OF Wil Myers (Royals)
As a self-proclaimed prospect junkie, I can’t recall a more exciting season in terms of historic rookie performances and unexpected late-season call-ups. Looking back at my various top-50 rankings over the course of the season, it’s absolutely astonishing to see how many of baseball’s top prospects ultimately made an impact in the MLB this season.
But just because they reached the big leagues in 2012 doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they will make the 2013 Opening Day roster of their respective clubs. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of this year’s late-season call-ups are forced to begin the 2013 season back in the minor leagues, as most teams would rather see their highly regarded prospects continue to develop and receive regular playing time.
That said, here’s a look at five prospects who are anything but a lock to open the 2013 season on their respective team’s 25-man roster.
The No. 3 overall draft pick in 2011, Bauer was excellent this year in the minors as he split time between Double- and Triple-A. Overall, the 21-year-old posted a 12-2 record with a 2.42 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 10.8 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 130.1 innings.
Promoted to the major leagues in June, Bauer struggled in his four starts with the Diamondbacks as he picked at the strike zone rather than attacking hitters with his arsenal of above-average to plus offerings. After going 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and 7.2 BB/9 over 16.1 innings in the big leagues, the right-hander was sent back to Triple-A to refine his approach.
Apparently, his unwillingness to trust his stuff and make adjustments has peeved the organization’s front office. Therefore, Bauer will have to demonstrate a more aggressive approach during spring training to break camp as part of the starting rotation.
At age 21, Myers enjoyed one of the best offensive campaigns in all of the minors, batting .314/.387/.600 with 37 home runs, 109 RBI and 140/61 K/BB in 134 games between Double- and Triple-A.
Normally, such a performance would warrant a September call-up. However, with Jeff Francoeur signed to a three-year, $16 million contract through the 2013 season—and the fact that no team in their right mind would want him—there simply wasn’t room for Myers in the Royals’ outfield.
It’s hard to see Frenchy leaving anytime soon—unless he’s designated for assignment—so there’s a strong chance Myers remains the odd man out heading into the 2013 season.
Promoted from Double-A to the major leagues on Aug. 2, the 23-year-old slugger appeared in 16 games for the Rangers and showed surprising versatility by playing first base and right field in addition to third base.
Considering the two-level jump, Olt’s offensive struggles were understandable. He batted only .152/.250/.182 with five RBI and 13/5 K/BB in 40 plate appearances.
It seems like a waste for the Rangers to use the right-handed hitter in a utility role as they did over the final two months of the regular season. And with a jam-packed infield, including Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus—who are both under contract through 2013—it makes more sense to give him at-bats everyday at Triple-A.
After a disastrous first half of the season in Triple-A, Miller was seemingly on the verge of a demotion to Double-A. However, the 22-year-old right-hander (in his age-21 season) tweaked his mechanics around the All-Star break and was a completely different pitcher over the second half.
His willingness to make adjustments and overall success resulted in a September call-up with the Cardinals in which he registered a 1.32 ERA and 16/4 K/BB in 13.2 innings. Miller was especially impressive in his first big league start on the final day of the regular season, as he carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning.
Miller’s role in 2013 will ultimately depend on whether the Cardinals target starting pitching this offseason. Although he's pitched well out of the bullpen over the last two months—with the exception of his lone start—there’s no question that his future is as a starter.
After experiencing command issues for most of his minor league career, Archer finally turned the corner this season at Triple-A and was promoted to the major leagues for the first time on June 20. Even though he was sent back to Triple-A shortly thereafter, the right-hander was recalled in September and pitched well for the Rays over the final month of the regular season.
Pitching in six games for the Rays, including four starts, Archer was 1-3 with a 4.60 ERA, 11.0 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 29.1 innings.
Considering that the Rays possess arguably the strongest rotation in the major leagues, it’s difficult to envision the right-hander breaking camp as a starter unless an offseason trade transpires.