Left-handed hitting catchers carry a ton of value, and Brantly is a good example of this market deficiency. A former third round pick out of the University of California-Riverside, he has been moved quickly through the system and reached double-A in just his second full season. Brantly handles the bat well and doesn’t strike out much – but he also doesn’t walk. He’s currently hitting .375 with 10 extra base hits in 14 games. The extra base power is new for the catcher so if he can keep that up it adds that much more value to him. Scouts are still torn on Brantly’s ability behind the plate as he still needs a lot of polish although he does a nice job with the running game. With big league starting catcher Alex Avila also swinging from the left side, the prospect may end up as trade bait if his value continues to rise.
A senior signee out of Rice University in 2011, Cingrani is poised to be a fast-mover through the Reds system. After an up-and-down college career, the lefty has been nothing but dominant in pro ball. Assigned to high-A ball in the hitter-friendly California League, Cingrani has thumbed his nose at batters while holding them to a .117 batting average in 23.0 innings of work. He’s walked just five hitters and has recorded 28 whiffs. The Reds organization has just three southpaw hurlers on the 40-man roster so Cingrani’s continued development is a welcomed sight. If he keeps this up he could see double-A by the second half of the year and the Majors in 2013. He has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter.
Welcome back, Mr. Myers. After a rough 2011 season at double-A, the top prospect has returned to the level in 2012 with a vengeance. Just 21, the prospect has 13 extra base hits in 18 games, including six home runs. On the down side, Myers has struck out 23 times so he has some work to do in that area – and he’s K’d just nine times in the last 10 games so hopefully this is a sign of things to come. The catcher-turned-right-fielder is probably about a year away from an every-day gig in the Majors but he could visit the The Show by the end of the year if Kansas City is OK with adding him to the 40-man roster a year early.
This past off-season’s trade from Washington to Oakland seems like the perfect fit for this on-base machine. Norris, 23, hit just .210 with 117 strikeouts in 110 double-A games in 2011 but Oakland aggressively promoted him to triple-A to begin the ’12 season. The catching prospect has responded with a great start to the year by hitting .365 with 12 extra base hits, including eight doubles and three homers, in 18 games. His walk rate is way down with just three free passes but his strikeout rate is also down significantly with just 13 Ks. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues or if it’s just a matter of small sample sizes. Rookie pitcher Tom Milone is currently looking like the best piece of the Gio Gonzalez trade so far, from Oakland’s perspective, but Norris could steal that title away from him in short order.
Like Dylan Bundy in the Baltimore system, Syndergaard has received the kiddy-glove treatment in Toronto in 2012. The starter has made five appearances so far on the year but has yet to be allowed to go more than 3.0 innings at a time. It’s an interesting decision and one I don’t necessarily agree with because Syndergaard’s biggest need is to improve his secondary pitches. His fastball can dominate young hitters because it can reach triple-digits but his curveball is slow and loopy and his changeup is almost non-existent. By having him work so few innings and only go through the batting order once, it does not exactly force him into using all his pitches. With all that said, Syndergaard has been very good with 20 strikeouts and a plethora of ground-ball outs in 14.2 innings of work.