When shopping pitcher Jeff Samardzija earlier this season, the Chicago Cubs hoped to fill organizational holes with quality young players. It didn’t take the Cubs long to find a trade partner, trading Samardzija and pitcher Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics for a prospect package centered around 20-year-old shortstop Addison Russell.
Chicago Cubs pitching prospect CJ Edwards is an unlikely prospect. Selected in the 48th round by the Texas Rangers in the 2011 draft, the Mid-Carolina High School (SC) product was a long shot to reach Double-A. Instead, Edwards became the centerpiece of a prospect package which landed the Rangers Matt Garza. His slender build (6-foot-2, 155 Ibs.) screams reliever unable to withstand the rigors of starting pitching. Yet, Edwards is a consensus top-100 prospect and the Cubs top pitching prospect. Can CJ Edwards overcome an injury plagued 2014 and reach Chicago in 2015?
New York Mets prospect Champ Stuart isn’t the typical South Atlantic League prospect covered at ROTOscouting. Drafted in the 6th round (2013) out of tiny Brevard College in North Carolina, the Bahamian born Stuart’s advanced age (21) and slash line (.256/.341/.340) isn’t special. In the South Atlantic League, rosters are full of similar players from a statistical standpoint. However, dismissing the outfielder would be a scouting mistake. Stuart’s physical tools scream future Major League center fielder. Can Champ Stuart break out and develop into a viable center field candidate for the Mets?
Buying into sudden prospect hype is dangerous. Case in point, JR Graham. Two seasons ago, Graham was the talk of the Atlanta Braves farm system. Taken in the 4th round of 2011 draft, the former Santa Clara Bronco enjoyed a 12-2 record with a 1.061 WHIP between High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi. A top-100 prospect., he battled Julio Teheran for the top spot in the Braves farm system. Expected to wreak havoc in the National League East, a shoulder injury in May 2013 changed everything.
The Minnesota Twins have struggled finding a permanent solution at shortstop. Since trading J.J. Hardy to the Orioles during the 2011 off-season, Minnesota has started twelve different players at the position. With no long-term options in the pipeline, the team drafted their franchise shortstop in 2014. Using the 5th pick in the first round, the Twins selected Nick Gordon out of Olympia High School in Orlando Florida.
It’s been years since the St. Louis Cardinals developed a quality Major League shortstop. While guys like Brendan Ryan and Pete Kozma have been one dimensional players at short, their offensive skills forced the Cardinals to sign Jhonny Peralta to provide value on both sides of the ball. Having last drafted a shortstop in the first round in 2007, the Redbirds a gaping organizational hole to fill. Enter Oscar Mercado. St. Louis hopes Mercado is their shortstop of the future.
In April, the New York Mets solved their first base log jam by trading Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor-league reliever Zack Thornton and a player to be named later reported to be a significant 2013 Pirates draftee. On June 15th, Pittsburgh sent former second round pick Blake Taylor to New York to complete the deal. Assigned to the team’s complex in Port St Lucie, Taylor debuted with the GCL Mets. After three appearances, the 19-year-old was promoted to the Mets’ Appalachian League affiliate in Kingsport, Tennessee.
Triple digit velocity is rare. In six seasons at the ballpark, only one pitcher has hit triple digits. Not a household name, former Dodgers and Braves farmhand Luis Vasquez’s top fastballstouched 100 mph several times as a member of the Chattanooga Lookouts in 2012. An elite, 80 grade fastball is clocked at 97 MPH or higher. And while the Aroldis Chapman’s of the world make velocity look easy, few pitchers are able to push triple digits with top fastballs.
Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Luis Heredia has hit a development wall. After a stellar 2012 season, Heredia ranked as a top-100 prospect. Then, the youngster disappeared. Expected to debut in full season West Virginia at the start of 2013, the youngster was held back for fitness reasons in extended Spring Training. Debuting in June, Heredia struggled with control and doubled his walk rate, earning a return trip to the South Atlantic League. With the right-hander’s value at an all-time low, is a rebound possible?
First round picks don’t usually fly below the prospect radar, but Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jesse Winker has. No reputable website listed the Reds’ top hitting prospect as a top-100 prospect entering 2014. As a 19-year-old in 2013, he had a solid season (.281/.379/.463 63 BB to 75 SO) in the neutral Midwest League. When weighing age-versus-level, overall production and first round pedigree, the breakout performer deserved more accolades.
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