Look at this big white bear, er, Evan Gattis swing a big bat. Gattis is a prospect who could make a huge impact this season.
These guys come out of nowhere—some highly touted, others unknown—but prospects can impact not only their team's outlook, but division rivals' fortunes as well.
What makes a prospect, in this
esteemed writer's opinion, are players who are eligible for the 2013 Rookie of the Year honors. According to Major League Baseball, this means a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list).
The reason for this is because without strict rules, some would still consider Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown a prospect even though the 25-year-old had accumulated 433 at-bats in parts of three seasons heading into this year.
Of course, this also means we can't consider New York Mets sensation Matt Harvey a prospect in this exercise either. Harvey has been a revelation as the 24-year-old right-hander is 4-0 with a microscopic 0.93 ERA thus far. Unfortunately, Harvey threw 59 innings last season, going 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA.
- New York Mets infielder Wilmer Flores: With pitcher Zack Wheeler struggling (0-1, 4.91 ERA) and catcher Travis d'Arnaud out eight weeks with a non-displaced fracture of the first metatarsal, the bone in the middle of the foot, Flores is probably the Mets prospect who could make the most impact.
Flores has always been able to hit (.284 career hitter in five minor league seasons), and some believe he is the Mets’ most advanced top positional prospect and is a surefire major leaguer. However, he plays second base at Triple-A Las Vegas, which is blocked by Daniel Murphy (currently hitting .357), and third base, which is blocked by All-Star David Wright.
The only way Flores will get the call up is either through injury or if the Mets decide to promote Flores and move Murphy to first base to replace the struggling Ike Davis (currently hitting .164).
- Miami Marlins infielder Derek Dietrich: Middle infielders with pop are hard to find, but that's what Dietrich can provide.
Dietrich arrived in an offseason trade for Yunel Escobar, and thus far, he's hitting .274, has an on-base percentage of .430, and eight of his 17 base hits have gone for extra bases at Double-A Jacksonville.
Meanwhile, at the big league level, second baseman Donovan Solano is hitting .239 while shortstop has been a revolving door thanks to Adeiny Hechavarria's bruised elbow, which landed him on the disabled list.
- Philadelphia left-handed pitcher Adam Morgan: It's a weak system, but Morgan might be able to contribute this summer if given the opportunity.
Morgan has been effective thus far as he's 1-0 with a 1.42 in 19 innings (three starts), but how good he is depends on who you ask. MLB.com ranks Morgan seventh in the organization, Baseball America had him fifth, Baseball Prospectus pegged Morgan third, and ESPN.com's Keith Law believed Morgan is the Phillies' best prospect.
When southpaw John Lannan was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained quadriceps tendon in his left knee, many thought Morgan would be the choice. However, he would've been pitching on short rest, so the Phillies opted for Jonathan Pettibone. But since Lannan is out six to eight weeks, Morgan could eventually get the call if Pettibone falters.
Now, without further ado, in descending order, here are the top four National League East prospects who could make an impact at the big league level in 2013.
Christian Yelich impressed the Marlins to the point that he was the last prospect cut from camp. Considering the Marlins porous offense, don't be surprised if the Marlins call up Yelich soon.
When it comes to Christian Yelich, it's when, not if.
The sweet swinging Yelich opened many eyes in spring training when he hit .364 with a team-leading five home runs and 14 RBI in 22 games. Furthermore, the 21-year-old outfielder, who was drafted 23rd overall in the 2010 draft, made it hard for the Marlins to send him to Double-A Jacksonville as he wasn't cut until there was a week left in camp.
Yelich was so impressive, some wondered if he could make the rare jump from Single-A to the majors. Meanwhile, others inquired when Yelich's fun would come to an end.
"I get asked about it probably a couple times every day from different people," Yelich told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. "At the end of the day, I can't really control it. It's out of my hands. All I can do is keep going out there and playing hard, and whatever happens, happens. I can't be disappointed either way. I came here from day one with the whole mindset to have fun and try to enjoy this experience as much as possible. I've been fortunate that it's all worked out pretty well so far. I'm just enjoying the ride and trying to stick it out as long as possible."
But shortly after Yelich returned to the minors, he went on the disabled list with a stone bruise to his left heel, according to MLB.com. He recently returned and has collected just four hits in 21 at-bats. Although Yelich is struggling to find his stroke, he can still help the Marlins. After all, the big league club hasn't generated much offense, averaging a league-low 2.6 runs per game.
The most logical solution, from the Marlins standpoint, is to call up Yelich as early as June after he avoids the Super 2 arbitration class. But can the Marlins wait that long given their putrid offense?
Besides injuries or a September call-up, the three ways Yelich might find himself with the Marlins is if they trade Giancarlo Stanton; decide Juan Pierre is over the hill (he's currently hitting .194 and has a .227 on-base percentage in the leadoff spot); or if the Marlins decide an upgrade is needed in center field as that position has hit .207, albeit with three of the team's six home runs.
Yelich will be with the Marlins in 2013. It's just a matter of when the Marlins pull the trigger.
With Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list and possibly battling the yips, Anthony Rendon, the Washington Nationals' prized prospect, could play a major role in 2013.
They say it's temporary, but given recent events, how can anyone be sure?
The Washington Nationals placed third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list Saturday with a strained left hamstring and the following day, they called up prospect Anthony Rendon to take Zimmerman's place.
“I don’t care if [Rendon] hits .900 he’s not going to beat out Ryan Zimmerman,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson told the Washington Post. “And he’s our third baseman. And what he needs more than anything is playing time. He hasn’t really had a full season professionally. So he just needs to get some games under his belt.”
Regarded by many as the top prospect in the organization, Rendon was hitting .292 with two home runs and seven RBI in 14 games before the call-up. ESPN.com's Keith Law believes Rendon's bat isn't too far away and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo thinks Rendon has bat speed to spare and an approach that should let him hit for average and power. Mayo also said Rendon is an above-average defender even with the loss of some speed and perhaps a tick off of his arm following his shoulder issues.
Rendon has gotten off to a slow start in the big show—he committed an error in his major league debut and has only one hit in his first 11 big league at-bats—but he might stick for reasons unrelated to his performance, despite what Johnson and the Nationals front office says.
That's because Zimmerman, after committing four errors in five games prior to landing on the disabled list, admitted to Comcast Sportsnet's Mark Zuckerman his throwing issues are mental rather than physical. Zimmerman had offseason right shoulder surgery after committing 19 errors, 12 throwing, last season.
"Nope, shoulder feels great," Zimmerman told Zuckerman. "That's why it's so frustrating. I was just going into the dugout and talking to some of the guys. Nobody's more frustrated than me. I'm the guy out there that doesn't want to do it more than anyone."
The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo also reported it may not be full-fledged “yips,” but fixing it will be an ongoing issue: “I’m not sure it’s the yips because he can make the throw on the run,” said a team official. “It’s when he sets up that he has the problems. It’s something we don’t want to bring attention to because it makes it worse. Not sure there’s much we can do.”
Because of Zimmerman's throwing issues, the Nationals might eventually move him to first base. The question is when, since a trade is highly unlikely once his six-year, $100 million extension kicks in after this season. Moreover, first baseman Adam LaRoche is off to his usual slow start as he's hitting .172 with three home runs and eight RBI.
LaRoche is a notoriously slow starter (.239 career hitter from March to June; .295 career hitter after July 1), so if he doesn't bounce back soon and if Zimmerman becomes a permanent liability defensively, shouldn't the Nationals entertain the idea of moving Zimmerman across the diamond and anoint Rendon as the everyday third baseman, especially since the Nationals are trying to win the World Series?
Baseball fans, meet Jose Fernandez, the future ace of the Miami Marlins.
He's 20 years old and he's already been compared to a Cy Young Award winner.
His arm dazzles, pumping fastballs at 96 miles per hour, and he can occasionally handle the bat too, which some of his teammates have had a problem with so far this season.
Meet future ace Jose Fernandez, possibly the only reason to watch the dreadful Miami Marlins nowadays.
In his first two starts, Fernandez was magnificent. Against the New York Mets in his major league debut, Fernandez yielded one run on three hits with one walk and eight strikeouts—a team record for most strikeouts in a major league debut—in five innings of work, but he received a no-decision because the Marlins couldn't hang on to a two-run lead in a 4-3 loss.
"He's going to be a good one," the New York Mets' Marlon Byrd predicted to the press (via ESPN.com) after Fernandez's major league debut, saying Fernandez reminded him of Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. "He's one of those guys if he's on, it really doesn't matter if you've seen him or not. He's going to be electric."
In the following start, Fernandez threw six shutout innings in just 85 pitches and he smacked a Cole Hamels fastball into left field to drive in Hechavarria. However, Fernandez got another no-decision as the Marlins couldn't hold on to the one-run lead, but they did win 2-1.
Fernandez became the second player age 20 or younger since 1920 to allow one run or fewer and three hits or fewer in each of his first two career starts, according to ESPN's Stats & Info team. The other was Rudy May in 1965.
Unfortunately, Fernandez has been hit hard the last two starts. Against the Cincinnati Reds last week, he picked up the loss as he gave up five runs on six hits in four innings in a 11-1 loss. Then, against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, Fernandez got the loss again as he allowed four runs on six hits in five innings of work in a 4-3 loss.
After four starts, Fernandez is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA. And with his recent struggles, probably the only thing Fernandez can do is make some adjustments. After all, the Marlins expect Fernandez to log 150-170 innings, all in the majors even though he's never pitched above Single-A.
“The consensus was this kid’s ready to handle it here, he’s ready to pitch here,” Larry Beinfest, the Marlins President of baseball operations, told the Miami Herald. “We think he’s ready to do it. It was not a decision that was made like, ‘Hey, let’s bring Jose up because he’s really good.’ We spent a lot of time around the kid. It just seems like he’s ready to do this. This is where he should be.”
Evan Gattis used to sweep floors. But now, he's sweeping the Atlanta Braves and the rest of Major League Baseball off their feet.
The 26-year-old rookie who was expected to begin the season in Double-A has surprised the baseball world by being one of the linchpins to Atlanta's scorching hot 15-5 start. Gattis is hitting .250 with six home runs and 13 RBI while batting cleanup for a World Series contender.
And this is coming from a guy who used to be a janitor, ski lift operator, flipped pizzas, lived in a hostel and pondered life with spiritual consultants through four states. Oh, and did we mention Gattis had quit the sport for about four years?
“I have a hard enough time getting going after an off-season, and he got it going after, what, four years,” Braves infielder Chris Johnson told the New York Times. “Wow.”
Once Gattis returned to baseball, he's hit everywhere he's been.
After being drafted in the 23rd round in 2010 from Division II University of Texas-Permian Basin, Gattis hit .288 with four home runs and 29 RBI in 60 games in rookie league ball. The following season, Gattis tore up Single-A Rome as he batted .322 with 22 homers and 71 RBI. Then last season, Gattis hit .305 with 18 homers and 67 RBI at three different levels.
Gattis' power and beard earned him the nickname "El Oso Blanco," which means White Bear, after Gattis pounded winter ball after hitting .303 with 16 home runs. ESPN.com's Buster Olney described Gattis as someone who swung a sledgehammer and has blasted everything on the inner half of the plate from his setup, which he stands with a slightly open stance and a crouch and doesn't wear batting gloves.
With the way Gattis has conducted himself at the plate, questions have arisen about what the Braves should do once Brian McCann and Jason Heyward come off the disabled list. McCann is still recovering from offseason surgery for a torn right labrum while Heyward underwent appendectomy surgery.
The Ledger-Enquirer's Guerry Clegg said one option is to give Gattis a few starts in left field, where he played 37 games in the minors last year, move Justin Upton to right, and let Heyward sit some games. Perhaps Gattis can learn right field since manager Fredi Gonzalez said he sees no reason to shift Upton back to right field. Plus, having a third catcher on the 25-man roster who can play first base and the outfield is invaluable, especially in today's 12-man pitching rotations.
The potential logjam might be a problem, but it's a good problem to have. But as for the rest of Major League Baseball, Evan Gattis is a problem they have yet to solve.