To run a successful minor league system you have to draft well every June and spend money wisely on the international market. But you also have to have some luck by mining other systems for undervalued talent. Below you’ll find six prospects with diminished prospect value that may be poised to finally see the light click on in 2012. All the players were, at one time, highly regarded. Only one of them appeared on my 2012 Top 15 prospects lists – coming in at No. 15 on the Boston Red Sox ranking.
Mike Kvasnicka, C, Houston: Kvasnicka saw his draft stock take a huge leap in 2010 when he showed solid skills behind the dish while playing at the University of Minnesota. Hoping to get Kvasnicka to the Majors sooner rather than later the Astros organization made the decision to move him to a less demanding position. Unfortunately, his bat was not as potent as expected and did not profile well at the hot corner. The new front office regime recently made the decision to relocate Kvasnicka back behind the dish. He may return to low-A ball in 2012 to get re-acclimated with catching without putting too much pressure on his offensive game. He tired in the second half of 2011 so he’ll have to get stronger to withstand a full year of squatting behind the plate. A switch-hitting catcher carries a ton of potential value.
David Adams, 2B, New York AL: Adams’ value is down through no fault of his own, really. A lingering ankle injury has taken its toll on his career. Truth be told, though, even a health Adams would not have a starting role at the big league level with the Yankees due to the presence of Mr. Robinson Cano. Adams’ best hope for playing time in New York would come from a part-time bench role. He has the potential to be an everyday player at the big league level so he may become intriguing trade fodder as the season progresses. Adams is a steady, but unspectacular, defender at second base and has also seen a little time at the hot corner so he has some versatility. At the plate he offers a smooth line-drive, right-handed stroke that should lead to high batting averages. He controls the strike zone well and has excellent barrel awareness. With a strong spring Adams could be assigned to double-A to begin the year.
Matt Lipka, CF, Atlanta: A highly-regarded amateur infielder, questions about his ability to stick at shortstop dogged Lipka from the moment he signed with the Braves. With the pressure possibly weighing heavily on the young player, Atlanta made the decision to permanently move him to the outfield for the 2012 season. Lipka will never produce much power but he handles the bat well and should be able to hit for a decent average once he learns to use the entire field more often. Lipka could eventually slide into the No.2 slot in the batting order. He has above-average speed too, but he needs polish on the base paths after getting nabbed 14 times in 42 attempts in 2011. Lipka will turn 20 in the near future and will likely move up to high-A ball in 2012, despite his modest offensive showing last year.
Junichi Tazawa, RHP, Boston: Once upon a time Tazawa was a hot commodity on the international market as a rare amateur free agent out of Japan. The right-hander showed some flashes of promise after signing his first pro contract with Boston but Tommy John surgery put a screeching halt to his ascension through the system. He missed all of 2010 due to the injury but appeared in 25 games at four different levels in ’11. Despite the missed time he showed good control; his command wavered but that is to be expected after surgery. Tazawa flashes a diverse repertoire as a starter but sticking in the bullpen could allow him to focus on two or three pitches, with his fastball, splitter and changeup holding the most potential.
Ross Seaton, RHP, Houston | Tim Melville, RHP, Kansas City: Two high-ceiling pitching prospects fell during the 2008 amateur draft due to signability concerns: Melville (ranked as the 7th best pitcher available prior to the draft by Baseball America) and Seaton (15th).
Seaton has posted ugly ERAs over the past two seasons but he’s also pitched in very rough leagues for pitchers (California, Texas). The right-hander struggles with his fastball command and overall consistency, which has hurt his strikeout rates. He has a big frame but a move to the bullpen could allow him to focus on his fastball and slider. He made some mechanical adjustments in 2011 that showed promise so he’ll likely receive another shot in the starting rotation in 2012 when he repeats double-A. Seaton needs to improve his changeup to combat tough left-handed hitters.
Melville is a similar story. His results don’t match his stuff due to command and consistency issues. Like Seaton, he is a big, strong pitcher capable of providing lots of innings but a move to the ‘pen could help turn things around for him. His fastball can touch 95 mph but he struggles to command it and needs to be more aggressive by challenging hitters within the strike zone. Melville’s secondary pitches are below average but he showed some promise with his breaking ball late in the season.
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