Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Max Kepler and Darnell Sweeney.
Darnell Sweeney, 2B, Dodgers (Glendale, AFL): 4-5, 2 R, 2 2B, HR. Expectations were tempered entering the season because scouts weren’t crazy about any of Sweeney’s tools outside of his speed, and because his breakout 2013 season came in the California League. Then, he spent the entire 2014 campaign excelling in Double-A, greatly increasing his walk rate and backing up his power production. For a plus runner, he’s not an effective base-stealer, which negates some of his value, but he made better contact while also making the toughest jump along the developmental process. After spending most of his time at shortstop last year, Sweeney played more second base this year and saw some time in center field. His speed and versatility could be something the Dodgers can use in the future, especially if his plate discipline remains intact.
Garabez Rosa, LF, Orioles (Glendale, AFL): 3-4, 2 R, HR. Rosa swings at virtually everything, to little effect. The Orioles continue to give him opportunities because there is some pop in his bat and he can play virtually ever non-catcher position on the diamond (including shortstop), but a career minor league K:BB ratio of over 10-to-1 (yes, you read that right) is borderline criminal and will be enough to keep him from ever hitting effectively. (h/t to @tuckerblairON)
The Giants first baseman hit for more power in 2014, but injuries held him back.
An unheralded fifth-round pick in the 2009 draft, Belt emerged onto the prospect scene in 2010 after crushing High-A and Double-A pitching in his first professional season. He followed suit in 2011 in Triple-A, forcing his way to San Francisco by midseason. That's when the #FreeBelt movement started, as the Baby Giraffe received just 472 PA in 2012 despite hitting .275/.360/.421, hinting at promising power and boasting an 11.4 percent walk rate.
Belt was subsequently liberated in 2013, hitting .289/.360/.481 in 571 PA, finishing as fantasy's 16th-best first baseman. Given that Belt was entering his age-26 season this year, there was legitimate reason for optimism. His average draft position was no. 137 overall, according to fantasypros.com, and it wasn't totally unreasonable to project Belt for a top-12 finish at the position, if everything broke right.
The Royals staff threw some major heat and every key moment went their way as they snagged Game Two and evened the World Series at a game apiece.
Sometime before a parade broke out on the path from the visiting bullpen and well before a fight, or more accurately a halfhearted inter-dugout posturing contest, broke out around home plate, the Futures Game broke out at Kauffman Stadium.
After months of moving downward, the October strike zone is suddenly rising.
Everybody’s been writing about the strike zone recently, and that’s for good reason. The strike zone is evolving, and for the first time in the history of baseball, we have the technology to directly record that evolution. Mostly, the bottom of the strike zone is dropping, and that plays some role in shaping the current pitching-dominated era (although exactly how much of a role is a matter of some debate).
What’s most astonishing about the strike zone’s changing definition is the rapidity with which we are witnessing the results. Year after year, the strike zone falls, and this year has been no exception. In this recent article, Jon Roegele chronicles the most dramatic drop in the bottom of the strike zone yet: In the last year, the zone’s real estate has increased by 16 square inches. But even without a rigorous statistical analysis of the zone, you could feel the impact of the strike zone’s accelerating fall in the numerous strikeout records which have been broken, and in the historic seasons of Clayton Kershaw and other pitchers.
With a rested Giants pen and a Royals' starter who exited his last start with shoulder issues, Game Two of the World Series could come down to which group of relievers steps up.
The difference between a tied series and an imposing lead for the Giants will likely be in the grips of the relievers, although for a very different reason on both sides. It’s a 13-year vet who’s happened upon the last two World Series taking on a rookie whose start couldn’t possibly come with more question marks. And then the real show will begin.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Daniel Robertson and Deven Marrero.
Daniel Robertson, SS, Oakland (Mesa): 3-5, 2 R, HR. As a hitting prospect, Robertson struggles with very little. He hits for good power (great power for a shortstop), average, and has plus plate discipline. The California League helped this year and the AFL won’t be much different, but even with his stats returning to a more normal environment, Robertson looks to be a major part of the A’s future and one of the best hitting prospects in a depleted farm system. The question is whether or not he will be able to remain at shortstop; most doubt that he will, but the A’s haven’t given up on it yet.
Cal Towey, OF, Angels (Mesa): 3-4, 2 R, HR, BB, K. Towey was a 17th-round pick out of Baylor in 2013, but he handled a jump straight to the California League this season after just a short-season stint last year, which, in the Angels system, makes him something of a prospect. He was a senior sign, however, which means he was old when he got to pro ball and he’ll be 25 before next season begins. There’s virtually nothing blocking anyone who performs in the Angels system, so there’s room for Towey to move quickly, and he should start next season in Double-A. If he can show that his left-handed pop will translate against better pitching and in a more neutral hitting environment, he could end up being a useful piece.
The Royals shortstop won't be a sexy name on draft day, but there's a lot to like about his fantasy profile.
The Brewers signed Escobar as a 16-year-old on international signing day of 2003, and he made his stateside debut the following summer as a 17-year-old in the Pioneer League. After working his way up to Double-A for the second half of his age-20 season in 2007, he cracked the Brewers’ top prospect list for the first time heading into 2008, ultimately topping the list as a five-star prospect in 2010 and peaking as high as 19th on the BP 101 that same offseason. The Brewers traded away the then-26-year-old J.J. Hardy to clear a path for Escobar, which should tell you all you need to know about how highly regarded he was as a prospect. Regaled universally for his plus-plus range and generally top shelf defensive profile at short, Escobar was tabbed as an impatient, powerless hitter, but one still capable of slapping his way to a .280-plus batting average with 30-steal speed.
Despite the shortstop-of-the-future billing, the Brewers shipped the then-23-year-old to Kansas City as the centerpiece of the Zack Greinke trade after he struggled in his first full big-league season. Since arriving in KC, Escobar has pretty much developed into exactly the type of player scouts envisioned him becoming. He hasn’t posted a walk rate over 4.2 percent in any of his four seasons in Royal blue, nor has he managed to crack the .100 ISO threshold or generate league-average offensive value.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Francisco Lindor and Mark Appel.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (Peoria): 3-4, R, 2B. I’m not breaking any new ground by saying that Lindor is among the best, if not the best, shortstop prospect in the game, but he’s also perhaps the surest bet of any prospect at any position around whom you could build your team. There is no doubt that he is prepared to step in and provide defensive value in the majors today if necessary, as has been the case for some time. What will separate him from the pack, however, will be his ability to drive the ball for extra bases. He has just enough pop to keep pitchers honest and punish them when they leave the ball over the plate, something pitchers don’t fear with Lindor’s most frequent comp, Elvis Andrus. If Lindor can consistently get into the 30-double/10-home-run range (well within reach), the rest of his skill set should make him one of the best players in the American League.
Mark Appel, RHP, Astros (Salt River): 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K. It’s safe to say that Appel has rebounded from his bizarre struggles at the start of the season, and Monday night’s start was the best of three strong outings thus far in the desert. These performances make his struggles early this season even more bizarre, as they were at least partially contributed to the unforgiving hitting environments of the California League, something not unlike what he’s handling quite well this October. Assuming he finishes the month as strong as he has started it, Appel is giving the Astros hope that he could get to the big leagues by some point next season, which seemed almost impossible earlier this year.