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September 9, 2013

Monday Morning Ten Pack

The Prospects Who Disappointed

by Jason Parks and BP Prospect Staff


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

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Pebble Hunting: The Je... (09/09)
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