How far into the season is it fair to sit down, and really take a hard look at a player's statistics?
Depends on who you ask.
The New York media would like to put that somewhere around the fifth inning of opening day. Most fans really start to pay attention a month into the season. Statically speaking, a full season, perhaps two, is ideal.
But we’re impatient. Baseball moves too fast. In my opinion, after about two months, it’s fair to at least start looking at where players stand.
Of course, we all know who’s leading the majors in what. Ubaldo Jimenez has an ERA under 1 and an 8-1 record. Justin Morneau leads the AL in batting, and has chipped in 11 home runs. Andre Ethier, if healthy, would be competing for a triple crown. I don’t have to tell you all that.
But what about the minor leagues? Which players are likely ready for a promotion to the show after destroying pitching at their level the past two months, or mowing down minor league batters?
Of course, I’m not talking about 30-year-old career minor-leaguers teeing off against guys five to 10 years younger than them, but real prospects. Guys who project as major league starters.
Are you surprised? Stephen Strasburg has technically already been promoted this year, but this guy should be pitching in the major leagues.
In 22 innings at AA Harrisburg, Strasburg struck out 27 batters, walking six. In 23.1 innings at AAA so far, he’s got 27 strikeouts and just four walks. He’s yet to give up a professional home run. Through two levels, he’s 6-1 in nine starts, with an ERA under one and WHIP of .71. 54 Ks, and 10 BBs.
Simply incredible numbers.
Strasburg probably has better stuff than any pitcher in Major League Baseball right now. He also has advanced command, and the ability to pound the bottom of the strike zone and induce ground balls.
He’s the best pitching prospect in the last decade at the very least, and by the first week of June, we’ll likely see him pitching in Washington.
Santana started off the season on a torrid pace, slowed down a bit, then heated back up again.
Through 44 games, Carlos has a .313 average, 35 BBs, and just 29 Ks, 10 homers, and a 1.020 OPS. Last season, he OPS’d .953 at AA, after a breakout 2008 campaign in which he hit .326 with a .999 OPS through two levels and two organizations.
Santana entered this season as a borderline top-10 prospect, and has done nothing but cement his status in that elite group.
The Indians aren’t very good right now, so there has been no rush to bring him to the big leagues. But with June approaching, and Santana 24 years old, there seems very little reason to keep him in AAA much longer.
I expect Santana in the majors by the end of June.
Of course, we all know about Mike Moustakas. The Royals took him second overall back in 2007, a few spots ahead of Matt Wieters and 12 spots ahead of Jason Heyward.
Moustakas was hyped as a potential superstar, appearing in the 2008 and 2009 BA top-100 lists, at No. 18 and 13 respectively. His first full season in minor league ball was a disappointment though. He hit just .272, with a .337 OBP and 22 homers.
But he was just 19 years old. Last season, as a 20-year-old in A+, Moustakas continued to struggle. He hit just 16 homers, and his average dropped to .250. He got on base under 30 percent of the time.
So, coming into this season, expectations were not too high. He had dropped considerably on prospects lists, and was BA’s fourth highest-rated Royals prospect. Fourth. He was no longer considered a future major league star.
Well, it seems like Moustakas has finally hit the switch. Through 27 games in the AA Texas League, Moustakas leads the league in hitting with a .390 average. He’s struck out 18 times, and walked 17, a major improvement from the past couple of years. He also leads the league with 12 homers and 41 RBI.
Coming into the season, Baseball America described him as a guy with two plus tools, his raw power and his strong arm at third, to go along with a solid swing, good bat speed, and good hand-eye coordination. The issue was approach. He was too aggressive, and too pull happy; he just couldn’t hit yet.
So far, so good for Moustakas. Given his struggles the past couple of seasons, his young age, and the hitter-friendly environment of the Texas League, Moustakas probably won't be promoted anytime soon.
He’s finally showing some promise, and a Royals team that’s not going anywhere can afford to let him build his confidence and develop as a player.
But expect him in AAA by the end of the season, in the big leagues some time in 2011.
I’ve always been just a bit skeptical of Dom Brown.
He’s the one guy the Phillies wouldn’t trade for Roy Halladay. To me, this didn’t make much sense. Brown has always had raw tools, but has yet to show them on the field. He’s uber-talented, but so is Michael Taylor. So is Kyle Drabek. Why hang onto the guy who seems least likely to succeed?
So far this season, Brown is proving me wrong. The 22-year-old has started off 2010 in the AA Eastern League. Through 38 games, Brown is hitting .320, with an OPS over 1.000. He also has seven steals, and eight home runs, having hit just 14 all of last season.
This is a level he’s repeating, after having played 37 games in the Eastern League to end 2009, but his OPS is about 200 points higher then it was last season.
Unlike Kansas City, the Phillies are actually going somewhere this season. However, their outfield is pretty crowded right now. Brown should be in AAA soon, and if Raul Ibanez isn’t hitting in July, he could be their starting left-fielder down the stretch.
Mike Stanton is an incredibly gifted young player. At 18 years old, he hit 39 homers in 2008, batting .293. Last year, he hit just .255 as his contact issues caught up to him, yet still managed 28 homers and 92 RBI.
This season though, Stanton is taking his play to another level. In 41 games to start the season, Stanton has hit .318 with a .458 OBP. His strikeouts are down from last season—43 in 154 at-bats—though still a bit high. Still, he's walked almost as often (36 times), and at the same time, put on a show with his power. His 17 home runs leads all of professional baseball, and he's also got 11 doubles and a triple.
The Marlins are currently just three games out of first in the NL East, and Stanton may be able to help them down the stretch. He's just 20 years old, and I still have some concerns about his ability to make contact.
But he's just so good, I could see him paying in the majors before the season is over, especially if the Marlins stay in the race.
The following prospects are also tearing up the minor leagues, but are likely a bit further away from a major league promotion:
Jordan Lyles, RHP, Houston Astros
Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels
Mike Minor, LHP, Atlanta Braves
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
(This article was originally published at FantasyBullpen.com)