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2014 Minor League Outlook: The Orioles PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 28 January 2014 00:00

Today we continue our tour of the MLB farm systems from a 2014 impact as well as dynasty/keeper-league standpoint with a scan of the Baltimore Orioles.

Please be sure to check back as the pre-season progresses as I will be updating these as necessary. All players who have retained rookie status are eligible for this series.

Catcher
Matt Wieters is a free agent at the end of the season. Given the depth in the Orioles system and the contract the switch-hitter will likely demand, it’s a good thing the Orioles have some organizational depth at the position.

2014 Impact: Caleb Joseph may not rank amongst the organization’s finest prospects anymore, but he is a potential sleeper should the Orioles opt to part with Wieters mid-season. The 27-year-old is coming off of a 22-HR campaign in which he hit .299/.346/.494 and has a fair approach and contact skills. The bad news? This was Joseph’s fourth straight season at the level. It’ll take a quick transition at Triple-A to get a shot at the Majors.

Keeper League: Chance Sisco and Michael Ohlman provide greater long-term hope. Ohlman’s hope, however, may be more with his bat than his glove as one does not see too many 6’5” catchers in the Majors. He profiles as average at best behind the plate. The 23-year- old enjoyed a good year with the bat at A+ ball after missing time due to injury and drug suspension, hitting .313/.410/.524 with 13 HRs in 361 at-bats. A right-handed hitter, Ohlman strikes out fairly frequently for a righty with mid to upper teens HR to low-twenties power, but has shown fairly good selectivity throughout his minor league career and might be able to hit in the .270s at the MLB level.

Sisco, who will turn 19 in February, was a second round pick last year and has already shown a fairly advanced glove. Sisco also has pretty good potential with the bat, the reason he was selected so early. At short-season ball, he was already showing good bat speed and a polished approach at the plate and projects to be able to hit doubles and reach double-digits in HRs as he matures. He’ll get his first taste of full-season ball in 2014.

First Base
Keeper League: There’s not much to choose from here. Christian Walker is probably the best bet.  The 22-year-old is best suited to DH which limits his utility. A 2012 fourth round pick, Walker has at least shown some hitting chops, batting .288/.343/.479, but was unimpressive upon his promotion to Double-A. First basemen with his level of pop (high-teens) typically have above average gloves, and Walker does not, which could destine him to become an organizational player.

Second Base
2014 Impact: Jonathan Schoop is technically behind Jemile Weeks on the depth chart but has a real chance of beating the former Athletic for the job this spring. The righty has decent pop for a middle infielder, hitting 14 HRs in 2012. Otherwise, Schoop is not a very high ceiling prospect, possessing mediocre at best on-base skills and two straight seasons at Double-A and Triple-A that were far from dominant, as he failed to hit above .260 in either season and produced a sub-par .301 OBP last year.

Third Base
2014 Impact: Michael Almanzar was a Rule-5 pick from Boston. Ryan Flaherty is slated to be the Opening Day 3B until Manny Machado returns, so there may well be room on the roster for Almanzar too. The 23-year-old has some interesting raw offensive talent and 20-plus HR potential but is a long shot to stick as a starter. The righty has an aggressive approach, mediocre on-base skills and is below-average to average defensively at the hot corner.

Shortstop
Keeper League: Adrian Marin, with Schoop moving over to second base, is the closest the Orioles have to a shortstop prospect. His glove will get him to the show, but Marin will need to show a lot more with the bat to be more than a utility player. Marin has above average speed and has some doubles power, so if the 19-year-old's plate discipline improves, there could yet be a prospect of note here, but that’s a pretty big if.

Outfield
2014 Impact: Henry Urrutia made his MLB debut last season but retained his rookie status and will likely begin 2014 in Triple-A. The soon-to-be 27-year-old Cuban defector has some interesting skills, but lacks any single standout skill on offense or on defense. He dominated Double-A as a 26-year-old and hit well in Triple-A too. In Double-A as well as in the Arizona Fall League, Urrutia showed a very advanced feel for the strike zone and gap power and should be able to hit for average at the MLB level, but he does not project hit much more than 10 HRs and is not a base stealing threat. He profiles best as as a utility player who can fill in as a starter for extended periods when necessary.

Keeper League: Josh Hart was the Orioles' supplemental first round pick in 2013. The lefty is a long ways away from the Majors, but projects as a centerfielder with plus speed and 30-plus stolen base potential. It remains to be seen whether or not he can develop any power and on-base skills. Hart is only recommended in the deepest of leagues, for those interested in raw talents.

Pitching
2014 Impact/Keeper: Kevin Gausman is almost a lock to open as the Orioles' #5 starter. The former first round pick may have been hit hard in his cup of coffee late last season but still displayed very good control and an ability to miss bats with a 9.3 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 47.2 innings. Gausman owns at least two plus pitches, including an upper-nineties fastball and changeup as well as a slider with plus potential. The righty has top end of the rotation upside.

Mike Wright could also make the Majors in 2014. A former third round pick, Wright projects as more of an innings eater/back end of the rotation starter. He throws strikes with multiple pitches and generates ground balls. Wright managed an 8+ K/9 in Double-A but was in the 6-range his previous two campaigns and is more likely to be at that level in the Majors given his average but solid stuff. Wright will begin the year in Triple-A.

Keeper League: A healthy Dylan Bundy is a potential ace. When on his game, Bundy has command of three to four plus pitches, including an upper nineties fastball, multiple plus breaking pitches and a change. It all comes down to how he comes back from Tommy John surgery. There is a remote possibility he makes it back in September, but it is more likely he challenges for a rotation spot in 2015.

Eduardo Rodriguez will likely be staying in Double-A to begin 2014. The nearly 21-year-old lefty throws 95 and has a slider/changeup complimentary selection that has plus-potential. Rodriguez showed superior command at the lower levels, but slipped slightly to a 3.6 BB/9 at Double-A alongside an 8.9 K/9. Rodriguez could make it to Triple-A this season and has an outside shot at a cup of coffee in the Majors. Like Bundy, he could be a member of the 2015 rotation and has #3 starter potential.

Moving up to Double-A this year will be lefty Tim Berry. Berry throws fairly hard for a southpaw, reaching the mid-nineties, and owns a good curve and a work-in-progress changeup. Berry is another good strike-thrower but will need to continue to improve that change in order to have long-term success against righties. His fastball/curve gives him a nice fallback option as a left-handed reliever. For now, he is a potential #3/#4 starter.

19-year-old Hunter Harvey impressed quite a bit at short-season ball in 2013. The Orioles' first round pick can touch the mid-to-upper nineties with his fastball and at 6’4”, 178 pounds, he projects to add more strength as he matures, like his dad, former Angels/Marlins closer Bryan. Harvey gets good grades for his curve and has shown some promise with his changeup. He is also noted for having very smooth mechanics. It is going to be awhile before we see Harvey in the Majors, provided he stays healthy, but he does have a fairly high ceiling and given his pedigree, he may fit well in his dad’s old role.

Zach Davies should be on your radar, but probably not on your draft list. The righty is more of a #4/#5 starter based on pure stuff, but gets rave reviews for his ablity to harness what he has. In A+ ball, the 20-year-old produced an 8.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9.

A third round pick in 2013, Stephen Tarpley pitched very well in short season ball with a 10.7 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9. He throws into the lower-nineties and has good command of multiple pitches with average or better potential. He could move up through the system quickly.

Wrapping Up: In most keeper leagues, both Bundy and Gausman have been long since snapped up, though Gausman should certainly be considered for this year in redraft leagues too. The Orioles system is not lush with hitting prospects. Some of the most interesting are their catchers Ohlman and Sisco, but neither are a help in 2014. For redraft leaguers, Mike Wright is the most likely sleeper of the bunch as someone who could slide into the rotation and provide some quality innings. While Urrutia is not the most exciting of athletes, at his age and with his plate skills, he could have no problem hitting for average in the Majors and stealing time away from the unexciting combination of David Lough, Delmon Young and Steve Pearce.

For longer term consideration, Hunter Harvey and Eduardo Rodriguez should both be on draft day lists.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 10:04
 
2014 Minor League Outlook: The Rockies PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Monday, 20 January 2014 00:21

Today, we continue our tour of the MLB farm systems from a 2014 impact as well as dynasty/keeper-league standpoint with a scan of the Colorado Rockies.

Please be sure to check back as the pre-season progresses, as I will be updating these as necessary. All players who have retained rookie status are eligible for this series.

Catcher
2014 Impact/Keeper League: Despite being under 25 and having already twice posted a 20-plus home run output, Wilin Rosario’s tenure behind the plate is not assured given mediocre defensive skills and a lack of OBP skills. That combination could get Tom Murphy some playing time as soon as this season, albeit a limited amount (September call-up). Murphy has superior catch and throw skills to Rosario and similar power potential to Rosario too.  While he showed some selectivity at A+ ball, he’ll need to translate that to the upper levels of the Minors while cutting down on the strikeouts. The combination of right-handed hitter, 20%-plus strikeout rates and being a slow runner probably makes him a sub .260s hitter at the MLB level.

First Base
2014 Impact/Keeper League: Kyle Parker is generally listed as an outfielder, but has been introduced to and will be a first baseman long-term, so for the purposes of this article, I’ve listed him here. The 24-year-old is the likely short-term solution for the Rockies, possessing mid-twenties, if not 30-plus HR potential. The righty also owns a quick bat and makes fairly consistent, hard contact, so he should be able to hit for average as well, though his overall OBP skills are on the mediocre side. I don’t think he’ll be a star, but he could be a solid regular.

Second Base
Keeper League: The Rockies middle infield prospects of note are really at shortstop. Taylor Featherston is perhaps the closest thing to a prospect at second base for now, though he probably profiles best as a utility guy with a decent bat off the bench. Featherston has good power for his position, reaching double digits in HRs each of the past two seasons, and slightly above average speed, reaching double digits in steals too over that same time period.

Third Base
The Rockies are hoping Nolan Arenado is their guy at 3B for the foreseeable future. His rookie season was nothing to write home about, but what he did accomplish was without the benefit of Triple-A playing time and at 22 years of age.

Keeper League: Ryan McMahon, their 2013 second round pick, does provide another possible option with a substantial offensive upside and perhaps enough defensive skills to stick at 3B. McMahon is no speed threat, but he does have a quick bat with projectable power and did produce 11 homers and 32 overall extra-base hits in 251 rookie-ball plate appearances. It will be interesting to see how his selectivity translates to full season ball this year.

Shortstop
2014 Impact:
Cristhian Adames is the closest to the Majors of the Rockies shortstop prospects and has a glove that will get him there, at least as a utlity player. He has slightly above average speed and will hit some doubles, but did take a slight step backwards as his OBP skills slipped a bit upon being promoted to Double-A. He’ll start 2014 in Triple-A with a chance to move up.

Keeper League: Trevor Story was once the best shortstop, if not the best prospect period, in the Rockies’ system. A former supplemental first round pick, Story can handle his position and has mid-teens or better HR power and 20-plus stolen base skills. Both skills were on display at A+ ball, but his pitch recognition and swing mechanics completely fell apart as he produced a 33% strikeout rate and a .233/.305/.394 line. There’s enough potential to stick with him for now considering he first turned 21 after the end of the season, but the righty will need to show significant improvement to warrant an endorsement.

Rossell Herrera, at 6’3” 180 pounds, is currently a shortstop and has pretty good hands, but his range suggests he’ll being moving over to 2B long-term. As disappointing as Story’s season was, Herrera’s was good. The 21-year-old switch-hitter showed some pop (projects to low-teens), and a much improved approach at the plate which resulted in a .343/.419/.515 line. Herrera stole 21 bags, but given his size and average speed, that may end up being more of a career high/outlier. For now, Herrera may have jumped ahead of Story on the prospect charts, but time will tell.

Outfield
2014 Impact: 26-year-old Tim Wheeler may get some time as a back-up corner outfielder. A broken hamate ruined his power, but he can still hit doubles and play solid defense, though he lacks any standout tools that says he can still be a regular. Kent Matthes will join Wheeler in Tripe-A. Matthes has intriguing raw power (20 HR between Double-A and Triple-A last year), but has a long history of being an overly aggressive right-handed hitter who struggles at times to get on base and/or hit for average.

Keeper League: Former first round pick David Dahl lost significant time due to a team disciplinary suspension and a torn hamstring and managed only 40 at-bats. The lefty will first turn 20 on April 1st and is still very worthy of consideration for keeper leagues given a very quick bat, solid approach and 15-20 HR potential along with 25-plus steal potential.

Raimel Tapia may end up eclipsing the barely younger Dahl. It will be interesting to see which of the two ends up in center or right field. Like Dahl, Tapia has well above average speed, but has greater power potential, and has shown an excellent ability to make consistent contact (89%). There’s a potential 20-20, if not 30-30 talent here, but it is likely a long time coming given that Tapia has yet to even play at full-season ball.

Pitching
2014 Impact: Chad Bettis actually pitched 44.2 innings in the Majors last year and will return to Triple-A to begin 2014. Bettis skipped over Triple-A last year and was hit fairly hard upon his promotion. A former second round pick, Bettis has #3 or #4 starter potential, or given a good fastball/changeup could have a successful career in relief.

Tyler Matzek will advance to Triple-A this season and could make his MLB debut. The former first round pick has seen his stock drop dramatically as he continues to struggle mightly with his command and control, his mechanics and his secondary pitches. He worked entirely in relief in the Arizona Fall League and could be converted to relief, where the lefty’s fastball/hard-curve combo could allow him to develop into a reliever.

Tommy Kahnle was a Rule-5 pick from the Yankees. The righty has a good arm and throws hard, posting an 11.1 K/9 in Double-A, but is more of a thrower than a pitcher and lacks a secondary pitch beyond his fastball (6.8 BB/9). It’s more likely that he’ll be returned to the Yankees than stick.

Keeper League:

The third overall pick in the 2013 draft had a successful first year of pro-ball and is on the fast track that should see him begin 2014 in Double-A. Between Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler, the Rockies could end up with one of the most dominant front-duos in the National League. Gray owns two plus to plus-plus pitches with his fastball/slider combination and an average to plus changeup, all of which he commands extremely well. NL-only leaguers should be considering him with their top pick as Gray projects as a true ace.

In many, if not most organizations, Butler might rate as a team’s top pitching prospect. The 23-year-old made it to Double-A (6 starts) and dominated with a 8+ K/9 and sub 2.0 BB/9.  A 2012 supplemental first rounder, Butler owns three plus pitches that he can both command well and throw for strikes. The righty is a power pitcher with weapons against lefties (changeup and cut-fastball). He projects as a #2 to #3 starter and given his deep repertoire, his strikeouts should be able to translate well to the MLB level.

Lefty Tyler Anderson will likely join Butler and Gray in Double-A. The former first round pick has been slow in working his way towards the Majors due to injuries, but none are career threatenting. Anderson is not a hard thrower and figures more as a #4 starter with possibly #3 starter upside. Anderson throws strikes, keeps the ball on the ground and changes speeds well, but needs to show he can continue to miss bats at the higher levels of the Minors.

Wrapping Up: The Rockies system’s strength is definitely in the long-term rather than the short. Kyle Parker and Tom Murphy are the only likely bets for playing time in 2014. Beyond that though there is a wealth of talent of NL-only keeper/dynasty leaguers. Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler should light up keeper league/dynasty leaguer’s eyes and should be prominent selections this year. David Dahl and Raimel Tapia both have tremendous potential, but both also carry significant risk, making them intriguing mid to late round selections. McMahon, Herrera and Story are also very worthy of your consideration in deep keeper leagues.

Last Updated on Monday, 20 January 2014 09:34
 
2014 Minor League Outlook: The Tigers PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 07 January 2014 00:00

Today we continue our tour of the MLB farm systems from a 2014 impact as well as a keeper league standpoint with a scan of the Detroit Tigers.

Please be sure to check back as the pre-season progresses, as I will be updating these as necessary. All players who have retained rookie status are eligible for this series.

Catcher
2014 Impact: Rookie Bryan Holaday may have the inside edge on the back-up job behind Alex Avila. Although the 26-year-old has some gap power, it’s his defense that keeps him in the Majors. The righty profiles long-term as a back-up. Switch-hitter Ramon Cabrera could also see some time in the Majors. The 24-year-old has perhaps a little more pop and is a more disciplined hitter than Holaday, but rates well behind him in the defensive spectrum.

2014/Keeper League: James McCann has a shot of reaching the Majors in 2014 and has some potential as a long-term starter too. The 23-year-old is a strong catch and throw catcher and makes fairly consistent contact too. In 2013, he managed 30 doubles and eight homers and there is a chance he could develop into a .260s to .270s hitter with high-single digit HR power. In other words, not a fantasy force, but because of his defensive prowess and a potentially effective enough bat, he could eventually be the guy in Detroit.

First Base
2014 Impact: Miguel Cabrera has the job locked down to say the least, and if the Tigers need to reach into their system and give a minor league 1B substantial playing time, Detroit will be in trouble, but that’s not to say they don’t have at least one player who might surprise. 28-year-old Jordan Lennerton is no top prospect, but is an organizational player who has climbed slowly through the ranks and has constantly produced, showing good OBP skills and upper-teens to low-twenties HR potential. He parlayed that success to being placed on the World Futures Team this past year (he’s Canadian). While Lennerton may not receive even 25, let alone 50 plate appearances this season and I can’t recommend drafting him in AL-only leagues, he’s someone who deserves a shot and should be kept on your in-season free agent radar.

Second Base
2014 Impact: Hernan Perez is a future utility player who makes frequent contact and has good stolen base skills, but he is far too aggressive at the plate and lacks significant punch behind the contact he makes.

Keeper League: Devon Travis hit over .350 at two levels of minor league play in 2013. The 23-year-old will attempt to translate his game to Double-A this year after hitting 16 HRs and stealing 22 bags. At 5’9”, he projects as a low-double digits home run and low to middle double-digits stolen base candidate. Travis’ tools are not earth-shattering, but the combination of his very advanced plate discipline skills, quick bat and slightly above average speed and decent pop for his size make for a very interesting player who could be the heir apparent to Ian Kinsler.

Harold Castro is also a long-term starting second base candidate. At age 19, Castro advanced as far as A+ ball and will likely return there for 2014. At this point, Castro is quite raw and very aggressive at the plate, but he has 20-plus stolen base potential, good bat speed  and projects to hit for more power as he fills out his 6’0” frame. While he warrants staying on your radar, there are too many “ifs” at the moment to get excited enough to draft him in all but the deepest of dynasty leagues.

Third Base
2014 Impact/Keeper: Nick Castellanos’ offensive ceiling plays much better at third base than in left field. The result may be a bit more spirited bidding when his name is nominated in AL-only leagues. Not because his value or offensive projections have altered due to a change in position, but simply due to far fewer options with similar upside. In other words, you’re more likely to pay into the risk than if he had remained a left fielder where a bargain might have been more likely to occur. That all aside, the righty made some nice strides in 2013 by cutting back on the strikeouts a great deal while improving his power production with 18 dingers. If Castellanos can continue to make contact (84% of the time in 2013) at the MLB level, then he could be a .270s, if not better, hitter with low-twenties per season HR power. Keep in mind the “if”, as Castellanos has just 18 plate appearances worth of MLB experience, and a regression in the contact department remains a possibility.

Shortstop
2014 Impact: Eugenio Suarez will be Hernan Perez’s double-play partner in Triple-A. Like his partner, Suarez profiles better in a utility role and unfortunately while both can play shortstop, he is probably best utilized at second given an average at best arm. Suarez does have above average speed and some gap power, but strikes out too often and looked a bit overmatched against Double-A pitching after dominating A+ ball.

Outfield
2014 Impact: Daniel Fields was once more highly regarded but has seen his stock decline. 2014 will be the 23-year-old’s first season in Triple-A. A centerfielder, Fields is a good athlete with good raw power and speed, but has not hit above 10 HRs in any season and also struggles with the strike zone. He repeated Double-A last year and batted .284/.356/.435. Fields could be a late bloomer but right now appears to be more of a good fourth outfielder candidate than a starter.

Tyler Collins will be advancing to Triple-A alongside Fields and also possesses solid all-around tools. Like Fields, he finally tapped into his power, though to a greater extent, with a 21-homer output. Collins has a patient approach, but suffered a significant spike (12% to 23%) in his strikeout rates as a result of finding that power, and while the lefty has good speed, he only managed four steals as compared to 20 the year prior. So now, like Fields, Collins presents a mixed bag of skills and tools that gives him the potential to be a possible regular or platoon player in left field, but he also has a lot to prove this upcoming season to receive an opportunity. Fortunately for Collins, Andy Dirks and company do not present a significant obstacle for him should he indeed combine his A+ plate discipline skills with his power.

Keeper League: Steven Moya, 22, is a huge dude with significant raw power, somewhat reminiscent of former Detroit first baseman Tony Clark. Clark, however, had a good approach during his peak years. Moya does not. Legitimate 30-plus HR power means Moya needs to be tracked, but he has too much to prove first even at Double-A before he is worthy of consideration for drafting.

Pitching

2014 Impact: The Tigers rotation is deep and not with many potential openings even with the trade of Doug Fister to the Nationals. Drew Smyly will be moving back into that spot and barring any injuries to him or the rest of the staff, opportunities for rookies are likely to be limited. Still, there are some options available to Detroit.

Jose Alvarez pitched as a starter and reliever for Detroit last year with some success despite not translating his pinpoint minor league control skills to the Majors. The lefty could make the team as a long reliever, but has a deep repertoire with a good change and breaking stuff. If Smyly can’t handle the return to starting, Alvarez could get the first shot at replacing him.

Fellow lefty Kyle Lobstein reestablished himself as a potential rotation candidate with a very solid season at two minor league levels, including 13 starts in Triple-A, showing his best command in awhile while still missing bats (8.1 K/9). Still, his overall combination of tools leans towards the fringy side, and like Alvarez, he is more of a fifth starter or Quad-A pitcher long-term.

Derek VerHagen is something of an opposite of Alvarez and Lobstein. While both fringy, they have some pitchability and some depth to their repertoires. VerHagen, meanwhile, is a pure power pitcher who relies on the effectiveness of a power sinker. Efforts to establish his secondary pitches have met with middling success and while he’ll be a starter in Triple-A this year, a move to the bullpen is a possibility.

Keeper League: Jonathon Crawford rates atop the heap of Detroit’s long-term pitching prospects. A 2013 1st round pick out of the University of Florida, Crawford should move through the system quickly, but will begin the year in A+ ball and is more likely to hit the Majors in mid to late 2015. Despite this, Crawford does not project as an upper rotation candidate given a mediocre at best change and control. If those aspects of his game do not develop, his power fastball/slider combo gives him a second option as a late inning reliever.

Jake Thompson could join Crawford in A+ ball, but at just 20 years of age is not on the fast track. He gets plenty of grounders with a heavy fastball and is working on developing his secondary stuff. Thompson has good mechanics and the build to be compiling a good amount of innings. His ceiling is that of a number three starter if his command and secondary stuff improves.

Corey Knebel was another 2013 first round pick by Detroit. A college pitcher, Knebel will start in A+ball but could fly up the Minors in a relief role. The 6’3” righty has two plus pitches, including a mid to upper nineties fastball and curve that he can both throw for strikes. Knebel could get a September call-up, but is more likely to reach the Majors in 2015 as a setup man and could potentially take over as closer once Joe Nathan’s contract expires.

Wrapping Up: Castellanos is the clear #1 prospect target in Detroit as he walks into a starting job. Other than him, there is little in the way of high end prospects that will help Detroit in 2014, though Jose Alvarez or Lobstein have an outside shot of being effective starters if given the opportunity. Looking longer term, Davon Travis stands out as a minor league draft selection for keeper leaguers as does Corey Knebel. Both Tyler Collins and Daniel Fields are worth watching as potential left field candidates should the Tigers tire of the mediocre production they receive from Andy Dirks/Rajai Davis, etc.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 January 2014 08:55
 
2014 Minor League Outlook: The Reds PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Monday, 30 December 2013 01:08

Today we will take a look at the Cincinnati Reds farm system from a 2014 impact and dynasty/keeper league standpoint.

Please be sure to check back as the pre-season progresses, as I will be updating these articles as necessary. All players who have retained rookie status are eligible for this series.

Catcher
The Reds will head into 2014 handing the catching reigns to Devin Mesoraco. Given consistent playing time, Mesoraco has the all-around game to hold down the job long-term. Tucker Barnhart is the most advanced catching prospect behind Mesoraco, likely starting 2014 in Triple-A. The switch-hitter has above average defensive chops and will be a major leaguer on that basis alone. Offensively, he is a disciplined contact-hitter with limited punch. Despite being able to put the ball on the bat and produce reasonably solid OBP marks, Barnhart has not dominated, not even in the batting average department, in the minor leagues. This speaks in part to both his limited pop, but his foot speed as well. One can control the strike zone, but one needs to have some tools to take advantage of that control to be a MLB regular.

First Base
If you’re a 1B prospect in the Reds organization, the idea is to follow the Yonder Alonso path and get traded. Neftali Soto is the closest to the Majors of the group. Soto has modest mid-teens home run pop, but is an aggressive right-handed hitter with poor OBP skills. Soto may receive a call-up, but is firmly on the organizational player path now. Steve Selksy, 24, has a better plate approach and similar power to Soto, but struggled mightily in his first exposure at Double-A, batting under .200 despite being old for the league.

Second Base
Henry Rodriguez, nearly 24, has received two cups of coffee with the Reds in his career and may yet receive a shot at a utility role. The switch-hitter is solid defensively at multiple infield positions, makes contact and has some gap power (single digits HR).

Third Base
The Reds could use someone to challenge Todd Frazier. Their most senior player, Travis Mattair, isn’t that guy. Mattair has limited low to mid-teens pop and mediocre OBP skills and struggled at Double-A as a 25-year-old.  Despite that, seniority could get him a call-up if the need arose. A superior long-term option is Seth Mejias-Brean, 22, who will play at either A+ or Double-A this season. Mejias-Brean is a strong defensive third baseman who has hit .300-plus at every level of play while showing an advanced feel for the strike zone and developing, though modest (mid-teens), power potential.

Shortstop
With Billy Hamilton having moved to centerfield, the Reds depth at shortstop is rather barren. The most advanced option beyond Henry Rodriguez, who is better suited to 2B or 3B, is Devin Lohman. Lohman was a regular at Double-A last year and has fairly decent tools for a shortstop, including high single-digit to low-teens power and above-average speed (34 steals in 2012 and 16 last year). Despite this, Lohman has struggled each of the past two years, including a .236/.304/.331 line in 2013. He’s a utility player with a spark of upside, but at nearly 25, has little time to show it.

Outfield
Billy Hamilton has been handed the centerfield job to begin the season. Will he be very valuable in fantasy play? Given his speed, even in part-time play or if he fails, he could sleep his way to 20-plus steals and be worth positive-dollars. That said, I’ve never been a fan of underpowered speedsters unless they make contact in excess of 90% of the time. Hamilton’s strikeout rates have been closer to 20% of the time and his on-base skills have been up and down throughout his minor league career. My expectation is for Hamilton to become the next Rajai Davis, which is far from a bad thing for a fantasy player, and would be surprised to see him become an everyday player over the long-term.

Ryan LaMarre, 25, will be in Triple-A as a fallback option. A former second round pick, LaMarre is a good defensive outfielder with a fairly standard centerfielder’s offensive profile – single-digit to mid-teens power and 20-plus stolen base ability. Despite above average tools, LaMarre has not dominated at any level of the Minors, and that includes repeating Double-A last year. So more likely he’s a back-up or organizational player despite his pedigree.

The Reds' more interesting outfielders are dynasty plays unlikely to see MLB action in 2014. Yorman Rodriguez will either start 2014 back in Double-A or could be advanced to Triple-A. Rodriguez has perhaps the greatest power potential of any of the Reds’ many outfield prospects, but hit just 13 homers combined as a 21-year-old between two minor league stops in 2013. A righty, Rodriguez’s plate approach is still quite raw and his strikeout rates are close to the 30% mark. There is actually 20-20 or perhaps even 30-20 potential within Rodriguez’s tools and he still has youth on his side, but there a few too many ifs for my liking with him.

On the less raw side of things, Phillip Ervin, 21, was a first round draft pick in 2014. The righty has a quick, disciplined bat as well as above average speed and power. The combination makes him at least a potential 15-15, if not a potential 20-20 candidate. While his bat may play better in center, right field is a more likely long-term destination.

The Reds drafted Jesse Winker in the supplemental first round in 2012 out of high school. The 20-year-old's power has already been on display with a 16 HR output in 2013. Winker combines his power with a very disciplined approach, and like Ervin, could hit for average as well as high-teens to lower-twenties HR power at the MLB level.

Starting Pitching
The Reds’ rotation does not currently have any spots dedicated to rookies. The Reds do have a few upper level candidates who could receive some spot starts or challenge as the season progresses. David Holmberg and Daniel Corcino, while far from the highest rated arms in the system, are still the closest. Holmberg, 22, is now in his third organization. The lefty profiles as a back to middle of the rotation starter with solid control (2.9 BB/9 last year) and has at least two MLB quality pitches to work with.

Corcino has a higher ceiling and deeper repertoire than Holmberg, but has struggled to command his pitches and throw strikes. Last year was a bit of a disaster as Corcino’s K/9 dropped to 6.3 while his BB/9 climbed above 5.00, leading one to wonder if Corcino is 100% healthy. 2014 may be a make or break year for him less other prospects pass him by.

Carlos Contreras has a better pure arm than perhaps either Holmberg or Corcino but may even be higher risk. Despite improvement of his secondary pitches, Contreras still looks like a reliever to me. He can touch the upper nineties with his fastball and gets outs with his change, but has trouble throwing any of his pitches for strikes, and a four-point drop off in K/9 upon his promotion to Double-A last year suggests he should probably repeat that level and/or move to the pen. There is an outside shot Contreras will be moved to the Triple-A rotation to begin 2014.

Chad Rogers will indeed be in Triple-A. The 24-year-old made 12 Triple-A starts last year and has always been someone who can be relied upon to throw strikes, though his ability to miss bats suffered a bit upon his promotion given the lack of a good changeup. He profiles as a fifth starter or long reliever.

Josh Smith is another likely member of the Reds' Triple-A rotation. The 26-year-old is a former 21st round draft pick who has performed well, moving up one level at a time while showing a consistent track record for throwing strikes, though his K/9 has declined as he has been promoted.

While Robert Stephenson is slated to be in Double-A this season, he is on the fast track and could be in Triple-A before long with an outside shot at a September call-up. Stephenson, who will turn 21 in February, is a former first round pick with 2-3 plus or better pitches and a developing changeup. What is particularly impressive about Stephenson is his feel for pitching and his ability to command it (2.3 BB/9 at A-ball and sub 1.0 in four starts at A+ ball before wavering as a 20-year old in Double-A). He’s clearly the #1 pitcher in the system and has upper end of the rotation potential.

Jon Moscot will be in Double-A with Stephenson. Though Moscot has no true outstanding pitch, he has a deep, solid repertoire that he can throw for strikes while generating plenty of grounders. He’s an organizational or potential fifth starter or middle reliever in the bigs.

Nick Travieso is still highly regarded as a 2012 1st round pick, but did not throw as hard as he did in 2012 and his secondary pitches took a step back. He at least has fair control and at nearly 20 years is certainly a project to be considered in only the deepest of NL-only keeper leagues.

Ben Lively was a fourth round pick in 2013 and is someone who could move quickly through the Reds system. The righty is a polished college pitcher with good command of four pitches, including a fastball that can reach the mid-nineties.

Relievers
Michael Lorenzen has the arm of a closer with a fastball that sits in the mid to upper nineties and a good breaking ball. Lorenzen reached Double-A in his first season of professional ball after being selected in the supplemental first round of last year’s draft. Still, he is extremely raw and is certainly more thrower than pitcher at this point. Keep an eye out to see if he can turn that corner. The second he does, he’ll be on the fast track to the Majors.

Wrapping Up: The Reds organization has some interesting choices for 2014 (Hamilton) in the outfield and beyond. Ervin and Winker are both good targets for NL-only keeper/dynasty leagues. Yorman Rodriguez probably should only be selected in deeper keeper leagues or as a late minor league squad pick. The infield, unfortunately, provides little to no interest beyond Seth Mejias-Brean, who also should be considered on draft day. Barnhart could also be considered, but mostly for strat and sim-league formats.

On the pitching front, David Holmberg might help out the most in 2014, but Robert Stephenson is the top target and could be a factor in 2015. The Reds have a fairly deep pitching system, but beyond Stephenson, I would pay the closest attention to Lorenzen and Lively as pitchers who could move up quickly.

Last Updated on Monday, 30 December 2013 10:25
 
2014 Minor League Outlook: The Mariners PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Monday, 23 December 2013 01:11

These past several years, I have been covering prospects in the pre-season from an impact in the upcoming season perspective. This year, I am trying something new that instead of simply focusing on one position per article, I will instead be focusing on each organization and their minor league depth at each position while considering prospects from both a 2014 and from a more dynasty-league viewpoint. To get things started, I had my wife name a team at random and she selected the Seattle Mariners.

Please be sure to check back as the pre-season progresses, as I will be updating these as necessary. All players who have retained rookie status are eligible for this series.

Catcher
The Mariners young catching situation is too interesting to ignore even if neither Mike Zunino nor Jesus Montero is a rookie. Both players have 20-plus HR potential. Both are right-handed. Zunino’s defense is far better rated than Montero’s. Zunino, however, has seen his strikeout rates rise significantly as he has climbed to the Majors. There’s a chance Zunino could end up a John Buck-like player or a platoon player. (Update 12/26: Montero has probably been regulated to a 1B/DH role). Jesus Sucre, 25, came over from the Braves in 2011. The right-hander is a very good contact hitter, but offers little else in the way of offense and is best utilized as a back-up.

While the Mariners would like Zunino to be their guy long-term, dynasty leaguers should also look at Tyler Marlette. The righty plays good enough defense to stay behind the plate, makes a fair amount of contact and has mid to high-teens HR potential. He’ll be playing A+ ball in 2014. 

First Base
The Mariners have clogged up first base, bringing in Corey Hart and Logan Morrison to go along with incumbent Justin Smoak. So given that situation, the odds a rookie will see significant time at first in 2014 is unlikely. Still, Ji-Man Choi must be noted. The 22-year-old former catcher played at three minor league levels last season, displaying tremendous plate discipline – getting on base at high rates while making very consistent contact along with solid power (18 homers combined). Choi will spend most of 2014 in Triple-A, but if he can translate his Double-A plate discipline, there is some potential here as a fairly high-average hitter with low-twenties HR power.

Second Base
Ten years to Cano means Nick Franklin (no longer a rookie) and others best find new organizations or positions. Franklin is likely trade bait. Ty Kelly, who came over from the Orioles last year, could see time in the Majors as a utility man. The lefty has no standout tools but has a very good plate approach. With the Mariners last year, he walked 20% of the time while making contact 84% and hit .320/.456/.406. Even though Kelly only has single digits HR/SB talents, he warrants a look as a back-up.

Third Base
Should the call go out for a third baseman, journeyman Nate Tenbrink could get a shot. The 27-year-old has some modest pop and gets on base fairly well. He needed a .351 BABIP to hit .267, which suggests he'd likely be overmatched at the MLB level given an extended look. Patrick Kivlehan had a nice year in A+ ball, batting .320/.384/.530, but did so at age 23 and then struggled in the AFL. Kiviehan has some pop and decent speed and will begin 2014 in Double-A.

D.J. Peterson is more likely a 1B or outfielder long-term. The 22-year-old showed a good deal of power at two minor league levels after being selected in the first round of the 2013 draft. Peterson showed a selective approach in rookie ball and a quick, short-swing that allowed him to make consistent, hard contact.  Peterson will likely begin 2014 in A-ball, but is likely to move quickly through the system and could be in the starting lineup in 2015. There’s .290, 20-plus HR or better potential here.

Shortstop
Brad Miller claimed the starting job last season and could hold it down for awhile. Former top prospect Carlos Triunfel is now seen more as a utility-man/Triple-A roster filler. That leaves Chris Taylor as Miller’s best long-term competition, provided Nick Franklin is indeed traded. Taylor, 23, could play in the Majors right now defensively and has shown some promise with the bat as well. Taylor draws walks at a high rate and has some modest gap power. The most exciting part of his game is speed. Taylor swiped 38 bases between two-levels in 2013 and will begin 2014 at either Double-A or Triple-A.

Outfield
The Mariners projected starting outfield does not appear to be the toughest nut to crack, but unfortunately for the Mariners they have few, if any, upper-level outfield prospects. Julio Morban, 21, is the closest. Morban has a raw, aggressive plate approach but has 20-plus HR potential and is coming off a successful Double-A campaign in which he hit .295/.362/.468. I’m skeptical though of near 30% strikeout rates and not sure he’ll make it as a regular, but he’ll play in Triple-A this year and should see some time in the show. Stefen Romero’s poor defense got him shuffled to the outfield in Triple-A in 2013. A shame considering his low-teens HR pop profiled well for the position. He may see some time in the Majors, but lacks a standout skill or the on-base skills to make it as a regular.

To find potential, one has to dig to the lower Minors with Austin Wilson and Gabriel Guerrero. Wilson was a 2013 second round draft pick out of high school. He has five-tool potential and profiles best for right field. The 21-year-old is rather raw, but has shown some signs of improvement in both his power skills and his plate discipline skils. 2014 will be his first full season of professional ball, so his ETA is quite a few years off.

Guerrero, 20, played in A-ball as a 19-year-old and will advance to A+ ball in 2014. The righty is a project with plus-power potential and a still very aggressive approach. High-risk/high-reward.

Pitching
Both Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are penciled in as rookies to start 2014 in the Mariners’ opening day rotation. Walker, 21, has multiple plus pitch potential and the ceiling of a top of the rotation starter. Walker still needs to prove he can throw strikes on a regular basis and to improve the command of his secondary pitches and his effectiveness against lefties, so he is not without risk. Paxton is a hard-throwing lefty with a plus curveball. Paxton took a step forward with his command in 2013, posting a 3.6 BB/9 at Triple-A and a 2.6 upon his promotion to the Majors. If Paxton can prove that the gains he made are no fluke and if he can improve his changeup to combat righties, he could develop into a middle of the rotation pitcher.

Danny Hultzen, who was widely expected to already be in the Mariners' rotation, will miss all of 2014 due to rotator cuff surgery. Were it Tommy John surgery, I’d recommend sticking with him, but given that he will not likely return until 2015 and the outcome is an unknown, there are probably better options available, particularly considering he’ll be pretty cheap in 2015.

Looking for dynasty picks in the lower levels, you’ll find Victor Sanchez – a pitch to contact, 18-year-old with plus command. He gets plenty of ground balls and profiles best as a fourth starter at the moment. Edwin Diaz is a skinny, projectable right-hander with a power fastball/curve combination. In rookie ball, he posted a 10.3 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 and is working to develop his changeup. He may have a career as starter or as a reliever.

Wrapping Up: From a 2014 perspective, your best targets are Walker and Paxton. Keep a close eye on the shortstop situation in case Brad Miller falters. For dynasty leaguers, your choice after Walker should be Peterson, who is likely to be a top selection in most AL-only keeper leaguers this spring. Ji-Man Choi is worth watching, but given the roadblocks, is more of a late-round keeper pick. I would probably avoid drafting all of the young Seattle outfielders for now. They’re simply too raw at the moment, regardless of their potential.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 December 2013 11:20
 
AL Call-Up Candidates PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Friday, 30 August 2013 00:00

This coming Sunday, we will see our yearly influx of players, when teams will add extra arms to their roster and position players to their bench, most of whom will barely see action, particularly for those teams still in contention. On lesser rosters, however, there may be a select few who can help this season. Mostly though, this is an exercise and opportunity for keeper leaguers to perhaps take some chances to add to their treasure trove for 2014.

Baltimore Orioles

Steve Clevenger – C, Alex Liddi – 3B, Ryan Flaherty – UT, Jonathan Schoop – SS, Xavier Avery, Eric Thames, and Henry Urrutia – OF, Josh Stinson, Wei-Yin Chen, Zach Britton and Tsuyoshi Wada – SP,  Steve Johnson and Michael Belfiore – RP, Jason Hammel could also return from the disabled list in September.

Wei-Yin  Chen will return to the rotation on Sunday when rosters expand, but Hammel could potentially push him aside should Chen continue to struggle. For keeper leaguers, Jonathan Schoop is the standout keeper here, if available in AL-only leagues. The 21-year-old offers decent pop from the middle infield and has shown better ability in the lower minors to make contact and hit for average but has not done so in his first go around at Triple-A.

Boston Red Sox

Brandon Snyder  -1B, Clay Buchholz – SP, Alex Wilson – RP, Ryan Lavarnway – C, Dan Butler – C, Brock Holt - INF, Jackie Bradley – OF, Alex Hassan – OF, Rubby De La Rosa – SP, Steve Wright – SP, Allen Webster  SP,  Bryan Villareal, Pedro Beato, Jose De La Torre, and Daniel Bard, RP.

Jackie Bradley has the tools and skills to possibly replace free agent to be Jacoby Ellsbury, but will play sparingly this September. Buchholz is scheduled to start the 10th of September and could be a significant boost to the Red Sox’s chances or just re-injure himself. Allen Webster was shellacked earlier this season, which makes him a nice stash and save candidate. The righty has a power arm and two to three plus pitches that could vault him into a rotation spot as early as next season.

Chicago White Sox

Mike McDade – 1B, Travis Ishikawa – 1B, Bryan Anderson – C, Brent Morel – 3B, Blake Tekotte – OF, Simon Castro, Charlie Leesman – SP, Deunte Heath, Santos Rodriguez – RP

Not a lot of excitement here in terms of getting playing time or the prospect front. Charlie Leesman continues to be effective in Triple-A and could be a serviceable 5th starter given an opportunity. If an impact player does emerge amongst the club's September call-ups, it will be from lower in their minors to a non-40 man roster type who is unlikely to be ready to play at the MLB level.

Cleveland Indians

Lou Marson – C, Ryan Raburn – OF, Corey Kluber – SP, Juan Diaz – SS, Tim Fedroff – OF, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, and T.J. House – SP, Preston Guilmet, Matt Langwell, Vinnie Pestano, Chen Lee, Blake Wood, Nick Hagadone,and Trey Haley – RP

Corey Kluber could push Danny Salazar back to the pen when he comes off the disabled list in early September. Trevor Bauer won’t likely be a factor and has fallen apart at Triple-A with declines in his strikeouts and an inability to find the strike zone, making it difficult to rate him as a top prospect any longer barring a complete turnaround. Vinnie Pestano has found his control but has an ERA above 4.00 in Triple-A. There is still a good chance he makes the opening day bullpen in 2014 and may once again challenge for save opportunities given his skills and talents.

Detroit Tigers

Octavio Dotel is currently rehabbing and could be back soon. Bryan Holaday – C, Danny Worth – INF, Hernan Perez – INF, Nick Castellanos – OF, Evan Reed, Jose Alvarez – SP, Jose Ortega, Phil Coke, and Darin Downs – RP

The coup here would be if Nick Castellanos gets the call and a chance to play. The Tigers have resisted calling him up despite the fact that the righty would be an immediate upgrade over the Tigers' current left field platoon. The 21-year-old has broken out this season, showing improved power and much improved control of the strike zone. While Castellanos has not dominated Triple-A, a .274/.343/.441 line at that level for a player his age is very solid.

Houston Astros

Carlos Perez - C, Jonathan Singleton - 1B, Brandon Laird – 3B, George Springer, Marc Krauss, Trevor Crowe, Jimmy Paredes – OF, David Martinez, Jorge De Leon, Jose Cisnero, Hector Ambriz, Rhiner Cruz, Wade LeBlanc – RP

Neither Jonathan Singleton nor George Springer are currently on the Astros' 40-man roster, but since both players could potentially have opening day jobs in 2014, it would be surprising to not see them get at least a taste of the Majors this year. Well, then again, maybe not. Singleton has struggled since his promotion to Triple-A, showing little power, an ability to draw walks but absolutely no ability to put the bat on the ball. At this rate, Singleton will spend half of 2014 at Triple-A to try and recover his game.  Springer, 23, has cruised through two levels, hitting nearly a combined 40 homers and stealing over 40 bases while walking at a rather high rate. Like Singleton, the concern is for Springer’s strikeout rate. So far, he’s hit around .300 at each of his two stops this year, but given the history, it is hard to imagine Springer as a good hitter for average at the MLB level, but that’s forgivable when you have 40-40 potential.

Kansas City Royals

Brett Hayes - C, Carlos Pena  - 1B, Irving Falu – 3B, Johnny Giavotella - 2B, Pedro Ciriaco – SS, Christian Colon- SS, Gorkys Hernandez, Brian Fletcher – OF, Wade Davis, Yordano Ventura, Chris Dwyer, Justin Marks, John Lamb – SP, Louis Coleman, Maikel Cleto, Donnie Joseph, Evertt Teaford and Francisley Bueno – RP

The Royals already recalled Danny Duffy prior to the deadline and have installed him back in the rotation, leaving few other available opportunities. Top prospect Yordano Ventura could still get a taste. The righty has pitched well at two minor league levels and struck out more than a batter per inning at each stop, though his control faded with his promotion to Triple-A. Still, Ventura does have middle to upper end of the rotation caliber stuff.

Los Angeles Angels

Howie Kendrick should return sometime in September, but his injury provides the Angels with an opportunity to see what they have in Grant Green. John Hester- C, Tommy Field – INF, Tommy Hanson – SP, Daniel Strange, Brandon Siske, and Nick Maronde – RP

Nick Maronde has an excellent arm and can miss bats but has shown himself to be more of a thrower at the higher levels of the Minors (6+ BB/9 in Double-A). If he can show the control he had in the lower minors, then there might be something worth following.

Minnesota Twins

Joe Mauer, Josmil Pinto – C, Jeff Clement – 1B, Eduardo Escobar – SS, Aaron  Hicks, Chris Parmelee, Darin Mastroianni - OF, Kyle Gibson, Vance Worley, Cole DeVries, B.J. Hermsen, Scott Diamond, and Pedro Hernandez – SP, Michael Tonkin – RP

Gibson and Hicks are the most interesting players in this group and will receive additional opportunities to earn full-time jobs. Hicks, however, has struggled even at Triple-A. Gibson, meanwhile, is closing in on age 26 and is moving from first round draft pick towards journeyman in a hurry. To his credit, Gibson has had success in the Minors. Do not expect a high-end strikeout pitcher at the MLB level. To succeed, Gibson’s command will have to transfer to the Majors. Mastroianni might be a nice play for cheap speed should the Twins opt to give him any playing time at all.

New York Yankees

David Adams – INF, Bobby Wilson – C, Melky Mesa – OF, Brett Marshall, Vidal Nuno – SP, Dellin Betances – RP

Sadly, nothing to see here other than back-up players long-term or otherwise. There was some hope for Marshall, but the righty has regressed a great deal and is on the verge of losing his prospect status.

Oakland Athletics

John Jaso, Derek Norris – C, Josh Reddick – OF, Jemile Weeks, Andy Parrino – SS, Michael Choice, Michael Taylor, Shane Peterson OF, Arnold Leon Tommy Milone, Andrew Werner – SP, Evan Scribner, Pat Neshek, Hideki Okajima, Pedro Gigueroa – RP

If John Jaso can come back from a concussion and Josh Reddick from a wrist injury, that would be the most helpful thing for the A’s down the stretch.  Sonny Gray looks to possibly have locked down the fifth starter’s spot, leaving nowhere for Milone to fit except in long relief despite being absolutely dominant in two Triple-A starts. Michael Choice has a .300/.388/.442 line in Triple-A but will not unseat Coco Crisp at the moment, and if brought up, will spend most of his time on the bench, but could challenge for a starting spot next spring.

Seattle Mariners

Jesus Sucre – C, Stefen Romero – 2B, Carlos Triunfel – INF, Carlos Peguero – OF, Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan, Chance Ruffin and Taijuan Walker – SP

The Mariners have already made significant promotions this season and may have their middle infield set for years to come in Brad Miller/Nick Franklin. That does not leave much room for Stefan Romero. Taijuan Walker has been recalled in advance of the roster expansion to start Friday night. The righty’s control faded as he advanced through the Mariners system, but one cannot ignore a 10+ K/9 from a barely 21-year-old at Double-A and Triple-A. Walker projects as an upper end of the rotation starter and is worth a trial in keeper and non-keeper formats given a chance to possibly make a half dozen starts before the season ends.

Tampa Bay Rays

Luke Scott, Brandon Guyer and Matt Moore are all rehabbing and will be back in the Majors to give the Rays a boost. Chris Gimenez – C, Tim Beckham – SS, Delmon Young, Jason Bourgeois – OF, Brandon Gomes, Josh Lueke, Jeff Beliveau - RP

The Rays have been using their upper level prospects all season long with Wil Myers, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi currently on the roster. Odorizzi, however, is the most likely candidate to cede his rotation spot when Matt Moore returns next week.

Texas Rangers

Lance Berkman will return to see some platoon DH action and pinch-hitting. Alexi Ogando will indeed get another shot in the rotation after a rehab assignment, barring any setbacks. Robinson Chirinos – C, Chris McGuiness – 1B, Engel Beltre, Joey Butler – OF, Josh Lindblom – SP, Cory Burns, Wilmer Font, Justin Miller and Joseph Ortiz – RP

Cory Burns has saved 20 games in Triple-A while posting a 11.8 K/9 along with a 3.4 BB/9. He’s a journeyman who does not necessarily throw hard but keeps the ball on the ground, mixes his pitches and throws strikes. Burns deserves a shot even though he might not be all that fantasy noteworthy.

Toronto Blue Jays

Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Steve Delabar and Dustin McGowan are all expected to return this season. However, note that Melky Cabrera probably will not, meaning Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra could see significant playing time over the rest of the season. Andy LaRoche – 3B, Mike McCoy – 2B, Lance Zawadzki – SS, Thad Weber, Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Sean Nolin – SP, Brad Lincoln, Mickey Storey – RP

Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek are both working their way back from Tommy John surgery. Neither has pitched particularly well at Triple-A but both could still receive September call-ups  and if healthy, could challenge for rotation spots in 2014.

Last Updated on Friday, 30 August 2013 08:07
 
Royal Roundup PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Friday, 16 August 2013 00:00

This week we take an in-depth look at the offensive side of the ball in the Royals’ organization.

Catcher

Salvador Perez is hitting .274, but it's an empty one when combined with a .306 OBP and .375 SLG. The righty is still making great contact, but isn’t doing much with it, and when looking at where he hits the ball, 2012 is looking like an anomaly with a 13% HR/FB rate. In other words, what looked to have been a long-term locked up position may be more open than we would have thought heading into 2013. However, there is not much in the system with no-hit types like Manny Pina and no-field types like Max Ramirez at Triple-A. Cameron Gallagher, 20, is the closest thing the Royals have to a prospect at the position. There’s some plate discipline and power potential here, but a .210/.290/.313 line at low-A ball does not scream domination. 2013 fourth-round pick Zane Evans has played well in rookie ball and has shown fair contact/power skills in his arsenal. It will be interesting to see what he can do at a higher level.

Third Base

Many including myself were on the verge of writing Cheslor Cuthbert off coming off a rather pedestrian season as a 19-year-old in A+ ball. Wait a minute, a 19-year-old in A+ ball probably needs to be given more slack. Well, the Royals have and have even gone as far to promote the now 20-year-old to Double-A. Cuthbert made some interesting gains during his league repeat in the plate discipline and doubles-hitting departments, sporting a solid, though still unspectacular .280/.354/.418 line. Since then, however, Cuthbert has proven to be unsurprisingly overmatched at Double-A, giving back most of the gains he’d made earlier in the season. Cuthbert still has the defense to stay at third and has at times flashed fair to good plate discipline and developing power. The righty is very much a work in progress who does not deserve to be written off, but at the same time he's not a great chip for fantasy leaguers looking to add players for their stretch run, nor a high priority stash for dumping teams looking to maximize their minor league rosters. In other words, Cuthbert could easily be available for selection in your keeper league’s 2014 minor league draft.

Cuthbert, however, could be quickly eclipsed by 2013 first-round pick Hunter Dozier. The 8th overall pick, Dozier has already been shifted from his college position of shortstop to third base. The righty has torn into rookie-ball pitching, showing very advanced plate discipline and above average power, sporting a .293/.397/.505 and is the first college hitter for Royals fans and fantasy players to be legitimately excited about since they selected Alex Gordon. Expect Dozier to possibly jump to at least A+ ball to start 2014 and to be on the fast track.

Shortstop

Raul Mondesi could already be the Royals’ top offensive prospect. Formerly known as Adalberto, Mondesi has now taken his father’s name, and like his dad possesses five-tool potential, but with legitimate defensive talents to remain at shortstop. Also, like his father, Mondesi is an aggressive hitter with an unrefined plate approach, but that can be forgiven since we are talking about a player who turned 18 in the middle of full-season A-ball and is still managing a .272/.318/.388 line with seven homers and 20 steals. As with most raw, young players, Mondesi carries high risk potential, but the reward potential is too great to ignore, especially when contrasted with holding his own as a 17-year-old while facing college veterans.

Outfield

Continuing our theme of raw young players who are several years away from helping the MLB club in Kansas City brings us to former first-round selection Bubba Starling. Starling was drafted for his five-tool, 30-30 potential. Again, as with Cuthbert, one hesitates to write off a 21-year-old playing in his first full season league of ball. The tools are clearly evident with 10 homers and 21 steals. To Starling’s credit, he’s even shown some surprising selectivity at the plate and has an OBP nearly 100 points higher than his batting average. However, that batting average rests at .235 and he strikes out nearly a quarter of the time. Right now, should he make the Majors, Starling is striking me as a Drew Stubbs/Chris Young/Mike Cameron/Colby Rasmus type and at worst a wrong-side of the platoon split player/Triple-A journeyman.

On the lower upside end of things, Brian Fletcher is someone who could receive a September call-up. Fletcher was recently promoted from Double-A, where he posted a .314/.353/.541 line. While continuing to show pop in Triple-A, Fletcher’s plate discipline and ability to hit in general have faded out, looking distinctly similar to his 2012 Double-A line. A righty, Fletcher is probably a platoon player at best long term.

Back to the slightly more exciting side of things, Jorge Bonifacio was moved up to Double-A around the same time Fletcher got his call-up to Triple-A. The 20-year-old Bonifacio posted a solid .296/.368/.408 line in A+ ball. The Royals now have both Bonifacio’s in their organization, having recently acquired Emilio to serve as bench depth. Unlike his older brother, Jorge’s game is not in the speed department but lies more in the power department. That power, however, has not been all that apparent (and quite possibly injury related) with just three homers and 22 overall extra-base hits. Bonifacio is unlikely to earn a September call-up and could/should start 2014 back in Double-A.

The Royals are an organization that is trying to build from within, and unfortunately those efforts have not gone as well as planned with the struggles of Mike Moustakas and the lack of consistent power output from Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer. No players are close to the Majors, but Dozier and Mondesi in particular offer some rays of hope.

Last Updated on Friday, 16 August 2013 07:03
 
Prospects Impacted by the Deadline Deals PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Saturday, 03 August 2013 10:46

As expected the July 31st trade deadline was a letdown with few trades being consummated. Still, that does not mean there weren’t prospects changing places impacted by the moves that were imade. Let’s recap!

In aw shucks news, both the Astros and Red Sox teased against the possible promotion of a potential impact player such as George Springer or Will Middlebrooks and Xander Boegarts (previously playing third but now switching back to shortstop though he will be seeing occasional action at third base). Instead, Jimmy Paredes will factor into the outfield situation while Brock Holt will platoon at 3B. This situation will change by September at latest. Both Paredes and Holt profile best as back-up/utility types long term.

Zeke Spruill was not directly involved in the Ian Kennedy trade, but was the main beneficiary minus the fact that the Diamondbacks opted to have him face the Texas Rangers in his MLB debut. The ugly result was 3 homers allowed and 5 earned runs in 4 innings. That damage should deflate his value, at least temporarily. The former Brave is a sinker-ball with modest control who does not miss many bats and in fact produced a 4.2 K/9 along with a 3.0 BB/9 in Triple-A. While he may yet develop into a back end of the rotation starter, this is not a high end skill that should be purchased at this time.

The Diamondbacks, as part of the spoils of the Kennedy deal, did include reliever Matt Stites. Stites throws mid to upper nineties fastballs with precision and has a breaking pitch that misses bats. The righty has passed the Double-A test, producing an 8.8 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 while saving 14 in 52 innings of work.  A former 17th round pick, Stites best upside is probably as a setup man at the MLB level, but is worth noting as a potential dark horse closer candidate too.

Getting Downs

The Braves sent Cory Rasmus to the Angels in exchange for LOOGY, Scott Downs. A former supplemental first round pick in 2006, Rasmus has had an injury plagued career that resulted in his move to the bullpen. The 25-year old has never been noted for his ability to throw strikes, but has shown signs of being able to compile strikeouts. This year, Rasmus has produced an 11.8 K/9 along with a 5.4 BB/9 as the Triple-A Gwinnett closer. There is some upside here, but most likely Rasmus ends up an organizational player.

The Norris Haul and More

The Astros received L.J. Hoes and Josh Hader in exchange for “ace” Bud Norris. Neither are particularly exciting players. Defensive limitations have pushed the speedy, high disciplined hitting Hoes to the outfield. While the righty has the potential to hit for average, he has little power making him ideally a centerfielder but disappointingly has never developed into a significant stolen base threat despite above average speed. More likely, Hoes ends up as a fourth outfielder or Quad-A player.

Josh Hader is a projectable, raw left-hander. He has two to three potential average or better pitches and has done a fair job of missing bats (8.4 K/9) despite the lack of refinement of any of his secondary offerings. Hader is a name to file away with a lot left to prove and at best MLB eta of late 2016, if not 2017. The Astros also received a 2014 1st round supplemental draft pick as part of this deal.

The Astros also landed Kyle Smith in exchange for a platoon player with health issues. So from the get go, this was a solid move. Like Hader, it will be a bit before Smith hits the Majors as he is twenty and in A+ ball. That said, whereas Hader is projectable and raw, Smith has greater established pitchability and more refined stuff/control. He’ll pitch in Double-A next year and could be factor at the middle to back end of the Astros’ rotation in 2016/2017 with an outside shot at 2015 should the Astros feel confident in pushing him.

Tiger Sox Three-Way

The Red Sox sought to bolster their rotation and did so with the aid of the Tigers who needed a fall back for the possible Jhonny Peralta suspension with Jose Iglesias (AKA Rey Ordonez) headed to Motown.

As for the prospects, Avisail Garcia was the clear target of the White Sox and should be manning a full time outfield slot in Chicago soon. Garcia has serious tools with 25-plus HR/teens SB potential and an arm fit for right field. That said, I’m not nearly 100 percent sold he makes it an everyday player. Garcia’s tools are ahead of his skills and the righty’s strikeout rates have increased over time while still maintaining an overly aggressive plate approach. That said, Jose Guillen had a solid career with a similar skill/talent set.

Though not acquired in the deal, Andre Rienzo is perhaps the biggest winner. The first Brazilian in the Majors took over Peavy’s rotation spot.  The 25-year old throws reasonably hard, has improved his control, and has struck out a batter per inning in Triple-A this year.

Francellis Montas can hit triple digits but that doesn’t stop him from having a 5+ ERA in A-ball due mostly in part to unrefined secondary stuff. If he can get a pitch to spin, then he might have a nice career in relief. Until then, he’s a project.

Cleuluis Rondon is a glove guy and probably an organizational player while Jeffrey Wendelken profiles as a middle reliever at best. The fact that he has only 1 7.5 K/9 in low-ball suggests a low ceiling.

Callaspo/Green

The A’s decision to move Grant Green after giving him a trial to claim their starting second base job in exchange for low-ceiling veteran Alberto Callaspo says something. Green’s bat and upper teens power profile best for second base, but it may be third where his opportunities lies with the Angels. At 25, he’s going to have to show something quick when the opportunities arises. For now, Chris Nelson has the 3B job and should not be a significant barrier for Green to get that opportunity soon.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 August 2013 07:57
 
Impact Update PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Friday, 31 May 2013 00:00

In recent weeks, we’ve seen a number of prominent promotions to the Majors to starting-level jobs. Most notably, and far from surprising, Nick Franklin replaced Dustin Ackley in the Mariners' starting lineup.

With that, it's time to review some of the pre-season potential impact prospects, update their status and see if they will indeed be pushing for MLB playing time soon!

Sticking with the Mariners, Brad Miller was recently promoted to Triple-A in the wake of the Franklin promotion to the Majors. As I mentioned this spring, Miller is perhaps the best defensive shortstop among the M’s young middle infield prospects. In Double-A, it was Miller’s bat doing the talking as he continued to show a solid array of power/speed skills as well as on-base abilities with a .294/.379/.471 slash. Miller continues to project as a double- digit home run/stolen base player that could push Brendan Ryan for playing time later this season. The 23-year-old has five games of Triple-A experience, so the lefty isn’t exactly coming up tomorrow, but given the veterans in front of him, they won’t block him when the time does come.

The one player who could potentially delay Miller is Stefen Romero, A.K.A. Nick Franklin’s former and Brad Miller’s current double-play partner. The second baseman could potentially shift Franklin back to shortstop at some point this season, but while an OK prospect capable of double-digit home run power, he does not have Miller’s upside. Romero is very aggressive at the plate and over 137 plate appearances has not been able to translate his contact-making skills from Double-A to Triple-A, striking out more than a fifth of the time. Still, his experience could get him the nod ahead of Miller should the M’s decide to push Ryan to the bench.

While this slugger has not had much playing time yet and is currently playing at A-ball, all fantasy owners should take heed that Jonathan Singleton is back on the diamond. His 50-game suspension for marijuana use is now behind him and the 21-year-old already has two homers in two games. With both Carlos Pena and Chris Carter struggling at the MLB level, expect Singleton’s rise up the minor league ladder to be rapid, and it would not be surprising to see the former Philly in Triple-A well before the end of June.

On the struggling side of things, Rangers' third base prospect Mike Olt has only just come back from the disabled list after spending a month on the sidelines with vision issues. In 81 plate appearances, he had struck out nearly 40% of the time, but still managed to maintain his walk rate. This may be your last opportunity to buy in cheap. Given Mitch Moreland’s play and Adrian Beltre at third, Olt is not going to get a promotion anytime soon, so the righty will have plenty of time to get things back on track. Barring injuries to the Rangers' corner infielders, it is now hard to see Olt as much of a contributor to the 2013 Rangers.

Jacob Turner will be making his return to the Majors tonight against the Mets. The former top Tigers prospect is still just 22 years of age, but he has lost a lot of his early-career luster. The righty has failed to eclipse the 6.0 K/9 mark over any minor league stay of length since 2011. Turner’s control has been much better this season, but he’s otherwise struggled in Triple-A with an ERA approaching 4.50. I still have to wonder whether or not there is an unresolved shoulder issue affecting Turner’s performance. Turner is not recommended in any format at this time.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, have recalled a former first round pick of their own in Michael Wacha. With so many injuries to their rotation, the move was necessary and not undeserved. Wacha’s main skills lie in his ability to throw strikes, an above average fastball/changeup/ and an average to plus curveball combo. Wacha has not been missing many bats in Triple-A and has been allowing quite a few fly balls, so he’ll need to have sharp command to keep the ball in the park. This could just be a cup of coffee for Wacha while the Cards wait for Westbrook to return, but over the long haul he could beat out Tyler Lyons for a rotation spot. For what it is worth, Lyons does have long-term rotation potential as well. The 25-year-old lefty may not throw hard, but he mixes an average four-pitch arsenal effectively and consistently throws strikes. The lefty profiles as a fifth starter/innings eater type who produces a low to mid 4’s ERA. Right now, however, he’s pitching a wee bit over his head, with a 91% left-on base rate and .132 BABIP over two starts. Expect a rough start or two in his future.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 31 May 2013 10:48
 
Impact Prospects for 2013: NL Outfielders Part Two PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Friday, 15 March 2013 00:00

This week we conclude our look at the potential impact hitting prospects for 2013 with part two of our scan of National League outfielders.

Miami Marlins

Obviously, the Marlins are amidst yet another team overhaul and these efforts will have impacts on their outfield. To start 2013, they will be utilizing stop-gap types like Juan Pierre, Justin Ruggiano, Austin Kearns, Bryan Petersen, and Gorkys Hernandez to man left and centerfield. Unfortunately for the Marlins, their prospects lack experience above Double-A and promotions may take half a season or more.

One option is Alfredo Silverio. The Marlins acquired the righty in the Rule-5 draft from the Dodgers. Silverio did not play a game in 2012 and is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, but when healthy is an aggressive, but good contact hitter with 15 to 20 home run potential and above average speed. That combination of talents gives Silverio a shot at being more than a platoon player. Keep in mind that Silverio will begin 2013 on the disabled list.

Another offseason acquisition was Jake Marisnick. The former Blue Jay earns praise for his tools, potential as a 20-20 or better threat, and defensive skills. However, the righty has yet to put everything together and is coming off a rather underwhelming Double-A performance. Marisnick has yet to really tap into his power potential with just 8 dingers (though 29 doubles and 10 triples). The 22-year-old makes decent contact for a righty and is not necessarily overly aggressive so much as he has holes in his swing that need refining. I suspect Marisnick will end up a teens home run hitter with 25 to 30 steal potential, playing solid defense in center, but he’ll have to perform well at Double-A, let alone Triple-A, to make it.

Christian Yelich is the best of a pretty good crop of Marlins’ outfield prospects. Yelich has experience only through A+ ball, but as a 20-year-old he hit .330/404/.519 and showed a very good eye. Yelich gives the Marlins yet another potential solid defensive centerfielder with 15 to 20 HR and 25+ stolen base potential. Of the three, given his youth and polish, Yelich is the most likely to succeed in becoming a MLB regular and possible star. Given the spring Yelich is having, he may be jumped to Triple-A and could be on the fast track.

Milwaukee Brewers

At the moment, the Brewers outfield does not present many opportunities for rookies to get extended chances. Carlos Gomez is perhaps the most likely route for playing time as a sub-par OBP guy with a bat best suited to being the right-handed half of a platoon.

Logan Schafer is the most likely beneficiary and could open 2013 on the Brewers’ bench. A 26-year-old, Schafer has a good set of skills but nary an outstanding tool. A lefty, Schafer is typically a very disciplined contact hitter with high single digits to low-teens HR power and stolen base skills. There is platoon potential here, but most likely Schafer is a fourth outfielder.

Caleb Gindl, like Schafer, is a tweener in the tools department. The 5’9” lefty has some gap power and knows how to draw walks. Depending on who performs better, it is possible Gindl or Schafer could get a platoon nod with Gomez.

Khris Davis hit over .300 at three different minor league stops in 2012, including a .314/.414/.522 line in a small Triple-A sample. The righty has the most raw power of this trio (20+ HR potential) but is easily the worst defensively and will not push Ryan Braun out of left field. Davis does also posses interesting on-base skills and a quick bat. He could make it as a right-handed bat off the bench or platoon player.

New York Mets

Matt Den Dekker destroyed Double-A pitching, but his aggressiveness was quickly exposed at the Triple-A level. Den Dekker has some power/speed tools and is a very good centerfielder, but it is unlikely the 25-year-old will ever see much action as a starter unless his approach undergoes a major overhaul.

Philadelphia Phillies

Rule-5 pick Ender Inciarte has a fair chance of making the Phillies opening day roster. Enciarte is a no-power, good speed, good defense type who seems to understand his limitations. The lefty is a good contact hitter who can work counts. Speedsters of this ilk, however, often have to make contact almost 95% of the time to be effective MLB starters. It will be interesting to see if MLB hurlers overpower this player. Emmanuel Burriss comes to mind as a recent comparable.

St. Louis Cardinals
Oscar Taveras is one of the best pure hitting prospects in the Minors today. He combines already great (23 HR as a 20-year-old) raw power, an ability to make contact, and an understanding of the strike zone that is phenomenal for someone so young. Taveras has decent speed but is probably not a significant base stealing threat long-term. Taveras’ values are in his ability to hit for average and power, which project to the .300+/30+ range. Should the Cardinals somehow fade from competition, Carlos Beltran could be dealt to a contender, paving the way for Taveras.

San Diego Padres

James Darnell is on the bubble. A 3B/OF, defense is not Darnell’s strong suit. However, the 26-year-old does possess 15 to 20 HR per season power and has a disciplined approach that could make him a .260 to .280 hitter in the Majors. At the very least, he could be an adequate bench player. Certainly someone to watch in case Chris Denorfia ends up on the DL again.

Like Darnell, Jaf Decker was coming back from injuries in 2012 and did not particularly impress during his comeback except in the plate discipline department. Decker is a smallish, stocky type with 20+ HR potential and profiles best as a corner outfielder. A Decker/Darnell platoon has the potential to be more productive offensively, though certainly a defensive downgrade, from the current Wll Venable/Denorfia platoon.

San Francisco Giants

Gary Brown was one of the hottest targets in 2012 after a 14 HR, 53 steal, .336 batting average campaign. 2012 saw the 24-year-old come back down to earth with 33 steals and a very modest .279/.347/.385 line. On the good side, Brown is still an elite runner and defender, but he became too aggressive at the plate, walking less and making less frequent contact. In other words, this is a bat that looks a lot more like a back end of the lineup hitter than a leadoff hitter.

Francisco Peguero spent time in the Majors in 2012. To get a better feel for his talents, one has to go back to 2010 when he was healthy and showed developing power and plus speed (40 steals). There is a lot to be excited about with Peguero, but the fact remains the 24-year- old is an ultra-aggressive hitter whose skills may not be able to catch up to his tools. Peguero could break out and be a starter or just as easily end up a minor league journeyman. The righty is too good not to keep on your radar, even if he flounders.

Washington Nationals

Eury Perez and Corey Brown both have chances at playing time. Brown is a journeyman with 20+ HR, 15+ steal tools and is willing to draw a walk, but he also owns fairly high career strikeout rates. Put him on the list of guys who I would love to see get an opportunity, at least as a platoon player.

Perez is an extremely fast runner who stole over 50 bases in 2012. Like Enciarte, Perez offers zilch in the pop department and is a very aggressive hitter who makes contact around 85% of the time. This may not translate very well to the Majors. Again, it will be a test to see if Perez’s bat is knocked out of his hands at the higher levels.

To Review: (Please note I’ve included last week’s outfielders in this chart)

Possible MLB Phase/Auction Selections:
Adam Eaton, Logan Schafer, Ender Inciarte, Alfredo Silverio

Possible Minor League Draft Phase Selections:

Oscar Taveras, Christian Yelich, Jake Marisnick, A.J. Pollock, Brett Jackson, Billy Hamilton, Gary Brown, Eury Perez, Francisco Peguero

Possible In-Season Pick-Ups:
Alfredo Marte, Todd Cunningham, Ryan LaMarre, Tim Wheeler, Corey Dickerson, Scott Van Slyke, Alex Castellanos, Blake Smith, Caleb Gindl, Khris Davis, Matt Den Dekker, Corey Brown, James Darnell, Jaff Decker 

Next week we begin our look at pitching!

 

 

Last Updated on Friday, 15 March 2013 07:56
 
Impact Prospects for 2013: NL Outfielders Part One PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Friday, 08 March 2013 16:25

The 2013 season is looming, less than three weeks away, and with draft season starting to hit high gear it’s time we moved towards finishing up our look at potential impact prospect hitters for 2013 with a scan of the outfielders of the National League.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Adam Eaton is one of the most targeted prospects this spring. Through as recently as last season, the short lefty was viewed as a fourth outfielder type with good plate discipline and speed skills. Since then, Eaton has translated those skills well to the Majors and is now a .280s 30+ steal threat with middle to high single digits home run power.

To contrast Eaton, A.J. Pollock was thought of as the superior prospect, and the Diamondbacks' centerfielder of the future as recently as last season. A former first round pick, the lefty still has superior plate discipline skills, high single digits to low-teens homer potential, and 20 to 30 steal ability. Eaton, however, has moved ahead of him on the depth charts and Pollock may end up sitting in Triple-A or on the bench. With Cody Ross possibly missing the start of the season, Pollock could get some early season at-bats in the Majors.
Alfredo Marte will move up to Triple-A and has a chance of reaching the Majors in 2013, but has obstacles in front of him. Being a right-hander might help given that Ross is the only other right-handed outfielder. Marte has the most power of this trio (high-teens to low-twenties HR potential) and is a somewhat aggressive contact hitter with solid defensive skills. He profiles best as a right-handed platoon option.

Atlanta Braves
The Braves have a very young outfield that is going to be quite tough to crack, barring injury, for years to come. So the only rookies we are likely to see are of the backup variety. Todd Cunningham will advance to Triple-A this year and profiles well as a backup, possessing above average speed, playing good defense, having some gap power and a solid, contact-oriented approach at the plate.

Chicago Cubs
24-year-old Brett Jackson reached the Majors last season and only just retained his rookie status with 120 at-bats. The lefty has solid tools and 20-20 potential, and while he has shown good patience at the plate, he has a swing wrought with holes and a tendency to strike out more than a quarter, if not a third of the time. The Cubs will go with David DeJesus to start the season. If Jackson can improve his contact-making skills, the opportunity to push his way into a starting role is there, but that’s a big if.

Cincinnati Reds
The Reds enter 2013 with an outfield of Ryan Ludwick, Shin-Soo Choo and Jay Bruce with Chris Heisey waiting in the wings. Meanwhile, every NL-only or mixed leaguer is anxiously awaiting the arrival of Billy Hamilton, speedster extraordinaire. Hamiton stole over 150 bags in the minor leagues last year and is at least a 50-stolen base threat in the Majors. Hamilton, however, has amassed fewer than 200 Double-A plate appearances and could very well begin there to start the season, pushing his big league arrival towards the latter half of the season. The switch-hitter, however, has the talent to speed up that time frame. Hamilton has true leadoff potential as a patient hitter who knows how to bunt and keep the ball on the ground and use his legs. The only concern here are strikeout rates. As a player with minimal power, Hamilton needs to focus on making more contact and putting the ball in play. That will be the difference between being a .260 or .300 hitter.

Ryan LaMarre may actually get a crack at the Majors before Hamilton. A 24-yaer-old former second round pick, the lefty has a fairly good plate approach, good speed and plays good defense, but he only has gap power. LaMarre has no true standout skill or talent and is best suited to a bench role.

Colorado Rockies
2012 was a major disappointment for Tim Wheeler after his 33 home run/21 steal campaign of 2011. A broken hamate bone robbed him of both time and his power. The 25-year-old will head back to Triple-A, hopefully fully healed. Long-term, the lefty still has .280/20+ HR potential, and while he is now a borderline fourth outfielder/quad-A player given his age, there is still a chance he could win a starting job once Cuddyer’s contract expires after 2014.

Corey Dickerson has a chance to move ahead of Wheeler on the depth charts. The 23-year-old will advance to Triple-A after hitting 22 homers between two minor league levels. While he does not have Wheeler's defensive skills or raw bat speed, Dickerson does have legitimate 20+ HR potential and has shown an aptitude for making fairly consistent contact. The lefty is a tad over-aggressive at the plate and that may limit his OBP skills long-term.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Opportunities exist for lefties in left field with a platoon of Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston Jr. scheduled to man the position while Carl Crawford recovers from injury. Alex Castellanos, Blake Smith and Scott Van Slyke may all receive chances, though none really project as starters. Castellanos has high-teens to low-twenties home run potential and a tad above average speed. A former infielder, Castellanos is viewed mostly as a utility guy given his defensive versatility. If forced to play more regularly, he profiles as a wrong-side of the platoon type player. Blake Smith is a lefty with 20+ HR potential and enough speed to handle center. However, he is a 25-year-old with only Double-A experience and is in need of a significant reduction in his strikeout rate. Finally, Scott Van Slyke, son of Andy Van Slyke, won’t remind anyone of his dad defensively. Like the other two, Van Slyke is an older prospect and is right-handed, but makes good contact and has a disciplined approach to go along with high teens to low-twenties home run potential. He’s coming off a .327/.404/.579 campaign in Triple-A and deserves another look. If Crawford returns healthy and effective, the odds of any of this trio getting significant playing time are minimal.

To Review:

Possible MLB Phase/Auction Selections:
Adam Eaton

Possible Minor League Draft Phase Selections:

A.J. Pollock, Brett Jackson, Billy Hamilton

Possible In-Season Pick-Ups:
Alfredo Marte, Todd Cunningham, Ryan LaMarre, Tim Wheeler, Corey Dickerson, Scott Van Slyke, Alex Castellanos, Blake Smith

Next week, the remainder of the NL Outfielders.

Last Updated on Saturday, 09 March 2013 11:21
 
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