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September 9, 2013

Monday Morning Ten Pack

The Prospects Who Disappointed

by Jason Parks and BP Prospect Staff

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This week's theme: prospects who disappointed in 2013.

Gary Sanchez, catcher, Yankees (Double-A Trenton)
We ranked Sanchez 47th in baseball coming into the season, and 26th overall in the mid-season update, but the latter had more to do with the promotion and attrition of his contemporaries than with his rising star. Sanchez is a frustrating prospect, one who possesses a high ceiling that comes at a high risk, and his performance in 2013 gave us a taste of both outcomes. The 20-year-old has the type of impact potential in the stick to warrant the high-6 OFP grade, but the makeup continues to produce mixed response, and despite owning some defensive skills, the overall projection behind the plate is cloudy. While it’s true that Sanchez is still extremely young and attempting to develop into a dual-threat player, the red flags in his game could limit his promise, both in the field and at the plate. He’s still a top 100 prospect in the game—and you can make a case for continued inclusion in the top 50—but his stock has slipped. —Jason Parks

Bubba Starling, outfield, Royals (Low-A Lexington)
I’ve been highly critical of Bubba Starling all season, starting with his poor showing in camp and continuing throughout his full-season debut. My biggest complaint about Starling is his pitch recognition skills [read: his ability to pick up the ball early out of the pitcher’s hand and react to the offering accordingly]. Starling’s athletic ability is no joke, which gives him a high ceiling and justifies the extreme bonus he received as a high first-round pick. But I really question Starling’s ability to hit a baseball, and that’s the one carrying tool that can make or break his career. His second-half performance offered a stronger pulse than his early season flat-line, but unless his bat-to-ball ability is a dormant monster waiting to erupt, I don’t see Starling developing into the type of the talent the Royals thought they were paying for when they dropped $7.5M back in 2011. —Jason Parks

Lewis Brinson, outfield, Rangers (Low-A Hickory)
Before the season, I wrote this about Brinson: “He has the skills to be the top prospect in the Rangers system next year, and at least 50 spots higher on the 101 list. He’s a high-risk prospect, so let’s not start exchanging promise rings yet. But the tools are loud and the projection extreme, so when and if it clicks, it has a chance to be disturbingly good. A role 7 (all-star) future isn’t a drug-fueled hallucination. Everything else I write that is non-baseball related might be, though. Just a heads-up.” Brinson flashed this role 7 talent during the season, showing natural ability in center field and impressive raw pop, but the swing-and-miss in his game was grotesque, as the 19-year-old struck out 191 times in only 122 games. That’s so ugly that I’m at a loss to think of another high-end prospect that produced so much whiff in Low-A and still managed to carve out a successful major-league career. Can you think of one? Without a more controlled swing and better contact, Brinson’s offensive upside will suffocate, and the visions of his role 7 future will be of the hallucinogenic variety after all. —Jason Parks

Courtney Hawkins, outfield, White Sox (High-A Winston-Salem)
We didn’t rank Courtney Hawkins in the pre-season 101, and several Texans questioned my loyalty to the state and requested to see my documentation. The bat-to-ball ability was always a red flag --especially against arm-side pitching--and the better the off-speed stuff, the less likely Hawkins is to make contact. Like Starling, pitch recognition could be a big issue, the type of neurological action that could doom his offensive attack before the ball even reaches his bat. The raw power is very big, and the big Texan played the entire year at an advanced level at the age of 19. But the contact ability and approach are very legit issues, and without substantial improvement (the kind I’m not sure are even possible given the specific nature of the issues [themselves]) Hawkins looks like a candidate to bust and not a candidate to bust out. —Jason Parks

Francisco Lindor, shortstop, Indians (Double-A Akron)
Before the bell that would trigger the exchange between second and third period, I slipped out of class to drop a special note to a special man, a perfectly folded dissertation of hope and happiness dropped into a locker located just off the main quad. While it’s hard to find a fatal flaw in his on-the-field game, Lindor’s failure to respond to my essay was the biggest disappointment of the 2013 season, one that left me stranded in an emotional purgatory. Despite suggestions to the contrary, I didn’t require his full acquiescence to my purported charms and opportunities of chance; rather, I only asked for an acknowledgment of receipt, a look, or a smile, or a paper memory that says, “Hey, I got the note. I really appreciate it. I am that excellent. Thanks for understanding that. I also love my smile.” Instead of a casual salute, I received the silent noir of nothing, and I’ve been a disconnected man as a result. That’s very disappointing. I just want to be whole. —Jason Parks

Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Double-A Arkansas (Angels)
The 21-year-old Cowart entered this season as the Angels’ top prospect but is unlikely to maintain that status after hitting a punchless .221/.279/.301 in 132 Double-A games. Despite this year’s poor performance, it’s too soon to write him off as a bust; he opened 2013 as the Texas League’s fourth-youngest player and still has perhaps the top tool-based ceiling in a thin Angels system.

A switch-hitter with a strong 6-foot-3 frame, Cowart has good bat speed, and he’s known to show a strong hit tool from the right side with plus raw power from the left. While he hit .279 as a righty this year, he was a harmless .202/.263/.277 as a lefty. One scout questioned Cowart’s pitch recognition and hand-eye coordination while adding that “he’s a tough one because his tools are better than he plays. He’s a talented player who just isn’t hitting.”

Cowart didn’t appear overmatched by Double-A pitching when I saw him in April––he was just a tick off-balance and wasn’t making solid contact. Whatever was wrong, the prospect will spend this offseason looking to right the ship and enter 2014––likely back at Arkansas––with a clean slate. —Jason Cole


Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Double-A Arkansas (Angels) – April 13, 2013 from Jason Cole on Vimeo.

Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Triple-A Reno (Diamondbacks)
The Diamondbacks expected bigger things out of Skaggs this season, hoping the 22-year-old southpaw would grab a full-time rotation spot and make an impact on the NL West race. That didn’t quite happen, as a poor spring training performance followed by a rocky campaign at Triple-A Reno led to only seven major-league starts in 2013. While Skaggs’ year wasn’t at all disastrous, he fell into some bad habits and didn’t take the step forward his club anticipated.

Despite Skaggs’ 4.73 ERA between Reno and Arizona this season, none of the evaluators I’ve spoken with is worried about him over the long haul; most still peg him as a mid-rotation starter. Skaggs still flashed good stuff this season, including an upper-80s/low-90s fastball, swing-and-miss curveball, and average-or-better changeup. His fastball command was inconsistent, however, and multiple scouts noted that he wasn’t being aggressive enough with the pitch.

Skaggs relied more heavily (too heavily, according to the scouts) on his off-speed stuff and didn’t attack like he has in the past. While his fastball isn’t a knockout pitch, his usage and location of it early in counts is key to setting up his quality secondaries. It’s not a complex adjustment to make in the grand scheme, and given the fact that Skaggs still shows a clean delivery and strong command profile, there isn’t much reason worry about his overall future. —Jason Cole

RHP Casey Kelly, RHP Joe Wieland, LHP Cory Luebke, San Diego Padres
The Padres have been short on starting pitching depth all season, and that’s largely because three of the club’s top young arms––Kelly, Wieland, and Luebke––were lost to Tommy John surgery. Kelly went under the knife on April 1, while Wieland and Luebke had their surgeries in 2012. San Diego expected the latter two to return during the second half of this season, but minor setbacks have pushed them to potential winterball stints or spring training 2014.

When healthy, all three pitchers should make an impact in the San Diego rotation. That especially includes Luebke, who appeared to be coming into his own as a mid-rotation starter with three plus offerings just prior to his injury in 2012. Kelly and Wieland are both pitchability righties with solid-average stuff who should slot comfortably into the back-end slots. Getting zero innings out of the trio was a blow for the 2013 Padres, but all three should be intriguing to watch next season. —Jason Cole

Trevor Story, SS, Rockies (High-A Modesto)
Story entered the year with a successful first full season under his belt. The reports highlighted a well-rounded tool set that was advanced for his age and showing progress. The baseball skills and feel for the game stood out, while the right-handed hitter had also begun to scratch the surface on translating his raw into game power. It was more than enough to put the 20-year-old shortstop at the top of Colorado’s system and also snag the 34th slot in our 2013 Top 101 Prospects. With a placement in the offensive paradise known as the California League awaiting Story, things seemed to be lined up for the offense to continue to swell and for the hype to be justified.

The body of work for Story in 2013 has proved to be a disappointment, however. The weaknesses and concerns in the prospect’s game entering the season have played at the forefront. The advanced tools have been behind the curve in High-A, especially Story’s hit tool. The swing-and-miss in the righty’s stroke was magnified to the tune of 183 strikeouts. The concerns about him expanding the zone and struggling with better soft stuff came true. Even his defense, which should be good enough to stick at the position, was scattered. The strides forward weren’t there, and the year can be seen as a step back. Now, we’ll have to see how well the young hitter can adjust, in what should be a repeat of the level in 2014 rather than a step up to Double-A. —Chris Mellen

Trevor Bauer, RHP, Indians (Triple-A Columbus)
Fourteen months ago everything appeared to be going according to plan. Trevor Bauer, just 120 innings into his pro career, had arrived in Arizona with a chance to establish himself as a mainstay in the Diamondbacks’ rotation. Despite his rapid ascension to Phoenix, Bauer’s brief tour through the minors hinted at areas that would require improvement in order for the former UCLA Bruin to find long-term success at the big league level—namely a walks-per-nine rate north of four and an almost obsessive desire to rack up strikeouts at the expense of pitch counts and at the risk of extending, and even giving away, at-bats.

These issues persisted at the major-league level and Bauer struggled to find even minimal success in his four-start cup of coffee with the Snakes. Worse, a growing rift between the young righty and the organization became public, with teammates, front office personnel, and ownership calling into question Bauer’s makeup while blaming his failures on his refusal to alter his personally-designed training regimen or incorporate instruction from the organization. Bauer returned to Triple-A Reno and once again enjoyed high strikeout rates and unimpressive walk rates while helping the Aces to a Triple-A championship. Even ending on that high note, the shadow of his MLB struggles remained through the offseason.

The rift had grown past the point of possible mending, and Bauer was shipped out of town in a three-way deal that brought a young defensive-minded shortstop (Didi Gregorius) and two throw-ins to Arizona. Arizona had given up on its “ace of the future” less than two years after spending the third overall pick in one of the most loaded draft classes in recent history, a signing bonus of $3.1 million, and a major-league deal worth north of $4 million over four years on the former Golden Spikes winner.

Fast forward to today, and the change of scenery has done little for Bauer. At the time of this writing he has managed just four starts with the Indians, again with abysmal results, and has additionally struggled even to repeat his previous Triple-A success. Bauer’s performance at Columbus this summer was worthy of a future middle reliever, with his continued strike-zone-phobia handcuffing evaluators wishing to project a future ability to turn over big league lineups. Further, Bauer saw a step back in his execution and production, with his strikeout rate dropping to less than a strikeout per inning, and his walk rate climbing above five walks per nine.

In short, 2013 could not have gone much worse for Bauer. Thought by many to be close to major-league ready upon drafting, he has now failed spectacularly in two brief stints, and appears to have at least temporarily stalled out, developmentally, at Triple-A. It’s time for Bauer to hit the reset button and perhaps reconsider his approach—not just on the mound, but to the game altogether. While his mechanics and preferred sequencing have worked for him against lesser hitters, it’s debatable whether his athleticism is up to the task of repeating such a complicated motion pitch-after-pitch, and if he isn’t routinely executing his offerings they are unlikely to hold much utility against discerning big-league bats. There is still a potential mid-rotation starter waiting to emerge—whether the Indians can find a way to bring that pitcher to the forefront is anybody’s guess. —Nick J. Faleris

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

35 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links


That was depressing as hell. And I didn't understand a word of the Lindor comment.

Sep 09, 2013 03:11 AM
rating: 7
Peter Hood

I agree. That made little sense and wasn't at all helpful.

Sep 09, 2013 04:44 AM
rating: 7

I thought it was funny. It isn't really going to tell you how likely Lindor is to become an All-Star, but that doesn't matter.

Sep 09, 2013 05:17 AM
rating: 9

Lewis Brinson makes me want to cry.

Sep 09, 2013 05:51 AM
rating: 0

For those who can't think of a super-high strikeout hitter making it in the big leagues, check out Glenallen Hill. Struck out over 200 times one year in the low minors.

Not a star, but he had a solid career.

Sep 09, 2013 06:51 AM
rating: 5
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

That's one guy who was a below average big leaguer from thirty years ago.

Sep 09, 2013 07:12 AM
rating: -5

The point being that it's not a great example for those who think there is a lot of hope for Brinson, or several of the other Hickory prospects who strike out a load, if the best example of someone who overcame massive-K problems is a below average player from a previous generation.

Sep 10, 2013 04:29 AM
rating: 0

These comments are #dry.

Sep 09, 2013 05:56 AM
rating: 2

I texted Francisco Lindor, and he says he likes Jason Parks, but he doesn't like him like him.

Sorry, bud.

Sep 09, 2013 05:59 AM
rating: 27
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Hummm...other than the comments on Hawkins. I can't believe I pay for this content. Stay off the drugs man.

Sanchez is playing two levels above age standard as is Cowart. Lindor on the other hand was promoted during the season and is also above his age normal league.

Sep 09, 2013 06:59 AM
rating: -16

What's your point? Being a level or two ahead of the expected level for their age is standard for relatively elite prospects. If players can't handle that, then it suggests they are not as good prospects as we previously thought.

Sep 09, 2013 07:11 AM
rating: -1

Kaleb Cowart went .221/.279/.580 at AA this year, and Taylor Lindsey who is the same age, went .274/.339/.441 on the same Arkansas team.

Like Cole said, he's not writing him off as a bust, but considering placing him at AA was an obvious choice given his personal development regardless of age, it takes some serious mental gymnastics to not consider this season not a disappointment.

Sep 09, 2013 09:17 AM
rating: 0

Lindor as a 19 y/o reaches double a with combined totals of 780 OPS at SS

Sanchez as a 20 y/o reaches double a with a combined 750 OPS at C

Those are not disappointing seasons. Wieters as an example played A/AA as a 22 year old, so lets see where Sanchez is at 22?

Sep 09, 2013 07:27 AM
rating: -3
John Carter

The major difference is Wieters was an outstanding minor league catcher defensively as is Lindor at shortstop. Sanchez has his struggles behind the plate and might not last there. Other differences: One year of age between Lindor and Sanchez at the same level is a big deal actually - and Lindor is batting .802 OPS in AA, while Sanchez is struggling at .724 - a stat you conveniently ignore. Wieters came right out of university to the professional ranks and overwhelmed those A+ and AA pitchers to the tune of .355/.445/.600. Wieters was a young 22 year old - he was 21 until that May 21st. Sanchez is an old 20. He'll be 21 in three months, so the difference is a half a year. This is Sanchez's fourth year as a pro after spending a year and a half in the South Atlantic, then a full season plus in the Florida State League. I wouldn't write him off, his K rate has gone down - but unfortunately so has his isolated power. His walk rate has improved in AA and I hear his defense is improving, too - that's good, but he's not comparable to Lindor now or Wieters when he was at the same level.

Sep 09, 2013 07:57 AM
rating: 2

Now do pray tell, did you actually see either of them play this season or get quotes from trustworthy people who did?
I'll trust BP and their sources over someone who took a cursory glance at B-Ref stat lines.

Sanchez has had cloudy makeup for a bit now, and his defense is shaky behind the plate currently.

Sep 09, 2013 09:26 AM
rating: 0
John Carter

The point of the Lindor comment is thus, I think: there is nothing disappointing about him. If you look at his hitting stats, which we all can do, he improved his hitting a tick after his promotion to high A, then kept right on hitting just as nicely in AA - and he's only 19. He makes this list, because he, perhaps, hasn't had as much ink as the other even faster progressing elite shortstop prospects namely: Bogaerts, Correa, Reed, and going back to early in the season: Profar and the non-elite Iglesias. So, he deserves to be mentioned somewhere. This was Jason's way of paying tribute to him - by pointing out he has nothing to seriously criticize about him. I thought it was fun and clever. Thanks.

Sep 09, 2013 07:32 AM
rating: 10

If nothing else it was entertaining. Would read again.

Sep 09, 2013 08:32 AM
rating: -1

Hasn't Skaggs lost velo? And wouldn't that be more troubling than the things mentioned here? Last week on their podcast Ben and Sam reviewed a list of pitchers whose fastball averaged below 90, and Skaggs was on the list. I'm pretty sure he sat 92-93 last year.

Sep 09, 2013 08:09 AM
rating: 1
BP staff member Jason Cole
BP staff

No - same velocity as last season.

Sep 09, 2013 08:12 AM

Appreciate the response, but still a bit confused. Velocity the same at 92-93 or 88-89?

Sep 09, 2013 11:13 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Jason Cole
BP staff

He'll touch the 92-93 on occasion but sits in the upper-80s – always has. Sorry about the short response, was on my phone. He's never been a big velocity guy but should be able to locate the fastball well enough to set up the secondaries and make him successful. He just seemed to shy away from the fastball at times this season. What the scouts told me is definitely backed up by the MLB numbers – he threw 70% FB in the majors last season to just 60% this year, and one scout I talked to felt it was even closer to 50% when he saw him in Triple-A.

Sep 09, 2013 11:21 AM

Thanks. One to keep an eye on. I'd like to see him get a clear shot at some significant major league innings next year.

Sep 09, 2013 11:25 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Jason Cole
BP staff

No problem. There's a good chance he does. As I wrote, that was the plan for this season before he just had a really poor performance in spring training and put himself in an early hole he never really dug out of. But the important thing is that the stuff is still there.

Sep 09, 2013 11:29 AM

i hope jason parks inspires an entire generation of scouts, so that in 50 years we can uncover official reports on prospects written in metaphor, allegory, and erotic fiction.

Sep 09, 2013 08:23 AM
rating: 16

... and homoerotica, please.

Sep 09, 2013 10:31 AM
rating: 1

This is on my wish list, too, right behind a giant asteroid knocking the earth off its orbit and extinguishing human life.

Sep 09, 2013 12:23 PM
rating: 0
Geoff Young


Sep 09, 2013 14:11 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

"When I want variety and style, I'll send you a personalized email requesting it. Until then, please provide my protein and my starch free from any form of creativity or color. Thanks again. Burp."

Sep 09, 2013 09:54 AM

The problem with Sanchez offensively (I can't speak to his defense) is the disappearance of his power. Had he hit another 2 or 3 HR in AA, combined with an improved K/BB rate, I don't think there would be any problems. He just stopped hitting HR. Now we can say this is due to moving up to AA, but he stopped in July, where he hit .205 with 3 DBL and 1 HR in the FSL. The Yankees decided to move him up at that point (did they think he was bored?) and he sort of improved offensively, except for the lack of power. So the question is: where did his power go?

Sep 09, 2013 11:06 AM
rating: 0
Brady Childs

Comps to Brinson's strikeout rate.

Max Stassi, Midwest League in 2010: 30.3%

Will Middlebrooks, New York-Penn League in 2008: 32.3%

Marcell Ozuna, New York-Penn League in 2010: 32.1%

Those are the only players who have made the Major Leagues that I could find with a strikeout rate anything remotely close to 38% in A ball.

Sep 09, 2013 12:18 PM
rating: 1

Russell Branyan had a 30% in 1996 (166 in 552 PA), so I feel like 38% is sort of amazing...

Sep 09, 2013 15:10 PM
rating: 2
BP staff member Jason Cole
BP staff

Also factor in Joey Gallo's 38 home runs and 37 percent strikeout rate. I'm kind of fascinated to see how these two guys develop.

Sep 09, 2013 16:08 PM

Larry Walker struck out in 32.4% of his at bats between the NYPL and the MWL as a 19 year old in 1986. He turned out alright.

Sep 09, 2013 16:54 PM
rating: 1
Pat Folz

Does your assessment of Courtney Hawkins' baseball future factor in his ability to backflip?

Sep 09, 2013 22:52 PM
rating: 0

Excellent point. Flipping is a better measure of potential that his OPS or RAR.

Sep 10, 2013 06:49 AM
rating: -3
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