September 13, 2013
Covering the Call-Ups, Part Two
We’ve devoted full articles to the most promising prospects promoted to the majors late this season, but we're offering scouting and fantasy takes on the best of the rest in a two-part series. The pitchers ran yesterday. Here are the position players.
JR Murphy, C, Yankees
Scouting Take: A converted infielder, Murphy has made significant progress as a defender behind the plate, but even that progress leaves him as an adequate defensive catcher. His arm is just average and while he shows occasional quickness with his feet, pop times in the 1.95-2.00 range are relatively unique for Murphy. His receiving is not clean and there is still work to be done to polish his defensive tools. Offensively, Murphy has the balance and strength in his swing to project as a fringe-average hitter with average overall power once he settles into the big leagues. He makes frequent contact and has solid pitch recognition skills that should allow him to contribute in the bottom third of an MLB lineup. —Mark Anderson
Fantasy Take: Sandwiched between past Yankees Catcher Of The Future Austin Romine and current Yankees Catcher Of The Future Gary Sanchez, Murphy quietly produced in the upper minors this season. The 22-year-old hit .269/.347/.426 while basically splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A. Now in the majors, Murphy isn’t a threat for any serious playing time in 2013 but could factor into the Yankees’ catching plans in 2014. He’ll never be a top-10 option in mixed leagues, but he could perform at that level in AL-only formats, and that could happen in short order. It’s not a terribly sexy ceiling, but such is life with fantasy backstops. —Ben Carsley
Josmil Pinto, C, Twins
Scouting Take: After flying under the radar in scouting circles for the better part of his career, Pinto exploded at Double-A and Triple-A in 2013. Pinto’s knowledge of the strike zone and ability to get the barrel to the ball have led to lofty batting averages and good on-base ability, a trend that should continue at the highest level. While he likely won’t hit .300 in the majors, Pinto identifies enough pitches he can drive and does enough damage with them that he could hit .280 with 12-15 home runs a year. His defense is solid, though unspectacular, and there are plenty of people across the industry that believe Pinto could be a solid everyday catcher carried more by his bat than his average glove. —Mark Anderson
Fantasy Take: Just because small samples can be hilariously misleading doesn’t mean they can’t also be fun. Right now, the Twins’ catcher has an .542 BABIP in 30 at-bats in his major-league career—and while that clearly won’t even come close to continuing, there is some real value here. Pinto began to show signs of offensive improvement last season, but it wasn’t until this year at Double-A that he really showed a big step forward. In 107 games there, he hit .308/.411/.482 with 14 homers and 68 RBI. With Joe Mauer becoming increasingly unlikely to return this season, Pinto should get his share of at-bats down the stretch. And while it likely won't be enough to get him much attention in most formats, AL-only and deep mixed players should consider taking the leap while he's stroking the ball well. And as far as dynasty leaguers go, he makes for a nice stash in leagues where more than 15 catchers are active heading into 2014--especially if he can be held in a minor-league spot. —Bret Sayre
Jose Ramirez, 2B, Indians
Scouting Take: Jumping all the way to Double-A as a 20-year-old – and skipping High-A – can be a daunting test for any prospect, but Ramirez handled the move by continuing to show a feel for contact, good speed and solid work with the glove. Ramirez’s ability to get the bat on the ball stands out at first sight, and he has the potential to be a .280-plus hitter at the big-league level. He has little power and projects for minimal on-base ability against advanced pitching, but his hit tool gives him a chance to play. Defensively, he handles the keystone well, though some scouts note that he struggles on the pivot because of a below-average arm and, at times, a slow transfer. Ramirez is an above-average runner who could swipe 20-25 bases playing every day. With a tough profile that is highlighted only by an ability to make contact, Ramirez will have a tough road ahead if he wants an everyday role, but he has a chance to be a fringe regular. —Mark Anderson
Fantasy Take: I covered Ramirez in my Fantasy Fool’s Gold series yesterday, and while you should never judge a book by its cover, it’s okay to judge Ramirez’ fantasy worth by the title of that series. Long story short: Ramirez might not be strong enough to handle MLB pitching, he’s not yet a skilled base stealer, and the Indians might be planning to use him in a super-sub role. He’s not relevant in any leagues right now. —Ben Carsley
Cameron Rupp, C, Philadelphia Phillies
Scouting Take: A former University of Texas standout, Rupp hasn’t found himself on many prospect lists since joining the professional ranks as a third-round selection in 2010. Regardless, he’s climbed the minor-league ranks with four solid-but-unspectacular seasons with the bat while showing good catch-and-throw skills behind the dish. The 24-year-old backstop’s solid receiving skills and plus arm give him a chance to stick in a reserve role long term. His swing can be exploited by plus stuff and renders his bat fringy at best, though he does have some raw juice in his 6-foot-1, 240-pound frame. Rupp posted a .258/.318/.437 slash line between the Double- and Triple-A levels this season, socking 14 home runs in 94 games. Philadelphia will head into this offseason with plenty of questions surrounding its catching corps, and that could provide Rupp an opportunity to battle for the backup job next spring. —Jason Cole
Fantasy Take: While Rupp produced a wRC+ of 103 at Triple-A this season (not all bad, from a catcher), his slash line of .269/.309/.423 was accompanied by a 28 percent strikeout rate against a five percent walk rate. Not ideal numbers for projecting success. While Sebastian Valle and Tommy Joseph didn’t separate themselves, you’d be hard pressed to think that Rupp is the catcher of the future for the Phillies. He’s not worth a flier in any league. —Craig Goldstein
Marcus Semien, SS, White Sox
Scouting Take: Semien offers excellent feel for the strike zone and solid ability to make contact, but in the eyes of most scouts, that might not be enough to make him a viable big-league regular. Semien is a solid hitter but he can be beat by good velocity and doesn’t project to carry his minor-league power to the big leagues, leaving him as a .270-.280 hitter who will be challenged by major-league pitchers because they will have little reason to truly fear him. In addition to the questions about his bat, Semien doesn’t have the lateral quickness, hands, or arm strength to stick at shortstop over the long haul. The combination of an average hit tool, decent on-base ability, nominal power and suspect left-side defense leaves Semien with more of a utility profile than that of a quality regular. —Mark Anderson
Fantasy Take: Damning with faint praise aside, Semien is one of the better prospects in the White Sox system. The shortstop reached the majors within three seasons on the strength of a good eye at the plate and natural bat-to-ball ability. While his tools may not be the loudest, eligibility at shortstop boosts his value a bit. He could be a worth a flier in middle-to-deep leagues thanks to his on-base ability and modest pop, but he won’t help you in speed, so keep your expectations in line. His long-term outlook places him as a utility man or a low-level starter. —Craig Goldstein
Zach Walters, SS, Nationals
Scouting Take: The Diamondbacks certainly didn’t see this type of production coming from Walters when they traded him to the Nationals in 2011 for Jason Marquis. Scouts believed that Walters had more power in his game than he had shown before (his previous career high in home runs was 12), but few had him pegged as being a 30-homer guy. Part of the speculation was whether his raw power would translate to game given his ultra-aggressive approach at the plate. Frankly, Walters would swing at you if you walked down the street in red stripes. That lack of plate discipline led to a 134 Ks against just 20 walks this season, giving him a stat-line J.J. Hardy would be proud of. Walters should be able to stay at shortstop, but the Nationals already have a pretty good free-swinging shortstop and appear to have Anthony Rendon committed to second base for the near future. Walters has the athleticism to play just about anywhere on the field other than center field and catcher, so his versatility, switch-hitting ways and power potential could make him a heck of a bench player/utility man, a role where his plate discipline won’t be as important. —Jeff Moore
Fantasy Take: At 23 years old, Walters mashed in Triple-A, launching 29 home runs from the generally glove-first position of shortstop. Add that he wasn’t even playing in the cartoonish environs of the PCL, and you might be wondering why he hasn’t generated more buzz. Well, a sub-4-percent walk rate, resulting in a .286 OBP, is one reason. A 26 percent strikeout rate is another. None of this is to say he still couldn’t be valuable, despite the low on-base percentage, as he did slug .517 at Triple-A. Walters’ 29 homers bested his previous career best by 17 home runs, so we’ll have to wait and see if this is an aberration or not. Fortunately, we’ll likely find out next year, as the Nationals aren’t moving Ian Desmond any time soon. —Craig Goldstein
Mark Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Jason Cole is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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