This Tuesday (June 18th) will mark the debut(s) of two of Major league Baseball’s top 100 prospects: Wil Myers (#4) of the Tampa Bay Rays, and Zack Wheeler (#7) of the New York Mets. Both prospects were drafted in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft; Wheeler 9th overall to the Giants, and Myers to the Royals in the 3rd round. Both players were obtained from the teams they were drafted by in exchange for big name players going the other way. Wheeler was traded by the Giants at the 2011 Trade Deadline to the Mets in exchange for Carlos Beltran. Wil Myers was dealt this past offseason in a blockbuster trade between the Royals and the Rays that saw the Royals receive James Shields and Wade Davis; the Rays also received Jake Odorizzi, and Mike Montgomery.
Trading prospects for immediate help is nothing new; it’s usually what playoff bound teams do in order to ensure the potential of a lengthy playoff run. On the flip side, some teams will mortgage the farm just in an attempt to even make it to the Playoffs. Wheeler for instance was traded at the deadline for a player (Beltran) that the Giants believed would help them immediately in their quest to win the AL West, and get back to the World Series. The Giants anemic offense needed a big push, especially after the loss of Buster Posey, and the Giants believed that Beltran would be that push. To his credit Beltran performed admirably in San Fran hitting .323/7/18 in 44 games for the Giants. Unfortunately for the Giants, they would never be able to overcome the immense lead the Diamondbacks had built atop the AL West; finishing 8 games back of the Division, and 2 back of the Cardinals for the Wild Card.
For the Royals, trading Wil Myers was less about a playoff push, as it was about returning to playoff relevancy. The Royals were perennial contenders from 1976-1985, a run that would see them lose three straight ALCS titles to the Yankees (1976-78). In 1980, they would make it all the way to the World Series, before losing to the Phillies in 6 games. 1985 would be the Royals year. They came back from a 3-1 deficit in the ALCS against the Blue Jays, setting up an all Missouri World Series against the Cardinals. The Royals would go down 3 games to 1 before storming back to win the Series in 7 games; Umpire John Denkinger may have lent a helping hand too. 1985 was the BEST year in Royals franchise history, and it was also the last time that those sexy Powder Blue jerseys made it to post season baseball. The current version of the Royals knew that their rosters weakness was their pitching rotation. Most of their young arms were either injured, or underperforming, and the pitchers they did have in the starting rotation were substitute teachers at best.
Some critics may point out that the Royals offense and lineup could have benefitted from Myers bat in it over veteran Jeff Francoeur. Others pointed out that the Royals could have gone the free agent route in their pitcher shopping, or traded for another arm or two; like they had done in acquiring Ervin Santana from the Angels. Either way, GM Dayton Moore knew what his team needed, he knew what resources his team had, and he made the deal hoping that Big Game James is the missing piece in helping return the Royals to their former glory. The Rays welcomed Myers with open arms as they were looking for someone to potentially replace BJ Upton on the depth chart.
The arrival of Wheeler and Myers is just the latest arrival of young, exciting players who are helping MLB enter a new “youth movement.”
In the past two seasons, baseball fans have had the absolute joy of watching some of the best young players in the game move up and begin their professional careers with their big league clubs. In 2010, we saw the arrivals of power pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Craig Kimbrel, as well as Miami mash artist (Mike) Giancarlo Stanton. In 2011, Mike Trout and Matt Moore would make their professional debuts, with Moore shining in a Game One ALDS showing against the Texas Rangers. Trout on the other hand would wait until 2012 to turn the baseball world upside down, with his AL Rookie of the Year, and near AL MVP performance. Trout would also share the 2012 spotlight with much heralded prospect Bryce Harper, as well as the Orioles Manny Machado, and the Most Interesting Man in the Baseball World; Yoenis Cespedes.
We are not even half way through the 2013 season and already we have seen an absolutely absurd amount of top prospects make their MLB debut. Along with these prospects, three players from the 2012 MLB Amateur draft have already made their debuts, and more are expected as teams begin to take aim at post season play. All the players listed below have appeared on MLB.com’s top 100 Prospect List, or are regarded as a top 5 prospect for their respected team. Apologies to the Sean Nolin’s and Robbie Erin’s of the prospect world.
Kevin Gausman • RHP • Baltimore Orioles: The 4th overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft became the first player from that draft to make their professional debut. Gausman benefitted from a college career and an injury to top prospect Dylan Bundy in order to make the jump to the big leagues. He made his debut against the Blue Jays, and impressed through 6 innings of work. He is currently still up with the O’s despite logging an 0-3 record to go along with a 7.66 ERA.
Allen Webster • RHP • Boston Red Sox: The power sinker pitcher was acquired by the Boston Red Sox along with Rubby De la Rosa, Jerry Sands, and James Loney from the Dodgers in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto. Webster was called up to make his debut on April 21st in the second game of a double header; he was optioned back to the minors after the game. Webster is currently in AAA with Pawtucket, but he should be back up to help solidify the Boston bullpen in no time.
Jackie Bradley Jr. • OF • Boston Red Sox: JBJ was drafted with the 40th overall pick in 2011 after an outstanding collegiate career for the Gamecocks; he won the 2010 College World Series Most Outstanding Player. JBJ tore up the minors hitting .315 with 67 RBI’s in 128 games and was named Boston’s Defensive Minor League Player of the Year. JBJ had such an impressive showing at spring training that Manager John Farrell named him the starting LF for Opening Day 2013. Although he did struggle in his first big league experience (3 for 31) before being optioned to AAA, do not expect that to be a deterrent for JBJ. This kid has the stuff to be a stud for the Red Sox.
Jake Odorizzi • RHP • Tampa Bay Rays: Odorizzi is a player who was traded twice for two different ace pitchers before he got to make his MLB debut. He was drafted 31st overall in 2008 by the Milwaukee Brewers, and was first traded to the Kansas City Royals in the package that landed the Zack Grienke for the Brewers. Almost two years to the date after his first trade, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays as a package in return for James Shields. Now Odorizzi did make two spot starts for the Royals at the end of the 2012 season, but he projects as a potential top end of the rotation pitcher. He is just the latest of high impact arms to join the Rays minor league systems along with Chris Archer, Taylor Guerreri, and Mike Montgomery.
Aaron Hicks • OF • Minnesota Twins: Twins fans have waited nearly 5 years for the speedy Hicks to grace CF at Target Field. Hicks was drafted in the 1st round back in 2008 out of high school, and was essentially road blocked by Denard Span and Ben Revere. Following the departures of both Span and Revere in the 2012 offseason, allowed for Hicks to become the prime candidate as the everyday CF for the Twins. Hicks was named the starter for the 2013 season following an above average spring training. Although Hicks has had his struggles adapting to the Major League game so far (.165/6/18) he does offer as a speedy, defensive OF for a number of years in the Twin Cities.
Mike Zunino • C • Seattle Mariners: You can’t fault Mariners fans for being more than a little weary when their team drafted Zunino, a catcher out of Florida, with the 3rd overall pick in 2012. Flash back seven years earlier (2005) where the Mariners opted to draft a “can’t miss” catching prospect named Jeff Clement with the 3rd overall pick. Like Zunino, Clement had been a stud catcher in college, and also like Zunino, he had also won the Johnny Bench award as best Collegiate Catcher in the country. Unfortunately for both Clement and Mariners fans, Clement would turn out to be a spectacular BUST, and as of writing this; is toiling in the minors with the Twins organization. Mike Zunino is already doing his best to make the Mariners forget about Clement. He became the 3rd member of the 2012 MLB Draft to make their debut. In his first game he would achieve his first MLB hit, as well as his first MLB home run.
Nick Franklin • SS • Seattle Mariners: One of the only bright spots about being an annual cellar dweller is the ability to draft and stockpile young, exciting talent in the minors. Most teams hope that a handful of their draft picks will be able to make an impact on their big league roster. The Mariners have more than a handful of those types of players and their graduation from the minors to the majors is already in full swing. Franklin made his MLB debut two weeks before the Mariners promoted Mike Zunino. Franklin looked to be on the fast track to the majors following being drafted in the 1st round in 2009; he put up a 20/20 season in his first year in the minors. Unfortunately he would struggle through injuries for the better part of a season, before regaining form in 2012. With the Mariners struggling offensively in 2013 they made the decision to promote Franklin, and haven’t been disappointed. In 19 games so far he is hitting .302/2/4.
Jurickson Profar • SS • Texas Rangers: The old saying “the rich get richer” never held more truth than it does in the case of the Texas Rangers. Having already been blessed with a lineup of all-stars and franchise players, the Rangers also have the luxury of having the #1 prospect in baseball in their minors. While most teams would already have Profar slotted as their everyday SS and leadoff hitter, the Rangers instead have him toiling in the minors; road blocked by Elvis Andrus, and Ian Kinsler. With Kinsler hitting the DL in early May, allowed for an opening for Profar on the MLB roster, and he did not disappoint. Profar has played 22 games for the Rangers at 2B/SS adding .277/2/7 to the Rangers scorecard. Ebven with Kinsler coming off of the DL, the Rangers have decided to keep him up with the big league club. Their current plan is to use him as a super utility infielder, and may even start shagging flyballs in the outfield. Another tantalizing rumour was the potential of a Profar for Oscar Taveras trade, a trade that would benefit both the Rangers and the Cardinals; as of now, it’s still just a rumour. Whether it’s in Arlington or another ball park, Profar is going to be an absolute stud player for years to come.
Jose Fernandez • RHP • Miami Marlins: It’s been nothing but dark days for Marlins fans since the last time their franchise made the playoffs in 2003. The Marlins franchise has only made it to the playoffs twice (1997, 2003) but both times they were successful in winning the World Series. In recent times the Marlins organization has been more known for their cost saving measures (fire sales) and alienating of both their players, and fan base alike. Jose Fernandez is hoping to curb that culture of losing and despair in South Beach. The Marlins shocked the baseball world when they announced that the 20 year old Fernandez would be the 5th man in their rotation. No one knew exactly what to expect from Fernandez. He has the makeup and tools to be an ace, but the Marlins are SO BAD that scouts/critics were concerned that his development may be hindered by being lit up in the Majors. Fernandez has quickly quieted all his critics. Armed with an upper 90’s fastball and a put away breaking ball known as “the defector,” Fernandez has been VERY impressive so far. Through 13 starts, Fernandez is 4-3 with a 3.11 ERA, and 77 strikeouts; including a career high 10 K’s against the Cardinals on June 14th.
http://wapc.mlb.com/play/?content_id=26856945&c_id=mlb&topic_id=vtp_must_c – Fernandez’s Defector –
Anthony Rendon • 3B • Washington Nationals: The Nationals have one of the best good/bad positions to be in. Their everyday 3B is Ryan Zimmerman, who happens to be one of, if not the best, third basemen in the game today. In the minors they have Anthony Rendon, who may be one of, if not the best, third base prospects currently in the game. Rendon was drafted 6th overall in 2011, and very well could have been a top 3 pick if not for injuries he suffered in his senior year at Rice. The Nationals drafted Rendon knowing that he would be road blocked by Zimmerman. However he was the best player available, and they knew that Zimmerman has some injury history of his own; they also thought they may be able to move him to 2B. Danny Espinosa’s 2012 campaign quickly put the 2B thoughts on the back burner, but Rendon still took his reps at 2B and bided his time. The plan worked, as Espinosa hit the DL within the first month, and Rendon being the one called up to take his spot. Rendon served admirably in place of Espinosa, but was optioned to the minors following his return. With Zimmerman hitting the DL this past week, Rendon once again has another shot to impress, and he is not looking back. In 17 games this year at 2B and 3B, Rendon is hitting .361/1/6; he hit his first career HR over the weekend. Rendon could force the Nats hand to keep him up especially with the lack of production from Espinosa, and Zimmerman saddled with injury, and fighting Steve Blass disease.
Tony Cingrani • RHP • Cincinnati Reds: Many baseball minds figured that the first impact prospect that the Reds called up in 2013 would be stolen base king Billy Hamilton. However, it would be a flame throwing LHP who would be the first Reds prospect to make an impact. When Johnny Cueto hit the DL in mid April, the Reds decided to call up Cingrani to fill in for Cueto. Cingrani had made his debut as a reliever in September 2012, but it would be is performance as a starter that would make people take notice. Cingrani was a 3rd round selection in 2011, and the Reds hoped that he would make an immediate impact as he was used mainly as a reliever at Rice due to poor mechanics. Well judging by his 2013 performance, I’d say that his mechanics have vastly improved. Cingrani has made 7 starts for the Reds this year and is 3-0 with a 3.15 ERA and 46 K’s so far. He is currently pitching out of the bullpen in Cincinnati as a reliever, but he will be back in the starting rotation as soon as a spot opens up.
Gerrit Cole • RHP • Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates made Gerrit Cole and his 100 mph fastball the 1st overall pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. For a pitching starved team like the Pirates, Cole’s arrival could not come soon enough. But patience is a virtue, and the Pirates were in NO rush to bring Cole up. Even with the Pirates over achieving, and contending for the NL Central in 2012, the Pirates decided that Cole would be better off dominating batters in the minors, then trying to overmatch hitters in the MLB; especially in the midst of a playoff race. So the Pirates decided to trade for an arm (Wandy Rodriguez) than rush Cole, or Jamieson Taillon. Needless to say the Pirates went another year without post season play, and another year with a losing season. Fast forward to 2013, with the Pirates 13 games above .500 and 3 games back of the division lead, they made the decision to promote Cole when Wandy Rodriguez went down on the DL, and boy has he not disappointed. Gerrit made his MLB debut on June 11th against Tim Lincecum and the Giants. Cole would pitch 5+ innings and add an RBI hit in picking up his first MLB win. He is currently 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA and 3 K’s in two starts. He should be a fixture in the Bucs rotation for the near future.
Michael Wacha • RHP • St. Louis Cardinals: Wacha was the 2nd player of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft to make their professional debut in 2013. He is just another young, power arm that the Cardinals organization has at their disposal. Wacha made his debut on May 31st, and was perfect through 5+ innings, eventually pitching 7 in a winning effort. Wacha was forced up to the majors because of injuries to Jamie Garcia and Jake Westbrook. He was the second Cardinals rookie starter to make a lasting impression this season; right behind Shelby Miller. Although he only made 3 starts for the Cards before being demoted, he did pitch very well finishing with a 1-0 record to go along with a 4.58 ERA and 14 K’s. He should be the first arm called up if another St. Louis starter goes on the DL.
Carlos Martinez • RHP • St. Louis Cardinals: First Shelby Miller, then Michael Wacha, and now Carlos Martinez. Martinez is the youngest of the trio at only 20 years old, and like the other two, his upside is tremendous. After going 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in two minor league levels, the Cards promoted Martinez on May 3rd. Unlike Wacha and Miller, Martinez was used strictly out of the bullpen, and even then he has been used sparingly. He has easy upper 90’s heat to go along with a plus 12-6 curveball; his off-speed stuff is not far behind. Martinez has only pitched in 7 games, going 8 innings, and is 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA. In addition to Miller, Wacha, and Martinez, the Cardinals have an embarrassment of young power arms in their system like Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly, so they are not rushing to throw Martinez out there every other day.
Tyler Skaggs • LHP • Arizona Diamondbacks: Skaggs came to the Diamondbacks along with Joe Saunders, and Patrick Corbin in 2010 via a trade with the Angels in exchange for Dan Haren. Skaggs made his debut for the D-Backs in August of 2012, but those were starts for a team that was headed for the cellar of the NL West. In 6 starts, Skaggs went 1-3 with a 5.83 ERA in 29 innings. Skaggs has made 3 starts for the Diamondbacks in 2013, but has been mainly yo-yo’ed between Arizona and Reno of AAA. In those 3 starts, Skaggs has gone 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA. Although he hasn’t blown anyone away with his performances this season, Skaggs is one of the best LHP prospects in all of baseball, and should factor into the Diamondbacks plans as they push for the NL West division title.
Yasiel Puig • OF • Los Angeles Dodgers: Some prospects impress the big league ball club and the baseball world with a small sample of what they can do. Prospects like Yasiel Puig kick the door down in order to show off what they can do. Puig was signed by the Dodgers to a 7 year/$42 million deal in June of 2012. Puig was a Cuban defector and was available to the highest bidder, the Dodgers immediately placed him on the 40 man roster and sent him to the Arizona Rookie team; he would hit .400/4/11 in 9 games. In spring training this year, Puig tore the cover off the ball to the tune of .526; many speculated that he would start the year with the Dodgers. Puig would end up starting the season in AA Chattanooga where he hit.313/8/37 in 40 games. With Matt Kemp hitting the DL, Puig was the obvious choice to replace him. Yasiel may have had the BEST first four games to a start career in history. In Game 1, he went 2 for 4 and helped end the game with a strong throw that completed a double play. His second game saw him hit the first two home runs of his career and add 5 RBI’s. Game 3 saw him hit a grand slam… no big deal, and in game four, he added another home run. I can’t even begin to stress how absolutely ridiculous all this is. The only problem the Dodgers have now is what to do with him once Kemp returns. Seeing as they have Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier in the corner outfields for the next 4+ years, it’s hard to see what they will do to keep Puig’s bat in the lineup. Puig is currently hitting .479/4/10 in 13 games.
Jedd Gyorko • 3B/2B • San Diego Padres: For the past decade, the Padres have been the poster child for “How Not to Draft.” The Padres seem to have had more players not pan out, or be straight up busts than any other MLB team. One of the VERY few bright spots from their past draft classes has been the West Virgina alum Gyorko. The Padres drafted Gyorko in the 2nd round in 2010 as a 2B out of WVU. Gyorko would play both 2B and 3B for the Padres in the minors, but played predominantly 2B so he could get to the Majors quicker. Gyorko earned a ticket to San Diego to start the 2013 season partially due to Chase Headley and Logan Forsythe starting on the DL. Upon Headley’s return from the DL, Gyorko shifted back to the 2B position so he could stay in the lineup every day. Gyorko would finish May with 6 home runs in the month, which tied Evan Gattis for the most hit in the NL in May. Gyorko is currently on the DL with a groin strain, but he is hitting .284/8/25 on the season.
Nolan Arenado • 3B • Colorado Rockies: Regarded as one of the best 3B prospects in the game, Arenado has been an absolute revelation since being called up. Arenado was drafted in the 2nd round in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft and decided to sign rather than fulfill his commitment to Arizona State. Arenado has dominated every level of professional baseball that he has played. In 2011, he led high “A” ball with .298/20/122; in the same year he was named MVP of the Arizona Fall League where he hit .388/6/33. After another dominate season in the minors in 2012 where he hit .285 on the season, he entered 2013 with a ticket to spring training. Despite having an incredible showing in Spring Training the Rockies optioned Arenado to AAA Colorado Springs to start the season. Arenado didn’t mind though, he just continued to rake in the minors hitting .364/3/21 in 18 games. The Rockies quickly DFA’d Chris Nelson and called up Arenado. Although he went 0 for 3 in his debut, in his second game he had 3 hits including his first career homer; his second career HR was a Grand Slam off of David Price. Arenado has played in 46 games for the Rockies since making his debut in April and is currently hitting .268/5/19. Despite only playing in less than 50 games, Arenado has received immense praise for his maturity, high baseball IQ, and great glove at the hot corner.
http://wapc.mlb.com/play/?content_id=28111033&topic_id=11493214 – Arenado Diving Stab –
Even with all these players graduating from the minors to the majors there is still an immense amount of young, impact prospects just waiting for their chance. This week will see Zack Wheeler and Wil Myers make their long anticipated MLB debuts, but they won’t be the last ones to do so. With names like Dylan Bundy, Oscar Taveras, Travis d’Arnaud, and Billy Hamilton still toiling in the minors, it is hard to remember a more exciting time to be a fan of the game.