Jason chats with the Cardinals' top pitching prospect.
When the Cardinals selected Michael Wacha 19th overall in last year’s draft, the right-hander was widely regarded as a polished arm who could potentially zoom to the major leagues. While that has proven to be true––Wacha reached St. Louis less than a year after he was drafted––he’s showing to be more than just a “safe” pick.
The Texas A&M product put himself in the big-league discussion this spring by yielding one unearned run in 11.2 innings out of the bullpen, walking one and striking out 15 while flashing 95-98 mph velocity. The impressive performance yielded an aggressive assignment to Triple-A Memphis out of camp.
The A's call up young pitching prospect Sonny Gray.
The Situation: With the All-Star break looming, the Athletics do not have a need for a fifth starter until late next week. Accordingly, Oakland is utilizing that roster spot to provide Sonny Gray with his first taste of major-league action, with the 2011 first rounder to work out of the A’s ‘pen.
Background: Gray was a first-round selection out of Vanderbilt University back in 2011, showcasing some of the best raw stuff in the draft but slipping to the A’s at 18th overall due to the depth of talent in the draft class, some questions about his sub-six-foot stature, and the quality of his off-speed. The former ‘Dore carved up the Texas League after signing in 2011 but took a step back, developmentally, in 2012, struggling to implement some mechanical tweaks and suffering through some regression in stuff and command.
Where you should go if you want to see the most, best baseball in the shortest amount of time?
Sometime during the second game of a doubleheader in Batavia, N.Y. on a Monday night, you start to realize just how much baseball there is. So when you return home from that game, you look up the fact there were 14,423 games in the majors and the affiliated minor leagues last year, and all of a sudden hitting six games in four days doesn’t sound so impressive.
It is something that every baseball fan with the necessary mobility should try once, though. And then after you try it once, you’ll start picking your next trip before you even take the ticket stubs out of your pocket.
Royals righty Kyle Zimmer and Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings stole the show on a night when several of the minor leagues were off.
Pitching Prospect of the Day: Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals (High-A Wilmington): 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 13 K. On this night, Zimmer looked exactly like the pitcher the Royals envisioned when he was selected fifth overall in 2012. Zimmer’s fastball was working 96-97 with more life and good control and command. The curveball was an absolutely dominant pitch at 79-83 with hard downward snap. He used the slider and changeup sparingly, but that is okay with me, and here is why: I’ve talked to many people in the industry who have been confused by Zimmer’s shortcomings earlier in the year. I can give you a multitude of excuses or responses on why he had these shortcomings, but the underlying point was always, “Well, the stuff is still really good!” The only realistic theory that made sense to me was that Zimmer was going to his slider, his worst pitch, far too often. This may be something that the Royals encouraged him to do for developmental reasons, but I believe this recent success should be attributed to the fact that he is attacking hitters with his best offerings; 20.0 IP, 12 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 26 K in last 3 starts.
Position Prospect of the Day: Chris Owings, SS, Diamondbacks (Triple-A Reno): 4-4, 3 HR, 3 R, 5 RBI. The arrow is pointing upward for Owings, and as you’ll see with many of these players, something more in-depth is on the way in the very near future; .348/.369/.481 with 23 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, and 15 SB in 399 at-bats.
Cubs righty Matt Loosen tossed a no-hitter for High-A Daytona, earning the top spot in today's update.
Pitching Prospect of the Day: Matt Loosen, RHP, Cubs (High-A Daytona): 9.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. Loosen has tightened up his delivery in the best way possible. He has improved his line to the plate and his stuff has taken steps forward. He utilizes a fastball that touches the mid 90s, a solid-average curveball, a usable slider, and a fringy changeup. Loosen is taking steps forward as a prospect, and this outing will be one he never forgets.
Position Prospect of the Day: Joseph Wendle, 2B, Indians (High-A Carolina): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 K. Wendle is a natural hitter with natural bat-to-ball abilities, and he displays present pull-side power. Wendle is a solid-average runner with excellent baseball instincts. I believe he has a big-league future; it may only be as a utility player, but that is an excellent find for $10,000 in the sixth round;.405/.452/.784 with 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, and 3 SB in last 37 at-bats.
OF Micker Zapata (White Sox) Zapata was one of the standout talents on the field during MLB’s International Showcase in the Dominican Republic back in January, as the power potential was on full display. At the end of the day, it’s most likely a corner profile, but the power could make him a middle-of-the-order masher, as some scouts have put plus-plus grades on the tool. Given the lack of high-end talent in the White Sox system, Zapata found himself a top five prospect in the system the day he signed for $1.6M. Obviously he’s raw, and this will be true of most of the talent found in the July 2nd talent window, but Zapata shows good bat-to-ball ability, and could develop into more than just an all-or-nothing power hitter. Kudos to the White Sox. This is going to be a very good prospect. –Jason Parks
RHP Marcos Diplan (Rangers)
Despite a market reputation as a baseball factory, the Dominican Republic doesn’t produce a lot of quality major-league starters, a reality with numerous explanations [possible explanations]. A lack of pitchability is often seen as the biggest villain. Diplan stands out for his impressive raw stuff and his advanced pitchability for his age, attributes that help offset his diminutive size and the reputation of the region for producing more relief arms than impact starters. When I saw Diplan back in January, the right-hander pounded the zone with a low-90s fastball (touched 93) delivered from a lower slot. He showed feel for both a fading 80 mph changeup and a low-70s curveball, brought into game action with the swagger of a much more physically imposing arm. He was the best arm I saw at the Dominican Showcase, and it wasn’t even close. –Jason Parks
A look at what has changed in the prospect world, viewed through a fantasy lens, since Opening Day.
What can three months teach us about the landscape of talent in the minor leagues? Most of the time, that short span teaches us not to overrate three months of performance. For example, if you had jumped off the Shelby Miller bandwagon at midseason last year, when he had an ERA of around 6.00 in the Pacific Coast League, you probably had a tough time squeezing back onto it when he turned things around. Then again, this isn’t specific to just three months worth of performance—the top of prospect lists are littered with players who had down years and were soured on. Eric Hosmer had a terrible 2009 campaign in Low-A before reestablishing himself as a stud the following season. Wil Myers had an extremely disappointing 2011 season, which caused his prospect star to dim.
And that’s without even getting into the players whose promise wanes without any good reason other than time. As we’ve become more aware of the minor leagues in general, the concept of “prospect fatigue” has taken center stage—and it’s only gotten worse with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper exploding into our consciousness at such a young age. It’s simple: The longer a player remains on the prospect scene, the easier it is to gloss over his talent. You don’t just see this with post-hype prospects like Domonic Brown, Julio Teheran, and Martin Perez (all top-10 talents at one point), but you see it with current members of this list. It’s starting to happen to Billy Hamilton and Jonathan Singleton. The climb for prospects is never one that is straight uphill—and just because a certain player’s stock is down from a fantasy standpoint, that doesn’t mean that the “next big thing” has more value.