Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Prospects I would call up in September
By Jim Bowden
George Springer is three homers away from joining the 40/40 club.
Despite the minor league season being almost complete, the education and training of some young top prospects isn’t necessarily over. With major league rosters expanding in September, it's a great time for clubs to get a first glimpse of their top prospects to see whether they are ready to be a part of next year's 25-man roster.
Here's a list of the top prospects I would bring up in September.
Springer’s power/speed combination is one of the best in all of minor league baseball, illustrated by his combined slash line of .303/.414/.611, 37 home runs and 43 stolen bases between Double- and Triple-A. It’s been a mere two years since the Astros selected Springer, now 23, as first-round pick from UConn. He really impressed me in the Futures Game in July, and think it’s time he became an every-day player for the Astros.
Bradley, 20, has simply dominated two minors this season. He’s posted an overall 13-5 record with a 1.84 ERA and a combined 1.22 WHIP in 25 starts between high Class A and Double-A. Equally impressive have been his 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Though he’s still walking too many hitters, his stuff in the zone continues to overpower minor league hitters. Based on what I witnessed during the MLB Futures Game, there is no doubt Bradley would succeed in the majors right now. To get five starts in September and confirm he is big league-ready could be a huge advantage for the Diamondbacks as they prepare for the 2014 season.
The Mariners already have two top-of-the-rotation starters in former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez and highly efficient and consistent Hisashi Iwakuma. They are hoping Walker joins them in 2014 as another potential No. 1 pitcher.
Walker has not dominated Triple-A as he did Double-A earlier this year when he posted an 2.46 ERA in 14 starts. However, he’s still pitched well enough to earn a few big league starts in September. Why not give him the opportunity to learn from Hernandez and Iwakuma down the stretch?
Castellanos, 21, is expected be the Tigers every-day left fielder in 2014. He’s done a solid job in converting from third base to left field and has quickly become adequate in his new role. His bat is his best tool and he’s had little trouble adjusting to Triple-A pitching at such a young age, as shown by his .274/.345/.444 slash line to go with 36 doubles and 16 home runs.
Having the opportunity to experience a pennant race in September would only help his development even if his at-bats are limited. I also think bringing him up Aug. 31 instead of Sept. 1 would be a wise decision because he might end up proving in September that he should be the Tigers’ starting left fielder for Game 1 of the American League Divisional Series.
Choice, 23, has shown that he is ready to step into the A's outfield in 2014, and getting a taste of a pennant race in September might serve him well. However, the A’s current outfield is crowded, and it’s doubtful he would get significant at-bats. Also, the cost-conscious A’s might not want to start Choice’s arbitration and free-agent clocks.
That said, knowing it’s going to be a close race for the division and wild-card berth, Oakland might want to protect itself from injuries by putting him on the roster. Choice’s Triple-A slash line of .300/.386/.443 is impressive, as are his 26 doubles and 14 homers.
The 22-year-old has struggled all season at Triple-A Louisville, hitting just .259, but he has scored 73 runs and stole 73 bases while being caught just 14 times. His bat clearly isn’t major league-ready, but with a heated three-team race in the NL Central, Hamilton’s blinding speed could make him a game-changer as a pinch runner.
Shin-Soo Choo will be a free agent at season’s end, so there is an outside chance the Reds might have to rush Hamilton to the major leagues sometime next year. Therefore, his speed off the bench might prove valuable down the stretch, and the experience he would earn in the middle of a pennant race would only help his development.
Sano, 20, is one of the best right-handed power hitting prospects in all of baseball. He’s belted 33 home runs between high-A and Double-A, and he showed at the lower level that he can hit for average, putting up a slash line of .330/.424/.655. Strikeouts have been a problem for him at Double-A, but he's still slugging .574, and his defense at third (particularly his throwing) has really improved. He’s certainly capable of making the jump to the major leagues next year.
The Royals’ front office sees Ventura as their second-best pitching prospect behind Kyle Zimmer, and they have high hopes that Ventura can be a difference maker in their rotation as soon as next year.
The 22-year-old started the season in Double-A where he went 3-2 with a 2.34 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in 11 starts. However, he hasn’t dominated Triple-A as expected, posting a 3.52 ERA and an inflated WHIP of 1.45. His stuff has stayed the same, but the command in the zone hasn’t been tight.
Still, his fastball ranges in the mid- to high 90s, and his curveball is dominating. His ability to throw it at multiple speeds has been a valuable weapon for him. Bringing Ventura up and allowing him to work out of the bullpen in September would be valuable to helping him mature into a big league pitcher.