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
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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.
Tigers outfielder Avisail Garcia and Dodgers lefty Chris Reed led the way on Sunday, earning the top spots in today's update.
Pitching Prospect of the Day: Chris Reed, LHP, Dodgers (Double-A Chattanooga): 4.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K. Reed has a fastball that can touch 96 with good life, a slider in the mid 80s that is a bat-missing offering, and a fringy changeup. Some believe a lack of fastball command and an underdeveloped changeup will push him to the bullpen at some point before he reaches The Show. When I heard the Dodgers had traded for Ricky Nolasco, but that a front-end prospect was not included, I thought that Reed might be involved in the deal; 38.1 IP, 26 H, 8 ER, 9 BB, 38 K in last seven outings.
Position Prospect of the Day: Avisail Garcia, OF, Tigers (Triple-A Toledo): 4-5, 2B, 3B, HR, 4 R, 3 RBI, K, SB. Garcia, a player I’ve liked since the moment I saw him, has all sorts of ability. The nickname “Little Miggy” comes from his physical appearance, but he’s no slouch on the field. Garcia has the potential to be a solid-average hitter with solid-average power, an average runner, and solid-average defender who can play center currently, but could have to move to a corner as his body matures. I would not expect the Tigers to trade him at the deadline, but we all know what happens when teams reach points of desperation.
Putting eyes on Miguel Sano, Maikel Franco, Jesse Biddle, and others.
A four-game set between New Britain (Twins) and Reading (Phillies) was just what the heart needed: an occupational vacation to the resorts of the Double-A level, sipping radar gun readings on the beaches behind home plate. New Britain is a casual little town in the middle of Connecticut, slightly southwest of Hartford, and slightly southwest of being a city I ever want to find myself in again. But the action on the field swept me away, and the Rock Cats’ staff were some of the friendliest people I’ve encountered on the minor-league scene, so I will no doubt find myself on an Eastern League holiday again very soon. Here are some observations from the experience.
On the eve of international signing day, a promising European-born prospect starred for Low-A Cedar Rapids.
Pitching Prospect of the Day: Keyvius Sampson, RHP, Padres (Double-A San Antonio): 7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K. Sampson has really found his groove, piling up the strikeout numbers of late. He has relied on a fastball-changeup combination to dominate hitters at the Double-A level; 28.2 IP, 21 H, 7 ER, 12 BB, 32 K in six June outings.
Position Prospect of the Day: Max Kepler, CF, Twins (Low-A Cedar Rapids): 2-4, 3B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. Well, it’s July 2, and we all know what that means—International signing day. Kepler has set the benchmark for players in Europe. Some believe that if he is able to succeed, it will change the game in Europe. Kepler’s skill set gives him star potential, but there is an extreme gap between current ability and his future ceiling. In a perfect world, Kepler is a five-tool monster, but let’s be thankful if he is able to stay on prospect radars; .317/.404/.707 with 5 2B, 1 3B, and 3 HR in last 41 at-bats.
Another impressive outing from Noah Syndergaard, another power display from Miguel Sano, and a no-hitter from a knuckleballer—this weekend had a little bit of everything.
Games of Friday, June 28
Pitching Prospect of the Day: Cory Mazzoni, RHP, Mets (Double-A Binghamton): 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 K. I hate to say that I may have given a false sense of confidence to Mets fans, but I previously talked to a bunch of scouts that thought Mazzoni was going to stay as a starter moving forward. Recently, I’ve talked to more scouts who think that Mazzoni will be better utilized in the bullpen.
I’ve been on the Almonte bandwagon since his easy delivery first caught my eye during a fall instructional league game on the backfields in Arizona. I’m a sucker for an easy delivery and an effortless release, and Almonte won my heart that day by pumping a low-90s fastball for strikes and flashing a changeup that was already a near-plus offering. Fast-forward to his full-season debut, and the bandwagon is starting to look like a bus depot, as the 20-year-old continues to take steps forward with the arsenal and the production, working a fastball in the 92-97 range, flashing multiple breaking-ball looks including a bat-missing curve, and throwing a nasty changeup. Almonte’s inclusion on the Futures Game roster was a win for the young Dominican arm, a win for the Royals’ amateur scouting and player development teams, and a win for every wannabe scout that finds arousal in easy arm action and heavily pronated changeups. —Jason Parks
With Mike Pelfrey injured, the Twins bolster their rotation with a former first-rounder.
The Situation:Mike Pelfrey hit the shelf with a back injury, and Gibson was already on alert-five in Triple-A, eagerly awaiting his first major league opportunity.
Background: Gibson was a highly touted collegiate arm coming out of Missouri, but a few velocity valleys and an injury concern (forearm stress fracture) pushed him down the board. He fell to the Twins with the 22nd pick and signed for $1.85M. Most thought that when and if healthy, Gibson could move through the ranks of the minors in short order and provide the major league staff with an innings-chewing arm with upside. Healthy in 2010, the tall right-hander looked the part, making 26 starts and logging 152 IP in his minor league debut, erasing most of the injury concerns, and looking like a safe bet to develop into an above-average starter.
Royals right-hander Brooks Pounders took center stage yesterday, tossing a no-hitter for Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Pitching Prospect of the Day: Brooks Pounders, RHP, Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas): 9.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K. Pounders is not a major prospect, but the no-hitter is impressive. He’s a guy that could get a cup of coffee in the big leagues and end up as a swingman, or be a guy who frequently goes up and down.
Position Prospect of the Day: Grant Green, 2B, Athletics (Triple-A Sacramento): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI. I spoke with a scout the other day about Green, and he said, “I know he is putting up better numbers this year playing in the PCL, and I’m not sure I believe in him as a successful everyday candidate”; .432/.468/.886 with 6 2B, 1 3B, and 4 HR in last 44 at-bats.
With rosters for the Futures Game released, Jason looks at the players he's most excited to see on a big stage.
It needs to be remembered that the Futures Game is not your standard all-star game, where the most worthy for inclusion are recognized for their first-half production or promise. While it’s certainly true that the rosters are thick with frontline talent, the roster limitations (two players per team; some could have three depending on the lucky winners of the fan vote), positional necessity and nationality help shape the selections. Ex: Carlos Correa is candidate for inclusion via the MLB fan vote, but was not included on the initial roster. Jordan Lennerton is on the initial roster. He’s a 27-year-old first baseman in Triple-A. He’s also Canadian. Life isn’t always fair.
Let’s take a quick journey through the rosters, looking at the impact talent that I’m most looking forward to watching.
With Alfredo Figaro on the DL, the Brewers bring up a 6-foot-9 flamethrower.
The Situation: With starting pitcher Alfredo Figaro landing on the disabled list due to a strained oblique, the Brewers have recalled Hellweg from Triple-A Nashville. He’ll make his big-league debut on Friday against Pittsburgh. Figaro’s issue should sideline him until at least the All-Star break; while Hellweg may not be up permanently, he should get at least a couple starts. If you like big velocity (and who doesn’t?), I’d suggest tuning into Friday’s Brewers/Pirates matchup, as Hellweg will face Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole. Both starters will work mid-to-upper 90s and touch triple digits with their fastballs.
Background: A 16th-round pick out of the junior college ranks in 2008, Hellweg was a 6-foot-7 hurler who threw 90-92 mph at the time he was drafted. In the video interview shown below, the right-hander says he grew five inches between his late high school and early professional years. He now stands a towering 6-foot-9, and his velocity has bumped 101 mph in recent seasons.