Going back to spring training, General managers and managers alike have stressed that in spite of glowing scouting reports and tremendous performance on the field, their prospects had things that needed to be worked on in the minors before they’d really be ready for the show. In the coming weeks, expect many of those prospects to have coincidentally worked those things out just about the time the estimated, “Super Two” date passes. Thanks in no small part to a flawed system that, in many cases, creates a financial disincentive for teams to field a squad consisting of their best players, lesser players have found their names written into lineup cards and occupying active roster spots. Those players will undoubtedly feel the heat soon, and it won’t be due to the increase in temperatures leading into the summer months.
A few squads have already called up some of their top prospects early in the season to help the parent club, but have no fear, there is a great deal of talent still waiting to receive their own call. Also noteworthy is that a few teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies and the San Francisco Giants have dipped below Triple-A to bolster their rosters promoting players such as Rubby De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio and Brandon Crawford. With that in mind, Future Rookies will follow suit and dig a little deeper this week, looking at a couple of arms in the Double-A Eastern League who have been terrorizing hitters.
Eric Surkamp, SP, San Francisco Giants, 23 years old
Over the last two seasons, Eric Surkamp has posted gaudy strikeout numbers in the low minors while maintaining a tremendous walk rate as well. Regardless, most scouting reports coming into the season opened by noting his upper-80’s fastball and a desire to see him produce at a higher level with his average-ish heater before issuing a grade that better fits his lights out performance. In addition to his fastball that he throws from a three-quarters delivery, adding deception, Surkamp features a changeup and curveball, both of which grade out as plus pitches by Baseball America.
Pitching all of this year in Double-A for Richmond, Surkamp has continued to strike hitters out at a high rate while keeping his walks to a minimum. It’s unlikely he’ll see time playing for the Giants in anything more than a relief capacity, at best, but it is possible they dangle him as trade bait over the summer. The Giants recently lost catcher Buster Posey for the season to a gruesome ankle injury. Posey was the best hitter in the Giants lineup, and it is possible they may look to fill his void through trade, perhaps dealing for another catcher, or tossing their hat in the ring for the Jose Reyes sweepstakes should they grow weary of the Brandon Crawford-Emmanuel Burriss-Miguel Tejada-Mike Fontenot revolving door at shortstop. In the event Surkamp is dealt, he may be awarded a sooner than expected opportunity to start for a major league club.
Brad Peacock, SP, Washington Nationals, 23 years old
Continuing the theme of prospect arms who have outperformed their scouting grades, Brad Peacock makes his Future Rookies debut thanks to his scintillating play this year. Peacock is a former high school shortstop who was just a 41st round selection out of Palm Beach Community College in 2006. Last year he lead all Nationals minor leaguers in strikeouts. His ERA in Hi-A was just 4.44 (oddly enough, matching his career mark) and was even higher in Double-A at 4.66.
He is enjoying a true breakout year this year. John Sickels covered him recently in his Minor League Notes for Minor League Ball. Touted as a preseason breakout candidate by Sickels, it looks as though that has come to fruition in a big way. The Nationals recently promoted Triple-A farmhand Yunesky Maya and watched him struggle mightily. A non-threat for the playoffs, the Nationals may opt to throw Peacock into the fire and see if he’s able to handle big league hitters in the late summer while continuing his dominance.
Kyle Gibson, SP, Minnesota Twins, 23 years old
If asked to pick a club that’s having the most disappointing 2011 season, my choice would be easy, and it would be the Minnesota Twins. Sporting the worst record in Major League Baseball, not much has gone right for the Twins this year, as they’ve seen Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan struggle to bounce back to their former All-Star forms, watched Francisco Liriano pitch inconsistently and lost key contributors such as Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Delmon Young and most notably Joe Mauer, among others, to the disabled list for varying periods of time. Those Twins fans scrambling to find a silver lining to such a dismal season will have a hard time finding one that is palatable, but perhaps such a poor season will lead to them taking an extended look at 2009 first-round selection Kyle Gibson.
In his first season of professional baseball last year, Gibson flew through the system, starting in Hi-A and finishing in Triple-A. Invited to spring training, Gibson threw well and drew rave reviews from manager Ron Gardenhire, who expected him to make his major league debut sometime this season. Gibson hasn’t disappointed in his second professional season, and his ETA in Minnesota remains sometime this season. Pitching in a favorable home ballpark and backed with glowing scouting reports and solid high minor league performance, Gibson is a player who could warrant ownership in all but the shallowest of formats upon his arrival.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals, 22 years old
The prospect that was the apple of the eye of many fantasy baseball gamers coming into the year was Mike Moustakas. The power packed hot corner prospect launched 36 home runs split between Double-A and Triple-A last year, prompting many to predict an American League Rookie of the Year type performance this year. Unfortunately for those that drafted him, Moustakas started the year cold in Omaha and watched teammate Eric Hosmer beat him to the majors. Still not posting eye popping numbers, he has settled in nicely and should see time in the majors sometime this year.
Even though he hasn’t lit the Pacific Coast League on fire, he has made promising strides in his walk rate, walking at a career best rate. Perhaps his improved walk rate can be attributed to him making a conscious effort to look for pitches he can better drive and spitting on those he can’t. If that’s the case, the extended time in the minors and modest start could prove to be blessings in disguise and lead to better initial results at the major league level. His power isn’t going anywhere in the immediate future, so anything that can further tap into it should be looked upon as a positive. Those owners, at least in re-draft leagues, are unlikely to take any solace in that, but consider him yet another cautionary tale of the risks of drafting a prospect. He remains an elite prospect, and has a chance to be useful to owners in all size leagues should he start clicking on all cylinders.
Josh is a graduate of SUNY Cortland's Sport Management program, and an aspiring fantasy writer. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad. You can also follow his work at The Hardball Times and follow him on Twitter (BChad50).
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