Prospect Watch: Updates on Top and Injured Prospects

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.


Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins (Profile)
Level: Double-A   Age: 20   Top-15: 1st   Top-100: 1st
Line: 20 PA, 0.0% BB, 40.0% K, 1 HR, .150/.150/.350 (.182 BABIP) at High-A

Buxton and Mike Trout have very little in common at the moment as the Twins’ center fielder has been injured longer than expected.

During spring training, Buxton injured his right wrist diving in the outfield then re-injured it sliding during his rehab assignment. Initially, the injury was thought to be minor, but it’s lingered and kept baseball’s top prospect out of Double-A New Britain’s lineup.

Among several interesting quotes related by Derek Wetmore from assistant general manager Rob Antony was this gem: “I’m not pleased every day that goes by that he’s not able to do anything to get back on track and get back to his development stages.” Antony’s words suggest Buxton has made little progress since aggravating the injury in early May. Antony cautiously added that he expected Buxton to play in the Arizona Fall League and a winter league, but indicated he was unsure whether Buxton would be fully healthy.

Obviously it would be rare if a wrist injury derailed Buxton’s career, but it has evolved into more than a minor setback. Hopefully Buxton can return to the field to build off his 2013 campaign. At this point, plate appearances are important to his development so it will be interesting to see whether how deep into the winter the Twins will push Buxton’s season after his return.


Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: Triple-A   Age: 21   Top-15: 1st   Top-100: 18th
Line: 53.2 IP, 9.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9, 4.02 FIP

A negative MRI following an elbow sprain? Yes, please.

The right-handed Syndergaard was diagnosed with a mild strain of the flexor pronator, a potential precursor to Tommy John surgery. Thankfully, for what seems like the first time this year, an MRI showed no structural damage to an elbow. For Syndergaard this means surgical intervention is not necessary at this time.

During Sandy Alderson’s rounds Tuesday, he told reporters that team doctors have recommended shoulder strengthening exercises to Syndergaard and that the starter would be placed on the disabled list. If you’re wondering, I don’t know how shoulder exercises improve an elbow injury. Let’s just hope the Mets’ doctors do.


Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners (Profile)
Level: MLB   Age: 21   Top-15: 1st   Top-100: 7th
Line: 12.1 IP, 52 TBF, 20 K, 2 BB, 2 HR at three minor-league levels

Sidelined with a right shoulder injury since the beginning of the season, Walker made a rehab start last night.

Dr. James Andrews discussed the ongoing ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) “epidemic” yesterday in a position paper published on the American Sports Medicine Institute website. While elbow injuries are major setbacks, thankfully, Tommy John surgery is fairly adapt at returning pitchers to the field within one and a half years. Shoulder injuries can be fatal and that’s the cause for concern regarding Walker. His right shoulder injury has been described as inflammation, but the team was concerned enough to change Walker’s mechanics. It’s been reported that Walker will use his legs more in an attempt to take pressure off of his shoulder.

Walker’s line was poor — 3.0 innings, 5 hits, 4 earned runs (2 home runs), 3 strikeouts and no walks — but he threw 85 pitches without suffering a setback. Expect the Mariners to give him two-to-three more rehab starts to build stamina before he rejoins the team.

Unfortunately, organization mate James Paxton was diagnosed with shoulder inflammation following an MRI. Paxton was placed on the disabled list with a lat strain but suffered a setback after Saturday’s rehab start. The Mariners believe his inflammation should subside within five-to-seven days.

Seattle is 26-26 and just 5.5 games behind Oakland. The return of two top prospects to their rotation — which has deployed Brandon Maurer and Chris Young — would be a huge boost.

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Formerly of Bullpen Banter, JD can be followed on Twitter.

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