Results tagged ‘ George Springer ’
By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com
This offseason, Josh Jackson is looking at some of the top prospects who prepared for professional ball by spending time in a collegiate wood bat league, considering how those summers got them ready for the Draft and future success in the Minors.
Maybe more than any other fans in baseball, Red Sox rooters have a lot of reasons to be excited about the 2014 season. With many key components of its ’13 World Championship team returning, Boston also has a farm system that’s widely considered among the top five in the game (MLB.com says it’s No. 2). There’s some overlap, of course, with Xander Bogaerts, the team’s No. 1 prospect, having earned his ring with a big league postseason.
Brandon Workman, who was ranked 13th among Red Sox prospects entering last season, serves as another link between the organization’s bright present and bright future (as likely will Jackie Bradley Jr., previously discussed in this space). Before he’d appeared in the big leagues, Workman’s name was often mentioned in conjunction with that of Anthony Ranaudo.
Both Workman and Ranaudo were drafted in 2010, and they’ve since, at one point or another, been parts of the same pitching staffs at Class A Greenville, Double-A Portland and for just a few days at Triple-A Pawtucket.
What many Sox fans may not realize, though, is Workman goes back even further with another Red Sox pitching prospect, one who’s among Boston’s nine prospects on MLB.com’s Top 100 list. As it happens, Workman and Matt Barnes (No. 86) were rotation mates on the 2009 Wareham Gatemen squad in the Cape Cod League.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Gatemen finished fifth in the 10-team heap, with a 3.31 team ERA (the Cape League tilts toward pitchers) and put up a 19-19 record. Even more surprisingly, Barnes and Workman were both below average on that staff.
Barnes had just finished his freshman season at the University of Connecticut. (He was joined on the Wareham squad by Huskies teammate and current Astros prospect George Springer, whose Cape stint was discussed here). The right-hander went 1-3 with a 4.78 ERA, making four starts and five relief appearances over 26 1/3 innings. He did whiff an impressive 33 batters in that span.
Workman, who went to the University of Texas, started the Cape Cod League All-Star Game at Fenway Park that summer — he struck out two of the three batters he faced in a perfect inning — but his numbers for the campaign aren’t great. He was 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA over five appearances, three of which were starts.
The story doesn’t end there, though. Barnes returned to the Cape briefly the next summer, and he was much sharper until he left the Gatemen to join the USA Baseball collegiate team. He made three starts, including a complete game, and struck out 20 while posting a 2.17 ERA.
On June 26, he went head-to-head with none other than Ranaudo, who at the time was a Louisiana State junior twirling for the Brewster Whitecaps.
Barnes struck out a whopping 14 Whitecaps over seven innings of work, giving up one run on a walk and four hits, but improbably, he was outdueled.
Ranaudo permitted just one hit and one walk over 6 2/3 shutout frames. He struck out eight and came away with the win.
He had something to prove during his time on the Cape, as he was recovering from an elbow injury sustained during the college season. Although before the injury he’d seemed destined to be a top 20 Draft pick that year, Boston grabbed him 39th overall. He showed he was healthy by going 3-0 over five starts for Brewster, maintaining a perfect ERA and striking out 31 and walking eight over 29 2/3 innings. Just before the deadline, he agreed with the Red Sox to a signing bonus reportedly worth $2.55 million.
By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com
The Minor League season has come and gone, and sadly, that means Notable Quotables will be heading into hibernation until the games start up against next spring. We’ll still have plenty of regular content, both here on the blog and over at MiLB.com, but to celebrate the end of the 2013 season and the temporary end of this column, we’re going to bring you a “Best Of” from this summer featuring each of MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects.
Below, you’ll find prospects 21-30 (also see: 31-40, 41-50, 51-60, 61-70, 71-80, 81-90, 91-100). And over the coming weeks, we’ll bring you more thoughts and reflections from and about the best prospects in the game.
A quick note: Though we managed to feature just about every Top 100 prospect this season, there are a few who evaded our eyes/tape recorders for one reason or another. In that case, rather than leave you hanging, we’re going to drop in one fun fact or statistical quirk of note that hopefully reveals a little something about the player.
“It’s absolutely something I’ve paid attention to. … Obviously I walked quite a few guys last year. It’s something the Blue Jays and I wanted to work on this year, and by doing better at it, hopefully it shows I’m taking the things I need to work on seriously.
“Last year was really just a foundation year for me. … It was about learning to pitch every fifth day and getting used to doing that for six or seven months. Now that I’m moved on from that, I’m working on building off that and trying to take things to the next level.”
22. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs
Almora on having to miss the start of the season with a broken hand:
“It was super-frustrating. It was actually the first game of Spring Training. … For it to happen like that and to have to miss the beginning of the season, it was tough for me.
“To be honest, I worked my butt off. I worked all morning and whatever I could do baseball-wise, I did it. I just didn’t stop. They told me not to rush it, and that was the best advice that anyone’s ever given me. But you still, as a baseball player, you want to get out there as soon as possible to help your team hard. It was super-hard to control my emotions.”
23. George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
Springer on adjusting to Double-A after struggling at the level in 2012:
“You have to understand who you are as a player, understand how other teams will attack and play you. … You have to know the strike zone as a hitter and know what it is you’re trying to do. All that has to be made up before you step into the box.
“You focus in on getting a good pitch to hit, and that helps you slow the game down. It’s just one of those things where, with experience, things will slow down. You go out and attempt to slow it down by just slowing it down, strange as that sounds.”
“I got some good work down in Arizona. Now I’m just trying to do what I was doing before, so it was nice to be able to do that, nice to be back competing in Tacoma. … I’m feeling good. It’s good not to worry about how my arm feels, just get back to pitching. I want to make sure I finish strong, do my best to prevent any other injury.
“I think any time you miss time, it’s hard and it’s difficult to watch every day, not being able to be out there. I was taught a lesson, never to take for granted what we’re doing.”
“The grind is a little bit different than college. … In pro ball, you’re basically playing a game every day. In college, you’ll have two, three, maybe four days off during the week. I’m still getting acclimated to the throwing program.
“In college, we have the grind of the academics that you don’t have in pro ball. Going to class every day, doing your homework, study sessions, tutoring — you don’t have that. It can really wear on you. It’s more of a mental wear than a physical wear. That’s the biggest thing that I’ve been getting accustomed to is playing every day, but it’s become second nature.”
26. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
Daytona manager Dave Keller on Soler’s progress learning English:
“What ends up happening with foreign players over here is that as soon as they start learning the language, they find out the American players, the English-speaking players, they can’t wait to communicate with them. We take communication for granted sometimes. We have all different kinds of crazy things in the world now, technology that we use to communicate, and we often communicate worse. With all the texting and email and everything else, sometimes it just boils back down to talking and using the same language.
“He’s learning English, and the American players are helping him. Everybody understands you can’t be embarrassed to say something that doesn’t sound like it should. That’s something a lot of Latin players go through. From his standpoint, he’s still learning, and that’s helped him open up as a person.
“He’s getting there. I know during Spring Training a month-and-a-half ago, he had no idea when I’d start talking to him. … During Spring Training, he didn’t understand much English, so I tried to talk to him slow in English. He knows I speak Spanish. All the Latin kids know I’m bilingual, so it’s easy for them to speak Spanish with me when they want, but that doesn’t help them. I tried to talk slow, and that’s how you learn. Sometimes, he’ll say, ‘Oh, oh, too fast.’
“He’s warming up to the whole atmosphere well. It’s really nice to see.”
27. Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees
Tampa manager Luis Sojo on Sanchez’s plate approach:
“When he’s on, his best weapon is to go the opposite way, left-center. He’s so strong, and he knows how to hit. When he’s good, he hits the opposite way. That’s something that’s really going to work down the road. Good hitters do that. Every time you see a good hitter, they can hit the other way. For his young age, he’s very good.”
“It’s definitely baseball, it’s a humbling sport. … You gotta be able to take the goods with the bads, stay as consistent as you possibly can. Get back to the basics, do what has helped you be successful and stick with that. Sometimes you get out of rhythm, out of sync. Maybe you’re doing too much thinking, but once you get back to doing what you do, everything else will start flowing into place.”
29. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Bowling Green manager Jared Sandberg after Guerrieri’s injury led to Tommy John surgery
“He threw the pitch, and you could see him grimace right after. … We all went out there, and there was no real debate as to whether to keep him out there. We took him out, and we’ll get him re-evaluated when we get home.
“He didn’t fight it at all or anything like that. I wasn’t a pitcher, but any time you feel something in your elbow, it’s a concern. This guy’s a fighter and a fierce competitor, but he trusts the organization and the doctors, so we’ll see where we go from here.”
“I think it always takes a little bit when you go to a new place, to settle in and fall into that routine. You sort of get that going after you’ve been there a little bit, and it’s been a good adjustment here. … It’s a little different at first, but everybody in this organization has been great. It’s a lot of fun and I’m glad to be here.”
By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com
This offseason Josh Jackson looks at some of the top prospects who prepared for professional ball by spending time in a collegiate wood bat league, considering how those summers got them ready for the Draft and future success in the Minors.
Before Astros No. 3 prospect George Springer was getting paid to flirt with a 40-40 season, he was showing off his tools for free over parts of two summers in the country’s best known and most prestigious collegiate wood bat league.
In June of 2009, Springer had just finished his freshman year at UConn, where he was the Big East Rookie of the Year. At 19, he was still young for the Cape Cod League, which is often seen as a showcase for sophomores and juniors bound for the Major League Draft.
Nonetheless, he more than held his own as a member of the Wareham Gatemen. Springer, a native of New Britain, hit .261 with a .342 OBP and was fourth in the league with 25 RBIs over 40 games. He had 12 stolen bases and three homers. If those numbers seem unimpressive, keep in mind that the Cape League tilts toward pitchers (current Yankees prospect Kyle Roller led the circuit with 10 long balls in 2009), as most of the batters are hitting with wooden bats for the first time, and in a 44-game season, short slumps affect numbers quite a bit. Springer’s campaign earned him the Silva Bigelow Award as the Gateman’s top position player. He was also the selected for the Year-End All-Star Team.
The next year, with another year at UConn under his belt, Springer was came back for 16 games with Wareham before joining USA Baseball’s collegiate team in the World University tournament. In his brief return to the Cape, he matched his previous summer’s home run total and batted .288 with a .449 OBP and seven RBIs. Keith Law named him the top Draft prospect to play in the league in 2010 and wrote, “He’s an above-average runner who can throw and play center or right field, and his power potential will profile anywhere.”
The Astros grabbed Springer with the 11th overall pick the next year, and he played in eight New York-Penn League games that season. He was only 5-for-28 in his debut season as a pro, but among those five hits he had three doubles and a homer. In 2012, his first full pro campaign, he played like what he was: somebody who’d already proven he can hit top pitching with wood.
He batted .302 with 24 homers between Class A Advanced Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi.
By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com
It’s time to hold us accountable. Perhaps that’s a term we should be hearing in Washington right now. Instead, I’m talking about us here at MiLB.com. Before the season, we gave you our lists of 10 Prospects to Watch in each full-season league based on our projections for what was the then-to-come campaign.
Then, 2013 happened.
Admittedly, some of these we were right on, although we can only take some of the credit for that. Many of the game’s top prospects went above and beyond our expectations with fantastic performances at the plate or on the mound. And then, as tends to happen, some others went the other way and underperformed against our expectations. Them’s the breaks, as they say.
Here I’ll break down players that fit each description from our preseason Prospects to Watch lists.
Biggest Hit: Wil Myers, Durham/Tampa Bay – I’ll admit I wasn’t putting myself on any ledges by putting Myers as the top player to watch in the IL, although I will add Billy Hamilton could have gone there instead after his record-setting 2012 on the basepaths. Myers had his ups-and-downs in his first season in the Rays farm system, but a stellar June pushed him to finish with a .286/.356/.520 slash line with 14 homers and 57 RBIs over 64 games before he got his first call-up in the middle of the month. He never looked back, posting a slash of .293/.354/.478 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs in 88 games for the AL Wild Card-winning Rays. The 22-year-old right fielder should compete with Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias for the AL Rookie of the Year award.
Biggest Miss: Trevor Bauer, Columbus/Cleveland – Like Myers, Bauer found himself in a new organization and a new Triple-A circuit at the start of the year. After being traded from the D-backs to the Indians last offseason, the 22-year-old right-hander had a chance to crack the Tribe’s rotation out of Spring Training before he was optioned to Columbus. (It should be noted, however, his first start of the year was with Cleveland as he filled in for Scott Kazmir.) He struggled with command in both the IL (5.41 BB/9 in 22 starts) and the Majors (8.47 BB/9 in four starts). His ERA and FIP (4.15/5.08 in Triple-A, 5.29/7.05 in the Majors) predictably suffered as a result. Given his age and potential, there’s still reason to believe he’ll be a serviceable starter in the Majors. It might just take a little longer than previously imagined.
Hit: Taijuan Walker, Jackson/Tacoma/Seattle – After spending his age-19 season with Double-A Jackson in 2012, it was obvious that Walker would be moving up to Tacoma at some point this season, and he did just that in late June. The 6-foot-4 right-hander posted a 2.46 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 10.29 K/9 for Jackson before being promoted to the PCL, where he was almost equally impressive given his age with 3.61/1.41/10.05 numbers. The Mariners liked what they saw enough to give him a Major League shot starting in late August, and Walker rewarded that faith with a trio of solid performances. He could very well be in line to rejoin the M’s rotation come next spring.
Miss: Mike Olt, Frisco/Round Rock/Iowa – There were reasons to be high on Olt entering this season. His 28 homers in 2012, his .398 OBP. A move to the hitter-friendly PCL. Instead, the third baseman struggled mightily out of the gate with a .139 average and just one homer in 72 at-bats spanning 20 April contests. He missed time due to eye issues and, although his numbers did improve, they still didn’t jump off the page. Olt was traded to the Cubs in the deal that sent Matt Garza to Texas. He finished his year with Triple-A Iowa, where he batted .168 with three homers and eight RBIs in 131 at-bats and 39 games. All in all, it was a lost season for the third baseman.
Hit: Anthony Rendon, Harrisburg/Syracuse/Washington – Xander Bogaerts and Jameson Taillon, both top prospects in their respective organizations, would be quality choices here, but if you were watching Rendon, like my colleague Danny Wild told you to, then you’d know the rocket-like season he had. The 23-year-old put up a slash of .319/.461/.603 in 33 games for Harrisburg before moving up to Syracuse in June. He stayed there all of three games before getting the big call to Washington. He spent time at second, third and even some shortstop for the Nats and slashed .265/.329/.396 with 23 doubles, seven homers and 35 RBIs in 98 contests.
Miss: Dylan Bundy, N/A – This isn’t a knock against Bundy, nor is it one against our list. When our Prospects to Watch article was put together, Bundy was experiencing “mild elbow stiffness” and was believed to be returning early in the season. Then, he underwent Tommy John surgery in late June and there went his season. Again, this isn’t a black mark. He just wasn’t a Prospect to Watch because you literally couldn’t watch him pitch in 2013.
Hit: Yasiel Puig, Chattanooga/Los Angeles (NL) – As if I was going to put anyone else here. “The Wild Horse,” as named by Dodgers broadcasting legend Vin Scully, torched the Southern League with a .313 average, .982 OPS, eight homers and 37 RBIs for Chattanooga before getting called up to the Dodgers and becoming a rookie sensation. He finished with a .319 average, .925 OPS, 19 homers and 42 RBIs and earned a reputation for his cannon arm in right field over 104 games for the NL West champions.
Miss: Taylor Jungmann, Huntsville – The Brewers’ first-round pick from the 2011 Draft moved up to Double-A for the first time and failed to particularly impress. His 4.72 BB/9 and 12.3 walk percentage were both third-worst in the league, and his 4.84 FIP was worst among qualified pitchers. The 6-foot-6 right-hander hopes to work out the kinks in his command when he takes the mound in this year’s Arizona Fall League with Surprise.
Hit: George Springer, Corpus Christi/Oklahoma City – You probably know the deal here. Not only did Springer use his strength to smash the ball this season (.303/.411/.600, 37 homers, 108 RBIs), he also used his speed to swipe 45 bases. He fell three homers shy of becoming the first member of the Minors’ 40-40 club since Len Tucket hit both marks in 1956.
Miss: Cody Buckel, Frisco/AZL Rangers – They call it Steve Blass Disease, after the Pirates hurler who inexplicably lost his command on the mound in 1972. After issuing 48 free passes over 144 2/3 innings in 2012, Buckel walked 28 and allowed 27 runs (21 earned) in just 9 1/3 frames to start the year with Frisco before the Rangers decided to put him on the shelf. He didn’t return to game action until August, when he walked seven and allowed four runs in 1 1/3 innings during a pair of appearances in the AZL.
Hit: Archie Bradley, Visalia/Mobile – In the end, Bradley’s stay in the Cal League wasn’t very long, but he certainly left a mark. The D-backs’ top prospect posted a 1.26 ERA and struck out 43 in 28 2/3 innings for the Rawhide. Upon making the biggest jump in the Minors to Double-A ball, he continued to put up nice numbers, including a 1.97 ERA and 119 strikeouts over 123 1/3 innings. His 1.84 ERA and 162 punchouts on the season were third and fifth among full-season Minor Leaguers respectively.
Miss: Trevor Story, Modesto – The Cal League is where hitter’s stats usually become inflated. That wasn’t the case for Story, who saw his numbers drop across the board in 2013. (It should be noted he did play in a hitter-friendly atmosphere in Asheville last season.) Still, he batted just .233 in 130 games with the Nuts and struck out 183 times, third-most in all the Minors.
Hit: Garin Cecchini, Salem/Portland – The No. 7 Red Sox prospect enjoyed nice seasons in his first two years in the pros before really breaking out in 2013. He was especially dominant in Salem, where he put up a .350/.469/.547 slash line in 63 games. The third baseman continued to reach base in bunches in Portland and finished with a Minors-best .443 OBP and career-best .915 OPS.
Miss: Courtney Hawkins, Winston-Salem – The 19-year-old outfielder was pushed back to Class A Advanced ball for his first full season after reaching the level at the end of 2012. Though he exhibited some nice raw power with 19 homers, he struggled to make contact, striking out 37.6 percent of the time for Winston-Salem. He only put up a .178/.249/.384 slash line as well and is likely to head back to the Dash next season.
Hit: Javier Baez, Daytona/Tennessee – I was really tempted to put Miguel Sano in this spot because of the fantastic season he had, and yet I think Baez took such a leap forward this season that I went with him instead. Baez posted a .294 average, .888 OPS and 16 homers in 2012 but struggled in the FSL. Here’s what my colleague Jake Seiner wrote about him in the preseason: “The maturing of his approach from last year to this year is one of the league’s most interesting storylines.” What followed was a .282 average, .920 OPS and incredibly 37 homers (including four on one night) from the 20-year-old shortstop. Whether he sticks at that position will be another thing to watch in 2014. In the meantime, Cubs fans have plenty to be excited about in their top prospect.
Miss: Mason Williams, Tampa/Trenton – It wasn’t a banner year for the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect. First, he was arrested for DUI in late April. Then, his overall numbers for the year weren’t exactly anything exciting. He slashed .261/.327/.350 in 100 games with Tampa and went 15-for-24 on the basepaths. He moved up to Trenton for a 17-game stint and put up a .153/.164/.264 line in that short span. Williams possesses plenty of athleticism, and that could lead to better results in the future as he continues to develop. They just didn’t come this year.
Hit: Byron Buxton, Cedar Rapids/Fort Myers –Plenty of ink has been spilled about Buxton’s big 2013 season, so let’s just look at what he told MiLB.com about his goals in an offseason Q&A last year. “Just work hard, keep swinging the bat well, take advice, listen and my performance hopefully will take me where I want.” Hopefully he wanted something along the lines of a .334/.424/.520 slash line, 49 extra-base hits, 77 RBIs, 55 steals and stellar defense because that’s what he got in an amazing first full season.
Miss: Roberto Osuna, Lansing – There were plenty of reasons to be high on Osuna coming into the season. The big one was that he was making his full-season domestic debut as an 18-year-old after two years in the Mexican, Appalachian and Northwest Leagues. Now, it might be time to pump the brakes. The 6-foot-2 right-hander had a solid April before tearing part of his UCL in his throwing elbow. He returned in June but struggled before finishing the year with a 5.53 ERA over 10 starts. Osuna didn’t pitch again after July, and it’ll be interesting to see if the elbow concerns linger into next season or if Tommy John surgery becomes a real option.
Hit: Joey Gallo (Hickory/Arizona League), Lucas Sims (Rome) – If you’ll so allow me, I’m going to split this spot. Sims was downright stellar in his first full season, posting a 2.62 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 1.11 WHIP and 10.34 K/9 for Class A Rome. Meanwhile, Gallo led all Minor Leaguers with 40 homers and placed among the best in slugging (.623) and OPS (.961). Quite the year for a pair of 2012 first-rounders.
Miss: David Dahl, Asheville – You can put this under the same category as Bundy. I mean no slight to the Rockies’ No. 2 prospect by putting him here. I just meant to point out that there wasn’t much to watch from the outfielder in 2013. He missed most of April after being sent to extended spring training for disciplinary reasons, and he only played in nine games upon returning before tearing his hamstring and missing the rest of the season. Dahl, the 10th overall pick in the 2012 Draft, will hope to start anew in 2014.
By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com
I covered pitching prospects in my last post called “This or That” and this time I turn my attention to position players. Same premise. You’re choosing between two prospects in the same organization and can only keep one in a proposed trade. So, who is it going to be? Let’s play another round of ‘This or That?’
Byron Buxton vs. Miguel Sano, Minnesota: There’s no way you can dance around this one. The Twins are lucky enough to have two of the best — maybe scratch the “of the” and just say “the two best” — position player prospects in the game. But which rising star has the brighter future?
We’ll start with Buxton. Minnesota grabbed the outfielder out of high school with the No. 2 pick in the 2012 Draft following the Astros’ selection of shortstop Carlos Correa. From there, it became the Twins’ hope that he’d develop into the five-tool player that some had projected last June. He certainly hasn’t disappointed thus far. The 19-year-old owns a .330/.415/.526 slash line with 12 homers, 16 triples, 19 doubles, 75 RBIs and 49 steals through 110 games between Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Those impressive offensive numbers show an advanced bat and plus speed, and the scouting reports on his defensive prowess in center field have been just as good. Fourteen months after being drafted in the pros, Buxton has become perhaps the most exciting player in the Minor Leagues.
Sano isn’t exactly a slouch either though. In fact, he is probably the most exciting for those who dig the long ball. His 31 homers between Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain are a career high, trumping his 28 last season for Class A Beloit, and rank second among all Minor Leaguers (see below for the Minors’ leader). What’s more, he’s shown patience with walks in 12.4 percent of his plate appearances. His defense and speed aren’t exactly up to Buxton’s caliber — especially on the speed side — but the 20-year-old’s power is very translatable. When he hits his stride in the Majors, 35 homers a season aren’t out of the question, and that’s incredibly valuable in today’s game.
Still, the nod here goes to Buxton. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has him ranked baseball’s No. 1 overall prospect, and that’s pretty consistent across other midseason lists as well. Sano — MLB.com’s No. 3 prospect — will make the Twins very happy when he hits the big leagues, and they’re obviously happier that the scenario of just keeping one of these guys is nothing more than make-believe. But if we had to do it, Buxton would be the pick. Advantage: Buxton
The Astros acquired Singleton from the Phillies in 2011 as part of the deal that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia, and he has been at or near the top of the system’s rankings ever since. He performed well as a 21-year-old at Double-A Corpus Christi last season, putting up a .284/.396/.497 line with 21 homers and 79 RBIs in 131 games. Then, he was suspended for the first 50 games this season due to his second drug-of-abuse-related positive test and has struggled (.217/.341/.360/6/25) in 61 games since joining Triple-A Oklahoma City this summer (although he’s improved some this month with a .259/.427/.466 line). Still, he checks in at No. 21 overall on Mayo’s list and is the only first baseman to find his way into the top 100. He is by all measures as close to an elite first base prospect as baseball has right now.
Then there’s Springer, who may possess the best combination of power and speed outside the Majors. He leads the Minors with 35 homers and has also swiped 39 bags between Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City, becoming the first Minor Leaguer to enter the 30-30 club since 2009. With 15 games remaining in the RedHawks season, the 40-40 mark isn’t entirely out of reach either. Because of his speed, his glove plays well at any outfield spot. The real knock against the 23-year-old is that he does strike out quite a bit — 149 times in 532 plate appearances (28 percent) to be exact — and that’s something Major League pitchers could take advantage of at the next level.
So do you take Singleton, who has struggled but by far has the most promise among those at his position, or Springer, who is a Minor League phenom with weaknesses that could be greatly exposed at the highest level? Give me Springer. Like Buxton, he is an exciting player that could have an influence on many aspects of the game, not just at the plate. First base isn’t exactly a premium position — perhaps that’s why teams try to get their prospects to stick at other positions first — and that dulls the shine on Singleton for me. Advantage: Springer
Javier Baez vs. Kris Bryant vs. Mike Olt, Chicago (NL): We’ll look at this last one through a slightly different prism. Who projects better as the Cubs everyday third baseman down the line? It’s a question that seemed to have a pretty clear answer at the beginning of the season, and that answer was Baez. The Cubs’ top prospect plays shortstop now, but he profiles better at the hot corner, especially with Starlin Castro signed through the 2019 season. He’s only built upon a strong reputation at the plate with a .279/.342/.564 line with 31 homers and 95 RBIs between Class A Advanced Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.
Since June though, Chicago’s senior circuit representative took Bryant with the second pick in the Draft and received Mike Olt in the trade that sent Matt Garza to Texas last month. Bryant — the Golden Spikes winner at the University of San Diego — has hit the ground running with a .344/.391/.688 line thus far through three levels and earned a Player of the Week honor for the second straight time on Monday. The sample size remains small — he’s only played 27 games in the pros — but if nothing else, he’s established that his potential with the bat is real. Then again, like Baez, Bryant could be in for a position change, particularly to one of the corner outfield spots.
Olt, on the other hand, has really labored in his first time with Triple-A Iowa. He’s 10-for-87 (.115) with 23 strikeouts in 24 games with the Cubs. That follows a 65-game stretch for Round Rock during which he owned a .213/.317/.422 line with 11 homers and 32 RBIs and missed about a month due to an eye issue. This could just be a down year for the 2010 first-round pick and MLB.com’s No. 61 prospect, but it does look like his stock is dropping quite precipitously. Of the three, he does seem most suited defensively to stick to third, even though he did have looks at the outfield and first base with the Rangers in the past. He turns 25 in one week.
All in all though, I still see Baez as a better fit at the hot corner. Although there are concerns with his patience, I think his bat is elite enough to keep the other two from the conversation. If the Cubs move the struggling Castro elsewhere and he sticks at shortstop, then Bryant is the choice. Unless he shows more promise, Olt’s future looks more like a stopgap or utility man off the bench. Advantage: Baez
By Josh Jackson
If you’ve ever wondered if it’s a little awkward to be a top prospect for a last-place team, wonder no more. The answer is, um, yeah. Yeah, it is. Just. a. bit. awkward.
Astros prospect George Springer, who’s been tearing the cover off the ball for Triple-A Oklahoma City, told me after the first of his two recent two-homer games over the last few days that he enjoys being discussed as an exciting part of a rebuilding organization but that he dislikes the way those conversations tend to undercut current Astros players.
“It’s always exciting be a place where there’s this huge amount of talent, especially at the top of the organization here,” he said. “But you have to understand, too, the guys who are up there now, they’re still professional baseball players and I have an immense amount of respect for them.”
We had occasion to talk about it more on Tuesday night, and I asked if — given the respect he has for current Astros players — it bothers him that the club is often singled out as an example of a struggling team, even in popular satire.
“Yeah, it’s just tough to be in that position. But it’s an extremely talented team and a talented organization as a whole. I’m just happy to be part of it,” he said. “Guys here [in Triple-A] and guys there [in the Majors] both have to go out and play their own game every day, and this game is not easy. It gets harder as you go up, too. All the guys here — myself included — have the utmost respect for the guys up there.”
On Tuesday night, Round Rock broadcasters mentioned the possibility of Springer soon becoming one of “the guys up there.”
“I don’t know what league George Springer belongs in,” one broadcaster said after Springer’s second homer in that game, “but it’s not the PCL.”
The guys in Round Rock’s booth aren’t the first to speculate on the likelihood of Springer getting promoted to the Majors sooner rather than later. The way he’s playing lately, they’ll hardly be the last, either.
What does Springer do with all the chatter that’s only going to get louder and louder?
“You just ignore it,” he said. “You control the things you can control. You play, have fun, and whatever happens happens. It’s not easy, but you’ve got to brush it off.”
By Jake Seiner
Interviewing for game stories can be a fun process. The thousands of players and coaches spread across the Minor Leagues supply a never-ending chain of unique perspectives on the national pastime. The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches. Here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Corpus Christi manager Keith Bodie on Astros prospect and MiLB home run leader George Springer (Springer, Santana slug off the Hook):
“He does a lot of good things. He came up here last year at the end of the season in August and he was not able to do those things. He’s made adjustments at this level to have success, and he needs to continue to make certain adjustments at the plate for the way people pitch him.
“There are certain locations where people will throw to him, and he has trouble getting to those points, but he’s made adjustments to hit some pitches he’s been getting after they got him out a certain way. He can come back and make those adjustments. You mature as you go through it, and it’s a slow process at times, but he’s doing a good job of doing it.
“All the good players that, you hope when they get to the big leagues, like with [Mike] Trout or other special players when they’re in Double-A at this point in their life, he’s a special player. When you’re watching somebody who possesses those attributes and skills, namely the speed and the power, the sky is the limit for players like that, plus he plays a premium position.
“He has the opportunity to show you those skills not only on base, but he covers so much ground in center field and he can throw. He’s an exciting player — he has a chance to be a perennial All-Star. The sky’s the limit.”
Bodie on the way 20-year-old Domingo Santana has handled Double-A:
“He’s 20 and in Double-A, but his talent is appropriate for this level right now. I don’t think that he’s too young for the level. His skills play at this level. He’s also learning to make adjustments, and with his age, it’s more about getting him his experience. Skill and talent will play no matter where you’re at. There are some young players in the Major Leagues right now that people think are young, but their skills and talent can play, and he’s typical of that type of player.
“He makes things look easy in the outfield. He has a great throwing arm. He has plus speed, and it doesn’t always look like he’s going anywhere, but he covers a lot of ground. He has tremendous bat potential. He has power, and he makes hard, solid contact. He needs to learn to command the strike zone, and he will eventually, but right now he’s just inexperienced.
“Those things come with playing and experience. He’s going to be another plus player. It’s an exciting thing to look in the crystal ball for the Houston Astros right now and see the guys on the horizon.”
Portland’s Nick Natoli after ending a hectic travel day with a five-hit game (Sea Dogs’ Natoli delivers in a pinch):
“Being a utility guy, I’m kind of used to it. I did a little of it last year. Today was a little different. I woke up at 4 a.m. for a flight from Virginia to Detroit, and I had a two-hour layover there. I’ve been up for quite a while today. Days like these, you just glide through them. I figured I’d be playing. That’s usually how it goes. You have to have fun with it. I got up and it was a long day, long process.
“Last night, I was in bed around 12:30. We were supposed to play in Frederick this weekend, so I was going to go home to see my family and my girlfriend. I was laying in bed at 12:30 last night, and I got a call saying I needed to be in the airport, or at the clubhouse at four, to the airport by five. We were at home in Virginia, and I was going to travel the next morning. I had to catch a 6 a.m. flight. At the time, it was kind of frustrating.
“It’s nice moving up and playing at Double-A and helping out, but at 12:30, when you’re sleeping or ready to go to bed and about to go see family…”
The Cubs’ Kyler Burke on transitioning from the outfield to starting pitching (Cubs’ Burke continues conversion):
“It was a big transition going from the outfield. It’s almost a completely different lifestyle, especially as a starting pitcher. I went from starting 130 games to starting 20 something. The biggest adjustment is just the mentality of being a pitcher. It’s a little bit of a different routine. I think I’m kind of starting to figure all that out. I’m trying to go out and work hard every day.
“It was definitely a tough decision. We kind of talked about it mutually. It wasn’t something where they said, ‘You need to be a pitcher now.’ It was a mutual thing, and it was definitely tough because I’d worked hard for 4 ½ years to try to be a hitter. I think it was a good move, and I think things are going in the right direction.
“I think it was a little bit of both. The upside, I think, just baseball in general, there are fewer left-handed pitchers. It’s a commodity in any organization. That was a big part of it right there. It was kind of a timing thing where we had a bunch of outfield guys in the system and everything that went into the decision of doing the conversion.”
Atlanta’s Alex Wood on pushing teammate J.R. Graham to adopt the spike curveball (Wood produces “best start I’ve had”):
“J.R. and I talk every day about different kinds of stuff. His fastball, he can run it up there a little higher than I will, but we’re kind of the same pitcher except that he’s right-handed and I’m left-handed. He kind of has the same deal as I have had up until this year where he’s trying to figure out that breaking pitch he can throw all the time for a strike, and not just as a put-away pitch. I was able to pick up my spike curve from Jonny [Venters] and Craig [Kimbrel], and I had kind of been hinting at him, ‘Try it out, see how you like it.’
“Really, when you throw it, the grip itself helps you get on top of the ball without really trying to. For hard throwers like him and me, it helps us both out. He kind of started messing with it, and then his last start, it was probably the best his curve or slider — I’m not sure what he calls it — but it was the best it’s been. It was a good step in the right direction for him, and I know he’s itching to get back out there and throw it some more.”
Wood on trying not to think about when/if he’s promoted:
They haven’t said anything to me. It’s my first full year, and probably the hardest thing is just telling myself to take it a day at a time and trust in the Braves. I try to tell myself — and I write it down after most of my starts — just take it a day at a time and keep throwing well. Whatever happens, happens. Whenever that day comes to go to Gwinnett or to Atlanta, that’ll be the right time for me. I’m trying to get better and learn every start out. That’s my goal right now for sure.
By Jake Seiner
Interviewing for game stories can be a fun process. The thousands of players and coaches spread across the Minor Leagues supply a never-ending chain of unique perspectives on the national pastime. The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches.
Bits and pieces of these quotes may have appeared over at MiLB.com, but when you’re trying to dig into somebody’s back story, sometimes it’s most helpful to hear it all straight from the source. In that spirit, here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Corpus Christi’s George Springer on jumping from Class A Advanced to Double-A last year:
“The game is a lot cleaner and smoother because the talent level is obviously better. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just one of those things where the experience of the players and their talent — the game speeds up and you have to learn how to slow it down.
“You slow it down and don’t try to do too much. You just have to get your pitch to hit. The [pitchers] in this league are good. If they make a mistake and I don’t hit it, the count swings in their favor. As a hitter, that’s not a spot where you want to be.
“I think it’s a thing that comes from experience. You have to understand who you are as a player. Understand how other teams will attack you and play you. You have to know the strike zone as a hitter and know what it is you’re trying to do. All that has to be made up before you step into the box.
“You focus in on getting a good pitch to hit, and that helps you slow the game down. It’s just one of those things where, with experience, things will slow down. You go out and attempt to slow it down by just slowing it down, strange as that sounds.”
Springer on learning to steal bases in pro ball:
“There’s stuff that happens out there you notice. Guys might do a certain thing if they’re going home or if they’re coming over, but a lot of times you just have to be smart about the count and the situation and how they’re going to attack the hitter. It’s one of those things where you have to pick and choose your time to run, and don’t hesitate if you do.”
Savannah manager Luis Rojas on Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki:
“I didn’t get to see him play last year. As time goes along, and he transitions into pro ball and everything, it’s all about how you take it mentally. Coming from college like he was, right now, he just needs to be more comfortable. He’s been with the organization for almost a year now. His abilities are coming out naturally because he’s more comfortable right now. He’s a good hitter, and his leadership is outstanding. He’s a natural leader, and you need that behind the plate as a catcher. He runs the pitchers really well. Everybody listens when he talks. He’s pretty mature for the level he’s playing right now. I think you’re looking at a future star. He’s showing that right now on a daily basis.”
Rojas on Plawecki dealing with Savannah’s Latin American pitchers:
“The Latin pitchers that are here, they were all with Kevin in Brooklyn last year. He knows their strengths and weaknesses and he knows the actions on their pitches. He can rank their pitches, and knows them well and knows how to communicate with them. It’s just easy for him. There haven’t been any issues with that. He handles it really well. It’s helped that he was with them last year, and in the future with new guys, he won’t have any issues. He finds a way to communicate. He’s even picking up some Spanish.
“It’s extremely important. He’s going to have to catch pitchers from Latin American countries, from Venezuela and Puerto Rico and so on. That skill is really a plus for him. It’s good that he has it in his repertoire.”
Plawecki on dealing with Latin American pitchers:
“Last year, the whole rotation in Brooklyn was Latin. I took some Spanish in high school, but I’m by no means fluent. I know a little here and there to get me by and communicate with those guys in certain situations. It’s important for me to build a relationship with them and it’s important for them to feel comfortable with me back there.
“I can bounce ideas off them and feel comfortable talking to them about what I see. There’s no reason to treat them differently than other guys just because I can have English conversations with some guys.”
Plawecki on the development of his swing:
“I’m just making sure my hands are on time and I’m in synch with my lower half. When I get in trouble is when I start lunging. I need to let the ball travel, let it come to me. I get too overanxious. I’m trying to limit that. It’ll happen. That’s baseball. It’s just important for me to let the ball travel and keep a consistent swing and consistent approach and get consistent results. That’s what I think is improving. I’m just trying to hit the ball hard and let the rest take care of itself.”
Corpus Christi’s Asher Wojciechowski on piggybacking into a no-hitter in progress:
“That’s never happened to me. I’ve never come into a perfect game. That was a new experience there. David [Martinez] did a great job and worked really fast, and before I knew it, I was in the game. I knew the situation and just wanted to continue what was going on but not think about it too much. It was definitely a new experience coming into a perfect game.”
Wojciechowski on what’s led to his 18 scoreless innings to begin the year:
“I think so far this year I’ve been able to throw quality strikes and attack the zone and work quickly and mostly just throw quality strikes and not make too many mistakes. That’s been the key so far to this early start. Things are working out.
Wojciechowski on what he considers “quality strikes”:
“That means just staying at the bottom of the zone, staying out of the middle part of the plate and mixing my pitches well. Staying out of the middle of the plate and up in the zone. I’m elevating when I need to, but I’m mostly just staying down and staying on the corners and also pitching to contact. Quality strikes are down in the zone, so I’m working fast and getting ahead of hitters.”
Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker on right-hander Heri Quevedo, who’s making his stateside debut at 22:
“This is his first year from what I know. I haven’t seen any stats on the guy, but seeing what he has, his stuff is very impressive. It’s his first year of pro ball, and for his first real taste of pro action, it’s a good sign.
“I saw him a few times in Spring Training. I actually don’t know how he got over here, but his stuff is good enough to play at this level. He’s been piggybacking for us, and this was his third piggyback. His stuff is good and his arm is really live. He has a smooth, easy arm action, and the fastball really jumps out of his hand and he has a really good slider that jumps out of his hand.
“He’s throwing 92-96, and can play at 94-95, with easy arm action. The ball just gets on hitters really quick. He’s real smooth, and the ball just takes off late in the zone.
“I am surprised by his polish. A couple of times in his last couple outings, he’s tried to nibble or do too much and walked batters. This outing, he got back to letting his stuff play in the strike zone. This outing, I think, opened his eyes that he’s good enough to pitch here, pitch up in the zone. His first couple outings, like anybody here, he didn’t know what to expect and he worked around the strike zone too much and put himself in bad situations. He trusted his stuff and was poised today.”
Tacoma catcher Mike Zunino on calling games in Triple-A:
“You have to know what they want to throw in certain counts. I have to stay one pitch ahead. I’m just talking with the pitchers, laying out what we want to do. You build a foundation in the gameplan so we know what we want to do and how we want to do it.
“You realize what guys do in certain counts. You have guys who do a lot of hitting in certain counts, because that’s what guys like to do. They have their tendencies and their go-tos. You learn with each pitcher, and that takes time. It’s a process. Once the season gets going, that’s when you get in a groove with the pitchers. You figure out what guys can throw what pitch in any count and you build from there. You go out and gameplan and use the scouting report on hitters.”
Fifteen MiLB Prospects Answer This Question: What Jersey Number Do You Hope to Wear When You Reach the Majors?
The Royals’ Yordano Ventura: ”Because Pedro [Martinez] was 45, and I want to be the first one after Pedro.”
The Tigers’ Bruce Rondon: “My dad’s favorite number — his dream was to watch me pitch with Detroit wearing number 44. Unfortunately I didn’t get that number, but I have the one right before, number 43. Honestly, he has never told me why [he liked that number]. I always ask him why and he never wants to tell me, but that’s his favorite number. I told him that one day he has to tell me what the number means to him.”
The Rays’ Jake Odorizzi: “My jersey here is that. If I don’t make it out of Spring [Training] or do, I’ll be wearing that. I’ve always had that number growing up. My friends and I just wanted to be in the 20s, and that was the one I settled on. This is the first time I’ve been able to wear it at the Major League level, which I’m excited about.
The Yankees’ Tyler Austin: “I would love to wear it. That is my favorite number. My brother wore 21. I wore 21 growing up, so it was like an always-21 deal. I wore it all throughout high school and travel ball, so I would love to wear 21 if the opportunity presented itself for me to wear that number. Guys usually pick it before I do [on Minor League clubs]. They usually get in there and pick their numbers before I have a chance to get in there.”
The Rockies’ David Dahl (to MiLB.com colleague Ashley Marshall): “I haven’t really thought about it. I’m just trying to get there. When I was a freshman in high school, I got the last pick out of all the numbers; 21 was available, so I used that all the way through high school and then I used it my first year in [Class A Short-Season] Grand Junction, so now I like it a lot.”
I am more than halfway through with our Defensive Gems series on MiLB.com. In case you are unfamiliar with it, here is the stock copy we print at the beginning of every edition:
As documentarian Ken Burns noted, baseball is the one game in which the defense — not the offense — possesses the ball. With this in mind, MiLB.com continues its “Defensive Gems” series. Over the next nine weeks, we will feature a top prospect at each position who also happens to be an elite defender. In deciding which players to focus on, six scouting directors were polled and extensive research was conducted…
Here are the five stories of the nine total that are completed: Click on the player’s name to be taken to the story:
|POS||Subjects with story links|
|C||Austin Hedges (SD: A pupil of Brad Ausmus)|
|2B||Carlos Sanchez (CWS: A good defender at three positions)|
|3B||Mike Olt (TEX: A slow-roller expert with soft hands)|
|SS||Francisco Lindor (CLE: A natural ballplayer that is “Cano-ish”)|
|CF||Mason Williams (NYY: A gifted athlete making acrobatic plays)|