These past several years, I have been covering prospects in the pre-season from an impact in the upcoming season perspective. This year, I am trying something new that instead of simply focusing on one position per article, I will instead be focusing on each organization and their minor league depth at each position while considering prospects from both a 2014 and from a more dynasty-league viewpoint. To get things started, I had my wife name a team at random and she selected the Seattle Mariners.
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.
The Mariners young catching situation is too interesting to ignore even if neither Mike Zunino nor Jesus Montero is a rookie. Both players have 20-plus HR potential. Both are right-handed. Zunino’s defense is far better rated than Montero’s. Zunino, however, has seen his strikeout rates rise significantly as he has climbed to the Majors. There’s a chance Zunino could end up a John Buck-like player or a platoon player. (Update 12/26: Montero has probably been regulated to a 1B/DH role). Jesus Sucre, 25, came over from the Braves in 2011. The right-hander is a very good contact hitter, but offers little else in the way of offense and is best utilized as a back-up.
While the Mariners would like Zunino to be their guy long-term, dynasty leaguers should also look at Tyler Marlette. The righty plays good enough defense to stay behind the plate, makes a fair amount of contact and has mid to high-teens HR potential. He’ll be playing A+ ball in 2014.
The Mariners have clogged up first base, bringing in Corey Hart and Logan Morrison to go along with incumbent Justin Smoak. So given that situation, the odds a rookie will see significant time at first in 2014 is unlikely. Still, Ji-Man Choi must be noted. The 22-year-old former catcher played at three minor league levels last season, displaying tremendous plate discipline – getting on base at high rates while making very consistent contact along with solid power (18 homers combined). Choi will spend most of 2014 in Triple-A, but if he can translate his Double-A plate discipline, there is some potential here as a fairly high-average hitter with low-twenties HR power.
Ten years to Cano means Nick Franklin (no longer a rookie) and others best find new organizations or positions. Franklin is likely trade bait. Ty Kelly, who came over from the Orioles last year, could see time in the Majors as a utility man. The lefty has no standout tools but has a very good plate approach. With the Mariners last year, he walked 20% of the time while making contact 84% and hit .320/.456/.406. Even though Kelly only has single digits HR/SB talents, he warrants a look as a back-up.
Should the call go out for a third baseman, journeyman Nate Tenbrink could get a shot. The 27-year-old has some modest pop and gets on base fairly well. He needed a .351 BABIP to hit .267, which suggests he'd likely be overmatched at the MLB level given an extended look. Patrick Kivlehan had a nice year in A+ ball, batting .320/.384/.530, but did so at age 23 and then struggled in the AFL. Kiviehan has some pop and decent speed and will begin 2014 in Double-A.
D.J. Peterson is more likely a 1B or outfielder long-term. The 22-year-old showed a good deal of power at two minor league levels after being selected in the first round of the 2013 draft. Peterson showed a selective approach in rookie ball and a quick, short-swing that allowed him to make consistent, hard contact. Peterson will likely begin 2014 in A-ball, but is likely to move quickly through the system and could be in the starting lineup in 2015. There’s .290, 20-plus HR or better potential here.
Brad Miller claimed the starting job last season and could hold it down for awhile. Former top prospect Carlos Triunfel is now seen more as a utility-man/Triple-A roster filler. That leaves Chris Taylor as Miller’s best long-term competition, provided Nick Franklin is indeed traded. Taylor, 23, could play in the Majors right now defensively and has shown some promise with the bat as well. Taylor draws walks at a high rate and has some modest gap power. The most exciting part of his game is speed. Taylor swiped 38 bases between two-levels in 2013 and will begin 2014 at either Double-A or Triple-A.
The Mariners projected starting outfield does not appear to be the toughest nut to crack, but unfortunately for the Mariners they have few, if any, upper-level outfield prospects. Julio Morban, 21, is the closest. Morban has a raw, aggressive plate approach but has 20-plus HR potential and is coming off a successful Double-A campaign in which he hit .295/.362/.468. I’m skeptical though of near 30% strikeout rates and not sure he’ll make it as a regular, but he’ll play in Triple-A this year and should see some time in the show. Stefen Romero’s poor defense got him shuffled to the outfield in Triple-A in 2013. A shame considering his low-teens HR pop profiled well for the position. He may see some time in the Majors, but lacks a standout skill or the on-base skills to make it as a regular.
To find potential, one has to dig to the lower Minors with Austin Wilson and Gabriel Guerrero. Wilson was a 2013 second round draft pick out of high school. He has five-tool potential and profiles best for right field. The 21-year-old is rather raw, but has shown some signs of improvement in both his power skills and his plate discipline skils. 2014 will be his first full season of professional ball, so his ETA is quite a few years off.
Guerrero, 20, played in A-ball as a 19-year-old and will advance to A+ ball in 2014. The righty is a project with plus-power potential and a still very aggressive approach. High-risk/high-reward.
Both Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are penciled in as rookies to start 2014 in the Mariners’ opening day rotation. Walker, 21, has multiple plus pitch potential and the ceiling of a top of the rotation starter. Walker still needs to prove he can throw strikes on a regular basis and to improve the command of his secondary pitches and his effectiveness against lefties, so he is not without risk. Paxton is a hard-throwing lefty with a plus curveball. Paxton took a step forward with his command in 2013, posting a 3.6 BB/9 at Triple-A and a 2.6 upon his promotion to the Majors. If Paxton can prove that the gains he made are no fluke and if he can improve his changeup to combat righties, he could develop into a middle of the rotation pitcher.
Danny Hultzen, who was widely expected to already be in the Mariners' rotation, will miss all of 2014 due to rotator cuff surgery. Were it Tommy John surgery, I’d recommend sticking with him, but given that he will not likely return until 2015 and the outcome is an unknown, there are probably better options available, particularly considering he’ll be pretty cheap in 2015.
Looking for dynasty picks in the lower levels, you’ll find Victor Sanchez – a pitch to contact, 18-year-old with plus command. He gets plenty of ground balls and profiles best as a fourth starter at the moment. Edwin Diaz is a skinny, projectable right-hander with a power fastball/curve combination. In rookie ball, he posted a 10.3 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 and is working to develop his changeup. He may have a career as starter or as a reliever.
Wrapping Up: From a 2014 perspective, your best targets are Walker and Paxton. Keep a close eye on the shortstop situation in case Brad Miller falters. For dynasty leaguers, your choice after Walker should be Peterson, who is likely to be a top selection in most AL-only keeper leaguers this spring. Ji-Man Choi is worth watching, but given the roadblocks, is more of a late-round keeper pick. I would probably avoid drafting all of the young Seattle outfielders for now. They’re simply too raw at the moment, regardless of their potential.
This coming Sunday, we will see our yearly influx of players, when teams will add extra arms to their roster and position players to their bench, most of whom will barely see action, particularly for those teams still in contention. On lesser rosters, however, there may be a select few who can help this season. Mostly though, this is an exercise and opportunity for keeper leaguers to perhaps take some chances to add to their treasure trove for 2014.
Steve Clevenger – C, Alex Liddi – 3B, Ryan Flaherty – UT, Jonathan Schoop – SS, Xavier Avery, Eric Thames, and Henry Urrutia – OF, Josh Stinson, Wei-Yin Chen, Zach Britton and Tsuyoshi Wada – SP, Steve Johnson and Michael Belfiore – RP, Jason Hammel could also return from the disabled list in September.
Wei-Yin Chen will return to the rotation on Sunday when rosters expand, but Hammel could potentially push him aside should Chen continue to struggle. For keeper leaguers, Jonathan Schoop is the standout keeper here, if available in AL-only leagues. The 21-year-old offers decent pop from the middle infield and has shown better ability in the lower minors to make contact and hit for average but has not done so in his first go around at Triple-A.
Boston Red Sox
Brandon Snyder -1B, Clay Buchholz – SP, Alex Wilson – RP, Ryan Lavarnway – C, Dan Butler – C, Brock Holt - INF, Jackie Bradley – OF, Alex Hassan – OF, Rubby De La Rosa – SP, Steve Wright – SP, Allen Webster SP, Bryan Villareal, Pedro Beato, Jose De La Torre, and Daniel Bard, RP.
Jackie Bradley has the tools and skills to possibly replace free agent to be Jacoby Ellsbury, but will play sparingly this September. Buchholz is scheduled to start the 10th of September and could be a significant boost to the Red Sox’s chances or just re-injure himself. Allen Webster was shellacked earlier this season, which makes him a nice stash and save candidate. The righty has a power arm and two to three plus pitches that could vault him into a rotation spot as early as next season.
Chicago White Sox
Not a lot of excitement here in terms of getting playing time or the prospect front. Charlie Leesman continues to be effective in Triple-A and could be a serviceable 5th starter given an opportunity. If an impact player does emerge amongst the club's September call-ups, it will be from lower in their minors to a non-40 man roster type who is unlikely to be ready to play at the MLB level.
Lou Marson – C, Ryan Raburn – OF, Corey Kluber – SP, Juan Diaz – SS, Tim Fedroff – OF, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, and T.J. House – SP, Preston Guilmet, Matt Langwell, Vinnie Pestano, Chen Lee, Blake Wood, Nick Hagadone,and Trey Haley – RP
Corey Kluber could push Danny Salazar back to the pen when he comes off the disabled list in early September. Trevor Bauer won’t likely be a factor and has fallen apart at Triple-A with declines in his strikeouts and an inability to find the strike zone, making it difficult to rate him as a top prospect any longer barring a complete turnaround. Vinnie Pestano has found his control but has an ERA above 4.00 in Triple-A. There is still a good chance he makes the opening day bullpen in 2014 and may once again challenge for save opportunities given his skills and talents.
Octavio Dotel is currently rehabbing and could be back soon. Bryan Holaday – C, Danny Worth – INF, Hernan Perez – INF, Nick Castellanos – OF, Evan Reed, Jose Alvarez – SP, Jose Ortega, Phil Coke, and Darin Downs – RP
The coup here would be if Nick Castellanos gets the call and a chance to play. The Tigers have resisted calling him up despite the fact that the righty would be an immediate upgrade over the Tigers' current left field platoon. The 21-year-old has broken out this season, showing improved power and much improved control of the strike zone. While Castellanos has not dominated Triple-A, a .274/.343/.441 line at that level for a player his age is very solid.
Carlos Perez - C, Jonathan Singleton - 1B, Brandon Laird – 3B, George Springer, Marc Krauss, Trevor Crowe, Jimmy Paredes – OF, David Martinez, Jorge De Leon, Jose Cisnero, Hector Ambriz, Rhiner Cruz, Wade LeBlanc – RP
Neither Jonathan Singleton nor George Springer are currently on the Astros' 40-man roster, but since both players could potentially have opening day jobs in 2014, it would be surprising to not see them get at least a taste of the Majors this year. Well, then again, maybe not. Singleton has struggled since his promotion to Triple-A, showing little power, an ability to draw walks but absolutely no ability to put the bat on the ball. At this rate, Singleton will spend half of 2014 at Triple-A to try and recover his game. Springer, 23, has cruised through two levels, hitting nearly a combined 40 homers and stealing over 40 bases while walking at a rather high rate. Like Singleton, the concern is for Springer’s strikeout rate. So far, he’s hit around .300 at each of his two stops this year, but given the history, it is hard to imagine Springer as a good hitter for average at the MLB level, but that’s forgivable when you have 40-40 potential.
Kansas City Royals
Brett Hayes - C, Carlos Pena - 1B, Irving Falu – 3B, Johnny Giavotella - 2B, Pedro Ciriaco – SS, Christian Colon- SS, Gorkys Hernandez, Brian Fletcher – OF, Wade Davis, Yordano Ventura, Chris Dwyer, Justin Marks, John Lamb – SP, Louis Coleman, Maikel Cleto, Donnie Joseph, Evertt Teaford and Francisley Bueno – RP
The Royals already recalled Danny Duffy prior to the deadline and have installed him back in the rotation, leaving few other available opportunities. Top prospect Yordano Ventura could still get a taste. The righty has pitched well at two minor league levels and struck out more than a batter per inning at each stop, though his control faded with his promotion to Triple-A. Still, Ventura does have middle to upper end of the rotation caliber stuff.
Los Angeles Angels
Howie Kendrick should return sometime in September, but his injury provides the Angels with an opportunity to see what they have in Grant Green. John Hester- C, Tommy Field – INF, Tommy Hanson – SP, Daniel Strange, Brandon Siske, and Nick Maronde – RP
Nick Maronde has an excellent arm and can miss bats but has shown himself to be more of a thrower at the higher levels of the Minors (6+ BB/9 in Double-A). If he can show the control he had in the lower minors, then there might be something worth following.
Joe Mauer, Josmil Pinto – C, Jeff Clement – 1B, Eduardo Escobar – SS, Aaron Hicks, Chris Parmelee, Darin Mastroianni - OF, Kyle Gibson, Vance Worley, Cole DeVries, B.J. Hermsen, Scott Diamond, and Pedro Hernandez – SP, Michael Tonkin – RP
Gibson and Hicks are the most interesting players in this group and will receive additional opportunities to earn full-time jobs. Hicks, however, has struggled even at Triple-A. Gibson, meanwhile, is closing in on age 26 and is moving from first round draft pick towards journeyman in a hurry. To his credit, Gibson has had success in the Minors. Do not expect a high-end strikeout pitcher at the MLB level. To succeed, Gibson’s command will have to transfer to the Majors. Mastroianni might be a nice play for cheap speed should the Twins opt to give him any playing time at all.
New York Yankees
Sadly, nothing to see here other than back-up players long-term or otherwise. There was some hope for Marshall, but the righty has regressed a great deal and is on the verge of losing his prospect status.
John Jaso, Derek Norris – C, Josh Reddick – OF, Jemile Weeks, Andy Parrino – SS, Michael Choice, Michael Taylor, Shane Peterson OF, Arnold Leon Tommy Milone, Andrew Werner – SP, Evan Scribner, Pat Neshek, Hideki Okajima, Pedro Gigueroa – RP
If John Jaso can come back from a concussion and Josh Reddick from a wrist injury, that would be the most helpful thing for the A’s down the stretch. Sonny Gray looks to possibly have locked down the fifth starter’s spot, leaving nowhere for Milone to fit except in long relief despite being absolutely dominant in two Triple-A starts. Michael Choice has a .300/.388/.442 line in Triple-A but will not unseat Coco Crisp at the moment, and if brought up, will spend most of his time on the bench, but could challenge for a starting spot next spring.
The Mariners have already made significant promotions this season and may have their middle infield set for years to come in Brad Miller/Nick Franklin. That does not leave much room for Stefan Romero. Taijuan Walker has been recalled in advance of the roster expansion to start Friday night. The righty’s control faded as he advanced through the Mariners system, but one cannot ignore a 10+ K/9 from a barely 21-year-old at Double-A and Triple-A. Walker projects as an upper end of the rotation starter and is worth a trial in keeper and non-keeper formats given a chance to possibly make a half dozen starts before the season ends.
Tampa Bay Rays
Luke Scott, Brandon Guyer and Matt Moore are all rehabbing and will be back in the Majors to give the Rays a boost. Chris Gimenez – C, Tim Beckham – SS, Delmon Young, Jason Bourgeois – OF, Brandon Gomes, Josh Lueke, Jeff Beliveau - RP
The Rays have been using their upper level prospects all season long with Wil Myers, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi currently on the roster. Odorizzi, however, is the most likely candidate to cede his rotation spot when Matt Moore returns next week.
Lance Berkman will return to see some platoon DH action and pinch-hitting. Alexi Ogando will indeed get another shot in the rotation after a rehab assignment, barring any setbacks. Robinson Chirinos – C, Chris McGuiness – 1B, Engel Beltre, Joey Butler – OF, Josh Lindblom – SP, Cory Burns, Wilmer Font, Justin Miller and Joseph Ortiz – RP
Cory Burns has saved 20 games in Triple-A while posting a 11.8 K/9 along with a 3.4 BB/9. He’s a journeyman who does not necessarily throw hard but keeps the ball on the ground, mixes his pitches and throws strikes. Burns deserves a shot even though he might not be all that fantasy noteworthy.
Toronto Blue Jays
Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Steve Delabar and Dustin McGowan are all expected to return this season. However, note that Melky Cabrera probably will not, meaning Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra could see significant playing time over the rest of the season. Andy LaRoche – 3B, Mike McCoy – 2B, Lance Zawadzki – SS, Thad Weber, Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Sean Nolin – SP, Brad Lincoln, Mickey Storey – RP
Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek are both working their way back from Tommy John surgery. Neither has pitched particularly well at Triple-A but both could still receive September call-ups and if healthy, could challenge for rotation spots in 2014.
This week we take an in-depth look at the offensive side of the ball in the Royals’ organization.
Salvador Perez is hitting .274, but it's an empty one when combined with a .306 OBP and .375 SLG. The righty is still making great contact, but isn’t doing much with it, and when looking at where he hits the ball, 2012 is looking like an anomaly with a 13% HR/FB rate. In other words, what looked to have been a long-term locked up position may be more open than we would have thought heading into 2013. However, there is not much in the system with no-hit types like Manny Pina and no-field types like Max Ramirez at Triple-A. Cameron Gallagher, 20, is the closest thing the Royals have to a prospect at the position. There’s some plate discipline and power potential here, but a .210/.290/.313 line at low-A ball does not scream domination. 2013 fourth-round pick Zane Evans has played well in rookie ball and has shown fair contact/power skills in his arsenal. It will be interesting to see what he can do at a higher level.
Many including myself were on the verge of writing Cheslor Cuthbert off coming off a rather pedestrian season as a 19-year-old in A+ ball. Wait a minute, a 19-year-old in A+ ball probably needs to be given more slack. Well, the Royals have and have even gone as far to promote the now 20-year-old to Double-A. Cuthbert made some interesting gains during his league repeat in the plate discipline and doubles-hitting departments, sporting a solid, though still unspectacular .280/.354/.418 line. Since then, however, Cuthbert has proven to be unsurprisingly overmatched at Double-A, giving back most of the gains he’d made earlier in the season. Cuthbert still has the defense to stay at third and has at times flashed fair to good plate discipline and developing power. The righty is very much a work in progress who does not deserve to be written off, but at the same time he's not a great chip for fantasy leaguers looking to add players for their stretch run, nor a high priority stash for dumping teams looking to maximize their minor league rosters. In other words, Cuthbert could easily be available for selection in your keeper league’s 2014 minor league draft.
Cuthbert, however, could be quickly eclipsed by 2013 first-round pick Hunter Dozier. The 8th overall pick, Dozier has already been shifted from his college position of shortstop to third base. The righty has torn into rookie-ball pitching, showing very advanced plate discipline and above average power, sporting a .293/.397/.505 and is the first college hitter for Royals fans and fantasy players to be legitimately excited about since they selected Alex Gordon. Expect Dozier to possibly jump to at least A+ ball to start 2014 and to be on the fast track.
Raul Mondesi could already be the Royals’ top offensive prospect. Formerly known as Adalberto, Mondesi has now taken his father’s name, and like his dad possesses five-tool potential, but with legitimate defensive talents to remain at shortstop. Also, like his father, Mondesi is an aggressive hitter with an unrefined plate approach, but that can be forgiven since we are talking about a player who turned 18 in the middle of full-season A-ball and is still managing a .272/.318/.388 line with seven homers and 20 steals. As with most raw, young players, Mondesi carries high risk potential, but the reward potential is too great to ignore, especially when contrasted with holding his own as a 17-year-old while facing college veterans.
Continuing our theme of raw young players who are several years away from helping the MLB club in Kansas City brings us to former first-round selection Bubba Starling. Starling was drafted for his five-tool, 30-30 potential. Again, as with Cuthbert, one hesitates to write off a 21-year-old playing in his first full season league of ball. The tools are clearly evident with 10 homers and 21 steals. To Starling’s credit, he’s even shown some surprising selectivity at the plate and has an OBP nearly 100 points higher than his batting average. However, that batting average rests at .235 and he strikes out nearly a quarter of the time. Right now, should he make the Majors, Starling is striking me as a Drew Stubbs/Chris Young/Mike Cameron/Colby Rasmus type and at worst a wrong-side of the platoon split player/Triple-A journeyman.
On the lower upside end of things, Brian Fletcher is someone who could receive a September call-up. Fletcher was recently promoted from Double-A, where he posted a .314/.353/.541 line. While continuing to show pop in Triple-A, Fletcher’s plate discipline and ability to hit in general have faded out, looking distinctly similar to his 2012 Double-A line. A righty, Fletcher is probably a platoon player at best long term.
Back to the slightly more exciting side of things, Jorge Bonifacio was moved up to Double-A around the same time Fletcher got his call-up to Triple-A. The 20-year-old Bonifacio posted a solid .296/.368/.408 line in A+ ball. The Royals now have both Bonifacio’s in their organization, having recently acquired Emilio to serve as bench depth. Unlike his older brother, Jorge’s game is not in the speed department but lies more in the power department. That power, however, has not been all that apparent (and quite possibly injury related) with just three homers and 22 overall extra-base hits. Bonifacio is unlikely to earn a September call-up and could/should start 2014 back in Double-A.
The Royals are an organization that is trying to build from within, and unfortunately those efforts have not gone as well as planned with the struggles of Mike Moustakas and the lack of consistent power output from Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer. No players are close to the Majors, but Dozier and Mondesi in particular offer some rays of hope.
As expected the July 31st trade deadline was a letdown with few trades being consummated. Still, that does not mean there weren’t prospects changing places impacted by the moves that were imade. Let’s recap!
In aw shucks news, both the Astros and Red Sox teased against the possible promotion of a potential impact player such as George Springer or Will Middlebrooks and Xander Boegarts (previously playing third but now switching back to shortstop though he will be seeing occasional action at third base). Instead, Jimmy Paredes will factor into the outfield situation while Brock Holt will platoon at 3B. This situation will change by September at latest. Both Paredes and Holt profile best as back-up/utility types long term.
Zeke Spruill was not directly involved in the Ian Kennedy trade, but was the main beneficiary minus the fact that the Diamondbacks opted to have him face the Texas Rangers in his MLB debut. The ugly result was 3 homers allowed and 5 earned runs in 4 innings. That damage should deflate his value, at least temporarily. The former Brave is a sinker-ball with modest control who does not miss many bats and in fact produced a 4.2 K/9 along with a 3.0 BB/9 in Triple-A. While he may yet develop into a back end of the rotation starter, this is not a high end skill that should be purchased at this time.
The Diamondbacks, as part of the spoils of the Kennedy deal, did include reliever Matt Stites. Stites throws mid to upper nineties fastballs with precision and has a breaking pitch that misses bats. The righty has passed the Double-A test, producing an 8.8 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 while saving 14 in 52 innings of work. A former 17th round pick, Stites best upside is probably as a setup man at the MLB level, but is worth noting as a potential dark horse closer candidate too.
The Braves sent Cory Rasmus to the Angels in exchange for LOOGY, Scott Downs. A former supplemental first round pick in 2006, Rasmus has had an injury plagued career that resulted in his move to the bullpen. The 25-year old has never been noted for his ability to throw strikes, but has shown signs of being able to compile strikeouts. This year, Rasmus has produced an 11.8 K/9 along with a 5.4 BB/9 as the Triple-A Gwinnett closer. There is some upside here, but most likely Rasmus ends up an organizational player.
The Norris Haul and More
The Astros received L.J. Hoes and Josh Hader in exchange for “ace” Bud Norris. Neither are particularly exciting players. Defensive limitations have pushed the speedy, high disciplined hitting Hoes to the outfield. While the righty has the potential to hit for average, he has little power making him ideally a centerfielder but disappointingly has never developed into a significant stolen base threat despite above average speed. More likely, Hoes ends up as a fourth outfielder or Quad-A player.
Josh Hader is a projectable, raw left-hander. He has two to three potential average or better pitches and has done a fair job of missing bats (8.4 K/9) despite the lack of refinement of any of his secondary offerings. Hader is a name to file away with a lot left to prove and at best MLB eta of late 2016, if not 2017. The Astros also received a 2014 1st round supplemental draft pick as part of this deal.
The Astros also landed Kyle Smith in exchange for a platoon player with health issues. So from the get go, this was a solid move. Like Hader, it will be a bit before Smith hits the Majors as he is twenty and in A+ ball. That said, whereas Hader is projectable and raw, Smith has greater established pitchability and more refined stuff/control. He’ll pitch in Double-A next year and could be factor at the middle to back end of the Astros’ rotation in 2016/2017 with an outside shot at 2015 should the Astros feel confident in pushing him.
Tiger Sox Three-Way
The Red Sox sought to bolster their rotation and did so with the aid of the Tigers who needed a fall back for the possible Jhonny Peralta suspension with Jose Iglesias (AKA Rey Ordonez) headed to Motown.
As for the prospects, Avisail Garcia was the clear target of the White Sox and should be manning a full time outfield slot in Chicago soon. Garcia has serious tools with 25-plus HR/teens SB potential and an arm fit for right field. That said, I’m not nearly 100 percent sold he makes it an everyday player. Garcia’s tools are ahead of his skills and the righty’s strikeout rates have increased over time while still maintaining an overly aggressive plate approach. That said, Jose Guillen had a solid career with a similar skill/talent set.
Though not acquired in the deal, Andre Rienzo is perhaps the biggest winner. The first Brazilian in the Majors took over Peavy’s rotation spot. The 25-year old throws reasonably hard, has improved his control, and has struck out a batter per inning in Triple-A this year.
Francellis Montas can hit triple digits but that doesn’t stop him from having a 5+ ERA in A-ball due mostly in part to unrefined secondary stuff. If he can get a pitch to spin, then he might have a nice career in relief. Until then, he’s a project.
Cleuluis Rondon is a glove guy and probably an organizational player while Jeffrey Wendelken profiles as a middle reliever at best. The fact that he has only 1 7.5 K/9 in low-ball suggests a low ceiling.
The A’s decision to move Grant Green after giving him a trial to claim their starting second base job in exchange for low-ceiling veteran Alberto Callaspo says something. Green’s bat and upper teens power profile best for second base, but it may be third where his opportunities lies with the Angels. At 25, he’s going to have to show something quick when the opportunities arises. For now, Chris Nelson has the 3B job and should not be a significant barrier for Green to get that opportunity soon.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen a number of prominent promotions to the Majors to starting-level jobs. Most notably, and far from surprising, Nick Franklin replaced Dustin Ackley in the Mariners' starting lineup.
With that, it's time to review some of the pre-season potential impact prospects, update their status and see if they will indeed be pushing for MLB playing time soon!
Sticking with the Mariners, Brad Miller was recently promoted to Triple-A in the wake of the Franklin promotion to the Majors. As I mentioned this spring, Miller is perhaps the best defensive shortstop among the M’s young middle infield prospects. In Double-A, it was Miller’s bat doing the talking as he continued to show a solid array of power/speed skills as well as on-base abilities with a .294/.379/.471 slash. Miller continues to project as a double- digit home run/stolen base player that could push Brendan Ryan for playing time later this season. The 23-year-old has five games of Triple-A experience, so the lefty isn’t exactly coming up tomorrow, but given the veterans in front of him, they won’t block him when the time does come.
The one player who could potentially delay Miller is Stefen Romero, A.K.A. Nick Franklin’s former and Brad Miller’s current double-play partner. The second baseman could potentially shift Franklin back to shortstop at some point this season, but while an OK prospect capable of double-digit home run power, he does not have Miller’s upside. Romero is very aggressive at the plate and over 137 plate appearances has not been able to translate his contact-making skills from Double-A to Triple-A, striking out more than a fifth of the time. Still, his experience could get him the nod ahead of Miller should the M’s decide to push Ryan to the bench.
While this slugger has not had much playing time yet and is currently playing at A-ball, all fantasy owners should take heed that Jonathan Singleton is back on the diamond. His 50-game suspension for marijuana use is now behind him and the 21-year-old already has two homers in two games. With both Carlos Pena and Chris Carter struggling at the MLB level, expect Singleton’s rise up the minor league ladder to be rapid, and it would not be surprising to see the former Philly in Triple-A well before the end of June.
On the struggling side of things, Rangers' third base prospect Mike Olt has only just come back from the disabled list after spending a month on the sidelines with vision issues. In 81 plate appearances, he had struck out nearly 40% of the time, but still managed to maintain his walk rate. This may be your last opportunity to buy in cheap. Given Mitch Moreland’s play and Adrian Beltre at third, Olt is not going to get a promotion anytime soon, so the righty will have plenty of time to get things back on track. Barring injuries to the Rangers' corner infielders, it is now hard to see Olt as much of a contributor to the 2013 Rangers.
Jacob Turner will be making his return to the Majors tonight against the Mets. The former top Tigers prospect is still just 22 years of age, but he has lost a lot of his early-career luster. The righty has failed to eclipse the 6.0 K/9 mark over any minor league stay of length since 2011. Turner’s control has been much better this season, but he’s otherwise struggled in Triple-A with an ERA approaching 4.50. I still have to wonder whether or not there is an unresolved shoulder issue affecting Turner’s performance. Turner is not recommended in any format at this time.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have recalled a former first round pick of their own in Michael Wacha. With so many injuries to their rotation, the move was necessary and not undeserved. Wacha’s main skills lie in his ability to throw strikes, an above average fastball/changeup/ and an average to plus curveball combo. Wacha has not been missing many bats in Triple-A and has been allowing quite a few fly balls, so he’ll need to have sharp command to keep the ball in the park. This could just be a cup of coffee for Wacha while the Cards wait for Westbrook to return, but over the long haul he could beat out Tyler Lyons for a rotation spot. For what it is worth, Lyons does have long-term rotation potential as well. The 25-year-old lefty may not throw hard, but he mixes an average four-pitch arsenal effectively and consistently throws strikes. The lefty profiles as a fifth starter/innings eater type who produces a low to mid 4’s ERA. Right now, however, he’s pitching a wee bit over his head, with a 91% left-on base rate and .132 BABIP over two starts. Expect a rough start or two in his future.
This week we conclude our look at the potential impact hitting prospects for 2013 with part two of our scan of National League outfielders.Miami Marlins
Obviously, the Marlins are amidst yet another team overhaul and these efforts will have impacts on their outfield. To start 2013, they will be utilizing stop-gap types like Juan Pierre, Justin Ruggiano, Austin Kearns, Bryan Petersen, and Gorkys Hernandez to man left and centerfield. Unfortunately for the Marlins, their prospects lack experience above Double-A and promotions may take half a season or more.
One option is Alfredo Silverio. The Marlins acquired the righty in the Rule-5 draft from the Dodgers. Silverio did not play a game in 2012 and is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, but when healthy is an aggressive, but good contact hitter with 15 to 20 home run potential and above average speed. That combination of talents gives Silverio a shot at being more than a platoon player. Keep in mind that Silverio will begin 2013 on the disabled list.
Another offseason acquisition was Jake Marisnick. The former Blue Jay earns praise for his tools, potential as a 20-20 or better threat, and defensive skills. However, the righty has yet to put everything together and is coming off a rather underwhelming Double-A performance. Marisnick has yet to really tap into his power potential with just 8 dingers (though 29 doubles and 10 triples). The 22-year-old makes decent contact for a righty and is not necessarily overly aggressive so much as he has holes in his swing that need refining. I suspect Marisnick will end up a teens home run hitter with 25 to 30 steal potential, playing solid defense in center, but he’ll have to perform well at Double-A, let alone Triple-A, to make it.
Christian Yelich is the best of a pretty good crop of Marlins’ outfield prospects. Yelich has experience only through A+ ball, but as a 20-year-old he hit .330/404/.519 and showed a very good eye. Yelich gives the Marlins yet another potential solid defensive centerfielder with 15 to 20 HR and 25+ stolen base potential. Of the three, given his youth and polish, Yelich is the most likely to succeed in becoming a MLB regular and possible star. Given the spring Yelich is having, he may be jumped to Triple-A and could be on the fast track.
At the moment, the Brewers outfield does not present many opportunities for rookies to get extended chances. Carlos Gomez is perhaps the most likely route for playing time as a sub-par OBP guy with a bat best suited to being the right-handed half of a platoon.
Logan Schafer is the most likely beneficiary and could open 2013 on the Brewers’ bench. A 26-year-old, Schafer has a good set of skills but nary an outstanding tool. A lefty, Schafer is typically a very disciplined contact hitter with high single digits to low-teens HR power and stolen base skills. There is platoon potential here, but most likely Schafer is a fourth outfielder.
Caleb Gindl, like Schafer, is a tweener in the tools department. The 5’9” lefty has some gap power and knows how to draw walks. Depending on who performs better, it is possible Gindl or Schafer could get a platoon nod with Gomez.
Khris Davis hit over .300 at three different minor league stops in 2012, including a .314/.414/.522 line in a small Triple-A sample. The righty has the most raw power of this trio (20+ HR potential) but is easily the worst defensively and will not push Ryan Braun out of left field. Davis does also posses interesting on-base skills and a quick bat. He could make it as a right-handed bat off the bench or platoon player.
New York Mets
Matt Den Dekker destroyed Double-A pitching, but his aggressiveness was quickly exposed at the Triple-A level. Den Dekker has some power/speed tools and is a very good centerfielder, but it is unlikely the 25-year-old will ever see much action as a starter unless his approach undergoes a major overhaul.
Rule-5 pick Ender Inciarte has a fair chance of making the Phillies opening day roster. Enciarte is a no-power, good speed, good defense type who seems to understand his limitations. The lefty is a good contact hitter who can work counts. Speedsters of this ilk, however, often have to make contact almost 95% of the time to be effective MLB starters. It will be interesting to see if MLB hurlers overpower this player. Emmanuel Burriss comes to mind as a recent comparable.
St. Louis Cardinals
Oscar Taveras is one of the best pure hitting prospects in the Minors today. He combines already great (23 HR as a 20-year-old) raw power, an ability to make contact, and an understanding of the strike zone that is phenomenal for someone so young. Taveras has decent speed but is probably not a significant base stealing threat long-term. Taveras’ values are in his ability to hit for average and power, which project to the .300+/30+ range. Should the Cardinals somehow fade from competition, Carlos Beltran could be dealt to a contender, paving the way for Taveras.
San Diego Padres
James Darnell is on the bubble. A 3B/OF, defense is not Darnell’s strong suit. However, the 26-year-old does possess 15 to 20 HR per season power and has a disciplined approach that could make him a .260 to .280 hitter in the Majors. At the very least, he could be an adequate bench player. Certainly someone to watch in case Chris Denorfia ends up on the DL again.
Like Darnell, Jaf Decker was coming back from injuries in 2012 and did not particularly impress during his comeback except in the plate discipline department. Decker is a smallish, stocky type with 20+ HR potential and profiles best as a corner outfielder. A Decker/Darnell platoon has the potential to be more productive offensively, though certainly a defensive downgrade, from the current Wll Venable/Denorfia platoon.
San Francisco Giants
Gary Brown was one of the hottest targets in 2012 after a 14 HR, 53 steal, .336 batting average campaign. 2012 saw the 24-year-old come back down to earth with 33 steals and a very modest .279/.347/.385 line. On the good side, Brown is still an elite runner and defender, but he became too aggressive at the plate, walking less and making less frequent contact. In other words, this is a bat that looks a lot more like a back end of the lineup hitter than a leadoff hitter.
Francisco Peguero spent time in the Majors in 2012. To get a better feel for his talents, one has to go back to 2010 when he was healthy and showed developing power and plus speed (40 steals). There is a lot to be excited about with Peguero, but the fact remains the 24-year- old is an ultra-aggressive hitter whose skills may not be able to catch up to his tools. Peguero could break out and be a starter or just as easily end up a minor league journeyman. The righty is too good not to keep on your radar, even if he flounders.
Eury Perez and Corey Brown both have chances at playing time. Brown is a journeyman with 20+ HR, 15+ steal tools and is willing to draw a walk, but he also owns fairly high career strikeout rates. Put him on the list of guys who I would love to see get an opportunity, at least as a platoon player.
Perez is an extremely fast runner who stole over 50 bases in 2012. Like Enciarte, Perez offers zilch in the pop department and is a very aggressive hitter who makes contact around 85% of the time. This may not translate very well to the Majors. Again, it will be a test to see if Perez’s bat is knocked out of his hands at the higher levels.
To Review: (Please note I’ve included last week’s outfielders in this chart)
Possible MLB Phase/Auction Selections:
Adam Eaton, Logan Schafer, Ender Inciarte, Alfredo Silverio
Possible Minor League Draft Phase Selections:
Oscar Taveras, Christian Yelich, Jake Marisnick, A.J. Pollock, Brett Jackson, Billy Hamilton, Gary Brown, Eury Perez, Francisco Peguero
Possible In-Season Pick-Ups:
Alfredo Marte, Todd Cunningham, Ryan LaMarre, Tim Wheeler, Corey Dickerson, Scott Van Slyke, Alex Castellanos, Blake Smith, Caleb Gindl, Khris Davis, Matt Den Dekker, Corey Brown, James Darnell, Jaff Decker
Next week we begin our look at pitching!
The 2013 season is looming, less than three weeks away, and with draft season starting to hit high gear it’s time we moved towards finishing up our look at potential impact prospect hitters for 2013 with a scan of the outfielders of the National League.
Adam Eaton is one of the most targeted prospects this spring. Through as recently as last season, the short lefty was viewed as a fourth outfielder type with good plate discipline and speed skills. Since then, Eaton has translated those skills well to the Majors and is now a .280s 30+ steal threat with middle to high single digits home run power.
To contrast Eaton, A.J. Pollock was thought of as the superior prospect, and the Diamondbacks' centerfielder of the future as recently as last season. A former first round pick, the lefty still has superior plate discipline skills, high single digits to low-teens homer potential, and 20 to 30 steal ability. Eaton, however, has moved ahead of him on the depth charts and Pollock may end up sitting in Triple-A or on the bench. With Cody Ross possibly missing the start of the season, Pollock could get some early season at-bats in the Majors.
Alfredo Marte will move up to Triple-A and has a chance of reaching the Majors in 2013, but has obstacles in front of him. Being a right-hander might help given that Ross is the only other right-handed outfielder. Marte has the most power of this trio (high-teens to low-twenties HR potential) and is a somewhat aggressive contact hitter with solid defensive skills. He profiles best as a right-handed platoon option.
The Braves have a very young outfield that is going to be quite tough to crack, barring injury, for years to come. So the only rookies we are likely to see are of the backup variety. Todd Cunningham will advance to Triple-A this year and profiles well as a backup, possessing above average speed, playing good defense, having some gap power and a solid, contact-oriented approach at the plate.
24-year-old Brett Jackson reached the Majors last season and only just retained his rookie status with 120 at-bats. The lefty has solid tools and 20-20 potential, and while he has shown good patience at the plate, he has a swing wrought with holes and a tendency to strike out more than a quarter, if not a third of the time. The Cubs will go with David DeJesus to start the season. If Jackson can improve his contact-making skills, the opportunity to push his way into a starting role is there, but that’s a big if.
The Reds enter 2013 with an outfield of Ryan Ludwick, Shin-Soo Choo and Jay Bruce with Chris Heisey waiting in the wings. Meanwhile, every NL-only or mixed leaguer is anxiously awaiting the arrival of Billy Hamilton, speedster extraordinaire. Hamiton stole over 150 bags in the minor leagues last year and is at least a 50-stolen base threat in the Majors. Hamilton, however, has amassed fewer than 200 Double-A plate appearances and could very well begin there to start the season, pushing his big league arrival towards the latter half of the season. The switch-hitter, however, has the talent to speed up that time frame. Hamilton has true leadoff potential as a patient hitter who knows how to bunt and keep the ball on the ground and use his legs. The only concern here are strikeout rates. As a player with minimal power, Hamilton needs to focus on making more contact and putting the ball in play. That will be the difference between being a .260 or .300 hitter.
Ryan LaMarre may actually get a crack at the Majors before Hamilton. A 24-yaer-old former second round pick, the lefty has a fairly good plate approach, good speed and plays good defense, but he only has gap power. LaMarre has no true standout skill or talent and is best suited to a bench role.
2012 was a major disappointment for Tim Wheeler after his 33 home run/21 steal campaign of 2011. A broken hamate bone robbed him of both time and his power. The 25-year-old will head back to Triple-A, hopefully fully healed. Long-term, the lefty still has .280/20+ HR potential, and while he is now a borderline fourth outfielder/quad-A player given his age, there is still a chance he could win a starting job once Cuddyer’s contract expires after 2014.
Corey Dickerson has a chance to move ahead of Wheeler on the depth charts. The 23-year-old will advance to Triple-A after hitting 22 homers between two minor league levels. While he does not have Wheeler's defensive skills or raw bat speed, Dickerson does have legitimate 20+ HR potential and has shown an aptitude for making fairly consistent contact. The lefty is a tad over-aggressive at the plate and that may limit his OBP skills long-term.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Opportunities exist for lefties in left field with a platoon of Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston Jr. scheduled to man the position while Carl Crawford recovers from injury. Alex Castellanos, Blake Smith and Scott Van Slyke may all receive chances, though none really project as starters. Castellanos has high-teens to low-twenties home run potential and a tad above average speed. A former infielder, Castellanos is viewed mostly as a utility guy given his defensive versatility. If forced to play more regularly, he profiles as a wrong-side of the platoon type player. Blake Smith is a lefty with 20+ HR potential and enough speed to handle center. However, he is a 25-year-old with only Double-A experience and is in need of a significant reduction in his strikeout rate. Finally, Scott Van Slyke, son of Andy Van Slyke, won’t remind anyone of his dad defensively. Like the other two, Van Slyke is an older prospect and is right-handed, but makes good contact and has a disciplined approach to go along with high teens to low-twenties home run potential. He’s coming off a .327/.404/.579 campaign in Triple-A and deserves another look. If Crawford returns healthy and effective, the odds of any of this trio getting significant playing time are minimal.
Possible MLB Phase/Auction Selections:
Possible Minor League Draft Phase Selections:
A.J. Pollock, Brett Jackson, Billy Hamilton
Possible In-Season Pick-Ups:
Alfredo Marte, Todd Cunningham, Ryan LaMarre, Tim Wheeler, Corey Dickerson, Scott Van Slyke, Alex Castellanos, Blake Smith
Next week, the remainder of the NL Outfielders.
There are 90 starting outfield jobs in the Majors, not to mention the potential to DH. Given the sheer number of variables, this week we change things up a bit by focusing just on the American League and breaking things down team by team to better understand the potential opportunities for rookies to obtain playing time. This week we finish up the AL outfielders.
The Tigers current corner outfield configuration is transient with Andy Dirks and Torii Hunter. Top prospect Nick Castellanos was moved to right field last year and speaks to why the Tigers were interested in Hunter on the free agent market. The nearly 21-year-old held his own but did not dominate Double-A pitching, but he is now showing power potential after hitting 10 homers and 42 doubles between two levels. Long-term he might be a 20+ per year HR hitter, but I’m skeptical given a rather aggressive approach and the fact that he's right-handed. I want to see more of what Castellanos did in A+ ball (9% walk rate, 83% contact rate) first before getting excited. Castellanos could start the year in Double-A, but could move quickly depending on Detroit’s mediocre outfield and his progress.
Avisail Garcia made it to the Majors at 21 years of age but will likely start 2013 in Triple-A. The righty is a very aggressive hitter who has made some strides in reducing his strikeout rate. He’s a big guy who projects to have 20+ per season home run power and perhaps teens stolen base potential. Both Garcia and Castellanos are high risk/high reward types with abundant tools. There is at least MLB regular potential in both players, but I would like to see what they can accomplish at Triple-A first, let alone the Majors.
The Astros have a wildcard of a starting outfield with Chris Carter, Justin Maxwell and Fernando Martinez all slated for starting slots. All three are high risk options that are more likely to fizzle than succeed. That means opportunities abound. While both Rick Ankiel and J.D. Martinez are likely to get shots too, it does also leave room for others. The Astros picked up Marc Krauss last year from the Diamondbacks. The lefty has definite platoon possibilities with his main two assests being above average patience and plate discipline and high-teens to low-twenties homer potential.
Robbie Grossman was another in-season acquisition as the Astros unloaded their veterans. Grossman continues a theme of highly disciplined hitters with limited upside. Grossman does not ooze tools and is more of a doubles hitter that profiles best as a fourth outfielder but who won’t embarrass himself if forced to start.
Given these lack of options, it is worth focusing on George Springer even though he has barely any Double-A experience. Springer is a possible impact player who can play centerfield and who possesses 25-25 potential. The righty has shown some selectivity at the plate but, like many players of his age and tools, needs to cut down on the strikeouts. Right now he reminds me a lot of former Diamondback Chris Young.
The Royals head into 2013 giving Lorenzo Cain a chance to stay healthy and clam the CF job and Jeff Francouer will be a free agent at the end of the season. So again, this is a team with potential openings. However, the most likely minor league candidate to benefit from those openings is David Lough and Brian Fletcher. Lough is a journeyman centerfielder with good speed, gap power, and an aggressive but contact-making approach. The lefty profiles better as an extra but he offers enough, especially 20+ stolen base potential, to keep him on your radar.
A combination of Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Peter Bourjos with Vernon Wells on the bench is not a situation that is likely to generate many opportunities for rookies. That said, the Angels do have a few candidates, though none exciting. Kole Calhoun is the best of the bunch. The 25-year-old has a low ceiling but modest teens power potential. He plays solid defense and has a good approach at the plate. The lefty will almost always be used as a back-up but has some platoon player potential. Travis Witherspoon is more athletic than Calhoun, possessing above average speed and outfield range. The righty has gap power and is somewhat selective but strikes out far too often for someone of limited power potential. Witherspoon will probably end up an organizational player.
Only Josh Willingham has a strong hold on his position in the Twins’ outfield. Chris Parmalee is being given another shot to prove he can be a regular while Darin Mastroianni is competing against prospects Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson for the starting centerfield job. Hicks, a former first round pick, is the Twins preferred option. A switch hitter, Hicks has a good combination of developing power, 30+ steal potential and the ability to draw a walk. The caveats are a complete lack of experience above Double-A and a tendency towards high strikeout rates that suppress his ability to hit for average.
Joe Benson, nearly 25, was once the Twins' centerfielder of the future, but he has had some performance and injury issues lately that have held him back. When healthy, the righty has 20-20 potential and, like Hicks, draws walks at a fairly high rate. However, Benson strikes out around a quarter or more of the time, which is a major caveat for right-handed hitters. He projects best as a right-hand side of a platoon or bench player.
Meanwhile, Oswaldo Arcia may not be competing for an opening day roster spot but could obtain one in the mid to late season. The righty will report back to Double-A or could move to Triple-A, especially if there is a need for more outfield depth should Hicks and/or Benson make the MLB squad. Arcia has the most power of this group, a quick bat, and a rather solid approach whereby he maintains a healthy OBP while holding down the strikeouts enough to hit for average and power. Last year, he hit over .300 with an OBP approaching .400 and a slugging percentage of over .500 at just 21 years of age.
The Yankees have already lost Curtis Granderson for at least the first month of the 2013 season and will likely have to utilize the likes of Juan Rivera, Matt Diaz and others to man left field while Brett Gardner holds down center with Ichiro Suzuki in right. The Yankees are not blessed with many upper level outfield prospects either. Zoilo Almonte is the closest thing. The switch-hitter performed well in Double-A, hitting 21 homers with 15 steals but is an aggressive hitter with mediocre OBP skills. Unless his lower minor league level skills reemerge, Almonte will be best suited for back-up work.
The A’s are going with an outfield of Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick with Chris Young waiting in the wings as a fourth outfielder. However, Crisp does have a substantial injury history and Reddick has only one year as a starter under his belt which includes a .305 OBP, so there are potential chinks in the armor here.
Top prospect Michael Choice is probably more of a mid to late season potential addition. A righty with a fairly patient approach and quick bat, Choice has legitimate 25+ home run per season potential. While Choice is not slow, he is not a double digits steal threat either. He strikes me as a .270s or better hitter long-term and it will be interesting to see how he comes back from a broken hand last season and whether or not his power rebounds to 2011 levels.
Michael Taylor is a journeyman outfielder with 15-15 talent and a solid approach at the plate, but he has been passed over several times for a promotion and an extended look at the MLB level. At 27 y ears of age, time is running out.
The Wil Myers countdown has already begun and it may not be long before the 22-year-old claims a full-time job. For now though, the Rays are utilizing an outfield of Joyce, Jennings and Zobrist with Luke Scott at DH. So when Myers does ascend, position changes and repercussions may be felt throughout the lineup. Myers has 30-plus home run power potential and a patient approach. The righty has hit for average at every minor league stop but has also posted some rather outstanding BABIPs (.350 or much higher) to do so. As a former catcher, however, Myers possesses below average speed. This combined with a sub-80% contact rate makes me a bit of a non-believer. A better comparison long-term may be Josh Willingham, who is a former right-handed hitting catcher with a similar approach and power skills. So do not be surprised if Myers ends up a .260s or .270s hitter long term.
Leonys Martin has an edge on the starting centerfield job for Texas. The Cuban defector has an interesting array of talents and skills, combining 15 HR and 20+ stolen base potential along with a generally contact-oriented approach. Things only come apart when the 25-year-old becomes too power conscious. Staying healthy and getting more plate appearances should help on both counts, though given his limited Triple-A experience over two years, a slow start would be far from surprising.
Possible MLB Phase/Auction Selections:
Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson, David Lough, Leonys Martin
Possible Minor League Draft Phase Selections:
Wil Myers, Oswaldo Arcia, George Springer, Avisail Garcia, Nick Castellanos L.J. Hoes, Jackie Bradley, Bryce Bentz, Trayce Thompson, Jared Mitchell, Marc Krauss
There are 90 starting outfield jobs in the Majors, not to mention possible designated hitters. Given the sheer number of variables, this week we change things up a bit by focusing just on the American League and breaking things down team by team to better understand the potential opportunities for rookies to obtain playing time.
Two-thirds of the Orioles' outfield is pretty ironclad with Nick Markakis and Adam Jones both locked into long-term contracts. There are, however, opportunities for youngsters with the platoon of Nate McLouth/Nolan Reimold in left and Wilson Betemit/Danny Valencia at DH. Xavier Avery and L.J. Hoes are the two most likely beneficiaries. Both players were up with the big club in 2012, but neither lost their rookie status. Avery has decent power/speed skills (mid-teens, 20+ steal potential), and knows how to get on base. However, he strikes out far too often for someone with limited power and figures to be a fourth outfielder or platoon player at best. Hoes has marginal pop but excellent plate discipline and 20+ stolen base potential. Almost 23, Hoes probably has a leg up on Avery and might show some ability to hit for average and get on base in the Majors, but he looks more like a bench player long-term.
The Red Sox may actually have some openings as the season progresses, particularly if they are not in the pennant chase. Jacoby Ellsbury is a pending free agent and Jonny Gomes is best suited to platoon/DH work. Alex Hassan has a stress fracture in his foot and may not start the season on time but is still worthy of note. The righty is a doubles hitter with low to mid-teens HR power. The nearly 25-year-old is best noted for his well above average plate discipline, showing an ability to draw walks and make consistent contact. He's a possible back-up or platoon player.
Juan Carlos Linares split 2012 almost evenly between Double and Triple-A ball, hitting eight homers at each stop. A 29-year-old Cuban defector, Linares is an aggressive, at peak hitter who lacks any standout offensive skills but could make the Majors due to his defense.
Bryce Brentz is a more intriguing option for the Red Sox. The 24-year-old has legitimate 20+ HR potential and may be just a half season away from the Majors. While the Sox may give him a chance to start, I feel similarly to him as I do Will Middlebrooks – a good athlete with good power, but an overly aggressive right-handed hitter. I would not expect him to hit for average or be much of an OBP threat at the MLB level.
Jackie Bradley is the one player of this group who is a likely long-term starter. The lefty does almost everything well and is the reason the Sox may let Ellsbury walk after the season. Bradley is an adept centerfielder with plenty of speed, a quick bat, low to middle-teens HR power potential and true leadoff hitter worthy plate discipline. It remains to be seen whether he’ll start 2013 in Double-A or Triple-A.
The White Sox have a potentially volatile outfield given the skills of Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro de Aza and Alex Rios, and the club has a number of upper system outfield options. Jared Mitchell may have already been in the Sox’s starting outfield if not for an ankle injury he suffered in 2010. The former first-round pick still has above average speed but is no longer a plus-plus runner and he was never going to be a significant power threat. He's more of a high single-digit to mid-teens home run hitter. The lefty has struck out over 30% of the time almost every year of his career, more due to being too passive than anything else, and now looks more like a back-up outfielder than a potential regular.
Trayce Thompson is perhaps the most likely player in this organization to crack the starting outfield, but it may not happen until September. The 21-year-old has barely any experience above A+ ball but has shown 20+ home run potential and some on-base skills. Particularly s a right-handed hitter, however, he’ll need to cut down on his high strikeout rate to be a threat in the batting average department. Right now he looks like a .250/20-20 guy.
Jordan Danks and Blake Tekotte are more MLB/2013 ready options. Danks, now 26, is a journeyman with moderate power/speed skills and reasonable on-base abilities. I like him as a back-up or platoon type. Tekotte, 25, had a miserable year in Triple-A and needs to reassert his plus-speed/defense skills. The lefty is normally a very patient hitter with low-teens pop and given that the White Sox gave a journeyman in De Aza a try in centerfield, they might not be afraid to try Tekotte should he rebound or in the event De Aza falters. Tekotte is worth keeping an eye on as a potential source for cheap speed.
The Indians are not blessed with a lot of upper level outfield depth, but then again they do not really need it with an outfield that has pushed Nick Swisher to first base (Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs) and made Rule-5 pick Chris McGuiness go from possible starter to possible Rule-5 returnee. The Triple-A squad is loaded with veterans like Matt Carson, Ben Francisco, Jeremy Hermida and Cedric Hunter, so the opportunities for rookies to play may be minimal. Tim Fedroff is perhaps the most likely rookie to see action. The former 7th round pick is an organizational or back-up player at best. On the good side, he’s a lefty with solid defensive skills and very solid plate discipline skills that allow him to hit for average and get on base. However, Fedroff is a low single-digits home run hitter at best and a single digits stolen base type, so the odds of a starting gig are rather low.
Possible MLB Phase/Auction Selections:
Possible Minor League Draft Phase Selections:
L.J. Hoes, Jackie Bradley, Bryce Bentz, Trayce Thompson, Jared Mitchell
Possible In-Season Pick-Ups:
Xavier Avery, Alex Hassan, Juan Carlos Linares, Jordan Danks, Blake Tekotte, Tim Fedroff
Once again we continue our look at the Impact Prospects for 2013! This week; a detailed look at the field of shortstops.
Jurickson Profar is widely considered one of, if not the best hitting prospect in all of baseball as of this moment. As a 19-year-old (and he does not turn 20 for another 4 days), Profar hit 15 home runs and stole 16 bases while displaying the plate discipline of a skilled veteran with a 12% walk rate and 14% strikeout rate. I failed to mention that defensively, Profar should be able to stick at shortstop long-term too. The Rangers are well-stocked in the middle infield with Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler, so even though Profar may actually be given a shot at earning a slot on the opening day roster, the Rangers have zero reason to rush him and the most likely outcome has Profar beginning 2013 in Triple-A and possibly spending substantial time there barring injuries at the MLB level. Profar looks like a .300 hitter in waiting given good power and speed skills and may have a few 20-20 seasons in him too.
The Marlins acquired the defensively skillful Adeiny Hechavarria in the Jose Reyes mega-blockbuster deal and plan to install him as their starting shortstop immediately. His glove should keep him there for the time being, but it remains to be seen whether his bat is capable of keeping him a starter. The righty is not without tools and has enough speed, if his technique improves, to reach double digits in steals, and has doubles power with high single-digits home run potential. The righty is pretty aggressive at the plate and makes only fair contact. I sense he ends up a .260s to .270s hitter and like many shortstops, more valuable for real baseball purposes than fantasy ones.
Hak-Ju Lee was at the top of most AL-only leaguers prospect lists in 2012. Instead, the former Cub never made it past Double-A while showing little skill development. On the good side, Lee is an above average runner with 30+ SB potential and is a well above average defender. On the downside, Lee’s once lauded plate discipline has not held up at Double-A, with Lee making contact less often and failing to hit for average or get on base with the frequency expected of him. The Rays have Yunel Escobar in as a stop gap, so Lee will have plenty of time to work on his game at Triple-A and may not join the Rays until late in the season.
The Red Sox have gone the stop gap route as well by signing Stephen Drew to a one-year contract with Jose Iglesias and Xander Bogaerts waiting in the wings. Jose Iglesias is Rey Ordonez. The righty is tremendous in the field, but is otherwise a groundball hitting, weak contact hitter with average wheels and will probably struggle to hit .250 in the Majors.
Enter Xander Bogaerts. As a 19-year-old, Bogaerts has already made it to Double-A and tapped into his power with 20 home runs between two levels. At this point, the youngster gets favorable reviews for his defense at shortstop, despite his size (6’3”) and he will stay there for now. Bogaerts combines power and a fairly advanced approached for someone his age, but strikes out a bit too often for a righty. I currently see Bogaerts as a .280 to .290s hitter with 25+ HR potential. If he can stay at shortstop long-term, he’ll be something truly special. How soon he is in the Majors will depend on Stephen Drew and whether Bogaerts continues to tear apart minor league pitching at his current pace. Right now, I see him as more of a September call-up, though that could easily be accelerated given what is blocking his path.
The Mariners are another team stocked with shortstops and the only stop gap in this situation is Brendan Ryan. Nick Franklin is likely an average at best defensive shortstop and may end up at second base long-term. While the nearly 22-year-old needs a few more months in Triple-A, the switch hitter has shown double-digits power and stolen base potential as well as a rather disciplined approach that should allow him to hit .280 or better in the Majors. Not a star, but could be a starter for a long time. Brad Miller, 23, has no Triple-A experience but is the better defensive shortstop range and glove-wise of the two, but he is prone to more throwing errors. The lefty is a rather refined hitter with good on-base skills and double-digits HR and stolen base potential. I have a hard time deciding which of the two will have the better career, which one the Mariners will keep at short and who will be moved to second base. My money is on Miller at short and I suspect that should Dustin Ackley fail to produce again, this could be the double-play combination by late this season and heading into 2014.
Jonathan Villar has excellent tools with double-digits power potential, 30+ stolen base potential, and the range and arm to stick at shortstop. However, Villar is rather error prone in the field and despite walking 9% of the time in 2012, the switch-hitter is actually a rather aggressive hitter who strikes out too often given his modest power potential. The Astros will start with Tyler Greene as their everyday shortstop, so there may be an opportunity for Villar to emerge before Carlos Correa charges through their system. Villar may have difficulty hitting .240 in the Majors but should provide some speed and pop and perhaps more if he can tone his aggressiveness down a bit.
Possible MLB Phase/Auction Selections:
Adeiny Hechavarria, Jurickson Profar
Possible Minor League Draft Phase Selections:
Xander Bogaerts, Nick Franklin, Hak-Ju Lee, Brad Miller, Jonathan Villar
For more information about some of the players listed above who I didn’t explain in detail, feel free to comment below.
Once again we continue our look at the Impact Prospects for 2013! This week; a detailed look at the third base crop.
The Rockies opted for a patient approach with top prospect Nolan Arenado in 2012 and it turned out being a wise decision. The 21-year- old did not dominate at Double-A Tulsa as expected but held his own, hitting .285 with 12 homers. Arenado has a fairly aggressive, contact-oriented approach that may be more suited to line-drives and hitting for average than for power in the long run. He’ll advance to Triple-A and could unseat Chris Nelson at third base by mid-season, but keep your expectations modest, particularly in the power department.
Last season, I was fairly high on Seattle’s Vinnie Catricala. The 24-year-old displayed a nice combination of 20+ home run potential and plate discipline, but suffered through an unexpectedly poor season that saw him post a .229/.292/.348 line. The power and approach appeared to be still intact, but a .262 BABIP, as opposed to his overly inflated well over .300 BABIP of the year before, suppressed his skills. One has to wonder if he was playing through an injury. A complete rebound season, given no significant change of skill or tools occurred in 2012, is quite possible. Finding a spot to play in the Seattle lineup may be the greater obstacle.
Wilmer Flores has been amongst the Mets’ top prospects since 2008. In Flores’ 5th season of professional play, the righty was still young, at 20 years of age, to be playing at Double-A. Flores turned 21 back in August and had his best campaign to date with 18 homers while making contact nearly 90% of the time at two levels. Right now, he profiles fairly well as an high-teens to low-twenties home run hitter who may be able to hit .290 or better. However, he won’t be playing third with David Wright around and is ill-suited to second, though given that the Mets are playing Daniel Murphy there already, it is not that much of a stretch to give Flores a try there too.
Mike Olt performed so well in Double-A Frisco that the Rangers needed to find a way to get him into the lineup in 2012. The 24-year-old is a good defensive third baseman with legitimate 25+ home run per season power. A righty, Olt has a "swing hard in case you hit it" approach that results in plenty of strikeouts and as a result will hamper his ability to hit for average in the long run, though if he manages to hit .260, his OBP will more than make up for it. Olt won’t unseat Adrian Beltre at third base but could compete against or platoon with Mitch Moreland by mid-season.
Zach Lutz is somewhere between organizational player and possible platoon player. The righty has had trouble staying healthy over the course of his minor league career and is perhaps best suited to first base. When healthy, he shows legitimate 20+ home run potential combined with a patient approach. While third base is his standard position, the Mets will audition him in left field this spring and it’s possible at some point in the year he could end up in a platoon with Lucas Duda.
The Phillies brought Michael Young in as a stop-gap measure for Cody Asche. Asche, 22, will begin 2013 in Triple-A. The lefty is an adequate defensive third sacker mainly noted for his bat speed and mid-teens to 20-home run per season power. The former fourth round pick’s plate discipline gets mixed reviews, as he’s an intelligent hitter but tends to be quite aggressive and his contact-making skills were not as strong upon moving up to Double-A. Asche won’t be a star but has some potential to be a regular. Asche’s ascension depends on the Phillies competitiveness and of course the performances of both Young and Asche.
Luis Jimenez is wasted behind Alberto Callaspo. The just turned 25-year-old has translated his skills to each level of new competition, showing mid to high teens homer potential and solid contact making skills, a combination that allows him to hit for a high average. Jimenez, however, is too aggressive. Even if he hits .290 to .300 at the MLB level, his sub 5% walk rates will result in mediocre OBPs, though still possibly more effective than Callaspo. Jimenez could easily end up an organizational player but if the stars align right, he could end up an effective regular too.
Former first round pick Josh Vitters finally started to produce in the Minors and actually received an 109 at-bat stint with the Cubs in 2012. The righty flashed more power (19 total homers on the season), but his very aggressive approach backfired in the Majors, creating a major uptick in strikeouts and had him hitting just .121. Ian Stewart will man third base to start the season but there is an opportunity, provided Vitters rebounds in Triple-A, for a possible platoon situation.
Conor Gillaspie is another former first round pick but has a better chance of making his club. I have long compared Gillaspie to former Giant, Bill Mueller. Like Mueller, Gillaspie is a highly disciplined hitter who makes good contact, can hit for average, and has gap power and low to mid-teens home run potential. Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval, however, block him positionally, so a utility role will be his lot.
As a note, I did consider several other players for this article. Nick Castellanos was moved to the outfield in the middle of last year and will be found in those pieces when they are posted. Jed Gyorko was covered in the second base impact prospects for 2013.
Possible MLB Phase/Auction Selections:
Mike Olt, Conor Gillaspie
Possible Minor League Draft Phase Selections:
Nolan Arenado, Wilmer Flores, Cody Asche
Possible In-Season Pick-Ups:
Zach Lutz, Vinnie Catricala, Luis Jimenez, Josh Vitters