Welcome back to Minor League Mondays! With the 2012 season off and running, we’ll be looking at the big players in the minor leagues and take a closer look at the players who are making themselves known on a higher level. In fact, a look at our list from last year sees a couple of players that are already at the Major League level or are on that doorstep.
To start off, we’ll take a look at my Top 10 remaining talents in the minors. I’ll be looking at them on a weekly basis, adjusting my rankings if need be. Without further ado, here’s who we have:
1. Bryce Harper – OF – Triple-A Syracuse (WAS) – .267/.313/.333 – The boy wonder struggled in Spring Training with exactly zero extra-base hits, and outside of a 2-for-4 with a double and a stolen base in the season opener, the 19-year-old is 2-for-10 in his last three games with only one walk. It was expected that he would struggle at the Triple-A level at first, but the ability for him to make the adjustments necessary for him to be a teenage Major Leaguer are still there.
2. Mike Trout – OF – Triple-A Salt Lake City (ANA) – .500/.579/.563 – The other boy wonder…well, I said before the season he’ll hit .400 at Salt Lake damn it all if he isn’t proving me right. He is blocked by two bloated contracts, and sadly, the Angels will keep him with Salt Lake for the time being until one of them plays themselves out of regular starts. One thing of note: He, like Harper, has only one extra base hit: a double.
3. Jurickson Profar – OF – Double-A Frisco (TEX) – .067/.222/.267 – Yet another boy wonder playing at an advanced level, the recently turned 19-year-old has a higher learning curve than either of his fellow teenagers, but there’s a chance he too plays in Arlington this year, leaving many to wonder if Elvis Andrus is expendable.
4. Dylan Bundy – RHP – Low-A Delmarva (BAL) – 3 IP, 6 K, 0 H, 0 ER – The much talked about pro debut for the prized Orioles pitching prospect went about as good as it possibly could have, even with only three innings under his belt. His ceiling is as high as any other top pitching prospect, and outings like this only amplify his status.
5. Julio Teheran – RHP – Triple-A Gwinnett (ATL) – 1 2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 1 K – After missing out on a Major League rotation spot, the top arm in a stacked Braves system got off to a shaky start with his first outing. He’s still a fantastic arm with #1 potential and is still only 21, but unless a trade is made or an injury occurs, he’ll be spending more time in Gwinnett than in Atlanta.
6. Manny Machado – SS – Double-A Bowie (BAL) – .333/.375/.600, 1 HR – While there are questions about him ending up as a shortstop, there is no question that his bat is special. There is literally nothing stopping him from reaching Baltimore when he is ready. And if he continues to rake, a Major League look and a shot in 2013 is not out of the question.
7. Gerrit Cole – RHP – High-A Bradenton (PIT) – It’s times like these where I wish I still worked in the Florida State League. While he hasn’t debuted yet, Pirates fans are excited about the rotation in Bradenton, headed by Cole and other top pick Jameson Talliion. In a league already offensively challenged, this duo will not make it any easier, and Cole could be on the fast track.
8. Shelby Miller – RHP Triple-A Memphis (STL) – 3 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 HR, 4 K – Miller, like Teheran, had a rought start to his 2012 season, but, like Teheran, is only 21 and will most likely see time at the Major League level this year. The defending World Series champs have quietly built a good farm system and Miller is their shining star. He’ll bounce back to form soon enough, and once he does, the sky’s the limit.
9. Miguel Sano – 3B/RF – Low-A Beloit (MIN) – .100/.250/.400, 1 HR – There are a handful of players where you can throw an 80 power on them in all of baseball and Sano is one of them. He’s going to strike out plenty and he’ll be moved off third at some point, but the one thing he can do is hit baseballs very hard and very far, as his grand slam on Friday proved. If there is anyone that should perk Twins fans up as they stare a 95-loss season in the face, it might be Sano.
10. Taijuan Walker – RHP – Double-A Jackson (SEA) – Walker shot up prospects lists with an incredible 2011, striking out 113 in only 96 2/3 innings, and once he finally debuts in central Tennessee, Mariners fans will be loving what this young right hander will bring to the franchise.
Prospect Spotlight: Trevor Bauer – Double-A Mobile (ARI)
The best thing that can happen to a franchise who picks high in the MLB Draft is for that team to have a run like Arizona did last year. They went from worst to first and won the National League West, and even with that, they needed a little bit of luck to help sustain this recent push. That luck then carried over into the Major League Draft in 2011, when the Diamondbacks had two picks in the top seven thanks to the Barret Loux debacle the year before, where an undisclosed injury during a physical led to the D’Backs not signing the Texas A&M righty. That type of situation doesn’t come around often, and because of it, the D’Backs were able to take a calculated risk.
With one pick, they could take a high-upside guy who might be worth the money and with the second pick, they could take a chance on projection. So with that second pick, they took high school righty Archie Bradley, someone who has a #2 ceiling. But their first pick? They took the player who might have been the best collegiate pitcher in the draft: UCLA’s Trevor Bauer.
Bauer was a freak of nature at UCLA, racking up pitch counts in the 130-150 range at times while still having top of the line stuff. And while teammate Gerrit Cole took a while to sign as the #1 overall pick due to his electric stuff, the fact that Arizona had two picks in the top seven meant that they could make Bauer rich and rich quickly. He signed a few weeks before the deadline and quickly established himself at High-A Visalia, striking out 17 batters in only nine total innings. He then was sent to Mobile, and while he had an ERA north of 7, the raw stats still popped, as he struck out 26 in 16 2/3 innings. Combine that with his college stats and it becomes pretty nuts: 161 2/3 innings and a ridiculous 252 strikeouts for an otherworldy 14 K/9 IP.
He does it with four pitches: A four-seam fastball that sits in the mid 90s and can sometimes climb higher, a two-seamer that sits in the low 90s, a curveball that some scouts have thrown a 70 on as a wipeout pitch, and a changeup that is ever improving, albeit average. His command is fantastic, and his ability to spot both fastballs and the curveball make him a true top-line rortation member in the making. The scout speak sees him as a #2 guy considering he doesn’t have plus command of four pitches, but right now, his fastball is plus-plus and his curveball is looking like a similar offering. There aren’t many pitchers in baseball that can boast in having those types of pitches.
He backed up his support for a quick ascension with a fantastic debut on Thursday, going five innings of shutout baseball with two hits and seven strikeouts. He did have three walks, but his ability to get swings and misses is what makes him so special. He is joined at Double-A by Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin, two players who came over in the Dan Haren deal that could challenge for rotation spots at the Major League level in short order, as well. That being said, Bauer is the cream of this crop, and don’t be surprised at all if the Diamondbacks bring him up to help them try and repeat as National League West champions.