Every MLB Team's Most Overachieving Prospect
When it comes to MLB prospects, we know all the big names. We know the players who were top draft picks or are at the top of Baseball America's prospect list.
When players are dominating either at the plate or on the mound and are neither of the above, suddenly eyebrows get raised, as we wonder where the heck somebody came from.
Those are the players this slideshow notes, one player from each team's farm system.
Baltimore Orioles: Luis Exposito
For the past six seasons, Luis Exposito was part of the Boston Red Sox farm system. He was able to hit for power and average while performing well defensively as a catcher. As a result he moved up, albeit slowly.
Once he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles, he hit .310 in ten games at AAA, and was promoted almost immediately upon arrival. Can he match his output both offensively and defensively? He's batting .100 so far in five games, but it's a small sample size, so we'll see.
Boston Red Sox: Aaron Kurcz
Aaron Kurcz is a name that Red Sox fans might know for one reason. He started off drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 11th round in 2010, and in 2011 he had a great year in Class-A, advancing both as a starter and reliever.
Despite overachieving, he was the player to be named later in the Theo Epstein compensation, and he began 2012 with the Red Sox in Class AA. So far, he has 33 strikeouts in 21.1 innings, and he could easily be in AAA sooner rather than later given the Red Sox pitching situation.
New York Yankees: D.J. Mitchell
Throughout the offseason, the great Yankees pitching prospects were considered to be Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, both of whom are in AAA this year. Which one has a great year and gets promoted?
Neither do; instead, D.J. Mitchell went 3-1 with a 2.75 ERA in six games after going 13-9 with a 3.18 ERA the year before. He made his debut on May 1 and played his second game May 3.
Despite great numbers, he was never on top prospect lists, so can he actually be a capable player in the majors? If David Phelps struggles, he might get his chance, but until then he'll have to prove himself in a long relief role.
Tampa Bay Rays: Leslie Anderson
The Tampa Bay Rays always seem to end up with the overachieving prospects. Power-hitting first baseman Russ Canzler was AAA player of the year, and they traded him instead of keeping him around.
Leslie Anderson has quickly filled any void in Durham left by Canzler. He performed well in 2011 already, but this year he's hitting .346 in 35 games. Despite the hitting he's showing, the 30-year prospect is unlikely to see playing time if history is any indication here.
Toronto Blue Jays: Yan Gomes
Before this year, Yan Gomes was simply a catcher rising through the Toronto Blue Jays' farm system. He had nice power and performed well enough behind the plate, but he didn't really stand out.
That changed this year. In 33 games in Las Vegas, Gomes is hitting .359 with 22 RBIs and making himself the next catcher in line for a promotion rather than Travis D'Arnaud. In fact, with Adam Lind's demotion, Gomes should make his major league debut before the weekend is over.
Chicago White Sox: Dylan Axelrod
The Chicago White Sox has a farm system with a small enough amount of talent that really anyone outside of Addison Reed having a breakout year would be overachieving.
Dylan Axelrod was simply a decent minor league pitcher, nothing more, and as a result the San Diego Padres released him from their farm system in 2009. The White Sox picked him up, and he suddenly went from average to great.
Once converted to a starter, he began skyrocketing up the minors, and after great year after great year, he was a September call-up in 2011. He throws enough strikeouts to be able to stay in the majors, but we'll see if everything else works out.
Cleveland Indians: Jared Goedert
When a guy hits the ball well year after year, you expect him to continue being promoted unless somehow the team feels that the player is overachieving. That must be the case with the Cleveland Indians and Jared Goedert.
In 2010, he hit 27 HR and 83 RBIs at AA and AAA, and played mostly at AAA last season. Despite another great year in the minors after being moved to different positions, he started at AA Akron this year.
He hit .395 in 35 games, so he's going to be at AAA yet again this weekend. Maybe he is a AAAA player, but he should at least get the opportunity at this point.
Detroit Tigers: Brad Eldred
Does Brad Eldred count as a prospect? On the one hand, he's 31 and had been in the minor leagues forever, but on the other he has 90 major league games to his credit in four nonconsecutive years.
Given that he's clearly the biggest overachiever in the Tigers' farm system, I'm nonetheless including him. In 2004, he hit .301 with 38 HR and 137 RBIs in the Pirates' farm system and had another 100 RBI season with Chicago in 2008. Despite this, he keeps bouncing from system to system.
This year, he's hitting .328 for the AAA Toledo with 16 HR in 33 games. It's about time to give him a tryout. If he's not major league quality, then fine, but there's no more seasoning for him to do in the minors.
Kansas City Royals: Clint Robinson
The Kansas City Royals seem to perennially have a lot of farm talent, so it's hard to find overachievers. Nonetheless, they have one in Clint Robinson.
No one seems to rank him in the top prospect lists despite the fact that he's been a powerhouse year after year. He was .326/23/100 in AAA Omaha last year, and this year he's .313/6/25 so far. With Eric Hosmer struggling, it's time to finally promote the guy.
Minnesota Twins: Darin Mastroianni
When a guy is playing great in the minor leagues, and despite being just about at the major league level he's released from the team, then that's probably the definition of an overachiever.
That's what happened with Darin Mastroianni. He put up very good hitting and fielding numbers while in the Toronto Blue Jays' farm system, and after a total of one major league game, he was let go after the 2011 season.
The Twins picked him up, and he hit .346 with 11 stolen bases in 20 games. He was swiftly promoted as a result, and he now gets to prove if he's the real deal.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Kole Calhoun
It's a big deal when a player is able to make the jump from Class A to Class AAA, and that's what Kole Calhoun has been able to do, even though he was just an eighth-round draft pick.
In 2011, he hit .324 with 22 HR and 99 RBIs, and shot up to AAA, where he's hit .301 so far. Can he continue producing like that in the major leagues, or could he go the way of Brandon Wood?
Oakland Athletics: Graham Godfrey
The Oakland Athletics always have a huge stash of pitchers in their farm system, including players like Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock, However, the pitcher who performed the best in 2011 seemed to come out of nowhere.
Graham Godfrey struggled a bit in 2010, but in 2011, he went 14-3 in AAA with a 2.68 ERA. He followed that up with a 3-0 record in four starts this year, and now it seems like he'll be in the starting rotation for the long haul this year.
Seattle Mariners: Luis Jimenez
Luis Jimenez has been bouncing around the minor leagues and Japan for a decade. Despite not being in the top prospect lists, he's managed great season after great season.
He found a home in the Seattle Mariners' organization in 2011 and batted .294. The following year, he hit .323 with eight home runs in 35 games, and while his frame would limit him to first base or DH duty, he still has the power that Seattle has been looking for.
Texas Rangers: Jacob Brigham
Two pitchers are dominating for the Texas Rangers in AA Frisco right now. The first, Barret Loux, is to be expected since he was a first-round pick. The second, Jacon Brigham, is more out of nowhere.
So far, Brigham is 2-1 in eight starts with a 2.84 ERA, and he has 47 strikeouts in about as many innings pitched. His road to the majors will likely be longer than Loux's, but if he keeps overachieving, then he'll make it there.
Atlanta Braves: Jose Constanza
Jose Constanza was a guy I kept an eye on as he rose through the Cleveland Indians' farm system, as he always seemed to show great speed while hitting at a good average.
Despite overachieving, he was let go, and the Atlanta Braves picked him up. He hit .312 in AAA last year and has hit .321 so far this year. Even in limited time in the majors, he hit .300. He's 28, and it's time to see if he has major-league speed.
Miami Marlins: Rob Delaney
Relief pitchers have to put up very elite numbers to be noticed to begin with. Add in that he was one of many castoffs from the Tampa Bay Rays farm system, and you have Rob Delaney.
Delaney was a longtime reliever in the Minnesota Twins' organization, and once he moved to the Rays in 2011, he became elite, pitching in 51 games with a 1.86 ERA. This year, he's improved to a 1.50 ERA in AAA New Orleans and should be a reliever for the long term in Miami.
New York Mets: Jeremy Hefner
There are far worse things a team can do to improve their pitching than grab a prospect from the San Diego Padres. That's what the New York Mets did in acquiring Jeremy Hefner.
Hefner went 11-8 with a 2.95 ERA in AA for San Diego in 2010 and progressed up to AAA. He didn't have a great season, and the Padres presumed he overachieved that year. So far, he's 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA in seven starts and has made his major league debut.
Philadelphia Phillies: Tyler Cloyd
It took me a while to find a prospect for the Phillies that was really overachieving. Most of the overachievers have had their moment in the sun, such as Scott Elarton, the best pitcher in AAA Lehigh Valley right now.
One pitcher who might be able to top him is Tyler Cloyd. After struggling in Class A in 2010, he caught fire. He had a 2.78 ERA in 18 games in AA, then after four great games there this year, he was promoted. In four games at AAA, he's 4-0 with a 0.69 ERA.
Washington Nationals: Tyler Moore
The Washington Nationals have had Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper move through their farm system in the past couple years, so anyone else is going to feel like he came out of nowhere.
Still, Tyler Moore should have been a bigger name. He hit 31 HR each in 2010 and 2011, and in 22 games at AAA, he hit seven while batting .286. He's played nine games in the majors so far, and while he hasn't shown his power yet, hopefully that will show up soon.
Chicago Cubs: Chris Rusin
The Iowa Cubs have a star both in their lineup and in their starting rotation. They have Anthony Rizzo at first base, who is posting incredible numbers. Everyone expected him to do that, though.
Chris Rusin, on the other hand, is overachieving. He's had many consistently good seasons thanks to a low walk rate more than anything. In eight starts so far this year, he's 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA and should continue to improve.
Cincinnati Reds: Tony Cingrani
For now, Tony Cingrani is an overachieving prospect for the Cincinnati Reds. Having said that, I would not be shocked if he made his way into top prospect lists next year if he continues to play like this.
The third-round pick in 2011 played a few rookie-level games before joining Class A-Advanced Bakersfield this year. So far, in seven games he's 4-1 with an 0.68 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 40 innings. It's tough to be more dominant than that.
Houston Astros: Dallas Keuchel
The Houston Astros have enough issues with pitchers where if a farm product is consistently pitching very well, you'd think that the player would get noticed. Dallas Keuchel has not yet, but that should change soon.
Keuchel has gradually risen up the minors and right now is 4-2 in AAA with a 2.09 ERA. He had a 3.17 ERA in AA the year before, so he's able to keep it down and be consistent. As a result, he should be looking to make his debut soon, though he won't have the hype J.A. Happ or others did.
Milwaukee Brewers: Tyler Thornburg
I honestly don't understand how Tyler Thornburg has not made his way onto top prospect lists. The guy has been flat out dominant since he began pitching in Milwaukee's farm system, and somehow manages to continue to improve despite the recognition.
This year, Thornburg's 5-0 with a 1.91 ERA in eight starts at AA, and he consistently has more strikeouts than innings pitched. Given the Brewers' pitching woes, they might as well just promote this guy right now to see if he can cut it.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Rudy Owens
The Pittsburgh Pirates have a load of top pitching talent in their farm system, including Jameson Taillon, Gerrit Cole and many others. As a result, many can quietly slide up the ranks, such as Rudy Owens.
Owens had a great 2010 but struggled in 2011. It's made his 2012 season look like overachieving, since right now he's 2-1 in seven starts with a 2.25 ERA. On top of that, he has 32 strikeouts and only four walks. Any team, especially the Pirates, could use a guy like that in the majors.
St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Adams
When Albert Pujols left St. Louis, fans were naturally incredibly disappointed, though Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran have helped. At the same time, the Cardinals may secretly have the next Pujols in their farm system, as long as he's not really an overachiever.
I don't know how Matt Adams has evaded promotion talk, as he's continued to dominate. The 23rd-round pick in 2009 hit .310 with 22 HR in 2010, .300/32/101 last year in AA, and in AAA so far he's hitting .318 with seven home runs. Time to unleash the beast.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Adam Eaton
There's overachieving, and there's being so good that people don't notice you coming. Adam Eaton could very well be the latter, as I don't remember the last time I saw a player go from Rookie to AAA that fast.
The 19th-round pick in 2010 spent that year in Rookie-level ball and hit .385. In 2012, he's been doing the same, hitting .391 with nine stolen bases in 27 games. In fact, he's never hit under .300 anywhere he's been, and the Diamondbacks would love for that to be the case in the majors.
Colorado Rockies: Jordan Pacheco
You could imagine the Colorado Rockies having a slew of power hitters in the Colorado Springs' farm system, but that doesn't appear to be the case. What they do have is catcher Jordan Pacheco.
Pacheco doesn't have the best catcher numbers, but as a hitter he's great. He hit .323 in 2010, and after a year to get himself going in AAA last year, he tore it up, hitting .433 in 17 games this year. As a result, it seems like he should be on the major league roster, at least for most of this season.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Alex Castellanos
When you have a five-tool player who can player virtually every position, you would think a team would try to hold on to him. Nonetheless, the St. Louis Cardinals let Alex Castellanos go.
Castellanos hit .319 for the Cardinals in 2011 with 19 HR, then was traded for Rafael Furcal. The Dodgers now have a hitter who has a .366 average in 18 games, and it looks like he could make his debut at any time now.
San Diego Padres: Joe Wieland
When a guy goes 7-1 in 12 starts in AA, there are two possibilities a team can go with. They can either swiftly promote him and get him ready for the majors, or if they think he's overachieving, they can trade him.
The Texas Rangers chose the former with Joe Wieland and sent him to San Diego in a trade for Mike Adams. He responded by going 3-1 in five more starts, and he is now in the Padres' starting rotation, at least for now since he's struggled so far.
San Francisco Giants: Roger Kieschnick
When your uncle is one of the greatest college baseball players of all time, it's a lot to live up to. For Roger Kieschnick, he also has to deal with possibly overachieving.
He has been rocketing up the Giants' organization, starting with a .296 average, 23 HR and 110 RBIs in 2009. Two years in AA Richmond were just okay, but he's back to dominance in AAA this year, going .331 with nine HR in 39 games so far.
Certainly he could be a better option than Nate Schierholtz at right field; it's at least worth a shot.