This has been a great year for prospect promotions, something I have discussed at length in recent weeks, but now I am left with some frustration and a faint rumbling of furious anger. Why you ask? Major League Baseball got greedy and promoted all of our elite prospects already and left us with a solid, but unspectacular group with two notable exceptions, Corey Seager of the Dodgers and Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs. This put me in a bit of a conundrum. I could write about the Futures Game (which I will do soon) or I could hop into my time machine and fast forward to 2016 and start getting excited about the next crop of elite prospects that will drive us all into a frenzy. Or, I could do an around the horn free-flowing “thing” in which I mix it all together and at the end you get this article, an exercise in name dropping. So, let’s get to it then.
First, let’s throw around some names that could be next to get the call. When I started this column I was planning to do a profile of Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Brian Johnson. I was going to discuss how he naturally draws comparisons to veteran Mark Buerhle because of his lack of velocity, the fact that he is left-handed and that he has above average command and pitching smarts. All true, and he has passed more highly touted prospect Henry Owens on the Sox’ depth chart.
The Phillies have their right-handed version of a soft-tosser with pitching acumen, Aaron Nola, who could be promoted any day. His raw stuff is a little better than what is normally considered a “soft-tosser,” but when I hear Nola’s name I still think Mike Leake. Scouts would balk at minimizing his stuff, but in Nola, the Phillies sacrificed upside for the security of knowing they had a major league starter and they will have him very soon, just in time for the rebuild to begin.
The Diamondbacks have Peter O’Brien batting .280 with 15 home runs and not a lot left to prove at Triple-A Reno. They don’t have a place for him on defense and the National League doesn’t have a designated hitter, so if the rumors are true and he has told the D-Backs that he has given up catching (he hasn’t played there in over 10 games) then it could be soon or it could be later, but he is ready when they are.
Then there is right-hander Jose Berrios of the Minnesota Twins. Under normal circumstances I would not have expected to throw his name out there until August or when rosters expand in September. However, Minnesota is in contention, they have already promoted Alex Meyer to their bullpen, Byron Buxton to start in centerfield and Miguel Sano to hit. Obviously, this isn’t a normal kind of year. Berrios’ stuff is advanced and if he handles Triple-A, then the rumors could start getting serious.
And last but not least, Corey Seager and Kyle Schwarber are the last of the elite 2015 hitting crop and Julio Urias may be the best of the elite pitching prospects. He is still a teenager but he has elite stuff rarely seen from a short, strikeout lefty since Scott Kazmir. The comparison holds, only Urias might be better and we should see him by mid-August.
Now let’s switch gears and talk some random prospect thoughts, which always leads me to the buzz; players that we are hearing about as the next big thing. I have mentioned Alex Reyes as the biggest riser in the minor leagues this season; he was recently removed from the Futures game due to shoulder soreness. The Cardinals are downplaying it as precautionary, but you always want to monitor pitching injuries… Oriole’s right-hander Dylan Bundy (shoulder) has been shut down, possibly for the season… The noise out of the Red Sox minor league system is that Rafael Devers is the real deal and we get a shot to see him in the Futures game on July 12… Lefthander Sean Newcomb is making waves for the Angels of Anaheim, a minor league system and organization desperate for youthful talent… Lucas Giolito is dominating with a 2.36 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 76 strikeouts in 58.2 innings. If you were overtaken by Stephen Strasburg’s talent as a rookie and like Sonny Gray’s makeup and grit, Giolito is a must-own in Dynasty leagues because he is the next best ace in baseball beginning in 2016… Blake Snell is the next Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect to own… Amir Garrett is turning heads in Cincy while Tyler Beede looks like the next success story out of the Giants’ minor league development system… J.P. Crawford of the Phillies and Josh Bell of the Pirates continue to get lots of love from scouts and media, but not from this Fantasy analyst. Crawford doesn’t run or hit for power. Bell has been moved to first base and has yet to hit more than 13 home runs in a season. These two are media darlings, but like Francisco Lindor, I don’t see the relevance to readers of this site… The next darling to be Fantasy irrelevant, say hello to Atlanta Braves shortstop of the future Ozhaino Albies. You will hear that name a lot at the Futures game this weekend… A few more names to get excited about that you will get a glimpse of at the Futures game are Brewers SS Orlando Arcia, Arizona Diamondback OF Socrates Brito (I am going out on a limb here because he is nowhere near the prospect radar anywhere but in my columns), and Texas Rangers OF Nomar Mazara and his immense raw power.
There is more but it would not be prudent of me to use it all up today. So be sure to come back for more at a future date and time to be determined by the prospects. Thank you and enjoy the Futures game this weekend.