FanGraphs Prospect Stock Watch – 05/29/12

Trevor Bauer, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Current Level: AAA
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: 1st
Current Value: Near MLB Ready

Bauer, 21, has been every bit as good as advertised. The third overall draft pick out of UCLA in 2011, the right-hander has reached triple-A in his first full pro season. Bauer began the year in double-A but was promoted after just eight starts. He struck out 60 batters and allowed just 33 hits in 48.1 innings of work. He’s made two starts in triple-A and has whiffed another 24 batters in 19.0 innings of work. Bauer’s advanced feel for pitching and diverse repertoire should allow him to develop into a No. 1 or 2 starter for the Diamondbacks; improved control is his biggest need right now. He could give Arizona’s starting rotation a boost in the second half of 2012 and should take a regular turn in the rotation beginning in 2013.

Michael Choice, OF, Oakland Athletics
Current Level: AA
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: 1st
Current Value: Dropping

Choice had an outstanding 2011 season while enjoying the offensive-minded environment of the high-A California League. He followed up his breakout season with a brilliant performance in the Arizona Fall League. The 21-year-old slugger has found double-A to be much more difficult. His ISO rate has dropped from .257 to .076. Choice has legitimate power potential but he’s going to become more consistent; he gets pull happy, which causes his swing to get long. Choice, 22, strikes out a lot, doesn’t project to hit for a high average, doesn’t steal many bases and doesn’t play great defense so his power really needs to shine if he’s going to be a valuable everyday player. Oakland has a lot of outfield depth in the system so will have plenty of time to develop into a middle-of-the-order threat.

Wilmer Flores, SS, New York Mets
Current Level: A+
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: 5th
Current Value: Rising

Now in his fifth pro season, Flores has yet to reach double-A but the big jump may happen by mid-season. He’s finally putting the pieces together with the bat, hitting for both power and average. After slugging just nine home runs in 2011 (516 AB), the third baseman already has eight in just 176 at-bats. Although he’s been around quite a while already, the Venezuela native won’t turn 21 until August. The move off shortstop – which has been forecasted almost from the moment he turned pro – could be part of the reason for the jumpstart in his offensive game but it hasn’t been entirely rosy. Flores has struggled defensively at third base and it’s likely the only thing holding him back from his next promotion. He could be the eventual replacement for current big league third baseman David Wright.

Mikie Mahtook, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Current Level: A+
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: 8th
Current Value: Static

One of the Rays’ many first round draft picks from 2012 (31st overall), Mahtook had a solid career at Louisiana State University. However, there were concerns that he was a ‘tweener’ in the outfield – someone with a center-fielder’s offensive profile who lacked the defensive chops for the position and not enough power to meet the traditional expectations of a corner outfielder. Mahtook has yet to quiet the concerns with just one home run, so far, in 172 high-A ball at-bats. Mahtook, 22, has just 11 extra base hits but eight of them have come in May. He’ll likely stick in high-A ball for the entire year before moving up a level in 2013. Expect him to reach the majors in 2014 with his upside still to be determined.

Zeke Spruill, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Current Level: AA
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: 9th
Current Value: Underrated

It’s been a steady trip through the minors for Spruill, a second-round pick from the 2008 amateur draft. Command issues with the fastball slowed him down but the former Georgia prep star has made strides over the past year in that area, leading to improved overall numbers. Spruill, 22, is not overpowering but he has a solid-average fastball and be produces above-average ground-ball rates. Pitching at double-A in 2012, Spruill has improved with the weather. After walking 11 batters in April he’s issued just four free passes in May. The right-hander is still working to sharpen his changeup, which will help him combat tough left-handed batters (.290 vs LHB, .216 vs RHB). Depending on the organization’s needs, Spruill could reach the Majors by the end of the season and has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

11 Responses to “FanGraphs Prospect Stock Watch – 05/29/12”

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  1. Nitram Odarp says:

    Surprised there was no mention of Simmons in this after his recent performance. 3 HR in a span of 20 PA after only managing 3 in his previous 900 or so. The improvement in his offensive skills since being drafted less than 2 years ago is pretty astonishing. I mean no one seemed to think he’d ever be able to hit well enough to be a position player professionally and less than 2 years later he’s one of the best hitters in AA?

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    • A Guy From The World of Tomorrow says:

      Andrelton isn’t exactly one of the top hitters in AA with a .811 OPS, although that is much better than expected from this guy. The Braves obviously thought he would hit well enough to be a position player otherwise they would have used his 98 mph fastball as a pitcher. They weren’t sure how he would hit, but they obviously believed enough in his bat that he would still be more valuable as a great fielding shortstop than as a pitcher with closer potential.

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      • Nitram Odarp says:

        Yeah I should have said “better hitters” and/or limited it to the Southern League. You gotta look beyond just the OPS though as that underrates guys who rely on OBP more than SLG to post a good OPS. Simmons currently ranks 11th in the Southern League in wOBA and 4 of those guys are 25 or 26 year olds who aren’t considered “real prospects.”

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      • Nitram Odarp says:

        Also, the Braves did draft him as a pitcher, but he convinced them to give him a trial run at SS before forcing him to make the move to the mound. The Braves should thank him for being a heck of a lot smarter when it came to his abilities than they were.

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  2. PalousePirate says:

    Marc, Newman stated that he felt Hultzen > Bauer. Are you in a position to weigh in on that?

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    • Nitram Odarp says:

      I think it depends on how you expect Bauer’s command/control to develop. If you think he’ll make big strides in those areas than he is a top of the rotation starter. If they stagnate, then he is a #3/#4. I think a lot of people underestimate just how integral command is to become a top of the rotation SP.

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      • ChuckO says:

        A prime example of the role of command in making a top MLB starting pitcher is Brandon Beachy. His stuff is not overwhelming, but he generally has excellent command.

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      • A Guy From The World of Tomorrow says:

        Most scouts think his command is good, he just loses his control sometimes. Even if he doesn’t develop better control, he could end up along the lines of a Gio Gonzalez. Hultzen doesn’t quite have the fastball or breaking ball to be an ace, but he could develop into a #2. His BB/9 IP isn’t very good either, and may be a bigger concern heading forward for a guy who was known for his control/command.

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      • Nitram Odarp says:

        You’re reading different scouting reports than me I guess. The one knock on Bauer has always been his lack of command. I know some people thought it wouldn’t affect him because of his whole “pitch tunneling” philosophy, but that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case so far.

        Hultzen had one really bad start as far as BB go (7 in 4.1 IP), but other than that he’s been fine. Bauer has walked at least 5 in 3 of 10 starts this season, so it’s not more of a 1 time thing with him.

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  3. Congo Hammer says:

    You think Choice will fall off most top 100 lists come next February? I was expecting him to struggle at some point because of his wonky swing mechanics, but I still think his long-term outlook is good, and he has great work ethic and surprising speed for a power hitter

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  4. Brian says:

    Seems like no matter how well they do, Astros prospects can’t get a mention here. George Springer, Domingo Santana and Jonathan Singleton have been tearing it up recently.

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