Each MLB Team's Top Prospect Already on the Hot Seat in May
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The pressure on prospects in Major League Baseball to perform puts every little thing they do under such an intense microscope that if they aren't living up to their billing right out of the gate, some will be ready to give up on them.
One month into the minor league season isn't enough to give a proper judgement of where players are in their development, but we can see some things they have to start working on changing for the future.
Baseball is a humbling game. Even the best players will fail a lot more than succeed. The key is to make sure the successes come at the expense of a prolonged slump. The superstars are able to do that, while the pretenders get weeded out in the minors.
Here is our look at the top prospect for each team who came out of the gate this season stumbling over the weight of expectations, youth and inexperience.
Note: All stats courtesy of MiLB.com unless otherwise noted.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Tyler Skaggs, LHP
Tyler Skaggs had a dismal spring that hasn't gotten better after a few weeks in Triple-A.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Skaggs had an opportunity to win the No. 5 starting job out of spring training. It would have been the start of what was supposed to be a burgeoning career for the young left-hander, who has really grown as a pitcher since being acquired in the Dan Haren trade in 2010.
But 2013 has not been particularly kind to Skaggs. He struggled out of the gate, showing decreased velocity and command this spring, and the results so far seem to support that Arizona's top prospect still isn't right.
Even though there has been nothing reported, you have to wonder at this point if there is an underlying injury. Pitchers lose velocity all the time, but rarely do you see it happen to a 21-year-old unless there is some problem.
Of course, this could all just be a function of pitching in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Skaggs does still have a very good strikeout-to-walk ratio and hasn't allowed any home runs, so perhaps the problems are just a bit of bad luck and the nature of pitching in this particular league.
Hopefully the latter is true, because Skaggs should be in the big leagues sooner rather than later.
Atlanta Braves: Sean Gilmartin, LHP
Atlanta's Sean Gilmartin has to walk a tight rope with average stuff.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
|5 (5)||2-0||30.0||2.40||30||10||8||2||14||13|| .261
Forget the ERA that Sean Gilmartin has put up so far this season. Just look at the other numbers, and you can see this season, while still very early, has been a struggle for him.
A pitcher like Gilmartin, who works with an average (at best) fastball, solid-average off-speed stuff and command, has to walk such a tightrope to succeed as it is. But when you look and see that he is giving up one hit per inning and walking as many as he is striking out, something is off.
If Gilmartin had swing-and-miss stuff, this would be a different story. He doesn't, so it is time to start wondering if he will be able to get by at Triple-A and, eventually, the big leagues. Given that he did have success last season across Double-A and Triple-A, he could right the ship sooner rather than later.
Of course, given his limitations, Gilmartin could turn into a Four-A pitcher.
Baltimore Orioles: Dylan Bundy, RHP
Dylan Bundy's 2013 season still has yet to start.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
No one is going to question the pure ability of Dylan Bundy when he is on the mound. He brings an electric fastball that sits in the mid-90s and will touch 98 to go along with a hard curveball and plus changeup. He has command and control far beyond that of a typical 20-year-old.
Yet we haven't been able to see where Bundy is at this season due to forearm problems. Even though Dr. James Andrews didn't find anything structurally wrong with Baltimore's prized prospect, he did shut him down for six more weeks and gave him a platelet-rich plasma injection.
Just doing the math, assuming everything heals properly, Bundy won't be throwing again until mid-June. Given the way the Orioles kept the kid gloves on him last year, one can only imagine how much they will let him throw this year when he does return.
Bundy's future is still sky-high, and the fact that he doesn't need surgery is a huge sigh of relief for Baltimore and baseball fans. But what is he going to look like upon returning after not throwing for around three months?
Boston Red Sox: Jose Iglesias, SS
Jose Iglesias' defense remains stout, but the bat is still a major problem.
J. Meric/Getty Images
In fairness to Jose Iglesias, he is doing exactly what you would expect him to be doing. He isn't hitting for average or getting on base, but his defense at shortstop remains incredible to watch. On the plus side, he is hitting for more power, at least right now, than anticipated.
The reason the Red Sox sent Iglesias down to the minors after a handful of games when he was hitting over .400, aside from getting Stephen Drew back, is because his bat is so bad that you can't justify having it in the lineup everyday, regardless of how good the defense is.
If Iglesias played for the Mariners, then he would likely be in the big leagues right now. We know he can outhit Brendan Ryan. But in Boston, you have to provide some semblance of offense at shortstop to be able to last.
Unfortunately, it just doesn't seem like things will work out for Iglesias.
Chicago Cubs: Brett Jackson, OF
Brett Jackson's new swing is leading to the same results as the old one.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Brett Jackson was a prospect that I was never as high on as a lot of people. Baseball America had him ranked as the No. 32 prospect in baseball prior to the 2012 season. As far as tools go, he certainly had the skill set to turn into a very good player.
The one thing Jackson never did was make enough contact in the minors. In 2010, he struck out 126 times in 491 at-bats, and two years ago, he whiffed 138 times in 431 at-bats. Then last year, that total rose to 158 in 407 at-bats.
So as good as Jackson's discipline at the plate is, it doesn't matter if you can't hit the ball when it is thrown around the strike zone. He worked on a new swing in the offseason that was supposed to lead to more contact, yet the results are the same as they ever were.
Time is running out for Jackson to prove that he is going to hit enough to turn into the player the Cubs once thought he would be.
Chicago White Sox: Courtney Hawkins, OF
Courtney Hawkins has been the definition of a two-true-outcome player so far in 2013.
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images
It is rare that you will see opinion change on a player as young as Hawkins so quickly into his professional career, but the wind certainly appears to be out of his sails right now.
Regarded as a boom-or-bust prospect when the White Sox drafted him last June, there has been some boom and a lot of bust in Hawkins' game thus far. He is hitting home runs, which was to be expected, but he isn't doing anything else.
Usually when you hear someone say that, it is just hyperbole. As you can see from Hawkins' stat line, this is not one of those times. In his defense, the White Sox promoted him to High-A before he was ready based solely on a sample size of 21 games in Low-A and High-A last year.
At some point Hawkins has to start hitting the ball with regularity, or else the White Sox could risk doing serious damage to his development. Sending him back down to Low-A could also wreak havoc with what confidence he has at this point.
Cincinnati Reds: Daniel Corcino, RHP
Daniel Corcino's inability to throw quality strikes makes him look more and more like a reliever. Courtesy of Bodhi Hill, MLB.com
|5 (4)||1-4||20.0||7.65||29||17||17||2||19||11|| .333
Daniel Corcino is a fun pitcher to watch. He isn't a physically imposing specimen at just 5'11" and 205 pounds and doesn't have a prototypical delivery, as there is a lot of violence and moving parts to it.
But when Corcino is on, he can be great. His fastball has great movement and sits in the low 90s, and it is complemented with a solid slider and good changeup. When it all comes together, he can be a good No. 3 starter.
The problem is, because his arm moves across his body, Corcino's command and control tend to come and go. He struggled with walks last year, issuing 65 free passes in 143.1 innings, and is off to a slow start this season.
At 22 years old in Triple-A, Corcino is hardly on the edge of falling off of a cliff. But he could end up being a reliever down the road because of his arm action and control.
Cleveland Indians: Ronny Rodriguez, SS
Ronny Rodriguez's poor approach at the plate is holding him back. Courtesy of Carl Kline, MiLB.com
One thing the Indians have done to try rebuilding their farm system is invest a lot of money in foreign markets and bring in a lot of very young (like 16 and 17 years old), very athletic, high-ceiling talent in hopes of hitting big.
Ronny Rodriguez was one of those investments when he signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2010. He has shown some big tools throughout his minor league career already, with plus power, speed and arm strength.
The problems arise when you see Rodriguez's approach at the plate. He struggles to adjust against off-speed pitches and has no discipline. At 21 years old, you would hope to see some kind of adjustment as he moved up the ladder to High-A last year, but he walked just 19 times in 454 at-bats.
Double-A is the second-biggest leap for a player to make. Rodriguez is seeing advanced off-speed stuff for the first time in his career, and it really doesn't look like anything has changed in his swing or approach.
Colorado Rockies: Tim Wheeler, OF
Tim Wheeler's power is still gone, and now he isn't hitting at all.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Tim Wheeler's journey through the minor leagues has been an interesting one to follow. He was a first-round pick in the 2009 draft out of the University of California. He had a solid all-around skill set and projected to be at least an everyday regular.
His batting average has increased each of the past two years, from .246 in 2010 to .303 last year. But one thing Wheeler didn't do last year that he had in the past, at least in 2011, was hit for power.
Wheeler popped 33 home runs in Double-A two years ago. His stock was clearly on the rise after that performance, but that number dropped all the way down to two in 92 games last season. He did injure his hamate bone early in the year, hurting his home run production.
Perhaps that power will come back, and for Wheeler's sake it has to, because there really is nothing else that stands out about him as a prospect. He's 25 years old with good speed, poor baserunning skills, decent bat speed and a high strikeout rate.
Detroit Tigers: Casey Crosby, LHP
Casey Crosby's command issues don't appear to be getting any better.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
|5 (5)||1-4||23;2||5.32||21||15||14||2||23||16|| .247
Casey Crosby is the kind of pitcher you want to root for because he has made himself into a better-looking arm with a cleaned-up motion and a power arsenal that includes a low 90s fastball and sharp curveball.
Yet the profile doesn't match the results, because Crosby really struggles to throw strikes. You can have the best arm in the world, but if you have no idea where the ball is going when it leaves your hand, hitters are going to eat you alive.
The Tigers might be able to salvage a career for Crosby by moving him into the bullpen, where he should harness enough command to get hitters out in a one-inning stint. But it all comes down to how much he can throw the ball over the plate and get hitters to miss.
Houston Astros: Delino DeShields Jr., 2B
Delino DeShields is an electrifying talent in the Astros' system. Courtesy of Dano Keeney, MiLB.com
Lost in the shuffle of Billy Hamilton setting a new stolen-base record last year was Delino DeShields Jr. swiping 101 bags of his own. He isn't as fast as Hamilton—no one is—but he is incredibly quick and has gotten better at picking his spots.
In addition to his speed, DeShields made himself into a better hitter. He has some strength to his swing and is capable of hitting the ball into gaps at all fields, but we are still waiting to see the consistency in his performance.
He is just 20 years old, so time is on his side. But he went from hitting .289/.337/.395 in 2010 to .220/.305/.322 in 2011 to .287/.389/.428 last year. His approach at the plate is sound, so he will be able to walk enough to post a decent OBP even if his average always remains low because he doesn't have a lot of power to drive the ball consistently.
Kansas City Royals: Bubba Starling, OF
Bubba Starling is still loaded with explosive tools, but he isn't showing them in games. Courtesy of Roger Peterson, MiLB.com
The Kansas City Royals drafted Bubba Starling with the No. 5 pick in the loaded 2011 draft believing that they were getting a five-tool superstar who could patrol center field for a long time. Certainly, his athleticism and raw skills pointed to a bright future.
But the key word there is "raw." Starling was about as raw as high school baseball players come because he also played football. That put his development behind the curve, forcing the Royals to leave their top position-player prospect in rookie ball last year.
Now that Starling has 53 games in the Appalachian League and 24 games in Low-A under his belt, it is evident that he is still incredibly raw in most aspects of the game. His approach and discipline at the plate are terrible, as he has struck out 102 times in 287 career at-bats.
Starling has shown some pop in his bat and is a good baserunner when he gets on, but making contact at the dish is a huge issue that doesn't appear to be getting any better.
Los Angeles Angels: Taylor Lindsey, 2B
Taylor Lindsey's questionable bat is slowing down the further up the ladder he moves. Courtesy of Bill Mitchell, Four Seam Images
Even though Taylor Lindsey's ceiling was limited to begin with, he has to work extra hard to profile as an everyday player in the big leagues because of the position he plays and the way he hits.
If you are drafted as a second baseman, you have to be able to hit. A lot. Lindsey isn't that kind of player. He has a small 6"0, 195-pound frame and only uses his upper body, arms and hand-eye coordination to put the bat on the ball.
Hitting that way immediately limits Lindsey's power potential and is likely to give him problems against better velocity and off-speed stuff the higher he climbs in the minors. He can hit for average because he has a strong feel for hitting, but his ability to take walks and get on base will determine his ultimate role.
On defense, Lindsey is still a work in progress. He doesn't have a great first step or range to either side, so he has to learn to read the ball off the bat better and improve his instincts to profile at the position in the big leagues.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Onelki Garcia, LHP
Courtesy of Christopher Blessing, Bullpen Banter
|5 (5)||0-2||18.0||4.00||15||9||8||2||13||15|| .231
Onelki Garcia is an imposing presence on the mound at 6'3", 220 pounds. The big left-hander can run his fastball into the mid-90s and is complemented with a good curveball that has hard downward bite.
But as you can tell from the numbers, Garcia rarely knows where the ball is going when it comes out of his hand. That wildness does help limit the number of hits he gives up, but it doesn't bode well for his future projection.
Plus, at 23 years old and with this being his first full year in professional baseball, Garcia is far behind the eight ball. The Dodgers have been aggressive by putting him in Double-A, even though he probably needed more time at High-A.
Miami Marlins: Jake Marisnick, OF
Jake Marisnick, traded from Toronto to Miami in the offseason, is just starting to play games after starting the year on the DL. Courtesy of Mark LoMoglio, MiLB.com
This is more of an indictment on where Marisnick ended the 2012 season as opposed to where he is right now, because he has only played in a handful of games after starting the season on the DL due to a broken hand.
Hand injuries are the worst injuries for a hitter to have, because it can take a long time after you come back to get the feel for the bat and your power swing back. Considering that Marisnick's home run power dropped last year, you wonder if he will be able to get that pop back.
Marisnick is loaded with solid tools and could easily turn into an everyday outfielder in Miami—likely in 2014 at the earliest. But now that he is back, let's see where his swing is at, how his power develops and if he will profile in right field.
Milwaukee Brewers: Jed Bradley, LHP
Jed Bradley's ERA is better so far this season, but his command and control are still all out of whack. Courtesy of Cliff Welch, MiLB.com
|5 (5)||2-1||20.2||3.92||20||14||9||0||18||13|| .260
When the Milwaukee Brewers had two first-round picks in the 2011 draft, one of them was used on the low-ceiling, high-floor left-hander Jed Bradley out of Georgia Tech. Seen as a potentially fast mover with a good fastball and a developing curveball that he needed to control better, things have not worked out as planned.
Bradley struck out just 60 hitters in 107.1 innings and gave up 136 hits, walked 43 and had an ERA of 5.53 at High-A. The Brewers have him repeating that league to start 2013, and the performance has remained the same.
For a college pitcher to repeat High-A at the age of 23 is a sign that things are probably not going to work. Bradley hasn't been able to control anything in the zone, making all of his pitches hittable. And when he isn't giving up hits, opponents are drawing walks.
If the panic button was pressed last year, the ship has been completely evacuated after Bradley's start to 2013.
Minnesota Twins: Trevor May, RHP
Acquired from Philadelphia in the Ben Revere deal, Trevor May is showing some good and some bad so far at Double-A.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
|5 (5)||1-1||25.1||4.62||25||13||13||3||24||16|| .263
Trevor May was the top prospect in Philadelphia's system just one year ago, but a bad season, coupled with a need in center field, made him expendable in the Ben Revere trade during the winter.
Despite being at the top of most Phillies' player lists entering the season, May never projected as a great pitcher in the big leagues. He had above-average stuff and pitchability, which gave him the upside of a No. 3 starter.
Considering the success he had prior to 2012, the Twins were smart to take a chance on him. If he hits, they have a starter for the next six years. But things are still trending downward for May, who has seen his strikeout rate go from 12.4 in 2011 to 9.1 last year to 8.5 this season.
In the meantime, May's walk rate continues to go up. It is at 5.7 per nine innings right now, the second-worst ratio of his minor league career. He jumped to Double-A last year, which was always going to be the big test for a pitcher who has his kind of stuff.
Repeating the level this season doesn't seem to have improved anything for May, who is slowly devolving into a sixth man in a rotation or, possibly, an organization guy.
New York Mets: Luis Mateo, RHP
Luis Mateo's success can be attributed, at least to some degree, to the fact he has been old for his leagues. Courtesy of Brooklyn Cyclones
|2 (2)||1-1||9.2||3.72||10||4||4||1||11||5|| .270
Luis Mateo's journey to professional baseball has been a nightmare. He signed with San Francisco and San Diego in 2008, but both deals were voided when an arm injury was discovered by the Giants and the Padres discovered he falsified his age.
Coming into baseball at the age of 21 meant that Mateo's window of success was much smaller than when he was believed to be 18 or 19 years old.
Despite putting up good numbers in his first two seasons, you have to know the context. Mateo was pitching in the Dominican Summer League two years ago against a lot of players who are between 16-18 years old. Then last year he was in the New York-Penn League against hitters around the same ages.
The Mets finally put him in full-season ball this year. First at High-A, and now he is learning to pitch at the Double-A level. He is 23 and has a lot of development ahead of him, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to advanced Double-A hitters.
New York Yankees: Jose Campos, RHP
Jose Campos is still working his way back to full health with an arsenal that looks significantly worse. Courtesy of Shari Sommerfeld, MiLB.com
|5 (4)||0-1||15.0||6.00||17||11||10||3||16||6|| .283
Jose Campos came to the New York Yankees in the what appears to be an ill-fated Michael Pineda trade with Seattle two years ago. Pineda still hasn't pitched for the Pinstripes, while Campos only threw 24.2 innings at Low-A before being shutdown with arm problems.
At the age of 20, Campos still has a long way to go before we can say with any certainty what he will turn into. But so far the results haven't been inspiring. Whether his arm is still regaining strength it lost last year or there is some underlying problem, his velocity is reportedly down, according to ESPN's Keith Law (Insider subscription required).
Without the velocity, Campos' ceiling drops dramatically. He goes from a potential No. 2 or 3 starter to maybe a back-end guy or worse. His performance, in very limited time, is still a long way off. But for Yankees fans, at least Pineda is expected to pitch sometime this year. We think.
Oakland Athletics: Sonny Gray, RHP
Sonny Gray's results this season are encouraging.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
|5 (5)||3-1||31.0||2.61||28||12||9||0||25||12|| .241
When the A's drafted Sonny Gray two years ago, there was skepticism about his ability to remain a starter because of his size. At 5'11", he doesn't get any plane on his fastball, so it is straight and hitters can elevate it.
Home runs weren't really a problem for him last year, as he only gave up eight in 152 innings. But his power fastball-curveball combination didn't have the same bite as it did when he was pitching at Vanderbilt, and opposing hitters were able to tee off.
Gray gave up 158 hits and 58 walks in 152 innings en route to finishing with a disappointing 4.26 ERA. Despite his relative success at the start of 2013, the same problems continue to plague the right-hander. He still gives up too many hits and walks too many.
Unless Gray is able to find better and more consistent command in the zone, he will be fine. But we are nearly two full years removed from him being drafted and have yet to see it. He did throw a complete game four-hitter on May 1, so perhaps things are turning around.
Philadelphia Phillies: Tommy Joseph, C
Tommy Joseph's bat was supposed to carry him to the big leagues, but he isn't showing much pop.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Being a prospect who only has one above-average tool really narrows your window to succeed. Tommy Joseph is a prospect who isn't going to make you take notice of his raw baseball skills, but he does have some pop in his bat.
However, as logic dictates, you have to make hard contact in order to hit the ball over the fence. Joseph isn't a bad hitter, from the standpoint that he doesn't strike out an obscene amount. He whiffed 96 times in 404 at-bats last year, a number that Adam Dunn can knock out in a month.
It's just the kind of consistent contact that Joseph makes is no longer loud. He had that pop two years ago as a 19-year-old in High-A, blasting 22 home runs in 127 games. Since that time, he has hit 14 in 126 games and his slugging percentage has dropped more than 80 points.
Because Joseph really has no other playable skills—even though he is listed at catcher, he isn't athletic enough to be effective behind the plate—he has to hit, and hit for power.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Josh Bell, OF
Josh Bell's return to the field this season looks a lot like what we saw from him in 2012. Courtesy of Mark Olson, MiLB.com
Let me start by saying that I am not, in any way, giving up on Bell. He is just 20 years old and an injury last year robbed him of virtually the entire season, putting him well behind the curve for someone his age.
But you can see when he swings from either side of the plate that there is a lot of upside left in that bat. His bat speed is still among the best in the minors, he has natural power that is playing in games and fits the bill of a right fielder in projection.
The problems come when you look at Bell's plate discipline and pitch recognition. Losing all but 15 games last year really slowed his development and left him without a strong sense of how to read off-speed stuff out of the pitcher's hand.
Bell will get some benefit of the doubt because this is, for all intents and purposes, his first full year in professional ball. You just hope to see him not go up to the plate hacking all the time.
St. Louis Cardinals: Tyrell Jenkins, RHP
Tyrell Jenkins has to take a step forward soon or risk falling behind in a stacked St. Louis system. Courtesy of Names Around Town.
|4 (4)||0-2||16.1||7.71||22||14||14||1||11||10|| .333
One thing the St. Louis Cardinals don't lack right now is young, right-handed pitching. Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal are in the big leagues. Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha could end up there before the end of the year.
Then there is Tyrell Jenkins, who has the arm to match any of them with a mid-90s fastball, without the off-speed stuff to put him in the top tier of Cardinals prospects. He is 20 years old and in his second year of full-season ball at Low-A.
Last year was a chance to see where Jenkins' development was at and how he could adjust as he got a feel for the Midwest League. He wound up posting a 5.14 ERA with 80 strikeouts and 36 walks in 82.1 innings. Not great, but promising enough for a young pitcher.
But 2013 has been a different story so far. Jenkins is striking out 2.6 fewer batters per nine innings, walking 1.6 more and still gives up a lot of hits due to his inability to spin off-speed stuff for strikes and command issues.
Jenkins has more than enough projection left in his 6'4" frame, but at some point, the results have to start matching the dream.
San Diego Padres: Cory Spangenberg, 2B
Cory Spangenberg can fly, but will his bat play enough to let him use it? Courtesy of Paul Gierhart, MiLB.com
While Cory Spangenberg isn't what you would call a one-trick pony—even though speed is clearly his best tool, he has good hand-eye coordination—his legs are what will carry him to the big leagues.
Spangenberg doesn't have any power projection—most of his extra-base hits will come because of his speed—but as long as he can beat out some infield singles, his average and on-base percentage will be good enough to stick around in an everyday role.
Last year wasn't particularly kind to Spangenberg, as he hit .271/.324/.352 in 98 games at High-A. He is being asked to repeat the level, at least to start 2013, and has fared much better with a .274 average and .351 on-base percentage.
What concerns me is that Spangenberg really isn't putting up the kind of numbers you would expect from a polished college hitter drafted two years ago in a league he has already gotten a good feel for.
San Francisco Giants: Gary Brown, OF
Gary Brown's offensive holes are being exploited at the higher levels of the minors.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Brown tends to be a polarizing prospect. Those that like him see a leadoff hitter who can hit for some average and get on base at a decent clip. Those that don't see someone who can hit at the bottom of a lineup and play solid defense in center field.
I fall firmly into the latter camp, especially after getting a look at Brown during spring training. His swing is based solely on making contact, as he has no load whatsoever and starts with his hands so low that he really won't drive the ball.
With the glove, Brown has the speed to handle center field, but his routes are very raw and his throwing arm is adequate.
But moving back to his offense, Brown's numbers have slipped the farther he has climbed. He went from hitting .336/.407/.519 with 14 home runs and 53 stolen bases in High-A two years ago. The move to Double-A saw his line fall to .279/.347/.385 with seven home runs and 33 stolen bases.
Now Brown is hitting just .180/.255/.280 with one home run and one stolen base in 25 games at Triple-A. Unless his swing changes to the point where he can drive the ball consistently into the gaps, he will struggle to have a real future in the big leagues.
Seattle Mariners: James Paxton, LHP
James Paxton's arm action leads to a lot of hittable balls and inconsistent command.
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
|5 (5)||1-2||21.0||6.00||26||15||14||2||22||12|| .306
Left-handed pitchers who can throw 94 mph and have averaged at least 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in three full minor league seasons should be among the elite prospects in the game.
James Paxton is going to struggle for two reasons. First and foremost, his command is below average. He can throw strikes and get swings and misses due to movement on his pitches, but doing it on a consistent basis is a problem.
The second problem with Paxton comes from his delivery. He has a huge windup and his arm starts so far behind his body that by the time it catches up, the release point is rarely the same from pitch to pitch.
Command has plagued Paxton in the early part of the Triple-A season, as he has given up 26 hits and 12 walks in 21 innings pitched. A move to the bullpen could be the best role for the big lefty in the big leagues.
Tampa Bay Rays: Tim Beckham, SS
Tim Beckham is going to go down in infamy, for better or worse.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The time for Tim Beckham to turn into a star player has long since passed, but there was some hope two years ago that he could at least become a big leaguer after putting together a decent season across Double- and Triple-A.
Last year things were back to normal for Beckham, as he slumped to .256/.325/.361 in just 72 games. He was also suspended for 50 games in May after failing the second drug test in his career.
None of the raw tools that Beckham had when he was the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft—the same class that famously included Buster Posey—are left. He was supposed to be a dynamic shortstop, yet now profiles best at second base.
Beckham's bat looks like a shell of its former self, as his bat speed and quickness are virtually gone. It is a shame to see where he is now, but baseball is a cruel game that can eat you alive.
Texas Rangers: Martin Perez, LHP
Martin Perez would have been in the Rangers' rotation out of spring training if not for an arm injury.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Martin Perez, like Dylan Bundy, has been hurt since spring training and unable to pitch in a regular-season game. Unlike Bundy, we know when Perez will be back. He suffered a fractured forearm when a comebacker hit him in the beginning of March and is expected to be out for a few more weeks.
It was bad timing for Perez, who seemed destined to start the year in the back of the Rangers' rotation. Without games to judge, we are left to wonder what kind of pitcher this team will be getting back.
But the reason Perez is on the hot seat after a month is because no one seems to know what he will be. He was the top left-handed pitching prospect in baseball three years ago, but a poor performance in 2011 and mediocre 2012 have lowered his stock.
Yet for all of the issues Perez has had, and as long as he has been on the radar, he just turned 22 on April 4. For a player that age to even be in consideration for the big leagues speaks volumes about adjustments he has made.
We still need to see whether Perez will become a mid-rotation starter or a situational reliever.
Toronto Blue Jays: Daniel Norris, RHP
Daniel Norris is still very young, but the results aren't showing up anywhere he goes. Courtesy of Roger Peterson, MiLB.com
|5 (4)||0-2||16.0||9.56||22||17||17||1||13||11|| .328
Toronto felt comfortable trading pitchers like Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard in offseason deals because of its depth in the minors, but Daniel Norris is really giving the team a lot to think about right now.
The 20-year-old right-hander had a dismal debut season in 2012, posting an ERA of 8.44 across two levels with 58 hits allowed in 42.2 innings pitched. On the bright side, he did have 43 strikeouts. He was able to get punchouts thanks to a low 90s fastball and, at times, plus curveball.
Command and consistency with his release point are the biggest problems for Norris right now. Again, he is struggling to keep hitters from squaring up his pitches, leading to a lot of hard contact and the 9.56 ERA you see.
This could be a huge problem for Norris and the Blue Jays if the results stay this way. The team doesn't have nearly the depth on the mound it once did, so developing a young, high-upside player like Norris is crucial.
Washington Nationals: Matt Purke, LHP
One of the few highlights for Matt Purke, who is still trying to get back to where he was a few years ago at TCU. Courtesy of MLB Prospect Portal
Perhaps it is time we stop wondering when Matt Purke is going to put everything back together and start eulogizing the promise of his once-stellar career when he was at TCU.
Purke hasn't been right in three years, when he was a sophomore in college. That was when he was still throwing 95-96 from the left side with a ton of strikeouts and weak contact. He was projected as a top-five pick in the 2011 draft because of his upside from the left side before the season.
Along the way, something became very apparent: Purke had lost it. Whatever it was he had, it was not going to come back. The Nationals took a chance on him in the third round of the draft, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.
Apparently those warning signs were legitimate, as he posted an ERA of 5.87 in just 15.1 innings last year. He has yet to throw in a game this season.
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