Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. This particular Prospect Watch feature will focus on prospect notes from around the minors — focusing on both top prospects and sleepers.
On the surface, the Chicago White Sox have seen solid returns from their 17th overall pick from the 2013 amateur draft. Tim Anderson, a shortstop, is hitting .303 with solid gap pop and some base running aptitude thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, his plate discipline leaves something to be desired. He carries a shockingly-bad 61-7 K-BB rate through 61 High-A ball games. Anderson’s on-base percentage is bound to bottom out if (when) his BABIP of .379 normalizes.
Speaking of former first-round picks, Courtney Hawkins is quietly having a respectable season at the same level as Anderson. The 2012 13th overall selection is hitting .257/.348/.477, which is a far cry from his dismal line at the same High-A ball level from 2013: .178/.249/.384. His OPS is almost .200 points higher this year over last and he’s walking more and striking out less (although the 27% strikeout rate is nothing to write home about). Still just 20, don’t write off Hawkins just yet.
Luis Lugo is a sleeper worth knowing about in the Indians system. The 20-year-old southpaw is easy to overlook thanks to his 4.50 ERA but this is the first year that the kids’ gloves have been removed after three years in short-season ball. Now in Low-A ball, the Venezuela native has struck out 76 batters in 62.0 innings of work. He’s also significantly limited base runners with just 49 hits and 19 walks allowed. Lugo’s struggles have come from allowing too many fly balls. An extreme fly-ball pitcher, he’s also allowed six home runs — including three in his most recent start. At 6-5, the lefty is an imposing figure on the mound and he could be even more dominant once he learns to leverage his height to create a consistent downward plane on his offerings.
The Tigers’ system doesn’t have much depth in terms of high-ceiling talent, but Jake Thompson is probably one of the better arms that you’ve never heard of. The right-handed Texan was a second round draft pick back in 2012 and he’s taken a methodical path through Detroit’s system and he opened the ’14 season in High-A ball. Thompson, 20, currently sports a 2.48 ERA through 12 starts and has allowed just one home run during that span despite his fly-ball ways. His biggest struggle to date has been in facing left-handed hitters who are hitting .290 against him — compared to righties at .165. As well, 16 of his 22 free passes have come to left-handed hitters (in just 23.2 cumulative innings).
A fifth round selection out of Georgia Tech University as a senior in 2013, Buck Farmer surprised some people by appearing on my Tigers’ Top 15 prospects list prior to the ’14 season. Sneaking in at 15th, I described the right-hander as a potential innings-eater and he’s been just that in Low-A ball. Through 12 games, he’s pitched 72.0 innings — and struck out 87 batters (although he’s old for the league at 23). Given the lack of upper-level depth in the system, Farmer deserves a promotion.
The Royals did some fancy drafting footwork to acquire the talents of Sean Manaea during the 2013 amateur draft. Now fully recovered from the injuries that plagued him during his junior year at Indian State, the left-hander has produced intriguing results but he’s also showcased his inconsistencies. Manaea, 22, has struck out 73 batters in just 53.1 innings of work but he’s allowed 88 bases runners through either a hit (61) or a walk (27). The frontline stuff is there at times but his command has been lacking.
Considered one of the Royals’ top hitting prospects entering 2014, Jorge Bonifacio has taken a step backward in his development. The 21-year-old outfielder is hitting just .227/.302/.336 through 71 games. Age is still on his side but he has yet to tap into his power potential and his 2013 numbers were aided by a .400 BABIP.
Standing (maybe) just 6-foot on the mound, Jose Berrios is far from an imposing figure on the mound — until he unleashing the ball. The Puerto Rico native is enjoying a breakout season after ranking sixth overall in the system entering 2014 and coming in at 93rd overall on the Top 100 prospects in baseball. Currently pitching in High-A ball, the right-hander has struck out 90 batters in 77.1 innings of work while issuing just 21 free passes. His secondary stuff is starting to catch up to his mid-90s heat but he continues to be a fly-ball pitcher. To dominate in the Majors, he’s going to have to find a way to generate a more consistent plane on his offerings.