Jason Cole catches up with the Angels' top prospect.
Angels prospect Kaleb Cowart opened this season as the fourth-youngest player in the Double-A Texas League, and he’s currently experiencing the growing pains that often come with being a youngster in the upper levels. However, although the 20-year-old third baseman is hitting just .204/.271/.317 through 38 games, he has the highest ceiling of any position player in the Angels’ system.
Mike uses evidence from 2008 top-prospect lists to evaluate the merits of targeting minor leaguers in "dump" trades.
Most fantasy web sites and other resources do little if any analysis on playing for next year, or what is known less elegantly as “dumping.” Some analysts refuse to even acknowledge that it is part of the game and advise that it is always best to trade with this year in mind and worry about future consequences next year.
In reality, if you’re in a keeper league, you will probably have to give up and play for next year sooner or later. If other teams are building rosters for 2014 around cheap players such as Bryce Harper, Matt Harvey, and Shelby Miller, and you are sitting back while your team languishes in seventh place with little hope of winning, you are not doing yourself any favors.
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Maury explains the challenges that MLB faces in attracting young and minority fans.
Whether it was the release of the movie“42,” the anniversary of Hank Aaron surpassing Babe Ruth as the all-time home run leader, or one of many articles each year telling baseball it has an “issue,” Major League Baseball decided recently it was time to create a task force to deal with the decline of African-Americans at the highest levels of the game. Baseball, like other professional sports leagues, likes to create this type of task force. It shows that the league cares, and well meaning be damned, is often stocked with people that likely aren’t difference-makers. Recommendations will be made, but they will be around things that don’t get at the heart of the matter, because those things are difficult—if not impossible—to fix.
The “problem” isn’t really a problem in the way that MLB’s task force is likely to look at it. It’s about the change in society, the growth of other sports, the power of television, the internet, how fast players can transition, the growth of other minority groups now playing the game, and, yes, marketing.
A visit to the minor-league side of the Winter Meetings reveals an organization attempting to step into the spotlight dominated by its big-league brethren.
The Winter Meetings—or rather, “Winter” Meetings; it was about 75 degrees here in Music City on Monday—are where everybody goes to make major-league deals and do major-league things. Peter Gammons is here, apparently towing multiple clones of himself who allow him to be shaking hands simultaneously in different locations around the Gaylord Opryland Gullywhumpus. Ken Rosenthal looks nervous all the time, and slightly paranoid. Actually, just about everyone looks a little paranoid. And I keep running into the same people I know. This is a small world in a big place.
Guys not in the majors are here trying mightily to get in, somehow, anywhere in the machinery of the business. From the size of the place to the teeming thousands to the millionaires to the bright lights, this is without a doubt the big time, the Show, the major leagues.
Halfway through the Arizona Fall League, it's time to check in on some of the most talked-about players.
The Arizona Fall League has developed into an off-season combine for clubs to evaluate some of the top talents in the minor leagues, including their own. This year's schedule is just beyond the mid-point of the schedule with the circuit's all-star event—the Rising Stars Game—slated for Saturday.
The class of participants in the 21st year of the AFL is deep in talent, and scouts are raving about the results of the eye test, despite what the statistics may suggest. Here are a handful of the most talked about performers in the desert this fall.
Mark has come to expect some surprises on his trips to Instructs, though that doesn't always mean "future big-league starter."
As I noted last week, there are some things I come to expect during scouting trips. And while last time I mentioned schedule changes and climate challenges, expectations can also include organizations: every time I head south for Instructs, I expect the Phillies to have a roster loaded with raw athletes, and I expect the Braves to surprise me with a few guys I like more than I did before I got there. That was no different on this trip: the Phillies had a lot of youth and athleticism on their roster, while the Braves roster, admittedly lacking a lot of upside, did feature some players with big league futures. Just as a reminder, in the following reports, remember that “BLUF” stands for “Bottom Line Up Front,” which is the quick summary before we get to the more detailed reasoning.
Jose Pujols, OF, Philadelphia Phillies BLUF: Enormous raw potential that comes with an incredible gap between present and future. Setting the Stage: Pujols was signed at the outset of the 2012 international signing period, agreeing to a reported $540,000 bonus. The 16-year-old Dominican did not play in any affiliated leagues after signing and made his unofficial professional debut at Instructs. Scouting Report: Raw doesn’t begin to describe this kid. He has unreal amounts of physical projection and he stands out on the field despite his age. With long limbs and good natural strength in his body, Pujols has the potential to develop into a complete physical monster. He has a right field profile that takes a little dreaming to see, though he is a good athlete with surprising coordination for his age. His movements are fluid and he could eventually be a quality defender. During workouts and warmups he showed an above-average arm, but occasionally unleashed a throw worthy of a 6 score, which gets closer to having a plus arm. Offensively, Pujols was two completely different hitters between batting practice and games. In batting practice he showed a focus on establishing a consistent swing plane with good loft. His swings were deliberate and both his contact ability and pop actually suffered because of it. In games, though, his natural, more uppercut swing took over and while there was still swing-and-miss, the ball exploded off his bat, including a monster home run to the pull side. The power is evident, and he has huge home run potential if the swing alterations take and his contact rates can improve. Projection: You could project just about anything for Pujols and it would be hard to argue. For me, the present physicality and physical projection, the obvious raw power, and the overall tools all stand out and are impossible to ignore. His developmental path is going to be long and arduous, but there is definitely reason to be excited about Pujols’ high-ceiling potential.
When batting lines get inflated, it can be tough to spot legit prospects.
The AFL is viewed as a prospect-heavy league, a place where the stars of tomorrow take their next steps towards the major leagues. But not all players on the AFL rosters are prospects, and not all prospects feature the same promise, so buyer beware if you choose to toss all participants into the same prospect basket. With a dearth of quality arms placed in an environment that can supersize even average bats, the end result can turn the mediocre into monsters. The league is still young, but several hot starts have prompted inquiries as to whether the monsters are real, or just men wearing the masks of opportunity. Let’s ask the question and then deliver some answers.
Mike O’Neill, OF, Cardinals (Double-A Springfield/Surprise Saguaros)
“What can you tell me about Mike O’Neill? Another big talent in the Cardinals’ system?” Not a big talent, but the hit tool and the approach at the plate are legit. O’Neill has a bad profile, as the 24-year-old is a left fielder without an ounce of power; in ~850 career minor league at-bats, the diminutive lefty has one home run. But the former 31st round selection out of USC has serious bat-to-ball ability, and his mature and discerning approach has produced twice as many walks as strikeouts so far in his three minor league seasons. Without much defensive value and limited pop in the stick, O’Neill isn’t a serious prospect. But with a hit tool and well above-average on-base skills, he’s the type of player that eventually sneaks onto a roster and sticks around longer than expected.
Clubs don't generally make trades unless there's a major leaguer involved, but here are a few trades that make sense even without one.
Clubs don't often make trades unless some major-league talent is involved. The typical swap is centered on the immediate needs of a contending club or one that plans to do so in the immediate future. So, while one side may sacrifice pieces of the future in the form of top prospects, the other is looking to add such assets to its organization in exchange for veterans.
There are instances, however, where it appears two teams match up well in prospect-for-prospect trades that benefit all parties, most of which include talents who are close to being big-league ready. Here are five such examples.
Mark Anderson checks in with his first in a series of reports from the Florida Instructional League.
The instructional league is extremely difficult to scout, particularly in Florida. From teams being spread all over the place, to the changing game schedules, to players getting limited appearances, instructs can challenge the most experienced of scouts. I’ve been here many times, and I’ve come to expect certain things. I’ve come to expect schedule changes, which I certainly found on this trip. I’ve come to expect the Toronto Blue Jays to play an incredibly aggressive style of ball, which they certainly did. I’ve come to expect a roasting hot sun and temperatures that make scouts wilt, which I found this time with my stopwatch literally melting in my left hand. I’ve experienced a lot the last few days and it’s time to share my notes with you.
For those of you unfamiliar with my scouting and writing style, I like to lay things out up front. The “Bottom Line Up Front,” or “BLUF,” offers a quick peek at my thoughts, followed by a more in-depth scouting report and observations. I try to paint a complete picture, including uncertainty, each time I present a report.
Prospects who have an innate instinctual gift that sets them apart from their peers and allows some of their weaker skills to play up.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (Low-A Lake County)
The best shortstops in baseball all share a similar skill set, and this is as true at the lowest levels of the game as it is at the highest. To play on the left side of the diamond, you need the arm, you need the fielding actions, you need the range, and, most importantly, you need the instincts. You might be able to placate the defensive Gods with an average arm, or sloppy actions, or even less-than-desirable range, but what can push a skill set beyond its physical state (or limit it to the simple actions of that state) are the feel and instincts for the game itself. Francisco Lindor is as instinctual on the field as any prospect you will find, existing in his surroundings like he was born and raised in the dirt-filled area between second and third. He moves in this space like I move in a bar. His baseball intelligence and makeup are off-the-chart, and even when you create a new chart specifically designed to measure his baseball intelligence and makeup, he’s off that chart as well.—Jason Parks
Zack Wheeler, RHP, Mets (Triple-A Buffalo)
Often pitchers with plus stuff can get away with mistakes, especially when they’re in the low minors, or else they consistently lean on a pitch or two because they are that much better than their competition. The progression into higher levels typically forces them to either adjust quickly or hit the proverbial wall. I caught Wheeler during his time with Double-A Binghamton this year and the stuff was exceptional. He toyed with the hitters, using an electric arsenal: a 92-96 mph fastball, a tight mid-to-high 70s curveball with deep break and finish, an 83-86 mph slider, and a low-80s changeup. Wheeler also showed the ability and knowledge to utilize his whole repertoire, often setting up batters with varied sequences or ruthlessly exploiting weaknesses. I did come away from the outing with some needs going forward, mainly in the form of improving the fastball command due to being late with his delivery at times. The heater can stay up in the zone, but I kept coming back to the pitchability Wheeler showed for a 22-year-old. He pitched like a mature veteran and player with a lot more experience, consistently poised and in control. The knowledge or high IQ of how to execute the craft, rather than just relying on pure stuff, is a positive sign pointing towards both growth going forward and the ability to adjust once he does reach the majors.—Chris Mellen