This week’s Future Rookies is hitter friendly, and packs a ton of punch. In addition to some familiar faces, a couple of under the radar prospects heading into the season have forced their way into the column with their stellar play.
Ryan Lavarnway, C, Boston Red Sox, 24 years old
While Jarrod Saltalamacchia swings a hot bat for the parent club, Lavarnway is down raking in the International League. Lavarnway has enjoyed the month of June thus far — in 26 at-bats he has put together a slash line of .385/.448/.771 and belted two home runs. He has hit an identical .286 against left-handed pitching and right-handed pitching, but has displayed more pop and patience against southpaws. Lavarnway continues to display his hitting prowess, but there is no clear path to immediate playing time short of a trade.
Jedd Gyorko, 2B/3B, San Diego, 23 years old
Gyorko played well enough in the Double-A Texas League to earn a promotion to Triple-A. Since joining the Pacific Coast League, he has gone nuts at the dish. He is making a ton of contact and doing so with authority, having racked up seven home runs and 16 extra base hits in all. He’s seeing playing time at third base and second base, and he’s likely not far from his first taste of the majors.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs, 22 years old
The countdown is on for the projected Super Two deadline to pass, at which time calls for a Rizzo promotion will be at a fever pitch. He’s laying waste to the Pacific Coast League, and with Monday night’s performance, he has hit two home runs in back-to-back games. With Alfonso Soriano playing well of late, expect the rumor mill to churn out possible trade destinations, with the thinking being that the Cubs will eat most of his contract to send him out of town. One way or the other, Rizzo should get another crack at major league pitching sometime this summer.
Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals, 21 years old
There isn’t much for me to say about Myers that I haven’t previously said. He continues to muscle up and launch balls into the stands. He did, however, add a nice feather to his cap by belting a grand slam off a rehabbing Roy Oswalt on June 7. He is best suited for a corner outfield spot, but with no clear opening in Kansas City, they may attempt to fit a square peg into a round hole by playing him in center field (a position he has seen time at frequently in the minors this year).
Ryan Wheeler, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks, 23 years old
Wheeler isn’t an elite prospect by any stretch, and he has Matt Davidson breathing down his neck at Double-A Mobile, but he is on a tear and hitting at yet another minor league stop. He hit .292/.356/.463 with 16 home runs in 531 plate appearances for Mobile last year, and has taken his game up a notch while moving up a level this year. In his last 10 games, he has accumulated 48 at-bats and hit a scintillating .479/.480/.667. A dreadful April weighs down Ryan Roberts’ season line, and it appears he has righted the ship for Arizona. That said, should he go into a prolonged slump once again, Wheeler may be the next man in line to get a shot at holding down the hot corner in the desert.
Trevor Bauer, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks, 21 years old
Speaking of Diamondbacks that may not be far from a big league debut, Bauer continues to make his case for a call-up. His control remains a work in progress, but he has walked just four batters in his last two starts, spanning 13 innings. He has struck out 18 in those two starts. Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers alluded to the fact Bauer is probably ready for the show, but that he’ll just have to wait for an opportunity to present itself.
Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets, 22 years old
The Giants may soon rue the day they dealt Wheeler for the half-season rental of Carlos Beltran. He is toying with Eastern League hitters, who are hitting a paltry .160 against him. Wheeler hasn’t given up more than two earned runs in any of his last 10 starts, and has allowed only two earned runs in his last three starts (22 innings). He should travel from southern New York and Double-A Binghamton to western New York and Triple-A Buffalo sometime this summer.
Danny Hultzen, SP, Seattle Mariners, 22 years old
The Mariners drafted Hultzen as a polished, high-floor college arm last June, and he has done everything the organization could have asked of him in the Double-A Southern League. His ceiling remains unchanged, and dynasty league owners need to keep that in mind before mortgaging the farm for his juicy minor league stats. Hultzen could see the majors before the end of the season.
Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals, 19 years old
Taveras will be 20 by next week’s Future Rookies column, but not before finishing being 19 years of age with a bang. He’s currently leading the Texas League in batting average, is second in OPS, and is fifth in home runs. Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus recently discussed Taveras on their Up and In Podcast, and Parks mentioned scouts throwing around future batting champion projections. That’s quite high praise, and Taveras’ play would seem to support it.
Daniel Straily, SP, Oakland A’s, 23 years old
Straily failed to crack the A’s top-30 prospects in the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook. He also failed to land on Goldstein’s top-20 prospect list for the organization. The lone notable prospect list I found him on was that of John Sickels, who ranked him 18th on the heels of a good showing in the hitter-friendly High-A California League. In Sickels’ book, The Baseball Prospect Book 2012 (a great read, I might add), he mentioned that Straily features a low-90s fastball, with some scouting reports having him hit the mid-90s, a curveball and a change-up. None of the pitches are described as knockout weapons, making his eye-popping, and league-leading, 99 strikeouts a bit perplexing. It’s possible there could be some deception going on here, but without further scouting reports available, I’m simply not sure. Regardless, Straily’s success no longer is reserved for the low minors, as he’s pitching outstanding this year.
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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