Stock Up, Stock Down for MLB's Top 10 Prospects After Week 2
Warning: being classified as one of the 10 best prospects in baseball can be hazardous to your health.
Three of the top-10 prospects on B/R's End-of-Spring Top 100 MLB Prospects list, penned by B/R's prospect guru Mike Rosenbaum—Chicago's Javier Baez, Minnesota's Byron Buxton and Oakland's Addison Russell—find themselves on the disabled list two weeks into the 2014 season.
That doesn't change their status as top prospects, mind you, but it certainly takes some of the luster off of their stars, at least until they are able to get back on to the field.
Here's a look at the prognosis for those injured stars as well as a look at how the rest of the best prospects in baseball have fared after two weeks of the regular season.
10. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
2014 Stats (Triple-A)
Noah Syndergaard ran into some trouble early in his second career start with Triple-A Las Vegas and found himself staring a two-run deficit in the face after two innings.
While he would eventually settle down and his final line—four runs (three earned) on six hits while walking two and striking out two—against Sacramento this past Wednesday wasn't awful, it wasn't close to Syndergaard's best.
Las Vegas manager and former Met Wally Backman knew exactly what the problem was, as he explained to the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Todd Dewey after the game:
His tempo was way too slow tonight, especially early in the game. He got better as the game went on but there were times he was 20-plus seconds in between pitches. His stuff was there, but everything you hear about in baseball is rhythm and timing and it wasn’t there tonight for him.
Syndergaard wasn't overly concerned:
I felt like I did pretty well. I feel like the stat line really doesn’t do it justice. I felt I made some pretty good pitches. They just got the barrel on the ball and got them over the infielder’s head. My arm felt a lot better and my body felt better than my first start, but my results weren’t near as good.
While his latest outing is sure to find the volume lowered on those calling for the 21-year-old to join the major league rotation in New York, it's still highly likely that we'll see him at Citi Field before the season comes to an end.
9. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2014 Stats (High-A/Double-A)
Taijuan Walker is laying waste to minor league bats as he works his way back from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for most of the spring, recording 17 strikeouts in just over nine innings of work so far in 2014. That's not a typo; 17 of the 28 outs that Walker has recorded have been of the swing-and-miss variety.
He recorded 10 of those in his last start for Double-A Jackson, telling reporters that he felt ready to finally join Felix Hernandez and the rest of his teammates in Seattle after the game, according to the Seattle Times' Bob Dutton.
Unfortunately for Walker, his manager Lloyd McClendon doesn't feel the same way, as he recently told Dutton:
He needs to continue to get stronger, continue to command all his pitches. He’s progressing well. We’re very pleased with where he is at this point. We just need to get that pitch count up and that pitch ability up a little more.
Walker is scheduled to make his next rehab start for Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday and, if things go well, it's reasonable to assume that he could be back in the Mariners rotation by the weekend.
8. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics
2014 Stats (Double-A)
Addison Russell's first taste of Double-A ball came to a screeching halt after two games thanks to a torn hamstring muscle that will keep the 20-year-old shortstop sidelined for at least a month.
It's a Grade 3 tear, according to John Hickey of the San Jose Mercury News, which is a complete tear of the muscle and, unfortunately for Russell, the most severe. Hickey goes on to say that the stated recovery time of a month may be overly optimistic.
7. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
2014 Stats (Triple-A)
Archie Bradley was impressive in his second start for Triple-A Reno last Friday, as the top pitching prospect in baseball retired the first nine batters that he faced en route to tossing seven innings of three-hit, two-run ball while walking two and striking out five.
Bradley got no run support from his club and wound up as the hard-luck loser, but the 21-year-old continues to perform at a level that will make it hard for the Diamondbacks to keep him on the farm for much longer, especially given the current state of their rotation.
6. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
2014 Stats (Double-A)
It's been a mixed bag of results for 20-year-old Francisco Lindor as he begins his first full season with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks.
On one hand, Lindor has hit safely in eight of his first nine games of the season, and this past Friday against Bowie, he smacked a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 13th inning.
On the other hand, that home run was one of the six hits that he's managed in his last 31 at-bats (.194). Additionally, Lindor's walk rate is down significantly, while his strikeout rate has taken a step in the wrong direction.
None of this changes the fact that Lindor remains the shortstop of the future in Cleveland, or that the future is probably going to begin in 2015. But thoughts of Lindor being a mid-season addition to the Indians roster may be premature, with a September promotion being the most likely scenario.
5. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (Triple-A)
Nothing has gone quite according to plan for Javier Baez since his scintillating performance this spring, when he hit .310 with five home runs in only 42 at-bats and made a case to break camp with the Cubs.
A notoriously slow starter, Baez struck out six times in his first nine at-bats with Triple-A Iowa and managed only one hit in his first 18 at-bats (.056). But he seems to have found his rhythm at the plate recently, going 3-for-8 (.375) with a home run, two RBI and three runs scored over his last two games.
Then he injured his ankle last Friday against Nashville and, by the end of the weekend, was headed to the seven-day disabled list, as reported by the Chicago Tribune's Mark Gonzales.
While Baez had played only shortstop so far this season, he was going to see some time at second base, especially with the way that Starlin Castro has been swinging the bat for the big club. This ankle injury only delays Baez's position switch and eventual arrival in the big leagues, which is expected later this season.
4. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats (Triple-A)
A disappointing spring training—one that saw Oscar Taveras hesitate to fully test his surgically-repaired ankle and injure his hamstring as a result—led to a sluggish start with Triple-A Memphis.
But St. Louis' top prospect has begun to find his groove, going 8-for-18 (.444) with two doubles, a home run, four RBI and four runs scored over his last five games. He also drew his first two walks of the season in the process.
It's easy to forget that, for as long as it seems that we've been talking about him, Taveras is only 21 years old. As long as he stays healthy and continues to deliver solid at-bats in Memphis, it's only a matter of time before St. Louis comes calling.
3. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
2014 Stats (High-A)
After recording multi-hit games in three of his first four appearances of the season—picking up eight RBI in the process—Carlos Correa has hit a wall. Over his last five games, Correa has gone 1-for-21 (.048) with two RBI, one walk and five strikeouts.
Don't think for a minute, however, that Correa's recent struggles have changed the way that anyone in Houston's organization views him. Astros manager Bo Porter was effusive in his praise of the shortstop in a recent conversation with Baseball America's Jose De Jesus Ortiz (subscription required):
One of the most impressive moments of spring training for me was the day over in Jupiter (Fla.) when Carlos pulled me aside and he said, ‘Skipper, if there’s anything that I need to do to be better, or that I can do to help our ballclub, please always tell me because I want to be the best I can be.’
When you have a talent like a Carlos Correa and he is open-minded and as mature at the age of 19 to actually have that kind of conversation with his manager, it was one of the finer moments of spring training for me.
Correa's goal is to join the Astros in September when rosters expand, per Ortiz. If he can get himself back into a groove at the plate, that might not be as big of a stretch as some believe it to be.
2. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
2014 Stats (MLB)
If there's one thing that we've learned about Xander Bogaerts early on this season, its that the 21-year-old isn't afraid to take a walk. Bogaerts' seven walks on the season lead all Boston hitters, while his .377 on-base percentage ranks third on the team, behind Grady Sizemore and Mike Napoli.
While he continues to get on base and has decent numbers overall, his lack of production in the power department leaves something to be desired.
Among qualified MLB rookies this season, only two—Arizona's Chris Owings (.318) and Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton (.231) have lower slugging percentages than Bogaerts (.326). That said, Bogaerts isn't concerned, as he explained to ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes: "I don't think I've ever hit one (a home run) in April. I'm still getting my timing, especially in the cold. I don't feel loose, like I can just be me. I'm not used to it."
As the weather continues to warm up, so too should Bogaerts' bat. That's bad news for the rest of the AL East.
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
2014 Stats (Double-A): N/A (Yet to play)
Sidelined since mid-March with a sprained left wrist, Byron Buxton has begun fielding fly balls in center field as he works his way back into game shape, according to a report by Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press.
“He will play when he heals,” Mike Radcliff, Twins Vice President of Player Personnel, told Berardino. “Potentially that could be May. It’s hard to forecast.”
Buxton has yet to swing a bat, but his progress has some within the organization thinking that the five-tool center fielder could participate in extended spring training games before the end of April.