The short-season minor leagues have gotten started or are about to do so, so here are some to look out for… below the jump.
The Top Prospects:
Although many of the top prospects in baseball at the beginning of the season have now made their debut in the bigs, there are still plenty who have yet to make it to the show and you should keep an eye on.
Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals organization: Number three on MLB.com’s and Baseball America’s list of top prospects and the highest who has yet to get MLB experience, he’s an outfielder who is currently in AAA Memphis who was hitting a respectable .306 before he possibly aggravated a knee injury yesterday.
Taijuan Walker of the Mariners organization: Recently promoted to AAA, the righty starter was 4-7 so far this season in AA, but that’s misleading, given his low 2.46 ERA and .195 opponents BA.
Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox organization: A member of this year’s Dutch WBC team, the Aruban shortstop hit .311 in AA but has struggled in his initial exposure at AAA, although it should be noted he has not been there very long and there is beyond plenty of time for him to make the adjustments.
Billy Hamilton of the Reds organization: I’ve covered Hamilton before, and, well, he’s still fast, having already stolen 47 bases in AAA as of this writing. His hitting, however, has suffered, as he is only hitting .243 and has a OBP of only .299 this season. That said, it’s possible that he could still make an MLB debut this year as a “designated runner” or a similar bench position come September.
Miguel Sano of the Twins organization: The subject of the excellent documentary Ballplayer Pelotero, Sano is now in AA New Britain after tearing the cover off the ball in A-ball for a .330 BA and an OPS of over a thousand. How high could he climb this year is anybody’s guess.
The New Guys:
These guys have just been drafted and will mainly be starting in the low minors. Normally I’d say to not expect to see them anytime soon, but these days it seems like certain prospects are rocketing up and are in the big leagues within a year or two, although they still are just exceptions to the rule. I will only be covering guys who have already signed with their clubs so far, simply because they are more likely to be active in the Minors this season.
Mark Appel of the Astros organization: The top pick of this year’s draft, the flame-throwing righty will probably make his first professional appearance sometime in July.
Jonathan Gray of the Rockies organization: Another hard-throwing righty, the third overall pick has signed and will start in the rookie league-level club in Grand Junction.
Kohl Stewart of the Twins organization: Another right-handed pitcher, the 18-year-old has signed and will start in the Gulf Coast League.
Clint Frazier of the Indians organization: An 18-year-old outfielder, Frazier will start in the Arizona Rookie League.
Trey Ball of the Red Sox organization: The top lefty pitcher out of this year’s draft will start with Boston’s GCL team.
There are, as always, lots of names in the Minor Leagues that may ring a bell, even if you don’t necessarily know the player. And while having a relation to a former athlete is definitely not a guarantee of future success, at the very least it is neat… and it can’t hurt to have some good genes, right?
Delino DeShields Jr. of the Astros organization: Son of Delino DeShields (obviously), DeShields is a fast 2B, having stolen 101 bases last season between A and High-A. While he hasn’t replicated that on the basepaths this season so far (having “only” stolen 18 in his 55 games as of this writing), he is hitting a respectable .292 in High-A Lancaster and is just one of many good prospects in the Astros system.
Corey Seager of the Dodgers organization: Younger brother of Seattle 3B Kyle Seager, Corey is a SS in the A-ball Midwest League, currently hitting .301 with a .892 OPS. He’s only 19 and probably has years to go, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he one day is the second Seager brother in the big leagues.
Dante Bichette Jr. of the Yankees organization: Son of the Rockies (amongst others) slugger and a former player in the Little League World Series, Bichette hasn’t hit very well above rookie ball, including a dreadful .202 batting average so far this season in Charleston. Still, he’s only twenty, so who knows how he could turn out?
Kyle Gaedele of the Padres organization: Great Grand-nephew of Eddie Gaedel (the different spelling apparently has to do with Eddie’s changing of his name for simplicity), Kyle Gaedele is 6’3” and an outfielder who isn’t doing so well at the plate in the low minors of the Padres organization.
Trevor Gretzky of the Cubs organization: Son of “The Great One” himself, Gretzky grew up mainly in Southern California and never really got into playing the sport that made his family’s name famous, instead focusing on baseball and football (in fact, he was apparently a big-time quarterback prospect before an injury). He hit .304 last season in the Arizona League and has just started his second professional season in low-A Boise.
It wouldn’t be the Baseball Continuum without semi-gratuitous inclusions of international baseball. So, here are some minor leaguers from not-so-usual baseball places:
Rinku Singh of the Pirates organization: The unusual baseball story by which all unusual baseball stories should be judged, Rinku Singh was discovered when he won a reality show in his native India looking for somebody, anybody, who could throw a baseball with good speed and accuracy. In fact, his story (and the story of the runner-up Dinesh Patel, who has since been released) is currently in production for a movie. He had a 3.00 ERA as a reliever last season but hasn’t pitched yet this year due to an injury, although he will return soon in High-A Bradenton.
Dovydas Nverauskas of the Pirates organization: He’s a pitcher in low-A Jamestown… who is from Lithuania.
Max Kepler of the Twins organization: Probably the biggest legitimate process in this short section of the post, I’ve discussed Kepler before. But, in short, it’s like this: the son of professional ballet dancers (his mother America, his father Polish) who met and work in Germany, Kepler is one of the biggest European prospects in baseball and is now in his first year of short-season A-ball (he previously had been in rookie level).
And finally and totally unrelated to anything so far:
Rock Shoulders of the Cubs organization: That is an awesome name. That is all you need to know.