Nothing against Taijuan Walker, but Archie Bradley has surpassed him as the top pitching prospect in baseball with his performance over the second half of the season.
Since issuing a season-high seven walks on July 27 against Double-A Birmingham, the 20-year-old has been lights out in back-to-back starts. Bradley tossed his second complete game of the season on August 2, allowing one unearned run on seven hits and a walk with seven strikeouts over nine innings against Jacksonville.
Facing Birmingham once again on Friday, the right-hander continued his second-half surge toward the major leagues, allowing two earned runs on five hits while recording 10 strikeouts over seven innings.
Now, let’s take a look at the recent performances of Prospect Pipeline’s top prospects in this week’s installment of stock watch.
1. Byron Buxton, OF Minnesota Twins
2013 Stats (A-/A+): .322/.404/.519, 93 R, 45 XBH (12 HR), 43 SB, 95-61 K/BB (105 G)
Buxton was on a tear at High-A Fort Myers during the final week in July before fouling a ball off his big toe and subsequently missing the next six games. After going 0-for-2 in his return to action on August 4, the 19-year-old has put together a six-game hitting streak in which he’s batted .346 (9-for-26) with four runs scored and three stolen bases.
At this point, there’s honestly not much else to say about Buxton other than that he’s impressed me in every way possible this season, and then some.
2. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
2013 Stats (AAA): .306/.341/.462, 17 XBH (5 HR), 32 RBI, 22-9 K/BB (46 G)
Stock: Holding steady
Good news, fellow Oscar Taveras enthusiasts. According to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Taveras is “about ready” to begin playing in rehab games. The 21-year-old has had an injury-plagued campaign at Triple-A Memphis, as a high-ankle injury has limited him to only 45 games.
Taveras last played in a game on July 15 during an aborted rehab stint in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. If he can prove that he’s healthy during the second half of the month and log some time at either Double- or Triple-A, Taveras should get his first taste of the major leagues at some point in September.
3. Xander Bogaerts, SS-3B, Boston Red Sox
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): .298/.389/.480, 126 H, 43 XBH (14 HR), 7 SB, 89-60 K/BB (110 G)
Bogaerts had a pretty mild week—at least by his standards—which means he collected only one extra-base hit. Still, the 20-year-old has put together a seven-game hitting streak in which he’s batted .333 with four RBI.
Despite the recent promotion of Will Middlebrooks to the major leagues, Bogaerts has played mostly shortstop for Triple-A Pawtucket, appearing at the hot corner every fifth or sixth game.
He’s an impact player who’s ready to be challenged at the highest level, and for that reason I think we’ll see him in September.
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
2013 Stats (A+/AA): .304/.382/.409, 122 H, 31 XBH (7 3B), 25 SB, 46-49 K/BB (103 G)
Stock: Holding steady
Regarded as the best defensive shortstop in the minor leagues, Lindor, 19, made tremendous strides at the plate with High-A Carolina during the first half of the season. After he appeared in the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field on July 14, the Indians promoted Lindor to Double-A Akron, where he got off to a red-hot start and batted .327/.448/.455 with 11 runs scored, seven RBI and a 3-11 K/BB ratio through his first 15 games.
While Lindor’s overall numbers are certainly impressive—especially when considering that he’s one of the younger everyday players in the Eastern League—the switch-hitting shortstop is currently mired in his worst slump of the season, with a .175/.250/.200 batting line in the last 10 games.
5. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 125 IP, 2.88 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .217 BAA, 136-47 K/BB (22 GS)
After mastering the Double-A level over the first half of the season, Walker breezed through his first four starts following a promotion to Triple-A Tacoma in late June, registering a 0.86 ERA and a 21-7 K/BB ratio in 21 innings.
However, the 20-year-old right-hander’s command has regressed slightly over the last month—though he’s also started to feel the effects of the unforgiving Pacific Coast League ballparks.
Over his last four starts, Walker owns a 6.75 ERA with 27 hits allowed a 19-10 K/BB ratio in 20 innings.
6. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
2013 Stats (A+/AA): .299/.397/.630, 109 H, 59 XBH (29 HR), 112-55 K/BB (103 G)
Other than future teammate Byron Buxton, no hitter has improved this season as much as Sano. After tearing through the pitcher-friendly Florida State League over the first half of the season, the 20-year-old struggled to adjust to the advanced competition during his first month with Double-A New Britain.
Sano was batting only .204/.309/.485 following an 0-for-4 performance against Binghamton on July 18.
Since then, however, the third baseman has been absolutely raking, batting .373 (22-for-59) with 14 extra-base hits (seven home runs) and 24 RBI in 17 games.
7. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
2013 Stats (A+/AA): 131.2 IP, 1.91 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .220 BAA, 143-54 K/BB (22 GS)
Bradley has been dominant since issuing a season-high seven walks on July 27 against Double-A Birmingham. In his follow-up start, the 20-year-old tossed his second complete game of the season, allowing one unearned run on seven hits and a walk with seven strikeouts over nine innings.
Facing Birmingham once again on Friday, the right-hander allowed two earned runs on five hits while recording 10 strikeouts over seven innings.
8. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins
2013 Stats (MLB): .277/.318/.373, 9 R, 5 XBH, 20-5 K/BB (20 G)
After scuffling during his second week in the major leagues in late July, Yelich has settled in nicely since the beginning of August, batting .326/.354/.457 with 15 hits in nine games. In fact, the 21-year-old outfielder has hit safely in all but one contest this month. If there is one knock on the sweet-swinging, left-handed hitter’s game, it’s that he still struggles against same-side pitching. Since his call-up, Yelich is batting .138/.194/.138 with eight strikeouts in 29 at-bats against southpaws.
9. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics
2013 Stats (A+): .274/.363/.510, 71 R, 51 XBH (13 HR), 14 SB, 101-47 K/BB (90 G)
Challenged by the A’s with an assignment to High-A Stockton for his age-19 season, Russell struggled out of the gate with a .214 batting average, 19 extra-base hits and a 57-25 K/BB ratio through 43 games. Since then, however, the shortstop has been one of the hottest hitters in the minor leagues, batting .332 with 32 extra-base hits (seven home runs) and a 44-22 K/BB ratio in 47 games.
10. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 122.1 IP, 3.83 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, .254 BAA, 119-43 K/BB (22 G/21 GS)
Despite an inconsistent month of July in which he registered a 6.08 ERA in 26.2 innings, Taillon was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis in early August. Since arriving at the level, the 21-year-old has struggled with his command, allowing seven walks and nine hits through his two starts, with more fly-ball outs (nine) than groundouts (six). While he hasn’t been especially sharp, the right-hander has continued to miss bats, with 13 strikeouts in 12 innings.