15 MLB Prospects in Desperate Need of a Strong Second Half
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As is the case every season, there are numerous top prospects struggling to repeat and build upon their 2011 success. While some of these players are seemingly turning the corner and reversing the course of their disappointing season, others continue to trend in the wrong direction.
The second half of the 2012 minor league season will be crucial for all of these players, but especially for those on this list who have placed within Prospect Pipeline’s Top 50 prospects. If they can’t turn things around, then they may be in store for a significant drop in the rankings.
Here is a look at 15 prospects who need a strong second half of the season.
Dellin Betances, RHP, New York Yankees
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Triple-A: 3-5, 74.2 IP, 6.39 ERA, .250 BAA, 71 K/69 BB (16 GS)
Double-A: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 5 K/3 BB (1 GS)
After walking 69 batters in 74.2 innings at Triple-A, Betances was demoted to Double-A Trenton to re-tool his mechanics and hopefully get back on track. His first start back in the Eastern League was encouraging: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 5 K/3 BB.
However, if he can’t build upon it and work his way back up the organization ladder, he may be transitioned to the bullpen.
Gary Brown, OF, San Francisco Giants
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Double-A: .269/.344/.352, 41 R, 20 XBH (16 2B), 21 SB, 13 CS, 50 K/25 BB (81 G)
Ranked as a Top 25 prospect headed into the season, Brown’s 2012 campaign has been disappointing. After batting only .227 in April and .258 in May, the speedster’s bat has been heating up, as he batted .284 with nine extra-base hits in June.
He’s kept his pace as the calendar has switched to July, batting .425/.511/.625 with 17 hits over his last 10 games.
Brett Jackson, OF, Chicago Cubs
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Triple-A: .258/.336/.497, 40 XBH (12 HR), 17 SB, 119 K/34 BB (80 G)
Jackson’s power-speed combo remains impressive, as he’s amassed 40 extra-base hits and 17 stolen bases in 80 games for Triple-A Iowa. However, his strikeouts continue to be a major problem; Jackson is on pace to easily eclipse his previous career-high strikeout total in a season (138).
Equally concerning is the fact that while his strikeouts are increasing, his walks are declining.
Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
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Double-A: .265/.327/.348, 18 XBH, 27 SB, 68 K/30 BB (79 G)
One of the top shortstop prospects in baseball and a Top 50 overall prospect, Lee struggled over the first two months of the season, batting .248/.315/.327 in April and .220/.287/263 in May. He broke out in June, however, batting .330/.387/.450 with 36 hits (7 XBH) and 14 stolen bases.
I think that he should be fine over the rest of the season.
Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
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High-A: 5-6, 86.2 IP, 4.05 ERA, 75 H, 73 K/24 BB (16 GS)
After dominating to begin the season with a 1.46 ERA and 28 K/4 BB over five starts in April, Taillon struggled throughout May (2-3, 4.94 ERA, 20 K/11 BB; 5 GS) and June (2-2, 5.86 ERA, 23 K/7 BB; 5 GS).
The Pirates are letting him off the leash this year, allowing him to log more innings and work deeper into games. Therefore, periodic rough patches should be expected from the right-hander.
Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
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Triple-A: 4-7, 75 IP, 6.00 ERA, .291 BAA, 17 HR, 86 K/39 BB (16 GS)
Miller, one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball for the last few years, has been extremely hittable this season at Triple-A, although his strikeout-to-walk rate remains impressive. Many believe that he’s simply bored at the level and suffering the effects of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
Regardless, his 87 hits and 17 home runs allowed in 75 innings, as well as his overall lack of consistency, is concerning. The question remains: Allow him to regress or challenge him with a big league promotion?
Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Kansas City Royals
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High-A: .233/.301/.327, 15 XBH (5 HR), 37 RBI, 43 K/26 BB (71 G)
After batting .267/.345/.397 as an 18-year-old at Low-A, Cuthbert hasn’t responded well to the promotion to High-A. His plate discipline is still impressive, but his lack of power and ability to make hard, consistent contact just hasn’t been there. And it’s not as though his stats are the product of one poor month: April: (.221), May (.216) and June (.225).
Manny Machado, SS, Baltimore Orioles
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Double-A: .264/.347/.405, 28 XBH (6 HR), 44 RBI, 9 SB, 54 K/35 BB (80 G)
Granted Machado is only 19 and experiencing Double-A for the first time—but for one of the game’s top prospects, I expected a little more production. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still having an impressive season, but nothing along the lines of what the Rangers' Jurickson Profar is doing.
He’s been hot over his 10 games, batting .333/.429/.583 with five extra-base hits, six walks and 15 RBI.
Mike Montgomery, LHP, Kansas City Royals
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Triple-A: 3-5, 80.2 IP, 5.13 ERA, .287 BAA, 11 HR, 54 K/38 BB (15 GS)
After three promising seasons in the minors from 2008-2010, Montgomery has been steadily regressing at Triple-A Omaha over the last two seasons. This season has been especially disappointing, as he’s proving to be extremely hittable and has seemingly lost the ability to register strikeouts.
He’s kind of in the same boat as Shelby Miller—although somewhat worse off considering that he’s struggling for the second straight season—where the organization should consider challenging him with a big league promotion.
Cito Culver, SS, New York Yankees
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Low-A: .204/.321/.275, 11 XBH, 25 RBI, 14 SB, 67 K/45 BB (69 G)
After batting .250 with limited power in both 2010 and 2011, Culver received a promotion to Low-A with the hope of jump-starting his bat. However, he hasn’t responded favorably, although his plate discipline could be much worse.
The switch-hitter has especially struggled from the right side this season, batting .183/.275/.183 with 17 strikeouts and zero extra-base hits.
Brandon Drury, 3B, Atlanta Braves
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Low-A: .204/.245/.286, 18 XBH (16 2B), 27 RBI, 47 K/11 BB (75 G)
After winning Appalachian League Player of the Year honors in 2011 after batting .347/.367/.525 with 31 extra-base hits and 54 RBI, Drury is having a shockingly bad season for Low-A Rome.
There’s reason to believe that his season is bound to turn around, though, as he’s posted a .236 BABIP this season while striking out 16 percent of the time—a lot of his struggles have been the product of bad luck.
Joe Benson, OF, Minnesota Twins
Triple-A: .179/269/.316, 7 XBH, 8 RBI, 27 K/11 BB (28 G)
Double-A: .156/.250/.250, HR, 8 K/3 BB (8 G)
Rookie: 0-for-2, 2 K (1 G)
Poor Joe Benson. After getting his feet wet last season with a September call-up, Benson failed to make the team out of spring training and was assigned to Triple-A where he collected only 17 hits and fanned 27 times in 28 games.
After an unsuccessful demotion to Double-A to regain his form, Benson is back to Rookie level, hoping to re-work his lengthy swing. Despite his struggles this season, he still has 20/20 potential once he puts it all together.
Noah Perio, 2B, Miami Marlins
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High-A: .243/.290/.307, 15 XBH (13 2B), 5 SB, 39 K/17 BB (72 G)
After batting .295/.323/.406 with 39 extra-base hits and 15 stolen bases at Low-A, Perio’s numbers are down across the board at High-A this season. His plate discipline has actually improved, but his groundball rate is up and line drive rate down from 2011, which has resulted in considerably less hits. However, that suggests that there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Wily Peralta, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
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Triple-A: 4-8, 84.1 IP, 5.44 ERA, .279 BAA, 90 H, 73 K/48 BB (17 GS)
After going 11-7 with a 3.17 ERA and 157 K/59 BB between Double- and Triple-A last season, Peralta has struggled mightily in his first full season at Triple-A. He’s been far too hittable in 84.1 innings (90 hits), while striking out well beyond his season average.
His lack of success has caused him to be passed on the organizational depth chart by Tyler Thornburg, who was recalled from Double-A to make his big league debut last month instead of Peralta.
Deck McGuire, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
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Double-A: 4-9, 85.1 IP, 6.22 ERA, .280 BAA, 93 H, 13 HR, 55 K/37 BB (17 GS)
When there’s nobody on base, McGuire has been dominant, posting a 1.72 ERA with 37 K/20 BB over 47 innings. However, when the right-hander has runners on base, well, that’s a different story: 11.74 ERA with 18 K/17 BB in 38.1 innings.
He’s been plagued by the long ball (13 HR) at Double-A, and he will need to improve his 0.80 GB/FB rate in order to reverse the course of his season.