By Tyler Maun/MiLB.com
It’s understandably hard to believe that former top Rangers prospect Jurickson Profar made his Major League debut all the way back in Sept. 2012 or that he’s seen action in 94 big league games already. Coming into 2016, Profar had played in just 12 Minor League games and 20 Arizona Fall League contests over the last two years due to shoulder instability that robbed him of the 2014 season and surgery to repair a torn labrum that cost him all but a handful of games last year.
With all that, maybe the hardest thing to comprehend is that he’s still just 23 years old.
The former top overall prospect in baseball may have fallen off many radar screens, but he’s experiencing a resurgence with Triple-A Round Rock to kick off the 2016 season. Profar extended his hitting streak to nine games with a 3-for-6 performance Monday night that included his first home run of the season. More importantly, the shortstop is healthy and has committed just one error this season while getting good reviews with his defensive work.
“I never really got to play with him before he was injured. He was always a lot of levels ahead of me. When I first got drafted, I think I was in low-A when he was making his debut in the big leagues, so I never actually played with him. With the injuries, we’ve gotten to catch up now, but he’s a great player.
“From what I’ve seen, I don’t think before he could’ve been any better than he is right now. He looks fantastic at short. His arm looks good. He’s swinging the bat. He’s starting to find his power again. I was kind of talking to him about it today. He’s starting to find his swing again. He’s starting to find a groove. It takes a while after two years, but for me, I’m extremely happy to have that guy with me, playing right next to me and on the same team. It’s awesome.”
By Danny Wild / MiLB.com
He might be a little before their time, but Prince’s sudden death sent Minor Leaguers to Twitter on Thursday:
Of course, there’s also
Padres Royals Rockies slugger Cody Decker, who for some reason once (or probably more than once, who are we kidding) dressed up as Prince. I don’t even think this was Halloween:
The Rays should be a little concerned about right-hander Kyle McKenzie. Another shower incident could land him on the DL:
What’s going on here?
Where the heck was Chattanooga’s Dalton Hicks eating? Plywood benches?
NASCAR’s Joey Logano suited up for Charlotte on Wednesday:
Check out Indians No. 2 prospect Clint Frazier breaking his bat over his knee:
We saw Cody Decker above as Prince. But that was only part of his week — the infielder was traded from the Royals to the Rockies for cash on April 20 and of course tweeted the process. First, he thanked the Royals and Triple-A Omaha:
Then he showed off his chest hair and purple attire in celebration of joining Colorado:
And then he periscoped himself drawing on his cleats:
Top notch clubhouse chairs in the Minors:
Jimmy John’s offered $1 sandwiches from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Thursday, and of course I went in an attempt to secure lunch for me and MiLB.com’s Kelsie Heneghan. Instead, I found a line wrapped down around the block. No good. It seems Minor Leaguers met a similar reality:
Was there a fire in Fort Myers?
How much food did Orioles prospect David Hess order?
Joey Pankake may sound like he’s made for breakfast-timed games, but apparently not so:
Injured righty Logan Bawcom planted some flowers on Thursday:
The verdict on this napping head brace? Not cool, says Dodgers right-hander Seth Frankoff:
Astros top prospect Alex Bregman eats steak with a very large knife:
Royals No. 3 prospect Ashe Russell thinks his tweets are worth $300K. OK then.
Showing off the leather:
The Isotopes know about carpooling:
Chipotle Tweets of the Week
You know what never fails? Unless it gets you deathly ill from E. coli? Chipotle.
And wow, really good news for Blue Jays right-hander and former Buffalo Bisons ace Marcus Stroman, who scored a lifetime of free burritos from Chipotle. How awesome is that, you ask? #ExtraGuac says it all:
By Danny Wild / MiLB.com
Minor Leaguers sent their social media farewells to Kobe Bryant on Wednesday when the Lakers legend played his final game:
Well, not all Minor Legauers:
But, mostly, they cared:
Are fake roadblocks any more or less obstructive than real roadblocks?
Royals No. 5 prospect Nolan Watson now has internet, in case you were curious:
Brett Favre Tweet of the Week
Brett Favre tweeting about a Southern League game? You’ve officially made the blog:
Rookie Davis is no longer a crawfish rookie. Or maybe he still is, if this was just one time?
Babe Ruth Reference of the Week
Someone mailed Brewers Minor Leaguer Trey Supak a package of Somersaults crunchy sunflower seed bites in two flavors, in case you’re wondering:
Jackie Robinson Day
Braves top prospect Dansby Swanson was one of many players who showed some appreciation on Jackie Robinson Day on Friday:
Hey, how about Shia Labeouf, huh?
Just going to leave this here:
Braves prospect Matt Marksberry needs a barber:
Austin Gomber is bait:
Chipotle Tweet of the Week
Padres third base prospect Ty France makes a bold claim: he can eat Chipotle for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the rest of his life. First, the tweet:
Let’s crunch some numbers on that — the average life expectancy for an American male is about 78 years, and he’s 21, so let’s say he has (not to be morbid) about 57 more years left. Three Chipotle meals a day over one year is 1,095 burritos, bowls or taco orders, multiplied by 57 years is … 62,415 Chipotle dishes. And nothing else. Assuming nonstop Chipotle wouldn’t affect his life expectancy either.
The Astros released Austin Chrismon a couple weeks ago, and he’s apparently banking on Chipotle coupons to get him through to his next job:
By Danny Wild / MiLB.com
Opening Day has arrived, which means Minor Leaguers are back on the Minor League diet. No, there’s more than just Chipotle — there’s PB&J and Waffle House!
Forget fast food, how about an Opening Day snowman? Remember this when it’s 98 and humid in July:
Half of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos’ roster got stuck inside an elevator for 45 minutes on Thursday:
Here’s some dancing Grizzlies, enjoy:
For top Astros prospect Alex Bregman, more shoes = fewer doctor visits:
Rockies prospect Josh Fuentes lent his car to teammates and they proceeded to get a flat tire:
Dodgers prospect Jack Murphy, taking a shot at futbol, warns his next HBP may be his last:
Sometimes pitchers aren’t angry with home plate umps:
Country music legend Merle Haggard died on Wednesday, prompting some reactions from the Minors:
Jeremy Barfield isn’t actually in the Minors anymore — it looks like he’s landed in indy ball at the moment — but this tweet is still pretty funny, and we still like him:
This is actually a tweet about sacrifice bunts:
First bus trip of the year!
More championship rings, these from Bowie:
Chipotle Tweet of the Week
By Danny Wild / MiLB.com
Indians lefty Sean Brady shows it’s Starbucks, not Chipotle, that gets him through the spring:
Same for Rookie Davis:
But coffee keeps you awake, and Giants right-hander Jake Smith says that’s the opposite of what you want:
Former Angels and Cubs prospect Trevor Gretzky was released by Los Angeles on March 23 and, to my knowledge, has not signed with another team, so … hopefully, this isn’t the end of the road for one of my favorite Minor Leaguers. He’s been a little quiet on Twitter lately, but he did post this gem of a photo on Instagram last week when the Gretzky family ordered the other pride of Canada, Justin Bieber, as a birthday present for one of the younger kiddies:
The Adelaide Bite, a team in the Australian Baseball League that often features Minor Leaguers in their offseason, tossed out this April Fool’s tweet, but I can’t imagine many fans bought it:
Good luck, Trevor! Come back to us!
Rays No. 9 prospect Jacob Faria shows off his Florida State League championship ring:
And Pirates prospect Brandon Waddell took a shot of his New York-Penn League ring:
Now you’re wondering what a Pioneer League championship ring looks like, right? Here ( you’re welcome):
Tigers prospect Ben Verlander homered off his brother and former Cy Young Award winner:
Speaking of Ben, he’s a little tired of dealing with slow Florida drivers:
Brewers No. 23 prospect Yadiel Rivera is pumped:
Ever wondered who has the weakest thumbs in Minor League Baseball?
Yankees prospect Cale Coshow enjoyed “the best BBQ in Tampa”
Royals prospect Nolan Watson would like these $600 sneakers, if perhaps you want to spend your tax refund on something:
Veteran Minor Leaguer Jeremy Barfield is still unsigned as Opening Day approaches, but come on, we have to include this tweet:
Brewers outfielder and 2014 second-round Draft pick Monte Harrison “tour” his butt cheek and he’ll never forget it. I guess you don’t forget stuff like that:
But he’s done touring and he’s OK:
Mets Triple-A starter Seth Lugo caught a nice bass from his kayak:
Dodgers prospect Walker Buehler needs a gaming partner:
Pirates prospect Trevor Williams stands up to manatee body shaming:
Blake Schmit was released by the Twins this week and thanked the club anyway:
Things are just not going well for Eric Skoglund. I hear you, buddy:
Reds No. 12 prospect Rookie Davis can’t understand why you don’t love all animals, including mosquitoes, snakes, goblin sharks and those horrendously gigantic fuzzy bumble bees that follow you around no matter what:
Twins prospect Todd Van Steensel, profiled this week on MiLB.com, makes a point:
He also told the clowns at Instagram not to change their photo feed. Incidentally, our Q&A with Todd was written by Kelsie Heneghan, who hates clowns:
Yankees prospect Ian Clarkin enjoying the Tampa nightlife:
Chipotle Tweets of the Week
Well, we’ve got good news and bad news this week. Bad news first — Chipotle ran out of everything #joke
But here’s the good news: Giants prospect Matt Pare has a few gift cards for delicious, free burritos:
Not only that, he scored even more seven days later:
By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com
Notably absent from MiLB.com’s Indians Prospect Primer is discussion of perhaps the Tribe’s most exciting prospect story of the spring, because it’s about a player graduating from the Minor League domain, becoming no longer a prospect but rather a rookie.
Tyler Naquin entered big league camp as a hopeful for an Opening Day roster spot, and anybody who follows baseball has seen a much larger number of “hopefuls” start the year at Triple-A than in The Show.
Naquin, though, whose all-out play in the outfield have led to accolades and occasionally injuries over four Minor League seasons, will be suited up at Progressive Field when Cleveland hosts Boston on Monday.
MiLB.com checked in with the 24-year-old Texas A&M product in Goodyear, Arizona, while he was in the midst of the remarkable Cactus League campaign that earned him the big league opportunity.
On his attitude in camp:
“I’m just trying to slow everything down, take it day-by-day and have a lot of fun. -– just work, hard play hard. That’s kind of my mentality, to play as hard as I can and don’t forget to have a lot of fun.”
On what part of his game he’s focused on:
“All of it. The game of baseball, you’ve got to be a fundamentally sound player just all the way around. Anytime, if I’m doing a drill, my mind is there. I’m a guy who likes to have a good time in between reps or drills or stuff, but whenever I need those few seconds, batting practice or taking fly balls or balls in the sun, that’s my focus at that moment.”
On priding himself on his defense:
“Absolutely. I feel like I’ve got the best job in the world. All I’ve got to do is go catch balls and go hit and stuff like that, so I try to take a lot of pride in it. Just being in the outfield, just being ready—I think that’s the main thing, talking between pitches, or whatever you want to do, but be sure you’re in that ready position before that pitch is thrown.”
On how his body feels:
“Better than I ever have. It’s a part of playing hard—you’re going to get banged up. Getting hit in the hand with a fastball is something I can’t control, and then getting a concussion, you can’t control that. Playing hard, it’s going to happen—playing smart but still playing hard every time.”
On what players he’s learned from in Spring Training clubhouses:
“This is my third camp. I’ve been around [Jason] Giambi and [Nick] Swisher. Those guys are awesome. [Michael] Bourn. I’d probably say mostly [Michael] Brantley. I’m pretty close with him. He’s an awesome dude. Adam Moore. He’s spent some time in The Show. That dude’s awesome. I’m real close to him. Some of these new guys that came in, [Collin] Cowgill, [Shane] Robinson they’re awesome. [Lonnie] Chisenhall. I could go up and down. This clubhouse, there’s some really good guys in here that work hard., extremely hard, and it shows.”
By Tyler Maun/MiLB.com
In last season’s “Year of the Prospect,” the Cubs arguably led the way. With the graduation of sluggers such as Kyle Schwarber and National League Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant as well as infielder Addison Russell, the fruits of Chicago’s rebuilding process were finally evident to long-starved Cubs fans. For those outside the Windy City, that departure of top-flight talent would seem to leave the Cubs system in a rebuilding state. That isn’t exactly the case. MiLB.com’s Sam Dykstra still pegged the Cubs as a top-half farm system in the big leagues, and Chicago’s upper echelon talent is considerable.
On one of the final days of intrasquad work at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona earlier this month, I sat down with Cubs director of player development Jaron Madison who was happy to discuss a lot more with me than could fit in our Cubs Prospect Primer.
Madison on the Cubs’ next talented group:
“I think that’s always been the plan, to have that next wave ready, and that’s really what our focus is. We’re spoiled a little bit when you have a Schwarber and a Bryant rush through the system. Addison goes up there, he was supposed to stay up there for no more than a week, and he ended up spending the rest of the season doing a really good job playing short. We had all these guys that got up to the big leagues, and it drastically changes the look of the Minor League system. But we still have the Willson Contrerases and the [Jeimer] Candelarios who are breaking out and Gleyber Torres and all those guys that are right behind. We do have quite a bit of talent still coming. Now it’s just a matter of really focusing on developing those other guys at more of a normal pace rather than that pace where Kris and Schwarber were up there in one year.”
On Chicago’s pitching prospects being underestimated:
“I think our position players have definitely overshadowed (our pitchers) just because we have had those guys who’ve really rushed through the system and impacted the big league team, but we do have quite a bit of talent on the mound. A lot of the guys are a little bit younger, so maybe that’s why we haven’t heard as much about them. But our (Class A) South Bend rotation is going to be really impressive by the end of the year, and then you look at the guys with the [Duane] Underwoods and the Pierce Johnsons and [Rob] Zastryznys and all those guys. We have guys in the system.”
On players getting into a routine after being sent down from big league camp:
“I think that’s big. It’s great for those guys to get the experience of going to big league camp and working with the big league staff and learning from those guys, and I know Pierce and Duane and Ryan Williams have done a really good job of soaking up all that information. Now it’s time. When you come down to Minor League camp, it’s time to get to work, get prepared for the season, take all the things you learned in big league camp and over the offseason, and let’s start to put it in place so you can compete and be prepared to grind it out throughout the whole season.”
On Chicago’s 2015 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Ryan Williams:
“His ability to throw strikes, mix pitches and stick with a plan [made him successful]. Pitch with a plan. It got to the point where we had to be creative with adding extra innings for him because he was so efficient with his innings and his pitches. There were times where we’d go into a game [saying], ‘Hey, you have 100 pitches,’ and we’re planning six innings, but he’s going into the eighth inning. We’re getting to the point where we’re like, ‘Man, this guy is so efficient that we might have to find some other way to regulate how we look at his innings and his workload.’ I want to say in all of his starts, there were maybe three times that he got to his pitches [limit] because he was so efficient and got so deep into every game.”
On Williams getting to work with big league catcher Miguel Montero during Montero’s rehab appearance with Double-A Tennessee last summer:
“Our catchers in the Minor League system, we have a lot of guys who are converted guys, who are still learning how to catch and how to be leaders behind the plate, so when you get someone like Miguel [Montero] who’s caught in the big leagues and who’s done it, it just takes everything to a different level. It allows Ryan just to pitch and not have to try to overthink anything. That was really good for him, and I think that was a good learning experience. It was also good for our young catchers to spend time. Willson Contreras got a chance to spend time with Miguel last year which I think was huge for him, just understanding all of the behind-the-scenes things that go into being a catcher and a leader on the staff.”
On having middle infield depth throughout the organization:
“It’s actually really good. And you’ve seen, Joe [Maddon] is not afraid to challenge guys and put them into different positions. The more versatile our players are, the better, and we make sure as we go through our player plan meetings and explain to them what the expectation is for the year, we also work on and talk about what their secondary position will be because we challenge every position player in the Minor League system to play more than one position throughout the year. Do early work in the outfield if you’re a first baseman or third baseman just so you know how to do it, so when you get to the big league level, you’ve done it before. As good as Gleyber is at shortstop, we’re going to have him play some games at second, just so, if he ever gets to the big leagues and has to go there, he understands. They’re not learning completely from scratch how to play the outfield or second base when they get to the big league level. Being versatile just makes you so much more valuable, especially with a guy like Joe who’s not afraid to move you around.”
On right-handed starting pitcher Jen-Ho Tseng:
“I think it goes again to knowing himself as a pitcher and knowing what it takes for him to compete and how he’s going to be successful and being comfortable with that. Not feeling like, ‘Hey, I’m here with Underwood, so I need to try to throw harder,’ or ‘I need to try to strike out everybody.’ He had success in the WBC with older guys, so he had a little bit more maturity, but he also has a better understanding of who he is as a pitcher and what it takes to get guys out — move the ball around and not just try to throw the ball and overpower guys. I think that’s really been a separator for him, just his self-awareness and his ability to evaluate where he is and where he needs to go.”
On outfielder Billy McKinney:
“I think Billy might even admit when he first came over, he was trying to figure out where he fit in the whole system. He comes over to a system that I think was ranked the best in baseball at the time, and [he was] trying to figure out where he stacked up with the Addisons and the Schwarbers and the Bryants. But he is a very special guy. He has the ability to put the ball in play consistently. He made some great plays in the outfield the other day at the big league game. He’s starting to take form and understand where he fits in the system. He is an important part of our future, and a guy who’s left-handed can play all over the outfield and hit for power and hit for average. That’s a special makeup of a player. He has all of those abilities. Now it’s just about him staying healthy. He’s almost like Pierce where he’s been banged up a little bit. He’s had some shoulder things that have gone on and some hamstring things. He had the knee at the end of last year, so I think this will be a big year to make sure he stays healthy on the field and is able to put up the numbers that he’s capable of.”
By Tyler Maun/MiLB.com
The discussion surrounding the Angels system has been of its comparative weakness compared to most other systems in the game. Earlier in the month, I took a look at how the Halos are more confident in what they’ve got than most prognosticators are. On a busy day at his Tempe office, Anaheim’s director of Minor League operations, Mike LaCassa, made some time to talk about some standouts in his system for our Angels Prospect Primer and explored more than just the handful of prospects we covered there.
“Both of them have had really nice springs. They were both in big league camp. Chad is down now, and he had a heck of an impression on the Major League staff. He is the kind of guy who we could see impacting a Major League roster in so many ways based on how he’s a good defender in center field. He’s a good baserunner. He does everything right fundamentally, very versatile. He’s the kind of guy on your roster who could come in in any of those situations and get a bunt down. Meanwhile, his offensive development has been very consistent and impressive. He’s got a good idea of the strike zone. He gets on base at a very high rate, and he also hits the balls in the gaps. He made a impression on our big league staff this spring.
“Kaleb’s track to getting to the big leagues last year was a little bit different. He started off the year back a level in Inland [Empire] and finished from there, went to Triple-A, had by far the best offensive season of his career. He was our Minor League Player of the Year. He finished the year getting some big league time, and right now, Kaleb’s in camp competing up there, playing a little bit of a few different positions to give him more versatility and more of an opportunity to crack that Major League roster. He’s in a good place right now as well.”
On the Angels’ emphasis on improved nutrition and sleep habits for their prospects
“Without getting into the specifics of our internal beliefs, I think you can take reps in the cage all day long. Well why would you do that and ignore your actual strength of physical development which is something a lot of people do. But why would you take care of your body physically and not mentally? There’s so many ways. The way that I explain it to the players is: in every one of these areas of your development, if you could do something right that gives you an extra one percent chance, why wouldn’t you eat properly? Why wouldn’t you take care of your body and your health in all these ways to make yourself as physically and mentally strong as possible. It goes for every single one of us to achieve our max potential. For them, why would we ignore these other areas of their development and take just 100 swings a day as being the only goal to achieving their potential?”
On his working relationship with former big leaguer Mike Gallego, now the Angels’ director of baseball development
“We’re working really well off of each other, allowing each of our strengths to make an impact. I guess if I were to answer the question in one way, it would be open-mindedness. It’s when I have an idea or he has an idea or an A-ball coach has an idea — share the idea and understand that there’s value in it. We can have competing ideas, discussions, debates, but having open-mindedness will allow all of us to learn. I think that his background is the complete opposite of mine, but together we’re addressing the player development system with all sorts of new ideas when we’re able to bounce them off of each other as well as the voices from everyone in the system.”
By Tyler Maun/MiLB.com
Yes, the Giants know what year it is. Every other season since the beginning of the decade has ended with San Francisco players celebrating a world title. The seasons in between, like 2015, have ended without postseason play in the Bay Area. With another underwhelming season behind them, the Giants are ready to restock and make another run in the National League West. Earlier this month, I had an extended conversation with San Francisco director of player development Shane Turner in his Scottsdale office, and he had much more to say beyond just what was included in our Giants Prospect Primer. (more…)
By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com
Picked out of Vanderbilt 24th overall in last summer’s Draft, Walker Buehler’s first nine months as a pro have been quiet. The 21-year-old righty underwent Tommy John surgery last summer and has yet to throw a pitch in a Minor League game, and he likely won’t this year either. He hopes to get back to business in the fall instructional league.
Earlier in March, MiLB.com caught up with Buehler on the backfields of Camelback Ranch in Glendale, where he was building up strength and taking in the experience of a professional Spring Training.
On his routine:
“It’s a gradual process obviously. I still can’t do a lot of the drills or do certain things, but it’s cool to be around a lot of guys. I have some friends out here in Arizona as well, not just here, so … it’s fun. It’s what you kind of dream of, your first Spring Training. It can be [frustrating to not be a fully active participant], but you kind of know that going in. Things are going to be a little weird for you for a while, but being here obviously gets me excited for next year, ready to go.”
On the spring workload:
“It’s more right now not doing things because you’re in rehab, not throwing in PFP [pitchers’ fielding practice] yet and stuff like that. I lift a little bit more than maybe a guy would be going through Spring Training and I do my shoulder stuff a little bit differently, but not too much differently. Maybe a little more soft tissue-type work just because of there being a new ligament in there.”
On a sense of progress:
“The past week or two, I’ve let a few balls go here and there and have been able to kind of test it in a way. It’s definitely not like it was when I was 12, but it’s definitely like it was during the year.”
On wanting to be in games:
“I’m sure I’ll feel ready for game action long before I’ll get into an actual game. I think that’s kind of how the rehab process goes, but the goal is still to pitch in instructional league and be ready to go.
“Once I get back, it’s kind of one of those “build the basics back up” [deals]. Try and establish the fastball and command it and kind of work off it, and the other stuff will come. It’s going to take time to spin the ball the way I used to or to throw changeups. But I think it’s all part of the process and getting back to the simple things may help.”
On his relationship with top White Sox prospect and former Vanderbilt teammate Carson Fulmer:
“He’s kind of hung out a couple times at my apartment out here. He’s one of my closest friends, and he’s a great dude.
“With Fulms, it was very beneficial for both of us to have each other [in college]. I think we kind of pushed each other. We played catch some, but I couldn’t really keep up with his long toss. We were really close. We lived on the same floor two years in a row, so it was cool.”