Results tagged ‘ Milwaukee Brewers ’
So much has happened since the last “Rounding the Bases:” Football ended. The Olympics began. I moved to Brooklyn (thus the absence of this feature, but that’s a story for a different day and a different blog).
And of course, pitchers and catchers are reporting! All right, we have to acknowledge that actually most players are already working out in their Spring Training homes and that the date of “pitchers and catchers reporting” has become more of a deadline for batteries to show up rather than the first day they get to make an appearance.
All the same, that deadline means the season is nearly upon us after a long and cold winter that just doesn’t seem to want to go away. It’s a fun time to be involved in baseball.
Let’s round the bases . . .
Eddy Alvarez’s prospects
On Sunday, we published my piece on American Olympic speed skater Eddy Alvarez and his past, present and potentially future involvement with the national pastime.
An update on Alvarez’s progress in Sochi: The Miami native made it as far as the semifinals in the 1,500-meter event before a disqualification for too much contact ended his run. He has qualified for the quarterfinals in the 1,000m and was a part of the 5,000m relay team that has advanced to the final. (In that final event, Alvarez actually fell to the ice, but it was ruled that he had been interfered with by a South Korean skater, allowing the Americans to move on.) He has the 500m heats still to come on Tuesday.
After all that — he’s said this will be his last Olympics — he’d like baseball to be next. But diving a little deeper, what are his actual prospects?
Let’s look at what we have. Although he hadn’t taken the field for a competitive team since graduating high school in 2008, he exhibited a solid ability to hit junior college pitching with a .311/.390/.478 slash line during a 63 -game in 2011 with Salt Lake Community College. The numbers didn’t look so good on the defensive end as the shortstop committed a team-high 30 errors and posted an .888 fielding percentage. I should add that college coach Manny Mantrana, who recruited Alvarez out of high school, believed defense was his greatest strength and that the quick moves of a short-track speed skater would help a middle infielder like Alvarez, who at 5-foot-9 wouldn’t really fit anywhere else.
Alvarez said scouts were taking a long look at him back in 2011, and although he’s 24, he might be worth one of those late-round (35-40) fliers reserved for good stories. He’ll need more time and guidance to regain his form, but being an Olympic athlete, we know the athleticism is there.
The Marlins (hometown team), Dodgers (who drafted his brother, Nick) and Angels (parent club of Triple-A Salt Lake, where he’s made a speed skating home) could be teams that give him a look, based on story alone.
Rays-Nationals trade analysis
It’s only early February, but this story had the feel of July 31, if only in the way the rumor swelled over time.
First, we heard that Rays catcher Jose Lobaton was headed to the Nationals for right-handed prospect Nathan Karns, straight-up. At first, it was pretty easy to declare the Rays the winners of that deal. Karns (3.26 ERA in 132 2/3 innings for Double-A Harrisburg) has shown potential in the Minors and provides the Rays with even more starting pitching depth. (Like they needed any more.) Lobaton won’t be much more than a backup catcher in Washington, and one without a quality bat or arm, at that.
Then we learned two other prospects would be headed to the Nationals … and not just throwaways, either — Drew Vettleson and Felipe Rivero, both of whom were among the Rays’ top 20 prospects, according to MLB.com, and slotted into the No. 11 and 15 slots, respectively, in the Nats system.
That certainly changes how I view the trade. Lobaton was the so-called centerpiece of the deal beforehand, only because he was the one who would immediately be on the Major League roster. But with the deal becoming a 3-for-1, Karns became the de facto headliner.
Can Karns make an impact in the Major Leagues? Sure, and he can do it as early as this year, although that’s more likely to happen in the bullpen. Is that worth a Major League backup catcher and two Top 20 prospects? I tend to think not. Heck, Rivero, who’s likely to move up to Harrisburg this year, could become a left-handed version of Karns for the Nationals.
I’m not one to doubt the Rays, but the 3-for-1 had me scratching my head.
Lee’s spot on the D-List
I recommend Jake Seiner’s comprehensive series on what he’s calling, “The D-Listers,” aka the best defensive prospects at each position. This week, he set his sights on shortstops, and I want to focus a little bit more on an intriguing name on the D-List — Hak-Ju Lee.
As Jake notes, Lee missed all but 15 games last season after tearing ligaments in his left knee. His prospect stock has slipped from No. 32 on MLB.com’s Top 100 to No. 84 heading into this season. Defense undoubtedly was Lee’s calling card before the injury, and it’s not immediately clear how it’ll be affected in his first year back from surgery.
The good news is his arm, which rates as a 60 according to MLB.com, should remain above-average because it wasn’t affected by the injury. He might just lose half a step though, which at the shortstop position is the difference between a groundout and a seeing-eye single. And if that’s true, it’ll be a crying shame because there are few things more beautiful in the game than a smooth operator on the left side of the infield. It’s why Lee will be one of the big prospects, for me, to watch in the International League season.
In the Majors, Yunel Escobar, who had his club option picked up in the offseason, actually enjoyed his best defensive season, by far — his 12.2 UZR/150 at shortstop trumped his previous high of 5.0 at the position — but he’s not a long-term solution. If Lee is back up to speed and Escobar comes back to earth, the former could have a shot at the job by mid- or late-2014.
Mascot Item of the Week
Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be complete without mascot valentines. Here’s Steamer’s. … See others on our fb & Instagram pic.twitter.com/bZqT4wJZ1T
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) February 14, 2014
- I came out with my FIP-based look at how the top pitching prospects performed in 2013. I’ve said pretty much everything I wanted to in there, so that’s where you’ll find my exhaustive thoughts on the topic.
- Colleague Danny Wild does his Minoring in Twitter posts on the blog every week and they’re usually quite entertaining. This week’s took a bit of different turn as Danny talked to Mitch Stetter, who announced his retirement via social media before Derek Jeter made it cool.
- Baseball America had a good story about Blue Jays left-handed pitching prospect Daniel Norris and his “dream car — a 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia camper van.”
- I’ve written in the past that Jimmy Nelson’s future might be in the Brewers bullpen. The right-hander talked about just that in his Q&A with Kelsie Heneghan.
By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com
Before we get this going, let’s clear one thing up. No, this is not another attempt to squeeze another “Surprise” pun into our Arizona Fall League coverage. There are enough opportunities to do that more naturally each autumn, so there’s no point in forcing it here.
Instead, this is simply a look at which players have gone beyond expectations in what’s considered the prospect finishing school. This comes, of course, with the caveats that the AFL season is short (only 32 games) and not over (a week remains on the schedule).
But even then, we’re deep enough to see who has exceeded predictions for their Fall League production. Also, it should be pointed out that such performances can have effects on the future of a prospect. Rangers first baseman Chris McGuiness wasn’t one of the bigger names in the Fall League last year but eventually led the circuit with 27 RBIs in 25 games en route to being named MVP. He was rewarded when the Indians selected him in the Rule 5 Draft, giving him his first shot at a Major League job. (He was returned to the Rangers in the spring.)
With that in mind, here’s a look at five Fall Leaguers who have caught my eye for all the right reasons.
5. Mitch Haniger, Brewers outfielder, Surprise: Haniger sits at No. 12 in the Brewers’ system, according to MLB.com, after his first two professional seasons. The first was cut to 14 games due to a knee injury, and the second saw the 22-year-old put up decent numbers (.264/.348/.431) in 129 games between Class A Wisconsin and Class A Advanced Brevard County.
Milwaukee sent their 2011 first-rounder (38th overall) to the Fall League to see how he’d handle some more advanced competition, and the right-handed hitting outfielder hasn’t disappointed. In fact, he’s thrived. Haniger hit a grand slam in his first day and was named Player of the Week the opening week after going 9-for-16 with a homer, three doubles and seven RBIs in his first four games. He’s cooled off since but only slightly. Haniger owns a .313/.391/.525 line with three homers, eight doubles and an AFL-best 19 RBIs in 20 games (92 plate appearances) for the Saguaros. You can scream “Sample size!” if you want, but the fact remains that he only posted a monthly OPS higher than .916 once this year (.983 in May) and that came against Class A competition. It’ll be interesting to see if he can carry this impressive fall into the spring, when he’ll likely face the advanced arms of Double-A ball.
4. Tommy Collier, Tigers right-handed starter, Mesa: The 24-year-old made three starts at the beginning of the year in Class A Advanced Lakeland and then was forced to the DL for three months due to an undisclosed injury. At year’s end, his numbers weren’t eye-popping — 4.43 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 — in 67 innings, which included a five-frame start at Double-A Erie at the end of the year. Like many once-injured hurlers, he was sent to the AFL to pick up more innings.
The 6-foot-2 right-hander has done more than that. Collier, who is not ranked among the Tigers’ top 20 prospects, allowed just one run on 11 hits and two walks over 14 innings in four AFL appearances. He struck out 10 in the same span. His 0.64 ERA ranks second in the Fall League and his 0.93 WHIP seventh. Those will be the final numbers of his AFL campaign as he was dropped from the Mesa roster this week.
3. Derek Law, Giants right-handed reliever, Scottsdale: If you made a list of pitchers most likely to have a 0.00 ERA at this point in the AFL season, chances are Derek Law wouldn’t have been very high on it. And yet there he is without an earned run allowed though 10 1/3 innings for the Scorpions. Known for a funky delivery that has limited him to a relief role, Law has scattered seven hits, five walks and 13 strikeouts across nine AFL appearances. Not only is he the only qualifying pitcher with a spotless ERA, but his 1.16 WHIP is nothing to be ashamed of either.
Law enjoyed an impressive season with a 2.31 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 13.8 K/9 in 46 appearances across three levels. But the 23-year-old hasn’t sprung up on prospect lists yet because of his role as a reliever and his place in the lower levels. Such a dominant AFL campaign should get him noticed.
2. Travis Shaw, Red Sox first baseman, Surprise: At the top of the list for both homers and OPS is a rather unsurprising name in Cubs first-rounder and Mesa third baseman Kris Bryant (six, 1.286). But just below him in both categories is Shaw (five, 1.194). The 23-year-old left-handed slugger has flashed some numbers in the past, particularly in 2012 when he led the Carolina League in OBP (.411) and slugging (.545), but ever since jumping to Double-A Portland late last season, they haven’t been there. He slashed .221/.342/.394 with 16 homers and 50 RBIs this year in the Eastern League and dropped out of the Red Sox top 20 prospects list as a result.
After his numbers slipped across the board, it must be encouraging for both Shaw and the Red Sox to see them bounce back in the AFL, especially in terms of power. Now, he’ll need to have that carry back to Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket next year.
1. Jared Mitchell, White Sox outfielder, Glendale: If you look just below Shaw in both homers and OPS, you’ll find Mitchell with four and 1.074. But the reason why Mitchell gets this spot and Shaw doesn’t is pretty simple: Mitchell couldn’t hit a lick during the regular season. He batted .132 with a .447 OPS in 14 games with Triple-A Charlotte and didn’t fare much better with a .174 average and .572 OPS in 76 games in Double-A Birmingham. (An oblique injury also caused him to miss much of May.) He walked plenty (14.1 percent rate, .297 OBP) but also struck out way too much (33 percent) in his time in the Southern League. He only collected 15 extra-base hits (five homers, two triples, eight doubles) all year.
Simply put, Mitchell wasn’t much of a candidate to challenge the top of any leaderboard, outside of perhaps strikeouts. And yet as of Friday, he was up there in homers, OPS, OBP (.449, fifth) and slugging (.625, third), not to mention he had lowered his strikeout rate (18.8 percent) while maintaining his walk rate (15.9). Mitchell isn’t just another former injured player making up for lost time in the AFL. He’s making the most of this chance to rebound a career that was going the wrong direction.
By Jake Seiner/MiLB.com
Over at MiLB.com, I wrote about some of the top offensive performers from the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, noting which players had the best debuts after signing. In that article, I tried to scatter my selections across different types of draftees — after all, expectations are different for a polished college senior than for a 17-year-old who just graduated high school. Comparing the former’s performance in Class A Advanced or higher to the latter’s showing in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast or Arizona League is an apples and oranges task, so instead I tried to pick the best from a few different categories.
When trying to whittle the list down to the best seven or eight performers from the entire Draft, there were, of course, a number of standout performers who didn’t make the cut. Below is a somewhat more exhaustive list of players who shined in their first taste of pro ball with some notes and thoughts on their debuts.
Top-notch high schoolers
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo placed 28 high school hitters on his pre-Draft Top 100 list, and three of them were highlighted in today’s MiLB.com article — Pittsburgh’s first-round duo of Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire as well as Colorado second-rounder Ryan McMahon. Here are some other early selections who shined not far removed from senior prom.
Clint Frazier — First round (fifth overall) by Cleveland:
Frazier was almost unanimously considered the most promising high school bat in the Draft, rolling in at No. 4 on Mayo’s Top 100. Mayo touted Frazier as having an advanced approach with good bat speed, and that showed in his debut. The 19-year-old batted .297 with five homers and 21 extra-base hits in 44 Arizona League games. His .868 OPS was fourth in the league and he was named a postseason All-Star.
Dominic Smith — First round (11th overall) by NY Mets:
Rare is the high school first baseman with a bat so prodigious that he makes his way into the first half of the first round, but in Smith, the Mets may have found a special left-handed hitter. The Los Angeles native showed an advanced approach in his debut, hitting .287 with a .384 on-base percentage and .791 OPS in the GCL. The 6-foot, 185-pounder slugged only three homers in 48 games but figures to add more power as his frame fills.
J.P. Crawford — First round (16th overall) by Philadelphia:
The Phillies love drafting toolsy position players, and Crawford fits the bill as a typical high-upside play by Ruben Amaro Jr. and his front office. A relative of Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford, the Philadelphia shortstop hit .345 in 39 GCL games, posting a .908 OPS while stealing 12 bases in 17 attempts.
Billy McKinney — First round (24th overall) by Oakland:
The A’s sent McKinney, a center fielder out of Plano, Texas, to the AZL for his debut, where the 19-year-old hit .320 with a .798 OPS and seven steals in as many tries. He played eight games with short-season Vermont at season’s end and shined in the aggressive promotion with a .353 average, one homer and a .964 OPS.
The college collection
Today’s MiLB.com article featured extended notes on Cincinnati’s Phillip Ervin and Kansas City’s Hunter Dozier — both first-round picks who excelled and perhaps exceeded expectations in their pro debuts. The duo below also were first-round picks and improved their stock with excellent debuts.
Kris Bryant — First round (second overall) by the Chicago Cubs:
Bryant was by far the most sought after college bat in the Draft and showed why in his pro debut. The third baseman hit .354 with a 1.108 OPS and four homers in 18 short-season games with Boise, then moved to Class A Advanced Daytona, where he batted .333 with a 1.106 OPS in 16 games. The University of San Diego product has probably raised his stock more than any draftee and only adds to the Cubs’ stellar logjam of sterling infield prospects.
D.J. Peterson — First round (12th overall) by Seattle:
Though his power doesn’t quite match Bryant’s, Peterson boasts similar — if not more promising — hitting abilities. He showcased those talents this summer, debuting with short-season Everett before bumping up to Class A Clinton. Between the levels, the 21-year-old hit .303 with a .918 OPS and 13 homers. The University of New Mexico product had his season shortened by a fastball to the face in late August but tweeted recently that he was cleared to resume baseball activities.
After two long months finally got cleared for full activity. Very thankful for all those who wished me well. Excited to get back. #blessed
— DJ Peterson (@godj33) October 14, 2013
The late-round discoveries
Everybody loves a nice Draft Day steal, and while a strong debut is no guarantee for future performance, it certainly can put a hop in a scouting director’s step when a late-round pick makes an encouraging first impression in the pro ranks.
Michael Ratterree — 10th round by Milwaukee:
The Brewers popped Ratterree and signed him for a meager $25,000 as a senior coming out of Rice. The immediate returns were promising as the outfielder earned Pioneer League MVP honors behind a .314 average and .976 OPS with 12 homers and seven steals. The 22-year-old is likely going to be limited to corner outfield duties as he matures, putting pressure on his bat to develop. More numbers like what he produced with Helena would make the Houston native a steal. As a bonus for Brewers’ fans, 2013 eighth-rounder Brandon Diaz also had a stellar debut, posting a .395 OBP with 21 steals as an 18-year-old in the AZL.
Cal Towey — 17th round by the LA Angels:
As a 23-year-old in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, Towey should have been expected to perform, but even in that context, his debut was noteworthy. The left-handed hitter batted .317 and posted a .492 OBP behind a 59-to-67 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Baylor product belted eight homers and stole 13 bases.
Kyle Wren — Eighth round by Atlanta:
Wren’s father is Frank Wren, who spent five years as a Minor Leaguer before embarking on a front-office career that’s led to a job as Braves general manager. Kyle Wren was a management major at Georgia Tech and may one day follow pops into the front office, but right now, it looks like the center fielder may have a good chance to surpass his dad’s on-field accomplishments. The younger Wren hit .335 across three levels with an .863 OPS and 35 steals in his debut. The Braves also are very excited about his defensive tools in center, where his excellent speed makes him an asset.
Jake Seiner / MiLB.com
Yankees’ Rob Refsnyder on the development of his pitch recognition skills (Refsnyder drives in six for Tampa):
“In college, I batted fourth, and at Arizona we always had a pretty potent offense. I would hit with runners in scoring position a lot, so I saw a lot of offspeed. When guys were throwing offspeed in the first or second pitch of the at-bat, usually you’re going to take that.
“I worked hard at Arizona, first with Mark Wasikowski, now at Oregon, and then Matt Siegel and Andy Lopez. I worked with them on being comfortable hitting with two strikes. Sometimes the pitchers are really going to pound you in, and you have to look in. Or they’re going to pound you away with sliders, and you have to look away.
“Pitchers will get two strikes on you, but sometimes they give hitters a little too much of the benefit of the doubt. It’s a competition between you and the pitcher with two strikes, and that’s kind of what they instilled in all of us hitters at Arizona.
“I got comfortable hitting with two strikes in my freshman and sophomore years, and then junior year, I got really comfortable with it. I’m fortunate to have that in my game. You never want to get two strikes on yourself, really, but it happens a lot in baseball as the pitchers get better.”
Toronto’s Sean Nolin on the development of his curveball (Nolin still posting zeros for Fisher Cats):
“It comes with time and experience. You have to make sure you have the spin down, and once you get that, then you can kind of gear up, work on locating it better and make the right pitch in the right spot. You can throw a bad curve in the dirt, but if it’s slow and the hitter is looking for a fastball, when that curve comes in 20 mph slower, it’s tough to react to.”
Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders on Rockies prospect Raimel Tapia (Rockies Tapia extends hit streak to 20):
“He definitely is a young pup with room to grow. He’s close to 6-foot-3 now. He’s a tall, lanky guy, and he’s just starting to get into the weight room. He’s going to be a beast. We always joke around with the coaches — if he were drafted here in the states, he compares to the first rounders out of high school. This is a first round pick, for sure. He has those kinds of tools.
“He’s just a young kid, and we’re watching him grow up right before our eyes. He’s making adjustments at the plate. He’s super aggressive and just puts the bat to the ball, and good things have happened.
“I think that what’s allowing it is mostly his approach. He can put the bat on the ball, and he has tons of tools, but you can watch him pitch-to-pitch and at-bat-to-at-bat, he’s making adjustments. He’s figuring out what guys are trying to do to him, and you don’t see that much at this level.”
Arizona’s Joe Munoz on his first year of pro baseball (Shortstop Munoz stays hot for Osprey):
“I’ve definitely learned a lot. When I came here for my first year, I thought I knew a lot about the game. No — I was like a newborn in the game. I’ve learned so much I didn’t think you could think about during the game. Looking at counts, things like that. Say I just got out, and I’ll go back into the dugout — I can look at the pitcher and see if his tipping his pitches.
“That’s something I’ve been doing this season. I’ve noticed a lot of pitchers tip their pitches without knowing they’re doing it. I’ve definitely learned a lot more than I even thought there was to learn.”
Houston’s Max Stassi on the importance of his mental approach (Stassi goes yard in fifth straight game):
“I’m always constantly working on the mental game. That’s the biggest thing for me. You look at all the guys around here at this level and above, and you see how important the mental game is.
“That’s a big separator. Everyone has the same amount of tools around here. It’s all about finding different ways to separate yourself. You can always be mentally stronger.”
Milwaukee’s Victor Roache on playing after missing 14 months of game action (Roache drives in seven for Rattlers):
“I think part of it is repetition. I missed a lot of time. I’m finally getting at-bats, and I’m feeling more confident in the box. I think I have a better understanding of how the pitchers are pitching to me. I’ve also been tweaking my swing, keeping my front shoulder in and trying to land my front foot flat and square so I’m not spinning out with my front side. That’s allowed me to see the ball better and make more consistent swings.
“It’s been a long process. … I never thought it would take this long to get my timing back, but it has. After the All-Star break is the first I’ve felt – I had a few games where my timing would come back, maybe for a few days, but after the All-Star break is the first time it’s consistently been there. For the last couple weeks, it’s definitely a big difference. My confidence is coming back, and I’m starting to feel like my old self again.”
Miami’s Brian Flynn on his changeup (Flynn solid for Z’s on anniversary):
“It’s been a lot of the same stuff. We’ve just been fine-tuning everything. Being so big, I would try to get way back in my delivery and I’d overthrow and leave the ball up in the zone. Now, I’m just working on letting it go at the right time, getting over my front leg and exploding downhill. It’s the same emphasis, same stuff, just fine-tuning. Tonight, I felt really great, and that was the biggest reason I was effective.”
By Jake Seiner
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.
Blue Jays’ prospect Andy Burns on his unique path to pro ball (Burns does double damage in seventh):
“It was definitely a pretty crazy experience. I went up to the Cape after my sophomore year after having my scholarship pulled at Kentucky, and I had a good summer up there. Obviously, there were tons of good scouts there, and I know they saw me play.
“I ended up going to Arizona, and I was close to winning my eligibility. I think there’s a seven-person committee, and I lost out by one vote, the swing vote. I had spent my whole fall preparing as if I would play, and I didn’t find out I wouldn’t until two or three weeks before the season started. Scouts had seen me in the fall, though.
“I definitely thought it would be more of a draft-and-follow type of deal, but the Blue Jays liked me. Blake Crosby, our area scout out there, came out to see me play in intrasquads and see me in [batting practice] and stuff. I went to workout in California for the Blue Jays and did well there.
“I thought it would be a draft-and-follow deal, but they picked me in the 11th round and got me the money I was asking for. It was unfortunate I had to wait to sign because it was an overslot deal, so it took a while to get done, which delayed me getting started. I couldn’t be happier.”
“[Richie Hebner and I] kind of decided to limit some of the movement in my swing and get started a little earlier. I was really late and getting beat by pitches that, down in Florida, I wouldn’t get beat by. I made adjustments with my movement and my swing and shortening it up so it’s not quite as loud, per se. That’s something that over the last four or five days, I’ve been working with. It seems to be helping.”
Brewers prospect Andy Moye on adjusting to Double-A (Stars’ Moye loses no-hit bid in ninth):
“One thing I’ve learned with this league that I didn’t do early on is just attacking these hitters. It’s my first year in Double-A, and it’s a learning experience, as coach says sometimes. I’ve learned to attack guys and just try to pound the zone with all my pitches and see what happens. I didn’t get ahead quite as well in the outing before, but I had similar results. I’m just trying to go right at guys. I think that’s been the term for me this year.”
Tigers prospect Drew VerHagen on his work with Erie pitching coach Jaime Garcia (VerHagen pitches three-hit shutout):
“Jaime’s helped me a lot. The first couple of weeks, he was just kind of evaluating. In my bullpens, he’s helped me a lot with my off-speed pitches, my curve and my changeup. We’re doing certain drills before the [bullpen session], and that has helped a lot.
“I think my goal is to keep improving those pitches so I can throw them in any count at any time in the game. I want to throw them for strikes and throw them to whatever location I want.
“I think Jaime and my High-A pitching coach Mike Maroth have both helped a lot. Jaime put in specific drills to work on the curve and the change that I think have definitely helped with staying consistent and throwing the ball for strikes.”
By Jonathan Raymond
We’re about halfway through the Minor League season, so we’re going to start identifying 10 prospects from each full-season league who significantly improved their stock through the first half of the Minor League season. By the very nature of already being highly ranked within their organizations, it’s hard for top-10 prospects to do much more climbing, so we’ll stick to prospects that were either ranked outside their team’s top 10 — as rated before the season by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo — or who went unranked entirely.
What he did: .291/.395/.493, 9 HR, 4 3B, 10 2B, 42 RBIs in 60 games. Okay, so Winker just barely qualifies, as he was Cincinnati’s 11th-ranked prospect before the season began, but still. The 19-year-old has shown advanced bat control, with 36 walks to 44 strikeouts, while delivering nice power and even a little bit of speed.
What he did: 4-1, 2.47 ERA, 44 K /2 BB in 62 innings — Yes, that’s correct, two walks in 62 innings. For those wondering, that works out to 0.29 walks per nine innings. The 20-year-old South African also ranks just outside the top five in the MWL in ERA at sixth.
What he did: .350/.423/.488, 6 HR, 14 2B, 37 RBIs, 10 steals in 13 tries in 69 games — I wouldn’t say he’s come out nowhere to lead the MWL in batting average, but I’ll at least say he’s come out of somewhere obscure. A product of Florida State, the 22-year-old had a decent debut last year for Connecticut (.280/.352/.441 in 25 games) before coming out firing on all cylinders this year.
What he did: 6-1, 2.47 ERA, 42 K /10 BB in 58 1/3 innings — The 22-year-old actually sits tied with Unsworth for sixth in the league in ERA. His first half in the MWL is a nice consolidation on the gains he made last year when he posted a 1.96 ERA in 64 1/3 innings for Hudson Valley in the New York-Penn League, striking out 70 and walking 20.
What he did: .283/.366/.483, 9 HR, 4 3B, 11 2B, 47 RBIs, 13 steals in 15 tries in 65 games — Bostick chased his dream and went for baseball in 2011 out of high school in Rochester, N.Y. (Aquinas Institute), even though he was taken in the 44th round, and it’s beginning to look like a solid choice. The 20-year-old hit a modest .251/.325/.369 in 70 games for Vermont last season before turning into one of the breakout stars of the Oakland system this year.
What he did: .273/.321/.502, 10 HR, 5 3B, 16 2B, 54 RBIs, 6 steals in 6 tries in 63 games — Walker, a 21-year-old out of Jacksonville University, has some big strikeout numbers (62 in 245 at-bats) and he doesn’t walk a whole lot yet, but it’s hard not to like that power. He even showed off a little speed with five triples and a perfect six-for-six on steal attempts.
What he did: 3-2, 2.71 ERA, 51 K/19 BB in 66 1/3 innings — Tyson Ross’ little brother was very good for Eugene in the Northwest League last year before he scuffled in a brief audition with the TinCaps. He’s been much better this year, however, with the 20-year-old flashing nice control while still maintaining a healthy strikeout rate.
8. Andrew Toles, CF (Bowling Green) — 2012 Draft, 3rd round, Rays unranked
What he did: .323/.350/.464, 1 HR, 9 3B, 16 2B, 41 steals in 46 tries in 61 games — The 21-year-old, like, Walker, doesn’t have the most advanced plate discipline yet, with eight walks to 57 strikeouts in 263 at-bats. But Toles, a Tennessee product, has surprising pop for a smaller center fielder (he had seven home runs and a .482 slugging percentage in 51 games for Princeton last year) and obvious speed.
What he did: 4-3, 4.29 ERA, 69 K/22 BB in 63 innings — Velasquez is looking like a Tommy John survivor with the first half of his year. He came back in late 2012 and tossed a very nice 45 2/3 innings for Tri-City (3.35 ERA, 51 strikeouts, 17 walks) and has fared well in already building up the heaviest workload of his short career so far this season.
What he did: 6-5, 3.32 ERA, 59 K/24 BB in 65 innings — The 22-year-old has had a nice year for Wisconsin so far after he suffered through some bumps with Helena last year (7.77 ERA in 48 2/3 innings). The Utah product ranks in the top-15 of the MWL in strikeouts and WHIP (1.18).
Where he ranks now: He’s probably a little more likely in the 20-30 range still for now, but if he continues to improve as the season continues, you never know.
With the 2013 MLB Draft starting Thursday, we thought we’d take the next few days to run down how some of the more intriguing picks out of the top rounds from the last few Drafts have fared. On Monday, we looked at 2009. On Tuesday, we looked at 2010.
Today, we turn our attention to 2011.
The 2011 Draft had some noteworthy storylines, ranging from two UCLA Bruins being selected in the first three picks to two Oklahoma pitchers being taken in the top seven. The Rays punched up their farm system with a league-high 10 picks in the first and sandwich rounds, starting with Taylor Guerrieri at No. 24 and finishing with James Harris at 60. But with only one full-time Major Leaguer among its ranks thus far, the book on the Class of 2011 still largely remains to be written.
- Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh (2013: Triple-A Indianapolis) – The 6-foot-4 right-hander has shot up the Pirates’ ladder and should be expected to make his Major League debut within the next few months before taking a more permanent role in the rotation next season.
- Danny Hultzen, Seattle (2013: Triple-A Tacoma) – The southpaw got Mariners fans excited by going 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA through his first four starts in the hitter-happy PCL this season. But he’s been shut down ever since with a rotator cuff strain and tendinitis.
- Trevor Bauer, Arizona (2013: Triple-A Columbus, MLB Indians) – Bauer was shipped to the Indians system as part of the deals that sent Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati and Didi Gregorius to Arizona last offseason. He’s played the role of spot starter at the Major League level this season, going 1-2 with a 2.76 ERA in three starts for the Tribe but hasn’t shown enough consistent command (11-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 1/3 innings) to earn a more permanent spot.
- Dylan Bundy, Baltimore (2013: injured) – MLB.com’s No. 2 prospect has yet to take the field due to elbow stiffness but has been cleared to begin throwing again. He will not undergo surgery.
- Bubba Starling, Kansas City (2013: Class A Lexington) – The Royals were slow to bring the center fielder along by not allowing him to make his full-season debut until this year. He’s struggled at the plate so far, batting .206 with a .649 OPS in 49 games for Lexington.
- Anthony Rendon, Washington (2013: Double-A Harrisburg, Triple-A Syracuse, MLB Nationals) — Rendon, who turns 23 on Thursday, tore up the Eastern League (.319/.461/.603) and even earned a promotion to The Show when Ryan Zimmerman hit the DL. He made a short stop in Syracuse but is back in the big leagues — this time as a second baseman — due to Danny Espinosa’s recent injury.
- Archie Bradley, Arizona (2013: Class A Advanced Visalia, Double-A Mobile) – At 7-1 with a 1.18 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 12 starts between two levels, the 20-year-old right-hander has made a case to claim the best statistical season by a pitcher in the Minors thus far.
- Francisco Lindor, Cleveland (2013: Class A Advanced Carolina) – The reviews on the 19-year-old’s defense have always been high, but he looks like he’s taking the next step forward at the dish (.306/.375/.427) so far with the Mudcats.
- Javier Baez, Chicago (2013: Class A Advanced Daytona) – The Puerto Rico native has a lot of pop in his bat for a shortstop, although that’s not necessarily where he’ll stick given Starlin Castro’s place there for the Cubs. Through 51 games at Daytona, 33 of his 59 hits have gone for extra bases. He’s walked, though, just 23 times in 577 career plate appearances.
- Cory Spangenberg, San Diego (2013: Class A Advaned Lake Elsinore) – Spangenberg finds himself back in the Cal League after a concussion and hitting woes kept him from having a solid first full season. He’s improved in his second trip with the Storm however — his OPS is nearly 150 points higher — and his speed continues to be his calling card.
- George Springer, Houston (2013: Double-A Corpus Christi) – The University of Connecticut product could be the game’s next big thing, given his start to 2013. His 17 homers in the Texas League lead all Minor Leaguers, a hopeful sign for any Astros fan desperately looking for one.
- Taylor Jungmann, Milwaukee (2013: Double-A Huntsville) – Jungmann has yet to take off and, with a 4.78 ERA in 10 starts with the Stars, will need more seasoning before he or the Brewers can even entertain any thoughts about a promotion.
- Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets (2013: Class A Savannah) – The Mets have taken a similar approach to the Royals with their 2011 first-rounder, allowing Nimmo to finally make his full-season debut this season. He missed nearly a month in May, however, with a hand contusion and a back issue.
- Jose Fernandez, Miami (2013: MLB Marlins) – The first member of the Class of 2011 to become a full-time Major Leaguer, Fernandez has been one of the few bright spots for the Fish this season and remains a candidate for NL Rookie of the Year, despite having never previously pitching higher than Class A Advanced.
- Jed Bradley, Milwaukee (2013: Class A Advanced Brevard County)
- Chris Reed, LA Dodgers (2013: Double-A Chattanooga)
- C.J. Cron, LA Angels (2013: Double-A Arkansas)
- Sonny Gray, Oakland (2013: Triple-A Sacramento) – The A’s only pick in the first or supplemental rounds, Gray was merely OK (4.14 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) in his first full season in the Texas League a year ago, but the right-hander is trending up once more after a solid start (2.40 ERA, 1.26 WHIP in 10 appearances) with the River Cats.
- Matt Barnes, Boston (2013: Double-A Portland)
- Tyler Anderson, Colorado (2013: Class A Advanced Modesto)
- Tyler Beede, Toronto (2013: did not sign, Vanderbilt) – Beede was the highest selected player who elected not to sign in 2011. The Auburn, Mass., native instead chose to play at Vanderbilt, where he went 14-0 with a 2.20 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 98 1/3 innings and was named a Golden Spikes Award finalist Tuesday. He will be draft eligible next season.
- Kolten Wong, St. Louis (2013: Triple-A Memphis) – The University of Hawaii product forms just one part of a very strong Cardinals system and has performed admirably at each step up the ladder. He’s already garnered a handful of honors — Texas League All-Star, Futures Game selection, AFL Rising Star — and should join Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez in making his Major League debut by this September at the latest.
- Alex Meyer, Washington (2013: Double-A New Britain) – Meyer moved to the Twins organization last offseason in the trade that sent Denard Span to the Nationals. He’d be the top prospect in the system if not for stellar sluggers Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. As it stands, the 6-foot-9 titan is MLB.com’s No.38 prospect and remains part of a promising future for those in Minnesota.
- Taylor Guerrieri, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Joe Ross, San Diego (2013: Class A Fort Wayne)
- Blake Swihart, Boston (2013: Class A Advanced Salem)
- Robert Stephenson, Cincinnati (2013: Class A Dayton) – The Reds chose to bring the right-hander along slowly, not allowing him to make his full-season debut until this year in the Midwest League. He did not perform well out of the gate, going 0-3 with a 5.48 ERA in five April starts but has since shown flashes of dominance. He was 5-0 with a 1.96 ERA in May for the Dragons.
- Sean Gilmartin, Atlanta (2013: Triple-A Gwinnett) – The left-hander advanced to Triple-A in his first full season and finds himself back there once again, where he’s been mostly solid. At 23, it’s still early in his professional development, and plenty of time remains for him to pitch his way into the already logjammed Atlanta rotation.
- Joe Panik, San Francisco (2013: Double-A Richmond) – Panik has shown an ability to hit for average and reach base at every level, and that’s continued in the Eastern League where he’s batting .286 with a .375 OBP.
- Levi Michael, Minnesota (2013: Class A Advanced Fort Myers)
- Mikie Mahtook, Tampa Bay (2013: Double-A Montgomery) – The tools are there for the Rays’ No. 11 prospect, even if the results necessarily haven’t been quite yet. The LSU product is batting just .240 for the Biscuits this season, but he’s shown some pop as well as speed. Of his 53 hits thus far, 24 have gone for extra bases, including seven triples.
- Jake Hager, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Advanced Charlotte)
- Kevin Matthews, Texas (2013: injured) — The left-hander has yet to pitch in 2013 due to an impingement in his left shoulder.
- Brian Goodwin, Washington (2013: Double-A Harrisburg)
- Jacob Anderson, Toronto (2013: Unassigned in Blue Jays Org) – The 20-year-old outfielder couldn’t muster anything in the way of results (.194/.271/.304, 72 strikeouts in 191 at-bats) with Rookie-level Bluefield last year. As such, the Jays held him back from making his full-season debut this year and will look for him to grow in the short season once more before a trip to Lansing is considered.
- Henry Owens, Boston (2013: Class A Advanced Salem) – Owens, a lanky left-hander, showed some promising signs at Class A Greenville last year especially in the strikeout department, where he collected 130 strikeouts in 101 2/3 innings. He seems to have taken another step forward in 2013, where he is 3-2 with a 3.53 ERA and 62 K’s in 51 frames. The southpaw could be in Double-A before his 21st birthday in July.
- Zach Cone, Texas (2013: Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach)
- Brandon Martin, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Larry Greene, Philadelphia (2013: Class A Lakewood)
- Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston (2013: Triple-A Pawtucket, MLB Red Sox) – A breakout spring led to calls from Red Sox Nation to have Bradley on the team’s Opening Day roster, and the outfielder indeed found himself in the lineup in Game 1, only to be optioned back down in mid-April after struggles and inconsistent playing time necessitated the move. After a successful turn with the PawSox, he’s back up with the big club now due to Shane Victorino’s trip to the DL, and the former South Carolina star hit his first Major League home run Tuesday night.
- Tyler Goeddel, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Jeff Ames, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Andrew Chafin, Arizona (2013: Class A Advanced Visalia, Double-A Mobile)
- Michael Fulmer, New York Mets (2013: DNP) – Like fellow Oklahoman Bundy, Fulmer has yet to take the mound this season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee in March.
- Trevor Story, Colorado (2013: Class A Advanced Modesto)
- Joseph Musgrove, Toronto (2013: Unassigned in Astros Org) — The 6-foot-5 right-hander was traded to the Astros as part of a 10-player deal last July. He’s pitched in only 41 2/3 innings in the pros since being taken in 2011 and hasn’t made his official Astros organization debut yet, although that will come when short-season leagues start soon.
- Keenyn Walker, Chicago White Sox (2013: Double-A Birmingham)
- Michael Kelly, San Diego (2013: Class A Fort Wayne)
- Kyle Crick, San Francisco (2013: Class A Advanced San Jose) – Crick’s stellar 2012 campaign in Augusta vaulted him to the top of the Giants’ prospect list entering 2013. Three starts into this season, however, he developed an oblique injury and has been sidelined ever since. He’ll bring a plus fastball and solid slider to the California League when he does return.
- Travis Harrison, Minnesota (2013: Class A Cedar Rapids)
- Dante Bichette Jr., New York Yankees (2013: Class A Charleston) – The name alone garnered some attention in 2011, and an MVP season in the Gulf Coast League only added to that. But Bichette hasn’t been able to put it together at the Class A level, which he is repeating this season. Even so, he’s posted just a .623 OPS through 53 games with the RiverDogs — a number that is 30 points lower than the one he put up in 2012.
- Blake Snell, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Dwight Smith Jr., Toronto (2013: Class A Lansing)
- Brett Austin, San Diego (2013: did not sign, NC State) – The Padres couldn’t lure the Charlotte native away from a scholarship at NC State. The catcher/outfielder just helped lead the Wolf Pack to the Super Regionals, where it will take on Rice.
- Hudson Boyd, Minnesota (2013: Class A Cedar Rapids)
- Kes Carter, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Advanced Charlotte)
- Kevin Comer, Toronto (2013: DNP, Unassigned in Astros Org) – Like Musgrove, Comer was part of the Blue Jays movement to take young high school arms that would be projects but could be big-time prospects if everything ironed out. Also like Musgrove, Comer was sent to the Astros and has yet to make his debut with the organization.
- Jace Peterson, San Diego (2013: Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore)
- Grayson Garvin, Tampa Bay (2013: injured)
- James Harris, Tampa Bay (2013: Unassigned in Rays Org)
Thinking back on the mid-December trade that brought baseball’s No. 6 prospect (catcher Travis d’Arnaud) to a pairing with baseball’s No. 8 prospect (right-hander Zack Wheeler) got me writing. Below I project the 10 best sets of batterymates throughout the Minors this coming season. You’ll see that the hurler-catcher duos cover nine different leagues.
An advisory: Each player’s name, once clicked, will take you to his bio/statistics page. His organizational ranking as a prospect is the “No.” in parentheses. If you have questions about a particular player, ask away in the comment section and I promise to answer. Also let me know if you agree/disagree with the rankings and present your arguments.
- Mets — Triple-A Buffalo (INT): Travis d’Arnaud (No. 1 in system) and RHP Zack Wheeler (No. 2)
- Braves – Triple-A Gwinnett (INT): Chrisitan Bethancourt (No. 2) and RHP Julio Teheran (No. 1)
- Mariners — Triple-A Tacoma (PCL): Mike Zunino (No. 3) and RHP Taijuan Walker (No. 1)
- Phillies: Triple-A Lehigh Valley (INT): Tommy Joseph (No. 3) and RHPs Ethan Martin (No. 2)
- Red Sox: Class A Advanced Salem (CAR) Blake Swihart (No. 9) and LHP Henry Owens (No. 5)
- Padres: Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore (CAL): Austin Hedges (No. 5) and RHP Matt Wisler (No. 8)
- Rockies: Class A Advanced Modesto (CAL): Will Swanner (No. 8) and LHP Tyler Anderson (No. 6)
- Rangers: Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach (CAR): Jorge Alfaro (No. 5) and RHP Luke Jackson (No. 13)
- Pirates: Triple-A Indianapolis (INT): Tony Sanchez (No. 16) and RHP Gerrit Cole (No. 1). This omission was pointed out by a thoughtful reader on Twitter.
- Yankees — Double-A Trenton (EAS): Gary Sanchez (No. 1) and RHP Jose A. Ramirez (No. 13)
- Phillies (2): Triple-A Lehigh Valley (INT): Sebastian Valle (No. 8) and RHP Jonathan Pettibone (No. 4)
- Mets (2) Class A Savannah (SAL): Kevin Plawecki (No. 17) and RHP Luis Mateo (No. 9)
- D-backs: Class A Short-Season Missoula (PIO): Stryker Trahan (No. 11) and RHP Ben Eckels (UR)
- Pirates (2): Class A Short-Season Jamestown (NYP): Wyatt Mathisen (No. 10) and RHP Tyler Glasnow (No. 19)
- Brewers: Class A Short-Season Helena (PIO): Clint Coulter (No. 10) and RHP Damien Magnifico (No. 20)
Prospect Flashback: Picturing Brewers’ Slugger Ryan Braun at Class A Advanced Brevard County before He Became Milwaukee’s Best
Ryan Braun has been in the news lately, and the stories have been about Biogenesis, not baseball (see below).
Now 29, the slugger has been under suspicion for a lot of things. What we know for sure is that he can hit. He’s been doing that most of the last decade.
Here is Braun as a as a Florida State League farmhand in 2006. He is 22 here, beginning his final full season in the Minors, which he split between Class A Advanced Brevard County and Double-A Huntsville. Click on any photo to begin the slideshow. For all past editions of Prospect Flashback, click here.
PHOENIX — Hours after reporting to Spring Training and declining to answer questions about Biogenesis, Ryan Braun faced a new round of questions about his link to the South Florida clinic under investigation by Major League Baseball.
ESPN.com on Friday afternoon published what it said is an additional excerpt from the logbooks of Tony Bosch, who headed the now-defunct anti-aging clinic, which includes Braun’s name on what a source told ESPN was a list of Biogenesis clients. The firm is being investigated by MLB for allegedly supplying some players with banned substances.
The latest story was published hours after Braun had met reporters and made it clear he was not willing to field questions about Biogenesis.
“I am excited to be back out here for Spring Training, certainly looking forward to the World Baseball Classic and obviously excited and focused on our upcoming Brewers season,” Braun said. “I understand why a lot of you guys are probably here, but I made a statement last week and I stand behind that statement. I’m not going to address that issue any further. As I stated, I’m happy to cooperate fully with any investigation into this matter.”
To continue reading MLB.com’s story, click here.
Twenty Top 100 Prospects and Their Chances of Making Opening Day Rosters at The Start of SpringTraining
Today is Friday, Feb. 15. In baseball terms, it is the “voluntary date on which all non-World Baseball Classic position players may be invited to Spring Training.” But most Major Leaguers, from the veterans to rookies, are already in camp. It is the rooks, or would-be rooks, that we focus on here and now. Turns out that 20 members of MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects have at least a reasonable shot of cracking their first Opening Day roster. They are below. Let me know in the comment section what you think of my assessment regarding which ballplayers might/might not make their respective clubs.
A links advisory: Click on the bolded team name for the MLB depth chart; click on the player name for his bio and MiLB stats; and the number in parentheses listed after the player name is his overall ranking in our Top 100 list.
- Questions worth asking: Can Profar unseat veteran Elvis Andrus at shortstop, or do the Rangers shift him to another position (2B, CF) in order to get his dynamic talents into the Majors immediately? Still 19, doesn’t he need a full season at Triple-A to polish his tools? Speaking of positional changes, where does Olt play? He’s a very good third baseman, but isn’t Adrian Beltre, who is signed for three more years, outstanding on the hot corner? Can Olt slug his way into the starting right field spot, or should he join Profar at Triple-A Round Rock? Does Perez finally put it together in Texas’ fifth rotation slot? Can he hold off vet righty Colby Lewis to make his first April rotation?
- Chances worth guessing: Profar (50%), Olt (50%) and Perez (75%)
- Questions: At 20 and with just 23 Minor League starts under his belt, is Bundy ready? He could probably hold his own right now, sure, but would getting beat up early on hurt him down the road? How much better does he have to be than the Matusz-Arrieta-Britton types to convince Baltimore to hand him the No. 5 starter role?
- Chances: 25%
- Questions: With Matt Joyce stationed in left field and Desmond Jennings in center, why not start out with Myers in right? Does Tampa Bay want to delay initializing his arbitration clock, or would Andrew Friedman and Co. rather go with the proven Ben Zobrist out there? With perhaps the deepest starting rotation in baseball, do Odorizzi and Archer have much of a shot? Would a trade of ace David Price make sense, given the unbelievable depth in able arms? Will Odorizzi and Archer foster the Minors’ best 1-2 punch at Triple-A Durham?
- Chances: Myers (50%), Odorizzi (25%) and Archer (25%)