Raul Adalberto Mondesi, shortstop, Royals (Low-A Lexington) Coming into the season, Mondesi the Younger was an invisible prospect to many, having failed to capture more national attention despite being ranked third on the Baseball Prospectus Royals’ Top 10 list and 58th overall in baseball on the pre-season 101. His most familiar quality at the time was a bloodline and a short-season resume, but after the then-17-year-old jumped to the full-season level and flashed his high-ceiling tools, he became a featured player on prospects lists all over the internet. The equivalent of a junior in high school, Mondesi had 27 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases in the Sally League, while showing off his legit left-side chops on defense. Mondesi has a chance to blossom into one of the best prospects in the game, as the hit tool has projection (clean stroke; can make hard contact and drive velocity) and the glove is more than capable of sticking at shortstop. Factor in his extreme youth, natural ease and feel for the game, and tool-based ceiling, and Mondesi might be one of the most exciting prospects in the minors. He exceeded all my expectations in 2013 and my expectations were high, and with another step forward, the aforementioned prospect prophecy might be a truth and not just a tease. –Jason Parks
Lucas Sims, pitcher, Braves (Low-A Rome)
Sims is a stud, but I didn’t see him developing into this level of stud this early in the developmental process. A first-round pick in 2012, Sims has been on the prospect radar for a while, but the 19-year-old righty really blossomed in 2013, logging over 116 innings in the Sally League and missing 134 bats. He’s not an imposing figure on the mound, but the stuff casts a bigger shadow than his 6’2’’ frame. He’s comfortable working his fastball in the low-to-mid-90s with late tailing action, dropping a true upper-70s hammer with heavy vertical action, and a 82-86 mph changeup with late sink. Because of his impressive performance in 2013, Sims is sailing up prospect lists, and if his final six starts of the season are a harbinger of his next step forward (34 IP, 46 K, 23 H, 5 ER), the Braves might have something special on their hands. –Jason Parks
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Reviewing our performance in identifying each AL organization's preseason sleeper.
One of the truisms of baseball is that everybody loves a good sleeper prospect, a player standing in the shadows of an organization’s top 10 just waiting to take a step forward into a brighter light. Whether or not we accept participation in one of the basic tenets of our social construct—that coolness is best served before the taint of ubiquity expands and dilutes the original item or action originally classified as cool—jumping on the bandwagon before that bandwagon becomes a city bus is the class signifier of sports fandom.
Going into the 2013 season, each individual team list featured an “On the Rise” section where these under-the-radar types were profiled and projected. Scouting introspection is an important part of the evaluation process, and looking back on the hits and misses of the 2013 sleeper class could encourage more debate and discussion about our process and methods of evaluation. I stress that it’s not about the pompous desire to be right, or the sententious stance against being wrong; rather, it’s about the [individual] player finding production on the field in the midst of a schizophrenic developmental process, and about our investigative approach to finding the prospects that are ready for those positive developmental steps. Anybody can pick three young names out of a system and sell the dreams of their sunny tomorrow. But dart throwing isn’t a process, it’s a parlor trick, one made more remarkable through the magic of alcohol and casual lighting. When the goal is depth, it’s important to understand where to dig and why to dig rather than just using Google searches and stat lines to unearth the dirt.
I’m weak in the knees; aggressively pleased; hand on my heart, fascinated with the beats; fascinated with the uniforms and the cleats; watching the field with eagerness; fortuitous; looking at the roster; explicit and gratuitous.
Reviewing the disappointing seasons of Bubba Starling, Trevor Bauer, Gary Sanchez, Francisco Lindor, and others.
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
A long train must be pulled over a high mountain. Mike is asked to pull the train; but refuses. Little Jason agrees to try and succeeds in pulling the train over the mountain while repeating his motto: "I-think-I-can".
On Tuesday this time! Updates on some of the most intriguing AFL players, including Byron Buxton, Taylor Lindsey, Andrew Heaney, and more.
Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (High-A Ft. Myers)
The top prospect in the land continues his assault on the baseball world, hitting for average and showing good pop with a mature approach, in addition to his top-shelf defense in center and elite speed on the bases. It’s a performance trend that started in the Midwest League and has continued after his promotion to the Florida State League. Simply put, Buxton is a superhero, showing all would-be contemporaries and spectators that they are mere mortals and insufficient next to his special baseball powers. The 19-year-old cape-wearing man from mythology is set to play with the Glendale Desert Dogs in the AFL, and if you haven’t put eyes on this exceptional prize, do whatever it takes to make your way to Camelback Ranch this fall. *Lycra Spandex costumes are optional. –Jason Parks
Trevor May, RHP, Twins (Double-A New Britain)
Earlier this summer I was able to sit on a May start, and at the time I wasn’t overly impressed despite a positive on-the-field outcome. May is a big, strong horse of a pitcher, with a well-rounded arsenal that includes a meaty fastball and multiple secondary offerings that flash above-average, but his delivery minimizes the natural advantage of height, and as a result of his drop-and-drive approach his plus velocity often arrives flat-planed and edible. The command comes and goes, but when he’s on and staying over his offerings, May looks the part of a no. 4 starter, one capable of logging innings and keeping his team in the game. He’ll be pitching for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League and will get to wear the same uniform as Byron Buxton, so I expect May to take a step forward this fall and carry it into his 2014 campaign, where the big righty will likely have the opportunity to pitch at the highest level. –Jason Parks
As the calendar flips to September and the rosters expand, the Reds bring up an outfielder with game-changing speed and the steals to prove it.
The Situation: With September upon us, a wave of young talent will be sampling the major-league level for the first time. With catalytic speed on both sides of the ball, Hamilton was a safe bet to get the call from the Reds. And as Sam Miller pointed out around this time last year, his speed could make a marginal difference over the last month of the regular season.
Background: Hamilton was a second-round pick in the 2009 draft, choosing baseball over his other athletic interests, which included both football and basketball. Hamilton was viewed by most as a raw athlete with remarkable speed, but his baseball skills were questioned after a disappointing professional debut in the Gulf Coast League. While the sample was small, the bat looked very light, a concern given the fact that Hamilton’s physical prowess closely resembled that of a high school track star rather than a professional baseball player.
A tour around the minors, including looks at Austin Meadows, Michael Feliz, Steven Matz, and Reese McGuire.
Michael Feliz, RHP, Astros (Short-Season Tri-City) I haven’t been overly impressed with the talent in the New York-Penn League this summer, and it doesn’t take a gifted mind to add up all the prospects with legitimate major-league projections. Both at the fields and on the phones, I’ve been asking around about the names to know, and the arm that has received the most love is Astros’ right-hander Michael Feliz. Armed with an unforgiving fastball that works comfortably in the 94-96 mph range and can touch 98 with late life, Feliz is hard to touch, much less square for hard contact. His low-80s slider has some flash to it, and several sources said you don’t have to squint to see a future plus offering.
The changeup is immature, but the Dominican arm won’t turn 20 until late September, giving him a very long developmental road left on which to figure it out. It’s worth noting that Feliz was originally signed as a free agent by the Athletics in the 2010 offseason, but his professional contract was voided and his $800k bonus stripped when he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Scooped up a few months later by the Astros for half the price, Feliz served his time, has remained clean in the face of rigorous testing, and has really blossomed as a prospect in 2013. The development of the changeup and the refinement of the command will decide his long-term fate, but the easy cheese that explodes from his intimating 6’4’’ frame is going to play, and in a league that lacks much impact potential, Feliz stands out as a player to pay attention to. –Jason Parks
Jason "Robert" Parks is one of America's unique inventors. Over the past 40 years, his products have pulled in more than $2 billion in sales.
Robert was voted by Mike Ferrin as one of the 25 people who have changed the way we eat, drink and think about food. And, he's still going strong. One of his latest inventions, the Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ, is selling by the thousands every week. It wasn't always this way, however.
Like many a self-made man, Robert didn't have a normal childhood, at least not the kind of childhood enjoyed by a lot of us. In fact, he says, he has blotted most of it from his memory.
Ranking closers based on how bad they've looked at the plate.
On Wednesday night, Aroldis Chapman entered an 8-6 game in relief of an injured Jonathan Broxton, who faced two batters in the top of the eighth before his elbow cut his outing short. It was the first time Chapman had been asked to get more than three outs all season. And because a “distraught” Dusty Bakerscrewed up the double switch, Chapman also made his first major-league plate appearance in the bottom of the inning.
Chapman got a standing ovation from a super-excited Cincinnati crowd when he came to the plate. And unlike some closers who rarely hit—and whose health is much more important than the outcome of any one plate appearance—he wasn’t instructed not to swing. Chapman, who played first base in Cuba before he pitched and showed a decent swing, ran the count full and took two big cuts en route to a predictable strikeout. And then the fans sat back down.