This weekend saw Trevor Bauer make his Triple-A debut, Dylan Bundy doing it again (with "it" being almost indescribable) and Tim Alderson regaining prospect status.
Tim Alderson, RHP, Pirates (Double-A Altoona)
Alderson was once a hot commodity. A first-round pick by the Giants in 2007, the six-foot-six right-hander burst onto the prospect scene by putting up a 2.79 ERA in the California League as a 19-year-old thanks to average velocity and fantastic command, but the velocity began to slip, and his career seemed to go downhill after a trade to the Pirates for Freddy Sanchez. After a six-plus ERA in 2010 and a move to the bullpen last year, he was all but off the radar. Except a funny thing happened this year, as Alderson changed his approach and took up an arm conditioning program that included long-tossing, and this spring his 85-88 mph suddenly jumped to 90-92. After dominating out of the Altoona pen, he moved to the rotation this month, and on Sunday he fired seven shutout innings while allowing just two hits and touching 93; at just 23, and after a Sunday promotion to Triple-A, he's suddenly a prospect again as a potential back-end rotation piece.
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This past weekend saw some improved control, some extended hitting streaks, and a few prospects who might be worth watching after all.
Manny Banuelos, LHP, Yankees (Triple-A Empire State)
On April 12, in his second start of the year, Banuelos walked six over two innings and then hit the disabled list with a minor back injury. The back was clearly affecting his delivery, but control was an issue in 2011 as well, and whether it's getting healthy or just a good run, he's suddenly turned into a strike-throwing machine. Since his return to the rotation—and including six outstanding innings on Sunday—Banuelos has reeled off 14 2/3 innings without issuing a walk, and he's done it without ratcheting down his stuff in terms of velocity or break. It's too early to get excited here, but with both Banuelos and Betances pitching well of late, maybe the Yankees will trust their own this year when a need arrives.
Interesting backstories dominate after this weekend's games, with surprise performances, defensive shifts, reclaimed prospect status, disappointing contracts, and accelerated big-league arrivals all on display.
Matt Barnes, RHP, Red Sox (High-A Salem)
Throughout the entire month of April, it was pretty clear that Barnes didn't belong in Low-A, as the 2011 first-round pick allowed just one run over 26 2/3 innings while striking out 42. On Saturday, Barnes showed that he might not belong in High-A either, as he whiffed 12 over six four-hit innings in his Carolina League debut. Just as important as the numbers, Barnes has started to break out the secondary stuff, as after relying primarily on a fastball that can touch 97 in Greenville, he was generating swings and misses with a curveball that has been an inconsistent pitch in the past. His ceiling hasn't changed yet, but his timetable is quickly accelerating.
OMG, you've never heard of Hanser Alberto? You totally should.
Hanser Alberto, SS/3B, Rangers (Low-A Hickory)
When I visited the Rangers minor league camp this spring, they were playing a pair of games with their Low- and High-A squads about 20 feet from each other. With one of the best systems in baseball, including a plethora of expensive draft picks and big ticket international signings, it was an impressive display of expensive talent, but it was Alberto who stole the show, as he just barreled everything. I hadn't even heard of him, but I got a quick primer from Jason Parks, who thinks he can hit, and that seems to be the universal opinion. That's with good reason as after eight hits over the weekend, including four on Sunday, the 19-year-old Dominican is now hitting .369/.396/.476 while seeing time at both left-side infield positions. It's always fun to see the big name players, but it's equally good to find new names as well.
A trio of perplexing pitchers leads off today's Ten Pack.
Dylan Axelrod, RHP, White Sox (Triple-A Charlotte)
The fact that Axelrod even reached the big leagues is quite an achievement. A 30th-round pick in 2007 by the Padres, Axelrod lasted a year and a half before landing in Indy ball, but all he did was get better. His primary skill is the ability to throw strikes. He pounds the strike zone with an 88-91 mph fastball, has a decent slider, and a somewhat-less-than-decent curve. He has no changeup, but he hits his spots and keeps hitters off balance; while that's the kind of pitcher who should hit a wall, he just hasn't yet. With 7 2/3 shutout innings on Sunday, he now has a 1.08 ERA in four starts for the Knights to go with 26 strikeouts and just four walks. He's already a great scouting find for the White Sox, and has to upgrade that status by becoming a usable arm as a No. 5 starter or middle reliever, which exceeds any expectation ever put on him.
Today's Ten Pack features more than a few notable A-ball performances in systems that could use some good news.
Tyler Austin, 1B/OF, Yankees (Low-A Charleston)
A 13th-round pick in 2010 who signed for an above-slot figure of $130,000, Austin showed impressive offensive ability in the New York-Penn League last year; on a Sally League squad loaded with much more well-known prospects, it's Austin who has stood out, going 8-for-13 with three doubles, a triple and his third home run of the year. His season line is at .438/.471/1.031 after eight contests. He has nowhere near the tools of some of his Riverdog prospect brethren, but the bat stands out, and is very much for real.
A quick look at ten players with notable opening weekends in the minors.
Matt Adams, 1B, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis)
Though he was last year's Texas League MVP, Adams still hasn't gotten a lot of love, as he was a 23rd round pick out of a small school in Pennsylvania and he looks more like a cleanup hitter for a 16-inch softball team than a professional baseball one. He gained more support from scouts with an impressive spring, and while he went 0-for-3 on Sunday, he's still off to one of the hotter starts around: after going deep in Thursday's opener, he hit another on Friday and just missed a third, and after initially getting an off day on Saturday, he ended up providing a pinch-hit three-run shot in the ninth inning. No prospect is going to make anybody forget Albert Pujols, but Adams could make the loss a little less painful for Cardinals fans in 2013, if not earlier.
A look at how the early crop of mock drafts are shaping up
If only MVP voting was as straight forward as fantasy baseball drafts and projections. That way, we could all chuckle at seeing a guy that was the 12th highest dollar earner in 15-team 5x5 leagues get a 1st place vote from a writer. As we saw yesterday with the AL MVP vote, and could likely see in the NL vote later today, some agendas can come into play in putting together your top ten players because the voting process is terribly subjective and allows people to do things such as put Michael Young 1st or leave Justin Verlander off a ballot, but fantasy baseball is much more objective. The goal in compiling draft lists is to rank people in order of their projected output totals and who will earn the most money. It may be easy to pencil in Young 1st on a ballot, but the case to draft him over Mike Napoli or Adrian Beltre is much tougher to make.
A look at whether the top competitors in Tout Wars followed common fantasy advice this season
Fantasy baseball is anywhere from 30 to 50 years old depending on which game you subscribe to, but there are a lot of commandments in this game that people still swear by because they read it in a magazine or some fantasy expert they follow told them it is the way to go. A great personal example I like to relay is my first and only experience in the NFBC draft in 2009 out in Las Vegas.