With the season underway and some fans already looking forward to next year, even this early, it is a good time to look down on the farms for some names that you should get to know. Everyone knows who Wil Myers, Dylan Bundy, and Oscar Taveras are at this point, so these are players performing at elite levels who may not be household names…yet.
The California League used to be where pitching prospects went to die, but elite arms have been challenged there, while others (like Taijuan Walker of the Seattle Mariners) continue to skip the High-A level to keep their confidence. In 2010, Tyler Skaggs posted a 3.22 ERA with a 125:34 K:BB in 100.2 innings in the Cal League, and in 2012, Tony Cingrani posted a 1.11 ERA with a 71:13 K:BB in 56.2 innings. This season, Blackburn appears to be the class of the league. A solid strikeout rate, excellent control, and he seems very hard to hit. The same things could be said for him after his impressive season in the Sally League in 2012, and at 20 years of age, Blackburn looks like he will maintain this type of production throughout his development. At 6’3″, 220 pounds, he has a very good frame to become a valuable piece to the San Francisco Giants in the next few years. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to see Blackburn in Double-A after the All-Star break, possibly sooner, if he continues to dominate the opposition.
While Miguel Sano attracks a lot of attention, and deservedly so, the Twins have another power hitting player in Fort Myers this season. Eddie Rosario is officially a second baseman now, which should make dynasty league fantasy players salivate. Solid speed, gap power, and still growing frame create an intriguing blend of skills that the Twins should be ecstatic about. While he managed 21 home runs in the Appalachian League at the age of 19, he looks like more of a 30+ doubles and 15-20 home run type of player, which would make him an All-Star at second. Others will clamor for Sano, but Rosario is overlooked at times and could be a special player in his own right.
Victor Payano, LHP, Texas Rangers
If you read the Baseball America Hot Sheet, you’d know that Payano was ranked in the Helium Watch on the 4/19 version of the site’s weekly list. I’m buying. While Payano struggled in his start last night (1.2 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 5 ER, 0 K), the 6’5″, 185 pound 20-year-old has a fastball that has been clocked in the mid-90’s. While the Rangers minor league system is top heavy with Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt in Triple-A Round Rock, they need an arm to hit after waiting several years while Martin Perez plateaued. Payano is a guy with improving overall statistics who could be on his way to an outstanding season. The Carolina League is known to be tough on hitters, so this is the perfect spot for Payano to increase his standing within the prospect world.
Rafael Montero, RHP, New York Mets
The Mets have sat on scrub pitchers like John Maine, Jeremy Hefner, and Mike Pelfrey over the years, losing on free agent gambles and trades (I’m looking at you, Johan Santana), while watching groups of pitching prospects (Isringhausen, Pulsipher, and Wilson) bomb. Now, Matt Harvey has become an instant ace and the club is waiting for Zack Wheeler to figure out how to throw strikes again. In the meantime, feast your eyes on this beauty. Montero was ranked as the No.8 prospect in the Mets system by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and No.5 by Baseball America. His career K:BB rate is absolutely staggering for a young arm, but it is the WHIP that should strike you, as he seems to dominate wherever he goes. Late last season, his K/9 finally went over 9.0 in his stint in High-A and he has maintained the strikeouts while moving up to Double-A. He could become useful to the Mets in 2013 if they continue to miss out on production from their current rotation and pitching in Citi Field will only help his ability to baffle his opponents.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Can you say “TRADE BAIT”? I knew you could. With Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier signed to long-term contracts, there won’t be anywhere for Pederson to play in Los Angeles. It’s a shame, too, because he has the potential to become a very useful player when he reaches the bigs. With a solid approach at the plate, speed, and power, he could be an excellent asset for the bottomless pit of payroll that the Dodgers could take on through a trade this season. Pederson and Yasiel Puig are two of the most exciting bats in the entire minor leagues right now and they and neither of them have a role in L.A. unless the Dodgers are able to deal Andre Ethier and his bad contract (opinion or fact?). I cut him in my dynasty league because he was blocked by so many other players, especially with Puig’s amazing spring, but I’ve come to regret it already.
Like Pederson, another player who seems to be blocked. Between Starlin Castro and super-prospect Javier Baez coming up behind him, Alcantara could find himself being moved to second or the outfield, but he should be able to stick with the Cubs organization. Like most Cubs prospects, Alcantara is a free-swinger, but he has already increased his walk rate this season from 5.3 percent in 2012 to 11.4 percent this season. While the season is still young and he could fall back to his career norms, it is also nice to see that Alcantara has four home runs in the early going. With a lot of top-notch talent coming up around him, Alcantara is someone to monitor to figure out just where he’ll end up.
“In Atlanta I Trust”. The Braves are still amazing arm producers, so when you see a big lefty with a mid-90’s fastball in the Atlanta system who has posted the kinds of numbers that Wood has in his first 74.2 professional innings, you have to take notice. Ranked as the No.6 prospect in the Braves system by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, Wood team’s with the No.3 rated J.R. Graham for Double-A Mississippi right now to form a devastating duo for the Braves. Julio Teheran has been a roller coaster after an excellent spring and Brandon Beachy will be back from Tommy John surgery in June, so the Braves can have some patience with Wood and Graham, but if Wood continues to keep runners off of base, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get moved to the bullpen with the recent Jonny Venters injury.
- Dylan Bundy to have elbow examined by Dr. James Andrews (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- CSN: Bundy to see Andrews about tight elbow (csnbaltimore.com)
- Is the time right for Oscar Taveras? (stltoday.com)