00

Refreshed after a nice vacation camping in the Catskills, we come to the MLB trade deadline and all of the prospect swapping that comes with it! So we will now concentrate on some of the prospects acquired, starting this week with the Athletics and Brewers.

Athletics

Aaron Brooks (from Royals) – A bit long in the tooth to be a prospect at 25 years of age, this former 9th round pick certainly knows how to throw strikes, continuously posting a sub 2.0 BB/9. He profiles mostly as a pitch to contact, ground-ball inducing innings eater. He could be a passable fourth or fifth starter long-term but is likely to sport a 4.00 ERA in the process. The A’s have thrown him to the fire and he is a legitimate AL-only FAAB target this week.

Sean Manaea (from Royals) – Manaea, a former 2013 supplemental first-round pick, has battled a number of minor strains and tweaks that have cost him development time. The lefty has two to three plus pitches and is finally healthy. He dominated A+ ball and is currently in Double-A with the A’s. The knock on him, beyond his seemingly constant array of minor injuries, has been his mechanics and control, walking 4.0 batters per nine in 2014. He profiles as a number three or four starter or possibly a late-inning lefty reliever with an ETA of 2016.

Casey Meisner (from Mets) – The 20-year-old Meisner was known as a projectable right-hander with a fastball that was gaining velocity. The 6’7”, 190 pound pitcher can now touch the mid-nineties with regularity and his once sub-par to mediocre secondary offerings are starting to improve, especially his curve which now has plus potential. Mechanical issues beyond those of simply being 6’7” may be an issue long-term, particularly as it relates to his long-term health and durability, but they have not affected his command. Meisner has managed a 3.6 BB/9 in five A+ starts and a 2.3 BB//9 over 12 A-ball starts. If his changeup develops, he could range from a #2 to #4 starter, but his ETA is likely 2017 or 2018.

Jacob Nottingham (from Astros) – A former sixth-round pick, Nottingham is a 20-year-old catcher known more for his offense than his glove (14 home runs between two minor league stops this season). He’s overly aggressive at the plate and will likely have difficulty maintaining his .300 batting average at the upper levels of the Minors. His defense is now considered passable. Right now, he looks like a possible platoon player.

Daniel Mengden (from Astros) – The 22-year-old right-hander has succeeded at the lower levels of the Minors and is in need of a challenge at the Double-A level. For now, the A’s have kept him in A+ ball. He features one or two potential plus pitches, has a good feel for hitting the strike zone and may have a future as a back-end of the rotation starter.

Brewers

Zach Davies – Acquired in exchange for Gerardo Parra from the Orioles, Davies is not a high-end prospect. The former 26th round pick nevertheless has performed well, translating his skills to each new level of competition. The six-foot tall right-hander has an average fastball at best, but he works with refined secondary pitches and commands all his pitches quite well, generating a fair share of swings and misses (7.2 K/9 in Triple-A) while keeping the ball on the ground close to 50% of the time over his professional career. He projects most likely as a back-end of the rotation starter and his success will be determined by his ability to translate those strikeout skills to the final level and the infield defense behind him. He’ll pitch in Triple-A now and could get a cup of coffee in the Majors in the coming weeks.

Domingo Santana – (From Astros) – The 22-year-old righty has plenty of raw power and is patient enough to wait for his pitches, but he is also known for striking out close to a third of the time in the Minors. Has fared decently against righties in the Minors but has crushed lefties to a .303/.385/.523 slash over his minor league career. He could push Khris Davis for playing time in right field as soon as later this season. His brief call-ups have not gone well to date, featuring an over-aggressive approach that doesn’t reflect what he has done in the Minors and given his youth, the righty still projects as a possible everyday, albeit low batting average, good power/OBP hitter or useful platoon player.

Brett Phillips (from Astros) – Phillips was the centerpiece and most likely the long-term replacement for Carlos Gomez. The 21-year-old is a legitimate centerfielder with 20-20 potential. Last year, he made some strides in the plate discipline department only to give them back and once again become an aggressive hitter who rarely walks, limiting his potential as a possible leadoff hitter. On the other hand, his once questioned power has come on strong with 16 homers combined between two levels. Expect him up in Milwaukee in mid to late 2016 and if all goes well, to be their 2017 opening day centerfielder.

Josh Hader (from Astros) – This trade marks Hader’s third organization since being drafted by the Orioles in 2012. It’s good to be young and left-handed, even if you are a former 19th round pick. Hader does not have a plus pitch, but he has improved his ability to throw strikes and generate strikeouts due to a deceptive delivery. He’s a starter at the moment but is probably a middle reliever in the long run.

Adrian Houser (from Astros) – Houser is a fairly hard thrower with multiple potential plus pitches, but he has not always been effective at using them. He posted a 10.0 K/9 with a 3.6 BB/9 in A+ ball this year but has struggled upon promotion to Double-A, where his K/9 has dropped three points and his command has faltered. If he can keep improving his secondary pitches and his ability to throw them for strikes, he may have back-end of the rotation or middle relief potential as soon as 2016.

Yhonathan Barrios (from Pirates) – Barrios is a converted infielder with a cannon of an arm. However, he is still very much a thrower and not a pitcher to date, yet he’s made it all the way to Triple-A. He could be up later this year or next season. Given his recent move to pitching, he has late bloomer potential if he can develop his command and a secondary pitch.

Malik Collymore (from Cardinals)- A toolsy and raw 20-year-old outfielder with good power/speed potential, Collymore is the epitome of a “project player.” The righty hit well in rookie ball last year and remains in rookie ball for a third straight season, but he is showing signs of improvement. He’ll move up to full-season ball next season.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 August 2015 08:21
 
Corner Infield Opportunities PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 21 July 2015 00:00

This week, two players are getting chances to be everyday starters at corner positions even though neither player is technically a corner position player.

No one will ever expect a Tyler Saladino! Yet, lo and behold, he is the new starting third baseman for the Chicago White Sox. Actually, that’s not entirely fair. For awhile, it seemed like Saladino was on the path towards becoming a utility/organizational player, yet the former seventh round pick made adjustments last year and started tapping into a bit more power, hitting nine home runs in 325 Triple-A plate appearances while slashing .301/.367/.483 and showing a good eye and contact. Saladino’s power production has fallen back to earth this year, but the plate discipline skills and defense are still there. Though an average runner, he is known for his instinct on the base paths and has swiped 25 bags already in 231 plate appearances. That said, the right-handed hitter is not a high ceiling player by any means, but his all-around game is quite solid. However, it is difficult to imagine him as a high average hitter as long as he is putting the ball on the ground nearly 50% of the time and failing to come close to topping the 30% mark on fly balls. However, the opportunity to play every day coupled with his stolen base skills trump those concerns, especially in AL-only league play, making him a priority FAAB claim for this week.

The Cardinals have been struggling to get production from first base since Matt Adams went down with an injury. In response, Stephen Piscotty has recently been getting time at first base in Triple-A. The righty had been crowded out of the Cardinals outfield despite having a major league ready bat. The 24-year-old is a highly disciplined hitter capable of hitting for average. When drafted, he was projected to have 20+ HR power, but that has been slow in coming. This year, Piscotty has sacrificed some of his contact skills, though he’s still striking out just 16.7% of the time, for power and already has eleven home runs in 372 at-bats and a .203 isolated power, both of which are quite encouraging. Given his chance for full-time at-bats and his advanced feel for hitting, Piscotty is a must grab in NL-only leagues and at least someone to consider in most mixed league formats.

The Cubs’ Hitting Factory
There does not seem to be an end to the supply of hitting prospects in Chicago. While many have already been promoted, Billy McKinney is on pace for a 2016 promotion. The former Oakland first-round pick has been well noted for a very advanced approach at the plate, walking frequently and making contact at high rates with doubles power. Well, he’s in a similar boat to Piscotty and it's called “Where’s the power?” McKinney got off to a great start in A+ ball, hitting four home runs with a .202 isolated power alongside a .340/.432/.544 line. That production led to a promotion and while the stats are piling up like they have been, the lefty is still showing similar skills, albeit power more in line with his 2014 campaign and a .130 ISO. Keep in mind that McKinney is just 20 years of age and dominated a league he was young for and is now holding his own in a league when most players his age are still in regular A-ball. It is possible his power production could kick in well after he earns a MLB job.

Up and Coming Indians
Third-round pick Bobby Bradley made quite a splash in rookie ball in 2014, hitting eight home runs in 176 plate appearances while batting .361. The power is still very much there this season with another 14 home runs in 281 plate appearances. Bradley is a patient hitter, but this year he has struggled to make contact, missing the ball over 33% of the time and hitting just .244/.331/.463. The strikeout rates are actually a bit surprising considering the 19-year-old has been noted for having a good approach and quick bat and was not particularly noted for having a long swing. His youth and power potential give him the benefit of the doubt for now considering he has a likely ETA of 2018.

Sticking with the Indians, 2013 first-round pick Clint Frazier was a highly touted prospect who disappointed in his first full season of professional ball, striking out 161 times in 474 at-bats. The toolsy 21-year-old has turned things around, cutting his strikeout rate by 7% in A+ ball and showing greater power than he did in 2014 with ten home runs in 395 plate appearances and a .271/.361/.423 line. Frazier still has 20-20 potential and those who are considering jumping ship on the 20-year-old should reconsider. The improvements in his game make him too good to give up on anytime soon.

Getting Closer
Lastly, we come to Cuban defector Hector Olivera. The 30-year-old second baseman has gone from rookie to Double-A to Triple-A ball in fewer than 100 plate appearances, hitting over .300 at every stop and showing an excellent batting eye to boot. The righty profiles as someone who can hit for average and get on base, play steady defense at second base while offering low to mid-teens power and stolen base potential. The only question is where will the Dodgers play him. The answer seems to involve either pushing a veteran to a utility or bench role or trading a veteran starter to accommodate Olivera, who has signed a 62.5 million dollar deal with the club.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 July 2015 08:01
 
Prospect Check-Up at the Break PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 14 July 2015 00:00

When going through the minor league stat sheets, it’s hard to ignore 24 home runs in 336 plate appearances (or a .312 isolated power for that matter) from a 23-year-old. It is even more difficult to ignore those home runs when you note that in just his fourth season of professional ball, Adam Walker already has 90 career minor league home runs. While the Twins outfielder is a fairly good bet to be promoted to Triple-A before the end of the year, how excited should we really be about him going forward? Well, of course the power is 100% legitimate. We're talking 30-plus home run potential. That said, Walker is a right-handed hitter who has had his strikeout rates trending upwards for each of his three full seasons in pro ball, reaching 38% this year. His overall slash is .266/.321/.578. While he may have a MLB career, it is likely as a LF/1B/DH platoon type if used properly.

Orlando Arcia made an appearance in this past weekend’s Futures Game. I have previously mentioned Arcia as one of my top ten long-term shortstop prospects, and he has not disappointed in Double-A. The Brewer, while showing a bit more aggressiveness in his approach, is still making good contact and batting .313/.355/.458. That is more than holding one’s own and quite a standout effort for a 20-year-old. Arcia is already noted for a plus glove and plus speed with 20-plus stolen base potential, but he appears to be adding more power and has tied his home run production from last season in 200 fewer plate appearances. Arcia should be in Triple-A at some point this season and could be in the Majors as soon as 2016, depending on what the Brewers decide to do with incumbent Jean Segura, who is currently on the trade market.

The Rockies’ Trevor Story also appeared in the Futures Game. The former supplemental first-round pick has been splitting his time between shortstop and second base in Double-A and Triple-A, where he is showing power, patience, and some speed. After being included in my impact prospect preseason pieces the last few years, Story made it only as an “honorable mention” in this past spring’s piece. He continues to display the tools, both offensively and defensively, that you like to see from a middle infielder, but like Adam Walker, his strikeout rates and handedness may keep him from having a long career as a starter. Story was striking out just under 25% of the time in Double-A before being promoted to Triple-A and needed to produce a .351 BABIP to hit just .281. He projects as a .230s to .250s hitter in the Majors.

Continuing with our theme of Futures Game participants, the Rangers' Nick Williams also played in Cincinnati over the weekend. The lefty has fairly decent all-around tools but has earned the reputation as an overly aggressive hitter who has yet to tap into his tools and put up some numbers. The 21-year-old has shown some improvement this year and is in fact young for Double-A. Williams has cut down on his strikeout rate, making contact over 80% of the time, and he has even shown quite a bit more selectivity, raising his walk rate to a respectable 8%. He’s currently slashing .295/.354/.455. I’m still not completely sold on Williams and I’d like to see if he can sustain the skill improvements. He's a potential 20 HR, 10 to 15 SB type player who can hit over .280 if it all works out.

Lucas Giolito gets all of the attention when it comes to Nationals prospects, and rightly so. But one should not ignore Austin Voth. The 23-year-old former fifth-round pick is in his first full season of Double-A, posting an 8.4 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9.While he is not going to be a future ace and may at best be a #3 type starter, Voth commands his low to mid-nineties fastball well and has a decent curveball and changeup that have swing and miss potential. Expect him in Triple-A before the year is out with a September call-up a possibility.

Tyler Glasnow is continuing on his fast track to the Majors with the Pirates. The 21-year-old has made nine starts at Double-A and has shown improved control and command, posting a 2.7 BB/9 without losing his strikeout skills, producing a 10.4 K/9. He lost almost a month of time this season, but thankfully to a non-arm injury. Instead, he only had to make his way back from a high ankle sprain. Glasnow works with an excellent fastball that can touch the upper nineties, a plus curve, and a changeup that has at least average potential. Glasnow projects as a #2 type starter.

Matt Chapman, a 2014 first-round pick by the A's, is showing off the power he was drafted for with 15 homers in 256 plate appearances. This total should be taken with a small grain of salt, however, given that Stockton is one of the better home run parks in the California League, though not close to being as good as a place like High Desert or even Lancaster. Park factors aside, Chapman has shown a patient approach and has kept his strikeout rate in check, but he's hitting just .257/.348/.545. Chapman remains on track to be a potential starting player at the MLB level, but he does not look like a future All-Star and may be an average third sacker at best.

Players will be receiving promotions after the All-Star break, so check back in as we explore more players who may be close to making a big league impact.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 July 2015 08:06
 
Post-Hype Prospect Third Sackers PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 07 July 2015 00:00

Once upon a time, Cheslor Cuthbert and Jefry Marte were top prospect third basemen for the Royals and Mets respectively. Both now find themselves suddenly thrust up to the Majors. Are they ready? What role will they have? And have they turned their careers around? Let’s find out.

Cheslor Cuthbert is still just 22 years old. After three-plus seasons of ineffectiveness, his shine dimmed and he was no longer considered amongst the best young players in the organization. Early 2015 has been much kinder to the young Nicaraguan as he has shown a bit more power and a decent approach that has led to a .256/.318/.389 line. The righty is starting at third while Mike Moustakas spends some time on the bereavement list after which he will likely be sent down. While he has improved and is staying healthy, Cuthbert looks like he is headed on the utility player/organizational career path. He does have the luxury of youth and could turn things around, but no sign of that occurring is present.

The Tigers were dealt a huge blow with Miguel Cabrera hitting the disabled list for the first time in his career and it will cost him much of the rest of the summer. In his place, the club will likely go with a variety of faces to man first base, but one such option is Jefry Marte. Marte is now in his third organization after spending his first five seasons with the Mets and his next two with the Athletics. The 24-year-old has been having a similar Triple-A season to Cuthbert though slightly better with the best power numbers of his pro career (13 home runs – a career high in just 323 plate appearances) while making contact 85% of the time and producing a .226 isolated power. The righty has always been an adept contact hitter, so it will be interesting to see if the power is for real. Marte has not had any playing time at first base, however, so it may be difficult for the Tigers to get him into the lineup. On Monday, they started Andrew Romine. Expect Detroit to try and get a bat with more punch into the lineup soon, and it may yet be Marte.

Not So Mixed Feelings
I’ve been avoiding talking about Tim Anderson for some time now, but it is hard to hold back when he keeps hitting. The 22-year-old shortstop is hitting over .300 with 27 steals in Double-A, and he could be a late season call-up. I still just don’t see him as a long-term major leaguer given his consistently high strikeout rates (20%) and ultra-low walk rates (3.4%). Anderson also lacks pop, so it will come down to his speed, and as it is written, “you can’t steal first base.” Until Anderson starts making a lot more contact and gaining some control of the strike zone, I really can’t recommend him as a long-term keeper, though his speed, even given a small opportunity to start at the MLB level, will force $10-plus FAAB bids regardless.

First Base Check-In
Time to catch up with a few of my favorite lower-level first base prospects. Casey Gillaspie is the more well known of the duo. The Rays selected him in the first round of the 2014 amateur draft. He is the younger brother of Conor Gillaspie. 2015 was to be the litmus test to see if he a) inherited the family plate discipline and b) actually had more power than his brother as expected when the Rays drafted him. The answer is “yes” on both counts. The switch-hitter had collected 16 homers at A-ball while making contact 84% of the time and walking over 10% with a .278/.358/.530 slash. That effort earned him a promotion to A+ ball. At 22-years of age, he could finish out the year in A+, but would then head to Double-A and be an Arizona Fall League candidate who would likely finish 2016 in Triple-A, if not the Majors. Keep an eye on his A+ progress. He could move even faster than I have indicated.

Rowdy Tellez is the second of my first basemen. I first started tracking Tellez after the Blue Jays drew him away from a college career with a 30th round selection. He has massive raw power and it showed up quickly in rookie ball and I was hoping for big things in his first season of full-A ball in 2014. Well, things did not go quite as planned as Tellez was out for the season after just 49 plate appearances. He returned to A-ball with a vengeance, hitting seven home runs while making contact 81% of the time and batting .296/.351/.444. Not bad for a 20-year-old who missed a year of development. Like Gillaspie, he too has earned a promotion to A+ ball and has swatted another five home runs while making even more consistent contact and walking frequently in the FSL over a small 52 plate appearance sample size (.356/.442/.711 with a 90% contact rate). The Jays can afford to be more patient here given Tellez’s youth. It would be surprising to see him make it to Double-A this year, although not so much if he keeps hitting like this. If everything goes well, Tellez has a 2017 ETA.

Outfield Shuffle
The Red Sox have been spending a lot of time shuffling their starting outfield in 2015 due to injuries and ineffectiveness. Add another name to slide into that mix in Manuel Margot. The 20-year-old was only recently promoted to Double-A from A+ ball after batting .282/.321/.420 with three homers and 20 steals, so it’s premature to add him to the MLB mix, though he could enter the big league picture next season. Since being promoted to Double-A, he’s hit another home run to go along with four stolen bases. Margot has a very quick bat and is known for his ability to make contact, doing so well over 90% of the time at each of his prior two minor league stops. The righty’s power is still emerging, so it’s possible Margot could be a 15+ HR/30+ SB threat with the ability to hit for average at the MLB level.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 July 2015 08:05
 
Prospect Progress for 6/30 PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 30 June 2015 00:00

Loaded as they are with young pitching and still in contention, the Mets need to add bats. While they may seek them in the trade market, some may be found closer to home if they dare to start their arbitration clocks. 2014 first-round pick Michael Conforto rises to the top of that pile. Despite not having experience beyond the Double-A level, the left-handed hitter has shown himself to be a selective hitter, with a short disciplined swing exhibiting natural loft. The 22-year-old had no problem with rookie ball in 2014 and has driven through two levels of the Minors, though as expected, his strikeout rate has increased in Binghamton to over 21%, though coupled with a 14% walk rate. Conforto does not necessarily project as a high average hitter at the MLB level but is a 20+ HR threat capable of producing a .270+ batting average and solid OBP numbers.

Another possible, though dark horse, 2015 MLB contributor from Binghamton is shortstop Gavin Cecchini. The Mets former first-round pick had fallen down the prospect radar in recent seasons but has pushed his way back into consideration. At just 21 years of age, the younger brother of Red Sox prospect Garen is holding his own at Double-A, making contact 90% of the time while walking 7% and hitting .285 with a reasonable five homers and 22 total extra-base hits. Cecchini was already noted as an above average defender, so the combination of his hitting coming on line in concert with his glove could be a welcome addition to a team needing improvement in both areas. Just keep in mind that his long-term offensive ceiling is relatively modest. He is likely a better real-life player than fantasy player, and a late-season cup of coffee is probably the most playing time he’ll get from the Mets in 2015, barring injuries to other personnel.

I’ve been impressed for awhile by the Twins' Max Kepler. He has always been a solid athlete and has an advanced feel for the strike zone and ability to make contact. This year, at age 22, Kepler appears to be finally growing into his tools and putting them to work. In Double-A, he’s hitting .344/.418/.555 to go along with three homers and 11 steals while making contact 87% of the time with an 11% walk rate. I’m still waiting to see if the power starts to emerge some more, but it’s hard to argue with a .211 isolated power that has produced 31 extra-base hits already this season. Kepler is on track for a promotion to Triple-A in short order and could be up with the MLB club before September if he keeps hitting like this. The Twins have not hesitated to call up youngsters before (see Byron Buxton).

Speaking of young Twins, Kepler’s teammate Jose Berrios, could potentially be on a faster path to the Majors. The 21-year-old made it to Triple-A in late-2014 before being sent back to Double-A to begin 2015. A promotion up a level is likely in the cards after producing a 9.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 over 15 starts. The right-hander is advanced beyond his years and has a good feel for multiple plus pitches, including a changeup which he commands well and throws for strikes. He profiles as at least a #2 type starter and redraft leaguers should even take note in case the Twins decide to get aggressive with promoting him.

Josh Bell continues our theme of disciplined contact hitters drafted for their projectability as power hitters. Bell has hit well in his second go around for Pittsburgh in Double-A, walking more often than striking out and putting the ball in play nearly 91% of the time while producing a .325/.395/.444 slash. He’s showing some extra-base power but not over-the-wall power with just three homers, so my pre-season feeling of him developing into more of a James Loney type first baseman might be appropriate. At just 22 years of age, there is still some time to wait for the power to develop before jumping to that conclusion, however, although a 48% minor league ground ball rate is not all that encouraging.

The A’s Matt Olson is not destined to hit for average. Yes, he is patient, but he's patient to a fault, walking 19% of the time this season but striking out a quarter of the time. In other words, that’s roughly 43% of the time when Olson isn’t making contact. Olson has legitimate 30-plus home run power, but he has seen his power production fall dramatically with his promotion to Double-A. While he of course still has a shot to be the A’s first baseman down the road, he’ll need to show a lot more at this level, including less passivity.

Former Yankee farmhand and top prospect Manny Banuelos has recovered from Tommy John Surgery and is now expected to be recalled for his MLB debut this coming Thursday after producing a 2.29 ERA over 15 Triple-A starts. However, the 24-year-old is not quite the same pitcher he was with the Yankees. Most notably, his strikeout rates are down in the mid 7’s as opposed to the 8 or 9+ he was at prior to getting injured. Control, which was an issue before the injury, still is a problem as Banuelos has posted a 4.1 BB/9. Tread cautiously when considering him for a pick-up in NL-only leagues.

That’s all for this week. Tune in next week for more of The Prospector.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 June 2015 08:36
 
Prospecting the 2015 Amateur Draft PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 16 June 2015 00:00

It is no secret that most keeper leagues work on a two-year plan or cycle. One year, you go for it. The next, you dump. While there are exceptions to this depending on league dynamics and quality of the owners of the teams in your fantasy league, this cycle pushes the prospect focus towards the near-term and those prospects that are going to help out at the MLB level this or the following season.

So heading into 2016, the recent draftees are typically amongst those first selected in any keeper league minor league draft. Those players then become the target of dumping teams hoping those players become factors the following season and beyond. That mindset pushes most, except the extreme top tier high school prospects like the recently called up Byron Buxton (after being drafted second overall in 2012) off the table, especially pitching prospects, unless it’s the next Dwight Gooden on the horizon.

With that in mind, here are a few early favorites of mine to target from this amateur draft class.

It is easy to peg Dansby Swanson (ARI) as a favorite. He was the consensus top college hitter in the draft and the only surprise was that he went first overall rather than second. While it remains to be seen whether he’ll have to move back to second base long-term, Swanson is an interesting hit for average, 15 HR, 20+ steal threat at the MLB level. He could be up at A+ or Double-A before the end of the season with a possible mid to late 2016 call-up date depending on how quickly the Diamondbacks can sign him.

Alex Bregman (HOU), the second overall pick, is another obvious target as an extremely polished college hitter with decent speed. He strikes me as more of a safe pick rather than an impact player pick though. While he is more likely to stay at shortstop than Swanson until he runs into Carlos Correa anyway, he has limited power, and may only be just into the double digits in the steals department, meaning his value may entirely come from his ability to hit for average and get on base. I would target him in my minor league drafts, but only if he falls in later in the first round or second round. With Jose Altuve and Correa around, it is also a bit difficult to see how Bregman fits, barring a position change for him or someone else, into the Astros lineup, at least in the near-term.

Dillon Tate (TEX) is a better choice as an early-round 2016 minor league draft pick. The best college pitcher in the draft, Tate has at least two wipeout pitches and multiple weapons with which to combat lefties. The righty has worked as both a starter and a closer in his college career and profiles well in either role with #2 starter or late-inning reliever upside.

I can pretty much discuss Carson Fulmer (CHW) in the same breath as a college reliever turned starter who is expected to stay in the latter role. Not surprisingly, as a first-rounder, Fulmer can touch and hold his velocity in the mid to upper nineties but also knows how to change speeds, and perhaps his best speed is a plus curveball which he commands well. The White Sox have shown themselves to be aggressive with their college picks and have a penchant for drafting reliever/starter types (Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon), so don’t be surprised to see Fulmer broken in to the Majors in a relief role before he slots into the starting rotation.

Though on the small side, Andrew Benintendi (BOS) may be my favorite college hitter in the draft. He’s a centerfielder who makes consistent, hard contact and has legitimate 20-20 potential. The Red Sox, however, are a bit clogged in the outfield at the moment, trying to figure out which of their young players is part of their long-term outfield composition, so a mid to late 2016 call-up with more of a 2017 sustained impact seems more likely at the moment for Benintendi.

Switch-hitter Ian Happ (CHC) will end up at either second base or left field, though he’ll likely never earn defensive accolades at either position. His bat will have to do the talking as a disciplined hitter with a quick bat and high teens to low-twenties home run power and double digit steals potential.

For those who like to gamble on upside from prep talent, Kyle Tucker is probably your guy. His older brother Preston is noted for having upper teens to low-twenties power potential, decent patience at the plate, and an ability to make consistent contact. Think of Kyle as having a similar plate approach, but perhaps an even quicker bat and greater (30+ HR) power potential.

Sticking with more of a dynasty league look, Mike Cameron’s son Daz (HOU) must be considered. Like his dad, he is a potential top of the line defensive centerfielder with 20/30 potential. Inconsistency in his approach led to his stock dropping him out of the first round when he was originally considered a possible top-10 pick. For now, the scouting reports compare him favorably to his dad, a patient right-handed hitter who will provide in the defense and HR/speed games but may come up short in the batting average department.

Jon Harris (TOR) is a polished right-hander out of Missouri State who could move quickly through the Blue Jays system. He has a deep repertoire of pitches, all of which are already considered plus pitches. However, it remains to be seen if the can throw them consistently for strikes.

Next week, back to looking at prospects who will help us out in 2015.

Last Updated on Monday, 15 June 2015 23:08
 
Prospect Progress for 6/9 PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 09 June 2015 00:00

Monday was the first round of the Rule-4 or as it is better known, the First-Year Player Draft. The web today is inundated with recaps and reviews of those players. However, for fantasy, 99% of those players will not be relevant for two or more years. Rather than providing a review of those top prospects, I will continue looking at players whose impact will be more immediate. Next week, I’ll cherry pick some of the higher profile names you need to know.

For now, let’s discuss some recent call-ups and potential call-ups.

In weekly leagues, Scott Schebler was sent down before fantasy players had a chance to lay their hands on him. The Dodger outfielder has not been hitting particularly well in Oklahoma City, but he has shown a similar plate approach to his 2014, 28 HR campaign, and power as well with six homers and a .171 ISO. The 24-year-old was a 26th round draft pick in 2010 and surged up the Dodgers radar after two straight seasons of producing 25 or more home runs while also cutting down on his strikeouts and improving his selectivity. It is unclear as to whether the Dodgers view him as their long-term left fielder or more of a fourth outfielder/platoon player. The latter may be his ultimate role, but he has shown enough bat speed and power to possibly make it as a starter, provided he shows he can adjust to Triple-A pitching.

Nationals prospect Joe Ross made his MLB debut on Saturday to mixed results, allowing six hits and four earned runs, but on the other hand, not walking a single batter and striking out four in five frames. The former Padre is in his first season with the Nationals after coming over as part of the three-way trade with Tampa Bay. In nine Triple-A starts, Ross had a 9.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. The righty has two good swing and miss pitches in his plus fastball and slider, but he has good control of his lesser pitches and has a changeup that is at least an average pitch, flashing plus at times. He may get a few more starts, but redraft leaguers should note that both Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister are working towards their returns from the DL, so Ross is not going to be claiming a full-time job just yet. His middle of the rotation potential should at least make him a grab and stash target in NL-only keeper leagues.

A few weeks back, I noted that Lonnie Chisenhall’s struggles might get him in trouble with Giovanny Urshela lying in wait. Well, the Indians shook things up, sending Chisenhall and Jose Ramirez down to the Minors. While Francisco Lindor will stay in Triple-A for the time being, Urshela is getting his opportunity to claim the third base job. Urshela, like Chisenhall, is a modest ceiling player. A plus defender at third, Urshela is an aggressive, contact-oriented hitter with doubles power and his home run power projects to the low to mid-teens. While Urshela is not going to be an impact offensive force, he still has a potentially useful and valuable skill set for AL-only leaguers.

In a continuing theme of aggressive call-ups, the Houston Astros plan to call up Vincent Velasquez in time for making a start this coming Wednesday. The 23-year-old former second-round pick has made five Double-A starts, posting a 12.7 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. His stuff, a lively fastball and plus changeup, has long been raved about by scouts. Staying on the field has been the primary concern. To date, Velasquez has not pitched more than 124.2 innings in any season, his second highest total standing at 64. He has missed time due to Tommy John surgery but also a parade of non-arm related muscle injuries. If Velasquez can improve the consistency of his curve, he has upper end of the rotation potential. It looks like he’ll be receiving an extended look with Roberto Hernandez losing his spot in the Astros rotation, so redraft and keeper leaguers alike should take note of his debut.

The Phillies are not having the greatest of luck with their pitching staff in 2015, so a hard look must be taken at 2014 first-round draft pick and Double-A pitcher Aaron Nola. Nola was someone I expected to move quickly through the Phillies system after being taken 7th overall. While the strikeout totals have not been as high as expected, Nola did make it all the way to Double-A last year. He's beginning his first full season of pro ball there and has at least raised his K/9 a full point from 5.6 to 6.8. Nola is mostly known for his polish and command. He has yet to produce a BB/9 higher than 1.9 and has walked just one batter per nine innings pitched this season. Considering the quality of his repertoire, it is surprising to not see more swings and misses at this point, but they may come in time. A Triple-A promotion may be soon in the making and a call-up, at least by September, seems quite possible.

Next week, as promised, we hit the 2015 Draft.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 June 2015 09:14
 
Prospect Progress for 6/2/15 PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 02 June 2015 00:00

This week, we check in with a few top names discussed in the preseason to see how they are faring. We begin with a pair of recent call-ups.

Here to Stay?
The Red Sox called up Eduardo Rodriguez when they were in need of a sixth starter but ended up so impressed with the lefty’s MLB debut that he is receiving a second start and could conceivably stick with the big league club (at someone else’s expense) with another strong outing. Rodriguez, 22, was acquired from the Orioles last year for Andrew Miller. Rodriguez is a fairly hard thrower for a lefty, reaching the mid-nineties with a plus fastball and offsets that with perhaps an even better changeup. His slider has long been a work in progress but has plus potential and is a swing and miss pitch. What makes Rodriguez special is his ability to combine these pitches with good and still improving command. Over eight Triple-A starts, Rodriguez had an 8.2 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9. Though young, this is a pitcher with nothing left to prove in the Minors and #3 to #2 starter potential.

Slugger in Texas
The injury to Adrian Beltre has resulted in a two-level jump for top power hitting prospect Joey Gallo to the Majors. This is expected to just be a cup of coffee, but Gallo’s power is worthy of note even over the short-term in all fantasy formats. The 21-year-old may be the top pure power hitter in the Minors today. He has a third baseman’s arm, but is fringy at the corner long-term and may be best suited for a left field or first base (or DH) slot. At the plate, Gallo is having an improved second go around in Double-A with a .314/.425/.636 line with nine homers. The lefty reminds me quite a bit of Adam Dunn as a patient, all or nothing power hitter who should produce solid OBPs and be a constant 30+, if not 40 HR threat. Completing that Adam Dunn picture are the strikeout rates in excess of a third of the time. In other words, hitting .240 may be a good year and there could be some seasons where Mendoza line battles a la Chris Carter may also occur.

Injured Outfielder
In unfortunate news, David Dahl suffered a lacerated spleen and will miss the rest of the season. The 21-year-old Colorado Rockie outfielder appeared to just be getting things going when the fielding collision occurred. When healthy, Dahl is an intriguing centerfield prospect known for his speed and quick bat. He still has 20-20 potential but will now lose most of a year’s development time.

Seattle Sluggers
The Mariners entered 2015 with a lot of question marks at first base and hoped D.J. Peterson might cruise through Triple-A and perhaps answer those questions by becoming their first baseman by mid-season. Instead, Peterson has struggled to hit, producing a .211/.284/.298 line after hitting over 30 homers between two minor league levels in 2014. His plate discipline numbers have not radically altered from his previous efforts, so that at least provides some room for optimism that he is simply dealing with an extended slow start and hopefully is not dealing with any undisclosed injuries that are holding him back. Logan Morrison still has not run away with the Mariners first base job, so Peterson owners should continue to be patient given the potential for a big league opportunity.

Unfortunately, Peterson is not the only former first-round pick of the Mariners who is struggling. 2014 first-rounder Alex Jackson has been hampered by a shoulder injury, so one cannot get a true read on his skills. In his first full season of pro-ball, his power has yet to show up while his approach at the plate has not been as good, striking out close to 30% of the time while walking less than 6%. At 19, he has plenty of time to fulfill his promise as a patient, right-handed power hitter. But he’s walking a rather fine line given his skill set and limited speed and defensive tools.

Royal Pains
For those waiting on Sean Manaea to begin his season, keep waiting. The 23-year-old 2013 supplemental first-round pick has missed the entire season thus far thanks to a variety of strains and has now injured his oblique which should keep him out until late June. The good news is that none of these injuries are in any way career threatening. The bad news is that Manaea already has a history of being somewhat fragile and this only adds to that legacy. On the good side, the lefty posted a 10.8 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in his pro debut at A+ in 2014. While his command and mechanics can be inconsistent, he does have the stuff and makings of a middle of the rotation starter.

Hunter Dozier has not been able to crack .230 in two seasons now in Triple-A. The 2013 sixth overall pick originally impressed with his plate discipline, quick bat, glove and upper teens, if not better, power potential. Since his debut, it has been a descent. While he continues to be very patient, his ability to make contact has declined and it may be a sign that he is simply being too passive at the plate. With Mike Moustakas enjoying a breakthrough season, Dozier will really need to turn things around to force the issue to get playing time at another position.

Cub Power
The Cubs have seen the rise of Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant already in 2015, but they still have more in store for their fans. Catcher Kyle Schwarber was the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft. He rampaged through three levels after being drafted last year and has followed up strongly at Double-A with 12 homers and a .327/.454/.633 line. Within that stat line is a 20% walk rate and 21% strikeout rate. Schwarber’s glove continues to be a question mark and a move to the outfield would not be shocking. This is a .300 AVG, 25+ HR threat they’ll want in their lineup as early as this September, though more likely in 2016.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 June 2015 08:48
 
Prospect Pressure PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 26 May 2015 00:00

We are almost two months into the season and the pressure to produce is becoming more and more intense. Teams have already been making changes and promoting from within and it is a trend that is not going to stop. With that in mind, we will take a glance at some players who are putting some pressure on their MLB counterparts.

The Houston Astros are one of the first teams you should be looking at to find some players who could crack the MLB lineup. The club has already shown a willingness to promote with the two-level jump of pitcher Lance McCullers, so more moves of this nature may happen soon.

It is no secret that Carlos Correa is on the fast track and that the Astros combination of Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Villar has been treading water at best. Meanwhile, the former first overall pick hit .385 over 133 plate appearances in Double-A with seven home runs and 15 steals and has followed up strongly since being promoted to Triple-A. While he projects as having only average (teens) power long-term, the 20-year-old has extremely advanced plate discipline skills and plus speed, not to mention legitimate starting shortstop ability. Unfortunately, he is likely only still available in mixed leagues and perhaps some redraft AL-only leagues. Take the opportunity to grab him if you can, as a call-up before the trade deadline, if not before the All-Star break, is a very real possibility. He’s a potential impact player from both a real baseball and fantasy baseball perspective.

Another question the Astros have on offense is Chris Carter. No one ever expected this consistent 30%+ strikeout threat to hit much more than .220, but .170 may be trying their patience, especially with perennial prospect Jon Singleton crushing the ball. The former Phillie is still just 23 years old, the age when most prospects get their first taste of the Majors. Once again, the lefty is displaying 30+ HR potential with 14 homers, but he is also drawing walks at a high rate (15%) and has cut down on his strikeout rate to less than 80% of the time to produce an overall slash of .291/.399/.646. Both Singleton and Carter have similar power and they both know how to draw a walk. Singleton, however, does have a chance of actually making contact on occasion and producing an OBP desired closer to the top of the lineup. The time for him to get another chance may occur soon.

Speaking of knocking on the door to the Majors, we come to Buck Farmer. Farmer will actually get the call to the Tigers rotation this coming Thursday, taking the place of the injured Kyle Lobstein. Farmer is the Tigers top rated upper level pitching prospect. The 24-year-old is a former fifth-round pick and is currently sporting an 8.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 for Toledo. He throws fairly hard for a lefty, has a slider that generates plenty of swings and misses and a changeup that ranges anywhere from average to plus. The overall combination does not scream ace, but there is enough solid stuff and command here to consider him as a potential #3 or #4 starter long-term, worthy of note in AL-only formats.

For those, including myself, who thought Andrew Heaney was going to crack the opening day rotation for the Angels, don’t lose heart for his long-term success. Short-term, however, there just does not seem to be any openings. The former 9th overall pick really has nothing left to prove in the Minors and has produced an 8.7 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. He is a hard-throwing lefty like Farmer, only he has better command and consistent plus pitches across the board, making him a potential #2 starter candidate down the road. It may take a trade or injury in order for him to get his shot.

Ian Desmond should watch out. Trea Turner technically won’t be acquired by the Nationals until he is eligible (a drafted player cannot be traded until a year since being drafted has passed), but he is making headway to unseating the Nationals current shortstop. The 13th overall pick, Turner has now hit over .340 at two levels of play, showing plus speed and the selectivity to be a top of the lineup batter. Turner is not without power, hitting five homers in 170 plate appearances, and projects into the mid-teens in that department down the road. Desmond’s job is not likely in jeopardy this season, but Turner could easily get a late-season call-up and be a factor in the team’s 2016 opening day lineup.

Neither Brad Miller nor Chris Taylor have run away with the M’s starting shortstop job, even with the trade of Nick Franklin to reduce the competition. This season, a new player entered in the field in the form of Ketel Marte. The 21-year-old is making contact over 90% of the time and hitting .343/.393/.440 with 14 steals to boot. The soft-handed Marte is a switch-hitter with limited, single-digit HR power, but he's made great strides the last two seasons in terms of his selectivity. He may yet end up a utility player if he cannot translate his contact-making gains to the Majors, but the other M’s middle infielders should at least be on notice.

Back over in the NL, the Mets are not quite done pushing starting pitching talent through their system. Noah Syndergaard is now up at least temporarily with Dillon Gee and Rafael Montero on the shelf, but they also have Steven Matz lurking in wait. The 2009 second-round pick has spent a lot of time recovering from injuries, but he has spent three seasons showing he is indeed one of the team's upper end arms in their system. The lefty throws in the mid to upper nineties and generates plenty of strikeouts with his changeup and curveball, which he throws fairly consistently for strikes (3.2 BB/9). He projects as a possible #2 or #3 type starter. The club's biggest problem is keeping everyone healthy long enough so they can figure out how to use all this starting pitching depth to leverage them some hitting in trades.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 May 2015 08:40
 
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