Stock Up, Stock Down on MLB's Top 10 Prospects After Week 20
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been a busy week for some of baseball’s top prospects.
The Red Sox announced on Sunday night that they would promote top prospect Xander Bogaerts from Triple-A Pawtucket. And after taking in the team’s series opener against the Giants on Monday night from the dugout, the 20-year-old made his highly awaited debut on Tuesday.
Starting the game at shortstop and batting seventh, Bogaerts went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. The Red Sox didn’t call him up to ride the pine, though, so expect him to see consistent playing time at both shortstop and third base throughout the rest of the season.
On the other side of the excitement spectrum is St. Louis Cardinals outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, who, after battling an ankle injury for most of the year, underwent season-ending surgery on Wednesday that will have him in a walking boot for the next eight weeks.
Here’s a look at how the rest of baseball’s top prospects have fared over the past week.
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
2013 Stats (A/A+): .330/.416/.522, 99 R, 47 XBH (12 HR), 52 SB, 100/67 K/BB (113 G)
Stock: Up (as usual)
After putting up Mike Trout-like numbers during the first half of the season at Low-A Cedar Rapids, the Twins challenged Buxton with a promotion to the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.
The 19-year-old’s first full month at the level was also his worst of the 2013 season, as he batted .272/.333/.495 with 10 extra-base hits and 28 strikeouts in 24 games.
But just when people were beginning to think that Buxton was actually human, the toolsy outfielder caught fire at the plate as the calendar flipped to August. Since the beginning of the month, Buxton is batting .393/.500/.464 with 22 hits, 13 stolen bases and an 11/11 K/BB ratio in 15 games.
More specifically, he’s been absolutely raking over his last 10 contests with a .472/.568/.556 batting line, 17 hits, 10 stolen bases and a 7/7 K/BB ratio. Don’t be surprised if we are mentioning Buxton in the conversation for a September call-up at this time next year.
2. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
2013 Stats (AAA): .306/.341/.462, 17 XBH, 22/9 K/BB (46 G)
Poor Oscar Taveras.
It’s certainly been a disappointing season for the best pure hitter in the minor leagues. The 21-year-old suffered a high ankle sprain in late May that plagued him throughout the summer and resulted in two separate stints on the disabled list.
However, things were looking up on August 12 when Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Taveras was “about ready” to begin playing in rehab games. At that time, the thought was that the outfielder would still serve as a September call-up if he were able to get back on the field.
Sadly, it was announced two days later that he was set to undergo season-ending surgery to repair his ankle sprain.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Taveras underwent surgery Wednesday to “address some ligament damage to his right ankle, as well as clean out cartilage”. Even though he’ll be forced to wear a boot for the next eight weeks, Taveras is expected to be ready for spring training in 2014.
3. Xander Bogaerts, SS-3B, Boston Red Sox
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): .297/.388/.477, 132 H, 44 XBH (15 HR), 7 SB, 95/63 K/BB (116 G)
2013 Stats (MLB): 0-for-4, K (2 G)
After endless speculation regarding Boston’s plan for top prospect Xander Bogaerts, the organization decided to promote the 20-year-old to major leagues at the beginning of the week.
Bogaerts made his highly anticipated debut on Tuesday against the Giants, as he started the game at shortstop and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Even though he didn’t start the following night, Bogaerts came off the bench to pinch-hit and struck out in his lone at-bat.
With Will Middlebrooks swinging a hot bat since returning from the minors, Bogaerts will likely see more time at shortstop than third base. Either way, a few starts a week between both positions seems realistic. However, a hot bat could help get the 20-year-old get in the lineup on an everyday basis.
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
2013 Stats (A+/AA): .303/.380/.407, 122 H, 31 XBH (7 3B), 25 SB, 46/49 K/BB (104 G)
Widely 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.
Following his appearance in the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field (on July 14), the Indians decided to promote him to Double-A Akron. The switch-hitter made an immediate impact at the more advanced level, batting .327/.448/.455 with 11 runs scored, seven RBI and a 3/11 K/BB ratio through his first 15 games.
Unfortunately, the 19-year-old strained his lower back on August 6 and was sidelined for the next six games. Lindor returned to the lineup on August 14, but lasted only two at-bats before the injury flared up and forced him to leave the game.
As a result, he was placed on the seven-day disabled list on August 19, retroactive to August 15. Lindor was physically exhausted during the final month of his full-season debut in 2012, so it’s disappointing that he’s run into a similar issue this year.
5. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 135.1 IP, 2.99 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .215 BAA, 151/55 K/BB (24 GS)
After going through a learning year at Double-A in 2012, Walker was dominant in his second tour of the level over the first half of the season. As a result of his success, the Mariners promoted the 21-year-old to Triple-A Tacoma in late June.
Walker enjoyed a red-hot start at Triple-A, allowing only two earned runs over his first four starts. However, the right-hander struggled mightily in his five subsequent starts, registering a 5.94 ERA with 34 hits allowed and a 34/18 K/BB ratio in 30.1 innings.
Even though he wasn’t at his best on Tuesday, Walker took a step in the right direction by tossing five scoreless innings against Triple-A Colorado Springs. He allowed three hits, walked four and struck out six batters.
6. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
2013 Stats (A+/AA): .283/.378/.603, 63 XBH (31 HR), 94 RBI, 10 SB, 127/57 K/BB (113 G)
Even though Sano’s batting average has fallen off since his promotion to Double-A New Britain in early June, the 20-year-old has continued to reach base at a favorable clip while showcasing his usual robust power.
The third baseman appeared to be turning the corner during the first week of August by batting .385 with four doubles and three home runs in seven games. Unfortunately, the slugger cooled off in a hurry shortly thereafter and is now batting .132/.175/.342 with two home runs and 15 strikeouts over his last 10 contests.
7. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
2013 Stats (A+/AA): 141.2 IP, 1.91 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .220 BAA, 155/62 K/BB (24 GS)
After breezing through the hitter-friendly California League with a 1.26 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 28.2 innings, Bradley jumped on the fast-track to the major leagues with a promotion to Double-A Mobile in early May.
Since then the 20-year-old has thrived at the more advanced level, posting a 2.07 ERA, .220 BAA and 112/52 K/BB ratio in 113 innings.
While Bradley has been flawless for most the year, he did endure a rough stretch in July that included a career-worst seven walks in his final start of the month. However, it didn’t take long for him to right the ship, as the right-hander owns a 1.38 ERA and 29/9 K/BB ratio in 26 August innings (four starts).
8. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics
2013 Stats (A+): .279/.370/.520, 112 H, 55 XBH (16 HR), 15 SB, 108/52 K/BB (98 G)
Coming off an outstanding professional debut in which he thrived at three different levels, Russell was challenged with an aggressive assignment to High-A Stockton for his age-19 season. As it probably should have been expected, the shortstop struggled mightily over the first two months of the season, batting .214 with 19 extra-base hits and a 57/25 K/BB ratio in 43 games.
However, Russell finally caught fire in early June and has been performing more like the player everyone expected him to be heading into the season. Since the beginning of June, the toolsy and athletic shortstop has batted .333 with 76 hits, 36 extra-base hits (10 home runs), 10 steals and a 52/27 K/BB rate in 56 games.
Russell has some length to his swing and strikes out more than desired, but his raw power to all fields is remarkable for a player of his age.
9. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2013 Stats (AAA/AAA): 128.1 IP, 3.79 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, .253 BAA, 128/46 K/BB (23 G/22 GS)
Stock: Holding steady
Taillon’s numbers this season can be misleading. While he’s been hit hard at times and been on the wrong side of a big inning on numerous occasions, the 21-year-old has actually improved both his strikeout and groundball rates this season against advanced hitters.
The 6’6” right-hander’s command has regressed slightly following a promotion to Triple-A in early August. However, he’s still been able to miss more than a bat-per-inning and log six or more innings in three of his four starts at the level.
After adding 50 innings to his overall workload in 2012, it’ll be interesting to see how the Pirates handle Taillon over the remainder of the season. If they stick to the same plan, his innings will presumably be capped somewhere in the 175-190 range. Additionally, the right-hander hasn’t logged more than 24 innings in a single month this season.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the potential exists for Taillon to join the Pirates in September and complete his workload out of the team’s bullpen (likely in long relief).
10. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
2013 Stats (A): .324/.406/.472, 133 H, 42 XBH (8 HR), 10 SB, 74/51 K/BB (106 G)
Everyone would probably be gushing about Correa this season if Byron Buxton were never born. However, that’s not the case. Correa hasn’t put up gaudy numbers like Buxton, who was selected one spot after him (No. 2 overall) in the 2012 draft, but he’s certainly impressed in his own right.
The 18-year-old shortstop has showcased a mature hit tool this season, not to mention an approach that’s advanced beyond his years.
And while he endured a few slumps during the first half of the season, Correa has been on fire since the South Atlantic League All-Star break, batting .345/.413/.520 with 69 hits, 19 doubles, four home runs and a 28/20 K/BB ratio in 52 games. He’s also demonstrated a knack for mashing left-handed pitching with a 1.056 OPS and 11/20 K/BB ratio in 102 at-bats.
Given his overwhelming success this season as one of the younger everyday players in the Sally, Correa will likely receive an assignment to High-A next year with the potential to reach Double-A as a 19-year-old.
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