Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.
Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers (Profile)
Level: High-A Age: 21 Top-15: 2 Top-100: 51
Line: 288 PA, 5.9 BB%, 24 SO%, .256/.316/.424 (107 wRC+)
Why he is here: For years, Alfaro has been touted as a potential superstar. Potential is the modifier of note. Alfaro has incredible carry tools. Particularly, his bat speed and arm strength stand out and he moves well for a catcher, too. Outside of the short stops on the World roster, Alfaro is the most exciting prospect to watch.
Weaknesses: Catchers develop slowly, but Alfaro’s development has been stunted by his lack of plate discipline and swing and miss tendencies.
What to watch for: Big power but also balance issues.
Christian Bethancourt, C, Braves (Profile)
Level: Triple-A Age: 22.9 Top-15: 2 Top-100: 85
Line: 233 PA, 3.9 BB%, 16.3 SO%, .268/.296/.368 (82 wRC+)
Why he is here: Like Alfaro, Christian Bethancourt has been fawned over for years. He is thought by many to be among the top defensive catching prospects in minor leagues along with Austin Hedges and Christian Vazquez. There is considerable praise for his bat, too. Bethancourt displays his power during batting practice.
Weaknesses: Bethancourt’s bat has yet to show up outside of batting practice.
What to watch for: The World’s pitching staff is less heralded than the United States’ roster. Hopefully, we’ll see ample opportunities for Bethancourt (and Alfaro) to gun down base-runners.
Kevin Plawecki, C, Mets (Profile)
Level: Triple-A Age: 23.4 Top-15: 6 Top-100: N/A
Line: (Double-A) 249 PA, 6.4 BB%, 1083 SO%, .326/.378/.487 (137 wRC+)
Why he is here: The Mets’ catcher has been on the rise this season. During his debut season in Brooklyn I pegged him as a second division starter, but his success has made that projection look awfully light. Plawecki is a well rounded, mature college bat whose technical ability will improve more than tools. His hit tool is his sole above average asset, but his power counting statistics could surprise due to the frequency with which he puts balls in play. He’s the highest floor catcher in this game, by far.
Weaknesses: Few. His defensive profile isn’t as electric as his Futures Game peers, but he calls a good game and frames pitches well. His lack of upside is his biggest drawback.
What to watch for: A player working the count to find a pitch to drive into a gap.
Justin O’Conner, C, Rays (Profile)
Level: High-A Age: 22.2 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 237 PA, 3.0 BB%, 25.3 SO%, .257/.287/.434 (106 wRC+)
Why he is here: In 2010, O’Conner was a highly touted high school draftee, but his career did not begin to match the hype until this season off. Behind the plate, O’Conner has excelled at controlling the running game with his arm. Prior to this season the Rays’ catcher was consistently below average at the plate, but his big power has been apparent since draft day.
Weaknesses: Similar to Alfaro, O’Conner’s development has been curbed by his lack of plate discipline and swing and miss tendencies.
What to watch for: Likely, O’Conner will be behind Plawecki on the depth chart. Don’t expect to see more than one plate appearance.
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