September 4, 2014
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 here.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, RHP, Phillies
Scouting Take: The Cuban import entered 2014 having not thrown a competitive pitch since he left his home country. Gonzalez’s medicals revealed some injury concerns that prompted the Phillies to rework his deal and turn him into a reliever this year. He worked in the low 90s as a starter but can work in the mid-90s as a reliever. He also has a splitter and a spotty breaking ball. The Phillies still have plans to convert him back into a starter next year but he’ll have to tighten up the command and work on the breaking ball. —Mauricio Rubio
Fantasy Take: He’s going to be used out of the bullpen for Philly. Gonzalez was signed out of Cuba as a starter but he experienced arm tightness and shoulder soreness that required a DL trip. The Phillies converted him into a relief role and that’s where he’ll contribute this year. Gonzalez showed some swing and miss ability in the minors but he also displayed a lack of command. The Phillies closer situation is on lockdown with Jonathan Papelbon and Ken Giles so he’s really only an asset in NL Only if you need to gamble and keep your ratios down. In Dynasty formats he’s a spec play as the Phillies still want Gonzalez to start, but he’s still a long ways a way from that. —Mauricio Rubio
Terrance Gore, OF, Royals
Scouting Take: Terrance Gore was called up for one reason - to pinch run. Gore does not have the typical tool set of a prospect, with a hit tool grading as a 3 and no power whatsoever. However, his 80 speed is truly one of the most elite tools in the game. I have routinely clocked Gore with times less than 3.70, which is otherworldly. Just to put this in perspective, those speeds are faster than Billy Hamilton. Gore can play a formidable defense in the outfield as well, but his calling card will serve as a pinch runner for the Royals down the stretch. —Tucker Blair
Fantasy Take: Gore won’t get many (if any) starts in the outfield for Kansas City. He’s going to be a pinch runner for the slow guys pretty exclusively. The good news is that he can really, really run. He might be faster than Billy Hamilton. The bad news is that role makes him relevant in AL Only formats and even then it’s as a one category contributor. He’ll be fun to watch though. —Mauricio Rubio
Gary Brown, OF, Giants
Scouting Take: It was only a few years ago when Gary Brown was considered one of the most intriguing prospects in the game. However, he struggled to make the appropriate adjustments at the higher levels. Brown looks more like a 4th outfield ceiling now than anything. His bat is not impact and he lacks a consistent swing while failing to recognize spin and above-average secondary offerings. On the bright side, Brown has always played a plus center field, and will likely play the role of defensive replacement moving forward this season. —Tucker Blair
Fantasy Take: This would have been so much more fun if Brown was a real fantasy prospect anymore and this was 2012. Unfortunately, it's not 2012. Brown has sputtered out at the plate over the past two seasons in the upper minors and we're left with a fantasy ghost, likely incapable of providing value outside of the deepest of NL-only leagues. He strikes out too much to provide batting average, his power is middling even in the PCL, and he's an unreliable basestealer, despite having the speed for it (he's been successful in less than 64 percent of his attempts in the last three seasons). On top of that, he's not even looking at playing time—with the Giants plugging Juan Perez in there instead of the guy they supposedly wouldn't trade for Carlos Beltran. Oh what could have been. —Bret Sayre
Yorman Rodriguez, OF, Reds
Scouting Take: If it seems like the lithe outfielder has been on the prospect radar forever, that is in fact true. Rodriguez came over to the US as a 16 year old in 2009. While there have certainly been some bumps in the road in the low minors, the promise that he showed as a teenager is starting to bear fruit. Aside from the hit tool, which will struggle to get to major league average, all of the 22 year old outfielder's other tools grade out above average or plus. He has plus, plus raw power, plus speed, a plus arm, and even though he profiles better in a corner, may be able to stick in center field for the near term. Certainly, a discernible gap lies between the prospect's current tools and his big league future. In the case the hit tool manifests, and he can overcome some plate discipline issues, this is a first division profile. However, if Rodriguez struggles to make solid contact, he's versatile enough to be an extra outfielder who can contribute some pop off the bench and play all three outfield spots. —Jordan Gorosh
Fantasy Take: It’s nice to see Rodriguez striking out more and walking fewer this season, but he seems to have lost some power along with that change in approach, hitting just nine homers in 2014 after he mashed 17 a year ago. That’s a bummer for fantasy purposes, as it was Rodriguez’s modest blend of power and speed that made him a somewhat intriguing fantasy prospect. Right now, Rodriguez looks like a guy who could contribute enough in the four counting stats to make a so-so average tolerable in really deep mixed or NL-only leagues. But he’s safe to ignore across a wide majority of formats right now, and figures to be a non-factor for at least the first half of 2015 as well. —Ben Carsley
Steven Moya, RF, Tigers
Scouting Take: If I didn't know any better, I'd have sworn that Steven Moya was a stretch four in the NBA, or a stand up rush end in the NFL. He's one of the largest humans I've encountered on a baseball field, standing every bit of 6'7 250. Touted for having 80 grade raw power, Moya popped 35 homers in AA Erie, and most of them weren't "just enoughs." While the Dominican outfielder offers plenty of power projection at the plate, his hit tool may prohibit him from having big league success. His barrel control and barrel accuracy have taken a step forward in 2014, as those were always a caveat. Yet, the strike zone command is an abomination, and with a zone that's around five inches larger than the average player, that's not a desirable quality. Moya's swing can get long, the trigger can be slow, and anything hard in, or up in the zone has given Moya big time problems. It's been a struggle for the huge prospect to stay on the field, as this was the first year in six that he eclipsed the 400 plate appearance plateau. It's hard to envision Moya as a big league regular due to his limited hit tool in addition to the very raw approach, and frankly, the track record of players his size having success in the major leagues is limited. —Jordan Gorosh
Video of Moya
Fantasy Take: Moya likely has fantasy owners on the edge of their seats. After all, he’s unheralded enough to fly under the radar, thanks to both a lack of hype and lack of time on the field, but potent enough to mash for major power at any level. He’s not worth tabbing in 2014, and anything beyond should view him as a lottery ticket more than a tangible asset. His power is legitimate, but it functions far lower, and there’s not enough in his profile to make him worthwhile otherwise (see his career high 21 unintentional walks this year). The power is a carrying tool, and it’s carried him to the big leagues, but it’s going to be a while yet before we know whether it can carry him to fantasy relevance. —Craig Goldstein
James McCann, C, Tigers
Scouting Take: Selected in the second round of the 2012 draft out of Arkansas, McCann has been a quick mover through the Tigers system. Touted for his defensive ability and game calling, the 6'2 catcher is a solid average all around backstop. He's quiet behind the plate, and a good thrower, with times between 1.95-2.05 in my viewings. At the plate, McCann has been steadily improving, making more solid contact in the 2014 season than ever before. The hit tool has the potential to be a 50 with more refinement, although the power is fringy. He absolutely mashes lefties to the tune of .344/.406/.484 this year, and should fit in nicely as a platoon partner with veteran backstop Alex Avila in Detroit for 2015. While it's not an overly seductive profile, McCann has the chops to become a second division starter at peak, although most likely will play the role of a good backup. —Jordan Gorosh
Video of McCann and Steven Moya
Fantasy Take: Despite the quick rise through the Tigers system, McCann’s fantasy relevance will be more of a slow burn. He’s only worth monitoring in deep leagues, specially 2-catcher -Only leagues, or 18+ mixed, as he’s not going to wrest the starting job from Alex Avila anytime soon. He should form a nice tandem with Avila in time though, as his defense should earn him playing time, and his bat should produce something like a 2013 Welington Castillo. There’s no reason to add him this year as a stash, as you should be able to grab him by the time he’s earned any significant playing time —Craig Goldstein***
Billy Burns, OF, Athletics
Scouting Take: The switch-hitting Burns is an absolute burner on the basepaths, and he showcases decent zone control, which has helped him utilize his speed. I still see Burns as a future fourth/fifth outfielder, however, as I think it’s unlikely he hits well enough to start everyday and his ultimate defensive home is still in question. Burns has no power and he lost some of his ability to control the zone against advanced pitching in Triple-A. The concerns coming into the season with Burns remain, as he hasn’t done anything to assuage them. Ultimately, he’s a bench guy who can find a few starts here and there. —Mauricio Rubio
Fantasy Take: Despite his modest overall skill set, Burns has been on the fantasy radar for a while because of his game-changing speed. To be fantasy-relevant, you don’t need to be good at very much else if you’re fast. Jarrod Dyson and Eric Young Jr. are owned in 9 and 8 percent of ESPN leagues right now, respectively, and somewhere in between those two players is pretty much a best-case scenario for Burns. He’s hit pretty miserably in Double- and Triple-A this year, is utterly devoid of power and certainly isn’t good enough to displace any of Oakland’s outfielders in the short term. Expect him to be used just for pinch-running purposes this fall, and don’t show any interest in him next year unless injuries lead to playing time. —Ben Carsley***
Slade Heathcott, OF, Yankees
Scouting Take: Heathcott is the most physically gifted prospect in the Yankee system but he has a long and unfortunate injury history, including a knee ailment suffered 9 games into 2014 that cost him the entire MiLB season. He has good speed and pop but his overall picture is always broken up by his breaks. Heathcott made some mechanical adjustments in the middle of 2013, correcting some pre-pitch issues he had. It remains unclear whether the gains will hold with all that lost development time. He can be an asset if he holds the improvements he’s made and his health cooperates. Big if on the second item. —Mauricio Rubio
Fantasy Take: After 2012, we heard that Heathcott could blow up for fantasy purposes if he could just stay healthy. Health was largely on his side in 2013, but a pedestrian performance in Double-A kept him off most fantasy 101 lists. This year, Heathcott hasn’t managed to be good or healthy and his stock has appropriately fallen as a result. The tools here are intriguing, so I get the temptation, but Heathcott probably isn’t going to play at all right now, and he wouldn’t be worth starting in fantasy leagues even if he was. Despite the name value, you should pass. —Ben Carsley***
Cory Spangenberg, 2B, Padres
Scouting Take: If Spangenberg had been a fifth round pick, then his rise would be exciting based on what he can do. Because he was taken 10th overall, it's been more about what he can't. Spangenberg doesn't drive the ball with much authority, which limits his profile, but his hit tool has been able to carry him thus far. Pitchers have attacked him with much more regularity in the upper minors and he'll give major-league pitchers no reason to fear him, especially in Petco Park. That should limit his ability to get on base unless he can hit well above .300. With limited power, he doesn't profile as an everyday player, but his speed, left-handed stick and bat-to-ball skills should allow him to carve out a role. —Jeff Moore
Fantasy Take: Spangenberg has lost a lot of steam as a fantasy prospect over the years, but among the lower profile prospects called up to the majors this week he’s one of the safer bets to pay immediate dividends. Spangenberg’s gaudy Double-A line this season was buoyed by a .421 BABIP, but he’s a fast hitter who tries to hit a lot of groundballs and line drives, so some inflation on that account is to be expected. He’s by no means a fantasy stud, but he’s capable of hitting five-plus homers with 15-plus steals and a non-embarrassing average over a full season, and when you add in what could be dual 2B/3B eligibility, that makes him a worthwhile player in 16-plus team leagues. I’d expect Spangenberg to play fairly regularly for the Padres from here on out, and if you’re desperate for infield help but don’t need power, he’s worth a look. —Ben Carsley***
Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Cubs
Scouting Take: He hasn’t thrown a major-league pitch since 2011 and he had two setbacks during his journey back from Tommy John. He flashed triple digits in spring training but he works in the 94-96 velocity band. He projects as a high-leverage reliever at this point and will snap off some good breaking balls in tandem with his plus-plus fastball. Vizcaino fights his mechanics sometimes and loses the zone sometimes. He’ll have to work on that to maximize his potential and be a guy who can pitch in the ninth. —Mauricio Rubio
Fantasy Take: Vizcaino won’t provide too much value this season. Hector Rondon has done a good job as Cubs closer, Neil Ramirez is an able backup should Rondon get injured, Pedro Strop is likely next in line and so forth and so forth. There are a lot of bodies in front of Vizcaino. He’ll get a look for the closer job next year, as he has the type of arm that lends itself well to high-leverage situations. —Mauricio Rubio
Mauricio Rubio is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Tucker Blair is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Jordan Gorosh is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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