Fast-Tracked MLB Prospects Who Still Need More Time to Develop in the Minors

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterFebruary 4, 2013

Fast-Tracked MLB Prospects Who Still Need More Time to Develop in the Minors

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    Every year there are prospects who are rushed through their team’s respective farm system. Unfortunately, it’s often a product of their success at lower levels when it should be based upon their tools and secondary skills.

    Just because a prospect puts up monster numbers to begin their professional career and is the recipient of aggressive promotions, does that mean they’ll be ready for a big-league debut ahead of schedule?

    Here’s a look a five prospects already on the fast track to the major leagues who still need more time to develop in the minors.

Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs

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    Although he was held in extended spring training to open the 2012 season, Baez was ultimately assigned to Low-A Peoria in the Midwest League where he batted .333/.383/.596 with 27 extra-base hits, 20 stolen bases and 48/9 K/BB in 57 games. Although he made tons of hard contact and posted big numbers, Baez’s plate discipline left something to be desired.

    Therefore, it didn’t come as a surprise when the now 20-year-old struggled following a late-season promotion to High-A Daytona. At the higher level, Baez batted .188/.244/.400 with eight extra-base hits and 21/5 K/BB in 23 games.

Nick Castellanos, OF-3B, Detroit Tigers

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    Castellanos enjoyed a torrid start to the 2012 season, as the 20-year-old batted .405/.461/.553 with 87 hits in 55 games for High-A Lakeland in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. However, his free-swinging approach and willingness to chase breaking balls out of the zone caught up to him following a promotion to Double-A Erie. Keep in mind that the third baseman-turned-outfielder was forced to learn a foreign position, though that doesn’t entirely explain his .264/.296/.382 slash line with 76/14 K/BB in 79 games.

    Although Castellanos projects to have one of the better hit tools among all minor leaguers, his approach still has a ways to go—as evidenced by the dramatic shift in his plate discipline last season at the more advanced level.

Zach Lee, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    The Dodgers’ first-round draft pick in 2010, Lee has moved up the organizational ladder quickly—at least relative to most pitchers selected out of high school. Despite registering a 4.55 ERA and .270 BAA to open the 2012 season at High-A Rancho Cucamonga, the Dodgers handed the right-hander an aggressive promotion to Double-A Chattanooga in the Southern League. At the new level, Lee, 21, held his own by registering a 4.25 ERA over 65.2 innings.

    The right-hander has a four-pitch mix with command advanced for his age and experience, though his lack of a true out-pitch is somewhat concerning. In order to be successful moving forward and reach his ceiling as a frontline starter, Lee will need to improve each offering and establish a swing-and-miss out-pitch.

George Springer, OF, Houston Astros

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    The Astros’ first-round draft pick in 2011, Springer showcased his tools and overall potential last season during his professional debut. Opening the year at High-A Lancaster in the hitter-friendly California League, the Connecticut alumnus batted .316/.398/.557 with 50 extra-base hits (22 home runs) and 28 stolen bases in 106 games. However, the all-or-noting right-handed hitter also struggled to make consistent contact, as he fanned 131 times in 433 at-bats.

    His poor plate discipline was exploited following a late-season promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi, where he batted .219/.288/.342 with two home runs and 25/6 K/BB in 22 games. Although he has a clear path to playing time in the major leagues given the current state of the Astros’ outfield, Springer still has a huge gap between his present ability and ultimate potential.

Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals

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    The top hitter in the 2011 draft class, Rendon has endured a slow start to his professional career. In what was supposed to be his full-season debut last summer, the right-handed hitter lost most of the year after fracturing his ankle in his second game for High-A Potomac.

    Rendon would ultimately return to the field, play in 43 total games and reach Double-A Harrisburg, however, he never found a groove at the plate and batted only .233/.363/.489 with 18 extra-base hits and 29/23 K/BB.

    His bat is still every bit as good as it was coming out of Rice. The 22-year-old now just needs experience and a path to playing time in the major leagues.