The Prospector

2015 Prospect Outlook: The Diamondbacks PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 18 November 2014 00:00

The Diamondbacks had the dubious honor of having the worst record in the Majors in 2014, good for the #1 overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft. That may be one of the few highlights of the season, though A.J. Pollock started to fulfill his potential and rookies Chris Owings, Ender Inciarte and David Peralta all played significant roles as did pitchers Vidal Nuno (after coming over from the Yankees), Chase Anderson, Evan Marshall and Mike Bolsinger, to name a few.

Since we’re now firmly amidst the offseason, these articles are more than a post-mortem. They are now an outlook and will focus on that aspect from here on out.

System Graduates: Chris Owings made the Majors last season and claimed the second base job this year. The righty showed flashes of his double digit HR and SB potential over 332 plate appearances, but he also continues to be an overly aggressive hitter who needs to improve how often he makes contact at the MLB level. Striking out 20% of the time and OBPs bordering on .300 are not long-term starter skills. In fact, Owings falls into that category of potentially being more valuable from a fantasy standpoint than from a real baseball standpoint.

It was thought Chase Anderson might move into a middle relief role last year, but he came back a starter after injury in Double-A and impressed with his strike-throwing ability and made 21 starts with the D-backs, most impressively bringing his strikeout rates along for the ride. (8.3 K/9). Anderson accomplished it by changing speeds rather well, armed with a solid curve and two changeups. Going forward, he projects well as a #3 or #4 starter.

Evan Marshall accomplished what was expected of him and more, throwing harder and keeping the ball on the ground (though 61% of the time was better than expected). Where he exceeded expectations was in his ability to actually throw strikes and command his pitches. He’ll continue to be a setup man as long as he can keep doing that.

Ender Inciarte and David Peralta head into 2015 with the intention that they will both see significant playing time in left field despite both being left-handed hitters. Prior to the season, neither player was considered much of a prospect and in fact both were more on the organizational player path at the beginning of the year. However, Inciarte’s speed and disciplined, contact-oriented approach make him viable as more than a platoon player, making it likely he will see significant action against lefties. His skills have translated well at each new level of play, so it actually would not be surprising in a second go around for Inciarte to actually improve in the OBP department. Peralta, 27, also has a fair history of making contact and gap power. Overall, the former Cardinal's role and production may not hold up as well as Inciarte’s given a more aggressive approach and less defensive versatility.

Like Peralta and Inciarte, Mike Bolsinger was nowhere to be seen on the prospect radar even after 17 fairly solid Triple-A starts in 2013. The righty improved on that in 2014 and subsequently earned a promotion where his walk and strikeout rates barely altered in the transition with a .355 BABIP and acute homeritis destroying his ERA. Bolsinger is actually a dominant ground ball pitcher who throws strikes, so the issue is clearly a command one. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be an opening in the Diamondbacks rotation for him in 2015, so he’ll have to bide his time and wait for some spot start opportunities or injuries.

Stock Rising: Jacob Lamb retained his rookie status by a mere three at-bats. The former 6th round pick has enjoyed solid back to back campaigns, including a .318/.399/.551 slash at Double-A with 14 homers. Given a history of fairly high (low to mid-20%) strikeout rates, the batting average is not likely to move up with him to the Majors as seen in his 37 games with the D-Backs. What is likely to come along, in time, are his walk rates. Lamb is a patient right-handed hitter with upper teens to low-twenties home run power and an above average glove and arm for third base. For now, Lamb will spend a good deal of 2015 in Triple-A with Aaron Hill (coming off a very disappointing year) ahead of him on the major league depth chart.

Lamb is not the only third baseman in Arizona’s system whose career is on an upswing. Brandon Drury hit 23 home runs between A+ and Double-A ball while hitting another three in the AFL. Like Lamb, Drury is more than capable of handling the defensive demands at third base. Drury’s better power and bat speed, however, translate into above average contact-making skills which could make him a .280s or better hitter at the MLB level. Of the two, Drury has the higher ceiling and is more likely to man the hot corner for them long-term.

Steady as it Goes: Aaron Blair, the Diamondbacks' 2013 supplemental first round pick, remains on target to eventually join the starting rotation. The righty has a plus fastball/change-up combination and an average curve that he can all throw for strikes. The fastball is a quality sinker that induces plenty of groundballs as well. In eight Double-A starts, he managed an 8.9 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 and could easily move up to Triple-A to begin next year and has a shot at joining the rotation depending upon the circumstances. While he does not have the highest ceiling of the Diamondbacks young starters, he may be the safest bet of the bunch.

Braden Shipley was taken in the first round ahead of Blair and still projects as having the higher ceiling given three pitches with plus potential. Upon reaching Double-A, over a small sample, his control wavered a bit and his command within the zone can be shaky, resulting in a fair share of homers allowed in the past season. If he can make the necessary adjustments, he can be a #2 or more likely a #3 starter. He is more likely than Blair to retain higher strikeout rates at the MLB level given the separation between his mid-nineties fastball and plus changeup.

Sergio Alcantara repeated Rookie ball. The 18-year-old has a good glove for short and an intriguing approach, but he lacks punch and any outstanding offensive raw tools at the moment. Probably on the utility man track to the Majors, but there’s a ton of time here for him to turn things around.

20-year-old Stryker Trahan had an up and down season. The lefty has a great throwing arm and was tried out in right field, but he continues to see action behind the plate too. His long-term role at this time is still in flux. Trahan’s best tool is his power as he hit 19 home runs between two levels and profiles as a possible 25-plus HR hitter at his peak if he can continue to make contact. He showed some patience and contact skills in low A-ball, but in route to hitting the majority of his homers at full season A-ball, he also ended up striking out over a third of the time. That rate, however, is well out of context with what Trahan has done in the past, so there still remains plenty of room for optimism.

Peter O’Brien, acquired from the Yankees this season, showed tremendous power with his former team, but he also continued to show he is not a catcher long-term and that he is an aggressive hitter who frequently strikes out. The righty’s best path to the Majors is probably as a right-handed platoon player and emergency-only backstop.

Nick Ahmed’s game rebounded in his second season with the Diamondbacks, though not really in much part to any change in skill, but rather a significant fluctuation in BABIP from a surprising .266 in 2013 to an on the high side .352 this year. A plus defender, this second round pick has decent speed, doubles power, and makes frequent contact. Still, the sum total of the package is likely a utility player.

Stock Falling: One has to drool over Archie Bradley’s stuff, but his struggles at every level this season with his command demonstrate he is not yet ready to take on a big league starting role. When on his game, this is a pitcher with three absolutely dominant pitches and ace potential. However, it’s hard to be an ace when you get knocked around everywhere. Barring some significant improvement, it's starting to look like a move to the bullpen might be in the cards.

2012 supplemental first round pick Mitch Haniger came over as part of the Gerardo Parra deal from the Brewers. Like Parra, Haniger is a tweener who can play effective defense, make contact, and can even steal the occasional base. But he's neither a speed burner nor a dominant threat in the power department and needs to start changing some of those doubles into homers as was originally expected of him when drafted.  He has shown decent on-base abilities in the lower Minors and he’ll need to show that again in Triple-A this season if he is going to be more than a fourth or fifth outfielder type. There are too many “ifs” here to highly recommend him for fantasy league purposes.

Key Injuries: Jose Martinez made just two starts this season due to a fractured right elbow. Still, he has very good potential if he can show the same stuff when he returns.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 08:56
Prospect Post-Mortem: The Rockies PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 11 November 2014 00:00

While the Rockies 2014 season was not that inspiring at the MLB level, they own one of the more exciting systems in the Majors today. They are armed both with potential bats and a few above average arms that could make the team a significant long-term threat.

System Graduates: Tyler Matzek began 2014 in Triple-A and reached the Majors where he actually pitched better than he had in the Minors. Given control and mechanical issues, it looked like the former first round pick was on the verge of making the switch to a relief role, but he improved his command (3.3 BB/9) at the MLB level while still producing a 7.0 K/9 and keeping the ball on the ground 50% of the time. The lefty is still primarily a fastball/slider pitcher and his new-found control is an outlier when contrasted against the rest of his history. He heads into 2015 a member of the Rockies rotation, but I suspect regression in the control and command department to be rather likely.

Christian Bergman was never expected to be much of a contributor at the MLB level, but he pitched his way to the top and made 10 starts for the Rockies. The 26-year-old righty is a pitch-to contact pitcher with elite control, but he is also quite hittable. There’s a good chance he’ll end up back in Triple-A next season given an upside as a fifth starter/swing-man.

Former second round pick Chad Bettis has been converted to relief and is now a member of the Rockies’ pen. Given the quality of his fastball/cutter/changeup combo, I expect his sub-par MLB K/9 should rebound to the 8-plus territory in 2015 and could eventually push him into a setup role.

Stock Rising: 20-year-old David Dahl played in his first full season of professional ball and enjoyed some mixed results, more than holding his own in the South Atlantic League where he made contact and showed off his power and plus speed. Dahl is a natural centerfielder with 20-plus stolen base potential. His swing is line-drive and contact-oriented and should allow him to hit for average long-term. The issue is just how much power will eventually come from that swing. My sense, given his game, is to expect no better than high-teens homers long-term, though this is still potentially a very valuable player from both a fantasy and real baseball standpoint.

Raimel Tapia continues to dominate at every level of play. An aggressive hitter who rarely walks, Tapia has emerging power (33 doubles and nine homers), above average speed and a quick bat that allows him to make consistent, hard contact. The righty is still on the path to becoming a potential 20-20 or better candidate, provided he can adjust his free-swinging ways to the upper minor league levels.

Ryan McMahon followed up on his solid rookie-league debut with a solid display in the South Atlantic League. The third baseman continues to show off his most prominent tools, his power, to good effect with 18 homers and projects as a possible mid-twenties home run hitter long-term. The lefty looks like a possible .260s to .270s hitter given a patient, power-oriented approach. He plays good enough defense at third to possibly stick there long-term too. He along with Dahl and Tapia will be a trio to watch in A+ ball in 2015.

2011 first round pick Tyler Anderson is back on track after a successful stint in Double-A. He posted an 8.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 over 23 starts. He’s a four-pitch lefty who profiles well as a possible #3 or #4 starter. Like Jon Gray, he’ll move up to Triple-A and is a candidate for mid-season call-up, though with less fanfare.

2013 fourth round pick Jordan Patterson is starting to get some notice after he showed off his plus-power/speed skills in A-ball. He’ll need to cut down the strikeouts but is now on the radar as a possible 15-20 HR/15-20 SB threat.

Long-term keeper leaguers should note Forrest Wall immediately. The Rockies 2014 supplemental first round draft pick took to pro-ball rather quickly. The lefty displayed a very advanced plate approach, well above average speed and good pop while producing a .318/.416/.490 line. There are certainly quite a few similarities to Mookie Betts here.

Steady as it Goes: Jon Gray continued his ascent to the Majors as he was one of the more dominant pitchers in the Southern League, armed with multiple wipe-out pitches and good command. The 22-year-old was shut down late in the season due to some soreness, but it is not considered serious. He’ll move up to Triple-A in 2015 with a chance to crack the rotation as soon as mid-season.

I expected Cristhian Adames to make the Majors this year and he managed to get into seven games with the Rockies. The 23-year-old played at two levels, showed a good glove at short and continued making consistent contact throughout the Minors. He still profiles as a utility infielder long-term.

Kyle Parker’s game has stayed pretty much the same no matter what level of play he has been placed. The 25-year-old played a full season in Triple-A and enjoyed another campaign in which he showed some power and enough contact ability to hit for average too. He reached the Majors and should challenge for a job at least on the bench next spring. With Michael Cuddyer moving on, Parker’s right-handed bat might be a good replacement.

Former supplemental first round pick Trevor Story continues to have an up and down minor league career. The 21-year-old is loaded with tools on both the offensive and defensive side of the equation, but execution continues to be an issue. At A+ ball, Story hit .332 while walking 14% of the time, showing power and stealing 20 bags. However, his 27% strikeout rate caught up with him in Double-A (and increased to 35%) and his game fell apart as he barely made the Mendoza line. Story is likely to repeat Double-A next season and will need to improve those swing mechanics and cut down on the strikeout rates if he is ever to fulfill the potential of his gifts.

Taylor Featherston translated his A+ ball numbers to Double-A well albeit with a slight dip in batting average despite no noticeable change in skills or tools. The 25-year-old continues to display solid pop and speed and glove for the position. He’ll move up to Triple-A next year and should see time in the Majors too. It remains to be seen whether or not the Rockies see him as anything more than a utility player.

2014 9th overall pick Kyle Freeland pitched at two levels in his pro debut, showing tremendous ability to hit his spots with a sub 2.0 BB/9 at both levels. He has at least three quality pitches and could make the jump to A+ ball to begin 2015.

Stock Falling: After an extremely exciting 2013 campaign, Rosell Herrera came back to earth with a very mediocre effort at A+ ball, though that may be due in part to multiple injuries including a wrist injury during the early goings. Herrera has decent pop for a second baseman and showed improvement in his on-base skills in 2014. He’ll move up to Double-A in 2015 but has a lot to prove in terms of performance, skills, and health.

Tim Wheeler spent a second full season at Triple-A and continues to fail to impress. The nearly 27-year-old is simply no longer the player he was prior to breaking his hamate bone, lacking the plus power he once displayed.

Key Injuries: This past spring, I gushed about Eddie Butler and his chances to develop into a mid to upper end of the rotation starter. Shoulder and upper back issues have been an issue for the young righty throughout the season and the effects of the rotator cuff strain were clearly seen in his 3-point K/9 drop off at Double-A. Butler was still throwing strikes, but he needs to get healthy in order to hang onto his #5 spot in the Rockies rotation. The injuries, at this time, are not considered serious or career-threatening, but one should remain cautious drafting him regardless.

Tom Murphy was expected to stay on track to becoming the Rockies everyday catcher, but his season was derailed by a shoulder injury in May and he ended up receiving just 109 plate appearances. If he can stay healthy, Murphy profiles as a .260s hitter with decent OBP numbers and upper teens home run power.

Daniel Winkler was enjoying a tremendous Double-A campaign (thanks in great part to a 92% left-on-base rate), but was dominant with a nine-plus K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 before injuring his elbow which ultimately required Tommy John surgery. He won’t be back until late next season at the earliest.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 09:52
Prospect Post-Mortem: The Padres PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 00:00

The 2014 season has come to a close, but our look back at the progress of the various farm systems has not. The Padres finished third in their division, eight games under .500, and obviously did not perform as desired at the MLB level but did promote several players who are now mainstays in their rotation and bullpen while providing depth to their bench. The Padres also acquired a few rookies who made and who could make significant contributions.

System Graduates: The two most significant rookie hitters on the team were actually journeyman Tommy Medica and mid-season acquisition Yangervis Solarte. Medica is now a right-handed bat with some pop off the bench and 1B/OF back-up which was the role he had long-profiled best as. Solarte took over the third base job for the Yankees earlier in the season after coming seemingly out of nowhere, cooled off and was dealt to the Padres in the Chase Headley deal where he once again picked things up, showing a tremendous eye at the plate while making contact over 90% of the time. His overall level of play was fairly similar to the level he performed at in the Minors, an aggressive, but contact-oriented approach with low-teens pop. Ideally, his bat profiles better in the middle infield, but there is enough skill here for him to remain a starter at third for the Padres unless another option comes around.

Former Ray Jesse Hahn recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2013 and then found himself dealt to the Padres. He emerged as a potent part of the rotation after a solid Triple-A campaign, translating his pitches and skills, if not increasing his strikeout rates at the MLB level. Hahn has two to three plus pitches and does an excellent job of keeping the ball both in the park and on the ground. If he can keep his mechanics in control, the former sixth round pick could be a long-term middle of the rotation solution.

Relief prospect Kevin Quackenbush emerged from Triple-A to post a 9.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 over 56 games. His stuff is not, however, that of a typical closer, with a low-nineties fastball, average curve and solid splitter. He’ll continue in a setup role for now.

Stock Rising: Matt Wisler was one of the brighter spots for the Padres in 2014. The 22-year-old pitched as a starter at two levels with a good deal of success, ending his year in Triple-A (7.8 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 over 22 starts), and he could push his way into a MLB starting role in 2015. The righty has a deep repertoire with two to three potential plus pitches and good command and could push towards a middle of the rotation spot in the near future.

Shortstop Jace Peterson reached the Majors after playing well at two minor league levels. The 24-year-old’s excellent plate approach carried him through both levels, allowing him to hit for average and get on base at both stops. The question now is opportunity. The lefty has some gap power, is an excellent base-runner who can crack double-digits in steals and has a good enough glove to play short. At the very least, he’ll end up a back-up utility player, but there’s enough here for him to be more than that.

Joe Ross improved on his 2013 season. The 21-year-old former first round pick raised his K/9 by two points in A+ ball from the year before and maintained it with a move to Double-A later in the season while improving his ability to throw his pitches for strikes. His changeup, however, remains a work in progress.

Steady as it Goes: Hunter Renfroe dominated A+ ball in the early going, demonstrating his well above-average power potential and a willingness to get on base. Double-A proved more challenging fo the 22-year-old where he, despite cutting down on the strikeouts and walking more often, was far less effective with a .232/.307/.353 line. He’ll see more Double-A action next year and likely Triple-A time too. I still think there is some Nelson Cruz potential here if he can keep the strikeout rates under control, but that’s a best case scenario projection.

Former first round pick Cory Spangenberg produced a great line in his repeat of Double-A, batting .331/.365/.470, and continues to show above average speed, but he has little pop and continues to be overly aggressive at the plate. His career now appears to be on a utility/pinch-running path.

After a miserable 2012 campaign, Reymond Fuentes bounced back in 2013 and continued that success again at Double-A before receiving a promotion to Triple-A where he was solid, yet unspectacular. The former first round pick still has 30-plus stolen base potential and is a solid defensive centerfielder. There’s enough tools and skills here still to make him a potential .280 hitter with high single-digit home run power, but it’s unclear whether or not the Padres will put him on that path or use him as a fourth outfielder. He’ll require a few more months at Triple-A regardless.

Jose Rondon came over in the trade for Huston Street and has shown himself to be a capable glove-man who makes contact but lacks any standout offensive tool. This is pretty much on par with what he had done with the Angels, keeping him on the utility-role train.

Rymer Liriano came back nicely from missing all of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery, hitting 14 homers in Double-A alongside 17 steals before getting a promotion to Triple-A. Like Fuentes, Liriano has centerfielder tools with 20-plus stolen base potential and high single-digit to mid-teens pop. The righty continues to strike out at a high rate and despite “bouncing back” from injury, he did not exactly dominate Double-A with his .264/.335/.442 line. He’ll join Fuentes in Triple-A next season.

Stock Falling: Top prospect Austin Hedges' first extended exposure to Double-A pitching did not go as expected. The righty looked overmatched at that level, failing to make his usual contact and failing to hit .230 at the level. Hedges will make the Majors because of his superb defensive game, but he is likely now delayed. Do not be surprised to see the former second round pick repeat the level.

Taylor Lindsey was the most ready prospect in the Angels system to start the season, but after a lackluster season in which he failed to produce at either of his Triple-A stops, he now finds himself without much of a path to the Majors. Lindsey has decent power for a second baseman, makes contact and has a fair eye, but no outstanding tools. Even with Jedd Gyorko’s disappointing season, there is far from a guarantee Lindsey will even be considered for the second base job in 2015.

2013 second round pick Dustin Peterson could still come around, but his first full season in pro-ball was still uninspiring with a .233/.274/.361 line. The righty has excellent bat speed and power potential but is rawer in his strike zone judgment than originally anticipated, striking out nearly a quarter of the time while walking less than 5% of the time.

As somewhat expected, Keyvius Sampson transitioned to the bullpen this year after once again struggling to throw strikes. He struck out more than a batter per inning but also posted a 6.7 BB/9. His power fastball/slider is well suited to the pen if he can get them over.

Key Injuries: Alex Dickerson lost a bunch of time due to an ankle injury and was limited to 147 plate appearances in Double-A. A former third round pick of the Pirates, he should get a crack at Triple-A to see if he can earn a bench role with the Padres by mid to late 2015.

Casey Kelly still has yet to make it back from 2013 Tommy John surgery, barely pitching at all in 2014 after dealing with more elbow soreness.

Burch Smith, after breaking through with the Padres last season, pitched in just two games after getting shut down with elbow soreness. He is back on the mound in the Arizona Fall League and still has middle of the rotation potential.

Max Fried underwent Tommy John surgery and likely will not see significant minor league action again until 2016. Fortunately, he is still just 20 years old and has plenty of time to try to see if he can still become a top of the rotation pitcher.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 November 2014 08:18
Prospect Post-Mortem: The Royals PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 28 October 2014 00:00

In continuation of last week, we continue to acknowledge the accomplishments of our World Series participants with a progress report on the Kansas City Royals. The system has some interesting pitching prospects and a number of tools-laden hitters, but unfortunately a number of them are still quite raw and hitting some bumps in the road.

System Graduates: The odds that a 2014 draft pick would make it to the Majors and make it to the World Series less than six months after pitching in college are rather long. The fact that Brandon Finnegan was a Royal pick makes those odds even longer, but there it is. Odds and teams aside, first round college picks moved to the bullpen have often been able to fly through the system. (Hello Chris Sale to name one). A starter in college, the Royals moved the lefty to the pen upon promotion to Double-A and then jumped him to the Majors to be a relief specialist. Finnegan has a plus fastball/slider combo which has aided the transition. As a starter, Finnegan also features an average changeup, but it is unknown whether the Royals will move him back into the rotation (and a possible minor league demotion to get the necessary innings) or keep his live arm in the pen.

While Finnegan’s quick emergence has been a surprise, Yordano Ventura’s has not. The young righty won a job in the opening day rotation, as expected, and is now a front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year honors. Ventura has encountered some minor shoulder issues over the course of the season but was able to maintain his excellent velocity regardless (97 mph fastball) and use that alongside his plus curve and changeup to produce a 7.8 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. Health permitting, Ventura is a possible #2 or better long-term starter.

Stock Rising: Christian Binford pitched at three levels in 2014. The righty completely overmatched A+ ball over 14 starts with a 10.0 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9 before encountering a slight bit more resistance over eight Double-A starts, where his K/9 dropped to a 7.1, while maintaining his ability to pound the zone. A brief stay as a reliever in Triple-A (10 innings) was rougher. Binford’s command is elite, but his fastball is nothing special in of itself, nor are his breaking pitches, but he mixes them well and throws them all for strikes. At the moment, the righty looks like a #4 starter.

Sean Manaea had his way with A+ ball batters, producing a 10.8 K/9 over 25 starts. A supplemental first round pick, Manaea struggles with his health and control at times but did manage to stay healthy this season. A lefty, Manaea has a mid to upper nineties fastball, plus slider, and an average to plus changeup as well. Do not be surprised to see him move more quickly next season with a possible late season MLB audition in the cards.

Steady as it Goes: 2013 first round pick Hunter Dozier is certainly not on the same quick trajectory as Brandon Finnegan, but he did a half year in A+ ball and the second half in Double-A. In A+ ball, Dozier showed the plate discipline, power potential and defense that was expected. The 23-year-old’s progress at Double-A, however, was less than stellar with a .209/.303/.321 output. Dozier earns praise for his makeup and intelligence and it is far too early to write him off. A return to Double-A to start 2015 is possible. The key will be his ability to cut down on strikeouts and reassert his quick, line-drive stroke.

Jorge Bonifacio is gifted with a great deal of natural raw power, but at 21 years of age, he has still yet to tap into it. It may yet come as he physically matures, so some patience is required here. On the positive side, the righty’s approach is better than some of his compatriots, including showing a willingness to draw a walk, and while his strikeout rates are above 20%, they are not of the obscenely high variety. If the power comes and he maintains this approach, the Royals may have their future right fielder.

It was tempting to put Raul A. Mondesi in the “stock falling” category, but he is who he is – a raw player with tremendous natural tools and at 19 years of age, there is still plenty of time left to turn those tools into skills. The switch-hitter is not going to be a power hitter, but he is an excellent defensive shortstop with a quick bat and above average speed. Right now though, for someone with his power, 122 strikeouts against 24 walks is a significant concern. Mondesi has been sitting on keeper league Minors squads for a season or two now, and there are probably better MLB-ready options worth carrying, except in leagues with particularly deep minor league rosters.

Miguel Almonte continues to throw strikes and has a plus fastball and good change, but he needs to further develop his breaking pitches in order to build off his solid 8.2 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. At the very least, he has a good foundation for a move to the bullpen.

Stock Falling: 2011 first round pick Bubba Starling's stock is plummeting. Starling still has significant tools and 20-20 or better potential, but he simply cannot make contact. The righty was overmatched in A+ ball as a 21-year-old with a .218/.304/.338 line. As with others, there is still time given his age, but the righty has yet to adjust his game in 2+ seasons of minor league ball. 2015 could be make or break for him.

Orlando Calixte spent a second straight season in Double-A, where apart from a tiny increase in power, he showed little to no improvement to his game and in fact was even less selective at the plate than in the year prior. The 22-year-old has good pop for a shortstop and is capable in the field, but given mediocre ability to hit at even the Double-A level or to even get on base (.288 OBP), his role seems to be moving towards a utility one.

Key Injuries: 2012 first round pick Kyle Zimmer made just five minor league starts but was receiving additional work in the Arizona Fall League, where he had been impressive in his three starts before getting shut down for the season with shoulder tightness. If the righty can ever stay healthy, he has a ceiling at least as high as Yordano Ventura.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 October 2014 08:32
Prospect Post Mortem: The Giants PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 21 October 2014 00:00

This week, in honor of our upcoming World Series, we’ll consider the progress of the San Francisco Giants farm system. While the Giants did not promote many players to the Majors this season, overall the organization's prospects fared rather well as they advanced through the Minors with few surprising failures.

System Graduates: The most notable system graduate is, of course, the Giants' current starting second baseman, Joe Panik. Panik was also the lone prospect to exhaust his rookie eligibility (not including DFA’d minor league journeyman Brandon Hicks). A former 29th overall selection in the 2011 draft, Panik demonstrated superior plate discipline and contact making throughout his minor league career. In fact, his selectivity has yet to fully translate to the Majors and better OBPs may be in store. Beyond that ability, Panik has a relatively low ceiling as a gap-power hitter with mediocre at best foot speed. Long term, Panik looks like a .280 to .300 hitter with solid OBP skills, worth in the low to mid double-digits in NL-only leagues.

Andrew Susac did not exhaust his ROY eligibility, but solidified enough of a place on the roster to be a part of the postseason roster and could be the opening day back-up to Buster Posey in 2015. In fact, in many other organizations, he might have already taken over the starting job given an improving catch and throw game, a patient approach and mid-teens or better per season home run power. With Posey locked up until at least 2021, Susac could end up trade bait barring a position change for he or Posey.

Like Susac, Gary Brown is still technically a rookie but is on the postseason roster for his defense and speed primarily. The former top prospect appears, however, to be on more of a back-up outfielder career trajectory. The righty’s second tour of duty in Triple-A was better than his first, by a few hits and a greater number of stolen bases. Otherwise, Brown continues to strike out far too often and walks too little for someone of his speed skills/limited power ceiling tools. Despite a good Triple-A line that could earn 20-plus dollars if reproduced in the Majors, he needs to prove he can cut down on the K’s and handle right-handed pitching more effectively if he ever wants to be a starter.

Utility infielder Matt Duffy also made the postseason roster after a .332/.398/.444 campaign in Double-A. The former 18th round pick has pretty much already hit his ceiling as far as a roster spot, but he does bring a well-disciplined and contact-oriented approach, solid defense and above average speed. There’s an outside shot Duffy could have more long-term value than Panik if the opportunity were to arise.

Stock Rising: Michael Santos is a long way away as a 19-year-old pitching in short-season ball. He’s a tall, projectable righty with a plus fastball and two average to potential plus secondary pitches that he commands well. He’ll move up to full season ball next year. An interesting arm to track, but it's going to be a long time coming, that is if he can even stay healthy.

Another 19-year-old, Christian Arroyo, played well in the Northwest League, showing emerging power and solid play at second base. It remains to be seen if he has simply good power for a second baseman or enough power to be considered a third base option, given that he has good enough arm strength to handle the position.

6’2” lefty Keury Mella made just 12 starts in full-season A-ball, but he made an impression with an 8.6 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9. The 21-year-old throws rather hard, reaching the upper nineties, and has the makings of being a complete pitcher with an average to plus curve and change. He should move up to A+ ball next year. His power arm may be too tempting to leave in the rotation and his role could eventually be a specialist left-hander.

Steady as it Goes: The report on Kyle Crick really has not changed. At 21, the righty was young for Double-A but managed a 11.1 K/9. On the other hand, he continues to be amazingly wild, logging a 6.1 BB/9. Crick still has top of the rotation stuff, but he has a lot to learn about command, mechanics and developing into a pitcher. If he can’t, the potential for him to be a dominant relief ace is there too.

Clayton Blackburn has more than passed the Double-A test, showing excellent control of his pitches, but he did see his K/9 drop over a full point to 8.2. He is somewhat of an antithesis to Crick as a polished pitcher with solid average and well-controlled stuff that gives him a safe trajectory to the Majors but an upside of no more than that of a fourth starter.

Former first round pick Chris Stratton made it to Double-A despite issues with the longball in A-ball. Still, he has a plus-fastball/slider mix that makes his strikeout rates more likely to transition upwards than Blackburn’s. The keys to his game are command within the zone and the development of his change. It’s a fair bet he’ll return to Double-A to begin 2015.

Joan Gregorio is a hard-throwing, 6’7” righty who can already reach the mid-nineties on his fastball and has a good slider to boot. The 22-year-old needs to prove himself at higher levels of competition, but with just 22 innings of A+ ball under his belt, there is no guarantee he’ll be immediately advanced to Double-A.

Kendry Flores followed up on a good A-ball season by increasing his strkikeout rates in A+ ball (9.5) despite not having overpowering stuff. Instead, Flores relies on good mechanics and a solid fastball and changeup combination. He did, like Stratton, have some issues with the home run. He’ll join Stratton in Double-A next year. As with Blackburn, Flores is perhaps a safer bet to make it than Stratton, but Stratton’s upside makes him more worthy of picking in most fantasy leagues.

Stock Falling: Mike Kickham spent nearly another full season in Triple-A, producing a near carbon copy of skills and results as in 2013. Kickham has a live arm and decent enough secondary stuff, but he is inconsistent with his control and command which has resulted in him being more hittable than he should be in successive seasons. The lefty may now be on the organizational path with a move to middle relief being his best way of getting to the Majors.

Ty Blach made 25 starts in Double-A, pounded the strikezone with a 2.5 BB/9, kept the ball in the park and managed a very respectable 3.13 ERA. However, the 24-year-old’s K/9 dropped from 8.1 to 5.8. He’s not a power pitcher but has multiple solid pitches and commands them well. Blach looks more like an innings eater #3 or #4 starter at best, one who will continue to pitch to contact.

Key Injuries: After tapping nicely into his power in 2013, former 3rd round pick Mac Williamson injured his elbow to the point of needing Tommy John surgery, costing him most of the 2014 season. He’ll return in 2015 and no long term effects are expected from the surgery. But, he’ll be 24 years of age with fewer than 100 at-bats of A+ ball experience and will have to show a lot in a hurry to fit into the Giants' plans.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 08:54
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