Archive for April, 2013

We’re almost a month into the Minor League baseball season, and we’re starting to get a large enough sample size to really start making some early judgments on players. Sure, we’ve seen some of the top prospects, like Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Archie Bradley completely dominate their leagues. But, we’ve had a fair share of sleepers emerge as legitimate breakout prospects. On the other hand, there are some guys who really aren’t living up to the hype coming into the season.

I will be spotlighting eight breakout players and four underachievers from each league so far. I’ll start with the Class A South Atlantic League.

Breakouts:

Kevin Plawecki, C, Savannah Sand Gnats (NYM)
.393/.454/.679, 4 HR, 12 2B, 20 RBI
Plawecki was a Sandwich Round pick in the 2012 draft out of Purdue University, and was considered the Mets’ 17th best prospect according to MLB.com going into the season. The 2012 Big Ten Player of the year is proving that he could translate his college success into professional success as he is absolutely mashing in the SAL League to start the season. He should move fast in the Mets system, and could potentially finish the season as high as Binghamton, even with the Mets history of moving players slowly. Plawecki is a blue collar type player, whose ceiling is that of an every day catcher in the big leagues with a little bit of pop at the plate.

Tom Murphy, C, Asheville Tourists (COL)
.408/.500/.898, 6 HR, 4 2B, 17 RBI, 2 SB
Plawecki isn’t the only college catcher from the 2012 Draft that is tearing up the SAL League in 2013, Tom Murphy, a 3rd Round pick from the University at Buffalo, is having just as much success at the plate. Murphy has only played in 14 games but has hit more HRs than Plawecki, and has a higher BA, OBP and SLG percentage. The biggest downfall to Murphy so far has been a high rate of strikeouts (14 in 49 ABs), but his great arm behind the plate combined with his developing power have drawn comparisons to the Blue Jay’s J.P. Arencibia.

Rosell Herrera, SS, Asheville Tourists (COL)
.363/.433/.593, 5 HR, 6 2B, 15 RBI, 6 SB
Herrera came into the 2012 season as the #13 ranked prospect in the Rockies organization, but is slowly moving up that list as he has a breakouts season in Asheville. After a very strong 2011 season in the Pioneer League, Herrera struggled last year, splitting between the Northwest League and the SA L League, only hitting 2 HRs all season. This year, the 20 year old already has 5 HRs, and is hitting for a high average as well. He stands at about 6’4″ and while he continues to grow into his body and develop power, he may need to transition to 3B or corner OF eventually.

Stetson Allie, 1B, West Virginia Power (PIT)
.351/.409/.660, 8 HR, 6 2B, 26 RBI, 4 SB
Allie was one of the most highly touted High School prospects in the 2010 MLB Draft, as a flame throwing RHP. After struggling greatly with control issues in 2011 and for two appearances in 2012, he was converted to a power hitting 1B, where he spent some time in the GCL last season, with limited success. This season with the West Virginia Power, the 22 year old has legitimately broken out as a power hitting machine. Allie has blasted 8 HRs already and has 26 RBI, which is 2nd in the league behind teammate Josh Bell.

Nick Williams, OF, Hickory Crawdads (TEX)
.303/.333/.618, 7 HR, 1 2B, 1 3B, 17 RBI, 2 SB
Out of all the highly touted position players on the Hickory roster, the only one who has really been a consistent offensive threat all season has been their 2nd round pick in 2012, Nick Williams. The 19 year old has 7 HRs, which is good for 3rd in the league behind teammate Joey Gallo and Allie, and has gotten his batting average up above the .300 mark. He profiles as a five-tool type guy, with a very strong throwing arm and above-average speed, and could be an impact athlete down the line. The main cause for concern with Williams has been his impatience at the plate, with only a .333 OBP, but at only 19 years old there is reason to believe he can improve upon this.

Micah Johnson, 2B, Kannapolis Intimidators (CHW)
.302/.390/.488, 1 HR, 5 2B, 4 3B, 20 SB, 4 CS
The second 2012 draftee from the Big Ten to make the list of breakout prospects from the SAL League is dynamic Kannapolis infielder Micah Johnson. Johnson was a 9th round pick in 2012 out of Indiana University,. where he missed much of his final college season after elbow surgery. The speedster is having a huge season in his full season debut, leading the South Atlantic League in stolen bases with a whopping 20 in April, while hitting over .300 with good patience at the plate. He profiles as a gap hitter with great speed and a good approach at the plate, and could develop into a big league caliber player in a few years.

Martin Agosta, RHP, Augusta Greenjackets (SFG)
3-1, 2.08 ERA, 26 IP, 10 BB, 35 K, 1.12 WHIP
Agosta is part of a rotation with the Giant’s 2012 first round draft pick, Chris Stratton, but the fellow college draftee from 2012, Agosta, has been equally impressive. Agosta was the Giant’s second round pick in 2012 out of Saint Mary’s College, where he had a successful college career in the WCC. He could be a fast mover in the system as he is already fairly polished, showing a low-to-mid 90s fastball and two solid off-speed pitches, a cutter and a curveball. He has seen great success in his full season debut, with a 12.1 K/9 rate and a low ERA.  His upside is probably that of a mid-to-back of the rotation starter for the Giants with an ETA of around 2015.

Gabriel Encinas, RHP, Charleston Riverdogs (NYY)
3-0, 0.31 ERA, 29 IP, 9 BB, 23 K, 0.86 WHIP
Encinas was a 6th Round pick of the Yankees in 2010 out of St. Paul HS in Santa Fe Springs, CA and has slowly worked his way up to Low A ball in Charleston for 2013. Many think that his make-up and competitive nature on the mound could lead him to a reliever role later in his career, but for now he has been dominant as a starter in the South Atlantic League. He’s only given up one Earned Run in 29 IP this season, and has a WHIP well under 1.0.

Underachievers:

Humberto Arteaga, SS, Lexington Legends (KCR)
.138/.156/.138, 0 XBH, 17 K, 0 SB, 2 CS
Arteaga, from Caracas, Venezuela, came into the season ranked as the #20 prospect in the Royals organization on MLB.com, and had a chance to emerge as an 18 year old in full season A-ball. He has not done anything to increase his stock as a prospect, as he has been the worst everyday hitter in the South Atlantic League this season. Arteaga is hitting a measley .138 with no extra base hits and only two BBs, adding up to a pathetic OPS of .295. His defense has always been his plus tool, but in order to have any chance of making the big leagues Arteaga will need to hit better than he has this season.

Bubba Starling, OF, Lexington Legends (KCR)
.195/.263/.379, 4 HR, 4 2B, 32 K, 1 SB
Starling was the Royals golden child, drafted out of nearby Gardner, KS with the 5th overall pick in the 2011 draft, he has been considered one of the best talents in the minor leagues since. Despite showing major flashes of all five tools, Starling has been unable to put it all together, starting with an unspectacular debut season with Burlington in 2012, and continuing with his 2013 campaign in Lexington where his extremely high K-rate and low average have major causes for concern

Nomar Mazara, OF, Hickory Crawdads (TEX)
.172/.234/.322, 3 HR, 4 2B, 31 K, 13 RBI
Mazara has a strikingly similar line of stats to Starling, but perhaps there is a little bit less cause for concern with him because he is so much younger, having just celebrated his 18th birthday a few days ago. The Rangers invested a ton in the power hitting Mazara, who has failed to deliver so far. His main tool is his power, which profiles as exceptional as he continues to mature and grow into his body, but he will need to start hitting for a high enough average, and striking out much less, to ever be able to hone that power at the big league level.

Branden Kline, RHP, Delmarva Shorebirds (BAL)
1-2, 6.98 ERA, 19.1 IP, 11 BB, 12 K, 1.86 WHIP
Normally, as seen with guys like Chris Stratton, Martin Agosta, and Eddie Butler this season, highly touted college arms tend to dominate the South Atlantic League when they are assigned there. This has been far from the case for Branden Kline, the Orioles’ 2nd Round pick in 2012 out of the University of Virginia. Opponents are hitting .321 off of Kline this season, and he has nearly as many walks as strike-outs. It’s likely that the lack of success in a starting role, combined with his live fastball, will call for a transition to the bullpen quite soon. That being said, he was ranked #8 in the Orioles organization in terms of prospects to start 2013, and it is unlikely that he will main

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Angels on the Horizon

Posted: April 29, 2013 in by Freddy Berowski

If the early season struggles of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s offense continues, you might see two of their highly-touted offensive prospects sooner rather than later.  Ranking on the Bowman top 100 list at 56 and 86, respectively, Kaleb Cowart and CJ Cron both have bright futures ahead of them.  Right now both of these promising youngsters are adjusting in their first taste of Double-A ball.

Screen shot 2013-04-28 at 11.53.46 PMCJ Cron was the Halos first-round pick (17th pick overall) in the 2011 amateur draft out of the University of Utah-Salt Lake City.  In his first two Minor League seasons, first with the Rookie League Orem Owlz, and then the Class-A Inland Empire 66’ers, he played in 163 games, jacked 40 home runs and knocked in more than a run per game (164).  Tremendous offensive production led to the young first baseman opening the 2013 campaign with the Double-A Arkansas Travelers.  Although off to a slow start in the power department (posting only a .455 slugging through the first 20 games of 2013), Cron has kept his batting average at an impressive .312 – surpassing his .297 career mark.  Once Cron’s big right-handed bat adapts to the new league and higher-level competition, we should see power in line with what he’s shown the two previous seasons.  As far as the other parts of his game, the 6’4”, 235-pounder is a slow-footed but defensively average first baseman.  The place where the 23-year-old really needs to hone his game is his patience at the plate, having walked only 29 times in his first 798 professional plate appearances.

Kaleb Cowart was drafted a year prior and a pick later than Cron, yet is over two years younger. While he doesn’t have the power pedigree of his teammate, Cowart is the epitome of a five-tool player.  A slick fielder with a cannon for an arm, Cowart is one of the better hot corner defenders in Minor League ball.  When it comes to Cowart’s offense, he is a line drive hitter who should continue to develop power as he matures.  Screen shot 2013-04-28 at 11.55.16 PMThat, coupled with his speed on the bases, should make the switch-hitter a 20/20 player at the big league level.  A slow start this season (.187 through 86 plate appearances), can be attributed to Cowart being a young player adjusting to his first taste of upper Minor League baseball.  Expect him to have made significant strides by the time mid-season rolls around.

Regarding who the better prospect is, I think that Cowart has more long-term potential, quite possibly being an All-Star at the highest level one day. However Cron appears to be closer to making an impact in Majors.  If Pujols or Hamilton suffer any type of injury that would keep one of them out for an extended period of time this season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cron get the call, pushing Trumbo to the outfield.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of long-term big money contracts on the books in Anaheim and an injury or trade will need to occur for him to get any extended playing time. On the other hand, this is not a problem Cowart encounters as the Angels’ hot corner is being kept warm for him by some underwhelming talent.

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The number six overall pick of the 2011 MLB amateur draft, Anthony Rendon made his Major League debut against the New York Mets this past Sunday.  Batting 6th in the lineup and playing third base, the highly touted Nationals prospect went 0-4 with 2 K’s against league-average pitching.  But to be fair, that set of league-average pitching held the entire Nats lineup to only 4 hits on the day.

Screen shot 2013-04-22 at 4.21.09 PMRendon was arguably the best bat in the 2011 draft, selected behind only Royals outfielder Bubba Starling.  It was interesting at the time that the Mariners passed on Rendon with the number two pick in favor of Danny Hultzen, knowing M’s GM Jack Zduriencik tendency toward drafting high-upside hitters.  He did, after all, draft Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder during his time with Milwaukee.

There is no denying Rendon’s ability to get on base and that’s exactly what the Nats hope he can do right now.   Over two-plus years in the minors he’s posted .391 OBP.  He is also a very good defender at the hot corner and his glove is not in question.  One of the many questions relating to the coming of the Rice University product is how much power will he show when it’s time for him to become a permanent fixture in the Nats line-up.  When that will be is another question.

Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the 15-day DL so at the very least we’ll get a reasonable sample size to see how ready Rendon is. But clearly the Nationals 100 million dollar man isn’t going anywhere, except perhaps, across the diamond.  Zim’s defensive struggles have been well documented and it wouldn’t be a surprise, if Rendon tears the cover off the ball over the next two weeks, that he keeps that spot and Zim moves to first base with Adam LaRoche possibly becoming trade bait or tested in the outfield.  Or perhaps, they move Rendon over to second base and wait until the offseason to move LaRoche out of town.

Screen shot 2013-04-22 at 4.20.53 PMThere is certainly time for Rendon to develop some more power as he is, after all, only 22 years old.  I think in time, his right-handed bat might generate 15-18 home runs a season.  That, combined with a good batting average, very good defense and great plate discipline should make Rendon a fixture in the Nats lineup for years to come.  But that time is most likely further down the road. Rendon hasn’t even played a game at Triple-A and he did look a little overmatched against Dillon Gee and company.  I think it’s a great idea to give Rendon a taste of the big leagues, but only a taste. Expect Rendon to go back to the minors when Zimmerman returns in two weeks, only this time instead of Double-A Harrisburg, it will be Triple-A Syracuse.

Well, it’s officially that time of year again. Happy Minor League Baseball season everyone. This is Patrick Kelly from Minor League Scoop, with my first blog entry for the Bowman Scouts. I’ve compiled a list of some of the best cities to be a fan of a minor league baseball team this year. This is not necessarily a list of the best teams in MILB, but rather some of the cities which will be homes to some of the most exciting players to watch this summer.

Memphis, TN
Team: Memphis Redbirds
MLB Organization: St. Louis Cardinals
Level: AAA
Key Players: OF Oscar Taveras, RHP Michael Wacha, 2B Kolten Wong, SS Greg Garcia, OF Adron Chambers
Why Memphis?: The Cardinals have arguably the top farm system in baseball and much of it is due to their depth and talent level in the upper levels of their system. Obviously 20-year old Taveras is the biggest draw here, as he may be the best pure hitter in the minor leagues. Wacha, the Cardinals 1st Round pick in 2012, is one of the most under-appreciated pitching prospects in the game, with electric stuff and the ability to help the Cardinals this season. Lastly, the middle infield of Wong and Garcia are a talented duo who will be competing with the likes of Pete Kozma, Daniel Descalso, Matt Carpenter, and Ryan Jackson for big league playing time sooner rather than later.

Tacoma, WA
Team: Tacoma Rainiers
MLB Organization: Seattle Mariners
Level: AAA
Key Players: LHP Danny Hultzen, C Mike Zunino, RHP James Paxton, 2B/SS Nick Franklin, 2B/3B Stefen Romero
Why Tacoma?: If the Cardinals aren’t at the top of your list in terms of best farm system in baseball, it’s most likely the Seattle Mariners. And again, like St. Louis, Seattle has much of their minor league talent in the upper levels, specifically AAA Tacoma. Hultzen and Paxton are two of four (Taijuan Walker, Brandon Maurer) outstanding pitching prospects that will most likely compete for big league rotation spots in 2014. Many have said Zunino has a chance to be the best power hitting catcher since Mike Piazza, while Romero (who will start the season on the DL), starts the season in AAA after being the organization’s best bat in A and AA ball in 2012.

Round Rock, TX
Team: Round Rock Express
MLB Organization: Texas Rangers
Level: AAA
Key Players: SS Jurickson Profar, 1B/3B Mike Olt, OF Engel Beltre, RHP Justin Grimm, 1B Chris McGuinness
Why Round Rock?: Clearly the main attraction in Round Rock this season is the consensus #1 prospect in baseball, 20-year old phenom Jurickson Profar. Profar should be in the big leagues sooner rather than later, but the talented youngster will get a chance to hone his skills in AAA after a quick stint as a September call-up in 2012. Olt, from UConn, is one of the better power hitting prospects in the game who also got a chance at the big league level in 2012.

Bowie, MD
Team: Bowie Baysox
MLB Organization: Baltimore Orioles
Level: AA
Key Players: RHP Dylan Bundy, RHP Kevin Gausman, OF Xavier Avery
Why Bowie?: The consensus top pitching prospect in the game is 20-year old Bundy, who completely dominated both levels of A-ball in 2012, before getting a quick September call-up. Gausman, the 4th overall pick in the 2012 draft out of LSU, is another one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Both will start with the Bowie Baysox with every intention of being on the big league squad by the season’s end. The Baysox also will have an outfield full of guys with big league experience, including Xavier Avery, who at 23 is still a prospect to watch in the Orioles organization.

Portland, ME
Team: Portland Sea Dogs
MLB Organization: Boston Red Sox
Level: AA
Key Players: SS Xander Bogaerts, RHP Matt Barnes, RHP Daniel Bard, C Christian Vasquez
Why Portland?: A combination of two of the top prospects in the Red Sox organization, and an established veteran trying to work his way back to the big leagues, make the Sea Dogs a very interesting team to watch this year. Bogaerts is on many’s Top 10 prospects in baseball list, with elite athleticism and raw talent. Barnes is also on most top prospect lists, and will join a rotation full of guys who could help the big league club soon including Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo and Drake Britton. Finally, Daniel Bard will be appearing at Hadlock Field, at least for the early part of the season, in an effort to regain his dominant form from the 2010 Red Sox season.

Chattanooga, TN
Team: Chattanooga Lookouts
MLB Organization: Los Angeles Dodgers
Level: AA
Key Players: OF Yasiel Puig, OF Joc Peterson, RHP Zach Lee, LHP Chris Reed
Why Chattanooga?: One of the biggest stories in 2013 Spring Training was the dominance of Cuban OF prospect Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who was eventually optioned to Chattanooga to start the season. He will join another outstanding young hitter in the outfield with the underrated 20-year old Joc Peterson. To top it off, two of the more electric arms in the system (especially after dealing Allen Webster to the Red Sox), in Lee and Reed will be on the roster as well.

Daytona, FL
Team: Daytona Cubs
MLB Organization: Chicago Cubs
Level: A-Advanced
Key Players: OF Jorge Soler, SS Javier Baez, 2B Zeke DeVoss
Why Daytona?:  While the Daytona Cubs aren’t quite as deep with prospects as some of these other teams, they do have two of the most dynamic young players in all of minor league baseball in Baez and Soler. Soler, the No. 42 prospect in MLB for 2013, signed a massive major league contract with the Cubs in 2012 before impressing in the Arizona and Midwest Leagues. Baez, the 9th overall pick in the 2011 draft, is a talented bat at a premium position who was ranked the No. 16 prospect in baseball.

Cedar Rapids, IA
Team: Cedar Rapids Kernels
MLB Organization: Minnesota Twins
Level: A
Key Players: OF Byron Buxton, LHP Mason Melotakis, RHP Hudson Boyd, 3B Travis Harrison, IF Jorge Polanco, OF Max Kepler (maybe??)
Why Cedar Rapids?: I admit, I expected this team to be much more loaded than it actually is, but due to the draw of Buxton it is still a place I would want to be as an MiLB fan. Buxton is one of the highest upside prospects in baseball, and will be joined by other solid prospects in the lineup like Harrison, Polanco, and Adam Walker. Kepler, a German native who was awesome at Elizabethton in 2012, should join the team eventually after recovering from an elbow injury. The pitching staff isn’t as strong as expected, with the notable omissions of RHPs from the 2012 draft Luke Bard and Jose Berrios, but Melotakis and Boyd are both decent prospects to watch, and Tyler Duffey, a Rice product from the 2012 draft, looked dominant in his first start, pitching seven perfect innings as part of a combined no-hitter.

Hickory, NC
Team: Hickory Crawdads
MLB Organization: Texas Rangers
Level: A
Key Players: OF Lewis Brinson, 1B/3B Joey Gallo, OF Nomar Mazara, OF Nick Williams, C Jorge Alfaro, RHP C.J. Edwards, 1B Ronald Guzman (eventually)
Why Hickory?:  There’s a reason why Texas is consistently ranked among the top five farm systems in baseball, and it’s not just because of Jurickson Profar The Rangers have as much young talent as anybody in the league, as they have done a fantastic job acquiring talented international prospects and high school draftees. Many of these guys will start the season in Class A Hickory, including 2012 Draftees Brinson (18 years old), Williams (19), and Gallo (18). To top it off, the Crawdads will also have 17-year old phenom Nomar Mazara in the outfield, who may be joined by fellow Dominican, 18-year old Ronald Guzman, who is recovering from an injury, at some point in the season.

 

As Spring Training came to a close, there were a few surprise cuts and a few surprise additions to Major League rosters.  This Opening Week of the 2013 Major League Baseball season I am presenting my list of top candidates for American League Rookie of the Year.  Some players not on the list may have higher upside than some on it, but this is all about getting the chance to play and earn the award.

Boston Red Sox: Jackie Bradley Jr., LF

Boston’s centerfielder of the future lit up pitchers in Spring Training and performed so well there was no way Sox brass could send down the 23 year-old igniter.  This spring Bradley posted a .419/.507/.613 line in 75 plate appearances and on Opening Day appeared in the line-up batting 8th and playing leftfield.  He walked three times and scored twice while driving in one.  There’s no reason why Bradley can’t hit close to .300 with a .360 or so on-base-percentage this season, playing stellar outfield defense and swiping 20 bags batting down in the line-up.  The only thing that keeps Bradley from being my odds on favorite to take the award is how he may be handled, should he slump, with several other players waiting in the wings to jump on that left field job. Come 2014 he should be ready to step in and take over centerfield duties while batting lead-off.

Tampa Bay Rays: Wil Myers, OF

It’s not a question of whether Wil Myers will be called up this season, it’s a question of when.  The 22 year-old slugger has dominated at every level in the Minor Leagues and has little left to prove.  I expect Myers to get a little more seasoning at Triple-A and be ready for the call up to the big club once his Super-Two status is no longer in question sometime in mid-June.  There is a possibility that could change if an injury hits the offensively challenged Rays, or they get desperate, but I don’t see the later scenario playing out.  I see Myers getting into about 100 games and hitting 15-20 home runs while slugging close to .500.  He should slide into the 5-hole in Tampa’s line-up one his time comes.

Minnesota Twins: Aaron Hicks, CF

Aaron Hicks won the centerfield job with a stellar Spring Training where he put up a .370/.407/.644 line in 81 plate appearances.  Batting in the lead-off spot Hicks should have plenty of chances to get on base and wreak havoc, but with the weak offense sported this year by the Twins he won’t score an exorbitant amount of runs.  He should put up a line very similar to his five year minor league averages of .271/.379/.421, with 25-30 steals while playing very good defense.  I don’t see Hicks facing any competition for the center field job on the rebuilding Twins, and that is why he is my odds-on favorite to take home the hardware.

Seattle Mariners: Danny Hultzen, P

The Mariners aren’t expected to contend in 2013 but they’ve been surprisingly competitive over their first few games.  Hultzen dominated AA last year but only managed flashes of brilliance at AAA.   A good half season at AAA this year should give the southpaw all the seasoning he needs and a mid-season call up will be in the cards, especially if the M’s defy odds by staying in the hunt.  With a strikeout ratio better than a batter per inning, Hultzen has the kind of live arm that could give Seattle what Michael Pineda gave them in the first half of 2011.

Baltimore Orioles: Dylan Bundy, P

The Orioles surprised the baseball world 2013, and if they hope to perform as well this year they’re going to need Dylan Bundy’s arm in the rotation at some point.  The O’s staff came together quite nicely last year but a lot of it was smoke and mirrors rather than pure talent.  The 20-year-old Bundy brings that talent.  I see the righty hurler giving the team a shot in the arm around mid-season, with the potential to win around eight games with great strikeout totals.