Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (Chattanooga, AA): 4-6, R, 2B, 3B, CS. It feels like it’s been forever since we’ve been able to rave about Buxton. Sure, he’s still the top prospect in all of baseball, but it doesn’t feel like it right? It’s difficult to be overlooked when you’re at the top, but given the plethora of Cubs prospects dominating the prospect landscape, the strength of the Twins system surrounding Buxton, and the general lack of attention span of all of us, it’s easy to see why we’ve forgotten about Buxton to a certain extent. After an injury-riddled 2014 campaign, we’re still in virtually the same place we were a year ago with Buxton. With a Double-A challenge lying ahead of him, a healthy season of Buxton will tell us a lot about his development. Clearly, the tools are still well intact.
Michael De Leon, SS, Rangers (Hickory, A-): 3-5, R, 2 2B, K. De Leon represents a classic developmental question—how much additional credit do we give a prospect for being young for his level, even if the player struggles at that level? De Leon, among other things, exudes smoothness on the field. He’s a legitimate defender at an up-the-middle position and has more than enough arm to stick on the left side. At the plate, his profile is limited with little power potential, not only because of his thin frame but because of his swing. He can grow into more strength, but his approach is still small-ball oriented. Regardless, he’s a strong defender who is developing a track record of holding his own against much older competition. So he’s earning his chops as a prospect and a future big-leaguer, but with his current offensive profile, the ceiling is only so high.
Dwight Smith, Jr., OF, Blue Jays (New Hampshire, AA): 3-4, R, 2B. Most of the time, scouting is about establishing a profile, projecting a player’s future, and figuring where a player is going to fit in at the major-league level. Other times, it’s just about feel. I don’t know where Smith is going to fit in at the big-league level, but he’s going to fit in somewhere. The profile is still somewhat in between what’s needed for a center and left fielder, but the bat is strong enough to find a niche at the major-league level, likely as a fourth outfielder who could thrive if used in the correct role.
Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers (Tulsa, AA): 4-4, R. We can give as much credit as we want to the California League for inflating Seager’s numbers last season, but the act remains: good hitters hit. Seager backed that up last year after being promoted to Double-A, and is now batting over .500 on the 2015 season. There’s little to doubt about Seager’s bat, with the only thing up in the air being how long the Dodgers are willing to wait on his development and whether or not they believe he can remain at shortstop.
JaCoby Jones, SS, Pirates (Bradenton, A+): 2-4, R, 2B, HR, 2 SB. In his first full season (with the caveat of being old for his Low-A level), Jones showed off a strong power/speed combination while manning a premium defensive position. That all sounds like an elite prospect, but the profile comes with holes. Many believe he’ll end up in the outfield or as a utility player, though his athleticism does lend most to believe he can remain up the middle somewhere, at least on a short-term basis. At the plate, the power is real, though the fear that the approach will limit its in-game application is real. The 2013 third-rounder still has a lot to prove for a college pick, but there are enough tools there to project some major-league production if he can figure out how to harness his ability.
Christian Arroyo, SS, Giants (San Jose, A+): 2-4, R, HR. Arroyo feels like he’s been around for a while since he was drafted in 2013—forever ago in the prospect world—but despite that, he doesn’t turn 20 until the end of May. The Giants promoted him to the California League despite immense struggles last year in Low-A Augusta. The promotion will be a challenge, but perhaps the more hitter-friendly environments can help jump-start his bat. It’s not a sexy profile, with a limited ceiling thanks to the lack of power in his bat, but as our own Al Skorupa pointed out this spring after seeing him in the desert, “he has a good feel for hitting…does enough well to be a role-5 type.”
Wilmer Difo, SS, Nationals (Potomac, A+): 2-4, R, HR. Given his emergence on the prospect scene last year, Difo’s ability to repeat his impressive performance will be one of the bigger storylines in the Nationals farm system this year. He’s talented, no doubt, but the question remains just how much of his impressive performance was the result of a 22-year-old feasting on younger pitching. Much of the same still applies this year, but if Difo can repeat his breakout performance to any extent this spring, he could speed up his timetable. The tools are there, with legitimate defensive skills at shortstop and premium bat speed, but it remains to be seen how the approach will play against better competition and pitchers his own age.
Roman Quinn, OF, Phillies (Reading, AA): 3-4, R, 2B, 3B, CS. We all know about the speed in Quinn’s game, almost all of which came back after an Achilles injury after the 2013 season. He can go get it in center field and has completed the transition to the outfield nicely, but at the plate he’s still a work in progress. The bat has holes on both sides, but if he can provide premium value in the field and on the bases, he could be a meaningful contributor on a team. Double-A will be a good test for his ability to drive the ball and control the strike zone.
Nomar Mazara, OF, Rangers (Frisco, AA): 2-4. Mazara was one of the players our Prospect Team raved about the most after their spring training trips to the desert, and that raving continues into the start of the minor-league regular season. Our own Colin Young saw him on Monday night and commented to me on how polished he looked at the plate, saying:
“He looked like a veteran up at the plate, very comfortable, and tracked the ball well to the mitt. His swing was short and quick to the ball and used his hands very well and very fluid. Not a one plane swinger like you see a lot these days, he had very nice bat control. For a 19-year-old, I was impressed how polished he looked at the plate.”
The reports on Mazara this spring have been unsuitable for work, and he’s carried that over into the season. There are bound to be some strike outs against Double-A pitching, but not as many as you’d expect given his power potential.
Notable Prospect Starters
- Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets (Las Vegas, AAA): 4 IP, 7 H, 3 R (2 ER), BB, 2 K.
- Dylan Bundy, RHP, Orioles (Bowie, AA): 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, K.
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