Results tagged ‘ Houston Astros ’

Five 2014 non-first rounders making good impressions

Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com

Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com

Two months ago, 1,215 baseball players had what we can only hope was one of the coolest experiences of their lives when they were chosen in the 2014 MLB Draft. The signing deadline came and passed on July 18, and now some of them are officially pro ballplayers and are showcasing their talents in the Minors.

First-rounders are usually the guys who get the bulk of the ink (both real and digital), so this post will instead focus on players taken outside the first round and the supplemental round who have adjusted quite well to the professional ranks.

Jacob Lindgren, New York Yankees, second round (55th overall): In many ways, Lindgren was the inspiration for this post. After putting up a 4.18 ERA as a sophomore, the 5-foot-11 left-hander was moved to the bullpen by Mississippi State for his junior season, and he dominated in the new role with a 0.81 ERA, .124 average against and 100 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings, thanks to a sweeping slider and a fastball that could touch the mid-90s.   (more…)

McCullers’ mental shift paying off

By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com

In February, Lance McCullers told MiLB.com’s Robert Emrich that the aspect of his game he was most focused on improving was his “overall command.”

A look over his 2014 numbers suggests he’s done pretty darn well in that department. Through seven appearances — four of them starts — the 20-year-old righty has picked up 33 strikeouts and walked just 12, all while holding opposing California League hitters t0 a .204 batting average over 28 2/3 innings.

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Cliff Welch/MiLB.com

 

After his record-setting game Tuesday night, the Astros prospect made it clear that the mental approach espoused by Lancaster pitching coach Don Alexander is one of the main factors helping him to a strong start to the year. (more…)

Prospect Stock Watch: Winkler, Garvin tossing up zeros

By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com

Once a week this season, we’re going to break down the prospects who have done the most to move the needle on their prospect stock, mostly highlighting players on the rise, but also pointing out a few who are struggling against expectations. Note: All stats are through games played on Sunday.

Trending Up:

Rockies RHP Daniel Winkler, Double-A Tulsa: Winkler, a 6-foot-1 right-hander out of Central Florida, was a 20th-round selection by Colorado in the 2011 Draft. His first year and a half in the Rockies’ system was mostly unremarkable — he posted decent strikeout numbers with Asheville in 2012, but mostly managed mediocre results with fringe velocity and stuff.Image

In 2013, he ventured to the California League with mostly the same stuff, but his outstanding command of a low-90s fastball helped him dominate the hitter-friendly league. So good was his ability to spot his stuff that touted Rockies prospect Eddie Butler actually credited Winkler as a source of inspiration for helping him improve his own fastball command. 

But succeeding mostly on fastball command is easier to do in the lower levels of the Minor Leagues. Many pitchers with Winkler’s profile have thrived up until reaching Double-A, then been undone by hitters capable of punishing fringy stuff. Winkler, though, slimmed his ERA to 1.06 in three Texas League starts last week, with 17 strikeouts and seven walks over 17 innings. (more…)

Rounding the Bases: A ‘perfect’ MLB start for Springer, fans

Pat Sullivan/AP

Pat Sullivan/AP

They called it Springer Day. That should tell you enough.

Astros fans were understandably excited about the promotion of their heralded prospect. It didn’t stop there. Fans across the country, baseball writers and pretty much anyone who cares about baseball and has a Twitter account were declaring April 16 to be Springer Day.

Like any other big-time promotion, the masses expect big things right from the get-go. It’s just the nature of the business. Everyone starts talking about the player and their expectations. Then, others try to one-up those expectations. Finally, someone uses the words “Hall of Fame” or “Cooperstown,” and it feels we’ve reached the Everest of expectations.

We saw a little bit of that with Billy Hamilton this spring when his speed grabbed plenty of headlines. (Note: questions of his ability to reach base grabbed a few paragraphs as well.) We’re seeing it again with Springer.

And that’s why the first two games of his Major League career were, well, kinda perfect, at least in my eyes.

Here’s what we knew about Springer entering his MLB debut.

He’s got the rare package of power and speed, as evidenced by his 37-homer, 45-steal season in 2013. (He also had three homers and four steals in 13 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City before the call-up.) That speed allows him to play plus defense in the outfield. As such, he’s played plenty in center, but the Astros moved him to right with Dexter Fowler manning center in the Majors. His above-average arm plays just fine in right regardless.  (more…)

Rounding the Bases: Top 100 talk, Part II

By Sam Dykstra/MiLB.com

How’s everybody doing? Feeling like you’re in the best shape of your life? Optimistic about what’s to come? Are you reconnecting with old friends and making new ones at the same time?

If you said yes to the any of those questions, congratulations, you’re a professional baseball player who’s made his way down to Spring Training.

If no to all of the above, you probably live in the northeast corridor of the U.S., where the polar vortex has kept most indoors (read: away from the gym and friends) and pessimistic that winter will ever end.

If you’re a mix of yes and no, I hope the idea of Spring Training has at least brought out some optimism in you. Otherwise, you’re a physically fit friend to everyone you meet who is still somehow pessimistic.

All that aside, let’s round the bases …

A poll of polls of sorts

Baseball America released its list of top 100 prospects — its 25th edition of such a collection, it should be noted — on Thursday. Between that, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus, we’ve got three major prospect rankings heading into the 2014 season.

I’ve already compared and contrasted the MLB.com and BP lists, so let’s look at this from another angle. What if we combined the three sets to see how the aggregated rankings would sort out? As with any set of data, the more points you have, the stronger the collection should be considered. Is three a big enough sample size? Not necessarily, but it’s better to take the average of three lists than the midpoint of two.

(Note: Normally I’d extend this to four and include Keith Law’s rankings for ESPN. However, those are behind an Insider paywall, and I’m not in the business of disrupting another business’ revenue stream. MLB.com, BP and BA all released their lists for free, although you have to pay the latter two if you want in-depth scouting reports.)

There are a few more caveats to this little experiment. It is not done to say that if the three groups got together in a room, this is what they’d devise. There would, of course, be a back-and-forth discussion over the merits of Prospect X over Prospect Y. Some could be swayed; others, not so much.

Nor is it done to belittle any of the lists on something as small as a data point. There are innumerable sources, opinions and just plain man hours that go into making each of these prospect rankings. There also are individual touches that make them unique to each outlet. We can look at the same things in the same way and come to different conclusions. It’s called subjectivity, and that’s why there’s such a wide-open market for prospect rankings in the first place.

Treat this more like a melting pot. It’s not any more “right” than any of the other lists. It is just an amalgamation of the three and provides yet another way of stacking up the game’s best prospects. No more, no less.

With that in mind, here’s how I came up with the aggregated ranking. It’s based on a point system in which the top spot in an individual ranking earns 100 points, the second spot gets 99, etc. You can’t just take the average ranking because there were several players who didn’t appear in all three sets. This controls for that. The first tiebreaker is appearing in the most polls, the second is highest top ranking. For example, Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon both have 256 points, but Polanco gets the nod because his highest ranking (No. 10) trumps Taillon’s (No. 16).

With that settled, here’s the top 25:

Aggregate Player Position Org MLB BP BA Points
1 Byron Buxton OF MIN 1 1 1 300
2 Xander Bogaerts SS BOS 2 2 2 297
3 Oscar Taveras OF STL 3 3 3 294
4 Javier Baez SS CHC 7 4 5 287
5 Carlos Correa SS HOU 8 5 7 283
6 Archie Bradley RHP ARI 5 9 9 280
7 Miguel Sano 3B MIN 4 14 6 279
8 Taijuan Walker RHP SEA 6 8 11 278
9 Francisco Lindor SS CLE 10 6 13 274
10 Addison Russell SS OAK 12 7 14 270
11 Kris Bryant 3B CHC 9 17 8 269
12 Noah Syndergaard RHP NYM 11 11 16 265
13 Jonathan Gray RHP COL 14 16 12 261
14 Gregory Polanco OF PIT 13 24 10 256
15 Jameson Taillon RHP PIT 16 19 22 256
16 Dylan Bundy RHP BAL 20 15 15 253
17 George Springer OF HOU 21 20 18 244
18 Robert Stephenson RHP CIN 19 22 19 243
19 Kevin Gausman RHP BAL 31 10 20 242
20 Austin Hedges C SD 24 18 27 234
21 Yordano Ventura RHP KC 35 12 26 230
22 Nick Castellanos 3B DET 15 37 25 226
23 Mark Appel RHP HOU 17 21 39 226
24 Lucas Giolito RHP WAS 44 13 21 225
25 Albert Almora OF CHC 18 25 36 224

Near-misses: Kyle Zimmer 221, Aaron Sanchez 217, Andrew Heaney 214, Eddie Butler 212, Maikel Franco 208

A few things to point out: There’s obviously agreement on the top three, and that shouldn’t be a huge surprise, given what we know about Buxton, Bogaerts and Taveras.

The dissension comes one spot later with Baez, and we’re off from there. That’s actually a good place to start because while most agree Baez has a monster ceiling — BP’s Jason Parks said in a chat last month one front office source believes the shortstop has “Hall of Fame potential” — there’s plenty of disagreement on whether he’ll reach it.

That being said, the widest gulf in opinion among the top 10 belongs to Sano, who is a top-six prospect, according to MLB.com and BA, but drops to 14 on BP’s list. The disagreement stems from how highly you view the Twins third baseman’s power — BP actually said Baez had a better power tool than Sano and ranked him 10 spots ahead — and whether his hit tool projects to be anything better than average.

Giolito is perhaps the most polarizing player in the top 25. So it goes when you’re talking about a right-handed prospect with lightning for a fastball, a tornado for a curveball — call it hyperbole if you want; Parks give both 80 potential grades — and a developing changeup who, by the way, is coming off Tommy John surgery and only has 38 2/3 innings under his belt.

Meanwhile, the pictures of consistency are Springer, who comes in between 18 and 21 in the three polls, and Stephenson, who is No. 19 for both MLB.com and BA and checks in at 22 for BP. The virtual agreement among the three sides helped the Astros outfielder and the Reds right-hander in this area, who moved up to Nos. 17 and 18 respectively, despite not being that high on any of the three lists.

Overall, there aren’t too many surprises in our aggregated poll. If nothing else, it illustrates the wide ranges of diverse opinion across the prospect ranking landscape and while hopefully ironing out some of those differences. After all, most agree on who should be in the conversation for top prospects — it’s the order that causes some haggling. We’ll revisit this at midseason when outlets come out with updated rankings to see who made the biggest across-the-boards leaps and falls.

Fried done for a bit

Not listed in the above top 25 but a top prospect in his own right — he came out an even 50 when you run the aggregate down that far — Padres left-hander Max Fried won’t be on a mound for at least another two weeks, according to news that broke Thursday afternoon.

First things first, it’s important to point out that everything seems very precautionary at this point. Although there’s a forearm issue bothering the southpaw, it’s only muscular in nature and doesn’t involve any ligament problems, which is good because that means you can stop thinking about the UCL and TJ acronyms right away.

Still, you hate to hear about throwing arm issues involving any prospect, especially this early in the year and especially given the year Fried was about to enter.

Barring any other issues and assuming he comes back healthy, the 20-year-old is likely to start his second full season at Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore with a good opportunity to move up to Double-A San Antonio by the end of the year. With age, his numbers were likely to actually improve as he harnessed his command, pegged as just a 50 on the scale by MLB.com, and racked up more strikeouts. (His 7.58 K/9 in 2013 wasn’t great on paper but was the fifth-highest in the Midwest League.) In fact, I’d go as far as to say he’s a potential breakout candidate in 2014 as he grows into his 6-foot-4 frame.

All that could be lost if the problem gets any worse, and that’s what leads to worry (and even panic, among some) when the words “shut down” get thrown around. Again, it seems like the Padres are doing all the right things at the moment. It’s much easier to lose a few weeks in late February/March. But this is at the very least worth monitoring as Spring Training continues and the spring leagues pick up shortly.

A love letter to the Stars

I try to keep this feature as prospect-related as I can — “Mascot Item of the Week” discounted — but this particular story hit me good and hard.

Colleague Ben Hill put up a guest post on his blog from Huntsville Stars fan Gillian Richard, who wrote passionately about what it means to her that the local club is packing up and moving down to Biloxi in 2015. Relocation is part of the sporting world, moreso in the Minor Leagues, and we have a tendency of shrugging this kind of stuff off. That’s the business, is usually the go-to dismissive line.

But there are plenty of human stories left behind that deserve our attention. It doesn’t take much to get a Seattle native going on the loss of the Sonics. To bring it closer to home, personally, I grew up near Hartford, Conn. But by the time I grew into hockey, the Whalers were long gone. I know a lot of people who still clamor for the days of “Brass Bonanza” and Pucky the Whale.

So read Gillian’s account and put yourself in her shoes. Then read Ben’s Q&A with Stars GM Buck Rogers about the future of baseball in Huntsville, and hope that there is one. 

Mascot Item of the Week

Well, I did just mention hockey …

Quick Hits

Rounding The Bases: Stats on stats

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com

Who doesn’t like numbers? Actually, don’t answer that. I went to college with a lot of communication majors who only had to take at most two math classes, so I have an idea of the answer to that.

All the same, numbers are great for explaining concepts and ideas that aren’t always easily explained by the naked eye or just words. “He hits the ball over the wall a lot” doesn’t exactly cut it in this little game we all love so much.

As it happens, the theme of the week here on MiLB.com seemed to be stats, albeit a little more advanced than just counting home-run totals. With that in mind, let’s round the bases. . .

McCullers and BABIP

Colleague Ashley Marshall took a look early in the week at how BABIP (batting average of balls in play) affected some of the game’s top prospects. He breaks down why certain players, like Byron Buxton, have high or low BABIPs and why some pitchers, like Matt Barnes, shouldn’t be discouraged by high BABIPs of their own, so I’ll leave that mostly to him.

I, instead, want to discuss one pitcher in particular that jumped out to me: Lance McCullers. The Astros right-hander had what would be traditionally considered a solid first full season for Class A Quad Cities —  3.18 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 117 strikeouts, 49 walks in 104 2/3 innings. In order, put those numbers down as good, OK, impressive and just all right. Like I said, the whole picture is solid.

What stands out for me is just how much better that could have been. In Ash’s piece, he has McCullers down for a .336 BABIP, considerably higher than what’s considered average BABIP (.300). It’s not a huge stretch to say that a few balls got through for hits that shouldn’t have. That becomes especially more believable when you consider McCullers, whose bread and butter are his fastball and slider, gets most of his work done on the ground (2.00 groundout-to-airout ratio, only three homers allowed all season), meaning some potential outs likely slipped through the infield.

Put another way, consider McCullers’ FIP, which strips defense completely out of the equation. While his ERA was at 3.18, his FIP was lower at 2.91. FanGraphs considers a 2.90 FIP “excellent.”

Now, will McCullers’ traditional numbers come down considerably in 2014? I wouldn’t go that far. He’s likely to move to Class A Advanced Lancaster, and although he won’t allow too many fly balls, expect his numbers to rise a little in the California League. The point of this exercise was to give a new-found appreciation of McCullers’ 2013, and that’s more what BABIP should be used as — just another tool to put so many other data points into context.

Don’t get Steam-rolled 

While we’re on the stats train, another colleague, Jake Seiner, explored Steamer projections and how they view a few different 2014 American League rookies. Again, I’ll direct you to what Jake wrote and just highlight one small bit of my own.

We live in an age of WAR when it comes to baseball, and that’s a good thing. WAR is a great way of quantifying just how much better a player is than his peers. (We bow down to you, Master of WAR Mike Trout.)

So your eyes may have perked up when you saw WAR as one of the numbers listed among the Steamer projections. But there’s one person, in particular, who I think has a WAR that’s too low only because Steamer didn’t account for his defense as well it could have.

That is Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley is expected to fill the slot in Fenway Park’s center field left vacant by the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury. Bradley won’t replace Ellsbury’s production with the bat — and indeed, I think Steamer’s offensive projections are mostly right on the money — he is expected to fill the defensive hole aptly. Both Bradley’s glove and arm are plus tools, with even plus-plus potential on the former, and those translate easily to the Majors.

The 2011 first-round pick’s advanced defensive metrics (-12.4 UZR/150 in the outfield) weren’t what people expected during his short stints in the Majors, but the sample size (242 innings or just about 27 full games) isn’t large enough to be drawing any big conclusions either. All the same, that’s mostly what the Steamer projections picked up on when they gave him a 0.5 defensive rating, essentially on par with his 0.6 rating offensively. In this case, I think the Oliver projections (1.0 offensive, 5.0 defensive, which result in a 2.8 fWAR) are probably going to be closer to Bradley’s numbers this year.

If you’re using Steamer projections for fantasy purposes, this has no effect on you. As Jake writes, Bradley’s value in that realm is tied to increases in power and baserunning that I believe won’t immediately come. But if you’re looking at the same projections for the purpose of on-field performance, I think you can set them slightly higher for Jackie.

What if. . .

OK, back to good ole fashioned words. I did a Q&A earlier in the week with Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi. We talked a lot about his first year with the Rays and how easy the transition was for him a) because the Rays are a model organization and b) because he had gone through a trade before.

But there’s one thing to add:

We talked at the end about the fact that he could have played college football at the University of Louisville. Of course, he chose to sign with the Brewers instead. His reason? Despite being a D-I college football recruit, he thought he wasn’t cut out for the sport anymore. “I could see the writing on the wall there,” he said. “There aren’t many people like myself, with my leaner build, in the NFL. But there are definitely more similar types in MLB. Once I looked at it that way, it was an easier decision for me.”

It takes a certain level of maturity, especially from an 18-year-old, to look at it that way, and by all measures, it appears Odorizzi still has that maturity in his arsenal. There’s no way of knowing just how good the 6-foot-2, 185-pound wide receiver from the St. Louis area could have been with the Cardinals, although he would have been gone by the time Teddy Bridgewater hit his stride this year.

The slow reveal

MLB.com’s Prospect Watch has been revealing its top-10 lists by position this week. As of this writing, the right-handed pitching, left-handed pitching, catcher, first base and shortstop lists are up. A few quick thoughts:

  • The shortstop position is stacked. It’s amazing when you see it down in list form instead of just swimming in your head. Chris Owings was the PCL MVP and Rookie of the Year and could be starting in the D-backs infield come Opening Day. He came in at No. 10.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, first base is especially weak. It’d be a surprise if anyone outside No. 1 Jonathan Singleton and No. 2 Dominic Smith are in the overall top 100 to be released next Thursday.
  • For pitching, I think Julio Urias at No. 5 is conservative but understandably so. There are a lot of variables that enter into play for the 17-year-old, and the distance between his ceiling and floor at this point is pretty vast. That being said, I think he’s got a really good chance at being the best left-hander among those 10 in five years.

Mascot Item of the Week

Still going to try to make this happen. I’m 2-for-2 so far. Visalia’s Tipper T. Bull tried to welcome the Cubs’ Clark into the world of mascots, and it didn’t exactly go well.

Quick Hits

Notable Quotables — Thoughts on the Top 100: 1-10

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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 again 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 1-10 (also see: 11-2021-3031-4041-5051-6061-7071-8081-9091-100).

A quick note: Although 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.

1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz prior to Buxton’s promotion to the FSL: 

“I wanted him out of Spring Training, I kept at it at every meeting: ‘You know, he needs some humidity, he needs to come here first.’

“But he maybe spent 10 days with my team in Spring Training and I got to kind of know him on a personal level, a little better. Obviously, the tools are through the roof, but his parents would be proud at how he handles himself, a great kid. He still says, ‘Yes, sir’ and I get mad at him because I’m not that old yet.”

2. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Taveras on the lingering ankle issues that eventually cut his season short:

“I have problems a little when I run on the bases. … I try to get better every day, putting the tape on my ankle and exercising in the training room. I try to get better because that’s hard to play that way. I just want to play. I want to help the team.”

Taveras added that the ankle caused a little manageable discomfort when he swings. “When I try to push too hard, just a little, not too much.”

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3. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz on Sano’s makeup: 

“He’s a phenomenal kid, wise beyond his years. He’s a great teammate, one thing he did was take guys underneath his wing. He was great to kids, great to fans, and the guys really responded to him. He’s a future team leader.

He wants to do really well. He doesn’t take at-bats off. He understands the importance of being a good teammate. Obviously, the talent speaks for itself, but it’s the other stuff that I was pleasantly surprised at, how well he treated everyone with the team.”

4. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Tacoma manager John Stearns after Walker’s Triple-A debut:

“To think he’s here doing this at age 20, at this level, you can really fantasize about what’s going to happen in the future with him.

“It was really one of the most incredible, really impressive performances and showed the maturity of him; his baseball IQ maturity at a young age was just tremendous.”

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5. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Indians assistant director of player development Carter Hawkins on Lindor’s athleticism:

“He’s extremely well-rounded, instinctual as well. … He has outstanding hands, arms and agility. He’s one of the most agile guys in the organization in the last five to 10 years in terms of pure physical measurements. Given that, he’s able to make almost any play at the shortstop position, and his natural baseball intelligence on top of that makes him a valuable asset.

“His quick feet, decision-making, arm strength, quick hands, his knowledge of the game — all that allows him to lead the infield as a shortstop and be that field general.”

6. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina on his initial impressions of Bogaerts:

“I was around Mike Trout the past couple of years and it doesn’t amaze me what these 20-year-old kids can do these days. … He fits right in with this team and he plays with a lot of energy.

“He’s still learning the game, especially some of the intricacies of the position. He needs to do things better.

“He retains information and he applies it,” DiSarcina said. “You can tell he’s a quick learner and he doesn’t want to make the same mistake twice. He is driven by that. He wants to be successful.”

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7. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona D-backs
Bradley on his Minor League experience to date:

“The one thing people have said coming into pro ball is enjoy the process, understand that what you’re learning here is all to prepare yourself for the big leagues. And that’s the approach I came in with. And with the help of our pitching coach here [in Mobile], Dan Carlson, he’s just helped me tremendously as far as the mental part. … Physically, I felt I was on my way, but mentally, the strides I’ve made are tremendous.

“You know that giving up a run is OK. You never want to give it up, but understanding that there are situations where it’s OK. Giving up one run in a certain situation won’t kill your outing. It’s how you pitch out of jams, do damage control, understanding how to go deeper and controlling the emotions, everything that’s mental about pitching.”

8. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
Quad Cities manager Omar Lopez in May on his instructions for Correa:

“It’s not that he’s chasing the ball or he’s got a bad approach or that he’s overmatched. … Sometimes he’s too anxious. He’s 18 and anxious. He needs to be more under control. I understand. He probably has high expectations and high goals for this season — we don’t.

“We told him, ‘You hit this, you hit this, you’re fine.’ We looked at shortstops in the big leagues and how was their first season in pro ball, and they were hitting .240, 36 errors, but now they’re superstars. It’s a process.”

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9. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
Tennessee hitting coach Desi Wilson on Baez’s development from August 2012 through August 2013:

“Last year, I think everything was speeding up for him. Basically, he was just swinging at everything they threw up to him. Everything was going so fast. He was just trying to do too much. Him going to big league camp, going to Spring Training and the work he’s done, it obviously has paid off because his leg kick is not as high as it was last year.

“Last year, he wasn’t selective at all. He was swinging early in the count. Now, he’s not afraid to fall behind, 0-1, 0-2. That’s the difference I see in Javy. He’s not swinging as early in counts, being a lot more selective in his [at-bats] compared to last year.”

10. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Taillon on returning to Double-A after getting a taste of the level in 2012:

“Coming up here last year and having some success, even a small bit, gives me confidence that I can get guys out at this level. … My last couple of years, I started strong and hit a wall. I think I’ve gotten better with in-game adjustments.

“As a whole, the game is a little cleaner, a little faster [at Double-A]. The hitters don’t miss mistakes. That’s probably No. 1.”

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Notable Quotables: Thoughts on the Top 100 – 11-20

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 11-20 (also see: 21-30, 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.

11. Nick Castellanos, OF, Detroit Tigers
Castellanos on the transition to playing outfield:

“It’s not like I used to play outfield when I was little — when I played my first game in the outfield for [Double-A] Erie, it was the first time I had ever played in the outfield in my life.

“I took an infield glove with me out there because I didn’t feel comfortable using the big glove. I had never used one before.”

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12. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
St. Lucie pitching coach Phil Regan on Syndergaard’s development

“He’s really coming along well. I think he’s making a lot of strides. … He’s understanding a lot about pitching and he’s just a tremendous kid, soaks up knowledge and wants to learn. I think he’s done exceptionally well for his age and where he’s coming from. He’s not afraid, he goes right after [hitters, he's] aggressive on the mound. I think he’s got confidence in himself, and that’s all part of it.”

480 Syndergaard Gordon Donovan Binghamton Mets

13. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Altoona manager Carlos Garcia on welcoming Polanco to Double-A

“Right now, at this point, I just want to sit and watch him play. He has a lot to offer and I want to make sure he feels comfortable, so he’s able to learn in every game. … And I want to make him understand it’s going to be a lot of competition up here, at this level. But I don’t think he cares about that too much, he just enjoys playing.

“We just want to keep him healthy, keep him playing the game the right way, which I don’t think is going to be a problem for him because that’s what he does.”

14. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Bundy’s agent, Jay Franklin, on Bundy’s reaction to having to undergo Tommy John surgery:

“He’s down, you can imagine. … That’s tough on anyone, especially someone with his level of competitiveness. [Orioles team orthopedist Dr. John] Wilckens and Dr. [James] Andrews are very qualified to make that recommendation, and to me it is the right decision.

“The good thing is, because of how young he is, he should be able to heal quickly. … Not many people are in better shape.”

15. Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Memphis manager Pop Warner on his impressions of Wacha:

“Obviously he’s good enough to do it. … He’s just composed, the guy’s just mature beyond his years. This is the first time I saw him. He just carries himself right.

“[He's] driven, competes really well and obviously he’s pretty polished with his stuff. Combine all that and you’ve got a pretty good player on your hands.”

Wacha

16. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Louisville manager Jim Riggleman on the aspects of Hamilton’s game beyond speed:

“He’s naturally a right-handed hitter, and from that side of the plate, he’s pretty accomplished. … The left-handed swing is more of a work in progress.”

17. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Dayton pitching coach Tony Fossas on Stephenson’s abilities and mentality:

“Robert has all the God-given talent to proceed. … He’s blessed. Now can he put everything to work and maintain his health? Can he maintain his endurance year after year? He’s willing to learn — he’s willing to try things. He does have a little stubbornness, but I like that. He has a great work ethic, and as a person, he’s off the charts.”

18. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics
Russell on adjustments he made in the second half:

“The way I’m playing now is the way I think I should have been playing in the beginning of the year. … It’s a long year, my first year, and it’s just a learning curve. The good thing is that I think I struggled in the beginning and I learned how to come back from it, stay positive. Instead of trying to force it more when it was going bad, sit back, relax and let your ability and talent take over.”

480 Russell Kenny Karst MiLB

19. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros
Singleton on making his 2013 debut with Quad Cities after serving his suspension:

“I was pretty anxious. … I actually didn’t get too much sleep, but once I got to the ballpark today, I was calmed down a little bit. Once I got the uniform on, I was ready to go.”

20. Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets
d’Arnaud on his relationship with Syndergaard:

“What can I say about an outing like that? He had an absolutely electric fastball, his curveball was pretty devastating and his changeup — I didn’t even know he had a changeup like that. It just made his fastball look so much quicker and harder. The whole thing was effective.

“I think he threw it eight or 10 times today and used it pretty effectively each time. If he’s having any trouble with it, I couldn’t tell. It works really well with the fastball and the curveball.

“I think the pitcher-catcher relationship is actually one of the most important and most undervalued part of the game. If those two guys get along, you can work at a better pace and really get in that groove.”

Notable Quotables: Thoughts on the Top 100 – 21-30

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.

21. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Sanchez on his declining walk rate this season:

“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.”

Aaron Sanchez

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.”

480 Almora Kane County Cougars

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.”

24. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Seattle Mariners
Hultzen on rehabbing a shoulder injury:

“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.”

25. Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros
Appel on the lifestyle adjustment of turning pro:

“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.”

480 Appel Paul R Gierhart MiLB

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.”

MiLB: SEP 02 Class A Advanced - Tampa Yankees at Lakeland Flying Tigers

28. Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, Boston Red Sox
Bradley on handling baseball’s mental challenges:

“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.”

30. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Zimmer on adjusting to life in pro ball:

“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.”

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George Springer enjoyed summers on the Cape

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.

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Stephen Slade/University of Connecticut

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.

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Walter Barnard/MiLB.com

He batted .302 with 24 homers between Class A Advanced Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi.

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