Austin Wilson is a physical specimen with enough tools to make evaluators swoon. At 6-foot-4, 249 pounds the outfielder has long limbs and abounding natural strength. It’s easy to dream on the Seattle Mariners outfield prospect as a future middle-of-the-lineup power source. And while he has a chance to blossom into a productive offensive player, he’s less advanced than other high-profile college hitters. He’s flashed his talents for the Low-A Clinton Lumberkings, but hasn’t found consistency.
As a 5-foot-10, 168-pound starting pitcher who lacks big-time raw stuff, Ronald Herrera may not have the upward projection of some of his Low-A peers. But the Beloit Snappers’ righthander is the youngest pitcher in the circuit and is outpitching several older, more heralded prospects through eight starts.
Since his prep days in New Jersey, St. Louis Cardinals left-handed pitching prospect Rob Kaminsky has generated helium behind one of the best high-school curveballs in the country. It’s still his meal-ticket, but Single-A baseball is about learning to command the fastball and trust the change-up. Kaminsky is focused on adding these weapons to his arsenal. Pitching last Saturday for the Peoria Chiefs, the 2013 1st-round draft selection threw the fastball or change-up 70-percent of the time in a developmental start. His curveball is the path to stardom, but it won’t take him far on its own.
Chicago Cubs righthander Jen-Ho Tseng was among the most intriguing pitchers listed in my Midwest League top prospects preview. Through five starts in 2014, the $1,625,000 bonus baby is proving he belongs. In last week’s start for the Low-A Kane County Cougars, Tseng showed well and demonstrated the makings of a solid three-pitch mix. He went six innings, allowing eight hits, two earned runs, no walks and six strikeouts against the Burlington Bees (Angels).
Edwin Diaz opened the fourth inning with four straight fastballs to Cedar Rapids’ third baseman Joel Licon. With a 2-2 count, the Clinton Lumberkings starting pitcher stepped off the mound momentarily. Returning, he shook off catcher Marcus Littlewood three times and began his delivery with conviction, getting Licon swinging on an 85-mph slider. When Tanner Vavra dug in next, Diaz shook off Littlewood again on four consecutive pitches, all sliders. Vavra also struck out swinging on an 85-mph slider, Diaz’ 82nd and final pitch of the afternoon.
While charting pitches during Braden Shipley’s 2014 debut last week, a few off-day South Bend pitchers discussed what Shipley worked on in extended spring training. One facetiously quipped, “Obviously not his curveball,” indicating that Shipley’s third-best pitch has made notable improvements since last season. This is an important development and very good news for the Diamondbacks’ 2013 first-rounder.
Fantasy owners don’t line up to acquire utility infielders. But in simulation leagues, like Tory Hernandez’ Reality Fantasy Baseball (RFB), versatility and depth are a must to survive 162 games. With Robinson Cano’s departure and Alex Rodriguez’ suspension, the New York Yankees chose to piecemeal their infield with Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and unknowns Yangervis Solarte and Dean Anna.
Alex Reyes enters 2014 with helium after an off-season top-100 ranking. Having only pitched in short season, the right-handed pitcher is still a mystery with the vast majority of prospect followers lacking first hand accounts. Reyes issued seven bases on balls and uncorked a lively fastball that swished high into the protective netting behind home plate in his full season debut at Fox Cities Stadium. Regardless, Reyes’ outing included flashes of brilliance.
The Midwest League is always a hotbed for MLB top prospects. In 2014, international signings are all the rage. Unlike more advanced leagues, it’s an opportunity to uncover the next big prospect to shoot up top-100 lists this winter. The fact so many of this year’s top “gets” are from outside the United States adds to the mystery even more. Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa led a banner group of prospects in 2013. Will any of this year’s crop reach such lofty heights?
Toronto’s farm system is rapidly improving. Teenage prospects are beginning to reach full season leagues and Lansing is THE destination for Blue Jays prospect hounds. A DJ Davis scouting report is a must this season, but third baseman Mitch Nay and infielder Franklin Barreto also excellent “gets”. Eight Blue Jays top prospects are expected to play for the Lugnuts this season, more if Barreto is promoted from Bluefield and Roberto Osuna returns from Tommy John surgery.
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