Stock Up, Stock Down on MLB's Top Prospects 1 Month from Roster Expansion
Run for your lives! The prospects are coming! The prospects are coming!
It's going to take them about a month before they arrive in force, but make no mistake about it—some of the best players that the minor leagues have to offer are on their way.
How are those players faring with only a few weeks to go before they potentially make their major league debuts?
Let's take a look.
10. Jon Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies
2014 Stats (Double-A): 21 GS, 9-5, 3.78 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 112 IP, 95 H, 2.7 BB/9, 8.2 K/9
Jon Gray failed to record a decision in his last outing for the Double-A Tulsa Drillers, but he was impressive nonetheless. He allowed only two baserunners over his final six frames in a seven-inning, two-hit, one run outing against Northwest Arkansas.
It was a nice bounce-back performance for the Colorado Rockies' first-round pick in the 2013 MLB draft, as he had surrendered nine earned runs and 13 hits in his previous two starts.
Last Week's Stats: GS, 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K
9. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
2014 Stats (Low-A/High-A): 8 GS, 1-3, 3.65 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 37 IP, 33 H, 3.9 BB/9, 7.3 K/9
Dylan Bundy's return from Tommy John surgery has been more of a learning process than anything else, according to Kennie Steenstra, his pitching coach with the High-A Frederick Keys, who recently spoke with The Washington Post's Ian Oland:
You talk to guys who have gone through this surgery before, they all say the same thing: It makes you learn how to pitch. He was blessed with an amazing arm in high school, and he had the ability to reach back and blow it by guys. He has to learn how to use his change-up in a hitter’s count and pitch a little backwards sometimes. Those are the kinds of things where when he becomes full strength and his fastball comes back, that’s going to make him that much better.
Bundy's fastball consistently sits in the low-90s, occasionally touching 95 mph, but it's his command and control that have been his biggest struggles, evidenced by the five walks he issued his last time out on July 29.
You never wish Tommy John surgery on anyone, but as we've seen veteran hurlers like Edwin Jackson and CC Sabathia struggle in their transitions from thrower to pitcher, perhaps this bump in the road will prove to be a blessing in disguise for Baltimore's top prospect.
Last Week's Stats: GS, L, 4.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 1 K
8. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals
2014 Stats (Single-A): 17 GS, 7-2, 2.17 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 83 IP, 54 H, 2.8 BB/9, 10.2 K/9
Further along in his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery than Bundy is, the Washington Nationals' Lucas Giolito has been nothing short of dominant in his first full professional season with Single-A Hagerstown.
The 20-year-old put that on display once again in his last outing, allowing only three baserunners over six scoreless innings of work against Charleston. If he had enough innings to qualify for the South Atlantic League's leaderboards, the he would be at the top in both ERA and WHIP.
He's unlikely to reach the requisite number of innings this season, telling Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post at the Future's Game during All-Star Weekend that he's likely on a limit of 100 to 110 innings this year.
“Even though I know in my mind I’m 100 percent healthy, I can do everything that everyone else can, there is a program. There’s a process,” Giolito said. “I trust that process.”
Last Week's Stats: GS, W, 6 IP, 2 H, BB, 6 K
7. Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
2014 Stats (High-A/Double-A): 105 G, .298/.415/.669, 48 XBH (37 HR), 93 RBI, 83 R, 73 BB, 146 K, 5-for-8 SB
If you're looking for raw, brute strength, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more prolific minor league slugger than Joey Gallo, who is on pace to shatter his career-best (and minor league leading) 40 home runs from a season ago.
Like another player on this list, Javier Baez, Gallo strikes out a lot—including a ridiculous 41 percent of the time with Double-A Frisco, per FanGraphs—but he's been able to put up impressive numbers across the board in spite of his tendency to swing and miss.
Still, for all the strikeouts, including 10 in seven games over the past week, Gallo has shown better pitch recognition, raising his walk rate as well, and he still has that prodigious power that makes him one of the most impressive minor league bats around.
Last Week's Stats: 7 G, .259 BA (7-for-27), 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB, 10 K
6. Javier Baez, SS/2B, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (Triple-A): 104 G, .260/.323/.510, 49 XBH (23 HR), 80 RBI, 64 R, 34 BB, 130 K, 16-for-24 SB
Just when you think that the struggles that plagued Javier Baez in April have returned, the 21-year-old puts together a game like he did Sunday night: 2-for-3 with a pair of solo home runs, three runs scored and more walks (two) than strikeouts (one).
Strikeouts have been an issue for the slugging shortstop-turned-second baseman, who is fanning more than 30 percent of the time. But that's something that is always going to be an issue, with Baez never striking out less than 20 percent of the time in any of his three full professional seasons.
He's steadily improved after an absolutely miserable April that saw him hit only .176, raising his batting average nearly 100 points in the process for Triple-A Iowa, a further testament to just how talented the 21-year-old truly is.
Last Week's Stats: 7 G, .296 BA (8-for-27), 4 XBH (4 HR), 7 RBI, 7 R, 3 BB, 8 K
5. Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (High-A/Double-A): 42 G, .294/.358/.494, 15 XBH (8 HR), 25 RBI, 20 R, 14 BB, 34 K, 5-for-9 SB
Neither a hamstring injury that robbed him of most of the first two months of the season nor a trade from Oakland to Chicago has been able to derail Addison Russell.
Russell, 20, continues to hit for power and average for Double-A Tennessee, despite posting a significantly lower walk rate (four percent) and significantly higher strikeout rate (20.8 percent) than he did with Oakland's Double-A affiliate, where he was an even 14 percent in both categories.
That said, he remains one of the premier shortstop prospects in baseball, though he may be the last of Chicago's Big Three to arrive in the big leagues, as he's blocked at the position by the resurgent Starlin Castro.
Last Week's Stats: 7 G, .345 BA (10-for-29), 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 0-for-1 SB
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
2014 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): 100 G, .274/.348/.389, 25 XBH (8 HR), 53 RBI, 61 R, 45 BB, 75 K, 27-for-39 SB
Cleveland was abuzz about the dawning of a new era—the Francisco Lindor era—when the Indians traded Asdrubal Cabrera at the trade deadline.
Not so fast, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti told 93.7 FM The Game's T.J. Zuppe:
With Francisco, our focus is what’s best for him developmentally. He’s just now getting his first exposure to Triple-A and we’re continuing to work with him on his development and his improvement.
I think right now, for us, it’s Mike Aviles and Jose Ramirez at shortstop. We’re able to make this type of trade because of our belief in those two guys.
Only 20 years old, Lindor is the youngest player in the International League and has struggled against older competition, hitting .245 while striking out nearly three times as often (14) as he's walked (four). His last week has been particularly rough, with Lindor mustering only four singles while striking out nine times.
Last Week's Stats: 6 G, .148 BA (4-for-27), 2 RBI, 5 R, 2 BB, 9 K, 1-for-2 SB
3. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): 111 G, .338/.441/.687, 67 XBH (36 HR), 92 RBI, 95 R, 65 BB, 125 K, 13-for-16 SB
There may not be a more dangerous hitter in the minor leagues right now than Kris Bryant, who has simply annihilated pitching at every level he's played.
His 36 home runs are second only to Texas' Joey Gallo in all of the affiliated minor leagues, regardless of level, his 1.128 OPS fourth. Bryant certainly helped bolster those numbers over the past week, riding a six-game hit streak that saw him pick up four extra-base hits, including three home runs.
Last Week's Stats: 6 G, .368 (7-19), 2B, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 5 K, 1-for-2 SB
2. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
2014 Stats (High-A): 62 G, .325/.416/.510, 28 XBH (6 HR), 57 RBI, 50 R, 36 BB, 45 K, 20-for-24 SB
Despite being one of the youngest players in the California League, 19-year-old Carlos Correa was putting together an outstanding season for High-A Lancaster before suffering a season-ending leg injury in early July when his spikes got caught as he slid into third base on a triple.
Even if he was healthy, Correa wouldn't be a candidate for a September promotion. But the injury has certainly pushed his arrival date in Houston back at least a bit.
While he's on the road to recovery, Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow told the Houston Chronicle's Jose de Jesus Ortiz that he doesn't think Correa will be ready to play in the Arizona Fall League, with the club's focus on getting Correa ready to participate in spring training next season.
Last Week's Stats: N/A
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
2014 Stats (High-A): 23 G, .264/.343/.451, 9 XBH (3 HR), 13 RBI, 15 R, 9 BB, 27 K, 3-for-5 SB
After missing nearly half the season with a wrist injury, Byron Buxton swung a hot bat upon his return in early July and had terrific numbers for the month (16 G, .308/.408/.508). But he has faded of late, going without a hit in his last two games and failing to reach base in three of his last seven.
That said, he remains the best all-around prospect in baseball and, if he can stay healthy and finish strong, he could be a fixture in Minnesota's outfield before rosters expand in 2015.
Last Week's Stats: 7 G, .222 BA (6-for-27), 3B, 2 RBI, 5 R, 3 BB, 5 K
Unless otherwise noted or linked, all statistics courtesy of MiLB.com and are current through games of Aug. 3.
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