The 2015 MLB Prospects-to-Watch Team at Spring Training

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterFebruary 24, 2015

The 2015 MLB Prospects-to-Watch Team at Spring Training

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The start of Cactus and Grapefruit League games next week means all eyes will soon be trained on baseball’s top prospects. However, with so many top-ranked young players in major league camp, focusing may be a little tricky.

    Fans hoping to catch a glimpse of a future superstar will have an overwhelming number of chances to do so over the next month, as teams will be offering their best prospects extensive playing time early in the spring schedule so as to evaluate them against proven big leaguers.

    Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

    While there will be a solid collection of prospects on the field in any given game this spring, certain guys stand out as simply must-watch entertainment.

    Here is the 2015 spring training MLB Prospects-to-Watch Team.

C: Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs

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    Associated Press

    Kyle Schwarber launched an assault on minor league pitching after signing with the Chicago Cubs (No. 4 overall pick in 2014 draft), making stops at the short season and Low-A levels before reaching High-A Daytona, where he batted .302/.393/.560 with 20 extra-base hits (10 home runs) in 44 games.

    Schwarber’s bat looks as though it might be ready sooner rather than later, as he projects as a 60 hitter with potential 65 power. However, the 21-year-old's development on the other side of the ball will determine when he arrives in the major leagues.

    Schwarber caught only 20 games compared to playing 36 games in left field during his professional debut, but he worked hard on refining his defensive chops behind the plate during the fall instructional league, per CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney. More importantly, he convinced the Cubs he’s ready to try catching on a near-everyday basis this coming season, which he’ll likely begin at High-A Myrtle Beach, team president Theo Epstein told reporters last fall.

1B: Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics

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    Matt Olson, the No. 47 overall pick in the 2012 draft, ranked second in the Low-A Midwest League in 2013 (his full-season debut) with 23 home runs. This past season, the 20-year-old slugger led the California League and ranked third in all of the minors with 37 home runs. He also paced the league with 111 runs scored, 278 total bases and 117 walks.

    The California League is hitter-friendly, but Stockton is slightly slanted toward pitchers, which makes Olson's higher output at home (.262/.402/.591 with 21 homers) as opposed to on the road (.262/.406/.496 with 16 homers) all the more impressive.

    Olson projects for an average hit tool, as he already displays good feel for hitting with patience and a willingness to work deep counts. His 6’4”, 236-pound frame and long limbs leave holes in his swing and lead to a fair amount of swing-and-miss; however, it also generates the booming, plus power that has translated to 60 home runs with an extra-base hit rate of 51.2 percent in his first two full seasons.

    A third baseman in high school, Olson is an underrated athlete at first base with fluid actions and good footwork around the bag, while his solid-average arm serves him well at the position. But while he may be better defensively than the average first baseman, his future will always be tied to his offensive profile. Luckily, the 20-year-old’s approach and massive power should give him an opportunity to make an impact at the highest level, possibly even earlier than expected.

2B: Jose Peraza, Atlanta Braves

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    Jose Peraza opened eyes in 2013 with a .288 batting average and 64 steals in his full-season debut at Low-A Rome and then jumped on the fast track to the major leagues last season by batting .342/.365/.454 with 97 hits and 35 stolen bases in his first 66 games at High-A Lynchburg. Peraza, 20, continued to rake following a midseason promotion to Double-A Mississippi, as he batted .335/.363/.422 with 11 extra-base hits and 25 steals in 44 Southern League contests despite serving as one of the league's younger everyday players.

    Between both levels, the right-handed hitter batted .339 with 159 hits and 60 stolen bases in 110 games.

    What Peraza lacks in physicality at 6’0” and 165 pounds, he makes up for with speed and quickness in all facets of the game. The 20-year-old has the foundation of an above-average hitter but will need to add strength over the course of his development. A right-handed hitter, he drives the ball from line to line and should amass his share of doubles and triples.

    However, he also struggles to drive the ball at times, with a majority of his contact staying on the infield. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though; Peraza is a plus-plus runner who can burn down the line, not to mention an advanced base stealer who’s already skilled at reading pitchers and picking his spots.

    Peraza is an above-average defender with outstanding range at both middle infield positions, and his glove will probably always play up thanks to his instincts and first-step quickness.

    The Braves shifted Peraza from shortstop to second base last season in deference to Andrelton Simmons, which could give the Atlanta Braves one of baseball's best double-play combinations for years to come. As of now, the Braves seem prepared to begin the season with a combination of Philip Gosselin and the recently signed Alberto Callaspo at the keystone. However, they’ll only be keeping the seat warm for Peraza, who should arrive at some point during the second half.

3B: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

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    Kris Bryant's first full professional season was historic, as the 23-year-old slugger posted up monster numbers between Double- and Triple-A but was denied a call-up in September. Specifically, Bryant led the minor leagues (qualified hitters only) in home runs (43), slugging percentage (.661), OPS (1.098) and wOBA (.472). He also ranked second in runs (118) and fourth in RBI (110), and he batted .325 with a .438 on-base percentage in 594 plate appearances.

    At 6’5”, 215 pounds, Bryant possesses effortless 80-grade raw power that has translated in a big way at each professional stop. The right-handed hitter does an excellent job of using his height and size to his advantage, achieving huge extension through the ball to generate towering drives with backspin carry to all fields. At maturity, it’s easy to see him leading the league with 35-plus home runs in a given season.

    Though known for his robust, light-tower power to all fields, Bryant actually has a good feel for hitting, with a line-to-line approach, good pitch recognition and excellent plate coverage. His lack of stride and purely rotational swing will always result in some swing-and-miss, but he’s still a smart enough hitter and controls the zone well enough to be a .270-plus hitter in the major leagues.

    Defensively, Bryant moves well for his size, showing range and agility at the hot corner that’s a tick above average. His plus arm strength is a clean fit at the position and could allow him to move to a corner outfield position down the road if necessary, an idea the Chicago Cubs will begin to explore during spring training.

    Cubs manager Joe Maddon spoke Monday on Bryant's defensive future, per Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago:

    I had my first meeting with Kris today. He was very impressive and very mature for a kid of 23. He understands what he is doing really well. He is accepting of working in the outfield, very excepting of that.


    What you do is speak openly about this in the beginning. Then you plan to work with him during spring training. He will probably be less comfortable in the outfield as opposed to third base. You just try to be honest because this might open up more opportunities as you move down the road.

    With Tommy La Stella and Mike Olt atop the team’s depth chart (by default) at third base heading into spring training, it appears as though Bryant will at least be given a chance to make the Cubs’ Opening Day roster. But an extra year of pre-arbitration control of a slugger such as a Bryant could be huge for Chicago—especially given the ever-increasing cost across the game for legitimate power hitters—and certainly worth sending him to the minors for at least 21 days (per Levine).

    ESPN’s Buster Olney recently opined that Bryant is “likely destined for a promotion in late April,” which would make sense based on the timeline the Cubs appear to have in place. Beyond that, there’s no way of justifying that Bryant isn’t one of the Cubs’ top 25 players.

SS: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    As one of the younger everyday players last year in California League, Carlos Correa continued to blow past all reasonable expectations by batting .325/.416/.510 with 28 extra-base hits, 20 stolen bases and a 45-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 62 games.

    He seemed bound for a promotion to Double-A before suffering a season-ending fibula injury in late June while sliding into third base. He underwent surgery shortly thereafter and is fully healthy for spring training.

    The 20-year-old right-handed hitter has a simple, direct swing that allows him to stay inside the ball and utilize the entire field. He’s batted at least .320-plus at both Class-A levels, while his advanced plate discipline and pitch recognition (12.3 BB%, 15.4 K%) have produced on-base percentages consistently north of .400.

    At 6’4”, 205 pounds, Correa possesses plus raw power but doesn’t swing for the fences, instead employing an approach that’s geared toward consistent hard contact and getting on base. Considering Correa’s age, it’s safe to assume that he’ll show more pop as he fills out, with the potential to hit upward of 22-25 home runs in his prime.

    Despite his large frame, Correa is an excellent athlete with the tools to stick at shortstop long term, including soft hands, good range and plus-plus arm strength that produces lasers in the mid- to upper 90s across the infield.

    Correa is a physically blessed player with present plus makeup and the potential for five average-or-better tools at maturity, and he’s still on the fast track to the major leagues in 2015 despite the ankle injury.

    Correa is expected to begin the season at Double-A as long as he’s healthy, which could lead to a call-up with the Houston Astros sometime during the second half of the season.

    Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told reporters the following on Feb. 17, via Howard Chen of CBS Houston:

    I would imagine that Double-A would probably be the most logical starting point for him. I don’t see any reason for him to go back to high A. He was days away from getting promoted when he got hurt. I think that Double-A is always a good challenge for players, so I would guess that that’s the lowest level he would start at.

    In general, the 20-year-old Correa has one of the highest ceilings in the minors, with the potential to be a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate in his prime.

MI: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Corey Seager posted gaudy numbers last season at High-A Rancho Cucamonga, as the 20-year-old mastered the California League with a robust .352/.411/.633 batting line, 34 doubles, 18 home runs and 70 RBI in 80 games.

    The offense-friendly parks of the Cal tend to inflate hitters’ numbers, so it was great to see Seager continue his torrid production after moving up to Double-A Chattanooga. In his first taste of the Southern League, he batted .345/.381/.534 with two home runs, 16 doubles and 27 RBI in 38 contests.

    Overall, Seager amassed 75 extra-base hits and led all minor leaguers with 50 doubles. On top of that, he actually fared equally well against same-side pitchers as he did righties this season, posting a 1.065 OPS and 24 extra-base hits in 126 plate appearances against southpaws compared to a .984 OPS with 51 extra-base hits in 400 plate appearances total.

    A 6’4’, 215-pound left-handed hitter, Seager has the potential for above-average hit and power tools at maturity, though there may always be some swing-and-miss to his game. He has an easy, direct swing that allows him to sting the ball from line to line, and there aren’t enough positive things to say about his ability to pick apart pitchers and hit in all counts.

    Seager always had shown impressive power to the opposite field, but last season, he learned to turn on the ball more consistently and saw his power numbers spike as a result. He’ll only get stronger moving forward, so it’s not crazy to think that he, like his older brother, will be a consistent 20-homer threat at maturity.

    There are questions about whether he’ll stick at shortstop or need to move to third base long term, which could potentially hurt his value. However, he’s continually surpassed expectations at his natural position, and he should be able to remain there well into his major league career. 

    Regardless of where he ends up defensively, Seager’s bat will have him hitting in the middle of a big league lineup sooner rather than later. The 20-year-old is one of best pure hitters in the minor leagues, with the potential to hit .280-plus and 20 home runs annually while driving in plenty of runs.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers’ acquisition of Jimmy Rollins over the winter gives Seager, who is expected to return to Double-A next season, another full year to develop in the high minors. At the same time, it wouldn't be surprising if the Dodgers were to offer him a taste of the major leagues late in the season.

CI: Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers

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    Joey Gallo led all minor league hitters with 40 home runs in 2013 and then improved on that total this past season with 42, finishing one long ball shy of Kris Bryant’s MiLB lead.

    The 21-year-old’s impressive campaign began at High-A Myrtle Beach, where his refined approach and shorter swing produced a .323/.463/.735 batting line with 21 home runs and respective strikeout and walk rates of 26.0 and 20.7 percent over 246 plate appearances (58 games).

    The slugger hit another 21 dingers in 68 games following a midseason promotion to Double-A Frisco, but Texas League pitchers exploited his approach, resulting in a .232/.334/.524 batting line with respective strikeout and walk rates of 39.5 and 12.4 percent over 291 plate appearances.

    At 6’5”, 205 pounds, Gallo is a physical specimen with enormous 80-grade raw power. The combination of his quick wrists, explosive bat speed and lofty swing gives him effortless in-game power to all fields, making it easy to envision him being a true 35-home run threat at the highest level.

    The 21-year-old will always be a streaky hitter and have a considerable amount of swing-and-miss to his game, but he’s also learning to work counts and take walks, therefore allowing him to see more hittable pitches.

    Gallo’s simplified swing played a major role in his improved consistency last season. Specifically, he reduced his pre-pitch load so as to be shorter to the ball, which allowed him to better control the zone and get to many of the pitches he missed the previous year. The adjustment led to improved strikeout (33.3 percent) and walk (16.2 percent) rates as well as a solid average (.271), and it didn’t come at the cost of sacrificing power (42 HR, .344 ISO).

    Gallo has worked to become a quality defender at third base, but his present average range is likely to worsen as he ages due to his 6’5” frame. His athleticism and plus-plus arm strength would also play in the outfield, which is where the Texas Rangers began giving him reps last fall in instructional ball.

    The Rangers rewarded Gallo with his first invitation to big league spring training this year, though it’s incredibly doubtful he makes the Opening Day roster. He knows that, too.

    Gallo likely will return to Double-A next season to continue refining his swing and approach, but a late-season call-up could be a possibility if he’s able to make more consistent contact in his second tour of the Texas League.

OF: Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins

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    Byron Buxton entered 2014 as the consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball, and all signs pointed to him debuting with the Minnesota Twins before the end of the season. Unfortunately, a taste of the major leagues wasn’t in the cards for the then-20-year-old center fielder.

    Buxton spent the season battling one injury after the other, each of them resulting in a lengthy stay on the disabled list. He ultimately played in just 31 games—30 at High-A Fort Myers, and one at Double-A New Britain—and batted .234/.307/.395 with 10 extra-base hits in 137 plate appearances.

    Buxton expects to be fully healthy by the start of spring training, per Fox Sports North's Tyler Mason, but no matter how well he plays in big league camp, he’s still likely headed to Double-A Chattanooga (the Twins’ new Double-A affiliate) to begin the season. Also, he isn’t the type of prospect who would necessarily benefit from a lengthy stay in big league camp.

    The 21-year-old center fielder has the ceiling of an MVP-caliber player in his prime, with five potentially plus tools and a feel for making in-game adjustments. With that in mind, Buxton might be better off working on specific aspects of his game with the coaching staff—the Twins’ new right fielder, Torii Hunter, should be able to teach him a thing or two—this spring while getting meaningful reps in minor league camp.

    At this stage in his promising career, it obviously makes sense for the Twins to take all precautionary measures (and then some) to ensure Buxton is healthy for the long haul. The reality is that no other player in the minor leagues can match his combination of elite athleticism, legitimate five-tool potential and advanced secondary skills.

OF: Hunter Renfroe, San Diego Padres

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    Hunter Renfroe made the most of his assignment to the California League last season, as the 2013 first-round pick batted .295/.370/.565 with 40 extra-base hits (16 home runs) in 316 plate appearances, including a .343/.415/.636 line over his final 34 games.

    However, the 23-year-old’s aggressive approach and swing-and-miss tendencies hurt his power frequency after a midseason promotion to Double-A San Antonio, as he hit just five home runs in 60 Texas League games.

    Renfroe stands out for his enormous raw power, which produced six home runs in this year's Arizona Fall League, as well as his ability to punish mistakes. However, he also likes to swing (a lot) and therefore is always going to strike out more than desired. While his approach needs refinement, he has a true knack for getting the barrel to the ball, and he’s missing a lot of pitches at this point in his career that he won’t in the future.

    While the San Diego Padres' acquisitions of Wil Myers, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton during the offseason seemingly hurt Renfroe's chances of reaching the major leagues anytime soon, it also gives the club the freedom to develop him more thoroughly in the upper minors over the next year-plus. Plus, it wouldn't be surprising if the Friars traded Renfroe at some point during the season, especially after USA Today's Bob Nightengale's recent report that the team offered him and Austin Hedges to the Phillies for Cole Hamels. 

OF: Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds

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    Jesse Winker posted a 1.006 OPS in 53 games at High-A Bakersfield to open the season, but his production fell off after moving up to Double-A Pensacola (.677 OPS in 21 games), likely due to the partially torn tendon in his right wrist that ultimately ended his season in late July (but didn’t require surgery).

    The 21-year-old made up for the lost time in the Arizona Fall League by leading all qualified hitters with a .338 average, while also posting a .440 on-base percentage and .559 slugging.

    Winker is one of the best pure hitters in the minor leagues, as he features a smooth, compact stroke from the left side of the plate and is adept at using the entire field. The 6’3”, 210-pound left-handed batter has hit at least 15 home runs in each of his first two years in full-season ball, and his frame and line-to-line approach suggest more will come.

    More importantly, Winker possesses plate discipline and pitch recognition well beyond his years, which is reflected through his impressive strikeout (17.5 percent) and walk (14.3 percent) rates over 1,100 minor league plate appearances.

    On the other side of the ball, Winker’s defense has steadily improved over the last two seasons, but he’s still limited to only left field due to his lack of speed and arm strength.

    Winker will probably begin 2015 back at Double-A, as he’s likely looking at another full season in the minor leagues following Cincinnati’s acquisition of Marlon Byrd. At the same time, the 21-year-old has already moved through the Reds' system faster than expected, and all signs point to him being able to hold his own as a potential late-season call-up. 

SP: Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Tyler Glasnow posted insanely good numbers during his 2013 full-season debut at Low-A West Virginia, as he led the South Atlantic League in ERA (2.18), opponents' batting average (.142), strikeouts (164) and strikeouts per nine innings (13.3).

    Amazingly, the 21-year-old's follow-up campaign last season at High-A Bradenton wasn’t all that different; Glasnow paced the Florida State League in ERA (1.74), WHIP (1.054) and opponents’ batting average (.174) while ranking second in strikeouts (157) and K/9 (11.4).

    He was especially dominant during the second half of the season, with a 9-2 record, 1.65 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 109 strikeouts over 81.2 innings (14 starts). Meanwhile, he issued just 29 walks—one more than he allowed in 46.2 innings during the first half—while holding opposing hitters to a .177 average.

    A 6’7” right-hander, Glasnow uses his size to create excellent downhill plane, which in turn allows him to dominate hitters with basically two pitches: an explosive fastball in the mid- to upper 90s and a swing-and-miss curveball that flashes plus potential. Glasnow’s changeup tends to play a bit firm given his huge reach toward the plate, but his feel for the pitch should continue to improve, making it at least solid-average at maturity.

    Glasnow will occasionally struggle to keep his lanky frame and long limbs in sync during his delivery, but he has become considerably more consistent on that front over the last 18 months. An Opening Day assignment to Double-A should be a healthy challenge for the 21-year-old—a challenge that, if passed, could have him in the major leagues by the end of the season.

SP: Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Dylan Bundy flew through the Baltimore Orioles system in 2012, his first professional season, pitching at three full-season levels before making two appearances out of the big league bullpen as a September call-up. However, his career was put on hold the following spring when he underwent Tommy John surgery.

    Bundy, 22, finally returned this summer to make six starts at High-A Frederick after a series of dominant outings with short-season Class-A Aberdeen.

    The 6’1” right-hander is physically strong with broad shoulders, and he understands how to utilize his lower half and core strength throughout his delivery. Bundy boasts an advanced four-pitch mix highlighted by a dynamic fastball; he throws a mid-90s two-seam fastball with exceptional run as well as a four-seamer that reaches the upper 90s. He also has an outstanding cutter, a potential grade-70 to grade-75 offering, with late slicing action to his glove side.

    Bundy’s curveball is a hammer and another plus pitch, thrown with tight rotation and late biting action, but he’s still developing command of the pitch and occasionally leaves it up in the zone. The 22-year-old’s changeup has good fading action, and he sells it with a fastball-like arm action, making it another potential plus offering at maturity.

    There was a slight chance Bundy would be ready to rejoin the Orioles last September and pick up where he left off in 2012, but a lat strain suffered in early August derailed his recovery, per MASN Sports. The Orioles will proceed cautiously with Bundy, although he's said to be fully healthy entering spring training.

    "He's going to be treated like any other pitcher in camp, according to [Buck] Showalter," writes Roch Kubatko of MASN. "No reason to hold him back any longer. He's healthy and on a regular schedule. No half-mounds for Bundy."

    Still, it seems likely that Bundy will spend most of the first half at Double-A, with a midseason call-up to the major leagues representing a realistic possibility. At the same time, we tend to overlook just how good Bundy is simply because he's missed so much time over the last two years. It wouldn't be surprising if he improves that estimated time of arrival with a strong spring training. 

SP: Luis Severino, RHP, New York Yankees

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Luis Severino was one of the top breakout prospects of the 2014 season, as the young right-hander dominated across both Class-A levels and finished the year in Double-A, where he posted a 2.52 ERA and a 29-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25 innings over six starts. Between all three stops, the 21-year-old pitched to a 2.47 ERA, .220 BAA and 127-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 113.0 innings. After logging 44 innings in 2013, Severino’s steady performance despite a career-high workload this season was as impressive as the results.

    Severino may be undersized at 6’0” and 195 pounds, but the right-hander’s electric arm speed generates an explosive mid-90s fastball that reaches 97-98 mph. He has the highest ceiling among the New York Yankees' pitching prospects, projecting to be a power pitcher in the same mold as Yordano Ventura.

    Severino employs a shorter stride that drives his lightning-quick arm action, but it also prevents him from using his lower half. Severino’s changeup flashes plus in low- to mid-80s with late sink, while his breaking ball works in the 83-84 mph range with some depth, though he tends to sling the pitch across his body rather than working from fastball/changeup slot. The right-hander's breaking ball needs to be cleaned up, but the fastball and changeup are both dynamic offerings, and his strong control should continue to aid his transition at higher levels.

    Severino's ability to remain a starter will likely be determined by his health and durability. If that doesn't work out, it's easy to envision his electric arm at the back end of the Yankees bullpen. While his future role is unclear, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has stated he believes Severino will make an impact with the club in 2015, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

SP: Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Noah Syndergaard’s inflated 4.60 ERA and .293 opponents’ batting average (.378 BABIP) in 2014 were products of pitching in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, as he otherwise posted a 3.70 FIP and kept the ball in the park (0.74 HR/9). Overall, the 22-year-old held his own against older hitters while maintaining strong strikeout (9.81 K/9) and walk (2.91 BB/9) rates, but the New York Mets still ultimately decided that it would be best for Syndergaard (aka Thor) to finish the season in the minor leagues.

    The 6'6" right-hander has a physical presence on the mound, throwing everything on a steep downhill plane and pounding the lower portion of the strike zone. Syndergaard’s plus-plus heater sits in the mid-to-upper 90s with late, arm-side life, and he frequently flirts with triple digits.

    His curveball also has plus-plus potential, and his command of the pitch improved last season after adding a slider to his already impressive arsenal. He throws his changeup with good arm speed and confidence, and it could serve as a third plus-or-better offering at maturity.

    Syndergaard has one of the highest ceilings among all pitching prospects, with the pure stuff and command to pitch at the front of a rotation, and he's eager to get back on track in 2015, as he told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post:

    I grew up quite a bit during the season. I feel like I made a pretty big transition to become a better pitcher instead of a thrower. I’ve worked hard all offseason, I got my body in top shape and I am going out to spring training to compete for a job.

    I’m going to take the things I learned last year and bring them into this year and become a well-rounded pitcher.

    Assuming he opens the 2015 season back at Triple-A as expected, Syndergaard could be ready to debut around midseason just as Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom did in previous seasons.

SP: Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    The Chicago White Sox promoted Carlos Rodon, the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s draft, to Triple-A Charlotte in mid-August, less than a month after he made his professional debut in the rookie-level Arizona League.

    The 22-year-old impressed at the minor leagues' highest level, posting a 3.00 ERA with 18 strikeouts over 12 innings (three starts), including 15 over his final two starts. There was even talk that the White Sox might call him up in September to pitch out of the bullpen, per Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune.

    Rodon, who received a franchise-record signing bonus of $6.582 million, has everything one looks for in a potential front-end starter with a durable frame, three offerings with plus-or-better potential and the type of competitive mound presence that can’t be taught. Specifically, he touts a 93-98 mph heater that usually sits around 94-95 and a 70-grade slider that will help him pile up strikeouts in the major leagues like he did at North Carolina State.

    Rodon’s overall command is in need of refinement, naturally, and his changeup requires further development, but the White Sox seem confident that their promising left-hander can make swift adjustments on the go against the game’s top hitters.

    Rodon will compete during spring training for a spot in the South Siders’ Opening Day rotation, although there’s also a possibility that the team chooses to break him in a bullpen role. Right now, the club is simply eager to see where he's at heading into his first full season.

    "He basically has been a pro for a month, in terms of pitching competitively in games, so at this point the expectations are come to camp, show us what you have, get acclimated with the staff, get the staff acclimated to you, and we'll take it from there," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said, via Kane.

    "We're just going to let him be him over the next few weeks. He'll have ample opportunity to show us where he's at, and we'll make an assessment about what's next and best for his development."

    The White Sox stand to save a year of team control over Rodon by having him begin the season in the minor leagues, a move that would also makes sense given John Danks and Hector Noesi’s respective abilities to hold down the back end of the rotation. However, once Rodon arrives, he’ll be up to stay, and it shouldn’t take him long to emerge as one of baseball’s premier left-handed pitchers.

RP: Jason Garcia, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

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    Originally a 17th-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2010, Jason Garcia returned from Tommy John surgery last season to post a 3.70 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 56 innings while splitting the year between short-season Lowell and Low-A Greenville. The Orioles acquired Garcia from the Astros in December after Houston selected him with the No. 4 pick in the Rule 5 draft. 

    According to Steve Melewski of MASN, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette said Garcia fanned 14 of the 18 batters he faced in the Fall Instruction League, showcasing mid- to upper-90s velocity to go along with a quality slider.

    Here’s a bit more on Garcia’s eye-opening fall performance, courtesy of FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel:

    The Orioles have a video system in Sarasota that logs every game at their stadium and when it came time to discuss Garcia for the Rule 5 Draft, they realized they had video of six innings of Garcia from instructs. In those six innings (where he recorded 18 outs), Garcia had 14 strikeouts and a 15th where the batter reached on a dropped third strike, along with a popup, fly out and two groundouts. Orioles execs concede they wouldn’t have been able to make the case to pick Garcia without this video, which included Garcia striking out multiple high level Orioles prospects, like Chance Sisco.

    Basically, the Orioles are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with Garcia, gambling on his present velocity and the fact that he’s still working his way back from elbow surgery.


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