Alex Bregman, SS, Astros (Lancaster, A+): 4-6, 3B. The transition to professional baseball is supposed to be difficult. In fact, it is difficult, and it’s a legitimate excuse we make for a lot of players who struggle during their draft years. Bregman, however, cares not for your pathetic excuses, instead handling challenge after challenge like a seasoned veteran.
Kyle Holder, SS, Yankees (Staten Island, SS): 2-4, 2 R, 2 2B. Holder’s transition to pro ball has been significantly more bumpy than Bregman’s, and those who have seen him aren’t much more optimistic. The biggest question is the iffy bat speed, which limits which pitches he can hit and erases any ability to drive them. The glove will have to carry him.
LaMonte Wade, OF, Twins (Elizabethton, R): 2-5, R, HR, 2 K. Wade has taken the Appalachian League by storm since being selected in the ninth round in June, continuing his extreme upward trend of development. It’s not surprising to see Wade having success. It is, however, somewhat surprising to see Wade displaying this kind of power, with nine home runs now on the short season.
Dustin Fowler, OF, Yankees (Tampa, A+): 2-5, R, 2B, K. Consider the 2015 season a coming-out party for Fowler on the prospect landscape. A fantastic athlete, Fowler is still figuring out how to make the transition to full-time baseball player, which makes his performance even more exciting. He’s still raw and unrefined, and still learning the finer points of hitting like executing a plan at the plate and driving the ball rather than just making contact, but he has all the tools to be an impact hitter and up-the-middle defender.
Jacob Faria, RHP, Rays (Montgomery, AA): 8 IP, 3 H, R, BB, 13 K. Faria stood out to me this season, also putting his name on the prospect map by dominating High-A ball early in the season and forcing a promotion to Double-A. Having just turned 22, Faria has seen his strikeout numbers spike after his promotion, thanks to a quickly developing changeup and a curveball that has been better in second and third looks than I gave it credit for after my first viewing. With easy velocity and a strong downward plane, Faria can miss bats with his fastball alone. The development of multiple secondary pitches makes him a potential mid-rotation starter.
Nomar Mazara, OF, Rangers (Round Rock, AAA): 3-4, 2 R, HR, K. Mazara continues to force the Rangers’ hand, and he continues to answer the bell even better than expected. He’s still closer to 20 than 21 yet he not only handled but actually excelled at the Double-A level. He’s continued to hit for power while maintaining his approach and there’s more pop in there as he learns to use his size and growing strength. Mazara could become one of the game’s elite hitters.
A.J. Reed, 1B, Astros (Corpus Christi, AA): 4-4, 4 R, 2B, HR, BB. (2-4, 2 R, 2 HR on Saturday) Well, if there was any argument about Reed’s early-season production being Cal League-inflated, he’s done his best to put that to rest. He’s still a bat-first player, which means he’ll need to keep this up throughout his development—well, not a four-digit OPS, though that would be nice, but significant offensive contribution—in order to be an everyday player.
Matt Olson, 1B, A’s (Midland, AA): 2-3, 2 R, 2B, HR, 2 BB. Olson is as extreme a three-true-outcomes player as you’ll find in the minors, but now that his power production has returned in the final months of the year, we have a better feeling of its ability to play in more neutral environments. He’s not going to hit for average on a consistent basis, but his refusal to expand the strike zone and his ability to do damage when he connects gives him a chance to make it work.
Alex Jackson, OF, Mariners (Everett, SS): 2-3, 2 R, 2 HR. This has generally been a lost season for Jackson, but he’s salvaging it somewhat after a return to short-season ball. Thought to be the most advanced high school bat in last year’s draft, Jackson has struggled with strikeouts, even during his successful stretches. That issue was exploited badly in Clinton but has still been an issue even back in Everett. At least he’s now showing off the power potential that made him such a highly regarded prep bat.
Jacob Nottingham, C, A’s (Stockton, A+): 2-3, R, HR, BB. Nottingham’s season has been impressive, with a strong combination of arm strength and power production showing why the A’s were interested in acquiring him at the trade deadline. A true breakout campaign, Nottingham’s success has spanned three teams over two leagues, but he’s never stopped hitting.
Alex Reyes, RHP, Cardinals (Springfield, AA): 5 IP, 3 H, R, 3 BB, 8 K. Reyes continues to miss bats at epic rates, which gives him some leeway with the walks. Also forgiving him is the fact that he just turned 21 this weekend and is already mowing down Double-A hitters. The command is the key, and there’s no way to sugarcoat it. Even at 101 mph, he’ll need to place his fastball. But he should be able to and there’s still plenty of time for him to put his athleticism to more effective use. There’s little reason in his mechanics or body structure to believe he won’t get there.
Sean Manaea, LHP, A’s (Midland, AA): 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K. It hasn’t been an issue of talent for Manaea—who became the top pitching prospect in the A’s system the moment he arrived—but rather his ability to stay on the field. When he does, he features the potential for two plus pitches, his fastball and slider, and a third average offering. As he’s been on the field more consistently to put it all together, he’s become a guy who could move surprisingly quickly.
Deivi Grullon, C, Phillies (Lakewood, A-): 4-6, 2 R, HR. There’s really no getting around the fact that Grullon has not had a good season. In fact, he’s never been a good hitter. Luckily, he’s a catcher, and a damn good one with an elite-level arm. That’ll get him to the big leagues, but it’s hard to see him ever being a starter, unless it’s on a strong offensive team that can afford to get nothing but defense from behind the plate.
Richard Urena, SS, Blue Jays (Lansing, A-): 3-5, 2 R, HR. It’s not surprising to see Urena struggle even back in Low-A ball despite his talents. He’ll run into games like this because he’s a gifted player, but there is a ton of work to be done in his in-game refinement to get it to match what he can do in practice. He can get there, but to have jumped him to the Florida State League in the middle of the season was foolish, and he’ll be a player who needs to take his time along the developmental path through the minors.
Ian Happ, OF, Cubs (South Bend, A-): 2-4, 2 R, 2B, HR. Happ was considered to be more polish than power coming out of the University of Cincinnati, but he’s shown a little of both thus far as a professional. He’s not patient, but he understands the strike zone, and the switch-hitter has shown more pop than might have been expected to this point, and not just while feasting on short-season pitching. There have been some adjustments to full-season ball, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be able to move quickly.
Jake Gatewood, SS, Brewers (Wisconsin, A-): 2-4, 2 R, 2 2B. Each new level has been a struggle for Gatewood, most notably with the strikeouts that many believed would ultimately plague him, and the transition to full-season ball has been no different. The raw power has long been discussed, but unlike many big strikeout prospects, Gatewood’s swing-and-miss issues have limited his in-game power production to below acceptable levels.
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