Oscar Taveras and Marcus Stroman earn their diplomas, but Gregory Polanco is still waiting.
The Graduates: Oscar Taveras (2), Marcus Stroman (15)
It only took a year longer than many thought, but Taveras has finally taken his rightful place in the Cardinals’ outfield and lineup. With the ankle injury finally in the rearview mirror, the stud prospect is ready to start hitting for average and power immediately at the major league level. If reading about Taveras is your thing (and frankly, that’s all of us), he got the full Call-Up treatment on Saturday by Jason Parks, with fantasy analysis from yours truly. Stroman, on the other hand, is getting his second shot this season, but this time in the role he was born to play: starting pitcher. In his starting debut, Stroman went six innings while striking out six and allowing five base runners. He should stick and although the performance may be up and down, he’ll be worth owning in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixed.
The Departed: None
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Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras and Astros righty Jake Buchanan.
Hitter of the Night: Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals (Memphis, AAA): 4-5, R, 2B.
Much is being made out of Taveras’ NL Central counterpart Gregory Polanco and the Pirates’ unwillingness to promote him, but Taveras is making his case quite well, too. With a lot of struggling offensive players and a need for a jolt, it’s a race to see which team will make a move first.
Pitcher of the Night: Jake Buchanan, RHP, Astros (Oklahoma City, AAA): 9 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K.
The strikeouts aren’t typical of a Buchanan start, but the lack of walks and effective pitching are. His upper-80s arsenal doesn’t leave much of a ceiling (he can touch 91), but his extreme command gives him a chance to stick in the back end of a rotation.
Jurickson Profar makes his first appearance, but Gregory Polanco remains at the top.
The worst thing for a player who is performing at a high level in the minor leagues is to have a player (or players) ahead of him who is also getting the job done. This goes triple for position players, as a starting pitching prospect will force his way in there if his performance dictates that he deserves a job. If you look at the top names on this list (specifically the first five prospects), part of the reason why they are so prominently ranked is that they are significantly better from a talent perspective than what is ahead of them on the depth chart. Those five players, who are potentially going to be phased out, are (roughly) Travis Snider, Jon Jay, Luis Valbuena, Marc Krauss, and Cody Asche. Those are not impediments, they are placeholders.
The waters get much more murky when you have a player like Alexander Guerrero, who from a talent and performance standpoint should probably get a shot at major league playing time, but is behind Dee Gordon on the depth chart. Normally this wouldn’t be a huge obstacle, but Gordon (and his .385 on-base percentage) has been one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball this season. So while Guerrero ends up in the Honorable Mention section again because he would likely get the call in the event of a Gordon injury, that’s a much less likely outcome than a near replacement player playing like a near replacement level player.
We’ll keep the introduction short this week, but it’s the perfect time to touch on a very important topic, both when trying to predict which prospects will have both 2014 and long-term value.
Minor league statistics are deceiving. That’s not to say they can’t be informative, because they do tell the story of what has actually happened in professional games, but they don’t come close to explaining the whole picture. Take Eddie Butler for example—he’s been pitching well in Triple-A, but with the lowest strikeout rate of his minor league career. You could read this as a bad sign when you’re flipping through his Baseball Reference page, but the reality is that the stuff is still just as good as 2013 (if not better), and the Rockies are asking him to pitch to contact more.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo and Twins righty Alex Meyer
Hitter of the Night: Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets (St. Lucie, A+): 4-4, 2 R, 2B, HR.
Nimmo’s big day found him over the .400 mark on the season, but the real rarity on Monday night was that he actually didn’t take a walk. The extremely patient Nimmo takes a Votto-esque approach even to RBI situations, refusing to expand the strike zone for any occasion en route to 24 walks already this season and a .530 on-base percentage. How much power he will develop is still up in the air, but at the very least, he can hit atop a playoff-caliber lineup.
Pitcher of the Night: Alex Meyer, RHP, Twins (Rochester, AAA): 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 11 K.
Meyer is pitching about as well as the Twins could have hoped for, with this being his second-straight 11-strikeout, scoreless start. There’s little doubt that Meyer is one of the five best starters in the Twins organization right now and is certainly better than Kevin Correa or Mike Pelfrey at the moment, but both of those guys have money committed to them. With a combined 6.04 ERA for their starting pitchers, the Twins need Meyer, but they don’t have a place for him unless they make a move. That may be enough justification to keep him in the minors until summer.
Notes on prospects who stood out over the weekend, including third basemen Kris Bryant and Ryan McMahon.
Friday, April 25
Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Indians (Columbus, 1B): 3-5, R, HR, 2 K. Aguilar’s power has come in streaks this season, as he followed his home run on Friday with another on Saturday, giving him seven on the young season. He’s still striking out in bunches, too, but he’s also walking at a higher rate, making it an acceptable tradeoff.
Javier Baez retains the top spot, but there's a new hot prospect ranked second.
Yes, there was no Stash List for the past two weeks, but that was all part of the plan. Any changes would be extremely minimal, as no one wants more overreaction to small sample sizes and there was never going to be much roster movement. Of course, then the Astros go and call up George Springer, and now everyone is eyeing the prospects on their benches and asking “why not me?”
Well, realistically, not for a while. The most impactful area of this column for the first two months of the season deals with prospects, and if you haven’t read Zachary Levine’s analysis on service time, it’s extremely important for stashers like you and me. We all know about Super Two, approximately when the deadline is and why teams do it. But it’s often forgotten that there are some big prospects who come up in the second half of April, once their teams have ensured that they don’t lose a full year of control.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Royals outfielder Brett Eibner and Red Sox lefty Henry Owens.
Hitter of the Night: Brett Eibner, OF, Royals (Ohama, AAA): 5-5, 3 R, 2B, 2 HR.
Eibner is on the fringes of prospect territory these days as a 25-year-old who hit .243 in Double-A last year, but what he can do is hit for power, and when he cuts down on the swings and misses, he can really be an impact player. It just hasn’t happened nearly enough at the upper levels of the minors to this point.
Pitcher of the Night: Henry Owens, LHP, Red Sox (Portland, AA): 6 2/3 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K.
The 21-year-old Owens kept his ERA at 0.00 on the young season with his second straight nine-strikeout performance. When he’s being consistent with his mechanics, Owens generates tremendous downward plane that is difficult to square up and features two potential plus off-speed pitches.
From Xander Bogaerts to Gary Sanchez and everyone in between.
The following is an excerpt from the upcoming Baseball Prospectus Futures Guide 2014, our second-annual prospect book, which will collect all of BP's offseason prospect content (plus exclusive prospect and fantasy offerings) in book and e-book form. Here's a look at last year's book; expect an even more meaty offering this time around.
In an age where there’s more statistical information available on players than ever before, you’ve come to the right place to differentiate yourself from your league-mates. Even if you don’t play in a keeper or dynasty league where you can own minor leaguers without wasting roster spots, the importance of reading scouting reports and knowing who these players are becomes obvious when a few years later you are faced with the dilemma of choosing them for your roster.