Note: As I explained yesterday, I’m in Mexico. Turns out, the internet blows here. Being so, I haven’t included the usual Baseball-Reference links. Apologies. (*They have been added – Ed.)
July 2nd marked the opening of the international signing period, which is a facet of player procurement that probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves. We spend a lot of time mouthing off on the June draft, but when you look at the names near the top of prospect lists – Oscar Taveras, Miguel Sano, Jurickson Profar – it’s difficult to discount the significance of the 2nd of July. It’s important to note that this signing window is not limited to just one day – contracts for various Dominican ballplayers, Venezuelan ballplayers, etc., will keep trickling in over the next weeks. But, for the most part, the action is concentrated to the 2nd. This year featured a nice crop of young international prospects, but the prized piece, Eloy Jimenez, signed with the Cubs. Jimenez, from the Dominican, profiles as a corner outfielder with the potential to become a monster in the fantasy game. At 16 years old, though, clearly there’s a long way to go.
Mark Appel | RHP, Astros — Appel made his long-anticipated pro debut on Friday, lasting 2 innings, allowing 3 hits and 2 runs. These short outings will probably be the norm for the 21-year-old in his first year of pro ball. I wrote some notes on Appel as part of a draft prospects preview earlier this season. Click that link to read ’em.
Braden Shipley | RHP, D’Backs — Shipley, too, made his pro debut on Tuesday, tossing 2 scoreless frames, striking out two, and walking no one. For more on the 15th overall selection from last month’s draft, click here.
Brandon Nimmo / Carlos Correa – I explained last week about the final vote for the Futures Game rosters. The fans elected Nimmo for the final spot on the US roster, and Correa to the World squad. I voted for neither.
Will Middlebrooks | 3B, Red Sox — Middlebrooks is doing his best to prove that he belongs back in the bigs, posting two multi-homer games over the past week at Triple-A. Surely he’s feeling some added pressure, given the extremely talented Xander Bogaerts, who’s playing alongside him at Pawtucket.
Taijuan Walker | RHP, Mariners — Through two Triple-A starts, Walker is yet to allow a run. His most recent outing was especially impressive: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K. I still think the M’s will hold him back until next season, but if he keeps pitching at this level, a September call-up is plausible.
Archie Bradley | RHP, D’Backs — Arizona GM Kevin Towers has made it clear that Bradley is an option for 2013. He’s been the most dominant starting pitcher in the minors this season, and if he happens to arrive, he’s a must-own in every fantasy format.
Marcus Stroman | RHP, Blue Jays — Stroman flashed some of his huge whiff potential on Tuesday, fanning 13 batters in 6.2 IP. He still looks like a dominant late-innings guy to me, but it’s definitely encouraging to see him have some success as a starter.
Lucas Giolito | RHP, Nationals – Giolito was perhaps the biggest upside arm in the 2012 draft, but elbow kept him from being drafted as such. The Nats took a chance with him, and sure enough, Giolito ended up needing TJ surgery before the year was through. The 18-year-old returned to action on Wednesday, earning only 1 out, while allowing 1 hit and 2 free passes in the GCL complex league. It wasn’t the return we were hoping for, but it’s good to see him out there throwing again. His ceiling remains enormous.
Byron Buxton | OF, Twins – Buxton has transitioned quite nicely to High-A baseball. Through his first eight games with Fort Myers, the 19-year-old is hitting .400/.417/.553, and he notched his first homer on Friday. While Oscar Taveras sits out with injury, Buxton is making a strong case to be considered the best prospect in the game.