MLB Prospects: 10 Players Who Could Receive a Big-Time Promotion
Nearly two months into the minor League baseball season, there are numerous players who are on the verge of a promotion. While some teams are merely waiting for the right time to call up their big league-ready prospect, others are gradually pushing along their respective prospects to fit their long-term plan.
Here I’ve identified 10 players tearing up the minors—either on the mound or at the plate—whose performance could merit a promotion to a higher level.
Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF, Boston Red Sox
2012 Stats (Low-A): 139 AB, .367/.495/.568, 37 R, 20 XBH, 24 RBI, 11 SB, 24 K/34 BB (39 G)
With every game, Jackie Bradley, Jr., the No. 40 overall selection in the 2011 draft, is looking more and more like a steal for the Red Sox. The former South Carolina outfielder has demonstrated highly impressive plate discipline and speed on the basepaths and has proven to be an extra-base threat.
Currently dominating at Low-A, Bradley has the talent and makeup to handle a midseason promotion directly to Double-A.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
2012 Stats (Double-A, Triple-A): 8-1, 61.1 IP, 1.61 ERA, .178 BAA, 76 K/32 BB (10 GS)
After he was cut from spring training to refine his fastball command in the minors, Bauer posted eye-popping numbers at Double-A: 7-1, 48.1 IP, 1.68 ERA, 60 K/26 BB in eight starts.
In his first start at Triple-A Reno on May 18, the right-hander allowed one run on four hits and a walk over eight innings, while fanning 11 batters. Bauer made his second start on Wednesday and allowed one earned run on one hit over five innings. He struck out five but also issued five walks.
His command is far from flawless, but he’s a smart enough pitcher to make adjustments on the fly at both Triple-A and the Major Leagues. His pure stuff is definitely big-league-ready.
Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers
2012 (High-A): 172 AB, .413/.474/.552, 18 XBH, 27 RBI, 30 K/19 BB (44 G)
Who would have expected Castellanos to be the top hitter in the minor leagues after nearly two months of the season? Sure, he’s a Top 50 prospect with a high ceiling, but to make such strides at the plate is pretty impressive. His plate discipline has noticeably improved, which in turn has allowed him to hit for a much higher average.
His power still has room to develop, but, as he did in 2011, Castellanos has been consistently shooting the gaps and piling up doubles. There’s little point in letting him plateau at High-A, so I think he could receive a promotion much sooner than some expect.
George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
2012 Stats (High-A): 170 AB, .329/.371/.600, 22 XBH, 34 RBI, 9 SB, 50 K/11 BB (41 G)
After a painfully slow start, Springer, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 draft, has really turned it on as of late—and that might be an understatement. In his last 10 games, Springer is batting .513 with 20 hits, 10 of which have been for extra bases. He homered four times in a double-header on May 11, including three in the second game.
Considering that he was a college player, many expect Springer to move quickly through the Astros’ system, and given his current production, his first promotion isn’t too far away.
Derek Norris, C, Oakland Athletics
2012 Stats (Triple-A): 150 AB, .293/.327/.513, 19 XBH, 30 RBI, 24 K/10 BB (39 G)
With over 160 at-bats this season, A’s catchers are batting .185/.244/.244 with eight extra-base hits, 12 RBI and 36 strikeouts. So, what the hell are the A’s waiting for? Norris is an offense-oriented catcher who has made some much-needed improvements behind the plate over the last two years.
He may not be 100 percent ready to succeed in the big leagues, but he currently appears to be a much better option than Josh Donaldson (.350 OPS), Kurt Suzuki (.531 OPS) and Anthony Recker (.411 OPS).
Matt Skole, 3B, Washington Nationals
2012 Stats (Low-A): 143 AB, .287/.437/.538, 18 XBH, 43 RBI, 46 K/41 BB (42)
Skole has quietly been one of the top run-producers in the minors so far this season, posting 41 hits, 43 RBI, and 41 walks in only 42 games. Furthermore, the 6’4” left-handed hitter doesn’t rely on the long ball to do it.
Against left-handed pitching, Skole is batting .333/.457/.630 with 10 extra-base hits in 54 at-bats, while hitting only .258/.425/.483 against righties. Given his experience at Georgia Tech, Skole seems in line for a promotion to High-A (or possibly even Double-A) in the near future, as the Nationals begin to challenge his bat at higher levels.
Danny Hultzen, LHP, Seattle Mariners
2012 Stats (Double-A): 4-3, 50.2 IP, 1.78 ERA, .146 BAA, 0.99 WHIP, 56 K/25 BB (9 GS)
After a slow start, Hultzen has been on fire over his last eight starts, allowing only five earned runs and 21 hits over 46. 2 IP. In each of those starts, Hultzen has not yielded more than two earned runs. He’s still walked more than I’d like to see, but he has repeatedly limited the damage thanks to a high strikeout rate as well as low opponent batting average.
There was talked headed into spring training that Hultzen would compete for a spot in the Mariners’ Opening Day rotation, but his command issues prompted a reassignment to Double-A. In my opinion, he has little left to prove at the level and is due for a brief promotion to Triple-A before ultimately arriving in the Major Leagues.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
2012 Stats (Triple-A): 169 AB, .355/.420/.710, 27 XBH (16 HR), 43 RBI, 35 K/17 BB (44 G)
I know that I’ve been saying this for weeks now, but Rizzo has absolutely nothing left to prove at Triple-A and is proving it with every home run. While some players' gaudy stats stem from a hot start and small sample size, Rizzo’s production has been consistent, as he tallied 16 hits and five home runs over his last 10 games.
The major concern regarding Rizzo was his inability to hit left-handers. Well, he’s showed significant improvement against southpaws this season, batting .320/.370/.580 over 50 at-bats.
The only remaining questions is how Chicago will accommodate his inevitable arrival: LaHair to the bench, outfield? LaHair/Soriano platoon in left field? Whatever it may ultimately be, the Cubs will want Rizzo in the lineup every day.
Cody Buckel, RHP, Texas Rangers
2012 Stats (High-A): 3-2, 54.1 IP, 1.33 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, .169 BAA, 64 K/19 BB (9 GS)
One of the top pitchers in the minors who has continued to fly under the radar, Buckel, a 6’1” right-hander, leads the Carolina League with 64 strikeouts, and his 0.92 WHIP is a close second.
His stuff has been excellent and at times even unhittable. Therefore, I think promoting Buckel to Double-A before the All-Star break would be a healthy challenge for the 19-year-old.
Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals
2012 Stats (Double-A, Triple-A): .354/.428/.741, 29 XBH (15 HR), 4 SB, 45 K/20 BB (42 G)
After hitting .343/.414/.731 with 13 bombs at Double-A Northwest Arkansas to open the season, Myers was promoted to Triple-A Omaha last week along with right-hander Jake Odorizzi.
And he’s off to a hot start at the higher level, batting .400/.500/.700 through his first six games. I expected Myers to reach Triple-A later in the season, but definitely not this soon.
And if the Royals were willing to promote him this soon, there’s reason to believe he could hit his way to the majors before the end of the 2012 season. I’m still not sure why Myers received a start at third base last week, but it can’t be a bad thing.