Getting acquainted with the future
Baseball America’s ability to rank prospects and to do it with surprising accuracy is reason enough to pay attention to its mid-season Top 50 list.
Of course, when talking about baseball prospects, “accuracy” is a relative term in a sport that doesn’t always treat even its best talent kindly.
That’s why it’s not a bad idea to further X-ray elite prospects and their teams. With the July 31 trade deadline a few days away, GMs are mulling whether to jettison or acquire personnel as a run-up to the post-season, or as a path to a reconstruction project, with Top 50 talent involved in either case.
A look at clubs blessed with Baseball America’s top prodigies suggests at least a few stars could be coming soon to a big-league club near you:
The Rangers sit comfortably ahead of any other team with four of BA’s Top 50 prospects incubating in their farm system. Perhaps the best bet for a quick promotion is Martin Perez, a 20-year old left-hander who could find his way to Arlington if Ron Washington loses confidence in Derek Holland. Perez has two big-league pitches that have drawn comparisons to Johan Santana‘s repertoire. It’s his sweeping curveball that’s impressive in tandem with a mid-90s fastball.
Last year, the Rays learned again that Tropicana Field attendance didn’t much depend upon the quality of big-league personnel. It’s measly in any year. Now that the Rays have lost last year’s free agents and are retooling, they might as well look to the future, which is quite bright. Matt Moore, No. 3 on the BA list, is a good place to begin. The 22-year-old strikeout artist could soon find himself in a Rays rotation that lacks a credible southpaw beyond David Price. Look next at the outfield, where Desmond Jennings is moving toward a full-time job in St. Pete. Jennings’ big-league baptism was cut short earlier this month by a fractured right finger. Rays fans needn’t fret. Jennings is hitting .275 with 12 home runs, 37 RBIs, 61 runs scored, 17 steals and a .370 on-base percentage in 313 at-bats with triple-A Durham.
Of the many prospects ripening in KC’s farm system, Mike Montgomery and Jake Odurruzi are some of the highlighters. Montgomery, a slender 6-foot-4 lefty, brings a fastball loaded with velocity and movement. Odurruzi arrived courtesy of last winter’s deal with Milwaukee that sent Zach Greinke to the Brewers, which says everything about Odoruzzu’s upside. His mid-90s fastball joins a malicious slider and curveball that should make Odurruzi part of Kansas City’s brewing revival.
Jesus Montero might be one of the more intriguing prospects on the list. His future can be looked at in two ways. He could be wonderful trade bait as the Yankees ponder a playoff-targeted pitching upgrade. It’s not a bad chip to possess, especially when Montero has a .289 batting average spanning the past two years at triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre. But the Yankees also have another problem: Russell Martin and his .220 batting average. How soon before Montero settles in at a position the Yankees might not have filled, for the long-term anyway, with Martin?
The Diamondbacks have been soaring this year and a lot of that can be attributed to pitching. Also, there’s the obvious byproduct produced by manager Kirk Gibson’s regimen. Now comes the second act. The D-Backs are poised to add pitcher Tyler Skaggs, a left-hander acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in a trade for Dan Haren. Skaggs’ fastball isn’t terrifying at 90-91 mph, but he wields a cruel curveball that can flummox batters.
Despite all of their calamities, Dodgers fans can seek solace from Dee Gordon, an electrifying shortstop with impressive range. Gordon was called up earlier this season to replace the injured Rafael Furcal and soon could become a fixture there if LA decides not to extend Furcal’s contract. Until such time, Gordon will remain at triple-A Albuquerque, where he is batting .332 with 24 steals. Dodger fans and management can also expect to happily greet right-hander Zach Lee. Lee is a fine story — a two-sport athlete who turned down an opportunity to play quarterback at LSU. Expect to see him sooner rather than later. Scouts estimate his ceiling to surpass that of Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw.
The magic of BA’s Top 50 list is that it helps fans see the future. And, as anyone familiar with called-up players and the boost they can give a team understands, the future can be part of a team’s makeup in a hurry.