The Prospector

Prospect Post-Mortem: The Rays PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 14 October 2014 00:00

The Rays 2014 season was not the success at the MLB or minor league level that the organization had hoped for, but there were several significant players promoted to the Majors who will be in the 2015 opening day lineup while other prospects continued to ascend the ladder to the Majors.

System Graduates: On the hitting side of things, Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Guyer were the two minor leaguers to shed their rookie status. Kiermaier, 24, is unlikely to ever be a significant power threat, but that isn’t his game. Kiermaier is a low to mid-teens HR threat known best for his prowess as a centerfielder and a contact-oriented approach at the plate. The lefty struggled against southpaws (.203/.224/.284) and will have to translate his minor league contact skills to the Majors in order to avoid becoming a platoon player. There is .280+, 10 HR, 15 steal or better potential in this skill set. Brandon Guyer has spent the better part of three seasons in Triple-A, showing that he really has nothing left to prove at the level. Guyer also lacks any standout tools, but he does have above average speed (20+ SB potential) and similar, if not better pop than Kiermaier. He’ll continue to be a bench player for the Rays with a potential to play regularly against lefties.

The real rookie standouts were Jake Odorizzi and Brad Boxberger. Odorizzi’s quick and dominant transition to the Majors was essential given the injuries to the Rays staff. The former Brewer and Royal farmhand was able to command his pitches well and generate strikeouts with two plus pitches in his 4-seam fastball and split-fastball. His strikeout rates, while likely to regress a little in 2015, seem to be generally sustainable. Boxberger, like the Yankees' Dellin Betances, became one of the best setup men in all of baseball with his effort which generated a 14.5 K/9 alongside a 2.8 BB/9. However, Boxberger pitched in just 63 games and despite his 104 strikeouts, did not have a very heavy workload when compared against his Yankees competitor, so that bodes well for a strong follow-up in 2015 provided of course that Boxberger’s much improved strike-throwing carries forward too.

Stock Rising: 2014 first round draft pick Casey Gillaspie hit the ground running, showing the power and plate discipline expected of him with seven homers and a 14% walk rate in A-ball. The 20-year-old switch-hitter continues the family tradition of having an excellent plate approach, but he has better raw power tools than either of his brothers and has 20 to 25 home run potential long-term. Defensively, he is less versatile than his brothers and is limited pretty much to first base.

Ryan Brett enjoyed a solid Double-A campaign, showing gap power, above average speed and ability to make solid contact. He’ll ascend to Triple-A next year and if the Rays so desire, they could move Ben Zobrist back to an outfield position in order to make room for Brett’s above average glove at second base. Possible .280, 5 HR, 25 SB threat in the Majors.

Jacob Faria enjoyed a break-through season in his first full season of pro-ball. In 23 starts, the righty managed an 8.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. The 21-year-old has two to three average or better potential pitches and an advanced feel for pitching. He’ll move up to A+ ball in 2015 with a chance to end it at the Double-A level.

Steady as it Goes: Former first round pick Mikie Mahtook enjoyed the finest season of his career in 2014, but that does not really mean his stock is rising. Yes, he hit .292/.362/.458 while playing centerfield and hit a career high 12 homers to go along with 18 steals, which is all impressive, but he did it with a by far career high .380 BABIP and much increased strikeout rate (25%) as compared to the rest of his career. If Mahtook can go back to his usual contact-making ways while still bringing additional pop, then he may indeed have a future as a back-up or part-time starter. Right now, he still looks like the .250s hitter he was in the lower minors.

Taylor Guerrieri lost time due to a PED suspension and Tommy John surgery but came back strong over five short-season rookie ball starts, throwing strikes and missing bats. Granted it was a low level of competition, but at least the former first round pick is looking healthy and most importantly for someone coming off elbow surgery, throwing strikes, even if over a small sample size. Expect him to start 2015 in A+ ball, if healthy.

Alex Colome made it to the Majors pitching as both a starter and reliever for the Rays. The righty is one of the harder throwers in the system and has multiple average to plus pitches to back up his fastball. Command and health issues are the major concern here as is his path to a rotation spot. A trade or injury would have to occur for that opportunity to emerge. Possible #3 starter long-term.

Stock Falling: Like Colome, Enny Romero pitched in Triple-A this year but failed to get a single call-up. Despite an 8.4 K/9, the lefty continued to have some control issues and sported a 4.50 ERA and has yet to develop much of a changeup. Plus, because of his command problems, he developed an issue with allowing the longball in 2014. Romero has a nice upside, but his two power pitches could be well utilized as a loogy.

After coming over in a deal last offseason with the Nationals, Nate Karns continued to rack up strikeouts with his solid fastball/curve combination, but he continued to struggle with his command and posted a 5.07 ERA. The righty also has yet to develop much of a changeup which seems to suggest more and more that the former 12th round draft pick will eventually transition to the bullpen, where he could indeed flourish.

Hak-Ju Lee continues to rate amongst the top of the Rays minor league talents despite his difficulties staying healthy and his ineffectiveness at Triple-A this season (.203/.287/.276). Lee is potentially an elite defender who has displayed excellent bat control skills in the past along with gap power and 30-plus stolen base potential. Lee will be 24 years old to start next season and will have to show quite a bit more at the plate to avoid getting the “glove only” moniker.

2013 first round draft pick Nick Ciuffo scuffled in rookie ball, battinng .223. That said, we are talking about a 19-year-old catcher with the ability to stay behind the plate long-term and excellent bat speed, power, and make-up that could still make him an everyday player down the road. No need to roster him given his ETA, but definitely don’t lose track of Ciuffo.

2012 first round pick Richard Shaffer’s first foray into Double-A was a disappointment. There was plenty of power on display (19 HR) and good deal of walks (11%) but also few strikeouts and ineffectiveness against righties. Possible low-average, good OBP/HR threat at the MLB level. Think .230 or .240s hitter at the moment.

Next week, we move over to the National League for a change of pace.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 October 2014 08:49
Prospect Post-Mortem: The Yankees PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 00:00

This week, we continue wrapping up how each organization’s prospects fared in the past year and what holds for 2014. Let's take a glance at the New York Yankees farm system.

System Graduates: The Yankees had one rookie batter exhaust his rookie eligibility in Yangervis Solarte, ultimately sending him to the Padres in the Chase Headley deal. They were more successful in the pitching department with Dellin Betances establishing himself as one of the top setup men in the game and a potential closer candidate down the road. In 90 innings of work, Betances was able to focus on his nasty fastball/slider combination, throwing both pitches for strikes and posting a 13.5 K/9 while showing little to no platoon splits. The righty was dominant all season long, so the only concern is whether the heavy usage will catch up with him in 2015.

As well-known a prospect Betances was coming up through the Yankees system, Shane Greene was not. The former 15th round pick has not been noted for his command throughout his minor league career and has indeed seen his ERA see-saw up and down since being drafted in 2009. However, the righty has translated his strikeout rates at around the high 7 to low 8’s mark from one level to the next and had turned things around with his mechanics at A+ ball in 2013 with a 1.2 BB/9 and has since managed to keep it well under 4.0. The result was a very promising MLB debut and a good chance of making the 2015 opening day rotation.

After three seasons in Triple-A, fellow 15th round pick Chase Whitley was promoted and was used as a swing man, a role he’ll likely remain in for much of his career. The righty has fairly average stuff, but throws strikes and changes speeds pretty well.

Stock Rising: 20-year-old Luis Severino pitched at three levels this season with little to no difficulty in making that transition. In Double-A, the righty still posted a 10.4 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. As one would expect, Severino is still refining his stuff, but he already throws three plus to potential plus pitches consistently for strikes, giving him upper end of the rotation potential. Expect him to spend most of 2015 in Double-A with a shot at a September call-up and becoming a full-fledged rotation member in 2016.

2013 first round pick Aaron Judge already has some fascinating plate discipline skills, walking at high rates at two minor league stops while already tapping into his plus power potential with 17 homers. The 22-year-old will get more of a challenge in Double-A this season. He’s a future right fielder who will have to prove, because of his 6’7” frame, he can handle right-handed pitching at the upper levels of the Minors.

Rob Refsnyder hit over .300 or more at two minor league levels in 2014 along with 14 homers and a .380+ on-base percentage. A 2012 fifth round pick, Refsnyder is a very advanced line-drive hitter with low-teens pop and slightly above average speed. The righty is originally an outfielder and has been making the transition to second base the last two seasons. He's probably a utility guy long-term but does remind me a little bit of the Mets' Daniel Murphy in terms of modest ceiling, advanced game, adequate at best defense.

Gregory Bird showed his 20-home run A-ball output was for real with a combined 14 homers between A+ and Double-A in 2014. The 6’3” first baseman also translated his high walk rates to each new level of play without a substantial rise in swings and misses, though he did manage just a .253/.379/.558 line in Double-A. Not bad for a guy who missed April with a lower back injury. He’ll return to Double-A and if all goes well, could make a late-season appearance in the Bronx as a possible long-term replacement for Mark Teixeira, though it would be unwise to expect Bird to have a peak anywhere near as high as Tex.

Steady as it Goes: Gary Sanchez remains on pace to make the Majors and possibly win a starting job as soon as mid-2015. The long-term deal to Brian McCann, however, places a major damper on that opportunity, making Sanchez a candidate to be dealt. Sanchez has tapped into his power and made strides in reducing his aggressiveness at the plate while making more consistent contact. His below average running speed, however, puts a cap on his ability to hit for average long-term. Think .250 to .260 hitter who might manage 15 to 20 homers given the opportunity.

Taken 26th overall in 2013, Eric Jagielo spent time on the DL with a ribcage injury,but still managed to showcase his power in A+ ball with 16 homers. The lefty is a third baseman for now, but profiles best at 1B or DH where he’ll have to show he has enough power to warrant the job. So far, Jagielo is on the right track, but he will have to keep the strikeouts at bay at Double-A next year to be considered for a starting job long-term.

2013 first round pick Ian Clarkin enjoyed a solid first full season of pro-ball, posting a 9.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 at full season A-ball. Clarkin is a projectable lefty with two potential plus pitches. Clarkin is right on target as far as progress goes, but he’s not really for consideration in all but the deepest of fantasy leagues as of yet.

Stock Falling: J.R. Murphy is a fairly good defensive catcher with modest low to mid-teens power potential who earlier in his career showed a good approach and ability to make consistent contact. 2014 was a struggle as his offensive game deserted him at Triple-A with a weak .246/.292/.397 line. Murphy performed slightly better in the Majors and will now have to fight for the back-up job behind McCann. If he can’t win that job, he’ll end up as Sanchez’s Triple-A back-up.

Gosuke Katoh made a splash in the GCL in 2013, but he appeared mostly overmatched in A-ball, producing a 31% strikeout rate. On the other hand, the 19-year-old walked 15% of the time, played solid defense, showed gap power and decent speed. While it is too early to write him off, Katoh has a ton to prove.

Mason Williams has excellent all-around tools, including above average bat speed, but he has not shown any ability to do anything with the ball. In two seasons at Double-A, he has failed to hit above .223 and may have to repeat the level a third time.

Key Injuries: Slade Heathcott (missed all of 2014 except for 36 at-bats) and underwent knee surgery.

Next week, more prospect post-mortem.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 October 2014 08:20
Prospect Post-Mortem: The Red Sox PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 23 September 2014 00:00

Last week, we began our year-end organizational wrap-up. So how did those shiny prospects do this year? Which ones prospered? Which ones failed? Which ones came out of nowhere? Let’s dive in with a look at the Boston Red Sox.

Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have a deep farm system and dipped into it on many occasions this season, often with great success.

System Graduates: Mookie Betts was the breakout prospect for the Sox this year. Well regarded previously, the 21-year-old was not expected to soar through the system. Instead, Betts displayed legitimate leadoff hitter on-base and contact skills, 30-plus stolen base speed, and developing power to the point that he has hit a combined 16 HR between three professional levels. Betts’ skills have translated well to the Majors and suggest the right-hander has yet to hit his ceiling with improved plate discipline. The Red Sox have a logjam in the outfield but Betts has proved worthy of a spot in the lineup next year. Beware, at 5’9”, 155 pounds, a power regression has to be expected for the upcoming year.

After a strong 2013 postseason, Xander Bogaerts was a lock for the opening day roster. He managed to stick with the team all season long, splitting time between shortstop and third base. My draft day expectations for the 21-year-old in his first full MLB season were “Jhonny Peralta” and I purposefully threw out a $15 bid to crickets at AL Tout Wars this year with that comparison in mind. Unfortunately, I got Peralta in one of his weaker campaigns. After showing a patient approach early on, MLB pitchers adjusted and Bogaerts floundered and has yet to readjust, resulting in a higher strikeout rate and much lower walk rate than his minor league pedigree suggests. It didn’t help that the Red Sox bounced him between third and shortstop. The good news to remember: he is only 21! Most players his age are still in A+ to Double-A ball. Bogaerts did manage to show some pop, has good bat speed, and has in his past displayed a good plate approach. He’ll come at a discount next season, but it is rather possible that Bogaerts, should he indeed break out as an offensive player, may take a few seasons to adjust and physically mature. He’ll be in his third season of MLB ball at 23 when most players are getting their first cup of coffee.

Jackie Bradley, now 24, has exhausted his rookie eligibility and his career may actually already be at a crossroads. Prior to 2014, he was looked at as a legitimate replacement to Jacoby Ellsbury with mid-teens power potential, 30-plus stolen base speed, and a patient approach at the plate. Like Bogaerts, Bradley has not been able to take his minor league skills up to the Majors yet. Now, after over 500 MLB plate appearances and near 30% strikeout rate with four homers and ten steals, he could be out of the Red Sox long-term plans.

Brandon Workman was removed from the rotation just this week. The righty performed well out of the pen in 2013 for the MLB team and enjoyed a solid campaign for Pawtucket. But after pitching initially solidly for the Sox this season, he appears to have run out of steam and has been absolutely torched of late in line to a 1-10 record despite a 7.2 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9. The 26-year-old works mostly with a fastball, cut-fastball and curveball combo of solid, but not lights out quality. A move back to the bullpen or a role as a fourth starter are Workman’s most likely destinations.

Allen Webster, like Workman, has exhausted his rookie eligibility. More highly regarded than Workman, Webster continues to have difficulty throwing strikes at the MLB level as evidenced by a 5.4 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 in 52 innings this year. Webster’s stuff is technically better than Workman’s, but his lack of command and decline of fastball velocity make him a prime relief conversion project.

Stock Rising: Henry Owens is starting to throw strikes. The lefty was already striking out batters at every single level by the bushel, but now the lefty is actually commanding his pitches. He began the season in Double-A, sporting a 3.5 BB/9  in 20 starts, and followed up strongly with a 2.8 BB/9 in six Triple-A starts with a dominant 10.4 K/9. Owens is armed with three wipeout pitches and if he maintains his control gains, he might be next year’s Marcus Stroman.

The Red Sox landed Eduardo Rodriguez in a deal with the Orioles for Andrew Miller, who has found his niche as a dominant left-handed specialist. In six starts, Rodriguez produced a 9.4 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. The 21-year-old is a power-throwing lefty with three potential plus pitches and may end up a better long-term middle to upper end of the rotation option than many of Boston's home grown farm products.

Steady as it Goes: Blake Swihart was well touted and has now thoroughly proven himself against Double-A pitching with a .300/.353/.487 season in Portland while starting to add the expected power with 13 combined home runs. He’ll return to Pawtucket in 2015 and could compete for the starting job by mid-season. His above average speed and contact-making ability as a catcher make him the rare high batting average potential threat for his position.

Anthony Ranaudo has made it to the Majors but will likely still be a rookie heading into 2015 and will spend most of the year at Pawtucket. The righty has a power fastball and curveball combo, but is still working on his change and command, though the latter has started to improve a good deal this season. His long-term role as a middle of the rotation starter or late inning reliever are still up in the air.

Matt Barnes received a late season call-up after a solid, though far from dominant, Triple-A season in which his K/9 dropped four points from his Double-A performance. Barnes has an interesting fastball, but he struggles to consistently locate his curve, which has plus potential, and he has a changeup that is still very much a work in progress. A former first-round pick, Barnes is another 2015 rotation or bullpen option.

Stock Falling: Garin Cecchini has been perhaps one of, if not the most, disappointing young Red Sox this season. Early on, given the inconsistency of Will Middlebrooks' plate approach, there was a good chance for Cecchini to push his way into the starting gig. Instead, his game completely crumbled with an 8% decline in walk rate and a 4% rise in strikeout rate, and he continued to show no gains in the power department. The end result was a rather non-starter like .263/.341/.371 slash. Cecchini has always been a great skill, modest talent type player that you really want to pull for. At 23, the lefty is still young enough to turn things around and given that he has shown a high level of skill in the past, there is a very good chance that he can bounce back. While I do not want to write him off yet, he no longer has much trade or keeper value until he proves otherwise.

Next week, more prospect post-mortem.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 08:09
Prospect Post-Mortem: AL East Birds PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 16 September 2014 00:00
The minor league regular season is now over. It’s time to assess the status of key young players and see how they lived up, or failed, to meet expectations.

Blue Jays
I got on the Blue Jays' Mitch Nay bandwagon this season, but I suspect I might be too early an adopter here. Nay, a former supplemental first round pick by the Jays is a third baseman with good bat control, contact-making ability, size and bat speed that suggests above average long-term power potential. In his first full season of A-ball, Nay managed just a .285/.342/.389 line. Not bad for a 20-year-old, but far from dominant, though the 35 doubles and 41 total extra base hits is quite encouraging. The foundation is there and the righty is still worthy of tracking in AL-only dynasty leagues, but there is little reason to keep him in most fantasy leagues until he starts turning some of those doubles into homers. Of course, though, he’ll be on everyone’s radar. He’ll spend the majority of 2015 in A+ ball.

Marcus Stroman was among the top pre-season targets to help out at the MLB level this year and he has generally delivered, showing some rookie inconsistency, but also dominant at times. The righty completely translated his strike-throwing abilities, albeit with a near-4.0 point drop-off in K/9 from Triple-A. The former first round pick has multiple plus pitches, plus command, and does a good job of keeping the ball on the ground. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go for $15 or so in AL-only leagues next season.

I expected Daniel Norris to spend 2014 in A+ ball, yet the lefty is up in the Majors for a cup of coffee. Norris ended up being dominant at three different levels, striking out in excess of 10.3 batters per nine innings at every level while improving his mechanics and control. The 21-year-old will likely head back to Triple-A and could be next year’s Marcus Stroman.

I’ve long been a Caleb Joseph supporter and had hoped the Orioles would give him a chance. While the circumstances of that chance were not expected, Joseph has shown off his power in the Majors. Unfortunately, the contact-making skills did not come along for the ride. The righty has often in his career needed a season or so of adjustment time at each level and at this point, the Orioles are unlikely to bring back Matt Wieters. It is uncertain whether or not Joseph will receive a second opportunity as a starter in 2015.

The converse here is Michael Ohlman, who looked like a possible long-term successor to Wieters given power and advanced approach. Instead, the 23-year-old has been a flop at Double-A, showing little to no pop. Chance Sisco, on the other hand, has been quite exciting in A-ball with a .340/.406/446 line along with 34 extra base hits. Sisco doesn’t project as a home run hitter, but his contact/gap power could make him a worthy addition as a fantasy catcher. Keep in mind the lefty is 19 years of age and the majority of his career in the Majors, should he make it, will be next decade.

Over at first base, I expected Christian Walker to be a tweener/organizational type with few opportunities beyond the likes of Chris Davis. Well, he has not gotten a call-up but torched Double-A while showing far more power than he displayed previously in his career. The righty continued to hit for power in Triple-A, but the plate discipline faded and overall Walker’s strikeout rate rose from 14.5% to over 25%. He’ll spend most of 2015 in Triple-A and will need a repeat of his Double-A performance to push his way into the lineup.

The Orioles' new supplemental first round pick, Josh Hart, was a toolsy, but raw athlete when they drafted him in 2013. Hart, at 19, may have 15-30 HR potential but was a washout at the plate, in the power game and in the plate discipline development game. There’s plenty of time here for him to develop into something, but the odds are against him.

As expected, Kevin Gausman is now a mainstay in the Orioles rotation. As with Stroman, the minor league strikeout rates have not yet fully moved up with him to the Majors. He’s essentially a two-pitch pitcher at the moment with his mid-nineties fastball and split-finger fastball. The strikeouts should come as he incorporates more of his repertoire into his game.

After a solid performance in Double-A, it looked likely Mike Wright would make his MLB debut in 2014 after some time in Triple-A. Things have not gone so well. The former third round pick has been hittable, posting a 4+ ERA while seeing his strikeout rate drop two points. His profile has always been that of a fourth or fifth starter, so repeating Triple-A in 2015 may yet give him that opportunity.

Tim Berry is enjoying a successful one level at a time approach, his skills moving solidly up from A+ ball, though his control has not been quite as sharp as previously. His issue remains finding a pitch with which to combat right-handed batters. The former fifth round pick will move up to Triple-A next year and should remain in the rotation for now, but he may have a long-term role as a specialist reliever rather than as a starter.

Finally, the talk of the town earlier this season was Hunter Harvey. Unfortunately, the former first round pick developed elbow inflammation and the Orioles took no chances, shutting him down for the season back in late July. A 2013 first round pick and son of former Marlins and Angels closer Bryan Harvey, Hunter had produced a 10.9 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 as a 19-year-old in full-season ball over 17 starts. He screams upper end of the rotation potential if that elbow can stay healthy.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 September 2014 09:13
Call-Up and Deliver PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 02 September 2014 00:00

We no longer need to discuss “potential” call-ups. We may instead focus on the reality of which prospects are actually receiving a major league assignment and which are worthy of targeting down the stretch and in particular for keeping for 2015. Some of these call-ups are borderline prospects too who are getting a chance to play and their career path may already be on the line.

The Dodgers’ call-up of Joc Pederson was the leading move. The 22-year-old outfielder has delivered a monster year, producing a 30-30 season while batting .303/.435/.582. There are no questions here about Pederson’s raw power, 20-plus stolen base potential and patient approach. The question that remains is how much of all this production will actually translate to the Majors. Some will of course have to be taken off given the move from one of the best hitter's parks in the Minors to a ballpark that has traditionally favored pitchers. Moving on from that, the knock on Joc prior to this year was his ability to hit lefties. This season, his splits were virtually invisible and quite surprisingly, Pederson actually showed more power against lefties than righties. For now, however, it appears given the Dodgers’ depth that he will be utilized in a back-up capacity for the rest of the season.

Taijuan Walker was supposed to come up in an equally frustrating capacity for the Mariners as a top prospect unlikely to see much action beyond long or middle relief. The complete ineffectiveness of Chris Young on Monday, however, allowed Walker a chance to shine with a six inning, five strikeout and two walk performance. The righty appears to be over, at least for now, his shoulder problems, throwing into the mid-nineties and showing multiple plus pitches to good effect. While this outing may afford Walker another opportunity to start down the road this season, James Paxton remains ahead of him on the depth charts and will return to the rotation as soon as his turn comes up again.

The Mets made a surprising move, recalling the youngest player in the Eastern League when Daniel Murphy hit the DL this past Friday. Dilson Herrera, acquired from the Pirates in the Marlon Byrd deal, has exceeded expectations. The 20-year-old has surprising pop for his size and could be a 10 to 15 HR threat in the Majors long-term. The righty has improved his plate discipline, walking 10-percent of the time while cutting his strikeout rate. Range-wise, he is limited to second base, but he has good enough hands for the position. While he will see a fair amount of playing time while Murphy is out, Herrera will likely return to Triple-A to start next year, though it’s possible he could inherit the everyday job should the Mets decide to move Murphy at some point.

Another recent call-up seeing steady playing time is the Cubs' Jorge Soler. The 22-year-old Cuban has taken over right field and has an edge on keeping the job for the beginning of 2015. The righty has tremendous power, blasting 18 long balls in just 252 plate appearances amongst four levels of pro-ball, including three since his recall. Soler also possesses tremendous bat speed as well as a fair eye and is not an all or nothing power hitter, meaning there is a very fair chance he’ll be able to hit for average and power for the Cubs.

Ryan Rua's minor league hitting success has granted him an opportunity. In 2013, Rua hit 32 homers and he has followed that up with an 18 HR campaign between Double-A and Triple-A. While traditionally a third baseman, the Rangers have used him at second base and have now made him their starting first baseman due to injury and the ineffectiveness of others. The righty could hit 20-plus homers at the MLB Level and most impressively has actually improved his ability to make contact over time and is showing signs of possibly being more than a utility or platoon player. His role for next season, however, is well up in the air as both Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland are expected to return.

Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and now Daniel Norris. The Blue Jays have not been shy about bringing up their young guns, but given Norris’ Triple-A success, it is hard to argue against it even if he is just 21 years old. A lefty, Norris has posted no less than a 10.4 K/9 at any one of his three levels of play this season. With the exception of his time in Double-A, he has been able to throw the ball for strikes and is a power-pitching lefty with a plus fastball, slider, and changeup. Another half-season in Triple-A is likely, but he could be a #2 or #3 starter long term for the Jays. For now, however, it appears Norris will just get a cup of coffee, working in long and middle relief.

The Padres promoted former first round pick Cory Spangenberg from Double-A after he hit .331/.365/.470. The 23-year-old’s shine had lost quite a bit of its luster in recent seasons. While the lefty still showed 30-plus stolen base speed, a lack of pop and on-base skill was pushing him towards a utlity or organizational role rather than the everyday starter that was once his forecast. Despite his Double-A performance, I continue to remain skeptical given a lack of pop, power contact skills for a player with said limited pop, and a very aggressive approach. Spangenberg will play off the bench and perhaps get some pinch running opportunities.

The trade of Adam Dunn has opened up playing time for 25-year-old Andy Wilkins. A former fifth round pick, Wilkins has been enjoying a breakout season in which he has hit 30 homers at Triple-A while making contact 83% of the time and producing a .293/.338/.558 line. Like Rua above, it is difficult to see where Wilkins fits with the White Sox long term as he is not a huge on-base threat and has no true standout tools other than his power. For now, he’ll see almost everyday action at first base and try to continue to make his mark.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 September 2014 03:31
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