After belting three home runs over 12 games last September, Darin Ruf is off to a slow start this spring.
For every prospect already turning heads this spring, there are countless others who have struggled against the heightened competition in major league camp.
In some cases, a prospect’s lackluster showing early in the spring is a product of nerves. After all, this may be their one and only chance to establish value in front of the entire organization. At the same time, there’s always a sizeable contingent of prospects in spring training who are simply yet to get things going—such as a pitcher who struggles to repeat their release point or a hitter who’s yet to find their timing at the plate.
After breaking down the hottest prospects in spring training yesterday, here’s a look at one prospect from each team who’s been overmatched this spring.
Spring Training Stats: 1-for-8 (.125 BA), 6/3 K/BB (9 G)
After batting .223/.305/.340 last season in 32 games with the Orioles, Avery enters camp hoping to land a spot on the team’s Opening Day roster as the fourth outfielder. If he does break camp with the O’s, it’ll likely be the result of his speed (22 stolen bases in the minors in 2012) and ability to play multiple outfield positions.
Spring Training Stats: 6.1 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 5/6 K/BB (3 G)
As the only other knuckleball pitcher in the game besides R.A. Dickey, there’s an undeniable level of intrigue surrounding Wright. Having reached Triple-A last season with the Red Sox following his acquisition from the Indians, the 28-year-old hasn’t thrived this spring as many hoped he would. The hitter-friendly environment of spring training is particularly conducive to throwing an effective knuckie.
Spring Training Stats: 0-for-7 (4 G)
Although Culver is still years away from the major leagues, the Yankees continue to give the former first-rounder looks in big-league camp. While his defense has always been solid, the switch-hitter’s bat is yet to develop. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s struggled in limited action this spring.
Spring Training Stats: 3 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 1/3 K/BB (3 G)
Montgomery’s fall from prospect grace with the Royals over the last two seasons was unexpected, as the left-hander found himself back in Double-A to conclude the 2012 season.
But after an offseason trade to the Rays as part of the prospect package used to land James Shields and Wade Davis, the left-hander should have a fresh start with his new organization. However, his struggles this spring already suggest that he’s still the same pitcher as last season.
Spring Training Stats: 2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2/1 K/BB (2 G)
The top left-handed pitching prospect in the Blue Jays’ system, Nolin carved up opposing hitters last season at both High-A and Double-A. With a tall, durable frame and mature arsenal, the left-hander has the potential to jump on the fast track to the major leagues with a strong follow-up campaign. However, he’s off to a rather uninspiring start this spring after struggling in each of his two appearances.
Spring Training Stats: 2-for-12 (.167 BA), 3/1 K/BB (6 G)
After ascending three levels last season and finishing his breakout campaign in Triple-A, Sanchez is essentially auditioning this spring for a late-season call-up with the White Sox. After batting .323/.378/.403 in 133 games in 2012, there’s no question as to whether Sanchez will hit. However, his slow start this spring may hurt any chance of him cracking the Opening Day roster in a reserve role.
Spring Training Stats: 2-for-19 (.105 BA), 5/1 K/BB (12 G)
Popped by the Indians during the Rule 5 Draft in early December, McGuiness batted .268/366/.474 wit 23 home runs in 123 games (with the Rangers) last season at Double-A Frisco.
The left-handed hitter followed his strong campaign by garnering MVP honors of the Arizona Fall League. Considering that he’s already on the 40-man roster and has demonstrated a knack for mashing right-handed pitching, the 24-year-old first baseman will see time in the major leagues this season. However, his struggles in spring training thus far have him ticketed for Triple-A to open the year.
Spring Training Stats: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 6/5 K/BB (4 G)
In the wake of Jose Valverde’s implosion during the 2012 postseason, the Tigers opted not to re-sign their former All-Star closer and seem prepared to open the upcoming season with unproven prospect Bruce Rondon. With a triple-digit fastball and demeanor made for closing games, the position is his to lose this spring—and it’s slowly slipping away.
Spring Training Stats: 1.2 IP, H, 2 ER, 1/3 K/BB (1 G)
A former top pitching prospect in the Royals’ system, Dwyer’s development stagnated upon reaching Double-A in late-2010. Since then, he’s repeatedly failed to showcase the potential that was present earlier in his career. The organization will continue to give him opportunities to right the ship, especially this spring, though the left-hander still shows no signs of putting it all together.
Spring Training Stats: 2 IP, 0 H, 1/4 K/BB (2 G)
While May’s performance this spring is actually fairly respectable, the 23-year-old right-hander’s control and command remains a work-in-progress, as evidenced by his four walks over two frames. He’s likely headed for Triple-A to open the 2013 season, but until his command improves, it’s hard to envision him succeeding as a starter in the major leagues.
Spring Training Stats: 2-for-20 (.100 BA), SB, 6/3 K/BB (8 G)
Even though he has plus speed and swings it from both sides of the plate, Villar has never developed into the well-rounded player that he showed glimpses of becoming earlier in his career.
Because he’s already on the 40-man roster and projected to open the upcoming season in Triple-A, he’s still a relatively safe bet to reach the major leagues later in the year. However, if his spring performance so far is a sign of what’s to be expected, then the 21-year-old may only be serviceable in a reserve role.
Spring Training Stats: 3.2 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 4/4 K/BB (3 G)
After an impressive full-season debut last year as a starter at both High-A and Double-A, Maronde was ultimately promoted to the major leagues last September where he served as a left-handed specialist out of the team’s bullpen. However, because he has a higher ceiling as a starter, the Angels are giving him an extended look this spring in that role. So far, the results have left something to be desired.
Spring Training Stats: 1-for-10 (.100 BA), 4 K
Acquired from the Red Sox prior to the start of the 2012 season, Head emerged as one of the top hitters in the A’s talented system by batting .333/.391/.577 with 23 home runs in 124 games between High-A and Double-A. While his defensive profile is limited to an infield corner (likely first base), the right-handed hitter’s bat is very real despite his early struggles this spring.
Spring Training Stats: 3-for-17 (.176 BA), 3 XBH (HR), 4/1 K/BB (8 G)
After reaching Triple-A last season as part of a much-needed bounce-back campaign, Franklin, a switch hitter, is knocking on the door of the major leagues. However, that’s not saying his overall game is without holes—especially his swing from his natural right side.
With a strong spring, Franklin could potentially open the 2013 season in the major leagues, though at this point, a late-season call-up seems more likely.
Spring Training Stats: 1 IP, 4 H, 7 ER, 2 HBP, 5 BB (2 G)
After a breakout season in 2012 between High-A and Double-A, the undersized right-hander established himself as a top-100 prospect in the game. However, his dismal showing in both outings this spring is disconcerting, as there’s always been a lingering concern about how his lack of a plus pitch may impede his success against major league hitters.
Spring Training Stats: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 5/0 K/BB (2 G)
Gilmartin enters spring training after reaching Triple-A in his first full season in the minor leagues. And while he doesn’t have the high ceiling of a Julio Teheran or J.R. Graham, the left-hander profiles as a legitimate backend starter in the major leagues.
Although he’s not expected to compete for a spot in the Braves’ big league rotation, Gilmartin’s success this spring (or lack thereof) could ultimately determine his timetable for the upcoming season.
Spring Training Stats: 3-for-16 (.188 BA), SB, 4/2 K/BB (6 G)
Acquired from the Blue Jays this offseason as part of the blockbuster that sent Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle north of the border, the Marlins have enough faith in Hechavarria that they’ve already anointed him as their shortstop for the upcoming season. However, they may be forced to reconsider that plan sometime soon, as the 23-year-old is yet to impress this spring after batting .254 in 41 games with the Blue Jays last season.
Spring Training Stats: 1-for-9 (.111 BA)
Flores enters big league spring training fresh off a long-overdue breakout season in which he batted .300/.349/.479 with 18 home runs in 130 games between High-A and Double-A. However, after signing David Wright to a long-term extension this offseason, the 21-year-old’s only path to playing time in the major leagues is at the keystone.
While his stats this spring represent a small sample size, they may also be telling of how he’ll fare against more advanced pitching this season in the high minors.
Spring Training Stats: 3-for-23 (.130 BA), 6/2 K/BB (8 G)
A prospect (kind of) that has repeatedly surpassed expectations, Ruf led all minor-league hitters with 38 home runs last season in 139 games for Double-A Reading. Furthermore, he capped his impressive campaign by adding three more home runs over 12 games with the Phillies as a September call-up.
This spring, the 25-year-old is competing for a spot in the team’s outfield as a platoon player (against left-handed pitching), as well as a spot on the bench. But if he continues to squander opportunities this spring, the organization may have no choice but to send him to Triple-A.
Spring Training Stats: 2-for-15 (.133), 5/5 K/BB (10 G)
After a monster full-season debut last year in which he batted .291/.426/.559 with 27 home runs and 133/99 K/BB in 119 games between High-A and Low-A, the Nationals rewarded the 23-year-old with an invitation to major league camp. However, perhaps they were a bit too optimistic, as the left-handed hitter has struggled to drive the ball in a majority of his at-bats.
Spring Training Stats: 1-for-14 (.071 BA), HR, 6/1 K/BB (8 G)
Acquired at the trade deadline last July in the deal that sent Ryan Dempster to the Rangers, the Cubs are hopeful that Villanueva will fill the void at the hot corner. Given his average power potential, the 21-year-old isn’t necessarily a clean fit at the position.
As a result, there will always be additional pressure on his hit tool and plate discipline. So far this spring, neither has been particularly impressive.
Spring Training Stats: 2-for-18 (.111 BA), 3 SB, 8/2 K/BB (9 G)
Despite his status as the fastest player in baseball, Hamilton’s wheels alone will not make him a successful big leaguer. Luckily, his hit tool and on-base skills began to develop last season, as the 22-year-old switch hitter batted .311/.410/.420 with 112 runs scored and 113/86 K/BB in 132 games between High-A and Double-A. However, the speedster has looked more like the Billy Hamilton of old this spring, as he’s already fanned in eight of 20 plate appearances.
Spring Training Stats: 3-for-18 (.167 BA), HR, 5/1 K/BB (7 G)
With Mat Gamel already sidelined for the entire 2013 season after tearing his ACL for the second-consecutive year—I know, poor guy—the door is officially open for Hunter Morris. And after batting .303/.357/.563 with 72 extra-base hits (28 home runs) in 136 games for Double-A Huntsville, he’ll receive plenty of opportunities this spring to prove he belongs.
Having said that, he’ll still have to demonstrate the ability to collect hits more often than once every third or fourth game.
Spring Training Stats: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 2/3 K/BB (2 G)
After six injury-plagued years in the Pirates’ farm system, McPherson finally reached the major leagues last season and registered a 2.73 ERA with 21/7 K/BB over 26.1 innings. His success last season has made the right-hander the early favorite to break camp as the Pirates’ fifth starter, though he’ll still be forced to prove he’s ready for the role this spring.
Spring Training Stats: 4 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 3/2 K/BB (2 G)
I had to go outside the box for the Cardinals’, who have a host of highly-regarded prospects already doing great things in big league camp. Regarded as an organizational arm, Gast is auditioning for a role as the team’s sixth or seventh starter—basically the guy who gets the call in the event of an injury or need for a spot-start. However, the left-hander will have to make improvements over the course of the spring after getting knocked around in each of his first two appearances.
Spring Training Stats: 4-for-21 (.190 BA), 6/2 K/BB (11 G)
Despite the offseason signing and acquisition of Eric Chavez and Martin Prado, respectively, Davidson is still regarded as the Diamondbacks’ future third baseman. Although he’s still a relatively raw prospect, the 21-year-old held his own last season at Double-A Mobile by batting .261/.367/.469 with 23 home runs with 126/69 K/BB in 135 games.
As a result, the right-handed hitter is, in theory, auditioning to be the team’s third baseman in 2014 and/or 2015. However, Davidson’s performance this spring has indicated that his plate discipline and approach have a long way to go before being big league ready.
Spring Training Stats: 1-for-10 (.100 BA), 3 RBI, 1/3 K/BB (7 G)
The Rockies’ first-round draft pick in 2010, Parker, a former quarterback at Clemson, came into his own last season at High-A Modesto, where he batted .308/.415/.562 with 23 home runs and 88/66 K/BB in 102 games.
Viewed as their future right fielder, the organization will presumably challenge him moving forward, just as they did by inviting him to his first major league spring training. At the same time, the 23-year-old needs to prove that his improved production in 2012 wasn’t merely a product of the hitter-friendly California League.
Spring Training Stats: 6 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 9/2 K/BB (3 G)
Signed to a five-year, $36 million contract during the offseason, Ryu, 25, is expected to open the 2013 season as either the team’s third or fourth starter. Although he’s missed a favorable amount of bats this spring, the left-hander has also been hit a bit more than expected. However, it’s no reason to grow concerned, as most international prospects that enter the majors typically endure a shaky acclimation period.
Spring Training Stats: 4 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2/2 K/BB (2 G)
Drafted by the Boston Red Sox as a shortstop in the first round of the 2008 draft, all it took for Casey Kelly to reach the major leagues was a position change and trade to the Padres. After spending a majority of the 2012 season on the disabled list with an elbow injury, the right-hander was called up in late August and went on to register a 6.21 ERA with 26/10 K/BB in 29 innings.
However, in order to break camp as the Padres’ fifth starter, his starts will have to get progressively better over the course of the spring.
Spring Training Stats: 2.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, HBP, 2 K (2 G)
Although he’s been solid since entering the Giants’ system in 2009, Heston didn’t put himself on the major league radar until the 2012 season, when he registered a 2.24 ERA with 135/40 K/BB over 148.2 innings at Double-A Richmond. Regarded as a potential backend starter in the majors, Heston stands to receive an extensive look on the mound this spring. However, his inability to record outs could result in a quick assignment to minor league camp.