Jason Parks updates his rankings of the best prospects in the minor leagues.
Before you dive into the list, a few explanations about the construction that might prove beneficial. Prospects currently playing at the major-league level were not eligible for this list. I also didn’t follow standard guidelines for rookie eligibility; rather, if a prospect has logged significant playing time at the highest level—be it the commonly recognized 50 innings for a pitcher, 130 at-bats for a hitter, or just under those magic plateaus—I made a judgment call as to whether or not his inclusion would add to the product. This list is about prospects, not major-league players masquerading as prospects because they fall just short of such recognized classifications. If a player has sipped a form of major-league coffee over the course of two seasons, he won’t be included on this list. These are all prospects currently playing in the minors, and only four players on the list have major-league experience of any kind. Because it’s a mid-season list and not the more comprehensive offseason production, I wanted the focus to be on the talent in the minors and not on those still wearing the label despite playing under the bright lights in the big parks.
“But hey, enough of my yakkin'. What do you say? Let’s boogie.” —Marty DiBergi
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.
Cubs righty Alberto Cabrera shined on a day when few notable prospects stood out on the minor-league diamonds.
Pitching Prospect of the Day: Alberto Cabrera, RHP, Cubs (Double-A Tennessee): 8.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 13 K; plus-plus fastball with life; potential solid-average slider; potential average changeup. The problem with Cabrera is that he has been very inconsistent in his minor league career. Cabrera has performed well thus far in 2013 and will hope to stay as a starter moving forward; 91.2 IP, 88 H, 36 ER, 34 BB, 94 K in 15 starts.
Position Prospect of the Day: Willy Garcia, OF, Pirates (High-A Bradenton): 6-6, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. Potential average hit tool; solid-average power potential; average runner; solid-average arm. After jumping onto the prospect radar in 2012, Garcia has shown some power in the Florida State League. Some scouts wonder if the hit tool will ever be good enough for him to play every day at the big league level; .378/.439/.622 with 3 2B and 2 HR in last 37 at-bats.
A tour around the minors, including looks at Oscar Taveras, Xander Bogaerts, Luiz Gohara, and Joey Gallo
Oscar Taveras, CF, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis)
Taveras celebrated his 21st birthday on Wednesday by going 2-for-5 with a home run. His week ended on a sour note, however, as he was lifted from Sunday’s contest after appearing to aggravate his ankle injury, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The top prospect initially injured his ankle while sliding into second base on May 12th. He returned to the Redbirds’ lineup on June 8th. When I saw Taveras in Round Rock last week, his ankle certainly didn’t look healthy––he was limping all over the field (shown in this video).
While Taveras’ ailing ankle rendered him unable to run on the basepaths and in center field––and, despite the clear #want, left me wondering why he was attempting to play through an obvious injury––the other aspects of his game looked sharp. The Dominican Republic native displayed his gargantuan strength by fighting off a fastball and sending it off the wall to the opposite field on Friday. Taveras is a highly aggressive hitter who’s looking to tackle anything within his large hitting zone. But his elite hand-eye coordination and plate coverage (in addition to his strength and bat speed) enables him to make consistent loud contact. As a scout told me this weekend, “That’s what a future all-star hitter looks like.” –Jason Cole
Dodgers Low-A shortstop Corey Seager slugged two homers on Friday, kicking off a weekend with tons of exciting prospect action.
Games of Friday, June 21
Pitching Prospect of the Day: Kyle Crick, RHP, Giants (High-A San Jose): 4.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 10 K. Crick entered the year as the Giants’ top prospect. He excelled in his return from the disabled list. Crick uses a potentially plus-plus fastball, an easy plus curveball, and a solid-average cutter. He has an athletic delivery and a front-of-the-rotation ceiling.
Today's update features Mariners righty Taijuan Walker, who showed off his outstanding stuff in a 12-strikeout outing for Double-A Jackson, and notes on 15 other prospects.
Pitching Prospect of the Day: Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mariners (Double-A Jackson): 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 12 K. The 20-year-old Walker has front-of-the-rotation stuff. He features a plus-plus fastball, a potential plus-plus cutter, a potential plus curveball, and a fringy changeup. Walker may have to develop a splitter at the major-league level, but he has ace-level potential; 25.0 IP, 18 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 33 K in four June starts.
Position Prospect of the Day: Lewis Brinson, CF, Rangers (Low-A Hickory): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 4 RBI, 2 K. Something very in-depth should be coming on Brinson very soon. I know the strikeout rate is crazy high, but I believe in him.
A look back at the first two-plus months of minor-league action, including prospects and systems on the rise and on the decline.
With the first half of the minor league season in the books (or at least near the books), it’s appropriate to review some of the material we have been presented with along the way. The nature of the developmental system is the tug of war between progression and regression, both at the individual level and with the farms themselves, and it’s important to recognize and review such trends without losing context of the sample or the process in general. We take snapshots of a fixed point in time, pictures of arbitrary beginnings and endings that we inflate in order to compartmentalize and classify. This is our nature and our beast, but we are not on the hunt for binary conclusions or reports chiseled into the cement. The pleasing bloom of a prospect in June could spoil and wilt by July, and the possibility of that decay is not lost on anybody reading this article. The schizophrenia of the season is one of the many reasons we adore this particular aspect of the sport; the conclusions formed in the first half aren’t predetermined as conclusions that will be formed in the second.
For this article, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting events of the first half, including prospects with significant developmental shifts, farms on the climb and the descent, and some of the statistical oddities, curiosities, and peculiarities of the first three months of the minor league season.
A trip around the minors, with looks at Julio Urias, Martin Perez, Mark Sappington, Jose Dominguez, and others.
Julio Urias, LHP, Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes) At the end of the day, the minor-league story of the year might be the prospect propulsion of 16-year-old Julio Urias, a left-handed pitcher recently signed out of Mexico. The Dodgers decided to send the precocious arm to the Midwest League to begin his professional career, a move that had an initial scent of novelty, but the reality is far from a stunt. Urias is a special talent, with a preternatural feel for his craft and the type of stuff that could one day play at the top of a major-league rotation. Listed at 5’11’’, the southpaw is actually closer to 6’1’’, with a projectable frame and a present fastball that routinely touches 95 mph on the gun. From an easy, repeatable delivery, Urias works 91-93 with the heater and has two secondary pitches that he can drop for strikes in any situation. While it’s easy to get excited about a would-be high school sophomore pitching in a full-season league, the real excitement comes from the reality that Urias is a very legit talent on the fast track to prospect fame. It’s remarkable for a 16-year-old to get outs at the full-season level, much less miss more than a bat an inning. That’s just insanity. I’m drinking the Boing! when it comes to Urias. I’m all in. –Jason Parks
Jose Dominguez, RHP, Dodgers (Triple-A Albuquerque) A pop-up prospect in the Dodgers system, Dominguez has raced to Triple-A on the strength of his 80-grade fastball that is routinely reaching 100-101 mph. The 22-year-old righty is something of a late bloomer. After signing in 2007, he pitched three years in the Dominican Summer League and didn’t reach full-season ball until 2012. He also served a 50-game PED suspension in 2010 followed by a 25-game ban last year.
All the prospecty goodness from the past weekend, including notes on Rangers third base prospects Joey Gallo and Mike Olt.
Pitching Prospect of the Day: C.J. Edwards, RHP, Rangers (Low-A Hickory): 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K. Edwards, one of my favorite prospects, has an easy plus fastball that can touch 95 with life. In addition to the fastball, Edwards has a curveball with plus potential and a changeup that is still developing; 10.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 20 K in two April starts.
Position Prospect of the Day: Jonathan Garcia, OF, Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga): 4-5, 2B, 2 HR, 3 R, 5 RBI, K. Garcia has good bat speed with solid-average power potential. However, this is his second go-around in the California League so I would proceed with caution; .488/.500/1.000 with 3 2B, 2 3B, and 5 HR in last 43 at-bats.
Extending the quantification of catcher framing to a new frontier.
In my last article, I presented the results of using Retrosheet pitch-by-pitch data for measuring catchers’ framing performance. After showing that the alternate method fared quite well, despite not relying on pitch location data, I went on to provide historical leaderboards (Brad Ausmus is tops among catchers of the past quarter century) and explore the issue of aging (Father Time seems not to take much of a toll on framers).
I left you with one teaser: while it was nice to have some of the retired catchers ranked, the most valuable byproduct of that research was that it made ranking active catchers at lower levels possible. That’s the topic I’ll tackle today.