StrategyJuly 3, 2012

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Future Rookies: Week 12

By Josh Shepardson

A hot prospect arm in the Reds system gets the nod this week. Also featured are a couple of shortstops that produced in the month of June. They’re joined by a handful of familiar faces.

Tony Cingrani, SP, Cincinnati Reds, 22 years old (23 on Thursday)


Cingrani’s silly minor league numbers have earned their share of buzz, and rightfully so. He was the Reds third round selection in the 2011 amateur draft out of Rice. He was a dominant college closer, but the Reds drafted him with the intent of developing him as a starting pitcher. He began his pro career in the Rookie Level Pioneer League last year and posted silly numbers, striking out 80 batters in 51.1 innings and walking just six batters. The organization opened him at High-A, where he once again struck out better than a batter an inning while issuing few walks. After proving too dominant for the High-A level, the team promoted him to Double-A. He pitched well in three of his first four starts at the Double-A level, but really drew attention for his last start in the month of June. Last Wednesday, he pitched eight innings of scoreless baseball in which he allowed three hits, one walk, and struck out 15 batters. That’s complete dominance.

Cingrani throws three pitches: a fastball, change-up and slider. The southpaw’s fastball sits in the 90-94 MPH range, and Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus called it a plus pitch. Goldstein also called his change-up a plus pitch in his article, Future Shock Blog: Minor League Update: Games of June 27. His slider is considered a fringy pitch, and lags behind his fastball and change-up. He has a significant flyball slant in his batted ball profile, something that could result in some homer issues at Great American Ballpark, but his low walk rate and high strikeout rate should help mitigate the damage.

Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates, 23 years old


The Pirates once again find themselves in the National League Central division race, and they hope not to fade away like last season. If they hope to avoid face-planting again, it may be time to promote Marte and bench, or demote, Jose Tabata. Marte had a big June, hitting .325/.385/.558 with six doubles, five triples and five home runs. The calendar changing to July on Sunday did nothing to slow his bat down, as he opened the month with a 2-for-4 game in which he clubbed a home run. He hasn’t been an efficient base stealer this year, but he has the speed to make an impact on the basepaths as well. Owners in large mixed leagues starting five outfielders, or those in NL-only leagues, may wish to stash Marte now in anticipation of a post All-Star break promotion.

Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets, 23 years old


Harvey has missed bats all year, ranking second in the International League in strikeouts. However, walks have been a problem, and he has the eighth most walks in the International League. He has been much sharper throwing strikes of late. In his last four starts he has totaled 25 innings, striking out 32 and walking just seven batters. He has walked no more than two batters in any of those starts, throwing at least five innings in each. There are no immediate openings in the Mets rotation, but Chris Young has been anything but a model of good health in his career. If the season ended today, the Mets would hold the second Wild Card. They’re very much in the playoff hunt, and if the team believes Harvey can help them in their postseason push, he could be a promotion candidate in the second half of the season.

Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals, 21 years old


The first day of July was like many for Myers, a productive one. He smacked his first home run of the month, and 27th of the season, on Sunday. In the month of June, Myers received 128 plate appearances, demonstrated outstanding plate discipline by walking 17 times, and showcased top-flight pop by drilling nine home runs. His slash in June was a scintillating .300/.398/.618. This season has been a huge bounce back from last year’s disappointing campaign, and it should be punctuated with a promotion to the majors sometime before the season concludes.

Jedd Gyorko, 2B/3B, San Diego Padres, 23 years old


After a ho-hum start to the year with Double-A San Antonio, his bat took off with a promotion to Triple-A Tuscon. Gyorko has split his time almost 50/50 between second base and third base according to Baseball Reference. After hitting .368/.424/.605 in June, and an even hotter .488/.553/.780 in his last 10 games, it appears he has little left to prove with the bat in the minors. The Padres aren’t sniffing the playoffs, and they may be best served leaving him in the minors so that they can attempt to create trade value with the players they have on the big league roster. Eventually, though, he’ll get a chance to take on big league pitching this year so long as he remains healthy and continues to play well.

Tyler Skaggs, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks, 20 years old


Last week I wrote about a southpaw, Danny Hultzen, getting a promotion from the Double-A Southern League to the Triple-A Pacific League. This week I write about another in Skaggs. Unfortunately for Skaggs, that’s not where the similarity ends. Like Hultzen, Skaggs had a disappointing debut. It wasn’t as disappointing at Hultzen’s was, but he proved to be very hittable by allowing 12 hits in seven innings. One start is far, far too few to declare Skaggs a hittable pitcher, but Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus mentioned that Skaggs may throw too many strikes in his excellent piece, Prospects Will Break Your Heart: What Could Go Wrong in 2012: Arizona Diamondbacks. To be more specific, Parks said that Skaggs could use work on throwing pitches out of the strike zone, and thus, stretching the batter’s zone. His future remains bright, but he may not be quite as close to the bigs as many seem to believe he is.

Manny Machado, SS, Baltimore Orioles, 19 years old (20 years old on Friday)


Machado had his best month of the year in June, and could be preparing to go on a tear. In 113 plate appearances in June, he hit .286/.336/.467 with seven doubles and four home runs. He also added four stolen bases and reduced his strikeout rate substantially, striking out just 12 times. In his last 10 games, Machado has more walks, five, than strikeouts, three, and has scorched the ball at a .314/.400/.571 clip. Machado is one of the best prospects in the game, and as a shortstop with a high offensive ceiling, is one of the most desirable fantasy baseball prospects to own in dynasty and keeper leagues.

Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa Bay Rays, 21 years old


An awful April and May threatened to make this a lost year for Lee, but he heated up in the month of June, hitting .330/.387/.450 with 14 stolen bases in 14 chances in 120 plate appearances. Lee is considered a plus defensive shortstop prospect, but his most ardent supporters believe his bat will develop into one that is good enough to profile in the leadoff or second spot in the order. He has a solid 8.2 percent walk rate this year, and has the speed to wreak havoc on the bases. He has Tim Beckham, who served a 50 game suspension earlier in the season for failing a drug test for a drug of abuse earlier in the season, ahead of him in the minor league pipeline. Beckham struggled prior to the suspension but has hit the ball hard in his return to the diamond. Given Lee’s early season struggles, further seasoning in Double-A seems like a good idea. That said, even if he demonstrates that his big June was the start of sustainable gains, the presence of another prospect at the same position and a level ahead of him in the minors makes his promotion time table murky and not entirely in his control.

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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