- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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It's been a rough start for some of baseball's top prospects -- three of Keith Law's top 10 have barely played or haven't played at all due to injuries (Byron Buxton, Addison Russell, Miguel Sano) and a fourth (Archie Bradley) is currently sidelined as well.
But here are some performances that have caught my eyes, mostly for the good but a few for the wrong reasons.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pirates (Keith's No. 13 prospect)
2014: .357/.419/.564, 14 BB, 28 SO (Triple-A Indianapolis)
With Pirates right fielder hitting a pedestrian .245/.309/.344, fans are clamoring for Polanco to get the call. He leads the International League in batting average and his plus defense would essentially give the Pirates three center fielders in the outfield. But Pittsburgh is holding back for service time issues and, to be fair, he has barley 400 plate appearances above Class A.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (No. 6)
2014: .293/.362/.466, 14 BB, 24 SO (Double-A Akron)
The Indians are last in the majors with -27 Defensive Runs Saved, including -2 from shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Considering Cabrera isn’t tearing it up the plate (.246/.325/.391), Lindor and his outstanding glove are a candidate for a midseason call-up if he continues hitting.
Javier Baez, SS-2B, Cubs (No. 7)
2014: .151/.248/.280, 10 BB, 38 SO (Triple-A Iowa)
So much for Baez’s quick path to stardom. After a monster spring training, maybe he’s been too homer-happy at Iowa, swinging for the fences too often. Whatever the cause, his overly aggressive approach at the plate has been exploited so far at Triple-A.
Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs (No. 15)
2014: .331/.437/.624, 20 BB, 43 SO (Double-A Knoxville)
While Baez has struggled, Bryant has flourished with 10 home runs in 133 at-bats. The strikeout rate is big, but he walks and hit home runs. There’s always the chance he turns into Mark Reynolds with the K rate, but he’s going to hit a lot of home runs in the majors
Oscar Taveras, RF, Cardinals (No. 5)
2014: .293/.340/.489, 9 BB, 20 SO (Triple-A Memphis)
The best thing is Taveras has remained healthy after playing just 47 games last season. Cardinals outfielders are struggling but you’re not going to bench Allen Craig yet just to get Taveras’ bat in the lineup. For those wanting Taveras to play center, most scouts say he’s stretched defensively there (he’s been playing all three outfield spots at Memphis).
Kevin Gausman, RHP, Orioles (No. 23)
2014: 0-1, 2.08 ERA, 26 IP, 23 H, 14 BB, 26 SO (Triple-A Norfolk)
For whatever reason, the Orioles have been very conservative with Gausman’s pitch counts; the 77 he threw on Saturday were a season high. Combined with some control issues, he’s yet to pitch more than five innings. I don’t see him getting recalled any time soon unless Baltimore’s rotation is hit with a rash of injuries.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, Indians (not rated)
2014: 4-0, 1.12 ERA, 40.1 IP, 27 H, 11 BB, 40 SO (Triple-A Columbus)
Bauer also pitched well in one major league start (two runs, eight strikeouts in six innings). The former No. 3 overall pick has been an enigma as a professional, but the Indians are currently using Josh Tomlin in the rotation.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Astros (No. 78)
2014: .293/.406/.624, 26 BB, 36 SO (Triple-A Oklahoma City)
That line includes 11 home runs and 21 total extra-base hits. While he’ll be held down at least until June for service time reason, the 36 strikeouts in 36 games is also an sign that he could be exploited for now at the big league level.
Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (No. 4)
2014: .323/.379/.460, 11 BB, 22 SO (Class A Lancaster)
OK, everyone hits in the California League, but keep in mind he doesn’t 20 until September. He could reach Double-A while still a teenager.
Mark Appel, RHP, Astros (No. 11)
2014: 0-0, 6.23 ERA, 13 IP, 17 H, 4 BB, 13 SO (Class A Lancaster)
I thought it a little odd that a No. 1 overall pick who was supposed to be a polished college pitcher would start in Class A. Anyway, Appel struggled enough in four starts the Astros sent him back to extended spring training.
Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers (No. 41)
2014: .368/.482/.669, 30 BB, 42 SO (Triple-A Alburquerque)
There’s a lot going on in those numbers, including 11 home runs and he’s stolen 10 bases. He’s walking a ton but also striking out a lot. Still, I wonder if he’ll be the Dodgers’ center field come August, with Matt Kemp moving over to left.
Nick Franklin, IF, Mariners (not eligible)
2014: .388/.470/.673, 16 BB, 20 SO (Triple-A Tacoma)
Chris Taylor, SS, Mariners (not rated)
2014: .360/.405/.581, 12 BB, 28 SO (Triple-A Tacoma)
With Brad Miller struggling at the plate and in the field, one of these guys may get a chance soon to play shortstop for Seattle.
Mike Fiers, RHP, Brewers (not eligible)
2014: 6-1, 1.59 ERA, 45.1 IP, 30 H, 6 BB, 64 SO (Triple-A Nashville)
Fiers came out of nowhere as a rookie with the Brewers in 2012 to impressive despite a less-than-overpowering fastball. But he bombed in 2013, allowing eight home runs in 22.1 innings. He’s back to dominating in the minors with the best numbers of any minor league starter, ready if Milwaukee needs a starter.
Mookie Betts, 2B, Red Sox (No. 61)
2014: .396/.458/.597, 17 BB, 11 SO (Double-A Portland)
Betts had one of the best seasons in the minors in 2013 but his small stature, lack of power projection and position (he’s not a shortstop) kept him from being rated higher. But this kid can flat hit (his .396 average leads all minor leaguers), including five home runs. He can run (15 for 18 stealing) and plays a good second base. He’s blocked by Dustin Pedroia so we probably won’t see him this year and you hate to trade him because he’s so good.
Jonathan Gray, RHP, Rockies (No. 12)
2014: 3-2, 3.22 ERA, 36.1 IP, 32 H, 5 BB, 34 SO (Double-A Tulsa)
Last year’s third overall pick gave up seven hits and six runs in two-thirds of an inning in his second start but has allowed just five runs over his past five starts. He’s performed better than Tulsa teammate Eddie Butler (No. 17), who has a 3.45 ERA but a 27/11 SO/BB ratio. You know the Rockies will need a starter at some point.