With so many prospects in big league camp, it’s important that all stats be analyzed within context. At the same time, it’s hard not to get excited when a prospect makes an immediate impact against superior competition.
Since the start of Cactus and Grapefruit League games, more and more top-ranked prospects have opened eyes with their performances in spite of limited playing time. However, for those prospects yet to produce in major league camp, their time to right the ship is fading quickly as teams continue to trim their rosters in anticipation of Opening Day.
Here’s our look at the latest stock movements for some of baseball’s premier prospects.
Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
Spring Training Stats: .394 (13-for-33), 8 R, 3 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K (12 G)
Wong has been on an absolute tear as of late. After going 0-for-10 through his first five spring games, the 23-year-old second baseman has been playing like a guy who deserves a starting spot, batting .565 (13-for-23) with six runs, six extra-base hits and eight RBI.
Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers
Spring Training Stats: .415 (17-for-41), 6 2B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 2 SB, 2 BB, 3 K (13 G)
Castellanos has been one of baseball’s more productive hitters this spring, which is about all the Tigers can ask for as the 22-year-old prepares to open the season as the team’s third baseman. Over his last five games, Castellanos is batting .526 (10-for-19) with four doubles, one home run and nine RBI. Say what you want about spring statistics—what he’s done so far is very impressive.
Steven Souza, OF, Washington Nationals
Spring Training Stats: .355 (11-for-31), 8 R, 3 2B, 3 HR, 5 RBI, SB, 4 BB, 4 K (17 G)
Souza doesn’t get the love he deserves due to his age (24), but the outfielder has the potential to be a solid everyday outfielder in the major leagues. Although he was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse on Monday, Souza made sure to finish his spring campaign in style by going 3-for-3 with a triple, two home runs and three RBI on Sunday against the Astros.
Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Spring Training Stats: 10 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K (3 G)
Martinez is one of several young pitchers battling for the final spot in the Cardinals’ Opening Day rotation, and there’s no denying that the electric right-hander has made a very strong case after just three starts. In his latest outing, Martinez, 22, dominated the Mets for the second time this spring, allowing only two hits and a walk with three strikeouts over four scoreless frames.
Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Spring Training Stats: .303 (10-for-33), 10 R, 2 2B, 9 SB, 6 BB, 4 K (12 G)
Hamilton has been an ongoing surprise this spring as he prepares to take over as the Reds’ Opening Day center fielder and leadoff hitter. The 23-year-old has shown an improved ability to consistently reach base while minimizing strikeouts, and we were already well aware of his base-stealing prowess.
Reds manager Bryan Price is amazed on a daily basis with Hamilton's electric play (h/t to John Fay of Cincinnati.com):
"We get to see it every day – every play at first base, every bunt, every ground ball is bang-bang. Every base hit to center is a possible double based on how aggressively the center fielder goes after the ball. It's really exciting to watch."
Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers
Spring Training Stats: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI
Nick Williams, who in my opinion is one of the more gifted hitters in the low minors, enjoyed a memorable spring debut on Sunday, going 2-for-2 with a pair of game-tying home runs. First, the 20-year-old outfielder hit a two-run shot in the top of the seventh inning with the Rangers trailing the A’s, 13-11. Then, in the top of the ninth, Williams smoked a line drive—on a pitch located just above his shoe tops—to straightaway right field to tie the game at 15.
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins
Spring Training Stats: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K (3 G)
Heaney made a solid case to break camp in the Marlins’ Opening Day rotation, but given the presence of guys like Tom Koehler, Brad Hand and Kevin Slowey, it’s not surprising that the 22-year-old was reassigned to minor league camp on Monday. In his final spring outing on March 13 against the Cardinals, the talented left-hander allowed one hit and a walk against one strikeout over three scoreless innings.
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
Spring Training Stats: .281 (9-for-32), 2 2B, 3 HR, 3 RBI, 10 K (11 G)
Baez continues to make the most of his playing time as Starlin Castro slowly recovers from a hamstring injury, as he’s now hit safely in six of the 10 games in which he’s appeared. While he’s played every game at shortstop so far, manager Rick Renteria stated that the 21-year-old phenom should see time at second base starting this week.
Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Spring Training Stats: 15.1 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, BB, 15 K (4 G)
Ventura arguably has been Kansas City’s most impressive starter this spring, showcasing his usual triple-digit velocity, but also an ever improving feel for pitching. Though he's been sharp in each of his last two outings, the 22-year-old right-hander was flat-out dominant on Monday night against the Rangers, as he scattered four hits and struck out six over six scoreless frames. Following the game, Ventura was officially named to the Royals' rotation, penciled in at the No. 3 spot.
An AL scout had this to say to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman about Ventura's stellar arm:
al scout says yordano ventura, the 101-mph throwing royals rhp, is a (very) early rookie of yr candidate. #VenturaHighway— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) March 14, 2014
Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
Spring Training Stats: 0-for-6, 5 K (1 G)
Like teammate Nick Williams, Gallo also made his spring debut on Saturday in the Rangers’ 16-15 win over the A’s. However, in a game that featured 31 total runs and on 34 hits, the left-handed slugger was 0-for-6 with five strikeouts, otherwise known as the platinum sombrero.
Joey Gallo of the #Rangers is 0-for-6 with five strikeouts in this game. Yikes.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) March 15, 2014
Allen Webster, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Spring Training Stats: 12 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 7 BB, 8 K (4 G)
Webster certainly has the pure stuff to be effective as a starter in the major leagues, but his overall command and consistency still leaves something to be desired, evidenced by his shaky performance in three of four starts this spring. The 24-year-old right-hander will likely spend most of the year at Triple-A Pawtucket and inevitably be called on to start at times later in the season, but that plan could change if the organization chooses to utilize him in a bullpen role.
Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston Red Sox
Spring Training Stats: .182 (6-for-33), 2 R, 2 2B, 3B, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 9 K (11 G)
Bradley is trying to break camp with the Red Sox for the second consecutive year. However, after batting .419 in 28 games last spring, the 23-year-old outfielder has mustered only six hits in 33 at-bats this year while striking out in eight different games. More significantly, Bradley’s struggles have opened the door for Grady Sizemore, who has batted .381 through seven games.
Jon Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Spring Training Stats: 6.2 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K (3 G)
Gray was knocked around in his third spring appearance on Thursday night against the A’s, allowing three earned runs on five hits and a walk while failing to complete three innings. In the outing, the 22-year-old right-hander worked mostly in the low 90s, touching 95 mph, and lacked the sharp slider he showcased in previous appearances. Yet, this kind of outing is pretty standard for a pitcher participating in his first major league camp.
Zach Lee, RHP, Los Angeles
Spring Training Stats: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K (2 G)
Lee made his spring debut on March 7 against the Rangers, throwing two scoreless innings with one strikeout. However, the 22-year-old right-hander struggled with his command in his follow-up outing last Wednesday, allowing three earned runs on three hits and two walks in 2.2 frames against the Diamondbacks. Still, it’s worth noting that Lee fanned four batters on the day.
*All stats courtesy of MLB.com and reflect games through March 17, 2014.
*All videos courtesy of MLB.com/MLB Advanced Media.