Biddle continues to make big strides in his development. The 20-year-old southpaw is close to overtaking Trevor May as the best pitcher in the system – if he hasn’t already. Biddle has made 10 high-A starts but he hasn’t allowed more than two runs in his last seven appearances. He’s struck out 27 in his last four games. The lefty’s control remains inconsistent but it’s much improved over last year at low-A (4.47 to 3.22 BB/9). With 35 A-ball appearances under his belt since the beginning of 2011, Biddle is probably ready for a promotion to double-A and he has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter.
Brice, 20, has been looking very good as of late. The right-handed pitcher has allowed more than two runs just once in his past seven starts. The North Carolina native has been racking up the strikeouts in 2012 with a K-rate of 11.42 K/9. He continues to struggle with his control, though, and his walk rate currently sits at 5.61 BB/9, a slight improvement over 2011 but still well below average. Brice has a good low-to-mid-90s fastball and he’s starting to make strides with his secondary stuff. With a strong frame he has all the ingredients necessary to become a innings-eater in the big leagues if he can show enough control and command to stick in the starting rotation. Keep an eye on this underrated hurler.
Las Vegas is one of the friendliest places in the minor leagues for a hitter to play – along with the Pacific Coast League in general – and d’Arnaud has taken full advantage of his hitting environment. After a modest start to the year (.778 OPS in April), the catcher has posted a 1.161 OPS with 20 extra base hits in 24 May games. He now has a wRC+ of 148 on the season and is clearly breathing down the neck of incumbent big league catcher J.P. Arencibia. The best catching prospect in all of baseball is hitting for power and average, while showing a solid approach at the plate that should result in good numbers even outside of the favorable hitting environment. The 23-year-old’s defense is probably about MLB average right now and he has the potential to be above-average.
It seems that the Rays organization has a new, high-ceiling pitching prospect break out every year. Rivero is the “It” guy for 2012. The southpaw has been lights-out in low-A ball with 55 Ks and an above-average ground-ball rate in 57.0 innings of work. The left-hander has been very good against right-handed batters in 2012, which suggests his secondary pitches are starting to develop as hoped. He entered the year needing to sharpen both his slider and changeup; his breaking ball has reportedly taken the biggest step forward. Rivero, 20, isn’t overly physical – standing just 6’0” with a slender frame – so it remains to be seen how well the Venezuela native will hold up as a starter. With so much good, young pitching in the system, the organization can afford to be patient with Rivero.
Suarez, soon-to-be-21, is a good fielding shortstop who is beginning to show some aptitude with the bat. He doesn’t run much or hit for home run power so hit ability to hit for a decent average is important if he hopes to play everyday at the big league level. Suarez is currently hitting .286 but his bat has cooled significantly in May after a hot start to the year. He has shown good gap power this month, though, with 10 doubles in 28 games. The Venezuela native strikes out far too much (21.6 K%) for a player with modest power but he is showing a nice on-base rate thanks to a walk rate of 11.6%. Currently playing in low-A, Suarez has a long road ahead to realize his full potential but Detroit’s lack of middle infield depth means he could get thrown on the fast track; the organization has been known to rush players.