StrategyMay 8, 2012

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Future Rookies: Week 4

By Josh Shepardson

Fans of Double-A baseball have been treated to some scintillating play at the dish and on the bump. This week’s Future Rookies is reflective of that fact, as only two featured upper minors players have received the bulk of their time in Triple-A. One of those Triple-A players was summoned from the minors to replace an injured outfielder in the Bay Area. Stats for this week’s article are current as of Sunday night.

Michael Taylor, OF, Oakland A’s, 26 years old


An inner ear infection has sent Coco Crisp to the disabled list, opening the door for Taylor to get regular playing time in the majors. He has earned the look, punishing Pacific Coast League pitching. Taylor offers some pop and speed, and his control of the strike zone should help him hit for a decent average. He doesn’t project to be a statistical monster in any one category, but he has a chance to help a bit across the board.

Yasmani Grandal, C, San Diego Padres, 23 years old


Grandal got off to a hot start before going on the seven day disabled list with a hamstring injury. He has since returned, and picked up where he left off. The Padres have struggled to get production at the plate from their catchers thus far this year, with Nick Hundley hitting .188/.260/.318 in 96 plate appearances and John Baker hitting .091/.200/.136 in 25 plate appearances. The key for Grandal receiving a promotion this summer will be improving his defense. He came into the season with mixed reviews on his defense, and having read a recent Prospects That Will Break Your Heart piece by Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus, it doesn’t sound like that has changed.

Trevor May, SP, Philadelphia Phillies, 22 years old


May’s biggest problem in his minor league career has been his control. He took a step forward last year by posting a 4.05 BB/9, the best mark of his career. This season he has kicked it up a notch shaving almost a full walk off of that rate with a 3.09 BB/9 in 2012. He’s still striking out better than a batter per inning, and is one of the better upper minors pitching prospects. The Phillies rotation has been outstanding, so the most likely scenario in which May sees time in the majors is a September promotion when rosters expand. Both Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton are free agents at season’s end, so the door should be open for May making the team’s rotation next year if he continues to perform at a high level.

Nick Franklin, SS, Seattle Mariners, 21 years old


Franklin had a difficult year in 2011, missing time with a concussion, food poisoning and mononucleosis. He played passably in the Arizona Fall League, but is playing even better than that this spring. He’s not displaying the same power he did while playing in the California League in 2010, but he’s demonstrating enough pop for a middle infielder, with a .140 isolated slugging (ISO). He’s striking out much less often this year, and that should help him in hitting for average. He now has over 200 very good plate appearances at the Double-A level. Unfortunately, the Mariners Triple-A affiliate has a prospect of their own, Carlos Triunfel, playing everyday at shortstop. It’s likely the organization will want both playing every day, so Franklin may have to bide his time a bit longer at the Double-A level than he would if he had organizational filler in his way at Triple-A.

Evan Gattis, C/OF, Atlanta Braves, 25 years old


Gattis is a unique prospect. He’s older than your typical prospect with so few at-bats at the Double-A level, and that is because he took four years off from baseball after committing to Texas A&M but opting not to go to school there. He eventually played his college baseball at D-II Texas-Permian Basin, and was selected in the 23rd round of the 2010 amateur draft. He clobbered the ball in Low-A last season, and made quick work of High-A this year. Now in Double-A, Gattis has played catcher and also seen time in left field. When Christian Bethancourt returns from the seven day disabled list, it’s hard to envision the organization sitting him in favor of Gattis behind the dish. Bethancourt is the far superior defensive catching prospect. Gattis’s bat has been plenty good enough to play elsewhere on the diamond, though, and a move from behind the dish could speed up his ascent to the majors. His strikeout rate is exceptionally low for someone that is slugging the ball at as prolific a rate as Gattis is. Most outlets suggested if Gattis moved from behind the plate that it would be to first base, so it remains to be seen how he takes to the outfield. If he doesn’t embarrass himself in the field, he could remain on the development fast track.

Taijuan Walker, SP, Seattle Mariners, 19 years old


When factoring in age, minor league level, and the length of Walker’s starts, he has been the most impressive pitching prospect in the minors this year. His ceiling rivals that of any other pitching prospect in the game. He has serious bat missing stuff, and hasn’t had any problems with control while accepting the challenge of skipping High-A for Double-A. Walker just might be the most desirable pitching prospect to own in dynasty leagues.

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


A second go round in Double-A is going much better than the first for Myers. He’s hitting for lots of power, but he isn’t drawing walks at as high a rate as he previously has, and his strikeout rate is up. That said, the results are superb, and if he is able to rediscover the patience that he has displayed in the past, he’ll be a middle of the order force that hits for average and power.

Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals, 19 years old


Walker isn’t the only teenager that has taken to the challenge of bypassing High-A. Taveras is on fire in 2012, and is laying waste to Texas League pitching. After walking just once in his first 81 at-bats, he has walked seven times in his last 33 at-bats. In that same time span, he has struck out only two times. Of his 37 hits, 20 have gone for extra bases. Taveras projects to hit for a high average annually, how many home runs he’ll hit is a bigger question. His early power showing is encouraging. Taveras will be shooting up prospect lists.

Jake Odorizzi, SP, Kansas City Royals, 22 years old


Like teammate Myers, Odorizzi is finding more success in his second chance playing in the Texas League. He is sporting better than a four-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio, and he’s proving tough to hit with a .184 batting average against. He’s continuing to get the bulk of his outs on balls in play through the air, so home runs could be a problem. So far, the formula has worked. It will be put to the test when he eventually pitches in the Pacific Coast League.

A.J. Griffin, SP, Oakland A’s, 24 years old


Griffin doesn’t project to be more than a middle-to-back of the rotation starter, but his hot start suggests he may not be far from reaching his ceiling. Pitching his home games in Oakland will have its benefits as well. He’s not a prospect worth stashing in most leagues, but the rebuilding A’s may have another rotation option that isn’t far from being big league ready.

Justin Grimm, SP, Texas Rangers, 23 years old


Grimm split last season between Low-A and High-A, and pitched well at both stops. He’s pitching even better this year while moving up to Double-A. His best pitches are his fastball, which sits in the low-to-mid-90s, and a curveball. His change-up lags behind those two pitches, and the development of it will determine whether he remains a starter or is shifted to a late inning bullpen role. The Rangers have a bunch of intriguing pitching prospects, and Grimm is amongst them.

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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