Nearly a year ago, I wrote my first Scouting the Unknown raving about Andrew McCutchen and Neftali Feliz. A lot has changed since then besides three hundred some odd days. There are weekly SportsCenter updates on phenom Stephen Strasburg (ignoring Drew Storen who will be called up before him); weekly grumblings about keeping Buster Posey in the minors from MiLB dot com; Mike Leake made the transition from facing college hitters to mowing down Major League hitting; Carlos Santans annihilating Triple-A pitching; Jeremy Hellickson continues to dominate Triple-A while Jesus Montero is flailing away in the same league and Starlin Castro skipped Triple-A altogether in a surprise May 7th callup. Those are just a few headlines that spring to mind.
With more and more national media attention on the Minor Leagues and prospects in general, I am starting to feel the pinch of trying to target prospects on the verge of getting called up while still writing about the prospects that are going to be hyped up next year. Most knowledgeable fantasy baseball players know Strasburg, Chapman, Carlos Santana, Montero, Matusz, Bumgarner, Hellickson, Jake Arrieta, Starlin Castro, Yonder Alonso, Tyler Flowers, Pedro Alvarez, and, of course, Mike Stanton. But what about Jerry Sands, Carlos Peguero, Kyle Gibson, Mike Moustakas, Mike Montgomery, Alex Torres, Kyle Weiland, Julio Teheran, Peter Faste, Eric Hosmer, Juan Francisco, and Lonnie Chisenhall? Although I may not get to all of the above names, they are guys you’re going to want to follow. Furthermore, I am going assume some of the bigger names are known. I will probably just give opening blurbs about the top prospects.
Starting from the same foundation is extremely important to reduce confusion (if there is still confusion after the foundation was built, the comments are a pretty good place to clarify). Every player’s name is linked to their Baseball-Reference page for full stats and their MiLB dot com page to find articles and awards. The Cube’s rating guideline is found here so those numbers aren’t too confusing.
Andrew Cashner | SP | Chicago Cubs | DOB: 9-11-86 | 6′ 6” | 210 lbs | B/T: R/R | Drafted 1st rd, #19, 2008 | CHC #4 ranked prospect according to Baseball America (2010)
The Cube: Control (38) | K-Rating (71) | Efficiency (88) | vs. Power (79)
MiLB.Com Player Page
Primarily a closer for Texas Christian University, the Cubs drafted Cashner with the intention of making him a starter. While at college, he was typically seen throwing between 96 to 98 mph, and at times touching 99 mph, combined with a slider that was in the mid-80s with hard break – almost like a curveball – and a nonexistent changeup. When he transitioned into pro ball (2008), he struggled with his command, posting a 10.4 BB/9 rate in 20 innings. Although he racked up a 8.6 K/9 ratio, his track record of poor command was confirmed. The following season was a different story. Instead of walking everyone, he posted a 3.8 BB/9, but a disappointing 6.7 K/9 between High-A (42 IP) and Double-A (58 IP). The good news, he gave up only two home runs all year, posted a 1.18 WHIP and an ERA of 2.60 (3.65 FIP). Currently, his career and 2010 stat lines looks like this:
Career Line: 7.9 K/9 | 4.4 BB/9 | 162 1/3 IP | 2.99 ERA | 3.79 FIP | 1.27 WHIP | .2 Hr/9 | 7 H/9 | .276 BABIP | 47.5 GB% | 16 LD% | 32 FB%
2010: 10.3 K/9 | 3 BB/9 | 42 IP | 2.57 ERA | .98 WHIP | .2 Hr/9 | 7 H/9 | .265 BABIP | 2.67 FIP
Aided by a low Batting Average on Balls in Play (.276 BABIP) for his career, it would be expected to see his ERA and FIP increase at higher levels. However, the complete opposite has happened so far. This could be due to a small sample size. Either way, after walking 23 batters in 20 innings during the 2008 season, he has walked 56 batters in 142 innings since (about 3.6 BB/9), while regaining his strikeout rate this year. In his first 42 innings in 2009, he had a 3.2 BB/9 and then posted a 4.2 BB/9 at Double-A. It will be interesting to follow him to see if this happens again. If it doesn’t, I would submit that in 2009, it is due to him building up stamina. Currently, he is showing better control in each progressive year. Although the sample size is fairly small, he is showing why he was taken in the first round. In the offseason, Baseball Prospectus interviewed Cashner, he noted that during the 2009 season he was a strict pitch count, saw great improvements to his changeup, and worked on his delivery mechanics.
The pros: keeps the ball in the park, regained his strikeout rate and continues to lower his walk rate, fairly good ground ball to fly ball percentages (47.5 GB% | 32 FB%). The cons: career stat line boosted by a low BABIP; small sample size on the command problem, plays for the Cubs. OK, the last con is a low blow. However, recent history isn’t on their side. Either way, with the surprising callup of Starlin Castro, a starting rotation held together by the Wrigley Field mortar, and a fan base that is forever impatient, the prospect that is getting compared to Kerry Wood may be called up sooner than anyone thinks. After throwing six solid innings at his Triple-A debut last week, if you lost out on the Strasburg sweepstakes, your eyes should start to gravitate towards Cashner.
Jose Tabata | RF | Pittsburgh Pirates | DOB: 8-12-88 | 5′ 11” | 215 lbs | B/T: R/R | Signed 2004 – Venezuela | PIT #2 ranked prospect according to Baseball America (2010)
The Cube: Power (33) | Batting (81) | Speed (72) | Contact (76) | Patience (44)
MiLB.com Player Page
It feels like Tabata has been mentioned for years – it could be that he was playing Single-A at age 17. Signed by the Yankees in 2004, Tabata was labeled a power hitting right fielder for the Bronx Bombers for many years to come. However, a lack of maturity on Tabata’s part foiled that plan. The Yankees were fed up with his antics in 2008 – and needing help immediately – traded him, along with Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf and Daniel McCutchen to Pittsburgh for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. Over the last two years, Tabata’s scouting report hasn’t changed much. He has quick, strong wrists and a compact swing, which should translate his current gap power into homer power. Currently, he possesses slightly above average speed, but with a thick lower half — when his body matures his speed will be below average. His defense works better in right field were his strong arm plays well. In a pinch, he could cover center, but only for a couple more years. As with most young hitters, he tends to chase breaking pitches but current trends show improvement in this area. Sickels calls him a “skilled contact hitter … with line-drive power to all fields … projects to be a .285 to .300 hitter in the majors.”
Career Line: .297/.365/.404 | 1779 AB | 124 XBH | 28 HR | .107 ISO | 281:156 K:BB | 98/30 SB/CS | .340 BABIP | 57.7 GB% | 14.3 LD% | 27.7 FB%
2010: .321/.382/.423 | 137 AB | 9 XBH | 2 HR | .102 ISO | 21:12 K:BB |17/2 SB/CS | .385 BABIP | 64.3 GB% | 15.2 LD% | 19.6 FB%
After taking a look at his minor league numbers, I am appalled that everyone is writing off this 21 year old prospect. Prior to the 2007 season, Baseball America ranked him the 27th ranked prospect in the whole game. The next year he dropped to 37th. 2009? 75th. This year? No one is even talking about him. He was 19 in 2007. 19! There were several reasons why he kept dropping, but none of them would warrant a complete removal of his name from top prospect lists. Shoot, Carl Crawford posted similar minor league numbers as Tabata (see Crawford’s minor league numbers here). Although Tabata will never steal 50 bases, 30 may not be out of the question.
Throughout his career, his BABIP has always been a tad high (.340), but this just may show a knack for hitting (Ichiro has a career .358 BABIP). Pittsburgh acquired him in 2008, Tabata has posted a 82:52 K:BB in 599 at-bats. This isn’t overly impressive, but the strikeout totals show a contact driven hitter who has improved on his lower minor ratios. If I were to make a comparison, it would be BJ Upton with more contact and less power, Carl Crawford with less speed, and Denard Span. With Jeff Clement and Steve Pearce currently struggling to man first base, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Garrett Jones shift to first with Tabata being called up to play right field. Need some more speed in your outfield? Didn’t drafted The Dread Pirate? Grab his twin brother, Jose Tabata.