Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Top prospect update
By Jason A. Churchill
Several top prospects made their respective clubs' Opening Day rosters, including right-handers Shelby Miller and Jose Fernandez, left-hander Tyler Skaggs and outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., but most were sent to the minors for a variety of reasons that range from service time concerns and development to the younger player being blocked by a proven veteran. Some of these talents will push their way to majors sooner than later.
Oscar Taveras, OF -- St. Louis Cardinals
Taveras is blocked by the trio of Jon Jay, Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran and if the Cardinals stay healthy and contend, as expected, it's unclear when they'll call for Taveras' help, and where he'll play once he's in the big leagues.
If the club falls out of contention, Beltran could become trade bait. An injury to any of the three starting outfielders also opens the door.
UPDATE: Taveras has caught fire, batting .359 with two home runs and three doubles over his past 10 games and raising his season line to .302/.350/.448. Over the weekend at a minor league game, I asked a long-time senior scout what he thought of Taveras. His response? "I think that might be the best young hitter I have ever seen."
Jurickson Profar, SS -- Texas Rangers
Profar is just 20, but showed well in his short stint in the big leagues last summer and has always been young for his level, suggesting he'll be ready for the majors soon, if he isn't already. With Elvis Andrus signing an extension to stay in Texas long-term, the club could trade Profar -- which could get the kid into a big-league lineup immediately -- or they could move Ian Kinsler to another position and use Profar at second base.
Either way, it's difficult to imagine the switch-hitter remaining in the minors much beyond June.
UPDATE: Profar's season numbers remain unimpressive, but he's hit safely in 10 straight games entering Tuesday.
Gerrit Cole, RHP -- Pittsburgh Pirates
Cole may have been one of the three best starters in Pirates camp but the club sent him to Triple-A to start the season, anyway. Workload is always a concern with young pitchers, but after tossing 132 frames in 2012, Cole may be ready to stretch to the 180-190 innings range.
If the Pirates are toying with contention and need another starter to support such efforts, Cole is likely to be the first move, rather than a trade, particularly if the right-hander is pitching well in the International League.
UPDATE: Cole has shown the great stuff but despite limiting hits, 39 of 121 batters have reached base safely thanks to spotty control.
Wil Myers, OF -- Tampa Bay Rays
Myers, scouts tend to agree, is ready to help the Rays, though they also agree that he has some areas on which he needs to work to complete his development from prospect to impact big-league talent. Some of that development has to come in The Show, but the Rays are cost conscious, which may have had at least something to do with his assignment to the minors last month.
There is certainly room for Myers in the club's outfield -- they've started Sean Rodriguez a few times this season -- and barring unforeseen hurdles he's likely to see the majors before the all-star break.
UPDATE: One scout told me late last month that Myers' propensity to swing and miss is his only weakness, but it may be enough to keep him from star status, or even a call-up this summer. Myers has whiffed 39 times in 28 games this season, including 17 in his past 44 plate appearances.
Xander Bogaerts, SS -- Boston Red Sox
According the slight majority of scouts upon which I have inquired, Bogaerts profiles as a below-average to average glove at shortstop, but possesses the ability to ultimately bat in the middle of the order, suggesting a Hanley Ramirez type ceiling.
The timing of his arrival in Boston will depend on his development early this season as he finished last year at Double-A Portland, is repeating the level to start 2013 and is just 20 years of age. He went 0-for-4 Thursday as the DH.
UPDATE: Bogaerts is still hot at the plate, though he's sat out the past few days with a minor injury termed as "general soreness and tightness."
Christian Yelich, OF -- Miami Marlins
Yelich continues to defy early belief that he might have to move to first base -- or at least a corner outfield spot -- due to his throwing mechanics and he may be the best pure hitter in the minors. The Marlins aren't going to rush him to the majors, particularly considering their financial approach, but Yelich is likely to force their hand over the summer.
UPDATE: Yelich is batting .318/.375/.591 over his past 10 including his first home run of the year over the weekend. He's just 13 games into the Southern League but the 18 strikeouts are a something to watch as the season unfolds.
Zack Wheeler, RHP -- New York Mets
Wheeler's path to the majors is almost entirely up to his development, perhaps only a little bit about starting his free agent and arbitration clocks. With Johan Santana out for the year, fitting Wheeler into the rotation will not be any kind of obstacle and unless he struggles unexpectedly he should see some time in the majors in 2013.
Like with Cole, Wheeler's workload is a consideration, but Wheeler nearly reached 150 innings a year ago, suggesting he could go beyond 180 in 2013. The Mets' top prospect wasn't on his game in the season opener, walking three and struggling with his control.
UPDATE: Wheeler posted his second straight strong start Sunday after four mediocre outings. One scout in attendance in Sacramento called the effort "a lot better than when I saw him at Fresno," which was the right-hander's third start of the year.
Profar the ROY favorite?
"I predicted Profar would take home AL top rookie honors, and stand by it. The guy has potential for double digit homers this year, even if it takes a month or more for a promotion, and he steals bases. To me he’s worth stashing on a bench over all the other prospects, and the Rangers will have no choice but to promote him soon. Every day Mitch Moreland goes hitless is another day closer to Profar time!"