Springtime is in the air! More so here in the south than in the north perhaps, but never the less, the predictable cycle of the seasons has taken us back to my favorite time of the year; Spring and the start of the upcoming baseball season. With the WBC already kicking back up, there should be plenty of baseball for us to ingest during the month of march, as spring training and the WBC play out. Today we are going to examine four prospects whom spent the majority, if not all, of their seasons in the minors last season, but whom have a legit chance of making their teams opening day roster (Players listed in no particular order).
1. Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Best Tool(s): 7 glove, 7 arm
Overall Future: The consensus within the scouting community is that Bradley is the Red Sox center fielder of the future, with the overall defensive profile being major league ready and the bat not terribly far behind. He has shown good pitch-recognition skills indicated by his high OBP in the minors last season, and has enough bat speed to allow the hit tool to play average to slightly above-average. Bradley isn’t the typical burner you would expect, but he did steal 24 bases at a success rate of nearly 73%. To put this into context, there is a general rule of thumb in regards to stolen bases and the sabermetric community and it goes as follows: “Stolen bases are only beneficial if they are swiped with roughly a 75% success rate. This number stems from looking at a run expectancy chart, and comparing the difference in expected runs after a successful stolen base, and the difference in expected runs after a failed attempt.” All of this to say that while Bradley isn’t ever going to be the fastest man on his team, he has tremendous baseball instincts in his routes and reads in center and on the base-paths. The only real knock on Bradley is that his game power plays around a three or a four grade, leaving him suspect to ever reach double digit home runs. There is, however, enough pop in the bat to hit plenty of line-drives, which leaves his overall fantasy future at somewhere around a .265-.280 hitter. This is while providing plus-plus defense up the middle, and adding 15 or so stolen bases while hitting in what is still a strong lineup from Boston. While Bradley is probably the longest shot on this list to make the roster, Red Sox manager John Farrell couldn’t completely write him off to the minors just yet saying, “The best way to answer it, we didn’t have that as a strong possibility and we’re four games into the schedule. He would be served well to get at-bats in the minor leagues before he comes up, but again he’s making a strong impression in camp.”
2. Jedd Gyorko 2B
2012 Season: 262/.356/.431 @ Double-A San Antonio (27 games); .328/.380/.588 @ Triple-A Tucson (92 games)
Best Tool(s): 6+ Hit
Overall Future: I personally go to missions games as I live about 20 minutes outside of San Antonio, and playing in that pitcher friendly ball-park did not do him any favors. This explains the explosion in the offensive numbers when he got to the Pacific Coast League, which is notorious for inflating hitter’s stats. Jason “The Professor” Parks over at Baseball Prospectus does great work. He provides these little tidbits on Gyorko’s swing mechanics, “Excellent bat-to-ball ability; easy swing; short and without frills; crushes left-handers.” He has put all of these to use, and has started off spring hot with three HRs and nine RBI in seven games played. Gyorko’s ultimate fantasy value will be tied to his ability to stick defensively at 2B. He doesn’t look the part of a second baseman physically and may only provide fringe defense there at best at the major league level, but the offensive potential to hit .280-.290 with plenty of doubles and 10-15 HRs would be invaluable, given how thin the crop of useful second basemen is in the National League. Gyorko is currently in a fierce position battle (if we could call it that) with Logan Forsythe for the 2B job in San Diego, but this shouldn’t even really be a competition. I mean, come on San Diego, it’s Logan fucking Forsythe for Christ-sakes! His .273 AVG, paired with his .316 BABIP, have regression screaming all over them. San Diego isn’t going to compete this year, so they would be better off seeing if Gyorko can really stick at 2B, because he could be a future #2 hitter in their line-up if everything works out.
3. Oscar Taveras OF
Best Tool(s): Future 8 hit tool, 8 Raw, game power could play at 8 during prime. Monster offensive profile.
Overall Future: Taveras exploded onto the scene as the top hitting prospect in baseball, crushing double-A pitching with his godly fast bat speed, and one of the most violent, but controlled, swings you will ever see come out of the minors. He gets his bat on pitches off the plate, that other hitters can only dream of fouling off. He will expand the zone to chase pitches, but the hit tool is so good that he line drives more of them into play than you would think possible, and will be a good bet to compete for batting titles for the next ten years. He is the prototypical right fielder you can build a franchise around, and in his prime he should hit well over .300, with 30+ HRs and 110+RBI, while hitting in the heart of the Cardinals line-up. He is simply too good to send down to the minors and the Cardinals need to find a way to have him playing from Opening Day. Trading somebody, magically figuring out a way to bat with a DH for the whole season, and just plain screwing Jon Jay over are some of the ways the Cardinals could approach the situation, but regardless, it is a very nice problem to have for the team that has the top ranked farm system in baseball.
4. Wil Myers
2012 Season: 343/.414/.731 @ Double-A Northwest Arkansas (35 games); .304/.378/.554 @ Triple Omaha (99 games)
Best Tool(s): 7+ Hit and Power
Overall Future: The “I’m way too good to be in the minors” fever must be spreading, because Wil Myers has caught it too. Myers raked across two levels last season, silencing any doubts about his legitimacy as a top prospect in the game. It would be a waste of the Rays resources (as well as Myers time) to send him back down to the minors, and unlike the Cardinals, there isn’t a serious log-jam in the starting roster to warrant keeping Myers out of the opening day line-up. He would be an upgrade over both Luke Scott and Matt Joyce in the line-up, and presents the Rays a mountain more of upside than those two players combined. I honestly don’t see how this is an issue for the Rays and their reasoning for possibly starting Myers in Triple-A. He needs to see big-league pitching so he can start learning how to make adjustments, not just from game to game, but from at-bat to at-bat. Doing this early in the season would be much more beneficial than later in the season, especially for a team that hopes to be in contention during September. For a team that is used to being so forward thinking, do you think the Rays might be trying to over-think this one? Should Myers get the whole year in the majors, we could see a .280AVG, 20+HR season in which he wins the AL rookie of the year. How is this that hard of a decision for the Rays?