Just when Matt thinks he's out, a new prospect pulls him back in.
We all love prospects. Not in a sexy way, though Jose Iglesias does have a certain magnetism about him. No, it’s their promise we love, the possibility that each player in the top 11 could become great, thereby helping propel my favorite team (not yours) to the World Series. Prospects are lottery tickets in the common parlance of the term, a role of the dice as to whether they’ll ever figure out the game enough that they can contribute at the major league level. But they’re also lottery tickets in promise. Each represents what could be, what we hope will be, and while most don’t reach the upper reaches of their ceiling, the height, the potential of that ceiling makes them baseball’s ultimate exercise in optimism.
Paraphrased conversation I had in 1992:
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Interesting backstories dominate after this weekend's games, with surprise performances, defensive shifts, reclaimed prospect status, disappointing contracts, and accelerated big-league arrivals all on display.
Matt Barnes, RHP, Red Sox (High-A Salem)
Throughout the entire month of April, it was pretty clear that Barnes didn't belong in Low-A, as the 2011 first-round pick allowed just one run over 26 2/3 innings while striking out 42. On Saturday, Barnes showed that he might not belong in High-A either, as he whiffed 12 over six four-hit innings in his Carolina League debut. Just as important as the numbers, Barnes has started to break out the secondary stuff, as after relying primarily on a fastball that can touch 97 in Greenville, he was generating swings and misses with a curveball that has been an inconsistent pitch in the past. His ceiling hasn't changed yet, but his timetable is quickly accelerating.
Mitchell is not the best prospect on the Yankees Triple-A staff, but don't be surprised if he's the first to the majors. Scouts think he could be effective as either a back-end starter or middle reliever, as while he's on the small side, he's ultra-athletic and features a fastball that has slightly above-average velocity and plenty of movement. He's not going to be a star, but he should have big league value, even on a championship-level roster.
Today's Ten Pack features more than a few notable A-ball performances in systems that could use some good news.
Tyler Austin, 1B/OF, Yankees (Low-A Charleston)
A 13th-round pick in 2010 who signed for an above-slot figure of $130,000, Austin showed impressive offensive ability in the New York-Penn League last year; on a Sally League squad loaded with much more well-known prospects, it's Austin who has stood out, going 8-for-13 with three doubles, a triple and his third home run of the year. His season line is at .438/.471/1.031 after eight contests. He has nowhere near the tools of some of his Riverdog prospect brethren, but the bat stands out, and is very much for real.
Will the Red Sox be sporting a bevvy of top prospects next year, or will they be derailed by beer and fried chicken?
Prospect #1: 3B Will Middlebrooks Background with Player: My eyes; industry sources. Who: Middlebrooks, a fifth-round selection in the 2007 draft, has slowly worked his way up the professional ladder. Thanks to trades and general attrition, he has become the de facto top prospect in the system. His ceiling isn’t going to bewilder people with its towering presence, but his floor is high and steady; the end results should be at least a solid-average player for a decade.
The 23-year-old Texan is quite skilled with the leather at third; he has good actions and instincts to go along with a very strong arm. At the plate, the hit tool is fringy and batting average will be a challenge at the highest level, but the developing power is legit and will eventually grade out as a plus tool. Middlebrooks has a good baseball face and the grit of a scrawny utility type, only in the package of an athletic 6-foot-4, 200-pound first-division type.
Kevin's official Mock Draft will come Monday, but here is the ashcan version, complete with raw notes so you can see how the pieces come together.
What you see below is my current mock draft. Instead of big write-ups, which I’m saving for my final mock draft on Monday, these are the notes from calls and texts in my latest mock worksheet with source names removed. I hope it's a fun look at how the sausage is made.
The Cubs made a steal of a deal; the Expos are getting Vladimir Guererro back, and not a moment too soon; the A's are investing their money unwisely; the Cardinals take another hit in losing Matt Morris; and the Padres get a small-scale boost in regaining Phil Nevin. All this and much more news from around the league in your Tuesday edition of Transaction Analysis.
The Snakes bury John Patterson, the Red Sox sort through a batch of soft tossers, the Marlins vie for a 25-catcher roster, and the Devil Rays solve all their problems by grabbing Al Martin and Damion Easley.