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