The All-Star break isn’t really the mid-season point for anything. The Major League season is six months long, so the mid-season point is the end of June. The minor league season is five months long, so the mid-season point is the middle of June, rather than the middle of July. The All-Star break does provide a few days off to reflect on the first half (and then some) of the season, so the mid-season reviews are more out of convenience.
At this point in the year the minor league season is about 70% finished. Calling this a three-quarters review would be more accurate. Our mid-season top 20 prospects is a more accurate mid-season review, but that only looks at the top guys and where they are now, without reviewing the pre-season rankings and what they have done this year. I wanted to go over how the pre-season rankings looked, and see how everyone is progressing and whether there are players who are having a down year.
Below is our top 30 prospect list from the 2013 Prospect Guide. Each player will include a brief caption of their progress this season.
1. Gerrit Cole, RHP – As expected, Cole arrived in the majors in mid-June. He hasn’t been an ace, but he’s been effective with a 3.89 ERA in 41.2 innings and a 25:9 K/BB ratio. Over time he will adjust to the majors and become that top of the rotation starter.
2. Jameson Taillon, RHP – He’s got a 3.75 ERA in 98.1 innings in Double-A, with an 8.5 K/9 and a 3.1 BB/9. The ERA is inflated due to his last start where he gave up 10 earned runs in 3.1 innings. He was expected to be up in mid-2014 with the potential to be a top of the rotation starter, and that hasn’t changed.
3. Gregory Polanco, OF – Polanco followed up his 2012 breakout season with strong numbers in Bradenton. He was promoted last month to Altoona, and has had mixed results. If he hits well through the end of the season he could start the 2014 season in Triple-A and make the majors by mid-season next year.
4. Alen Hanson, SS – Hanson had a rough start to the year on both sides of the game. He bounced back offensively and has been hitting great ever since. He’s had one other bad stretch defensively. The defensive skills are there for him to stick at shortstop, and he’s got the bat to be a good top of the lineup hitter. He might be a year behind Polanco, with an ETA of 2015 since he needs more polish with his defense.
5. Luis Heredia, RHP – Heredia dropped in our mid-season rankings, but that was more because other players passed him. He’s young and developing. He’s got as much upside as any of the other top pitchers, but he’s also raw compared to those other guys. His new slider is leading to added strikeouts this year, but control has been an issue. The start of his season was delayed due to showing up out of shape, which probably cost him a month of development time in West Virginia.
6. Josh Bell, OF – He’s healthy this year after missing last year with a knee injury. However, he’s not exactly dominating low-A pitching, with a .281/.346/.453 line in 320 at-bats. There are some concerns that his swing is preventing him from tapping into his plus contact and power potential. He has also struggled with strikeouts at times, although that hasn’t been as big of an issue in June and July.
7. Barrett Barnes, OF – Barnes is a five tool talent, but he has struggled to put up consistent results on the field. He has also suffered a few minor injuries in the last year, which has limited his playing time as a pro to 285 at-bats. It’s hard to adjust to pro ball and the pitching at a certain level without regular at-bats. He has been healthy since the start of June, and since mid-June he has a .284/.347/.534 line in 88 at-bats. Hopefully that’s a sign that he’s adjusting now that he’s healthy.
8. Tyler Glasnow, RHP – Glasnow had top of the rotation potential before the year, and he’s breaking out this year with top of the rotation results. He has a 2.48 ERA in 76.1 innings, with a 110:43 K/BB ratio. His control has been improving lately, which has been one of the big things he needs to work on. He should finish the year in West Virginia, and could be on the fast track starting next year, with an ETA of June 2015.
9. Kyle McPherson, RHP – This would have been a perfect year for McPherson to make the jump to the majors with all of the injuries in the rotation. Instead, he went down early with an injury of his own and will miss the entire season. Next year prospects like Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham will be making the jump to the majors, which will make it harder for McPherson to find a spot unless he returns healthy.
10. Nick Kingham, RHP – Kingham has always been underrated, and he’s starting to get some attention this year. He had a 3.09 ERA and a 75:14 K/BB ratio in 70 innings in Bradenton, and has been pitching well in his time with Altoona. He should finish the year in Altoona, with a chance of making Indianapolis for the playoffs. After that he could go Triple-A/MLB in 2014, with the potential to be a number two starter one day.
11. Clay Holmes, RHP – Holmes struggled in the first two months, but is turning things around. In his last ten starts he has a 3.88 ERA in 46.1 innings. He’s got control issues, with a 53:53 K/BB ratio in 82.1 innings on the year. Those issues haven’t improved during his hot stretch lately.
12. Dilson Herrera, 2B – Herrera has struggled lately, with a .554 OPS in 65 at-bats in the second half with West Virginia. His numbers before that were strong, highlighted by a strong month of May. He’s got great hitting skills, and the potential to be an offensive second baseman. He’s not having the monster breakout season that Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco had, but he’s hitting well for a 19-year-old in West Virginia. He was also selected to the Futures game, which shows that he’s getting national prospect attention.
13. Tony Sanchez, C – Sanchez is finally hitting this year, with a .282/.364/.502 line in 241 at-bats in Triple-A. His defense has struggled at times, which is a reason he isn’t in the majors right now instead of Michael McKenry. He should be up later in the year as a third catcher, and could be the primary backup to Russell Martin in 2014, with the chance to take over as the starter in 2015.
14. Justin Wilson, LHP – Wilson made the jump to the majors this year, and has been absolutely dominant out of the bullpen with a 1.89 ERA in 52.1 innings, with a 44:19 K/BB ratio. He could continue as a back of the bullpen option, but he might have more future value as a starting pitcher.
15. Bryan Morris, RHP – Morris has gone back and forth between Triple-A and the majors this year, but most of his time has been in the majors. He has closer potential, but has been more of a strong middle reliever with a 2.72 ERA and a 25:18 K/BB ratio in 39.2 innings.
16. Wyatt Mathisen, C – Mathisen has missed most of the year with a partially torn labrum, and his numbers were struggling before the injury. He had the injury since the first homestand of the season, so that could have led to the poor offensive results.
17. Adrian Sampson, RHP – Sampson has great stuff, but has struggled with his aggressive jump to high-A ball. He has a 5.51 ERA in 94.2 innings this year, along with a 57:15 K/BB ratio. He is one of the few prospects who has had a down year in the top 20, and probably moves out of the top 30 until he can turn his skills into results.
18. Vic Black, RHP – Black has been dominant in Triple-A, with a 2.12 ERA in 34 innings, along with a 48:12 K/BB ratio. Walks are usually a problem, although he only has allowed two walks in 17.1 innings over his last 15 appearances, with 20 strikeouts in that time. He should pitch in the majors this year, either as an injury replacement in the next two months, or as a September callup. The Pirates have a lot of bullpen depth, so Black could also be a trade chip at the deadline.
19. Andrew Oliver, LHP – Oliver has a 3.29 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 98.1 innings this year. The problem is that he has 86 walks. His control has been horrible since the start of April, with 67 walks in 66 innings. He would have been a good option for the rotation with all of the injuries this year, but the control issues prevented that and saw him get passed up by Brandon Cumpton.
20. Jin-De Jhang, C – Jhang has limited playing time this year since he spent the first half of the year in extended Spring Training. So far in Jamestown his hitting skills have been as advertised, with a .333/.408/.524 line in 63 at-bats. There is going to be an interesting decision next year with Jhang, Mathisen, and Reese McGuire all options at catcher for West Virginia.
21. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP – He wasn’t in the rankings in the Prospect Guide, since he was acquired after the book was published. We added him to this spot before the regular season. Pimentel has turned his prospect status around, posting strong numbers in Altoona, and even better results so far with Indianapolis. He should be a bullpen option in September, but could be used as starting depth if the Pirates need him before then. He could also be an option for the rotation in 2014.
22. Jordy Mercer, SS – Mercer has stepped up as the starting shortstop in Pittsburgh. He got off to a good start, but has cooled lately, with an overall .257/.309/.383 line in 175 at-bats. He’s not a long-term shortstop option, but should be a good guy for the role over the next few years until a long-term option emerges.
23. Gift Ngoepe, SS – Ngoepe was on the list this high due to his plus defense at shortstop and his plus speed. He has been overmatched against Double-A pitching, which has lowered his stock. His defense and speed plays in the majors, but he’s going to need to show some form of hitting to be a good defensive backup.
24. Phil Irwin, RHP – Irwin reached the majors in April for a spot start, but went down with a sore elbow after the start and had ulnar nerve transposition surgery a few weeks ago. Like McPherson, this would have been a great year for Irwin to step up and show what he could do in the major league rotation.
25. Max Moroff, SS – Moroff has the skills to stick at shortstop, and has shown some potential offensively. He had a huge month of June with a .304 average and a .936 OPS. One positive has been his plate patience, with a 48:51 BB/K ratio in 270 at-bats. He’s in his first year out of high school and playing in low-A. He hasn’t moved down in the rankings, but he also hasn’t done much to move up. He has pretty much remained neutral this year.
26. Jose Osuna, 1B – Osuna has a lot of potential with his bat, but hasn’t shown that in high-A this year, with a .233/.288/.315 line in 317 at-bats. He hasn’t been overmatched, with 47 strikeouts, but hasn’t been drawing a lot of walks, and isn’t hitting for power.
27. Adalberto Santos, 2B – Santos has a .281/.384/.410 line in 256 at-bats. He profiled as a future utility player before the year, and is on that same path now. Santos struggled in May, with a .589 OPS, but has been great the rest of the year.
28. Willy Garcia, OF – Garcia had a huge month of June, with a .308/.364/.648 line in 91 at-bats, along with eight homers. On the season he has a .247/.286/.432 line in 324 at-bats. He has shown power, but he’s striking out a third of the time.
29. Elvis Escobar, OF – Escobar has great hitting skills and good gap power. He was in extended Spring Training the first half of the year, so he doesn’t have much playing time to go on this season.
30. Robby Rowland, RHP – Rowland has struggled this year, with a 4.91 ERA in 84.1 innings, along with a 41:37 K/BB ratio. Last year he looked like he had the potential to be a good sinkerball starter. His groundballs are down this year, with a 1.40 GO/AO ratio, down from a 1.71 ratio last year.
Notable Prospects Outside the Top 30 Who Have Moved Up For Top 30 Consideration
Harold Ramirez (Pre-Season Rank: 31) – Ramirez showed great hitting skills in extended Spring Training, and has been on fire so far in Jamestown with a .337/.408/.471 line in 104 at-bats. He moved up in our top 20 before the Jamestown season started due to his extended Spring Training results, so his success isn’t a huge surprise.
Casey Sadler (Pre-Season Rank: 32) – Sadler is in his first full season as a starter, and has been excellent with a 3.38 ERA in 96 innings, along with a 54:25 K/BB ratio and a strong 1.73 GO/AO ratio. Sadler profiles as a back of the rotation starter, and could reach the majors as a depth option next season.
Alex Dickerson (Pre-Season Rank: 33) – After a slow start to the year, Dickerson has been on fire in Double-A. He has a .352/.394/.620 line in 142 at-bats since the start of June, with eight homers. He was ranked low in the pre-season due to his lack of offense in A-ball, but lately he is starting to show his power potential that had him highly rated coming out of the 2011 draft.
Mel Rojas (Pre-Season Rank: 37) – Rojas also had a slow start, but since the second week of May he has a .314/.382/.470 line in 185 at-bats. His power has mostly been in the form of extra base hits, and his strikeout rate has been lowered in that time. He’s looking like a guy who could be a strong fourth outfielder with the ability to play in center field.
Joely Rodriguez (Pre-Season Rank: 40) – Rodriguez has stepped up this year, with a 2.76 ERA in 101 innings between low-A and high-A, along with a 69:29 K/BB ratio. The lack of walks has been huge, since he’s struggled with control in the past at higher velocities. This year he has been throwing 91-94 MPH with his fastball, and is showing good command of the pitch.
Jon Sandfort (Pre-Season Rank: 45) – Sandfort has been impressive this year, showing good development since the end of Spring Training. His velocity is up a bit, his control is better, and he’s mixing his pitches well. Including today’s start where he threw five shutout innings, he has combined for a 2.25 ERA in 16 innings, with a 16:3 K/BB ratio. He’s looking like the next prep pitcher to watch.
Brandon Cumpton (Pre-Season Rank: 46) – Cumpton probably won’t make the top 30, since his upside is limited to being a back of the rotation starter. I wanted to note him since he has made a few starts in the majors with good results. His results with Indianapolis have been strong, with a 3.53 ERA in 81.2 innings, along with a very strong 2.62 GO/AO ratio.
Stetson Allie (Pre-Season Rank: NR) – Allie had huge numbers in low-A, although those aren’t good for profiling future potential. He struggled initially in high-A, but has been doing well lately with an .865 OPS in July and a lowered strikeout rate. He has already jumped into our top 15 overall prospect list.
Andrew Lambo (Pre-Season Rank: NR) – Lambo dominated in Altoona, and has been good since being promoted to Indianapolis. He started off with amazing numbers, struggled for a few weeks, and has started to get back on track recently. In 125 at-bats in Triple-A he has a .280/.359/.568 line with nine homers. That is mostly fueled by his strong month of June, as he has a .688 OPS in July.
Lost Prospect Eligibility: Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris, Jordy Mercer. Gerrit Cole will lose eligibility after 8.1 more innings in the majors.