Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell or Javier Baez? We polled front office types and our prospect staff.
A year ago, when Addison Russell was still in High-A in the Oakland A's system, Jason Parks polled front office sources and the BP prospect staff about a simple question: Which elite shortstop prospect would they build their team around? With the call-up of Russell today, it's worth revisiting the responses.
The rise of the superstar shortstop prospect prompts preferential inquiries, as my email inbox, Twitter feed, and chat queues are continually maxed out with questions about Bogaerts, Baez, Correa, Lindor, and Russell, and if forced to choose, which one would I choose? The five chiseled heads on the modern Mount Rushmore of shortstop prospects (six if you go high on Mondesi) present a daily challenge of preference, a subjective exercise of forced selection tied to the realities of the present and the fantasies of the future, a tug-of-war we play with ropes made of tangible data, scouting memories of on-the-field motions, and the conceptual ideas of value and who will be most likely to achieve it.
Updates on Nick Gordon, Carlos Correa, Billy McKinney, and more.
Hitter of the Night: Billy McKinney, OF, Cubs (Myrtle Beach, A+): 2-5, R, HR, BB. McKinney has been overlooked within the Cubs farm system since joining their ranks last season because his tools don’t scream as loudly as those of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, or the newly promoted Addison Russell, but in most systems, a player who just completed a successful season in High-A ball as a 19-year-old would be near the top. Now 20, McKinney is back in the Carolina League after being promoted aggressively before the 2014 season, and has now managed to appear in all three High-A leagues within a 12-month span. McKinney’s best tool is his bat, and he has the chance to hit in the .290-.300 range in the big leagues. A simple swing and strong approach, McKinney doesn’t hit for a ton of power but makes up for it with a strong feel for the barrel and high contact rates. With the inevitable depletion of the Cubs system due to graduations, McKinney should be getting a lot more attention as the season progresses, as well as an eventual promotion to Double-A.
Updates on Austin Hedges, Dylan Bundy, Austin Meadows, and more from the last week of minor-league games.
Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres (Triple-A El Paso)
On Friday, I had my first look at Hedges since he was a highly touted prospect at Junipero Serra High School in 2011, and while I wasn’t blown away, I certainly saw the flashes of brilliance that make him one of the top catching prospects in baseball. Hedges went 0-for-2 on the afternoon, but did draw two walks. During batting practice I saw an easy-to-repeat stroke that won’t ever let him hit for power, but does give him the ability to control the barrel and spray the ball to all parts of the field. Unfortunately, the Chihuahuas had him DHing Friday night, so I didn’t get a chance to see him on the field, though I did get a chance to see him show off an easy plus-plus arm before the game. A star he is not, but Hedges will be a quality starting catcher at the big-league level, and his floor is as high as any prospect in the San Diego system. –Christopher Crawford
Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles (Double-A Bowie)
In 2012, Bundy sliced and diced his way through lineups as he journeyed through the minors. The arsenal consisted of a potential double-plus fastball, plus curveball, and a plus change. It was the makings of a frontline arm, and that does not include the cutter, which was arguably his best offering. Tommy John surgery in 2013 shelved the right-hander for a substantial amount of time, missing all of 2013 and most of 2014. Last season, the stuff was decent but not at the caliber it was in 2012. The curveball lacked tight spin, the fastball lacked the mid-90s velocity, and the change was firm. While there were signs of encouragement, the return of Bundy's arsenal had yet to develop on the mound.
The Situation: The Cubs have their best roster since at least 2008, and with Mike Olt headed to the disabled list with a hairline fracture of his wrist, they have called up Bryant to man the hot corner and quiet the clamoring hordes.
Background: Bryant was the second overall pick out of the University of San Diego in 2013, and all he's done since is put up, at every professional level he has touched, the sort of stats that inspire hackneyed cliches about video game numbers. He came in fifth in BP's top 101 prospects this winter, ranking behind only Addison Russell on Chicago's top 10.
Updates on Corey Seager, Julio Urias, Mark Appel, and more.
Hitter of the Day: Corey Seager, 3B, Dodgers (Tulsa, AA): 2-4, 2 R, 3B, HR. Great hitter, off to a fantastic start, yada yada yada. There’s not much else to say about Seager’s bat that hasn’t already been said. He’s just a great hitter. It’s worth noting, however, that he did play third base on Thursday night. Many have suggested that he has been destined to move there out of athletic necessity, but not all agree, myself included. He won’t be Andrelton Simmons at short, but he has enough range to handle it in his 20s. The Dodgers may be thinking short-term, however, and if they have any part of 2015 in their minds for Seager, they want to at least get him some experience at third base in case he needs to fill in for Juan Uribe at some point.
The keys to a good changeup, and what scouts look for when identifying those keys.
Walter Johnson never threw a changeup. Babe Ruth never threw a changeup. Half of the best pitchers of the 1910s (as measured by Baseball-Reference's model for WAR) never threw a changeup. But in the century since, quality changeups and successful starters have become (with a few exceptions) nearly inseparable; 83 percent of qualifying starters last year threw a changeup or a splitter with some regularity. It's a pitch that throws power hitters off balance, that is easy to keep below the knees, and that neutralizes platoon advantages. It's been the go-to pitch for a number of great pitchers, from Trevor Hoffman to Jamie Moyer to James Shields. But while a pitcher doesn't need Tom Glavine's circle change to have a career, he most likely needs at least a quality change-of-pace to have a career in a starting rotation. It's the pitch the distinguishes most future starters from most future relievers.
Updates on Trevor Story, Alex Reyes, Kohl Stewart, and more.
Hitter of the Day: Trevor Story, 2B/SS, Rockies (Tulsa, AA): 3-3, 3 R, 2 2B, 3B, 2 BB. If 2014 was a step back in the right direction for Story, then 2015 is heading towards being a giant leap. Story got back on track last season in the California League, but wasn’t able to carry it over after a promotion, leaving questions about how much of his success was hitting environment-inflated. He’s answering them thus far this season, carrying over an impressive AFL stint into Double-A success. Story is a quick-twitch athlete with bat speed to spare, but issues putting it to good use from time to time. He can be streaky, with holes in his swing and approach that are going to limit his hit tool at the major-league level, but in between he should do a lot of damage for a middle infielder.
Hitter of the Day:Preston Tucker, OF, Astros (Fresno, AAA): 2-5, 3 R, 2 HR, K. Tucker isn’t the kind of guy that gets scouts talking, as his tools generally don’t jump off the field at you. But it’s impossible to argue with his production, which has always included big power numbers dating back to his days as a Florida Gator. He may not profile as an everyday player on a first-division team, but power is a scarce commodity in today’s game and Tucker has it. That alone will find him a role on a big-league roster sometime soon.