Hitter of the Day: Bubba Starling, OF, Royals (NW Arkansas, AA): 4-5, 3 R, 2B, 3B, HR, SB.
Four years later, here we are with Starling. Soon to be 23, he’s in Double-A and having some moderate success, though still short of what the Royals once envisioned. The strikeouts are down somewhat, though only relative to their previously obscene levels. Getting him out of Wilmington really hasn’t helped his power production, however, at least not the way many believed it might, Tuesday night notwithstanding. He’s still got the tools, and his defense in center field combined with his name recognition and draft pedigree could get him to the big leagues, but there’s still little reason to believe he’ll ever hit consistently.
Pitcher of the Day: Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds (Louisville, AAA): 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, BB, 10 K.
When Stephenson throws strikes, he’s on par with any pitching prospect in the game. I could go into a lot more detail, but that would be superfluous. He’s got the stuff that doesn’t even require pinpoint command as long as he can cut the plate in half with his fastball. He’s yet to do so consistently in the upper minors, but when he’s around the strike zone, the strikeouts skyrocket.
Best of the Rest
Kevin Newman, SS, Pirates (West Virginia, SS) 2-4, R, 2 2B. Fair or not, college picks are not expected to have as long of a transition period to professional ball as their highschool counterparts, especially when they’re selected in the first round out of major programs the way Newman was by the Pirates, taken 19th overall out of the University of Arizona last month. The transition hasn’t been smooth, but there’s no reason for concern just yet, as the jump from even the Pac-12 to short-season ball can sometimes be daunting.
Ryan Mountcastle, SS, Orioles (GCL Orioles): 3-8, R, 2B, HR, K, SB (DH). The jump from high school to the complex leagues can be equally daunting, but Mountcastle, the Orioles second first-round pick this June (36th overall), has adjusted quite nicely. He’s now hitting .330 in the early going, though that’s aided by a ridiculously high BABIP and in spite of a free-swinging approach. Like any 18-year-old recent draftee, there are adjustments to be made, but early success is always a positive sign.
Drew Jackson, SS, Mariners (Everett, SS): 2-3, 3 R, 2B, 2 BB, 3 SB. Jackson slipped to the fifth round because his performance at Stanford didn’t always match his talent level, but the former Cardinal has hit the ground running in professional ball, both literally and figuratively. With elite speed, Jackson now has 24 stolen bases in 26 attempts, taking advantage of inexperienced pitchers and catchers. He’s a plus defender at shortstop, too, which means the offensive bar he’ll need to clear is well within reach. He could end up being one of the steals of the 2015 draft.
Michael Fulmer, RHP, Mets (Binghamton, AA): 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K. Fulmer has made some solid adjustments this season, continuing to throw more strikes against better competition while missing plenty of bats. The overall arsenal isn’t eye-popping, but he’s using it effectively and he’s built to eat innings.
Sean Newcomb, LHP, Angels (Inland Empire, A+): 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, BB, 8 K. Similar to Stephenson, when Newcomb is in the strike zone he’s incredibly effective. The track record of giving away free passes is beginning to get long, but he doesn’t need to be pinpoint with his location. His fastball/slider combination is good enough to carry him and miss plenty of bats, as long as he gives hitters a reason to swing at them.
Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees (Scranton/W-B, AAA): 2-4, R, 2 2B, K. The power hasn’t quite arrived in Scranton since moving up and across the NJ/PA state line from Trenton, but power production isn’t exactly something we need to worry about with Judge. He’ll go through stretches where he doesn’t hit a ton of home runs because he really doesn’t attempt to hit them, instead using a balanced, line-drive approach to be a better all-around hitter and taking the home runs that come naturally to him. It’s the kind of strategy you can get away with when you’re on track to be the largest hitter in big-league history.
Cody Bellinger, OF, Dodgers (Rancho Cucamunga, A+): 2-4, 3 R, 2 HR. Flawed-but-talented players can be a lot of fun in the California League, especially when their talent is prodigious power. Bellinger has pop to spare, but he doesn’t spare trying to put it to good use. That gets him in trouble a lot, especially on anything that doesn’t move in a straight line toward the plate. But in between chasing breaking balls out of the strike zone, he’s doing an awful lot of damage for a 20-year-old, even for one in the California League.
Fight Another Day
Lucas Giolito, RHP, Nationals (Harrisburg, AA): 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 3 K. This is where we’ve gotten to with Giolito, the game’s top pitching prospect: Some borderline struggles in his first start in Double-A get him on the bad part of the list. There is absolutely nothing to worry about, obviously, though it will be interesting to see how he adjusts if he’s finally challenged.
Notable Prospect Starters
- Jose Berrios, RHP, Twins (Rochester, AAA): 6 IP, 5 H, R, 3 BB, 8 K.
- Brent Honeywell, RHP, Rays (Port Charlotte, A+): 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, BB, 7 K.
- Kyle Freeland, LHP, Rockies (Grand Junction, R): 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 6 K.
- Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals (Omaha, AAA): 5 IP, H, 0 R, 4 BB, 6 K.
- Brian Johnson, LHP, Red Sox (Pawtucket, AAA): 6 1/3 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K.
- Braden Shipley, RHP, Diamondbacks (Mobile, AA): 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, BB, 4 K.
- Jarlin Garcia, LHP, Marlins (Jacksonville, AA): 5 2/3 IP, 8 H, 6 R (5 ER), BB, 5 K.
- Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Blue Jays (Dunedin, A+): 4 2/3 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 4 K.
- Jesse Biddle, LHP, Phillies (Lehigh Valley, AAA): 5 IP, H, 2 R (1 ER), 5 BB, 4 K.
- Luis Heredia, RHP, Pirates (Bradenton, A+): 6 IP, 4 H, R, 2 BB, 2 K.
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