Team-by-Team Top Prospect Report Cards Midway Through Spring Training
With spring training now in full swing, prospects continue to receive significant playing time as their respective clubs evaluate each player’s developmental state and timetable for reaching the major leagues.
However, keeping track of all the prospects in major league camp is never easy.
Therefore, we have put together a prospect report for each team’s top prospects in camp this year and assigned them each a performance-based letter grade.
Grades were determined based on how players have performed this spring relative to their playing time, while also taking into consideration whether the player is competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster or is merely in camp to gain experience and give the coaching staff a look at his potential.
Players who haven’t received significant playing time but held their own in limited opportunities—for example, a pitcher who made one decent appearance before being reassigned to minor league camp—receive a "B" base grade. Therefore, prospects that have appeared in the lineup regularly this spring are subjected to harsher graders.
Here is each team’s top-prospect report card midway through spring training.
*All stats courtesy of MLB.com and reflect games through March 11, 2014.
*All roster news courtesy of MLB.com's team transaction page unless otherwise noted.
Kevin Gausman, RHP – Grade: A-
Spring Training Stats: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K (3 G)
Gausman looks outstanding for the second consecutive spring, showcasing his usual front-of-the-rotation stuff during three outings. Unfortunately, the offseason signing of Ubaldo Jimenez means the 23-year-old will likely open the season in the Orioles bullpen, save for an injury to a starter. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though; Gausman posted a 3.52 ERA and 29-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 23 innings last season as a reliever.
Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP – Grade: C+
Spring Training Stats: 6 IP, 8 H (2 HR), 8 ER, 2 BB, 6 K (3 G)
Rodriguez, 20, has shown the ability to miss bats with his secondary pitches this spring, highlighted by four strikeouts in two innings in his last start. However, the left-hander’s command and overall execution in hitters’ counts—he’s given up a home run on a fastball in both outings—needs considerable refinement before he’s ready for a taste of the major leagues.
Jon Schoop, 2B – Grade: A
Spring Training Stats: 9-for-20 (.450), 3 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K (11 G)
Schoop reached the major leagues last season as a September call-up and left his mark with a booming home run in his first career start. He entered camp with an outside chance of winning the second-base gig, trailing Ryan Flaherty and Jemile Weeks on the depth chart, but a red-hot start at the plate (four extra-base hits in 17 at-bats) has his stock on the rise at the right time.
Mike Wright, RHP – Grade: B-
Spring Training Stats: 3 IP, 3 H, ER, 3 BB, 2 K (2 G)
Wright held his own over two appearances this spring before his reassignment to minor league camp on Sunday—a move that was made to ensure he receives a proper workload as the Orioles sort out their big-league rotation. The 24-year-old will open the season back at Triple-A Norfolk and could be called on later in the summer to serve as a back-end starter or long reliever.
Tim Berry, LHP – Grade: B
Spring Training Stats: 3 IP, 2 H, ER, 3 K (2 G)
Berry, who turns 23 next week, built on his strong performance in last year’s Arizona Fall League (1.84 ERA in 14.2 innings) with two solid outings this spring in major league camp. However, due to his lack of experience above A-ball, the left-hander was optioned to Double-A Bowie on Monday. Berry’s clearest path to the major leagues will be as a left-handed specialist, and he could be fast-tracked should the organization move him to the bullpen during the season.
Taijuan Walker, RHP – Grade: N/A
Spring Training Stats: N/A
Walker is yet to appear in a game this spring after an MRI revealed inflammation in his right shoulder. Thankfully, the 21-year-old resumed throwing last week and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Thursday. But even if that goes well, it’s hard to imagine the Mariners pushing the right-hander unnecessarily just to get him in the Opening Day rotation.
D.J. Peterson, 3B – Grade: A-
Spring Training Stats: 4-for-7, HR, 4 RBI, K (4 G)
Peterson, the Mariners’ first-round pick last year, had his impressive pro debut last summer cut short when an errant pitch broke his jaw. At the time of his injury, the 22-year-old owned a .918 OPS with 13 home runs and 47 RBI through 55 games between Short-Season Everett and Low-A Clinton. Peterson hasn't seen much playing time in his first spring training, but the right-handed hitter has certainly made the most of his opportunities.
James Paxton, LHP – Grade: A-
Spring Training Stats: 9 IP, 7 H, ER, 4 K (3 G)
Like Walker, Paxton impressed late last season as a September call-up, posting a 1.50 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 24 innings (four starts). The 25-year-old left-hander has continued to open eyes this spring, as he’s yet to walk a batter in three scoreless outings (very un-Paxton-like, right?), and the injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Walker could help him win a spot in the Opening Day rotation.
Chris Taylor, SS/2B – Grade: B-
Spring Training Stats: 3-for-19 (.158), 2B, HR, 5 RBI, BB, 3 K (12 G)
Taylor’s rise through the Mariners’ system resembles current shortstop Brad Miller’s, though the 23-year-old’s don’t project as favorably at the highest level. Still, he’s an all-around solid ballplayer capable of playing several infield positions, and should at least serve as a solid utility player for the Mariners.
Stefen Romero, OF – Grade: C+
Spring Training Stats: 7-for-30 (.233), 2 2B, 2 3B, HR, 5 RBI, 8 K (11 G)
The Mariners are taking a long look at Romero this spring, as he’s potentially in the mix for a spot on the team’s bench to begin the season. After going 0-for-12 in his first four games, the 25-year-old outfielder has settled in at the dish, going 7-for-18 with five extra-base hits over his last six contests.
Tampa Bay Rays
Enny Romero, LHP – Grade: B
Spring Training Stats: 2 IP, 2 H, BB (2 G)
Romero received his first taste of the major leagues last September, when he threw 4.2 scoreless innings in a spot-start for the Rays in a must-win game amidst a heated playoff race. Prior to that, the left-hander hadn’t pitched above Double-A. With the organization trying to determine its starting rotation for the season, the 23-year-old was optioned to Triple-A Durham on Saturday to ensure he receives a sufficient workload during the remainder of spring training.
Alex Colome, RHP – Grade: B
Spring Training Stats: IP, H, K (1 G)
Colome was shut down last June due to a strained elbow, but entered spring training fully healthy after an offseason of rest. The 25-year-old right-hander was expected to compete for the final spot in the starting rotation, but, seemingly to everyone’s surprise, was optioned to Triple-A Durham on Saturday.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP – Grade: B+
Spring Training Stats: 4.1 IP, 5 H, ER, 2 BB, 3 K (3 G)
After serving as a swingman for the Rays last year, Odorizzi is arguably the favorite to begin the season the team’s fifth starter. So far this spring, the 24-year-old has allowed only one earned run in three outings, and he received the starting nod against the Red Sox on Monday.
Hak-Ju Lee, SS – Grade: A-
Spring Training Stats: 5-for-10, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, K (7 G)
Lee was expected to reach the major leagues last season and possibly even take over for Yunel Escobar at shortstop, but a knee injury (torn ligaments) that required season-ending surgery limited him to only 15 games at Triple-A Durham. Fully healthy this spring, the 23-year-old is seemingly back on track thanks to a hot start in during which he’s hit safely in four of seven games.
Nate Karns, RHP – Grade: B+
Spring Training Stats: 3 IP, H, BB, 2 K (2 G)
Acquired this offseason from the Nationals, Karns struggled during a brief audition in the major leagues last season, registering a 7.50 ERA in 12 innings spanning three starts. While the 26-year-old has pitched well this spring in two outings, he’s unlikely to begin the season in the major leagues (unless used out of the bullpen). However, he provides the Rays quality depth at Triple-A should there be an injury or trade during the season.
New York Yankees
Gary Sanchez, C – Grade: B
Spring Training Stats: 3-for-9, HR, RBI, 3 K (5 G)
Sanchez is still technically the Yankees’ top prospect, though his stock definitely took a hit with the offseason signing of All-Star catcher Brian McCann. The 21-year-old still has big upside thanks to his plus power—he went yard in his first spring game—but it’s hard to see where exactly he fits into the organization’s long-term plan.
Jose Ramirez, RHP – Grade: N/A
Spring Training Stats: N/A
Ramirez dealt with an oblique issue last year that prematurely ended his breakout campaign in mid-July, and the same problem popped up again early in the spring. As a result, the 24-year-old right-hander failed to appear in a game for the Yankees before he was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday.
Slade Heathcott, OF – Grade: N/A
Spring Training Stats: N/A
As usual, Heathcott has struggled to stay healthy this spring, though it was expected following his minor knee surgery over the offseason. The Yankees have eased the 23-year-old outfielder into activities to ensure he’s ready for the minor league season, and he’s likely to appear in games as the spring unfolds before heading to either Double- or Triple-A.
John Ryan Murphy, C – Grade: C
Spring Training Stats: 2-for-16 (.125), HR, 4 RBI, BB, 4 K (8 G)
Murphy struggled with the Yankees last season as a September call-up, batting .154 with nine strikeouts in 26 at-bats, and is one of three catchers—the others being Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine—currently competing to be McCann’s backup on Opening Day. Aside from a three-run home run (his only spring hit) on March 2, the 22-year-old hasn’t made a strong case and will likely begin the season back at Triple-A.
Mason Williams, OF – Grade: C
Spring Training Stats: 3-for-14 (.214), 2 2B, 3 RBI, BB, 3 K (10 G)
Williams has seen decent playing time this spring, appearing in 10 games, but hasn’t done much in those opportunities, batting .214 with a pair of doubles and three strikeouts. As is the case with the Yankees’ other outfield prospects, the 22-year-old lacks a clear path to the major leagues and is likely headed back to Double-A to open the season, where he posted a .428 OPS in 17 games in 2013.
Addison Russell, SS – Grade: B+
Spring Training Stats: 7-for-25 (.280), 2 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, SB, 5 K (12 G)
After a remarkable 2013 campaign in which he posted an .885 OPS with 56 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases at High-A Stockton—as one of the league’s younger everyday players—and finished the year at Triple-A Sacramento, Russell has received an extended audition this spring as the organization attempts to gauge how soon he’ll be ready for the major leagues.
The 20-year-old has been swinging a hot bat after a slow start, going 4-for-8 with three extra-base hits in his last four games, but he’ll be forced to miss at least one week after suffering a hamstring injury on Monday.
Billy McKinney, OF – Grade: B
Spring Training Stats: 1-for-3, RBI, 2 K (4 G)
The A’s first-round pick in 2013, McKinney’s playing time has been minimal this spring, though the 19-year-old did collect his first hit, run scored and RBI in Monday’s game.
Billy Burns, OF – Grade: B+
Spring Training Stats: 9-for-35 (.257), 7 R, 7 SB, 4 BB, 8 K (13 G)
Acquired by the A’s during the offseason in exchange for reliever Jerry Blevins, Burns, 24, was named the Nationals' Minor League Player of the Year in 2013 after batting .315/.425/.383 with 96 runs scored, nine triples, 74 stolen bases in 81 attempts and a stellar 54-72 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 535 plate appearances between High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.
Burns has opened eyes this spring with his combination of on-base skills and elite speed, highlighted by a league-best seven stolen bases in nine games, and is quietly in the mix for a spot on the A’s Opening Day roster.
Matt Olson, 1B – Grade: B
Spring Training Stats: 0-for-1, R (1 G)
Olson possesses big-time power from the left side and is expected to hit for a decent average as his plate discipline and approach continue to mature. However, it’s not surprising the 19-year-old has received only one at-bat this spring after spending the entire 2013 season at Low-A Beloit.
Michael Ynoa, RHP – Grade: C
Spring Training Stats: 3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K (2 G)
Ynoa, who was signed by the A’s in 2008, continues to show promising stuff but still lacks the control and secondaries to succeed against quality hitters. Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise when the team optioned the 22-year-old right-hander to High-A Stockton on Monday.
Byron Buxton, OF – Grade: B
Spring Training Stats: 3-for-19 (.158), 2B, HR, 2 RBI, K (7 G)
Buxton, who enters the season as baseball’s consensus top prospect, didn’t have the monster spring that everyone expected following his insanely good full-season debut last year. But that’s not to say he performed poorly; the 21-year-old struck out only once in 19 at-bats and launched a booming home run in his second spring start on Saturday.
He was still reassigned to minor league camp on Sunday to ensure he receives sufficient at-bats before departing for Double-A. If all goes as planned in his development, Buxton should reach the major leagues by the season’s end.
Alex Meyer, RHP – Grade: B-
Spring Training Stats: 2 IP, 4 H, ER, K (1 G)
6’9” right-hander Alex Meyer, the Twins’ top pitching prospect, made only one appearance this spring before he was reassigned to minor league camp on Sunday—a move that was made to give him consistent innings. The 24-year-old shouldn’t be long for the minors this year, and he could potentially join the Twins midseason as either a starter or reliever.
Josmil Pinto, C – Grade: B
Spring Training Stats: 3-for-7, 2B, K (4 G)
Pinto offered a taste of his offensive potential last season as a September call-up, posting a .963 OPS with four home runs in 21 games. The 24-year-old backstop has been slowed by a sore back this spring, but he’s been eased back into games over the past two weeks and is expected to be ready for the regular season. Pinto will likely open the year as Kurt Suzuki’s backup, but it’s only a matter of time until he takes over as the Twins’ primary option behind the plate.
Jorge Polanco, 2B – Grade: B
Spring Training Stats: 3-for-11, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB (6 G)
Polanco received occasional playing time early this spring as a result of Eddie Rosario’s suspension and held his own against advanced pitching while appearing in six games for the Twins. As expected, the 20-year-old switch-hitter was included in the team’s first round of cuts, as he was assigned to minor league camp on Sunday.
Max Kepler, 1B/OF – Grade: B+
Spring Training Stats: 6-for-12, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K (7 G)
Kepler quietly put together an impressive spring before he was reassigned to minor league camp on Sunday, as the 20-year-old batted .500 while appearing in seven games and collected four hits in his final six at-bats.
Nick Castellanos, 3B – Grade: A
Spring Training Stats: 10-for-26 (.385), 2 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 2 SB, 2 BB, 3 K (9 G)
Slated to begin the season as the team’s starting third baseman, Castellanos, 22, has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball this spring, with three multi-hit games, a pair of home runs and 11 RBI through nine games.
Defensively, Castellanos will experience his share of hiccups this season at the hot corner, as the Tigers shifted him back to the position this spring after he served as an outfielder exclusively in 2013. Regardless, Castellanos' promising bat should always outweigh his shortcomings with the leather.
Jonathon Crawford, RHP – Grade: N/A
Spring Training Stats: N/A
Crawford, the Tigers’ first-round draft pick in 2013, is yet to make an appearance this spring, but he will likely be called on for some work later this month as the team rests some of its starting pitchers.
James McCann, C – Grade: B-
Spring Training Stats: 1-for-7, K (5 G)
McCann was expected to compete for a backup role this spring after his breakthrough performance at Double-A last year, but so far the well-rounded backstop has received minimal playing time and mustered only one knock in seven at-bats.
Devon Travis, 2B – Grade: B+
Spring Training Stats: 5-for-14 (.357), SB, K (9 G)
Besides Castellanos, Travis has been the talk of Tigers’ camp this spring with his performance on all sides of the ball. After his monster full-season debut last year across both Class-A levels, the 23-year-old is headed to Double-A for his first real challenge as a professional.
Robbie Ray, LHP – Grade: B+
Spring Training Stats: 3.1 IP, 2 H, 3 BB (3 G)
Acquired this offseason from the Nationals in the Doug Fister deal, Ray is a deceptive left-hander with a strong track record of missing bats when healthy. Given the Tigers’ deep and talented starting rotation, the 22-year-old could potentially emerge as a weapon out of the bullpen later this season.
Kansas City Royals
Kyle Zimmer, RHP – Grade: N/A
Spring Training Stats: N/A
The Royals are easing Zimmer back into action this spring after he was shut down last August with shoulder stiffness. The 22-year-old right-hander is currently on a throwing program and still a ways away from appearing in a game, and I’d be surprised if he even makes an appearance in major league camp.
Yordano Ventura, RHP – Grade: B
Spring Training Stats: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, BB, 3 K (2 G)
Ventura made an indelible impression last year as a September call-up, showcasing a legit triple-digit fastball and solid feel for pitching in three starts. With a strong spring the 22-year-old right-hander should be able to win the final spot in the Royals’ Opening Day rotation. So far, so good.
Jorge Bonifacio, OF – Grade: B-
Spring Training Stats: 2-for-10, HR, 3 RBI, BB, 4 K (7 G)
The younger brother of Emilio, Jorge posted an .800 OPS in 374 plate appearances last year between High- and Double-A in his age-20 season, and he did so in spite of hitting just four home runs. He’s hit for average at every minor-league stop in his career, and the development of consistent in-game power could make him an impact corner outfielder at maturity.
Jason Adam, RHP – Grade: B-
Spring Training Stats: 3 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 3 K (2 G)
Adam had a rough 2013 season as a starter in Double-A, with the knock being that the 22-year-old’s arm action gives hitters too good of a look at the ball. However, the right-hander has proven he can still miss bats with regularity, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he sees time in the Royals bullpen later this year.
Christian Colon, SS/2B – Grade: B
Spring Training Stats: 6-for-23 (.261), 2 2B, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K (11 G)
Colon hasn’t developed into the everyday middle infielder the Royals expected when they selected him with the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft. However, after a healthy campaign in 2013 followed by a solid offseason in the Puerto Rican Winter League, the 24-year-old should be ready for an audition in the major leagues at some point this season.
Toronto Blue Jays
Marcus Stroman, RHP – Grade: C
Spring Training Stats: 5 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K (2 G)
Stroman is one of several pitchers competing this spring for the final spot in the Blue Jays’ Opening Day rotation, but a pair of rough outings in the early going has already hurt his chances. Specifically, the hard-throwing right-hander has struggled with his fastball command, getting hit hard when failing to locate the pitch down in the zone. That being said, there’s no denying that Stroman’s stuff is among the five best in the organization, so it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of his spring unfolds.
Aaron Sanchez, RHP – Grade: B+
Spring Training Stats: 3 IP, H, 2 BB, 3 K (2 G)
One of the more projectable pitching prospects in the minor leagues, Sanchez has continued to open eyes this spring as he did in last year’s the Arizona Fall League, as the 21-year-old has allowed only one hit in three innings spanning two appearances. If he can establish better command and overall consistency this season at Double-A, then look out.
A.J. Jimenez, C – Grade: B-
Spring Training Stats: 1-for-7 (.143), R (6 G)
Jimenez returned from Tommy John surgery late last season and finished the year in Triple-A, though that doesn’t take away from the fact he’s played in only 94 games over the last two years. The 23-year-old has always been lauded for his defensive skills, and his year-to-year improvements at the plate should result in decent playing time in the major leagues this season.
Sean Nolin, LHP – Grade: C-
Spring Training Stats: 3.2 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K (3 G)
Nolin had a forgettable major-league debut last season on May 24 against the Orioles, when he allowed six earned runs on seven hits in only 1.1 innings. The 24-year-old left-hander is still in the mix this spring for the final spot in the Blue Jays rotation, though allowing 10 baserunners in 3.2 innings hasn’t helped his cause.
Andy Burns, 3B – Grade: B
Spring Training Stats: 2-for-4, K (4 G)
Burns, 23, is an intriguing third-base prospect due to his power potential and speed, as he posted an .815 OPS with 56 extra-base hits and 33 stolen bases last season between High- and Double-A, and then followed it with a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League.