With the AL RoY award a foregone conclusion this year, Kevin sets his sights on who might get some hardware from 2013's rookie class.
The 2012 American League Rookie of the Year race is over. Let's say Mike Trout doesn't get another hit for the rest of the year, going 0-for-125. He'd still finish the year with a .261 batting average, 24 home runs and 40-plus stolen bases. Now, anyone predicting Mike Trout for Rookie of the Year honors would not have exactly been going out on a limb, but how many people took Todd Frazier for National League honors before the season started? A look at winners of the award throughout history show a combination of obvious choices and plenty of surprises. So who does the crystal ball say are next year's nominees? Winning the RoY is a tough combination of talent and potential opportunity for playing time, so here are the big names, as well as some possible surprises in each league.
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The Braves and Rays see a young pitcher each raise their stock, and the Mariners have one who's puzzling us all.
Bryce Brentz, OF, Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
Brentz began the year as the No. 6 prospect in the system after hitting .306/.365/.574 with 30 home runs during a season that could easily be described as "streaky." The streaks are back, as clearly shown in Brentz' OPS by month: 584, 1072, 873, 576, 1173. Much of the 1173 OPS has been created recently, as with a 7-for-11 weekend, the 23 year-old is now 15-for-28 in his last six games to push his season numbers to .300/.360/.488 in 119 contests. A supplemental first-round pick in 2010, Brentz is not super big or toolsy, but he has hitting ability, enough strength for 55-60 power scores and enough of an arm to profile in right. If they can figure out what causes the crazy hot streaks, or the disturbing cold ones, Brentz could turn into a good everyday corner outfielder down the road.
Thanks to the new draft rules quite a few 2012 draftees are already playing, and already increasing their stock.
There's been a lot of debate over how the new collective bargaining affects the draft, both in terms of how teams approach their picks and in how players get paid, but the one aspect of the new rules that nobody is complaining about is how the new system, with somewhat continued costs and a quicker signing deadline, gets draft picks playing professional baseball much sooner. In previous years, a large number of first-round picks would not even make their pro debut until the following year. This year, many have gotten significant playing time, and here are ten early 2012 picks who have already increased their prospect stock during their pro debut.
Loads of pitchers from the weekend continued to reestablish themselves as players to watch.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, Diamondbacks (Triple-A Reno)
Bauer's four-game big league stretch in the middle of the season did not exactly go as planned. The third overall pick from 2011 allowed 28 base runners over 16 1/3 innings while averaging nearly 20 pitches per frame. The most frustrating part of Bauer's time—as well as much of the first half of the season—was his lack of aggression. Bauer has the stuff to get hitters out in the zone but, more often than not, he's trying to make the perfect pitch on the corner or trying to get hitters to chase. He seems to have gotten the message of late, as not only did he strike out a career high 12 batters on Friday during a complete game five-hitter, but he did it using just 102 pitches. If the lesson has been learned, there's nothing to be concerned about with those first four big league starts.
Now that Baltimore's Manny Machado is in the majors, why not Dylan Bundy?
When the Orioles promoted top positional prospect Manny Machadolast week, there was a lot of debate as to whether or not the 20-year-old infielder was ready for the big leagues since he had just 928 minor league plate appearances. He's made the decision look good so far, but what is beyond debate is that the Orioles acted aggressively, which brought up the obvious question: if Machado, then why not Dylan Bundy?
A few late-year promotions are looking pretty good, and a few even have the chance to get big league looks before too long.
J.O. Berrios, RHP, Twins (Rookie-level Elizabethton)
He wasn't a first-round pick in June, but he was the first pick right after it ended, going 31st overall and ending up just the sixth high school arm selected. He signed quickly for a $1.55 million bonus and he's looked nothing short of fantastic since taking the mound: 27 strikeouts and just seven hits allowed over 16 2/3 innings in the Gulf Coast League, adding four one-hit innings with five more whiffs on Saturday in his Appy League debut. Berrios is undersized at an even six feet tall, but he makes you forget about his size quickly with plus to plus-plus velocity coming out of one of those easy deliveries that makes it look like he's playing catch. He's flashed a good slider so far and has some feel for a changeup; the few pro scouts that have seen Berrios think the Twins may have really found something here.
The Angels will have to decide on a Mike Trout extension at some point. What are their options?
Mike Trout is having a season for the ages. That shouldn't be news to you. But let's forget about the present for a second and think about what could be an even more promising future, as terrifying as that sounds. By common thought in the analytical community, Trout is still six to eight years away from his peak, and if you’re the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, you want that peak. That means an extension for the most valuable young asset in the game. If you are the Angels, how do you even approach this? To find out, I talked to a number of scouts and executives to get their take.
Every now and again, there's a performance that Kevin cannot stop thinking about. This weekend, Austin Wood gave that performance.
Austin Wood, RHP, Angels (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
It's 1:45 am and I have to write a Ten Pack, but I can't think about anyone but Austin Wood, who I saw pitch a little more than twelve hours ago at Kane County. I flipped between the Cubs and the White Sox games on the radio while driving home from the ballpark, but I still thought about Austin Wood. I made a lovely pasta dish from Amateur Gourmet with tomatoes from our garden but, while doing so, I thought about Austin Wood. I was able to at least move it to the back of my mind during the radio show I do on Sunday nights, but once that was over, there he was . . . Austin Wood. If I were a professional who was good at my job, I'd write your standard comment here about how Wood earned some notice early in the year with ten strikeouts in his first start of the year, and then five no-hit innings his second time out, but how he's been inconsistent ever since and has a 4.12 ERA, and how on Sunday he allowed just one run over seven innings while striking out six and blah blah blah. I'd write about his much-traveled amateur career and his stuff and his age and all that, and then I'd write nine more comments about nine other guys. But I can't think about nine other guys.
Kevin ranks all 43 prospects traded during the month of July.
While it wasn't exactly a star-studded trade deadline, it was certainly a busy one, with ten trades featuring a total of 15 prospects on the final day alone. All in all, 43 prospects (as defined by Rookie of the Year eligibility) changed teams in the month of July; since people like rankings, I consulted with scouts and front office personnel, and here's how I line up the prospects who moved:
This weekend featured some outstanding play from a guy desperately needing a change of scenery, and a guy who shouldn't get too used to his.
Yeison Asencio, OF, Padres (Low-A Fort Wayne)
Asencio went from complex league monster to 22-year-old who had yet to play in a full-season league when his true identity was discovered, but he's become a pop-up player in the Midwest League since joining the TinCaps in mid May. He had one of the best weekends in the minors, going 10-for-14 with four doubles and a home run to lift his season numbers to .322/.353/.511. There are tools to back it up, as he's a wiry strong right fielder with decent speed, a plus arm and an outstanding feel for contact that has generated just 24 strikeouts in 233 at-bats. He's an aggressive hitter who goes up looking to hit, but his power projects as merely average, which isn't much for a corner outfielder; you can't find perfection in out-of-nowhere types.
Some teams that could be buyers could have a harder time landing certain targets because of problems on the farm.
I was talking to a front office executive last week who was lamenting the disappointing season of a certain highly regarded prospect in the system. He's the kind of prospect who could have helped his team put together an attractive trade package, but not anymore. It's important to keep in mind that prospects serve two purposes for an organization. The first, obviously, is to produce at the big-league level for the parent team. The second, and equally important purpose at this time of year is to acquire big-league talent for a playoff run. With that in mind, here are some players whom their parent clubs wish were in a different place as they try to get deals done.