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June 20, 2013

The Minors

First Half Recap

by Jason Parks

With the first half of the minor league season in the books (or at least near the books), it’s appropriate to review some of the material we have been presented with along the way. The nature of the developmental system is the tug of war between progression and regression, both at the individual level and with the farms themselves, and it’s important to recognize and review such trends without losing context of the sample or the process in general. We take snapshots of a fixed point in time, pictures of arbitrary beginnings and endings that we inflate in order to compartmentalize and classify. This is our nature and our beast, but we are not on the hunt for binary conclusions or reports chiseled into the cement. The pleasing bloom of a prospect in June could spoil and wilt by July, and the possibility of that decay is not lost on anybody reading this article. The schizophrenia of the season is one of the many reasons we adore this particular aspect of the sport; the conclusions formed in the first half aren’t predetermined as conclusions that will be formed in the second.

For this article, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting events of the first half, including prospects with significant developmental shifts, farms on the climb and the descent, and some of the statistical oddities, curiosities, and peculiarities of the first three months of the minor league season.

Five prospects who took a step forward (just to name a few)

OF Byron Buxton (Twins): The 19-year-old outfielder has blossomed into the top prospect in the game, destroying the Midwest League at the plate, flashing high-end upside in the field, and showing off his elite speed on the bases. He was ranked high coming into the year (no. 8 on the BP 101) and the tools were always loud and exciting, but the on-the-field translation has been better than expected and faster than expected—and the expectations were very high to begin with.

RHP Archie Bradley (Diamondbacks): Bradley shoved it in 2012 but suffered through long stretches of poor command that hurt the complexion of his statistical line and pushed him down prospect lists. So far in 2013, he’s pitched his way to Double-A and emerged as the top arm in the minors, showing off two major-league-plus pitches and much improved command.

RHP Tyler Glasnow (Pirates): The stuff was there when the Pirates popped the tall righty in the fifth round in 2011, and the results were there when he missed 44 bats in 38.1 short-season innings in 2012. But the 19-year-old has exploded as a prospect in 2013, missing 85 bats in 57.1 first-half innings in the Sally League, mostly on the back of an easy plus fastball arriving with velo and plane, and an improving secondary arsenal. Coming into the season, Glasnow was on the radar and was ranked eighth in a very strong system, but his progression in 2013 has pushed him into the top 50 prospects in the game.

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