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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.
National League East
Panama native Johan Camargo placed ninth of the Braves pre-season prospects ranking at FanGraphs but he got off to a slow start to the year with a .409 OPS in April. In May, though, the 20-year-old shortstop is hitting .262/.333/.333 (.667 OPS) through 14 games.
One level higher, another talented shortstop — Jose Peraza — is hitting .313 with 20 stolen bases in 25 attempts. The development of this 20-year-old Venezuelan (who entered the year ranked as the third best prospect in the system) will ensure that the organization can be patient with Camargo.
The club will face a tough decision with both Peraza and Camargo — as well as at least seven more prospects that will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this coming December, unless they’re added to the 40-man roster by the November deadline. Other names that need protecting include right-handed pitchers Mauricio Cabrera (ranked 4th in the system), J.R. Graham (5th), and Cody Martin (15th), as well as infielder Tommy La Stella (8th) and outfielder Matt Lipka (NR).
Anthony DeSclafani — ranked as the Marlins’ sixth best prospect entering the season — was the first pitching prospect to feel the effects of the Jose Fernandez injury. The former University of Florida reliever made a successful transition to starting in pro ball after being selected in the sixth round of the 2011 amateur draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. The 24-year-old pitcher was acquired by The Fish in the Jose Reyes/Mark Buerhle deal that also saw breakout pitcher Henderson Alvarez relocate to Miami.
DeSclafani’s continued development could make him more valuable in the long run than the more highly-touted Justin Nicolino, who entered the year ranked third in the system and has plateaued in Double-A. The 22-year-old southpaw has continued to throw up excellent control numbers (1.45 BB/9) but his strikeout rate continues to dwindle: 8.61 K/9 in 2012, 6.05 in ’13. 3.95 in ’14. Nicolino is fighting for a post-season spot on the 40-man roster.
Andrew Heaney is widely regarded as the best pitching prospect in Miami’s system and he was pitching along side both DeSclafani and Nicolino in Double-A. The Oklahoma State alum’s statistics have actually been the best of the trio but the business side of things may have played a small part in the lack of a promotion. DeSclafani was due to be added to the 40-man roster by November (to protect from the Rule 5 draft) and but Heaney is safe until after the 2015 season. Still, if The Fish remain in the playoff hunt in the second half of the year and the lefty is still throwing well, the organization may have no choice but to add him early.
New York Mets
The Mets organization has gone from having so-so catching depth to solid depth in just two years. Despite his early struggles, the club has one of the more talented up-and-coming backstops in Travis d’Arnaud (acquired from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey deal) at the big league level. His offensive woes are somewhat worrisome but he’s hit at every level he’s played. If he does end up needing a little more minor league seasoning, he has one more minor league option remaining. If it’s used in 2014, though, he’ll have to stick in the Majors in 2015 or be passed through waivers to go back to the minors. He’s currently backed up by offensive-minded slugger Anthony Recker.
Defensive whiz Juan Centeno, just 24, isn’t embarrassing himself with the bat in Triple-A (.686 OPS, 9/13 K/BB in 21 games), but he’s probably worthy of a five to 10 year big league career on his glove alone. He also has some added value because he swings from the left side of the plate. The Puerto Rico native’s development in the last few years has been nothing short of impressive after originally signing as a 32nd round draft pick way back in 2007.
Kevin Plawecki, ranked as the sixth best prospect in the Mets system, continues to hit exceptionally well as a pro. Selected 35th overall in the 2012 amateur draft out of Purdue University, the right-handed hitting catcher currently sports a triple-slash line of .316/.349/.418 in 25 games at the Double-A level. His defense also continues to improve and he’s doing a solid job of controlling the running game with a 34% caught-stealing rate. He’s not due to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2015 season but the 23-year-old catcher could be ready for The Show by the end of the year or early next season.
With serious injuries to prospects such as Adam Morgan and Shane Watson, as well as a disappointing season from Severino Gonzalez, Jesse Biddle is one of the few bright spots on the mound. But his season hasn’t been without frustrations. After walking just seven batters in his first five starts (28.1 innings), the lefty has now issued 15 free passes in his last four appearances (22.0 innings). With Cliff Lee possibly heading elsewhere at the trade deadline, Biddle may be the beneficiary of the move — assuming he can find a little more consistency with his control. The Philadelphia native is due to be aded to the 40-man roster by November of this year, anyway.
Shortstop J.P. Crawford continues to display a more advanced bat than expected. The 16th overall selection from the 2013 amateur draft, he’s hitting .328 with a .902 OPS in 34 games. He also has an impressive 20/21 BB/K rate. Crawford has also impressed in the field, although he’s made a few youthful miscues. Phillies incumbent shortstop Jimmy Rollins is having a respectable season at the age of 35 and has an $11-million option for the 2015 season. Crawford likely won’t be ready for the Majors until mid to late 2016 — assuming he continues on this advanced development path — so picking up the veteran’s option might make some sense.
The Nationals acquired two intriguing prospects during the off-season during the deal that sent pitching prospect Nate Karns to Tampa Bay and also saw catcher Jose Lobaton relocate to Washington. Unfortunately, both of the B-level prospects have struggled in their new surroundings. Felipe Rivero, a 22-year-old southpaw in Double-A, has struggled with his command and against right-handed batters. Lefties are hitting just .133 against him with righties are swatting him around to the tune of a .344 batting average. Outfielder Drew Vettleson, 22, appeared in just nine games at Double-A before hitting the disabled list. The left-handed hitter enjoyed his time at home (in a small sample size) with his three hits going for a triple and two home runs. He suffered a broken hand after he was hit by a pitch from Phillies prospect Jesse Biddle and should be out until late May or early June.
Prized pitching prospect Lucas Giolito continues to rebound exceptionally well from Tommy John surgery. Selected 16th overall in the 2012 amateur draft, he made just one pro appearance before going under the knife. The 19-year-old hurler returned for 11 appearances in 2013 and has looked even stronger in ’14. The right-hander his showing eye-popping stuff, including an upper-90s heater and is also inducing a ton of ground-ball outs to go with 36 strikeouts in 32.1 innings.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.