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1. Jarred Cosart, RHP, Houston Astros
Honestly, is there a more frustrating pitching prospect than Jarred Cosart?
At 6’3”, 180 pounds, the right-hander has always showcased excellent stuff, but he never missed the amount of bats that he theoretically should. And as he’s moved up the ladder, Cosart’s strikeout and walk rates have steadily converged.
His struggles have been amplified this spring, as the 23-year-old has registered an 8.22 ERA with 4/6 K/BB in 7.2 innings. While the Astros are still intent on developing him as a starter, it’s looking like Cosart’s only future may be in the bullpen.
2. Darin Ruf, 1B-LF, Philadelphia Phillies
An older prospect who lacks projection, Ruf, 26, led all minor-league hitters last season with 38 home runs in 139 games for Double-A Reading. Serving as a September call-up, he concluded his breakout campaign by adding three more home runs in 12 games with the Phillies over the final month of the season.
Competing for a spot in the team’s outfield this spring, even if only as a platoon player against left-handed pitching or perhaps a spot on the team’s bench, Ruf’s future value is tied to his ability to hit major-league pitching. However, the right-handed hitter has continued to squander opportunities this spring, as he’s batted .200/.317/.371 with one home run and eight strikeouts through 12 games.
3. Cody Buckel, RHP, Texas Rangers
Despite being an undersized right-hander, Buckel’s deceptive delivery and deep arsenal have helped him emerge as a legitimate top-100 prospect. Last season, the now-21-year-old was highly impressive at both High-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco, as he finished the year with a 2.49 ERA and 159/48 K/BB in 144.2 innings.
However, the same praise doesn’t apply to his performance this spring, as Buckel has allowed seven earned runs on four hits, five walks and two hit batters over one inning spanning two appearances.
4. Mike Montgomery, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Once considered one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in the game, Montgomery’s massive regression with the Royals over the last two seasons was unexpected and even resulted in a demotion to Double-A last season.
Despite the relegation, Montgomery failed to right the ship at the lower level.
The Royals essentially cut their losses with the southpaw when they packaged him with three other prospects (including Wil Myers) to land James Shields and Wade Davis from the Rays.
Although he’ll have a fresh start with his new organization, Montgomery has a lot of work to do to regain his once-favorable prospect status. So far this spring, his inability to get outs has been amplified, as he enters Thursday’s games with an ugly 12.00 ERA, as well as three walks and two wild pitches.
5. Chris McGuiness, 1B-DH, Cleveland Indians
Selected by the Indians during the Rule 5 draft (from the Rangers) in early December, McGuiness batted .268/366/.474 with 23 home runs in 123 games last season at Double-A Frisco and followed it by capturing MVP honors of the Arizona Fall League.
Considering he’s already on the team’s 40-man roster and has a track record of mashing right-handed pitching, the 24-year-old first baseman will likely reach the major leagues this season. However, he certainly hasn’t helped his cause by batting .115/.207/.115 with eight strikeouts over 15 games.