Happy Hump Day (cue the Geico camel) fellow prospect hounds! Another week of minor league action is in the books as the top prospects continue jockeying for spots on various “up and coming” lists, and try to better position themselves for promotions closer to their ultimate goal — a call to “The Show”. Time for our weekly look at some of the prospects that have made some noise recently in the hope of climbing a little closer to the big leagues, whether that step ultimately comes this season or a little further down the road. Refill your coffee cup, get comfortable, and let us guide your continuing research as we try to help you scoop your fellow fantasy competitors with our Wednesday Twelve-Pack.
We’ll start by mentioning the obvious, Cubs fans that follow me on Twitter got the news Monday afternoon that Javier Baez was on his way to join the big club in Denver for last night’s game. Batting second and playing 2B (where he likely winds up for the long haul at this point), he struck out against Brett Anderson in the 1st, grounded out to Nolan Arrenado in the 3rd, struck out against Franklin Morales in the 4th and 6th, and lined out to Brandon Barnes in RF with the bases loaded in the 7th against Matt Belisle after the Rockies pen imploded and walked half the guys on the Cubs’ 40-Man Roster. (EDIT: Baez did deliver his first big league hit, a solo shot off of Boone Logan in the top of the 12th, and was 1-6 with 3 Ks at publishing deadline.) Don’t fret Chicago hopeful, Kris Bryant isn’t far behind.
A couple of the guys we’ll take a look at this week had help clearing their way when the smoke cleared on one of the wackier non-waiver trade deadline days in memory as players on their organizations’ big-club rosters were moved. The deals won’t necessarily create immediate openings for them at the MLB-level, but they’ll help move timetables and ETAs along. Here’s who I’m watching closer going into week 19…
1.) Kris Bryant, 3B, CHC
Player/Coach Manny Ramirez is going to have plenty of time to focus on Jorge Soler’s development soon Iowa Cubs followers. With Almora and Baez having already received their calls and the trading deadline passed, Theo and Jed have bumped Bryant’s number to the top of their speed-dial list. Kris has slashed .387/.548/.774/1.322 over his last ten games, clubbing half of his hits for extra bases (3 2Bs, 3 HRs) with an 8/10 BB/K Ratio. He’ll be in Chicago before September.
2.) Brian Johnson, LHSP, BOS
Johnson’s now delivered back-to-back gems for Portland (AA) following his dominant start Monday – 8 shutout IP, with 5 Ks and 0 BBs to go with his 7.1 IP, 1 earned run on one hit start last week. With several Pitchers above him on Boston’s Pitching Totem Pole, I’m not sure where he needs to go now, but it’s definitely somewhere other than the Eastern League. He’s sporting a 3/1 K/BB Ratio over his last 10 appearances while limiting opposing hitters to a .189 BA. He may be trade-bait before the smoke clears, but he should get a shot at cracking someone’s big league rotation after the break next season.
3.) Lucas Giolito, RHSP, WAS
While Lucas struggled a little bit yesterday, he remains on the fast-track to Nationals’ Park. He’s now struck out 94 SALLY League hitters in 83 IP. He should see a couple starts a little closer to the decision-makers with Potomac (Hi-A) before the Nats shut him down for the season so they can get a better feel for exactly how fast they want to push him in 2015.
4.) Addison Russell, SS, CHC
Russell now sits at number two on the aforementioned Chicago brain-trust speed dial following Baez’ promotion. After a bit of a slow start following the trade and his assignment to Tennessee, Addison’s started to catch fire. He’s hit 2 2Bs and 3 HRs in his last 41 ABs to go along with his .341/.372/.610/.982 slash covering his last ten games. He may not see meaningful time in Wrigley before the end of this season, but Theo and Jed are going to have to finish position juggling while deciding which SPs they intend to spend around $200 million on this winter because Addison may be ready to join the other kids in the Cubs’ Opening Day lineup next April.
5.) Aristides Aquino, OF, CIN
Aquino continues terrorizing Pioneer League (Rookie) Pitchers and has hit 4 2Bs and 3 bombs while driving in 9 runs during his last 10 games. Like most of the young power threats we look at there’s plenty of swing-and-miss in his game, but that will hopefully become less evident when he begins to grasp the strike zone better as he gains more experience. It appears that the league hasn’t developed a better book on him with second and third looks as his .300/.349/.634/.992 slash line over those last 10 games falls right in line with the numbers he put up through the first 35 games this season.
6.) Trea Turner, SS, SDP
Enjoy Trea for a few more days Fort Wayne Tin Caps faithful – his Midwest League (Lo-A) time should be coming to a close soon. Turner’s in the midst of a 13 game hitting streak, and his 3 hit night Monday gives him a slash line of .477/.521/.750/1.271 with 7 runs scored, 6 2Bs, 2 HRs, and 3 SBs (17/20 on the season) over his last 10 games. He should start 2015 at AA San Antonio with a realistic shot at becoming the Padres’ regular SS after the All-Star break if Everth Cabrera doesn’t start showing signs of life soon.
7.) Jose Urena, RHSP, MIA
In what’s been described as a “surprising move”, the Marlins DFA’d Jacob Turner earlier this afternoon. I can’t imagine he makes it through waivers unclaimed, but the Miami brass may have a hush-hush deal worked out with one of the teams with the earliest shots at claiming him. If he’s dealt, Urena may well get a look before the end of the season. Jose’s coming off back-to-back spectacular outings for AA Jacksonville – a pair of 7 shutout inning efforts, allowing only 8 hits total while striking out 11 against only 2 walks. Urena’s yet another young Marlins’ arm with a mid-90s fastball and a plus changeup. If his breaking ball continues to improve he could be a rotation candidate next spring.
Drury and Lamb just keep hitting, and with Martin Prado now playing RF in the Bronx there’s no reason we shouldn’t expect to see Lamb getting some time at the hot corner with the big club while Drury slides into his spot at AAA Reno. Over his last 4 games Lamb is slashing .533/.563/.933/1.496 with 3 2Bs and a HR while Drury’s delivered at a .308/.357/.846/1.203 clip while smacking a 2B and 2 HRs over the same period. Look for the two of them to wage a battle for the regular job during camp next spring.
9.) Jon Gray, RHSP, COL
The #3 overall pick in last year’s Draft is coming off arguably his best start at AA Tulsa – 7 IP, allowing 2 hits and 1 earned run while striking out 6 and walking 3. He’s likely going to get a few starts at altitude before he’s shut down with an eye toward giving him a shot at claiming a rotation slot during camp next spring. Some of those starts may come at AAA Colorado Springs, but I expect him to get at least one start for the big club before the book is closed on his 2014 campaign.
10.) Cody Bellinger, 1B, LAD
The power will take some time to develop, but 8 of Bellinger’s 29 hits have gone for extra bases, so there’s reason to think it will come as Cody learns more about loft and turning on the inside pitch. Through 18 Pioneer League games at Ogden he’s slashing .363/.422/.500/.922 with 15 RBIs and 24 runs scored. As a 6’4″/180 lb. 19 year old, there’s also hope that he’s still got some filling out to do.
11.) Willy Adames, SS, TBR
Adames is the wildcard the Rays received in the much-maligned three-way David Price deal late Thursday afternoon. He didn’t crack BA’s preseason Tigers’ Top 10 list, but has had some helium of late. Signed out of the Dominican Republic, the Tigers were aggressive with his first full-season assignment – starting the 18 year old at West Michigan (Hi-A) this season where he was slashing .269/.346/.428/.774 with 14 2Bs, 12 3Bs, 6 HRs, and 50 RBIs in 353 ABs. He’ll continue his Midwest League work with Tampa’s Bowling Green affiliate, and could well be the Rays’ SS of the future if he doesn’t outgrow the position.
12.) Sean Manaea, LHSP, KCR
The Royals’ 2013 First Rounder seems to finally be beginning to settle in at the professional level. A player considered a Top 5 talent, he slipped to the Royals at #34 overall after injuring his hip labrum late in his Junior season at Indiana State and didn’t pitch professionally at all last season following surgery to repair it. Manaea has struggled with control (49 BBs in 89.2 IP) since his return but has shown flashes of the dominance that led to his pre-draft hype by striking out 10.9 batters per 9, and is coming off his best performance at Wilmington (Lo-A) – 7.1 scoreless IP allowing only 4 hits while striking out 7 and only walking one. He’s only allowed 12 hits over his last three starts covering 19.1 innings with an 18/8 K/BB Ratio and has only given up 1 ER over that stretch.