Archive for February, 2014

The American League East has been a power house over the last decade plus, with the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays, all in the mix for Post Season berths. The Orioles, whose core of Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, were all built through the farm system, as were the Rays core of Longoria, Price and Moore. The Yankees have taken the opposite approach and are largely built around hired guns, whereas the Red Sox have employed a combination. The Jays right now, are in a state of flux, not knowing which way they are going, having traded away some of their best prospects in recent years in an attempt to win now.

One of the diamonds in the rough in the Jays system is first baseman L.B. Dantzler. Drafted in the 14th round of the 2013 draft, the 22-year-old exceeded expectations last year, posting a .302/.385/.504 slash line in 269 plate appearances split between Rookie League and Low-A. A pull hitter, Dantzler’s power rates a 60+ on the 20/80 scale. Dantzler is a converted third baseman and can field the position well. His compact frame gives him good lateral movement. Despite the fact that he strikes out a lot, he still gets on base at a good clip and can hit for average and power. 2014 is an interesting season for Dantzler. If he replicates what he did last year at High-A and Double-A, he will immediately become a player everyone will be watching in the Jays’ system.

With Derek Jeter announcing his retirement effective the end of 2014, one of the things that many fans are left wondering, is who the Yankees have coming up through the system to replace him. The Yankees do not have a top- 10 shortstop prospect, so it is likely, at least in the short term, that the Yankees will look outside the system to fill the hole next off-season. Other than Jeter, every starting position this year will be filled by someone who was developed outside the system (with the possible exception of Brett Gardner if he wins a starting job). This is a far cry from the formula that won them four of five World Series titles in the late 90s. At shortstop, 2013 fourth round draft pick Tyler Wade is a name to keep an eye on. At only 18 years of age, Wade is at least three years away from sniffing the big leagues. He hit well in rookie ball and showed good speed, but struggled a little bit in a brief stint at Low-A Staten Island. Wade profiles well as a top of the line-up hitter, with speed, and is a sleeper to keep an eye on, especially playing in New York.

Red Sox hurler Simon Mercedes has what one scout describes as “a real arm”. The 22-year-old Dominican hurler signed with the Sox in 2012 and pitched in one game. He spend the entire 2013 campaign throwing mostly in relief for low-A Lowell. He excelled against NY-Penn League hitters striking out nearly a batter an inning. A two pitch pitcher, with a plus fastball that hovers in the mid-90s, and plus curveball, the 6’4” 220 pounder has the tools needed to succeed in the big league bullpen. Look for him to begin at High-A in 2014 with a chance to reach Triple-A by the end of the season. I project Mercedes to be an impact arm in the back of the Sox bullpen and could be ready to see big league competition by late 2015.

Acquired by the Rays in the Wil Myers- James Shields trade, very little was known about Leonard in prospecting circles at the time. After the trade, Rays fans knew more than most. Drafted out of high school in 2011 by the Royals, Leonard struggled in his first season in the Rays franchise last year. He runs well for a big guy, and fields first base well. He has a nice fluid swing and can hammer fastballs. The big question is how he handles breaking pitches and that is what he struggled with in 2013. At only 21 years old, he still has a year or two to work out those kinks. If he can learn to at least handle breaking pitches (maybe not drive them but at least handle them), he could profile as a solid, second division, big league regular or right handed part of a platoon.

The Orioles took Stephen Tarpley in the third round of the 2013 draft out of Scottsdale Community College. Previously drafted out of high-school in the 11th round by the Indians, Tarpley chose college over the Tribe. Tarpley stands 6’1” and is a lean 180 pounds and throws three plus pitches with good command- a fastball, slider and change-up. As he works his way up the system over the next few years and continues to refine his pitchers, he will open more and more eyes. He has the ability to strike out a batter and inning and has good enough control to not walk a lot of guys. I think Tarpley will end up earning a call to the big leagues sometime in 2016, and should be a solid middle of the rotation pitcher for the Orioles for some time.

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What we have here are prospects that fall outside of most prognosticators Top Ten lists.  There will be names on this list that many prospectors won’t know much about.  The goal here is to share a little bit of information on diamonds in the rough.  Over the next six weeks I will cover a division a week, beginning with the NL East.  You won’t find Noah Syndergaard, Lucas Sims or Brian Goodwin on this list of NL East prospects, instead we kick this list off with Dilson Herrera.

The Mets acquired Herrera, along with Vic Black, from the Pirates last August, in exchange for veterans Marlon Byrd and John Buck.  Herrera will turn 20 during Spring Training, and should see Double-A Binghamton before the year is out.  Like all prospects who are not considered elite, he does have some holes in his game, most notably his strikeout rate, which needs work.  But age 20, this young man’s positives outweigh the negatives.  A middle infielder, he has the potential to be an above average major league second baseman.  He has a very good glove, and his arm strength is the only thing that keeps him from projecting at shortstop.  He has the ability to hit for power, steal some bases, and get on base at a reasonable clip.  His strike out totals (which averaged one per game last year) need to be reduced, or at the very least, not increase as Herrera climbs the ladder.  If he can do that, expect him to join the big club in 2016.

Kyle Jensen of the Marlins has hit at every level, but at age 25, the idea of him being a prospect is closing.  The 2014 season is a make or break for Jensen.  Low batting average and high strike out totals are a concern as those numbers went in the wrong direction each step up the ladder he took.  He has legitimate power, and is in an outfielder by trade who can also play first base.  If he can cut down on his strikeouts just a little bit, and put some of those into balls in play, he could hit .250 at the big league level.  A .250/.330/.480 slash should be good enough to make him a big league regular in Miami.  With as depleted as the Marlins roster is and with as much power as he has, I’m surprised he didn’t get a look from the big club in 2013.  Look for him to compete for the starting first base job this spring.

There were cries of nepotism when the Braves drafted Kyle Wren, son of GM Frank Wren, with their Eighth round pick in 2013.  But it wasn’t the first time Wren had been drafted, having been selected by the Reds in the 30th round of the previous year’s draft.  Wren was quick to dispel that notion putting up a .335/.391/.472 slash line at in Rookie ball, Class A, and High A last year.  Blessed with great speed, Wren is also a smart base runner.  Couple that with the ability to get on base, and Wren is Atlanta’s lead-off hitter of the future.   The way he blazed through A ball last year, I expect him to begin 2014 with Double-A Mississippi, and if he excels as he did in 2013 could make Triple-A before the season’s end.  Wren is also a solid defensive outfielder with a good arm that could play either corner for the Braves.  I expect big things from Wren as there are not many holes in his game.  He could be ready for the big club as early as mid-2015.

The most dangerous hitter in the lineup during his time at Perdue, Cameron Perkins power seems to have disappeared in pro- ball.  He still slugs at a decent clip thanks to a lot of doubles and has been a near .300 hitter with a .346 OBP in his two pro seasons in the Phillies system.  He can play both corners on the infield and outfield, but projects best as a corner outfielder.  He has a good but not great arm and could end up in left field for the big club.  His ability to hit for average with a lot of doubles, coupled with his ability to play multiple positions adequately on the diamond, could mean a long career as a super utility guy.  At 23 years-old, Perkins should see Double- A ball for the first time this year, and it is why we should keep an eye on him.  If he continues to play the way he has without any regression, and I think he will, we could see him up with the big club in 2016.

The Washington Nationals have a young Dominican born twenty year-old catcher in their system that reminds me of a young Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate.  A stellar defender, Pedro Servino can catch and throw with the best of them.  He is a hard worker who after only two short minor league seasons, and season in the Sally League, is starting to develop a reputation in baseball circles as a hard worker, and is developing his command of the English language at a rapid pace.  The one thing he needs to continue to work on is his bat.  He showed flashes of promise in 2013 and his production with the stick has increased dramatically each of the last two seasons- all he has to do now, is start to show a little bit of pop.  I expect Servino to play Double-A ball in 2014 and should be ready to crack the big league line-up in 2016, which will be his age 22 season.  Servino has a chance to be a very good every day major league catcher for a long time.

What we have here are prospects that fall outside of most prognosticators Top Ten lists.  There will be names on this list that many prospectors won’t know much about.  The goal here is to share a little bit of information on diamonds in the rough.  Over the next six weeks I will cover a division a week, beginning with the NL East.  You won’t find Noah Syndergaard, Lucas Sims or Brian Goodwin on this list of NL East prospects, instead we kick this list off with Dilson Herrera.

The Mets acquired Herrera, along with Vic Black, from the Pirates last August, in exchange for veterans Marlon Byrd and John Buck.  Herrera will turn 20 during Spring Training, and should see Double-A Binghamton before the year is out.  Like all prospects who are not considered elite, he does have some holes in his game, most notably his strikeout rate, which needs work.  But age 20, this young man’s positives outweigh the negatives.  A middle infielder, he has the potential to be an above average major league second baseman.  He has a very good glove, and his arm strength is the only thing that keeps him from projecting at shortstop.  He has the ability to hit for power, steal some bases, and get on base at a reasonable clip.  His strike out totals (which averaged one per game last year) need to be reduced, or at the very least, not increase as Herrera climbs the ladder.  If he can do that, expect him to join the big club in 2016.

Kyle Jensen of the Marlins has hit at every level, but at age 25, the idea of him being a prospect is closing.  The 2014 season is a make or break for Jensen.  Low batting average and high strike out totals are a concern as those numbers went in the wrong direction each step up the ladder he took.  He has legitimate power, and is in an outfielder by trade who can also play first base.  If he can cut down on his strikeouts just a little bit, and put some of those into balls in play, he could hit .250 at the big league level.  A .250/.330/.480 slash should be good enough to make him a big league regular in Miami.  With as depleted as the Marlins roster is and with as much power as he has, I’m surprised he didn’t get a look from the big club in 2013.  Look for him to compete for the starting first base job this spring.

There were cries of nepotism when the Braves drafted Kyle Wren, son of GM Frank Wren, with their Eighth round pick in 2013.  But it wasn’t the first time Wren had been drafted, having been selected by the Reds in the 30th round of the previous year’s draft.  Wren was quick to dispel that notion putting up a .335/.391/.472 slash line at in Rookie ball, Class A, and High A last year.  Blessed with great speed, Wren is also a smart base runner.  Couple that with the ability to get on base, and Wren is Atlanta’s lead-off hitter of the future.   The way he blazed through A ball last year, I expect him to begin 2014 with Double-A Mississippi, and if he excels as he did in 2013 could make Triple-A before the season’s end.  Wren is also a solid defensive outfielder with a good arm that could play either corner for the Braves.  I expect big things from Wren as there are not many holes in his game.  He could be ready for the big club as early as mid-2015.

The most dangerous hitter in the lineup during his time at Perdue, Cameron Perkins power seems to have disappeared in pro- ball.  He still slugs at a decent clip thanks to a lot of doubles and has been a near .300 hitter with a .346 OBP in his two pro seasons in the Phillies system.  He can play both corners on the infield and outfield, but projects best as a corner outfielder.  He has a good but not great arm and could end up in left field for the big club.  His ability to hit for average with a lot of doubles, coupled with his ability to play multiple positions adequately on the diamond, could mean a long career as a super utility guy.  At 23 years-old, Perkins should see Double- A ball for the first time this year, and it is why we should keep an eye on him.  If he continues to play the way he has without any regression, and I think he will, we could see him up with the big club in 2016.

The Washington Nationals have a young Dominican born twenty year-old catcher in their system that reminds me of a young Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate.  A stellar defender, Pedro Servino can catch and throw with the best of them.  He is a hard worker who after only two short minor league seasons, and season in the Sally League, is starting to develop a reputation in baseball circles as a hard worker, and is developing his command of the English language at a rapid pace.  The one thing he needs to continue to work on is his bat.  He showed flashes of promise in 2013 and his production with the stick has increased dramatically each of the last two seasons- all he has to do now, is start to show a little bit of pop.  I expect Servino to play Double-A ball in 2014 and should be ready to crack the big league line-up in 2016, which will be his age 22 season.  Servino has a chance to be a very good every day major league catcher for a long time.