Pitching is quite often ahead of hitting early on in the season but as you’ll see below there are still quite a few position prospects who are off to strong starts to the year.
Despite having his pro debut in 2011 cut short due to injury, Cron has come out swinging in 2012, taking full advantage of the friendly confines of the California League. The right-handed hitter currently has a 1.022 OPS in seven games, including a .556 batting average against left-handed pitchers. Perhaps because he’s seeing the ball so well he has yet to take a walk. Although his stats will no doubt be inflated by the league, Cron could very well hit his way to double-A by mid-year.
Hanson was my sleeper prospect in the Pirates system entering 2012 and he’s enjoying his first taste of full-season ball. The middle infielder is hitting for power (home run, triple on Thursday night) and average while also getting on base and taking full advantage of his speed (He’s a perfect 3-for-3 in steals). The switch-hitter has done all his damage from the left side of the plate and has tallied just four at-bats against southpaws. The Pirates system does not have a ton of up-the-middle talent so Hanson’s continued development would be a boon for the organization.
Hechavarria is one person who hopes that “What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas.” The traditionally-light-hitting shortstop has enjoyed his time in triple-A – both at the end of last year and beginning of this season. He had an 8-for-14 stretch between April 9-11. On the down side he’s striking out at a rate of more than once per game and has walked just once in six games. Hechavarria, a gifted fielder, could make big league incumbent Yunel Escobar expendable in the not-too-distant future even if the bat limits him to the eighth or ninth hole in the lineup.
Hedges came in at No. 85 on my pre-season Top 100 prospect list. That ranking was based on the expectation that he would be a gifted-glove-no-bat backstop in low-A during the 2012 season. Hedges, though, has impressed talent evaluators with his offensive game and his success may not be the result of a small sample size – he may actually be underrated. He tallied at least one hit in each of his first five pro games and four of his seven hits have gone for extra bases.
The former No. 1 draft pick suffered from a complete meltdown in 2011 when he posted a 9.82 ERA in 10 high-A starts. On the year he walked 96 batters in 97.0 innings. Matzek has looked much improved in 2012, although his control is still a work-in-progress (six walks in 9.2 innings). The southpaw also has 15 strikeouts and has been displaying more consistent velocity, sitting in the low-90s and touching 94-95 mph. Interestingly, his struggles this year have come against left-handed batters – all his walks have been issued against them.