With the minor league regular season wrapping up in the next 20 days, I thought it might be fun to look back at some of the prospects that made great progress through the minor league system this season. Many of these guys I have written about over the course of the summer, and some I have written about as recent as last week. Be that as it may, I would like to take the next two weeks to wrap up the season by compiling and recognizing my All “Breakout” Prospect team for 2014. These players may make an impact on your fantasy rosters for the final stretch run in 2014 and should be on your radar for next season’s draft or keeper consideration. Let’s define the criteria. Prospects that I consider to have had breakout seasons are those that were promoted over several levels over the course of one season. Many prospects get promoted up one level during the season, but those that begin putting it all together can make a run for a September call-up after achieving success at multiple levels. Some of these guys were already top prospects that finally made their move. Many others were much lower down the organizational prospect rankings, and burst on the scene this season, looking to become Top 50 prospects going into next season. These are all guys that have either recently been called up or have a good probability of being called up any day. This week in Part 1, we will look at the Pitching Staff…
- Aaron Sanchez, RHP (TOR) — Yes, I know he is pitching out of the bullpen in Toronto. Sanchez pitched the first half of the year in AA, New Hampshire, and about a month in AAA Buffalo, before the Blue Jays had seen enough improvement in his command to give him a shot with the big club out of the pen. As
of now, he has two ‘plus’ major league pitches: Fastball and Sharp Curveball. This plays extremely well out of the bullpen and he has done fairly well in just over 12 INN in 7 appearances with a 2.19 ERA, 0.57 WHIP and .125 avg against. He might not be striking batters out as much as we might like, but only 2 walks in 12 innings shows much improved command. He is a nice add now in leagues that value middle relievers and might be a sleeper pick for a spot in the rotation next year. He will have to develop his changeup, and perhaps, will have that chance in Spring Training.
- Andrew Heaney, LHP (MIA) — Should they or shouldn’t they promote Heaney? This is the great debate amongst Marlins fans and baseball writers alike. Andrew had a rough stint in the Majors back in June. 24 hits and 6 walks in just over 20 innings is not going to get it done. The lack of command was perplexing as he has sported a 2.1 BB/9 and 9.7 K/9 combined in AA, Jacksonville, and AAA, New Orleans. Miami is trying to get him straightened out before they recall him, but that might be sooner rather than later. Henderson Alvarez is on the DL and the collection of spot starts have now included, Brad Penny. Yes, 36-year-old, Brad Penny, who didn’t pitch at all last season, has made his first appearance for the Marlins since 2004. Brian Flynn and Anthony DeSclafani haven’t been good in their appearances either. Miami should and will strongly consider Heaney for an encore performance by September. I have a feeling we should see improved command and he might be up to stay. I can’t see him pitching out of the bullpen. He will either slide into the rotation or compete for a spot out of Spring Training.
- Marco Gonzales, LHP (STL) — Here is another guy who struggled mightily when he was called up to the Majors for just a few starts. In fairness, he was selected in the 2013, June Amateur draft almost exactly one year prior to his MLB debut. In 2014, he dominated at High A, Palm Springs and AA, Springfield. He performed well at AAA, Memphis as well. He combined minors numbers to date is 2.31 ERA, 1.13 WHIP in 105 Innings. He had a respectable 2.1 BB/9 and 9.1 K/9 over the three levels. He had some bad luck as his call up coincided with the MLB All Star break so he missed out on the Futures Game for which he was selected to participate. The lack of command at the Major League level was surprising (11 BB in 14 INN) as he does have a plus grade for command. He only possess an average fastball. If he is not hitting his spots and his breaking pitches aren’t missing bats, he is very hittable. If their big trade deadline acquisitions (Lackey and Masterson) don’t pan out and St. Louis begins to fade, I would fully expect to see them give Gonzales another crack at the big leagues this fall. He is young, but has an advanced feel for pitching. If they fall out of the hunt, St. Louis might want to let him work out his mechanics in Busch Stadium.
- Daniel Norris, LHP (TOR) — Norris was drafted in the second round in 2011 and was a preseason Top 100 prospect for 2012 on most sites. He had a rough year in 2012 AND 2013 and had dropped off most prospect lists. Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman got all the publicity, but quietly, Norris has had a terrific season and has been named MLB.com’s #1 prospect in the Blue Jays system in their updated rankings. He has been known to have issues with his command during his years in pro ball. This season he has developed some consistency in his delivery which has resulted in improved command. He has been able to supplement his sharp sinking fastball with some quality off-speed pitches and dominated High A (Dunedin) and AA (New Hampshire) hitters. This earned him another promotion to AAA, Buffalo last week. He had a fantastic first start in Buffalo and has combined 2.21 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over all three levels in 2014. He had a rough patch in AA where he lost his command for several starts, but overall has averaged a mediocre 3.0 BB/9 but an impressive 11.2 K/9. There has been some rumblings that Norris may get called up in September to join Sanchez in the bullpen. This might be good experience for him to get his feet wet in the Major Leagues before returning to the rotation in Spring Training. If he gets the call, he would provide an immediate boost in strikeouts for your fantasy team. Dynasty League owners should be trying to acquire this guys before it’s too late. He should be in the Toronto rotation with Stroman and Sanchez at some point in 2015.
- Luis Severino, RHP (NYY) — Here is a guy that you didn’t hear much about prior to the season. Severino was signed as an International Free Agent out of the Dominican Republic and now has three years of pro ball under his belt at the age of 20. Going into this season he was still relatively unknown as I was able to swipe him up in three dynasty leagues. After an impressive performance in this year’s Futures Game and two promotions up to AA, Trenton, he has vaulted up to the #1 prospect in the Yankees system. Over three levels in 2014, Luis has a 2.36 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9 and 10.3 K/9. Severino features a plus fastball that hits the high 90’s and sits between 94-95 Mph. He has a developing slider and changeup that will only continue to improve his effectiveness if he continues to throw them for strikes. He has probably topped out at AA this season, but will likely push the Yankees to consider him in 2015 if they can resist trading him for some washed up veteran former All-Star.
Back-End of Bullpen
- Ken Giles, RHP (PHI) — Ken has spent a little more time in the Major Leagues than the other guys on this list. That shouldn’t take away the fact that he started the season as the Closer in AA, Reading and dominated the Eastern League hitters to the tune of 1.20 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 29 Ks in 15 Innings. He did not fair as well in AAA, Lehigh Valley, but due to need in Philadelphia, Ken got the call up. Giles was on no one’s top prospects list going into the season due to a dreadful 2013 where he spent the entire season sucking in High A, Clearwater. He stellar 2014 season earned him a promotion to the big stage. Giles has pitched 24 innings with a 1.50 ERA, 2.25 BB/9 and 13.50 K/9. This is a decent sample size now. I believe he would be first in line to close if the Phillies were able to unload Papelbon prior to the August 31st, Waiver Deadline. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about Giles other than a few impressive stats until I saw him pitch last weekend on Charlie Manual Day at Citizen’s Bank Park. He threw several pitches over 100 Mph and he has a devastating slider. He should be rostered in all keeper leagues as he can help now with strikeouts and holds and he is Closer-in-Waiting.
- Jacob Lindgren, LHP (NYY) — I may be beating a dead horse here, but I want to make sure everyone knows about this kid. I touched on him last week as a long shot to get called up this season after pitching this spring for Mississippi State. Immediately following last week’s piece, Lindgren gets called up to AA, Trenton and proceeds to strikeout the side in his first appearance. He has climbed up four levels in two months of pro ball after being drafted in June. He has given up a total of 1 run in 16 total innings in his pro career and has 33 strikeouts. His respectable WHIP of 0.87 shows he has managed to show some command as well. He has a hard downward moving fastball that is difficult to get in the air and his slider has been completely unhittable as lefties have looked silly waving at it. In mid-June, I predicted, Lindgren would be the first in the 2014 draft class to reach the Major Leagues. Yankees’ TV play-by-play announcer, Michael Kay, said on the air that the Yankees brass “loves this kid” and it wouldn’t surprise him to see him get called up in September. Since then, the Yankees let Matt Thornton get claimed by Washington and let him go. They now find themselves in need of a LHP setup man. Right now that is David Huff and I’m not sure how long he will cut it in that role. The Yankees could give their rotation a break by only requiring 6 quality innings down the stretch. 7th Inning = Lindgren. 8th Inning = Betances, 9th Inning = Robertson. This could keep the Yankees in contention down the stretch. Keep Lindgren on your radar as well as he could be huge for your fantasy team if they value middle relief.
- Cam Bedrosian, RHP (LAA) — In following the theme of the All “Breakout” Bullpen, Cam stuck out 23.8 batters per 9 in his first two weeks in High A, Inland Empire this season which deservedly earned him a promotion to AA, Arkansas. He continued by striking out another 57 hitters in 32+ innings pitched. Prior to Tommy John surgery in 2011 he was thought to be a starter. Although he has begun to develop a decent slider, he is destined for the bullpen with his plus fastball and questionable command. He has had a few quick trips to Anaheim this year and could be a nice piece in the bullpen down the stretch. I’m not sure Huston Street or Jason Grilli is going to be a permanent closer going into 2015 and beyond. Cam has a real chance to win that job and be a must own in all formats as early as next year.
Bryan Luhrs Real Deal Dynasty Sports, Creator & League Commissioner MajorLeagueFantasySports.com, Fantasy Baseball Writer http://www.realdealdynasty.com @realdealdynasty ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio: Join us this Monday the 18th of August from 1-2pm EST for another episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. This week our guest include Eric Paulen and Joe “65 Mustangs” Iannone. This week our featured guest is Eric Paulen who is the Founder & President of Bald Bull Entertainment. Eric has produced projects for companies & organizations such as ESPN, WWE, Fox Sports, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, NCAA, HBO Sports, History Channel, MLB, A&E, and is an owner in Major League Fantasy Sports in baseball, basketball, and football. Joe is a writer for majorleaguefantasysports.com and an owner in baseball & football. You can call in at 646.915.8596, listen live online anywhere, or if you can’t listen live you can download the podcast on I-Tunes or Google Play stores. Search for Sports Palooza Radio Show.