This week, I am going to depart from my usual format and review the Minor League road trip I’ve been on for the past week. On Thursday, I left on a 2,500 mile drive from Scottsdale, Arizona to Andover, New Jersey. Normally, that drive can be done in two REALLY long days or three pretty long days of driving. But there is so much baseball between the desert and the northeast, so why rush. I was able to see games in Albuquerque, Tulsa, Kansas City (MLB), Indianapolis and Columbus – seeing six triple-A teams, two double-A teams, plus the Twins and Royals – over the course of a six-day drive.
MLB Prospects Update: Late April Edition
Though my article is only supposed to focus on National League prospects, I am going to break the rules and write about each game I saw and the guys who impressed or bombed - even if they are AL players.
THURSDAY 4/17: El Paso (SD) vs. Albuquerque (LAD)
The Isotopes prevailed 2-1 in a pitchers’ duel. Outfielder Joc Pederson continued to impress. He had two hits and stole his fifth base of the season, showing more speed than I observed in Spring Training. He now has 30 hits in 72 triple-A at bats, five homers, 16 walks a .523 OBP and nothing else to prove at this level.
Also featured on the ‘Topes is Alex Guerrero, who lost out on the Dodgers’ second base competition this spring. Guerrero is also having no problem with triple-A, notching a hit in 14 of his first 30 at bats with a 5-to-1 K/BB ratio. Dee Gordon is off to a hot start in LA, but Guerrero should be up and producing in the big leagues as soon as an injury hits or Gordon slumps. For El Paso, Padres’ outfielder Cameron Maybin was on a rehab assignment – and not hitting well. He’s managed a few multi-hit games since I saw him, but he’s off the fantasy radar until he can prove he can be healthy and productive. That’s a shame for a guy once thought to have 20/20 potential.
FRIDAY 4/18: Northwest Arkansas (KC) vs. Tulsa (COL)
This was an ugly game where five errors by Tulsa led to a 6-5 loss. Royals’ prospects OF Jorge Bonifacio and 3B Cheslor Cuthbert were the biggest names in this game. Bonifacio is extremely talented, but also very young. Same for Cuthbert, who was once considered one of the organization’s top young hitters. Both guys will need to show more in double-A before getting a promotion. Neither is fantasy-worthy this season. The only prospects worth looking at with Tulsa are their two big starting pitchers, Jon Gray and Eddie Butler. Unfortunately, neither was starting on Friday night. I did talk to Butler, though, and get his autograph in hopes that he makes it big with the Rockies!
SATURDAY 4/19: Twins at Royals
I just wanted to see another game at one of the best and underrated ballparks in the MLB. The Royals won 5-4 as Bruce Chen earned a win despite allowed four runs and 12 baserunners over five innings. Danny Duffy spelled him in relief and tossed two strong innings, making me wonder which pitcher should be in the rotation. In any case, Duffy has carved out a niche in the Royals’ pen and is a smart pick-up in leagues with holds. He could end up starting by the end of the season and has good strikeout and rate-stat potential.
SUNDAY 4/20: Louisville (CIN) at Indianapolis (PIT)
This was an Easter Sunday matinee in a great triple-A park in downtown Indy. The visiting Louisville Bats won 5-1, but I was most interested in seeing Pirates’ prospect Gregory Polanco. Polanco has torn up triple-A this season to the tune of .419/.456/.649. The Pirates are struggling in the outfield with Travis Snider and Jose Tabata seeing regular at bats. It is just a matter of time before Pittsburgh calls upon Polanco to join McCutchen and Marte in the slickest-fielding outfield in the majors. Polanco will be an impact fantasy player as soon as he gets the chance. I’m sure the Pirates would love to wait it out for arbitration clock reasons, but a slow start in the standings may force their hand earlier.
MONDAY 4/21: Toledo (DET) at Columbus (CLE)
Since American League prospects aren’t necessarily my purview on RotoBaller, I’ll just give a few notes from the Clippers’ 6-4 win. Columbus 2B Jose Ramirez went 4-for-5 with two homers. Ramirez is tiny (5’9”) and is blocked by Jason Kipnis, but he could be a utility guy in the majors right now. First baseman Jesus Aguilar looked really good, launching a homer on a 2-for-3 night. Aguilar has five homers in 17 games and a .393/.464/.721. Small sample sizes beware, but he could be a factor in Cleveland before the season is over. Toledo has a hard-throwing reliever named Jose Ortega who is a hot mess. He throws the ball around 96-97 MPH, but seemingly has no idea how to control it. He took the loss as a result of two wild pitches (that were, somehow, scored passed balls) in the eighth inning. It wasn’t pretty, but it was fun to watch.
So that recaps my road trip. If anyone gets a chance to see a game or two at a minor league park near you, it is totally worth it: cheap tickets, cheap concessions and amazing ballparks.