StrategyMay 15, 2012

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Future Rookies: Week 5

By Josh Shepardson

The Orioles brought up an outfielder on Sunday to help fill an injury created void in left field. Meanwhile, Royals fans who are suffering through a tough season can take solace in knowing they have another exciting young hitter down on the farm. On the flip side, Rangers fans who are enjoying the work their club is doing on the diamond should be delighted to know they have some exciting prospects marinating at Double-A Frisco.

Xavier Avery, OF, Baltimore Orioles, 22 years old


With both Nolan Reimold and Endy Chavez on the disabled list, the Orioles dipped into the minors to summon Avery from Triple-A Norfolk. He’s always been considered a good athlete but has had trouble turning his tools into skills. He was rated as the ninth best prospect in the Orioles organization in the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, and he was ranked 14th in the organization by Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus.

Coming into the season, his minor league line in over 1,700 at-bats was a paltry .265/.324/.355 with only 13 home runs. He did steal bases, though, swiping 117. He made big strides in 127 plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League this past offseason, hitting .288/.378/.414 with nine steals in 10 chances. It appears his gains carried over to the regular season, as he continued to hit the ball well in Triple-A and continued his base running efficiency, stealing eight bases in eight attempts. He failed to record a hit in his first game, but in his second game (which isn’t included in the stat line above), he went two-for-five with a double and triple. He has been slotted atop the Orioles lineup in both games, and his profile fits well in the leadoff spot. It’s unclear when Reimold will return to the Orioles, making Avery a decent speed gamble in large mixed leagues and AL-only formats.

Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves, 21 years old


Teheran really enjoys pitching in the International League. For the second year in a row he is sporting a juicy ERA and WHIP. He remains very young for his level, and the biggest key to his development continues to be the development of a dependable breaking ball. The results are encouraging, but reading that he’s finding some consistency with a breaking pitch is the most important thing to look for at this point.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs, 22 years old


Rizzo is, in some ways, the hitting counterpart to Teheran. Like Teheran, Rizzo face-planted in his major league debut. Also like him, he is putting up gaudy numbers in a league that he dominated in 2011. Finally, reading about improvements that go beyond the numbers is the most important thing for Rizzo. In his case, reading reports about an improved approach will be far more telling than watching him continue to pile up numbers in the Pacific Coast League. In that regard, news on Rizzo is excellent. Matt Eddy of Baseball America mentioned in a prospect chat earlier in the season that Rizzo has a new swing path that has eliminated a hole in his swing that major league pitchers exploited last season. Goldstein has also mentioned both on Twitter and in his writing at Baseball Prospectus that Rizzo is showcasing a better approach and ditching the pull-everything-and-sell-out-for-power one that he adopted last year.

Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals, 23 years old


Another year, another minor league level that Adams is proving capable of handling. Hard to believe the Cardinals were able to nab him in the 23rd round of the 2009 amateur draft. He has never hit below .300 at any minor league stop, a fact that is quite remarkable for a player with the power Adams possesses. The bar is set high for prospects that play first base. One has to hit, and hit, and hit some more to be considered a prospect in reality, and in fantasy. So far, so good, for Adams. There aren’t any immediate openings for Adams to play in the majors, but a September call-up after rosters expand is possible, and he looks to be the Cardinals first baseman of the future.

Manny Machado, SS, Baltimore Orioles, 19 years old


The numbers don’t jump off the page, but considering he’s 19 years old and playing in Double-A, they are pretty darn impressive. He has dialed back his strikeouts a bit in his last 10 games. In those 10 games he has seven strikeouts in 39 plate appearances (17.9 percent) compared to 21 strikeouts in his first 104 plate appearances (20.2 percent). In addition to his two home runs, he has ripped 11 doubles and one triple, helping him post a solid .156 isolated power (ISO). Machado remains a prospect that is worth being excited about.

Matt Davidson, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks, 21 years old


Davidson is doing everything you want to see a developing hitter do. He has improved his plate discipline rates while moving up a level and retaining his power. He leads the Southern League in OPS, and he has been at his best in his last 10 games, crushing four home runs and hitting .314/.415/.743 in 35 at-bats. He has multiple hits in half of those games and has drawn a walk in six of the last 10 games. Last season’s surprise breakout player for the Diamondbacks, Ryan Roberts, is struggling mightily this year. He has ceded starts to Cody Ransom of late, and given Ransom’s lackluster history in the bigs, it’s likely he’ll cool off from his hot streak. What all this means is that it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Snakes will turn to Davidson to provide a mid-to-late summer spark in 2012, a la Paul Goldschmidt’s promotion in 2011.

Nick Franklin, SS, Seattle Mariners, 21 years old


Nick Franklin is continuing to further distance himself from a difficult injury plagued 2011. He has had little trouble with Double-A, even dating back to last season. He is hitting .357/.424/.500 in his last 10 games with more walks, four, than strikeouts, three. He may be putting himself in line for a promotion to Triple-A Tacoma in short order.

Trevor Bauer, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks, 21 years old


Bauer’s strikeout total is staggering, but so is his walk total. That said, the minors is the place to experiment and figure out what works and what doesn’t, and perhaps that is what Bauer is doing. In spite of his walks, Bauer has been able to keep opponents off the scoreboard. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last two starts, each of which spanned seven innings. His last start was one of his best in the minors. He pitched seven strong innings allowing just one unearned run with one walk and nine strikeouts. If he continues to pitch efficiently, which includes limiting his walks, he should see a summer promotion.

Ethan Martin, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers, 22 years old


The Dodgers spent the 15th overall pick on Martin in the 2008 amateur draft, and he has yet to live up to his lofty draft status. A lack of control, and with it high walk rates, has historically hurt Martin. Repeating Double-A this year, he is pitching the best he has in his career. If just looking at his walk total in relation to innings pitched above, it would appear his control is still worrisome. However, 15 of his 22 walks came in his first three starts over 14.2 innings. Since those starts, he has made four more, walking no more than two batters in any start. In all, he has seven walks in his last 27 innings, good for a 2.33 BB/9. His strikeout haven’t suffered as a result either, as he has 29 strikeouts in his last four turns. He has an electric arm that helps him pump out mid-90s fastballs, and he has a variety of secondary offerings that have flashed averaged to slightly better. If the light bulb has gone on, Martin could see his prospect stock sore.

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


Myers is on an absolute tear. Not included in his stat line above is a two-for-five, two-home run effort that he put forth on Monday night, bringing his season home run total to 13. Reports have been positive in regards to Myers switch from right field to center field, which I noted here. There is a new and interesting development with Myers. He started Sunday’s game at third base, before moving back to center field later in the game. He did the same on Monday. It is a curious move, being that the Royals already have Mike Moustakas manning third base and putting together a fantastic season in the bigs. Regardless, it is a move worth monitoring.

Mike Olt, 3B, Texas Rangers, 23 years old


Olt is epitomizing what it means to be a three-true-outcomes player, having homered, walked or struck out in 66 of 148 plate appearances (44.6 percent) going into Monday. The strikeouts are a bit alarming and make sustaining an average like the one he sports now unlikely as he moves closer to the majors. His ability to reach base by walk will help offset a low average, and his power will be a plus as well. Blocked by Adrian Beltre, it is possible the Rangers will use him as a trade chip should they feel the need to add to their already loaded roster.

Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers, 19 years old


Speaking of loaded rosters, Olt’s teammate at Double-A Frisco, Profar, is putting on quite the show. With a hit Monday, Profar extended his hitting streak to 24 games. He’s showing power, patience and speed at a position, shortstop, not noted for offense. His .217 ISO after Monday’s game is fueled by his four home runs, 11 doubles, and four triples. On the bases, he has yet to be caught stealing. This is what a blue chip prospect looks like.

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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