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.
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.
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.
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.
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.