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
Luiz Gohara, LHP, Mariners (Rookie level Pulaski)
Perhaps I was overcome with premature appreciation for Gohara when I ranked him in the Mariners’ top 10 this offseason, a placement that left some people scratching their heads and searching for my meds. I felt confident at the time, and even more so when I saw the 16-year-old southpaw throw during a backfield workout; the catcher during the bullpen session was openly complaining about the sting of his hand after each Gohara fastball. The large-bodied Brazilian made his professional debut last Friday, logging four innings, giving up six hits, one earned run, five punch-outs and zero walks. The velocity is inconsistent, but Gohara can often work comfortably in the low-90s and touch even higher, with good feel for a changeup and what look like two separate breaking balls that he can manipulate. He has a feel for repeating and throwing strikes, and his fastball arrives with serious life. The ceiling is enormous but the body isn’t exactly chiseled out of bronze complete with a lavish glow, and given his age there is some concern about his physical development. But pitching is more about getting outs and less about impressing scouts with a summer-ready bikini body, so if Gohara can get results on the field and stay healthy, it doesn’t matter if his body already resembles the pear-shaped outline of a shorter CC Sabathia. –Jason Parks
Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox (Triple-A Pawtucket)
The rapid rise of the Boston system’s crown jewel has been marked with one noticeable theme: the ability to adjust. While Bogaerts’ elite batspeed, easy power, and loud contact to all fields headline the hitting package, it’s been this aspect of his game that really stands out. The 20-year-old entered the season in Double-A with the need to tighten up his pitch selection and narrow down his strike zone. Despite the shortstop’s initial success over 23 games at the level to finish 2012, his free-swinging tendencies pointed toward some potential growing pains over an extended stretch in the league without improvement. Bogaerts came right out of the gate in 2013 looking like a hitter with more mature plate discipline, and proceeded to carry it into a mid-year promotion to the next level. Now one step from The Show, the young, potential middle-of-the-order thumper is tasked with his next challenge. If history and his impressive resume are any indication, Bogaerts will more than meet it and start pushing for a place on the big club’s roster in the near future. –Chris Mellen
Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes)
The 2012 first-rounder has enjoyed a strong first year of full-season ball in the Midwest League, despite his production being overshadowed by the likes of Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa. Seager entered pro ball with an advanced approach that allows a whippy swing to play well as a catalyst for both his hit and power tools, and he has carried that approach (and swing) over to the pro game with great success. As of this morning, Seager is triple-slashing .301/.364/.527, including a terrific series at the plate this weekend against West Michigan, during which he went a combined six for eleven with two doubles and two homeruns.
In the field, the former South Carolina commit continues to display soft hands and a strong arm, and despite slowly growing into his broad frame, he remains a capable defender at shortstop for the time being. Ultimately, Seager fits best as an above average glove at the hot corner, with a middle-of-the-lineup offensive profile that could earn him some all-star appearances at that position. Looking ahead to the second half, Seager’s focus will be on continuing his disciplined approach at the plate and continuing to foster his rapidly developing impact hit and power tools. He isn’t as flashy as some of the other young talent in the Midwest League, but Seager has one of the best offensive profiles of the lot, and one of the more well rounded profiles overall. He will be just 19 years old for the remainder of the season. , –Nick Faleris
Joey Gallo, 3B, Rangers (Low-A Hickory)
A typical batting practice session from Gallo features about a dozen drives—screamers, or high archers—landing well beyond the fences in either right or left field. The raw power is a legit 80, and has translated into an impressive 22 home runs at about the midway point of the season. The 19-year-old unleashes a swing with plenty of extension and leverage, designed to create maximum loft. Both his present strengths and weaknesses revolve around these characteristics of his swing. Gallo taps into his strength via the tremendous extension, but also opens up so early with his arms that it creates multiple holes, especially on the inner third. The 122 strikeouts in 71 games jump out equally, or even more, than the power the third baseman has displayed to date. The young hitter does pick up the spin of the ball relatively quickly and is not over-matched by the level of competition, but also believes he can hit every pitch delivered to him regardless of where it ends up. Gallo will be tasked with toning down his aggressiveness and finding some kind of balance with his swing going forward. While the high strikeout totals are likely always going to be a part of his game, the power and flashes of feel for hitting can carry him with growth in the secondary skills. –Chris Mellen
George Springer, CF, Astros (Triple-A Oklahoma City)
Springer was promoted to Triple-A on Sunday but will first appear in Tuesday’s Texas League All-Star Game. One of the minors’ best statistical performers of the first half, Springer batted .297/.399/.579 in 73 games with Corpus Christi. He’ll exit the Texas League as the circuit’s leader in slugging percentage with 20 doubles and 19 home runs. He also ranks second in stolen bases, swiping 23 in 28 attempts.
Flashing a handful of plus tools––glove, arm, speed, raw power––the 23-year-old prospect is looking more and more like the Astros’ center fielder of the future. The primary debate among scouts is whether he can reach his ceiling as a first-division regular. The UConn product has all the natural tools to make that happen. But despite a disciplined approach (13 percent walk rate in Double-A), there’s a lot of swing-and-miss within the zone (29.7 percent strikeout rate). While Springer likely won’t reproduce his near-.300 batting average at the major-league level, he has made strides, and the PCL will provide his biggest test to date. –Jason Cole
Niko Goodrum, SS, Twins (Low-A, Cedar Rapids)
After an up-and-down repeat campaign at Rookie Level Elizabethton in 2012, Goodrum has handled himself admirably in 2013—his first taste of full-season ball. He has spent the bulk of his time at shortstop, where his actions are adequate in spite of a deliberate lower half, and should continue to prove capable at the six spot in the short term. Long term, the question of ultimate position is one that will be answered by his physical development. Too much additional mass in the lower half, where has already filled-in a fair amount since starting his pro career, and he could be destined for third base or right field—his plus to plus-plus arm strength capable of handling either move.
An above average runner right now, Goodrum’s first step affords him good jumps on the bases, and he clocked a 4.12 home-to-first time in this weekend’s series at Wisconsin (a 60, on the 20/80 scale). At the plate, he remains a work in progress. At his best, he seeks out fastballs early in the count and shows quick hands capable of spraying the ball to all fields. At times this year, including this past weekend, he can allow himself to get too passive at the plate, leading to pitchers’ counts and fewer pitches to drive. He has done a good job not expanding the zone as often this year as he did in the Appalachian League, but he can swing too far to the other end of the spectrum, looking at close strike threes, rather than taking a more defensive approach when behind. A solid first half in the books, Goodrum will look to build on his progress at the plate while refining his actions in the field throughout the second half. –Nick Faleris
Neil Ramirez, RHP, Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
Coming off a disastrous 2012 campaign in which he posted a 6.28 ERA between the Double- and Triple-A levels, Ramirez is rebounding nicely this season in Double-A. The 24-year-old righty ranks third in the minors with 97 strikeouts in 81 innings, and he’s doing it with a dominant fastball. Ramirez, who has yielded only 48 hits but walked 36, is consistently sitting 93-96 mph in starts and reaching up to 97. His velocity ticked up while tossing six scoreless innings on June 20, as he worked at 94-95 and touched 98 in the fifth, per a scout source. He’s also mixing in an average-or-better change and slider with the occasional curveball. While his below average command may relegate him to the bullpen long term, he’s mostly throwing strikes and once again flashing the big-league stuff that led to his 2011 breakout. –Jason Cole
Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox (Low-A Kannapolis)
Entering the 2012 college season, Johnson projected to go off the board in the top five rounds. An elbow injury and eventually surgery altered that projection and he ended up going in the ninth round to the White Sox that summer. Johnson’s numbers jump off the page in the South Atlantic League this season: a .335/.416/.524 line through 70 games. While Johnson’s numbers instantly impress, his scouting report has some holes that must be closed before he proudly owns a definitive big-league profile. Johnson is a 70-grade raw runner but his instincts force his speed to play down a grade during games. He can still swipe bases and shows good range at second base, but his running ability could be more impactful with an improved feel for the game. Aside from his range, Johnson’s skills at second base come up short. He has hands of stone and doesn’t get good jumps at contact. Most scouts believe he will move to the outfield long term but, the White Sox will understandably give him every opportunity to stick at the keystone. Johnson is a good athlete, quality hitter and has surprising punch in his stick, giving him a chance to find a spot on a major-league roster. His defensive profile will determine his long-term value, and if he stays on the dirt, he has a chance to be a solid player. –Mark Anderson
Robert Gsellman, RHP, Mets (Short-Season Brooklyn)
Despite making two starts in the Florida State League and five starts in the Sally, Gsellman found himself back on a short-season roster when the New York-Penn League opened its season on the 17th. A 13th round pick in the 2011 draft, Gsellman is more than just an organizational soldier, as the 19-year-old has a good combo of size and stuff, and some arsenal projection to dream on. In a recent five-inning appearance, the 6’4’’, 210-pound righty worked his fastball at 90-91, and touched 92 several times. The arm works well and the delivery is clean, although the action is a little long and he had a tendency to cast the secondary stuff. The changeup showed some promise and he was able to throw his arsenal for strikes, but he didn’t show any plus offerings in the small sample. With the strong frame and the feel for throwing strikes, Gsellman could develop into a workhorse type at the back of a rotation, but he’s a long way from that projection. –Jason Parks