This time of year some fans stop watching their teams as they fall out of contention. For those of us who fall into this category, and for those of us who are just watchers of the sport, things just got a lot more interesting. Pennant races are establishing themselves, but recent call-ups around MLB have made what is an interesting year even more intriguing. Here are some young talents your eyeballs will enjoy being pointed at.
Josh Rutledge has come out of nowhere. He’d normally be buried behind Troy Tulowitzki, has made a case for some serious consideration at 2B once Tulo heals. He’s belted 6 longballs and has a 1.007 OPS in 21 games. His walk rate, strikeout rate and BABIP are no different from this years AA line, which suggests he his just doing what he is capable of. And for a 21 year old shortstop with fewer than 1000 minor league plate appearances, all but 379 of them below AA, that’s pretty ridiculous. The reality of big league scouting reports will make it difficult for him to keep this going, but there is no guarantee he won’t.
1B/OF Matt McBride (26) was hitting .357 in AAA, but that’s about 80 points higher than normal for him, and considering his BABIP is also about 80 points higher than normal, don’t expect the second incarnation of Todd Helton. But at best he fits a Mark Grace type profile with a lower peak batting average: good run producer with 30-40 2Bs and 15 HRs with about a .290 AVG and only about 75 Ks.
The Cubs have cleaned house enough to bring up a trio of prospects in the past week. CF Brett Jackson is the most promising. Look for a lot of swing and miss. But don’t be surprised by 30 doubles, 10-15 triples, 30-40 steals and 20 home runs. Think a .265 hitting Drew Stubbs (.237 in 2012).
With Ian Stewart shipped out Josh Vitters will be playing a solid third base and could put up 30 doubles and 20 home runs in a full season. He could add more power than that considering he is only 22.
Rounding out the group is Welington Castillo. The 25 year old catcher is splitting time with Steve Clevenger (26) at the moment, but it’s Castillo that carries the bigger stick. Clevenger has decent on base skills and can limit his strikeouts but Castillo will get on base, too and can add 15-20 HR pop to the mix, though he strikes out almost twice as much as Clevenger.
Starling Marte (23) put the first pitch he saw into the bleachers in his debut last week and has helped bolster the Pirates’ offense as they try for a playoff birth. Marte, a center fielder playing left in the bigs, has a cannon from the outfield to with with speed and pop. 20/20 seasons coming soon. As I write this Marte has just hit a game tying home run to dead center field in the 7th inning against Arizona. The center fielder barely moved.
Travis Snider followed Marte’s homer with his third hit of the day. He was cast off from the Blue Jays after several brief and unsuccessful cameos with the big club. But there is a lot of talent here. He gives the Pirates a trio of CF caliber outfielders 25 and under. He has 20HR potential and has hit between .290 and .330 in parts of three seasons at AAA. The Majors have been a puzzle for the most part, but he’s only 24.
The Pirates are for real and they are built to last. Watch the Bucs!
New York –
Starter Matt Harvey is the Mets’ top prospect and has shown a stunning repertoire of pitches that includes a mature change up, a gag inducing slider and a heater that averages 94.4mph. Before the Padres hung a 5 spot on him in his last start at Petco Park Harvey had dominated the Diamondbacks and Giants tossing 11.1 and allowing just 2ER while fanning 18. He has yet to start at Citi Field.
Dan Straily was called up last week to help a pennant chasing Oakland club because he leads all of pro baseball in strikeouts with 175 in 138.1 innings at AA and AAA. (As a general rule if you have as many Ks as IP you are a strikeout machine.) His debut was terrific. He pitched 6 innings walking one and striking out 5 with the only run he surrendered coming off a sacrifice fly.
First baseman Chris Carter (25) has been a prospect for so long some have forgotten that he still is. This is obviously a small sample but the fact that he has averaged a home run every 9 ABs (9HR/80AB) this season should serve to remind you of his potential to be a world class slugger. (For reference, Babe Ruth averaged a home run every 11.76 ABs.)
It does not bode well for the Mariners that OF Trayvon Robinson strikes out in nearly a third of his at bats. But the former Dodger farm hand has the potential to hit 20-25 bombs while stealing 30-40 bases, which is worth a shot to an squad languishing on offense. Think BJ Upton: wildly inconsistent but game changing when good.
Anthony Gose is a potential star because he is a lead off type CF with pop. He is just 21 years old an is the type of hitter who can hit 10-15 HRs, 10 triples and 30 doubles annually, a la Kenny Lofton.* He stole 70 bases last season at AA and was on pace for about 50 at AAA before his call-up. He has struggled with Major League pitching so far, striking out 17 times in his first 53 ABs.
* Take a look at how consistent Kenny Lofton was, even up until his last season at age 40.