The 2013 season is still in its infancy but two organizations have already faced more than their fair share of struggles in their minor league systems. The Texas Rangers entered the year with one of the better systems in baseball, while the Toronto Blue Jays fell somewhere in the middle after nearly gutting the system in what may amount to a misguided attempt to rebuild the big league team in one off-season.
Just 20 years old, shortstop Jurickson Profar has already spent time in the majors and he opened the 2013 season in triple-A. The Curacao native, who entered the year as the club’s No. 1 prospect, struggled out of the gate but he’s hardly embarrassed himself. It’s a different story for second overall prospect Mike Olt and his struggles have been well documented. He hit just .139 with 32 strikeouts in 20 games before hitting the disabled list with vision problems. He has excellent defensive skills at third base but lacks a spot at the big league level so his bat is going to have to pick up if he’s going to shift to a corner outfield spot of first base.
Southpaw Martin Perez was expected to challenge for a spot in the Rangers’ big league starting rotation but he broke his arm when he was struck by a line drive. The third overall prospect in the system, he’s returned from the disabled list recently to pitch in two games this year and his ERA sits at more than 11.00. The organization’s biggest disappointment this year may be Cody Buckel, the club’s seventh overall prospect. The right-hander entered 2013 with the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter and looked about half a season away from reaching the majors. Unfortunately, he was unable to find the plate. In six appearances (five starts), the pitching prospect walked 28 batters in 9.1 innings of work. He’s now trying to work out his problems in extended spring training.
It’s been a rough last calendar year for the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league system. It was nearly gutted during off-season trades that were supposed to turn the perennial-disappointing club into a playoff contender. That didn’t exactly happen and the club parted ways with both depth and high-ceiling prospects such as catchers Travis d’Arnaud, Yan Gomes, Carlos Perez, first baseman Mike McDade, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, outfielders Jake Marisnick, Wuilmer Becerra, as well as pitchers Joe Musgrove, Kevin Comer, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, David Rollins, and Sam Dyson.
With the trades, pitcher Roberto Osuna took a huge step up in the organization and became the second most promising prospect in the system. Just 18 years old, he opened 2013 in low-A ball and struck out 31 batters (with just four walks) in 22.1 innings. His season took a terrible turn for the worse when he suffered a torn ligament in his elbow and now faces Tommy John surgery if his rehab doesn’t go well. In truth, the rehab is probably just delaying the inevitable. He opened the season as a potential No. 2 starter and luckily has time on his side.
2011 second round draft pick Daniel Norris has found full-season ball to be quite a challenge. Given more than $2 million to forego a college scholarship to Clemson University, the lefty has a 8.54 ERA in eight games (seven starts). He’s allowed 35 hits and 16 walks in just 26.1 innings of work. Unless he can turn things around quickly, the 20-year-old prospect could end up getting sent down to short-season ball when the leagues open in June. Six other members of the Jays 2012-13 Top 15 prospects list have missed significant time this season: catcher A.J. Jimenez (recovery from Tommy John surgery), catcher Santiago Nessy (concussion), as well as pitchers Marcus Stroman (suspension), Sean Nolin (undisclosed), John Stilson (undisclosed), and Matt Smoral (blisters).
The good news for both the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays is that things appear to have hit rock bottom and up is the only way that they can go from here. They’re a long way from realizing the kind of success that the Minnesota Twins organization has experienced in the early going in 2013, but both clubs should add some additional talent in the upcoming amateur draft in June. As well, the two organizations have some intriguing names currently polishing their games in extended spring training and a number of those prospects could take big steps forward once they start playing the games that matter, beginning in mid-to-late June. It’s also quite possible that some of the prospects listed above will turn their seasons around and realize their full potentials.