September Promotions to Geek Over

hamilton3With September come the expansion of rosters in Major League Baseball. Over the next several weeks, in between completing fantasy football drafts and mocking Notre Dame fans after their loss to Michigan, fans will be able to get a sneak peak at some of the top young players in baseball. While many of them won’t play a huge role in their team’s playoff hopes, several players will excite fans and their favorite organization for the 2014 season. Here are some players to monitor over the next month.

Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds, OF/Pinch-runner extraordinaire

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Louisville AAA 123 547 504 75 129 18 4 6 41 75 38 102 .256 .308 .343 .651 173
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

When Billy Hamilton steps onto the baseball field, people have to take notice. On Tuesday night, he pinch-ran for Ryan Ludwick and stole his first base – with five-time Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina behind the plate for St. Louis. Considering the value of a run and a win right now in a very close NL Central and NL Wild Card chase, the ability to utilize Hamilton’s speed will be a tremendous asset for Dusty Baker in Cincinnati. However, after posting a pretty down season in 2013 in Triple-A, there, likely, aren’t  enough bases that Hamilton can steal to make the Reds not look for help in center this offseason, as Shin-Soo Choo reaches free agency and the Reds were looking for more.

Erk Johnson, Chicago White Sox, RHP

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 23 2 Teams AA-AAA 12 3 1.96 24 24 3 1 142.0 100 35 31 7 40 0 131 0.986 6.3 2.5 8.3 3.28
2013 23 Birmingham AA 8 2 2.23 14 14 3 1 84.2 57 22 21 6 21 0 74 0.921 6.1 2.2 7.9 3.52
2013 23 Charlotte AAA 4 1 1.57 10 10 0 0 57.1 43 13 10 1 19 0 57 1.081 6.8 3.0 8.9 3.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

After an impressive season over two levels, Johnson could have forced the White Sox hand in their apparent rebuilding mode in providing the youngster with a rotation spot in 2013. His ability to keep the ball in the yard will be useful in the bandbox that is US Cellular Field, and while the club has Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago, and John Danks in the rotation right now, they are one of the only teams in baseball that could actually use some solid right-handed pitching. The Pale Hose appear to have a couple of solid options from the right side in Johnson and Andre Rienzo.

CastellanosNick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers, OF

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 Toledo AAA 134 595 533 81 147 37 1 18 76 4 54 100 .276 .343 .450 .793 240
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Nick Castellanos was once a lanky, beanpole-like prospect with a long swing and a lot of holes in his swing. While he could still eat a few steaks, Castellanos has done a lot to make himself useful to the Tigers, moving off of third base to become a solid outfielder, and improving his strike zone management tremendously. He has very good, still raw, power that could make him a fantastic addition to the already formidable Detroit lineup. He may not get a huge opportunity this month but the Tigers gave a lot of at-bats to Avisail Garcia late last season and Castellanos could prove to be more valuable in the lineup than Pat Kelly and Andy Dirks in left field. With the talent around him in Motown, Castellanos could become an above-average regular with clubs being more cautious with Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera.

Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians, INF

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 20 Akron AA 113 533 482 78 131 16 6 3 38 38 39 41 .272 .325 .349 .674 168
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

A strong middle infield prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization that isn’t named Francisco Lindor, Ramirez has established himself as a unique talent, with an excellent hit tool and solid speed. It’s possible that Ramirez steals quite a few at-bats from the struggling Lonnie Chisenhall in September, and, if he shows himself capable, he could steal his job next spring. Ramirez was moved quickly to accommodate the quick rise of Lindor, and, while he doesn’t have a lot of power, he will make enough contact to be a very good utility infielder in any worst case scenario.

JR Murphy, New York Yankees, C

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 2 Teams AAA-AA 108 468 413 60 111 29 0 12 46 1 47 73 .269 .347 .426 .773 176
2013 22 Trenton AA 49 211 183 34 49 10 0 6 25 1 24 32 .268 .352 .421 .773 77
2013 22 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre AAA 59 257 230 26 62 19 0 6 21 0 23 41 .270 .342 .430 .773 99
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Murphy, like Ramirez, has been pushed along by another top prospect, as the Yankees have moved the young catcher quickly due to the potential monster who is Gary Sanchez; however, Murphy isn’t a terrible player and probably shouldn’t be overlooked as an option at a weak Yankees catching position in 2014. With only Chris Stewart, Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli ahead of him, Murphy could prove to be more than a holdover before Sanchez gets his already questionable makeup together in New York.

Michael Choice, Oakland Athletics, OF

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 23 Sacramento AAA 132 600 510 90 154 29 1 14 89 1 69 115 .302 .390 .445 .835 227
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Choice was once an all-or-nothing type of hitter who hit home runs in bunches while attending the University of Texas-Arlington. After hitting 30 home runs in 2011, with a little help from the fences of the California League, Choice has a total of 24 home runs over the last two seasons. While he may never reach the power expectations that he once had, Choice has enough plate discipline and gap power to be an asset for the always cost-conscious Oakland A’s. He could take the at-bats that Chris Young was getting in 2014, which would make him a fantasy baseball asset.

Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles, INF

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 3 Teams AAA-Rk-A- 81 336 309 42 86 14 0 14 52 1 20 62 .278 .330 .460 .790 142
2013 21 Orioles Rk 8 32 25 9 9 2 0 3 9 0 6 6 .360 .469 .800 1.269 20
2013 21 Aberdeen A- 3 15 14 3 8 1 0 2 9 0 1 1 .571 .600 1.071 1.671 15
2013 21 Norfolk AAA 70 289 270 30 69 11 0 9 34 1 13 55 .256 .301 .396 .697 107
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Schoop missed significant time in 2013 due to a stress fracture in his back, but upon his return, he quickly showed the Orioles the tools that have made him a solid, under-the-radar prospect. Schoop may not have a very keen eye at the dish, but he is very effective hitter, especially for a 21-year-old in the upper ranks of the minors. Schoop will, likely, have an opportunity to win the second base or third base job down the line, but not until the Orioles give Manny Machado a look at shortstop once J.J. Hardy leaves via free agency (or is moved off of short).

MartinezCarlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals, RHP

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 21 2 Teams AAA-AA 6 3 2.49 16 16 79.2 65 25 22 4 28 72 1.167 7.3 3.2 8.1 2.57
2013 21 Springfield AA 1 0 2.31 3 3 11.2 11 3 3 1 1 9 1.029 8.5 0.8 6.9 9.00
2013 21 Memphis AAA 5 3 2.51 13 13 68.0 54 22 19 3 27 63 1.191 7.1 3.6 8.3 2.33
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Dubbed “Little Pedro” due to his size and stuff, Carlos Martinez has been up and down for the Cardinals this season, mostly pitching in relief, a role that many seem he is destined to take over due to his small (6′, 185) frame. Martinez has enough stuff to be a front-end starter, but the Cardinals pitching depth allows the club to take things slow with their young arms. By utilizing Martinez and his electric stuff out of the bullpen, much like they did with Trevor Rosenthal in 2012, the Cardinals may be able to have even more shutdown options out of the bullpen.
Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals, RHP

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 21 Memphis PCL AAA STL 5 3 2.65 15 15 85.0 65 26 25 9 19 73 0.988 6.9 2.0 7.7 3.84
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Michael Wacha, like Martinez, has been up and down this season. A first-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2012, Wacha flew through the minors with precise control and powerful stuff, which has carried over to the big leagues in his 39.1 innings. With injuries to Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook, the club has relied heavily on young arms, including Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, and Joe Kelly, and as those arms reach innings limits, it could be Wacha and Martinez who come to the rescue as the Cards head to another playoff round.
WalkerTaijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners, RHP

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 20 2 Teams AA-AAA 9 10 2.93 25 25 141.1 112 56 46 11 57 160 1.196 7.1 3.6 10.2 2.81
2013 20 Jackson AA 4 7 2.46 14 14 84.0 58 31 23 6 30 96 1.048 6.2 3.2 10.3 3.20
2013 20 Tacoma AAA 5 3 3.61 11 11 57.1 54 25 23 5 27 64 1.413 8.5 4.2 10.0 2.37
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Walker is an extremely big and athletic body who is still relatively raw as far as his command and stuff goes, which speaks volumes as to why you should be excited to see him. He could be the top arm in the majors, taking on a phenomenon in Seattle that could equal that of Felix Hernandez. At 6’4″, 220 pounds and having just turned 21 in August, Walker has an immeasurable ceiling and will likely become a number one starter within the next few years. His first start (five innings, two hits, zero earned runs) was a nice introduction. He may not make more than one or two more starts before being shut down due to innings, but those are starts that are must-see TV.
James Paxton, Seattle Mariners, LHP

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 24 Tacoma AAA 8 11 4.45 28 26 2 1 145.2 158 84 72 10 58 131 1.483 9.8 3.6 8.1 2.26
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Paxton is an interesting prospect. He is left-handed and has very good stuff, striking out 9.6 per 9/IP over his minor league career; however, Paxton also walks a lot of batters and can’t seem to miss enough bats when he isn’t completely missing them, posting a 1.45 WHIP over his last two seasons and 252 innings. At 6’4″, 220, Paxton has a strong frame, just like Walker, but he appears headed to a mid-rotation future, and he could become a very good innings-eating pitcher once he gets a grasp of his stuff and the strike zone.
Marcus Semien, Chicago White Sox, INF

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 2 Teams AA-AAA 137 625 518 110 147 32 6 19 66 24 98 90 .284 .401 .479 .880 248
2013 22 Birmingham AA 105 483 393 90 114 21 5 15 49 20 84 66 .290 .420 .483 .903 190
2013 22 Charlotte AAA 32 142 125 20 33 11 1 4 17 4 14 24 .264 .338 .464 .802 58
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Marcus Semien has moved quickly through the White Sox system after being taken in the 6th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He has an intriguing skill-set for a middle infielder, possessing very good gap power, solid speed, and the ability to handle both short and second defensively. His plate discipline will be valuable to the rebuilding White Sox and if the club is ready to move on from the Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, and Conor Gillaspie trio in the infield, Semien could fill any of those positions in 2014.
Matt Davidson, Arizona Diamondbacks, 3B

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Reno AAA 115 500 443 55 124 32 3 17 74 1 46 134 .280 .350 .481 .831 213
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Davidson is a powerful third base prospect who has been passed over for Eric Chavez this season. He has the ability to hit around 30 home runs playing half of his games at Chase Field, but he will need to make more consistent contact to reach those levels. Having watched Paul Goldschmidt similar strikeout numbers in the minors before reaching MVP levels in performance this season, Davidson’s stock shouldn’t be taken lightly. With that being said, the fact that they didn’t seem to want to commit to him when Chavez was hurt, instead relying on Martin Prado moving in from the outfield, the club may have questions about his long-term role. Considering how quickly they gave up on Trevor Bauer, you have to wonder what is going on in their front office at times.
Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks, SS

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 Reno AAA 125 575 546 104 180 31 8 12 81 20 22 99 .330 .359 .482 .841 263
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Owings looks to be blocked by Didi Gregorius at short but he looks like a player that could fetch a nice return if the Diamondbacks were to deal him this offseason. Solid pop, solid speed, and an atrocious approach at the plate, Owings could become a valuable Ben Zobrist-like player, capable of handling several positions to get his playing time, as he is just 22 years old Arizona could have him blocked at short (Gregorius), third (Davidson), and second (Aaron Hill is signed through 2016).

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O’s My Goodness: Manny Machado is Elite

Strange relationship for you here:

Player A:

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2012 19 51 202 191 24 50 8 3 7 26 2 9 38 .262 .294 .445 .739 99 85
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Player B:

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2003 20 87 346 314 39 84 21 3 12 62 0 25 84 .268 .325 .468 .793 106 147
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Both of these players were shortstops in their first full seasons in the minors, but upon arrival in MLB, they were playing other positions (third base and/or outfield). In 2012, Player A’s team went 33-18 (.647) in his 51 games and Player B’s team went 56-31 (.644) in his 87 games in 2003. Both players led their surprising teams to the playoffs and both players are now dominating in 2013.

If you looked at the years and guessed that Player A is Manny Machado and Player B is Miguel Cabrera, congratulations.

Machado1Machado was a year younger when he reached Baltimore but in 2013, he has erupted offensively in the same way that Cabrera did in 2004 for the Marlins. Machado’s 2013 line:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 20 BAL AL 66 303 284 42 90 28 2 5 34 5 14 42 .317 .351 .482 .834 124 137
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Miguel CabreraWhen compared to Cabrera’s first full season, Machado’s numbers won’t really measure up, but, again, he is a year younger. After all, a 20-year-old who is currently on pace for 68 doubles, 12 home runs, 85 RBI, and 12 stolen bases isn’t awful, but they don’t really touch Cabrera’s All-Star 2004 season:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2004 21 FLA NL 160 685 603 101 177 31 1 33 112 5 68 148 .294 .366 .512 .879 130 309
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Machado3Manny Machado is finally gaining the attention that is so well deserved. Not only is he producing offensively, but he has become the top third baseman in baseball. He ranks third in fielding percentage (.985 behind Placido Polanco and Juan Uribe, who are brutal as far as their range is concerned), first in range factor (3.06), and first in UZR/150 (28.2, David Wright is second with a 20.2 among third basemen).

Certainly, it seems unrealistic to label Manny Machado as the next Miguel Cabrera, as the Detroit Tigers third baseman is currently just three home runs back from Machado’s teammate Chris Davis (18 to Davis’ 21), or he would be leading in all Triple Crown categories, after becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1967 (Carl Yastrzemski) when he won the award, along with AL MVP honors, in 2012; however, Machado has become one of the top players in baseball and worthy of the same hype that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper had last season. While he isn’t putting up the absurd numbers that Trout did in 2012, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t just as special. After all, how soon we forget about Trout hitting .220/.281/.390 in his first 135 plate appearances.

Machado4Manny Machado’s ceiling is that of an All-Star and if he ends up back at shortstop after J.J. Hardy‘s eventual departure, you’re looking at a player that is capable of matching Troy Tulowitzki‘s production in the middle infield. Not only that, but if Machado fills out his 6’2″ frame, he could even match-up with the man that he was compared to so frequently after being drafted at of a Miami high school – Alex Rodriguez…but…since ARod isn’t really a very “clean” name right now, lets just say that Machado becomes one of the top right-handed hitters of the generation, just like Cabrera.

Promotion Worthy Prospects

After Miguel Sano was promoted to Double-A on Sunday by the Minnesota Twins, it brought to mind several other prospects who deserve a promotion due to their dominance at their current level. Below, you’ll find ten prospects who need or deserve a bigger challenge:

StephensonRobert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Year Age Tm Lg Aff W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 20 Dayton MIDW CIN 5 3 2.97 12 66.2 52 25 22 4 17 85 1.035 7.0 2.3 11.5 5.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

When you see that 2.97 ERA, some would say that isn’t as dominant as what guys like Dylan Bundy or Archie Bradley have posted over the last two seasons; however, Stephenson has been absolutely dominant over his last six starts, posting a 0.98 ERA, a 0.65 WHIP, and a 50:5 K:BB over 36.2 innings. That is redefining dominance. Stephenson has now made 20 starts for Low-A Dayton and the only thing holding him back from a promotion seems to be the fact that he would be heading to the California League if he was promoted to the next level. The Reds could challenge him and see how he does, they did put Tony Cingrani there in 2012 (where he dominated), or move him straight to Double-A next year, similar to what they did with Daniel Corcino in 2012. Regardless, Stephenson looks like the Reds new top prospect, posting numbers that would make Cy Young winners blush.

BaezJavier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 20 Daytona FLOR CHC 57 254 230 45 67 17 4 13 44 6 11 60 .291 .339 .570 .908 131
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Blame it on the four home runs that Baez hit on June 10th or blame it on the fact that his numbers are absolutely insane for a middle infielder…truly, you can blame it on the fact that Starlin Castro looks like a lost puppy, but the Chicago Cubs need to move Javier Baez up to Double-A. Certainly, Baez isn’t perfect. His plate discipline leaves a lot to be desired and he has made 26 errors in 56 games for Daytona, but what he lacks in harnessing moving balls, he makes up for with his tremendous bat speed, power, and overall skills when he actually connects. In eight June games, Baez is hitting .500/.559/1.167 with five home runs and 15 RBI. He’s on fire and he has the talent to be moved quickly. Baez needs to be challenged in Double-A and the Cubs need to see how he handles advanced pitching to help determine whether he could stay at short or move to an outfield corner.

DePaula1Rafael De Paula, RHP, New York Yankees

Year Age Tm Lg Aff W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 22 Charleston SALL NYY 6 2 2.43 12 59.1 36 16 16 3 22 91 0.978 5.5 3.3 13.8 4.14
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

The only thing dumber than the Yankees still having De Paula in Low-A at this point, is the fact that society didn’t find a way to stop Kanye West and Kim Kardashian from procreating. De Paula has dominated all season for Charleston, and at the age of 22, he is a man among boys in the Sally League. His 13.8 K:9 is absurd and his mid-90’s fastball is nearly unfair to the over-matched teenagers and organizational depth cesspools of the lower minors. With Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda nearing the end of the road, it is time for the Yankees to be aggressive with another prospect. De Paula needs to be moved to Tampa (High-A) as soon as possible, and, due to his stuff, early dominance, and age, an attempt at Double-A shouldn’t be out of the question.

BuxtonByron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 19 Cedar Rapids MIDW MIN 59 274 228 60 78 14 8 7 47 26 39 46 .342 .435 .566 1.001 129
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

It isn’t very often that a 19-year-old in his first full season of professional ball would get moved up a level by July, but the No.2 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft is creating quite a stir in the prospect world. His power, speed, and plate discipline are beyond his years and Buxton appears to be ready for and worthy of a different challenge. The Twins are typically very patient and slow with their prospects, but they’ve already promoted Sano and their major league team (28-33) continues to tread water.

Preston Tucker, OF, Houston Astros

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Lancaster CALL A+ HOU 64 284 253 52 79 17 1 11 58 3 25 37 .312 .373 .518 .891 131
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

The Astros are in a pretty miserable place when it comes to their ability to contend, but they seem to have a tremendous rebuilding plan in place and their recent drafts and trades are perfect examples of what Jeff Luhnow has taken to Houston. They appear to have a nice player in their 2012 7th round pick, a senior signing out of Florida that is showing an excellent approach at the plate in High-A. While Lancaster is a notorious hitter’s paradise, as is most of the California League, the plate discipline, gap power, and consistency (.328 vs. LHP, .307 RHP) are impressive, and he would be a nice addition to Double-A, where he could join…

George Springer, OF, Houston Astros

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 23 Corpus Christi TL HOU 61 271 228 51 69 18 0 18 50 18 35 77 .303 .405 .618 1.024 141
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Springer is also worthy of a promotion within the Houston organization and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he is wearing an Astros’ jersey by the end of the 2013 season; however, with Justin Maxwell coming back from his injury, a promotion to Triple-A is likely Springer’s first stop. The 36 extra-base hits and 18 stolen bases show the tools that he possesses, but his long swing could continue to cause outrageous strikeout totals, especially once he reaches the show. The No.11 overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft out of UConn will be an asset to the Astros at some point.

PuelloCesar Puello, OF, New York Mets

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Binghamton EL NYM 53 221 197 40 65 11 2 13 46 17 14 46 .330 .403 .604 1.007 119
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

There are four simple words why Puello needs promoted: The Mets Offense Sucks. The slugging right fielder has been on fire over the last ten games, hitting .463/.500/.976 with three doubles, six home runs, 17 RBI, and five stolen bases. There is one issue that may become huge within his development: he was listed on the Biogenesis documents; however, the time it will take between appeals and court cases will make that an unlikely scenario in harming his prospect status, which is getting more impressive with each swing.

myersWil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Durham IL TBR 60 274 237 41 67 12 2 13 54 7 29 67 .283 .358 .515 .872 122
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Call me Captain Obvious but the Rays would be a better team by plugging Myers into a lineup that has won 11 of their last 16 and are slowly creeping up the AL East standings, even while their ace, David Price, is recovering from an extended absence due to tricep soreness. After struggling with his plate discipline in the early part of the season, Myers has improved his numbers in June (albeit in just 10 games), while increasing his power, having hit four home runs in just 41 at-bats this month. With seven players with 25 or more RBI already this season, who would go to make room for Myers? Myers will make an impact at some point this season, regardless of the current roster’s success.

Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 Tennessee SOUL CHC 63 265 228 30 66 14 1 9 30 16 26 54 .289 .364 .478 .842 109
5 Seasons 371 1542 1405 195 399 57 27 24 174 76 101 291 .284 .332 .414 .747 582
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Alcantara is another good middle infield prospect within the Cubs organization. He is playing second and short in Double-A right now, but regardless of where he ends up, Alcantara will provide a little punch and speed for the rebuilding lovable losers. After having success at every stop during his minor league career, Alcantara should move up to see how he can handle Triple-A pitching, getting him that much closer to helping a starved Cubs lineup.

PimentelCarlos Pimentel, RHP, Texas Rangers

Year Age Tm Lg Aff W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 23 Frisco TL TEX 7 2 2.96 12 70.0 49 25 23 8 21 80 1.000 6.3 2.7 10.3 3.81
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

This is Pimentel’s third season in Double-A and he appears to finally mastered it, this time as a starter, after pitching well in a relief role in 2012 for Frisco. Still just 23 years old, Pimentel looks like another solid prospect again for a Rangers team that seems to always be in need of pitching help, whether due to ineffectiveness or injuries on the major league roster. Pimentel is posting excellent strikeout numbers and appears to be very difficult to hit. At 6’3″, 180 pounds, he has the frame to be a useful body in Texas, and he deserves a look in Triple-A before he gets a spot start of a longer look in Arlington.

Didi Gre-glorious?

Gregorius2Didi Gregorius. A 23-year-old shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Didi Gregorius. A career .267/.319/.375 hitter in over 2,080 plate appearances in the minor leagues. Didi Gregorius. Currently hitting .324/.385/.541 with 8 doubles, 2 triples, and 4 home runs.

Can he keep this pace up?

Gregorius’ highest OPS in an overall minor league season was in 2011, when he posted a .753 OPS between High-A and Double-A within the Cincinnati Reds system. Those numbers were a tad inflated due to his time in Bakersfield, a club within the California League, where he posted a .791 OPS over 203 plate appearances. He was always pushed by the Cincinnati organization, as you can see below, only spending one season with the same club, which was his first season in the Gulf Coast League, and even moving from the Pioneer League to High-A for 22 games at the age of 19.

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2008 18 Reds GULF CIN 31 109 97 6 15 0 0 0 9 2 10 10 .155 .241 .155 .395 15
2009 19 2 Teams 2 Lgs CIN 72 299 275 36 82 14 1 1 18 8 13 36 .298 .341 .367 .708 101
2009 19 Billings PION CIN 50 225 204 28 64 10 1 1 16 8 12 27 .314 .363 .387 .750 79
2009 19 Sarasota FLOR CIN 22 74 71 8 18 4 0 0 2 0 1 9 .254 .274 .310 .584 22
2010 20 3 Teams 3 Lgs CIN 163 717 653 84 167 21 13 6 50 20 45 81 .256 .311 .355 .666 232
2010 20 Dayton MIDW CIN 120 548 501 65 137 16 11 5 41 16 33 62 .273 .327 .379 .706 190
2010 20 Lynchburg CARL CIN 7 29 25 4 6 0 0 0 0 0 2 6 .240 .321 .240 .561 6
2010 20 Canberra AUBL 36 140 127 15 24 5 2 1 9 4 10 13 .189 .248 .283 .532 36
2011 21 2 Teams 2 Lgs CIN 84 363 336 48 97 18 4 7 44 11 19 50 .289 .324 .429 .753 144
2011 21 Bakersfield CALL CIN 46 203 188 30 57 12 1 5 28 8 10 25 .303 .333 .457 .791 86
2011 21 Carolina SOUL CIN 38 160 148 18 40 6 3 2 16 3 9 25 .270 .312 .392 .704 58
2012 22 2 Teams 2 Lgs CIN 129 561 501 70 133 21 11 7 54 3 41 80 .265 .324 .393 .717 197
2012 22 Pensacola SOUL CIN 81 359 316 45 88 11 8 1 31 3 29 49 .278 .344 .373 .717 118
2012 22 Louisville IL CIN 48 202 185 25 45 10 3 6 23 0 12 31 .243 .288 .427 .715 79
2013 23 Reno PCL ARI 7 33 31 7 12 2 0 2 2 1 2 1 .387 .424 .645 1.069 20
6 Seasons 486 2082 1893 251 506 76 29 23 177 45 130 258 .267 .319 .375 .694 709
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/29/2013.

Gregorius3Moving quickly may have lead to some skewed statistics, as Gregorius always seemed to be adjusting to new levels of the minor leagues, but what do you call his 2013 outburst?

Gregorius has a .926 OPS, as I write this, and, after 124 plate appearances with Arizona, we should wonder now why he CAN’T keep this up. The young shortstop has several statistics playing in his favor:

  1. A .364 BABIP: While 45 stolen bases over six seasons leaves a lot to be desired in the speed category, Gregorius clearly has solid gap power and an ability to put the ball where fielders aren’t. The friendly-confines of Chase Field should be taken into consideration for his ability to continue to drive the ball, as well.
  2. A 9.5 percent HR/FB rate: Considering the top five HR/FB rate in MLB are Pedro Alvarez (29.4), Bryce Harper (29.3), Chris Davis (28.8), Justin Upton (28.0), and Adam Dunn (26.1), Gregorius and his 9.5 percent HR/FB are right in line with “league average”, so he could very well continue to put together numbers like he has to this point.
  3. A 31.3 O-Swing percentage: Gregorius is a smart hitter, working counts (3.94 pitches per at-bat) and swinging at strikes (O-Swing is percentage of pitches swung at outside of the strike zone).
  4. A 22.0 line drive percentage: Gregorius would rank right around 67th (with Andrelton Simmons and Gerardo Parra) with his current line drive rate. While that isn’t the upper echelon of hard hitters, it is right around the 20 percent league average (according to FanGraphs)

Gregorius is still highly underrated in fantasy leagues, ranking 21st among shortstops in ESPN’s Player Rater. He is no Troy Tulowitzki but he does have a similar career line as Jean Segura (without the speed), whose .969 OPS through 210 plate appearances was legit enough for ESPN to rank him as the No.1 shortstop.

Gregorius1The time may be now to buy into Gregorius. While he has a small sample size showing what he has, there may not be much more time to get him cheap, and the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks sure seemed to find a lot of value in him this offseason when the three team deal with Cincinnati involving Trevor Bauer and Shin-Soo Choo was consummated.

 

My Reaction: Kevin Gausman’s Debut

Gausman1The Baltimore Orioles had an exciting debut Thursday night when 22-year-old right-hander Kevin Gausman took the mound at Rogers Centre in Toronto against the Blue Jays. While I’m not a scout or genius, this is what I saw:

  • Very good fastball, touching 98 mph several times
  • Pretty straight fastball, which could lead to some issues as the opposition adjusts to him
  • A very good offspeed pitch that was sitting in the mid-80’s with hard downward break
  • Very good deception: Gausman hid the ball in his glove and went directly behind his right side, allowing the ball seemingly explode towards home, which makes that 98 mph fastball that much more impressive
  • The solid minor league command didn’t seem to transition tonight
  • Nerves combined with overthrowing resulted in the command issues
  • The command issues weren’t overwhelming (just two walks), but Gausman was high or outside several times due to the overthrowing

His overall line (5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) wasn’t awful; however, the Orioles will certainly hope for more out of him going forward considering his impressive numbers, to date, in the minors:

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 21 2 Teams A+-A- 0 1 3.60 5 15.0 11 6 6 3 1 13 0.800 6.6 7.8 13.00
2012 21 Aberdeen A- 0 0 0.00 2 6.0 1 0 0 0 0 5 0.167 1.5 7.5
2012 21 Frederick A+ 0 1 6.00 3 9.0 10 6 6 3 1 8 1.222 10.0 8.0 8.00
2013 22 Bowie AA 2 4 3.11 8 46.1 44 21 16 3 5 49 1.058 8.5 9.5 9.80
2 Seasons 2 5 3.23 13 61.1 55 27 22 6 6 62 0.995 8.1 9.1 10.33
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/23/2013.

The 62:6 K:BB in 61.1 innings was absolutely tremendous and the 58 strikes in 89 pitches (65.2 percent) shows that he can pound the strike zone.

GausmanGoing Forward: Gausman has some impressive stuff. He seemed like he was trying to strike a lot of guys out tonight and will probably have a discussion about trusting his defense, which is wise considering the incredible defense behind him in Baltimore (the O’s are first in MLB in team fielding percentage, .992). With the injury to Wei-Yin Chen and the presence of Freddy Garcia in the Orioles rotation, Gausman is likely to maintain a rotation spot over the rest of the season, or at least until he reaches around 130 innings, which would give the youngster approximately 175 innings in 2013. He is a legitimate top prospect worthy of rostering in all fantasy baseball leagues, and worthy of admiration by all baseball fans. The numbers didn’t show his potential tonight. If Dylan Bundy‘s elbow doesn’t need surgically re-attached, the Orioles have a dynamic combination forming out of their top two prospects.

 

Manny is Macho

Machado1Manny Machado was the 3rd pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, a product of Brito Miami Private School, which led to numerous comparisons to another big shortstop from Miami, the one and only Alex Rodriguez. It seemed like an unfair comparison for someone to live up to, and despite several “the next fill-in-the-blank” prospects to come and go without any success, Machado is already reaching fantastic levels of production just three years removed from his senior prom.

Machado moved to Baltimore quickly, earning just 170 plate appearances in Low-A, 260 plate appearances in High-A, and 459 plate appearances in Double-A before earning a promotion with the Orioles. His overall minor league numbers suggested a pretty drastic learning curve was to be expected:

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 17 2 Teams A–Rk 9 39 36 3 11 1 1 1 5 0 3 3 .306 .359 .472 .831 17
2011 18 2 Teams A+-A 101 430 382 48 98 20 5 11 50 11 45 73 .257 .335 .421 .756 161
2011 18 Delmarva A 38 170 145 24 40 8 2 6 24 3 23 25 .276 .376 .483 .859 70
2011 18 Frederick A+ 63 260 237 24 58 12 3 5 26 8 22 48 .245 .308 .384 .692 91
2012 19 Bowie AA 109 459 402 60 107 26 5 11 59 13 48 70 .266 .352 .438 .789 176
3 Seasons 219 928 820 111 216 47 11 23 114 24 96 146 .263 .344 .432 .776 354
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/8/2013.

Surprisingly, his small sample size in Baltimore in 2012 was relatively close to his overall minor league numbers:

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 19 BAL 51 202 191 24 50 8 3 7 26 2 9 38 .262 .294 .445 .739 85
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/8/2013.

The OPS and batting average were very similar, but the OBP was pretty low. The 2013 season, however, has been a dramatic difference in ability:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 20 BAL AL 33 152 140 24 44 12 1 5 21 3 9 24 .314 .356 .521 .877 73
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/8/2013.

Machado2Machado is hitting, hitting for power, and showing pretty good plate discipline. His walk rate is up to 5.9 percent in 2013 from the 4.5 percent that he had in 2012, and his strikeout rate has fallen to 15.8 percent from 18.8 percent in 2012. These are all fantastic signs for a player who won’t turn 21 until July 6th.

Certainly, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout deserve a lot of attention for their skills and production at such a young age, but it seems as though so many other excellent young players get lost in the hype. Obviously, Matt Harvey, Stephen Strasburg, and Brett Lawrie get some well-deserved attention, but Manny Machado deserves to be known as how special he already is, rather than another top talent to file with Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken, Jr. in the legacy of Baltimore Orioles’ infielders.

While his fielding is probably further along than his bat, Machado’s bat is damn good, as well.

Manny Machado is good enough right now to become the 2013 version of Mike Trout. In fact, due to the potential that he has in potentially moving back to shortstop when J.J. Hardy reaches free agency after the 2014 season, one could argue that Machado could become a more valuable player over the long haul.

Machado3ESPN got on board with his skills after a recent feature article by Jerry Crasnick, so it will only be a matter of time before he is getting too much focus. Everyone will see what he is made of at that point, good or bad, but he looks to have the skills worthy of “the next Alex Rodriguez” label, regardless.

 

The Surprises of the First 10 Days

It is still early in the baseball season, but with about a week and a half gone since opening night, we’ve seen a near perfect game for Yu Darvish and plentiful RBI for Chris Davis. While Darvish was expected to take another step towards stardom this season, Davis’ production is still quite a surprise to some, though power has always been a part of his game.

10 Days in, what are the biggest surprises of the 2013 season?

GoodThe Good

Carl Crawford, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: .458/.519/.542, 2 2B, 2 SB

Crawford isn’t necessarily setting the world on fire, but the fact that he has played in all seven games for the Dodgers is shocking, considering his availability for opening day was in question since he didn’t make his Cactus League debut until March 23. While he has just two extra-base hits out of his 11 total hits, the fact that Crawford is running (though he’s just 2 for 4 on stolen base attempts), and productive in a loaded lineup are reasons enough to begin to wonder if he can return to his glory days of Tampa, rather than the disappointment that he had been in Boston. If Crawford stays productive around Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers will get out of the NL West basement rather quickly.

John Buck, C, New York Mets: .393/.387/.859, 4 HR, 14 RBI

After watching Ike Davis tear apart pitching in the second half, you may have expected him to be the leader of the New York Mets this season; however, it’s the guy who was supposed to just be keeping a roster spot warm for Travis d’Arnaud, the slugging catching prospect that the Mets acquired from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey deal, John Buck. Buck has been mashing to this point, ranking second in the majors in RBI (behind Chris Davis) and tied for second in home runs. With the Miami Marlins around, the Mets should feel comfortable about not finishing last in their division, but Buck has led the Mets patchwork pitching staff, dominated by Matt Harvey‘s emergence as an ace, to a solid start.

Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers: .458/.500/.750, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI

It’s too bad that Segura exhausted his rookie eligibility last year, otherwise, he’d be leading the pack in the early stages of the season for the title of NL Rookie of the Year. Segura had 151 at-bats last season (166 plate appearances), but he looks like he learned a little after hitting just .258/.315/.325 in 2012. The 23-year-old shortstop has a very interesting tool-set, with solid gap power and speed, which will allow for solid run production in a lineup with a healthy Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, and Ryan Braun…the only problem is that getting all four of those guys on the field at the same time may be harder than finding a needle in a haystack.

Courtesy: NY Daily News
Courtesy: NY Daily News

Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets: 2-0, 0.64 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, .093 BAA, 14 IP, 19:4 K:BB

I mentioned Harvey under Buck, but it is worth noting again…he has been nothing short of dominant. He’s allowed just 8 baserunners over two starts, and the strikeouts limit the scoring opportunities, as well. Harvey had a 2.73 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and a 70:26 K:BB in 59.1 innings last season. Like Segura, just missing rookie eligibility in 2013, but a dynamic starting pitcher for a team desperate for pitching in the Mets.

Jeff Samardzija, SP, Chicago Cubs: 1-1, 2.63 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, .125 BAA, 13.2 IP, 22:5 K:BB

The former Notre Dame wideout is leading the majors in strikeouts early in the season and appears to be heading towards super-stardom ..which is why I traded him for next to nothing in my dynasty league this offseason. He has a lousy team around him but the 28-year-old has some help on the way, and the Cubs have him under team control through 2015. While he may not win many games, his peripheral statistics could make him look a lot like Felix Hernandez in fantasy formats.

BadThe Bad

Ryan Hanigan, C, Cincinnati Reds: .043/.148/.043, 1 for 23, 2 RBI

The Cincinnati Reds are playing their 9th game of the season and Devin Mesoraco is making his second start of the season. As most people would like to do, you can blame Dusty Baker for his inability to find value in young talent, unless, of course, it is a pitcher whose career he can ruin. Mesoraco is a sinner for going 0 for 4 in his only start, drawing a walk in the Reds 7-6 extra-inning loss to the Washington Nationals. Apparently, he may only start in day games following a night game, which should be great for the 24-year-old’s development. Ryan Hanigan, meanwhile, will continue to get the at-bats, and the Reds have to hope that batting 8th in the order doesn’t allow clubs to assume that there are two easy outs every time through the lineup.

Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies: 0-4, 12.50 ERA, 2.17 WHIP, 18 IP, 19:11 K:BB in 4 starts

Halladay (0-2, 14.73 ERA, 2.45 WHIP) and Hamels (0-2, 10.97 ERA, 1.97 WHIP) have posted ugly numbers to this point. Halladay’s shoulder issues from last season and his drop in velocity, along with Hamels’ shoulder soreness early in his offseason throwing progr am could be to blame for their struggles. Certainly, the Phillies have to be concerned, especially after dealing Vance Worley and Trevor May to Minnesota for Ben Revere, eliminating their ready or near-ready young pitching to replace Shane Victorino, who left for Boston this winter via free agency. Both starting pitchers earn substantial amounts this season (Halladay makes $20 million and Hamels makes $19.5 million), so a turnaround would be necessary for Philadelphia fans to not want to ring the Liberty Bell with Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s skull.

Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants: .091/.130/.136, 2 for 22, 1 R, 1 2B

After Belt hit .293/.362/.423 in the second half of 2012 and .410/.432/.833 this spring, the Giants had to be hoping that they had developed a solid, middle-of-the-order addition to pair with Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval. Things haven’t gone as planned for Belt to this point; however, he has been dealing with some neck issues. The defending champions will hope that he gets that under control, as well as the skills that he showcased over the last couple of months during spring training.

Upton HeywardJason Heyward and B.J. Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves: 5 for 53 (.094), 2 HR, 3 RBI, 7 R, 19:7 K:BB

Heyward (.083/.267/.208) and Upton (.103/.212/.207) have combined for some pretty useless numbers. The Braves are 7-1 going into Wednesday’s game despite the lack of production from two of their stars. Needless to say, Upton’s pricey contract came with big expectations. We’ll see if his big payday after leaving Tampa isn’t going to take the same trip that Carl Crawford endured in Boston.

Carlos Marmol, RP, Chicago Cubs: 12.27 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, .444 BAA, 1-1, 1 for 2 in save opportunities

Considering the short leash that the Cubs had on Marmol, you have to wonder if it was even worth giving him a chance to prove himself or build trade value when there was a 70-30 chance that he was going to implode. And…implode he did. Kyuji Fujikawa has already replaced Marmol as the Cubs’ closer, and his 8.10 ERA is solid since he is 2 for 2 in save opportunities. It’s a process, Cubs fans, and you should be used to that by now.

Brett Myers, SP, Cleveland Indians: 0-1, 12.19 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, 7 HR allowed, 10.1 IP, 4:2 K:BB

When the Indians signed Myers, they wanted him to be a solid innings eating starting pitcher, allowing them to slide him into the No.3 spot in the rotation behind Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. Myers was to provide solid depth due to Masterson and Jimenez lacking in their ability to throw strikes, resulting in high pitch counts and short outings. However, Myers was a risk since he had pitched out of the bullpen for the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox the last two seasons, and while he had transitioned from starter to relief and back to starter before in his career, guaranteeing Myers $7 million to do that again could leave Indians fans scalping themselves every fifth day. Myers has allowed SEVEN home runs in 10.1 innings, or about six every 9 innings. Some batting practice pitchers don’t average that stat. Myers is either hurt or should retire, but there isn’t any in between on those choices, and a neck injury from watching home runs could be to blame.

LincecumTim Lincecum, SP, San Francisco Giants: 1-0, 4.91 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 11 IP, 11:11 K:BB

Well, after finding a groove as a relief pitcher in the playoffs last year, the Giants gave “The Freak” another chance in a starting role this season. He has only allowed a .175 average in his two starts, and if he wasn’t shutting down those that do hit the ball, he’d have an ERA right around Halladay’s. The free passes need to stop if Lincecum is going to re-establish himself as a valuable pitcher, and he needs to do that if he hopes to score a big contract as a free agent this winter.