The Hot Stove Has Caught On Fire

It certainly hasn’t taken long for teams to begin dishing out large contracts that they’ll probably regret in a couple of years with free agency well under way. However, the last 24 to 48 hours have supplied the greatest number of gifts, with a lot of examples of “huh”, “why”, “seriously”, and “come again” worthy reactions.

The Trades

The Doug Fister Trade

Detroit Tigers get: 2B Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Ian Krol, and LHP Robbie Ray

Washington Nationals get: RHP Doug Fister

FisterIt has to be called the Doug Fister trade because no one really cares about any of the players that the Tigers got back, right? If this wasn’t a total salary dump, I don’t know what it was, as the “prize” return for the Tigers is Ray, who was a 10th round pick in 2010 and had a 6.56 ERA in 2012 in his first attempt at High-A Potomac before bouncing back and having a solid season between High-A and Double-A in 2013, really doesn’t seem like a tremendous prospect; though, we have been proven wrong by Dave Dombrowski before. After the Tampa Bay Rays received one of the top young prospects in baseball, Wil Myers, in return for two controllable seasons of James Shields, you would think that the Tigers could have received more for Fister, who had managed to post an impressive 32-20 record to go along with a 3.29 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 440.2 innings with Detroit. Fister now joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Gio Gonzalez within the Washington rotation, making the Nationals strong contenders for first-year manager Matt Williams in 2014.

Winner: Washington Nationals.

Smelling Fowler

Houston Astros get: CF Dexter Fowler

Colorado Rockies get: RHP Jordan Lyles and OF Brandon Barnes

Fowler1Fowler seemed to be on the trading block for some time, but he was finally dealt on Tuesday. The Astros get two affordable seasons (two-years, $11.6 million) of Fowler while they wait for George Springer to prove himself ready, or…they just acquired a nicer trade chip than what they gave up. Jordan Lyles may still be just 23 years old, but he hasn’t put it together in 377 major league innings, posting a 5.35 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9, and it seems very unlikely that shifting to Coor’s Field is going to assist his progression to sudden success. Brandon Barnes has some ability, but it isn’t as an everyday player, as his atrocious 127:21 K:BB and .635 OPS over 445 plate appearances goes to show. Barnes could be a fourth outfielder for the Rockies, with Carlos Gonzalez sliding over to center and Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson battling it out for the left field job, or Colorado could look to free agency to upgrade in center. This deal didn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Rockies unless they saw something in Lyles and didn’t feel that Fowler would ever live up to his hot start from 2013, when he posted a 1.032 OPS and then fell off of the face of the earth. Even if Fowler doesn’t live up to those numbers, he is the most valuable piece in the deal.

Winner: Houston Astros.

The Unimpressive Three-Way

Cincinnati Reds get: LHP David Holmberg.

Tampa Bay Rays get: RHP Heath Bell and cash from Arizona, and C Ryan Hanigan from Cincinnati.

Arizona Diamondbacks get: RHP Justin Choate and a PTBNL

The Rays are always viewed as a smart club and they were able to land another potential closer after losing Fernando Rodney to free agency, leaving the club with Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo to battle it out for the gig. On top of that, they received an excellent framing catcher in Hanigan, who has proved to be quite valuable to Cincinnati over the last several years in game-calling, while inking the backstop to a three-year extension upon the completion of the deal. The bad part, though, is that both Bell and Hanigan weren’t very good last season, with Hanigan, in particular, looking like a nightmare offensively, posting a .198/.306/.261 line over 260 plate appearances, leading to the Reds leaning on Brayan Pena, who was signed to a two-year deal earlier this winter, and Devin Mesoraco, the young, power-hitting catcher who will finally get a full-time look in Cincinnati. The Diamondbacks dumped some salary while dealing Bell for a young, breathing body. Choate pitched in the New York-Penn League in 2013 at the age of 22 and he isn’t much of a prospect. The Reds dumped Hanigan, who was arbitration-eligible, while getting a 22-year-old left-handed starter, who posted a 2.75 ERA in 26 Double-A starts in 2013 with a 116:50 K:BB in 157.1 innings. While Holmberg wasn’t as sexy as Tyler Skaggs or Archie Bradley within the Diamondbacks system, he could become a solid back of the rotation arm or a Sean Marshall-like relief pitcher for the Reds. The good news for Cincinnati is that Mesoraco gets his shot and Holmberg adds some near-ready pitching depth after the likely departure of Bronson Arroyo via free agency.

Winner: Everyone looks like a winner here, as the deal worked well for all three teams, but the Rays received the most help in assisting the team win in 2013.

Why Did Beane Make That (Michael) Choice?

Texas Rangers get: OF Michael Choice and 2B Chris Bostick

Oakland A’s get: OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom

ChoiceThis seemed like an odd deal for Oakland and GM Billy Beane, as Gentry is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and Lindblom has been pretty terrible since being traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies in the 2012 Shane Victorino deal, as he has posted a 5.10 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 54.2 innings since leaving Los Angeles (2.91 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 77.1 innings prior to the trade). Maybe a return to the west coast is what Lindblom needs to be a useful reliever, but by getting the elite defensive skills and increasing salary of the light-hitting (.280/.355/.366 in 763 plate appearances), 29-year-old Gentry, and giving up the potential that still exists in the bat of Michael Choice, who is 24 and isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2017, Beane showed that he may be looking beyond three years from now and that he could be putting the A’s in win-now mode. Bostick is a nice second base prospect, having posted a .282/.354/.452 line over 555 plate appearances as a 20-year-old in Low-A in 2013, but the Rangers have quite a few young, up-the-middle prospects (Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, and Luis Sardinas) and they don’t seem to have a need there, while the A’s have run Jemile Weeks out of town in a trade with Baltimore and Eric Sogard was very…meh…in 2013 at the major league level. Winning now is important, but it doesn’t seem like the A’s really acquired anyone who can really help them in 2014 to get over the hump.

Winner: Texas Rangers.

The Free Agent Splashes

The Yankees Spend Like Crazy…Again.

Who They Signed: C Brian McCann (five-years, $85 million); OF Jacoby Ellsbury (seven-years, $153 million);

McCannWhy It Matters: Notice that the Yankees have committed nearly $240 million after having been rumored to be on a mission to avoid the $189 million threshold of the payroll luxury tax, while not having signed their All-Star second baseman, Robinson Cano, just yet. And, don’t forget, the team is rumored to be interested in signing Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who could be had at a lesser amount after the posting fee was limited to a maximum $20 million bid on Wednesday. McCann is a huge upgrade over the combined .213/.289/.298 triple slash that Yankees’ catchers posted in 2013, while Ellsbury provides great defense and speed as the Yankees try to move on from all of the injuries that suffocated their success this past season. Even if the Yankees are done with the big name signings, including Cano, they should be a better team in 2014.

Twinkies Filled Their Rotation

Who Minnesota Signed: RHP Phil Hughes (three-year, $24 million); RHP Ricky Nolasco (four-year, $49 million);

Why It Matters: The Twins starting pitchers posted a 5.26 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 2013, worst in the majors, and the ERA was a whopping 0.45 points higher than the Toronto Blue Jays’ starters (4.81), who finished 29th. Hughes still has youth and potential, but he needs to start tapping into that potential after posting a horrific 5.19 ERA over 29 starts and 145.2 innings. Shockingly, Hughes’ numbers would have made him a solid number three starter for the Twins in 2013…they were that bad. Adding Nolasco was special, but he isn’t an ace. He will likely be the Twins’ Opening Day starter in 2014 by default and he should make the rotation slightly better; although, it couldn’t get much worse.

Kazmir Rejuvenates and Cashes In Athletically

Who Oakland Signed: LHP Scott Kazmir (two-year, $22 million)

Why It Matters: Signing Kazmir to a lucrative contract could lead to another movie about the Oakland A’s after the success of Moneyball. While Kazmir’s resurgence was quite surprising, an eight-figure deal, after making all of one total appearance in the majors in 2011 and 2012 due to severe shoulder woes, was even more surprising. Possessing a mid-90’s fastball and a left arm appears to be all that it took to find a big deal. Kazmir’s story is worthy of attention and praise, but it is a story that needs to be monitored to see if he can maintain the same success in Oakland over the next two seasons. His presence will allow the A’s and Beane to shop LHP Brett Anderson at the winter meetings next week, which could net the club some additional win-now resources.

The Tigers No Longer on the Prowl for a Closer

Who Detroit Signed: RHP Joe Nathan (two-year, $20 million)

Why It Matters: Detroit needed a lockdown closer after shuffling through Jose Valverde, Phil Coke, Jose Veras, and Bruce Rondon at closer before Joaquin Benoit took over and did a nice job over the rest of the season. They got their man after signing Joe Nathan away from the Texas Rangers. Nathan closed 80 games out the last two seasons, while posting a 2.09 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, and at 38 years of age, he doesn’t look to be slowing down after missing the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery. After dealing Prince Fielder to improve at second base with Ian Kinsler, moving Miguel Cabrera back to first, and plugging Drew Smyly into the rotation (after dealing Fister), the Tigers will have a completely new look in 2014. With their strong rotation, Nathan’s shutdown ability makes them quite dangerous.

Fish Hook Their Catcher and the Red Sox Snag Another

Who Miami Signed: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (three-year, $21 million)

Who Boston Signed: C A.J. Pierzynski (one-year, $8.25 million)

Why It Matters: With a lot of focus heading towards catcher defense and framing, highlighted by the Rays commitments to Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan this winter, other clubs continue to look towards offensive-minded catchers, and the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox locked down their backstops this week. The Marlins seem to have very little hope for a quick turnaround and Saltalamacchia isn’t going to be the other piece to help Giancarlo Stanton and Miami to an NL East title, but it is a start…as long as they don’t trade him before the 2014 season starts. Pierzynski will be on his fifth organization and, despite being hated by some of his competition, he could be a tremendous asset to the character and chemistry that existed within the Boston World Series clubhouse. I guess he is better to have on your team than to play against him.

 

 

Advertisements

MLB TV Contract Eliminates Excuses for the “Small Markets”

Wendy Thurm (@hangingsliders) had a post at Fangraphs discussing the National TV contracts for Major League Baseball and the value that they will provide for each team. Within the article, Thurm had several valuable bits of information:

ESPN will pay MLB $700 million per year for the right to broadcast games exclusively on Sunday nights, other games (non-exclusively) on Monday and Wednesday nights, extended highlights for Baseball Tonight, the Home Run Derby and other All-Star activities (but not the game) and one Wild Card Game. The deal also includes national and international radio and digital rights.

MLB announced a new national TV contract with Fox and TBS, which also covered the 2014 through 2021 seasons. Under that deal, MLB will receive $800 million per year in combined revenue from the two networks, in exchange for broadcasts rights for the Saturday game of the week on Fox, the Sunday game on TBS and all of the postseason games — save for the one that will be broadcast on ESPN. Fox also retains the rights to the All-Star Game.

That’s $1.5 billion in national TV revenue per season that will go into MLB’s Central Fund, or $750 million more than under the contracts that just expired. MLB can spend money from the Central Fund in a variety of ways, but it’s been assumed in the reporting that the league will distribute the TV money to the teams. If so, each team will receive $25 million more in national TV revenue in 2014 through 2021 than they did in 2013.

Teams aren’t obligated, of course, to use all or even part of that additional $25 million on player salaries. That money can also be helpful to expanding a team’s national and international scouting operation, or its data analysis department, or marketing, or all three.”

AL TV Deals
Local AL TV Deals (courtesy Fangraphs.com)

Beyond the television money being received directly from Major League Baseball, each team has their very own local television contract, as well. The dollars being tossed towards clubs has reached absurd levels, as the Los Angeles Dodgers will bring in $340 million per season through 2032 in local television money alone, meaning roughly $390 million including the money coming from MLB. When the Dodgers have that kind of money coming in before averaging 46,216 fans per home game, ranking No.1 in 2013 MLB attendance, you can see the revenue and profitability that comes from these mega deals.

Local NL TV Deals (courtesy Fangraphs.com)
Local NL TV Deals (courtesy Fangraphs.com)

The money is huge, and when you factor in how many teams are being extra cautious with the contracts that they hand out, it makes it seem unreasonable for clubs to cry “small market” any longer. There is no “small market” when a team is streaming revenue of $43 million from television contracts like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins were in 2013, and that number will go up to $68 million with the additional $25 million in 2014. And, while so many were upset with the Marlins and their owner, Jeffrey Loria, for the club’s consistent losing, fire-sales, and sticking Miami with an expensive stadium with a Triple-A worthy roster playing each night, it can’t be as hard as it is for Houston’s fans to watch the Astros pocket $105 million in television deals in 2013, while fielding a team with a payroll of $26 million.

Jeff Luhnow, GM, Houston Astros
Jeff Luhnow, GM, Houston Astros

With international signing limits and caps on spending within drafts, it doesn’t seem fair that owners and teams are able to sit on millions of dollars of revenue while doing very little year in and year out to field a competitive team. Certainly, the Astros are utilizing the wizardry of Jeff Luhnow to develop a dynamic farm system, which is ranked in the upper-half of the league after being one of the most vacant systems in all of baseball for nearly a decade. However, if other teams decided to gut their major league rosters to build in the same manner, how could MLB and its commissioner tell fans that they were fielding a solid product?

When the Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland A’s, and Boston Red Sox publicly entrenched their baseball operations within data analysis and the sabermetric way, they also committed to spending wisely and finding value, possibly bargains, by linking players and their abilities to areas that the club needed to improve. By signing their young players to lucrative contracts early in their careers, the Rays were able to manage the long-term salary of their stars by avoiding the arbitration process, while, simultaneously, taking on a huge risk by investing in a player who may battle an injury or be unable to make adjustments when the league caught up with their skills. Evan Longoria, for example, was signed to a six-year, $17.6 million deal (with team options for 2014 through 2016), after just seven days in the majors. The A’s have been very careful with their payroll over the years as Billy Beane has utilized the Moneyball way to build success out of a spacious ballpark and on-base driven offensive players, though that has changed with players like Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick being key members of more recent teams. Boston, on the other hand, seems to have learned their lesson from the failures of mega-contracts that were given out to Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, shipping the huge deals to the Dodgers and finding payroll relief and success through finding strong character players, which landed them a championship this season behind the leadership of new additions like  Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, and Shane Victorino.

When looking at teams that have created unique ways to be competitive, though, does it show a pattern or a method to success, or can spending money guide a team to a title? The Dodgers, for example, have over $190 million committed to their payroll in 2014 before free agency has even started. Add on the rumors of the club is interested in acquiring David Price via trade with the Rays and being a major player in the posting process and negotiations with Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka, and the Dodgers could have a starting rotation (that’s right, five guys) earning over $100 million in 2014. The New York Yankees tried for several years to build a contender through free agency, but the club was most successful when they were building from within with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, and Andy Pettitte in the mid-to-late 1990’s and early 2000’s…though, they did win a title in 2009.

Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins
Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins

No team can duplicate the science that one team has perfected, but they can certainly try. As teams like the Twins and Marlins continue to try different techniques in finding success, one thing remains evident: they need to spend money to be successful. The Twins have struck gold with recent international signings and drafts, adding Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano to their system, but how will they help Joe Mauer at Target Field with the terrible pitching that they continue to produce? The Marlins tried to buy success when they signed Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle prior to the 2012 season. That experiment lasted all of one season before Miami sold off several pieces to rebuild with prospects that they received from the Blue Jays.

Every team should be active when free agency begins. There is no excuse for the “small market” teams when each team is receiving nearly $50 million dollars from MLB each season from the league’s national TV deals. Add on a minimum of $18 million for local TV deals (which the Marlins and Pirates have, lowest of all teams), and you’re looking at $68 million in revenue before the team takes the field, provides marketing space in the stadium, sells a ticket, or sells a t-shirt this season. Of course, there are operating expenses for a team and their employees, but how much exactly? Why exist if the owner is more focused on the bottom line and profitability of the club than the club’s long-term success? After all, we’re talking about billionaire owners paying millionaire players, and every time an owner complains about how much money they aren’t making, you can look at the figures that were provided above and laugh…as you make five-figures and save for months to pay $200 or more to take your family of four to a game once or twice per season.

Another major question could be: is there too much money in baseball? If a team like the Dodgers is bringing in nearly $400 million in revenue on television deals alone, how can the Pirates and Marlins compete against them? The Dodgers could sign Tanaka, trade for Price, and add Robinson Cano to play second base, and the club would still have nearly $150 million in annual salaries before reaching $400 million, over five-and-a-half times the amount that the Pirates and Marlins have in revenue. If or when Clayton Kershaw reaches free agency, if or when Mike Trout reaches free agency, and if or when Bryce Harper reaches free agency, what are the smaller revenue clubs to do? My answer to that…see the Tampa Bay Rays, who compete in the AL East with much smaller revenue numbers than the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and even the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, by being smarter, more creative, and careful as to how they have built their roster each season.

And if there is still concern about your team and wanting to cry “small market”, remember this:

Minor League Report, 8/8

I haven’t done one of these in quite some time. When I search minor league stats, I look for strikeouts and WHIP leaders out of guys with solid frames out of pitchers, solid plate discipline and gap power and speed out of hitters. I am not a scout that can go to games, but I tend to find some pretty interesting talent on numbers alone. It worked for Billy Beane, right? Here is a list of some players to get to know or keep an eye on based on their production.

Domingo Leyba, 2B/SS, Detroit Tigers – Dominican Summer League

Year Age Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 17 DOSL DET 50 220 177 44 62 15 8 4 31 16 8 32 24 .350 .451 .593 1.044 105
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

At just 17, Leyba has shown a fantastic approach with solid speed and gap power in one of the lowest levels of minor league baseball. While he is quite a long ways away from making an impact in Detroit. Leyba is tied for 2nd in the DSL in total bases and if he can maintain this type of production as he rises up through the minors, he could become quite a fantasy baseball asset.

Miguel Castro, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays – Dominican Summer League

Year Age Lg Aff W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 17 DOSL TOR 3 2 4.87 8 3 20.1 16 13 11 1 11 0 20 3 1.328 7.1 8.9 1.82
2013 18 DOSL TOR 5 2 1.36 11 10 53.0 40 14 8 0 12 0 71 5 0.981 6.8 12.1 5.92
2 Seasons 8 4 2.33 19 13 73.1 56 27 19 1 23 0 91 8 1.077 6.9 11.2 3.96
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

An 18-year-old that is 6’5″, 190 pounds putting up a 12.1 K/9 is definitely someone to keep an eye on. Castro isn’t that much older than his counterparts in the DSL but he is certainly making a mockery of them. When he signed, he reportedly had a low-90’s fastball, a solid slider, and a changeup, so with a frame that could fill out with existing decent stuff, Castro could be another solid arm in the Blue Jays system.

Devon Travis, 2B, Detroit Tigers – High-A: Florida State League

Year Age Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 21 NYPL DET 25 107 93 17 26 2 2 3 11 3 1 8 10 .280 .352 .441 .793 41
2013 22 2 Lgs DET 106 465 406 73 148 23 2 10 61 18 3 44 45 .365 .434 .505 .939 205
2013 22 MIDW DET 77 339 290 55 102 17 2 6 42 14 3 35 32 .352 .430 .486 .916 141
2013 22 FLOR DET 29 126 116 18 46 6 0 4 19 4 0 9 13 .397 .444 .552 .996 64
2 Seasons 131 572 499 90 174 25 4 13 72 21 4 52 55 .349 .419 .493 .912 246
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

Say what you want about 5’9″ players not cutting it physically, but Jose Altuve has proven the stereotype wrong. Travis has hit very well in the lower levels, as he should have being a collegiate player out of Florida State. However, his impressive gap power, solid speed, and plate discipline could lead to continued success as he climbs the organizational ladder. The Tigers don’t seem to hang onto the players that they continue to churn out, instead trading them for major league talent, but Travis looks like he could become valuable wherever he ends up.

WinkerJesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds – Low-A: Midwest League

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 18 Billings PION Rk CIN 62 275 228 42 77 16 3 5 35 1 3 40 50 .338 .443 .500 .943 114
2013 19 Dayton MIDW A CIN 103 449 387 62 108 16 5 16 74 5 0 56 67 .279 .374 .470 .844 182
2 Seasons 165 724 615 104 185 32 8 21 109 6 3 96 117 .301 .400 .481 .882 296
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

Winker, who doesn’t turn 20 for another week or so, has done a great job at the dish since he was drafted in the 1st round (49th overall) in the 2012 MLB draft. He has a very good approach with solid power to all fields and good plate discipline. One knock on him is his inability to drive the ball against left-handed pitching, as he has just four extra-base hits in 83 at-bats against them in 2013, but he hasn’t been overmatched, posting a .277/.381/.398 line against them. Winker could very well take Jay Bruce‘s spot in Cincinnati in 2016 if the team was to decline his 2017 option, if he doesn’t force an earlier callup to play left field prior to that.

Daniel Winkler, RHP, Colorado Rockies – Double-A: Texas League

Year Age Lg Aff W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 21 PION COL 4 3 3.92 12 12 57.1 64 31 25 6 19 0 65 1 1.448 10.0 10.2 3.42
2012 22 SALL COL 11 10 4.46 25 25 145.1 152 80 72 16 47 0 136 22 1.369 9.4 8.4 2.89
2013 23 2 Lgs COL 12 5 3.01 23 23 134.1 88 52 45 16 40 0 157 9 0.953 5.9 10.5 3.93
2013 23 CALL COL 12 5 2.97 22 22 130.1 84 48 43 15 37 0 152 9 0.928 5.8 10.5 4.11
2013 23 TL COL 0 0 4.50 1 1 4.0 4 4 2 1 3 0 5 0 1.750 9.0 11.2 1.67
3 Seasons 27 18 3.79 60 60 337.0 304 163 142 38 106 0 358 32 1.217 8.1 9.6 3.38
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

When Tony Cingrani and Tyler Skaggs went through the California League, they posted results similar to what Winkler has this season. Does that mean that Winkler will be a similar prospect or produce similar results? Probably not, but the Rockies need some consistent arms and their system is full of unfriendly ballparks. For that reason, Winkler’s statistics are pretty impressive. He appears to work inside (look at all of those HBP!) and his improved stinginess in allowing base runners shows that he may have turned a corner.

BlachTy Blach, LHP, San Francisco Giants – High-A: California League

Year Age Lg Aff W L ERA G GS GF IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 22 CALL SFG 11 3 2.64 19 17 1 112.2 109 35 33 7 14 0 103 1 1.092 8.7 8.2 7.36
1 Season 11 3 2.64 19 17 1 112.2 109 35 33 7 14 0 103 1 1.092 8.7 8.2 7.36
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

Blach hasn’t received the kind of hype that fellow California League teammates Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn have received in San Jose, but he probably should. A 5th round pick last year out of Creighton, this is Blach’s professional debut, and he has done a tremendous job in a tough pitching environment, while showing amazing control and command. While his ceiling may not be as high as his teammates’, Blach appears to be the same type of prospect that Danny Hultzen was prior to his shoulder woes: he is what he is…so he’ll move quickly.

Zach Borenstein, OF, Los Angeles Angels- High-A: California League

Year Age Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 20 ARIZ LAA 31 136 113 21 31 6 4 2 21 12 1 17 21 .274 .397 .451 .848 51
2012 21 MIDW LAA 79 327 293 42 78 25 3 11 50 13 5 27 60 .266 .339 .485 .824 142
2013 22 CALL LAA 89 364 324 64 112 19 7 23 82 4 5 29 68 .346 .399 .660 1.060 214
3 Seasons 199 827 730 127 221 50 14 36 153 29 11 73 149 .303 .375 .558 .933 407
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

Brandon Wood was once a superstar, power prospect in the California League, so one could wonder if what Borenstein has done in the 2013 season is a product of the league or improved skills. His plate discipline is solid considering his apparent power stroke and he isn’t running as much (since he is jogging around the bases), so it’s hard to decide whether he should be brushed aside. With Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton around, Borenstein could make a push for left field if Peter Bourjos doesn’t lock down a roster spot in the next two years. At 22, Borenstein could be on his way to establishing himself as a legitimate prospect or solid organizational depth, it just depends on who you ask. I say he’ll work his way into the Angels’ plans.

Andrew Aplin, OF, Houston Astros – High-A: California League

Year Age Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 21 2 Lgs HOU 68 304 268 57 84 13 7 7 38 24 10 28 38 .313 .386 .493 .879 132
2012 21 NYPL HOU 44 196 164 38 57 9 5 4 25 20 7 24 22 .348 .441 .537 .978 88
2012 21 CALL HOU 24 108 104 19 27 4 2 3 13 4 3 4 16 .260 .287 .423 .710 44
2013 22 CALL HOU 111 523 437 91 123 29 5 8 92 20 6 74 53 .281 .381 .426 .806 186
2 Seasons 179 827 705 148 207 42 12 15 130 44 16 102 91 .294 .383 .451 .834 318
A+ (2 seasons) 135 631 541 110 150 33 7 11 105 24 9 78 69 .277 .365 .425 .790 230
A- (1 season) 44 196 164 38 57 9 5 4 25 20 7 24 22 .348 .441 .537 .978 88
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

Meet the future leadoff hitter for the Houston Astros…maybe. Aplin is not really repeating High-A, having spent all of 24 games in Lancaster last season, but being a 5th round pick out of Arizona State last season, he appears ready to take his place as a decent prospect in the Houston organization. Certainly Aplin’s power is inflated in Lancaster, but the plate discipline is a thing of beauty for stat geeks like Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow. While Aplin may never be an All-Star caliber player, he appears to have enough skills across the board to be useful, especially for a team that may be very good in about three years.

SemienMarcus Semien, 2B/SS, Chicago White Sox – Triple-A: International League

Year Age Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 20 SALL CHW 60 262 229 35 58 15 2 3 26 3 4 22 53 .253 .320 .376 .696 86
2012 21 CARL CHW 107 487 418 80 114 31 5 14 59 11 5 55 97 .273 .362 .471 .833 197
2013 22 2 Lgs CHW 112 515 422 96 123 26 5 16 50 20 5 87 69 .291 .417 .491 .908 207
2013 22 SOUL CHW 105 483 393 90 114 21 5 15 49 20 5 84 66 .290 .420 .483 .903 190
2013 22 IL CHW 7 32 29 6 9 5 0 1 1 0 0 3 3 .310 .375 .586 .961 17
3 Seasons 279 1264 1069 211 295 72 12 33 135 34 14 164 219 .276 .376 .458 .834 490
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

At 22 in Triple-A and having hit the way that he has since making his professional debut late in the 2011 season, it is shocking that Semien hasn’t gained more attention, especially since he appears capable of handling shortstop (though he will likely end up at second base). Semien has very good plate discipline and surprising pop for a middle infielder. For a White Sox team that could be headed towards a quick rebuild, he could become a very useful bat by the middle of next season, as he could play second while the resurgent Gordon Beckham plays third. Regardless of where Semien plays, his stats prove that he shouldn’t be as overlooked as he appears to be.

Kyle Hendricks, RHP, Chicago Cubs – Double-A: Southern League

Year Age Lg Aff W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 21 2 Lgs TEX 2 2 2.02 21 1 35.2 24 8 8 0 6 0 38 0 0.841 6.1 9.6 6.33
2011 21 NORW TEX 2 2 1.93 20 0 32.2 20 7 7 0 4 0 36 0 0.735 5.5 9.9 9.00
2011 21 TL TEX 0 0 3.00 1 1 3.0 4 1 1 0 2 0 2 0 2.000 12.0 6.0 1.00
2012 22 2 Lgs TEX,CHC 6 8 2.99 25 24 147.2 140 57 49 11 18 0 123 7 1.070 8.5 7.5 6.83
2012 22 FLOR CHC 1 0 4.24 5 4 17.0 17 8 8 3 3 0 11 1 1.176 9.0 5.8 3.67
2012 22 CARL TEX 5 8 2.82 20 20 130.2 123 49 41 8 15 0 112 6 1.056 8.5 7.7 7.47
2013 23 SOUL CHC 10 3 1.85 21 21 126.1 107 34 26 3 26 0 101 5 1.053 7.6 7.2 3.88
3 Seasons 18 13 2.41 67 46 309.2 271 99 83 14 50 0 262 12 1.037 7.9 7.6 5.24
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

Hendricks was acquired in the Cubs deal with the Texas Rangers for Ryan Dempster last season and he has established himself as a useful part in the future plans of the Chicago Cubs. While he doesn’t have a tremendous ceiling, Hendricks hardly walks anyone and gets his fair share of strikeouts, though he isn’t dominant. If Hendricks is able to continue to pass on the free passes and maintain his impressive WHIP totals in the majors, he could become a very good mid-rotation starter for the constantly rebuilding Cubs.

Astronomically Slow, Yet Perfect, Rebuild

HoustonWhen the Houston Astros named Jeff Luhnow their GM in December of 2011, he brought a tremendous resume with him, highlighted by his strong performance as the Vice President of Scouting and Player Development for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2006 through his hiring with Houston. The first three Cardinals drafts overseen by Luhnow produced 24 future major leaguers, the most of any team during that period. Several players who made important contributions to the Cardinals’ victory in the 2011 World Series, including  Jaime Garcia, Allen Craig, Jon Jay, and Lance Lynn, were drafted during Luhnow’s control of scouting for the Cardinals. 

LuhnowSince taking control of Houston, this is what Luhnow has done:

12/14/2011: Traded Mark Melancon to the Boston Red Sox for Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland

1/11/2012: Claimed Fernando Martinez off waivers from the New York Mets

1/2012: Signed Hector Corpas, Jack Cust, Chris Snyder, Zach Duke, Livan Hernandez, Jordan Kreke, Jordan Brown, Mike Hessman, Jair Fernandez, Rayderson Chevalier, Carlos Vasquez, and Tomas Lopez via free agency

2/2012: Signed Justin Ruggiano, Jose Martinez, and Angel Heredia via free agency

3/14/2012: Signed Landon Powell via free agency

3/20/2012: Traded Jason Bourgeois and Humberto Quintero to the Kansas City Royals for Kevin Chapman

4/8/2012: Claimed Justin Maxwell off waivers from the New York Yankees

5/2012: Signed Armando GalarragaJarico Reynoso, Randy Cesar, Jean Carlos Cortorreal, Arturo Michelena, Harold Arauz, Elieser Hernandez, Juan Hernandez, Edwin Villarroel, and Erick Hurtado via free agency

6/2012: Signed Carlos Correa, Brady Rodgers, Andrew Aplin, Terrell Joyce, Brian Holmes, Joe Sclafani, Erick Gonzalez, Ricky Gingras, John Neely, M.P. Cokinos, Daniel Minor, Dan Gulbransen, Aaron West, Austin Elkins, Angel Ibanez, Christian Garcia, Jordan Jankowski, Michael Dimock, Travis Ballew, Joe Bircher, Kenny Long, Ryan Dineen, Marc Wik, Brett Phillips, Mike Hauschild, Michael Martinez, Lance McCullers, Rio Ruiz, Nolan Fontana, and Tyler Heineman, all draft picks and non-drafted free agents, as well as Hector Ambriz, Hector Roa, and Rauldison Rodriguez via free agency

7/2012: Signed Luis Payano, Kristian Trompiz, Victor Tavarez, Lance Day, Edwin Gomez, Gera Sanchez, and Jon Carnaham via free agency; Signed Preston Tucker and Jesus Castillo, draft picks and non-drafted free agents; Claimed Chuckie Fick off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals, Steve Pearce off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles, and Mark Hamburger off waivers from the San Diego Padres;

7/5/2012: Traded Carlos Lee and cash to the Miami Marlins for Matt Dominguez and Rob Rasmussen

7/25/2012: Traded Wandy Rodriguez to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Colton Cain, Robbie Grossman, and Rudy Owens

7/29/2012: Traded Chris Johnson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Bobby Borchering and Marc Krauss

8/2012: Acquired Garrett Mock (Boston Red Sox), Chris Devenski (Chicago White Sox), and Tyler Greene (St. Louis Cardinals) for cash via trade; Signed Brian Sanches and Edgar Gonzalez via free agency; Traded Ben Francisco (Tampa Bay Rays for Theron Geith) and Steve Pearce (New York Yankees for cash)

9/2012: Claimed Brandon Laird off waivers from the New York Yankees

10/2012: Claimed Che-Hsuan Lin off waivers from the Boston Red Sox

11/2012: Claimed Sam Demel and Jake Elmore (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Philip Humber (Chicago White Sox) off of waivers; Signed Jose Valdez, Edgar Gonzalez, Trevor Crowe, and Sergio Escalona via free agency

12/2012: Claimed Josh Fields (Boston), Nate Freiman (San Diego), and Mickey Storey (New York Yankees) in the Rule V Draft; Traded Wilton Lopez to the Colorado Rockies for Alex White and Alex Gillingham; Signed Jose Veras via free agency

1/2013: Signed Jason Jaramillo, Rick Ankiel, Erik Bedard, and Carlos Perdomo via free agency

3/2013: Signed Ronny Cedeno and Raoul Torrz via free agency; Traded Mike Kvasnicka to the Minnesota Twins for Gonzalo Sanudo;

4/2013: Traded Jake Goebbert to the Oakland Athletics for Travis Blackley; Traded Chris Wallace to the Cleveland Indians for Eric Berger;

Then, the 2013 season got underway. A lot of moves here. Nothing really sticks out as fantastically brilliant outside of getting Justin Maxwell for a waiver claim and getting the Pittsburgh Pirates to take on Wandy Rodriguez‘s contract while getting a couple of solid-but-not-spectacular prospects in Grossman and Owens; however, the true value in what Luhnow has done has happened in the drafts the last two seasons.

CorreaIn 2012, the Astros took Carlos Correa No.1 overall. While he was worthy of the pick and has performed very well, they were able to sign him below the recommended slot, allowing the club to draft and sign Lance McCullers at No.41 overall, a young, hard-throwing high school arm. The club seems to have several very good prospects in the system from the 2012 draft, but none have the potential impact that 2013 No.1 overall pick Mark Appel could bring to Houston.

AppelThe Astros signed Appel on Saturday for $6.35 million, roughly $1.44 million under slot. This will allow the Astros to possibly go over slot to sign later picks, such as college juniors Andrew Thurman and Kent Emanuel, additional college arms that could provide solid depth to the Astros’ system.

The Astros lost 213 games in 2011 and 2012 and their minor league system was in shambles. While some solid young players are finally reaching Minute Maid Park, it will take several more years of replenishing the system to create a team capable of contending in a strong, financially top-heavy AL West. Acquiring cheap, young talent will be the best way for the club to turn things around without mortgaging too much of the club’s financial future on long-term, free agent contracts. Look for moves involving Jose Veras, Bud Norris, and Carlos Pena as the trade deadline comes and goes in 2013, and while the returns may not be fantastic, it will be additional resources and bodies for a team in desperate need of talent and depth within the organization.

For the time being, these are the players to look forward to watching in Houston:

1) Mark Appel, RHP

2) Carlos Correa, SS

3) Jonathan Singleton, 1B

4) George Springer, OF

5) Jared Cosart, RHP

6) Delino DeShields, Jr., 2B

7) Lance McCullers, RHP

8) Mike Foltynewicz, RHP

9) Nolan Fontana, SS

10) Jonathan Villar, SS

11) Domingo Santana, OF

12) Asher Wojciechowski, RHP

13) Max Stassi, C

14) Kevin Comer, RHP

15) Nick Tropeano, RHP

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.

Sizzlin’ Future Stars: Minor League Report, 5/18

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 MyersDylan Bundy, and Oscar Taveras are at this point, so these are players performing at elite levels who may not be household names…yet.

AltherrAaron Altherr, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2009 18 Phillies Rk 28 92 84 10 18 3 0 1 11 6 8 15 .214 .283 .286 .568 24
2010 19 2 Teams Rk-A- 55 225 209 23 62 13 4 1 25 12 11 35 .297 .339 .411 .751 86
2010 19 Phillies Rk 27 121 115 12 35 6 1 1 15 10 3 22 .304 .331 .400 .731 46
2010 19 Williamsport A- 28 104 94 11 27 7 3 0 10 2 8 13 .287 .350 .426 .775 40
2011 20 2 Teams A–A 112 458 416 61 101 18 2 6 46 37 24 99 .243 .291 .339 .630 141
2011 20 Williamsport A- 71 295 269 41 70 12 2 5 31 25 13 52 .260 .302 .375 .678 101
2011 20 Lakewood A 41 163 147 20 31 6 0 1 15 12 11 47 .211 .272 .272 .544 40
2012 21 Lakewood A 110 471 420 65 106 27 6 8 50 25 38 102 .252 .319 .402 .722 169
2013 22 Clearwater A+ 35 152 134 22 45 15 2 4 27 8 13 39 .336 .391 .567 .958 76
5 Seasons 340 1398 1263 181 332 76 14 20 159 88 94 290 .263 .319 .393 .711 496
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

Altherr is a big, raw prospect who seems to be putting everything together this year in the Florida State League. He was nowhere to be found on MLB.com’s top 20 list for the Phillies prior to this season, while John Sickels, of minorleagueball.com, had Altherr in the “others” section as a player to watch. Considering what he was before this season, it is pretty shocking that the 6’5″, 190 pound outfielder has jumped to the numbers that he is putting up in 2013, but he was clearly a toolsy guy prior to this year. His lanky frame still had impressive speed and gap power, so as he continues to mature physically, Altherr could become an even more intriguing prospect. Given the nature of how the Phillies handled Domonic Brown, however, you have to wonder if they’ll handle a player similar is size with varying talent in the same manner.

DePaulaRafael De Paula, RHP, New York Yankees

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 21 Yankees 1 FRk 8 2 1.46 14 61.2 35 18 10 2 18 85 0.859 5.1 12.4 4.72
2013 22 Charleston A 4 2 2.75 8 39.1 24 12 12 2 17 69 1.042 5.5 15.8 4.06
2 Seasons 12 4 1.96 22 101.0 59 30 22 4 35 154 0.931 5.3 13.7 4.40
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

The strikeout totals are stupid, and so is the fact that the Yankees have De Paula in Low-A ball at the age of 22. Domination doesn’t even begin to tell the story of what De Paula has done this season, and another guy that MLB.com left unranked, but came in as the Yankees No.13 prospect at minorleagueball.com, has flown up the prospect rankings in the early going of the 2013 season. De Paula was signed in November of 2010 out of the Dominican Republic and he has been handled with baby gloves ever since. In a recent Baseball Prospectus chat, Jason Parks had this to say about the Yankee right-hander:

” Powerful build; arm speed is near elite; fastball can work 91-95l touch even higher; huge life; misses barrels; shows plus potential with both hard, power curve and changeup; command profile could push him to the ‘pen down the line, as could secondary development. He’s a big time arm.”

He’s good.

BradleyArchie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 18 Missoula Rk 0 0 0.00 1 2.0 1 0 0 0 0 4 0.500 4.5 18.0
2012 19 South Bend A 12 6 3.84 27 136.0 87 64 58 6 84 152 1.257 5.8 10.1 1.81
2013 20 2 Teams A+-AA 4 0 1.05 8 42.2 29 6 5 1 16 63 1.055 6.1 13.3 3.94
2013 20 Visalia A+ 2 0 1.26 5 28.2 22 5 4 1 10 43 1.116 6.9 13.5 4.30
2013 20 Mobile AA 2 0 0.64 3 14.0 7 1 1 0 6 20 0.929 4.5 12.9 3.33
3 Seasons 16 6 3.14 36 180.2 117 70 63 7 100 219 1.201 5.8 10.9 2.19
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

I had a hard time buying into Archie Bradley, even with high rankings from MLB.com (No.24) and Baseball America (No.25) prior to the season. It had a lot to do with the 84 walks that he posted last season, as I like to see that a pitcher can harness his stuff before I consider him elite. However, this time I was way off, as the hits per nine (5.8), K per nine (10.1), and home runs allowed (just six in 136 innings) goes to show the type of stuff and dominance that Bradley possesses. A 95 mph fastball with sink and a strikeout pitch in his curveball have allowed Bradley to post a 63:16 K:BB in 42.2 innings in 2013, and he has already been bumped up to Double-A at the tender age of 20. He was highly touted for a reason and he seems to have found the command necessary to become one of the top pitchers in the minor leagues.

Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 17 Spokane A- 58 258 233 33 61 9 3 2 29 10 13 37 .262 .323 .352 .675 82
2012 18 Hickory A 109 471 432 60 112 23 4 10 47 19 25 65 .259 .313 .400 .714 173
2013 19 Myrtle Beach A+ 38 163 143 30 44 14 1 4 25 11 9 28 .308 .377 .503 .880 72
3 Seasons 205 892 808 123 217 46 8 16 101 40 47 130 .269 .328 .405 .732 327
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

It’s tough being a middle infielder in the Rangers system these days. With Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler signed to long-term deals and Jurickson Profar waiting in Triple-A, the Rangers have created a logjam of talent in their system that will either waste away or get traded away. It also isn’t very fair for the guys who aren’t Profar to have to try to put up numbers comparable to his to be taken seriously. Which leads us to a very impressive young player. Odor was just 18 last season when he put up a .714 OPS with 37 extra-base hits and 19 stolen bases in full season ball, and he has improved his stats in the early going this season. Not only that, his running game is much more solid, having stolen 11 bases in 12 attempts after being gunned down 10 times in 29 attempts last season. His ceiling isn’t nearly that of Profar’s, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid major leaguer.

FrancoMaikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 17 Phillies Rk 51 217 194 23 43 11 2 2 29 0 16 46 .222 .292 .330 .622 64
2011 18 2 Teams A–A 71 296 267 25 66 19 1 3 44 0 26 45 .247 .318 .360 .677 96
2011 18 Williamsport A- 54 229 202 19 58 17 1 2 38 0 25 30 .287 .367 .411 .778 83
2011 18 Lakewood A 17 67 65 6 8 2 0 1 6 0 1 15 .123 .149 .200 .349 13
2012 19 Lakewood A 132 554 503 70 141 32 3 14 84 3 38 80 .280 .336 .439 .775 221
2013 20 Clearwater A+ 39 179 163 25 47 16 1 8 32 0 12 26 .288 .341 .546 .887 89
4 Seasons 293 1246 1127 143 297 78 7 27 189 3 92 197 .264 .324 .417 .742 470
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

Franco has a lot of potential that is not obvious to his game yet, which is shocking when you consider he currently sports an .887 OPS as a 20-year-old in High-A. A third baseman with an excellent arm and solid glove, if Franco continues hitting the way that he has while showing improved plate discipline, the Phillies could have a superstar in the making. Franco doesn’t strikeout in bunches and he appears ready to turn some of those 32 doubles from last season into home runs this year. As he continues to mature, he will be a player to keep an eye on.

Contreras

Carlos Contreras, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS GF SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2008 17 Reds FRk 0 1 8.64 17 0 7 0 16.2 14 21 16 0 30 17 2.640 7.6 9.2 0.57
2009 18 Reds FRk 4 4 5.60 14 12 0 0 72.1 65 49 45 6 30 58 1.313 8.1 7.2 1.93
2010 19 Reds Rk 2 4 6.45 10 6 3 2 37.2 44 29 27 8 16 30 1.593 10.5 7.2 1.88
2011 20 Billings Rk 2 1 5.00 18 0 2 0 36.0 35 20 20 5 23 38 1.611 8.8 9.5 1.65
2012 21 2 Teams A-A+ 1 1 3.12 49 0 33 20 60.2 38 27 21 7 24 63 1.022 5.6 9.3 2.63
2012 21 Dayton A 0 1 3.20 40 0 26 16 50.2 29 22 18 6 19 51 0.947 5.2 9.1 2.68
2012 21 Bakersfield A+ 1 0 2.70 9 0 7 4 10.0 9 5 3 1 5 12 1.400 8.1 10.8 2.40
2013 22 Bakersfield A+ 1 4 3.40 8 8 0 0 42.1 27 18 16 5 13 52 0.945 5.7 11.1 4.00
6 Seasons 10 15 4.91 116 26 45 22 265.2 223 164 145 31 136 258 1.351 7.6 8.7 1.90
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

The Reds have been all over the place in their handling of Contreras since signing him prior to the 2008 season out of the Dominican Republic. While they finally seemed to have figured out that he should start, Contreras finally seems to know how to pitch now, as well. He is putting it all together for a very bad Bakersfield team in the California League, and while the league is a hitter’s paradise, Contreras has been pretty dominant. He has a .179 batting average allowed to go with his 52:13 K:BB in 42.1 innings. He has a fastball that sits 92-96 and seems familiar with pressure after being a closer last season. We’ll see if he can maintain this production, but he looks like a live arm in the Reds system, which they need with Daniel Corcino pitching so poorly at Triple-A this season.

Jake Buchanan, RHP, Houston Astros

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2010 20 Tri-City A- 4 5 4.28 14 14 61.0 69 32 29 3 11 42 1.311 10.2 6.2 3.82
2011 21 2 Teams A+-AA 5 10 3.80 26 26 165.2 163 93 70 10 36 104 1.201 8.9 5.6 2.89
2011 21 Lancaster A+ 5 10 3.91 25 25 158.2 157 92 69 10 35 102 1.210 8.9 5.8 2.91
2011 21 Corpus Christi AA 0 0 1.29 1 1 7.0 6 1 1 0 1 2 1.000 7.7 2.6 2.00
2012 22 2 Teams AA-AAA 5 10 5.25 30 20 142.1 188 95 83 12 38 88 1.588 11.9 5.6 2.32
2012 22 Corpus Christi AA 5 9 4.96 27 19 134.1 171 85 74 11 33 83 1.519 11.5 5.6 2.52
2012 22 Oklahoma City AAA 0 1 10.12 3 1 8.0 17 10 9 1 5 5 2.750 19.1 5.6 1.00
2013 23 Corpus Christi AA 4 0 0.93 11 7 48.1 28 5 5 2 3 28 0.641 5.2 5.2 9.33
4 Seasons 18 25 4.03 81 67 417.1 448 225 187 27 88 262 1.284 9.7 5.7 2.98
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

Houston has an interesting method of developing their pitchers, using tandem starting pitching at all minor league levels this season. Jake Buchanan is not one of the club’s brightest stars, nor is he expected to become one, but he really seems to enjoy how the Astros are doing things this year. A 0.93 ERA and 0.64 WHIP over 48.1 innings is pretty impressive, as is the .163 batting average allowed. With the major league roster looking like a mediocre Triple-A team, and a starting rotation with a 6.31 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, and .309 batting average allowed, it doesn’t hurt to know that Buchanan is having success in the minors for a team so desperate for pitching help. The 23-year-old could get a jump to Triple-A in the coming weeks to see if he can produce similar statistics there before getting a shot in Houston.

Astronomical Strikeout Rates

AstrosThe Houston Astros are going to be bad in 2013. People in Houston and around the world should have known that before the season even started. The first game, an 8-2 win over the Texas Rangers, may have been the high point of the season. It was Opening Day, the Astros’ first as an American League club, while Houston  won their 4,000th game in franchise history.

Since then, the Astros haven’t scored a run over two games, including coming just one out from having a perfect game tossed against them by Rangers’ right-hander Yu Darvish on Tuesday night. In fact, in Tuesday and Wednesday’s games, the Astros managed just seven hits, and things don’t look bright for the Astros going forward.

Certainly, a 162-game season could result in a total turn-around and a drastic change in the club’s roster, but after three games, the Astros lineup has a miserable .172/.206/.258 line over 93 at-bats. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but the team has an incredible 43 strikeouts in 93 at-bats, with just four walks.

The Major League Baseball record for team strikeouts is 1,529 by the 2010 Arizona Diamondbacks. Mark Reynolds (211), Adam LaRoche (172), Justin Upton (152), Kelly Johnson (148), and Chris Young (145) seemed to allow Chase Field to go air condition free with the free swinging they provided that summer, but if the Astros keep up their current pace, they’ll strikeout 2,322 times.

Brett Wallace, Chris Carter, Carlos Pena, and Rick Ankiel have combined for 26 strikeouts in just 39 at-bats, so with their pace and their history of high strikeout rates, all four would be capable of over 170 strikeouts over 500 at-bats. Wallace will likely be gone from the picture when Jonathan Singleton proves himself ready after his 50-game suspension for marijuana abuse has been completed, but the wind in Houston could reach extreme levels throughout the summer.

With a club likely to lose upwards of 110 games in 2013, fans of the Astros have to root for excellent trades from GM Jeff Luhnow later this season. With a philosophy of acquiring talent through trades and drafts, the rebuilding process in Houston will take time. Luhnow was the head of the St. Louis Cardinals player development staff for several years prior to moving to Houston in December of 2011, and as you look at their minor league system, you can imagine what the Houston Astros could become in five years.