The organization lacked a first round pick in the 2009 draft and its first actual pick (second round, 75th overall), outfielder Kelly Dugan, hasn’t done very much. The club still found a lot of talent, though, with the likes of Brody Colvin (7th round), Justin Singleton (8th), Josh Zeid (10th) and Altherr. At the time of the draft, Baseball America had a telling report on the outfielder: “He hasn’t played a lot of baseball, and the game doesn’t come easy to him. He’s a project, but has athleticism you can’t teach.” The Arizona native was an astute selection by the organization that has been burned by its love of raw athletes in the past with the likes of Greg Golson, Anthony Hewitt and Zach Collier. Altherr is still putting everything together but he’s showing flashes of brilliance on a more regular basis while taking the field in low-A ball.
The emergence of Castellanos onto the big league landscape is eventually going to force either Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder to the DH role. We’re approaching mid-May and the organization’s top prospect is still hitting more than .400. The third baseman is proving to be a pure hitter with an incredible ability to square up the baseball. Castellanos has a career batting average of more than .300 in three seasons and the recently-turned-20-year-old’s solid gap power should eventually develop into over-the-fence pop that could lead to 20 home runs per year. His strikeout rate has dipped this year, which is good to see as it will help him compensate for this .400 career BABIP, which is sure to normalize as he inches towards the Majors.
Just 19, this 2011 supplemental first round pick (49th overall) is getting scouts excited. Crick has made just five starts in low-A ball but he’s showing mid-90s velocity and a good breaking ball. He’s allowed just 10 hits in 21.2 innings and has fanned 27 batters while also producing above-average ground-ball rates. On the down side he’s been wild with 17 walks and quite a few bruised batters. Crick has a big, strong pitcher’s frame and above-average stuff leading to speculation that he could develop into a No. 2 starter is he can harness his pitches and develop a reliable third pitch. He’s a project but could be well worth the wait.
Rodriguez, 22, has been plugging away in the minors for six seasons and he hasn’t hit below .300 since his first pro campaign in 2007. The infielder has played a number of infield positions during his career but he was primarily a second baseman up until 2012. He’s now played the majority of his games at the hot corner – likely due in part to the long-term contract that incumbent big leaguer Brandon Phillips recently signed. Rodriguez has been steady in the field and continues to scorch opposing pitchers. He’s hitting .358 in 31 games, including .500 in six May contests. A switch-hitter with speed, Rodriguez is probably best suited for a big league utility role (albeit one where he plays somewhat frequently) because he lacks the power for third base and has never been known as a great fielder at any position.
There was some talk that Simmons could win the starting shortstop role in spring training for the Atlanta Braves. Cooler heads prevailed, though, and fellow rookie Tyler Pastornicky has actually done a decent job so far. Simmons headed down to double-A where he scuffled for a bit – but now he’s heating up. The infielder has his batting average up to .320 and he’s struck out just 11 times in 25 games. He’s also taken 11 free passes and his walk rate is much improved over his career rate; if he can keep this up it will help him better-utilize his speed tool. Simmons is probably about a year away from being ready to challenge Pastornicky for the starting shortstop gig but he definitely has a higher ceiling.
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