Storylines in Minor League Baseball are sometimes too good to ignore. Take this past Wednesday, for example, when Sacramento (OAK) battled Tacoma (SEA) in an 18-inning Pacific Coast League affair. The game got away from the managers as it reached deep into extras. Having exhausted their respective bullpens, both skippers resorted to calling on position players to take the mound. Tacoma opened the top half of the 18th with Scott Stavastano, a utility player, on the bump. The 26-year-old pitched a clean frame; 1-2-3. Sacramento countered with outfielder Shane Peterson on the mound for the bottom half. Peterson had struck out the first batter when Stavastano, the utility man/pitcher of record came to the plate in a 1-1 tie. You probably can guess where I’m headed with this — Stavastano worked a full count, then bombed. A walk off to give himself the W on the box. Neat stuff.Please, blog, may I have some more?
This is always painful, but it’s also necessary. What follows is a look back at my preseason prospect rankings — a self audit, if you will. To be clear, this isn’t a re-ranking or anything, but it should suffice to remind all of you that I am mostly stupid. Please keep in mind that these guys are very early in their careers, and there is plenty of time for each to either figure it out, or get figured out. Anyway, let’s cut to it:
1.Please, blog, may I have some more?
Many saw Mark Appel as the odds-on No. 1 overall pick in last month’s First Year Player Draft. Signability concerns, however, caused his stock to slip, and the tall, athletic RHP out of Stanford fell to Pittsburgh at No. 8 overall. In retrospect, he should’ve fallen further, as Appel refused a signing bonus worth $3.8 million, opting to return to Stanford for his senior season. Must be frustrating for Pirates fans. A larger offer from the club would’ve forfeited their 1st-round pick for 2013 under the new CBA terms. Instead, their first selection for 2012 was for naught. With arms like Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole already in their minor league ranks, the addition of Appel would’ve given Pittsburgh one of the most impressive collection of starting pitching prospects in the game. Certainly much of the frustration here needs to be directed toward MLB’s new draft slotting system. After paying above-slot bonuses to several later-round picks, the Pirates were handcuffed when it came time to negotiate with Appel and his agent Scott Boras. Still, better foresight from Pittsburgh a month ago could’ve avoided this unfortunate situation. Appel should be near the top of next year’s class once again. For more on him, here’s a brief scouting report I wrote pre-draft.Please, blog, may I have some more?
George Springer | OF, Astros | Born: 9/19/1989
Drafted 11th overall a year ago out of UConn, George Springer wasn’t the typical, well-polished collegiate product we’re used to seeing go in the first couple rounds. No, Springer’s skill set more closely resembled that of a high-ceiling high school prospect — strong, athletic, toolsy, but still raw. Houston’s previous baseball ops regime drafted him with the understanding that his development would require more patience than most guys his age. It was one of a handful of moves from the lame duck front office that current GM, Jeff Luhnow, would be thankful for. Maybe this all suggests that Ed Wade and his crew made their best moves after they’d stopped caring. Or maybe they’d finally figured out what they were doing, but too late to keep their jobs. Either way, Luhnow was gifted with a head start on his rebuilding process. And George Springer is hugely important to that process, indeed.Please, blog, may I have some more?
Transparency isn’t a strong suit of Major League front offices, nor should it be. Nowhere is this fact more glaring than in the case of the Kansas City Royals and the immediate future of top hitting prospect Wil Myers. The Royals have insisted that they’ll practice patience with Myers and let him marinate in Omaha for the duration of the season. Meanwhile, in Jeff Francoeur, KC holds an outstanding trade chip — an experienced bat who’ll undoubtedly be pursued by contenders across the bigs. The Royals have been pretty wishy-washy regarding Francouer’s availability, but with guys like Kevin Youkilis and Carlos Lee off the market already, one would imagine that buyers will look aggressively toward the veteran outfielder. Kansas City will be hearing offers for Frenchy, indeed, and I’m thinking there’s a good possibility he’ll be shipped out. And if this scenario plays out, the path will be cleared for Myers, who continues to post monstrous numbers at Triple-A. There’s still plenty of uncertainty surrounding this situation — a trade of this sort might not even be necessary for a Myers call-up. Nonetheless, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on the KC rumor mill during the coming weeks.Please, blog, may I have some more?
By the numbers, Manny Machado struggled through his first two months of Double-A baseball. It seemed like most nights I looked at Bowie’s box, Machado’s line was 0-fer. But then I’d read something from the O’s about how his current production was of no concern, that he was tweaking his approach, that scouts are still encouraged. Still, it’s hard not to be a little worried when the guy I ranked No.Please, blog, may I have some more?
Carlos Martinez | RHP, Cardinals | Born: 9/21/1991
The Cardinals entered 2012 with a couple of aces-in-the-making within their minor league ranks. Both Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez were viewed as five-star-type pitching prospects, very near to the can’t-miss variety. Well, we know now that Triple-A has been quite the learning experience for Miller — his struggles have been so severe of recent that the Cards are skipping his turn in the Memphis rotation so he can work on mechanical issues. With Miller’s development reaching a lapse for the first time, St.Please, blog, may I have some more?
The Rangers have promoted two pitchers from their minor league ranks to fill openings in the big league rotation. Familiar fantasy face, Roy Oswalt, is one of the two. The other is 23-year-old Justin Grimm, who debuted last week and was rather effective. Grimm was having a nice campaign in Double-A — nothing eye-popping, but he was among the most efficient pitchers in the Texas League, which is surely why the Rangers are giving him a look. I’m not so sure he’s worth the same look in the fantasy game, however. He’s slotted to throw twice next week, so if you’re two-start streaming… whatever. But he’s hardly rosterable outside of AL-Only formats. What’s interesting to note here is that Grimm leaped over the Rangers’ top pitching prospect Martin Perez. Perez had been having a lousy year in the PCL, so it’s not necessarily surprising that Grimm was given the nod, but the move seems to have ignited Perez. He’s surrendered only two runs through his last two outings, one of those being a complete game (only 90 pitches, too). Featuring a plus fastball with sneaky velocity, a plus-plus change, and a sharp curve, Perez has frontline stuff. It’s hard to say how long the Rangers will have room for either Grimm or another arm, but if Perez continues this recent hot streak, I’m confident he’ll supplant Grimm. Should that scenario come to pass, add Perez in all formats.Please, blog, may I have some more?
The fantasy baseball world waits impatiently for the arrivals of Anthony Rizzo and Wil Myers. Some owners have been stashing one or the other on their rosters for months now, as folks like me keep spewing lines like “arrival is imminent” — whatever that means. Truth is, these call-ups are utterly unpredictable. They’re based more on opportunity than readiness, and “opportunity”, it seems, is defined differently by every GM in baseball. Both Jed Hoyer and Dayton Moore are claiming patient approaches with their prospects, hinting that we won’t see either player in the majors this year. But who can believe these guys? Rizzo and Myers have combined for 55 homers on the season, and I’d love to see them join Trout and Harper in MLB’s 2012 prospect party. When that might happen, though, is tough to gauge. Until then, arrival is imminent.Please, blog, may I have some more?
Jorge Soler | OF, Cubs | Born: 2/25/1992
On Monday, the Cubs finalized terms with Cuban outfield prospect Jorge Soler. The $30 million contract will span nine years, and on the front-end, it appears to be a fantastic deal for the Cubs. The long term nature of the signing puts zero pressure on Chicago to rush the 20-year-old to the bigs. They’ll be able to develop him gradually, to ease him into stateside baseball. After this signing, plus a nice take at last week’s draft, and then assuming the pieces they’ll fetch in trades for Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster, the rebuilding efforts of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are clearer than ever. Were I a Cubs fan, I’d be giddy about the future. I’m not. No, I’m a Cardinals fan and I loathe the damn Cubs, so this all frightens me a bit. Nonetheless, here’s a little of what to expect from the Northsiders’ newest prospect:
Standing 6-3, 225, Soler profiles as a big, athletic corner outfielder. Plus arm strength makes right field his most likely destination, but he’ll spend time at all three outfield posts on his way through the minors. The real attraction here is the bat. Soler’s ability to hit for average is the most debated tool in his arsenal. Some think he’ll fare ok in that regard, and some think the whiffs will pile up and he’ll struggle. No one, however, denies his power potential. Soler possesses raw power, which many liken to that of Giancarlo Stanton. That sort of pop will play big in the fantasy game. The Cubs will be patient with him, though. They’ll keep him in Arizona for instructional ball for a good month before they send him to A-ball (probably Low-A Peoria). If everything goes as planned, Soler arrives at Wrigley sometime in 2014.Please, blog, may I have some more?