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Though Byron Buxton has only played in six games this season due to a wrist injury, the Twins outfielder still sits atop Baseball America’s midseason ranking of the top 50 prospects in the sport. Twenty-two of the 30 Major League teams have at least one player on the list, and the Cubs stand out with three players in the top seven — Kris Bryant at #2, the newly-acquired Addison Russell at #5 and Javier Baez at #7.
Here’s some news as we kick off the final week before the All-Star break…
- Jed Hoyer discussed several Cubs topics with David Kaplan and David Haugh on their podcast this morning, including how the general manager believes the offseason will be a busy one for his team. “I expect us to be far more active this winter than last winter,” Hoyer said. “We have money to spend and I expect teams looking for offense to call us.” (Hat tip to Kaplan’s Twitter page.)
- C.C. Sabathia‘s career is at a crossroads with the news that the veteran lefty might require microfracture surgery on his right knee. Given Sabathia’s declining numbers and 2017 vesting option, ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription needed) wonders if the Yankees would be better off if Sabathia retired.
- The week’s minor league transactions are recapped by Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
- While the A’s are seemingly going all-in with the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade, Giants GM Brian Sabean could see upgrades as a lost cause given how his team has struggled recently, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Shea opines that Sabean isn’t keen on trading prospects for 2014 given that he’ll have a number of roster holes to fill next season thanks to possibly departing free agents.
Injuries continue to dominate the headlines around the league, led of course by the most impactful UCL tear in a year already full of them. The news that star Marlins hurler Jose Fernandez is likely to undergo Tommy John surgery has capped off a difficult stretch of pitching injuries, leading to reactions from around the game. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports says that understanding and addressing the rash of elbow injuries is in its infancy, and could be decades away from any kind of satisfying resolution. Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider link) writes that the club did not mishandle Fernandez, and that the lesson teams have drawn from the rash of TJ procedures is to maximize the innings of young arms before they hit the open market. And Tom Verducci of SI.com argues that the issue is not use at the major league level so much as years of added stress before players become professionals, and explores various possible solutions.
Let’s run through the latest injury news that carries potential hot stove implications:
- A beleaguered Astros bullpen (collective 5.91 ERA) will be without young righty Jose Cisnero for the rest of the year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, tweets MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. The 25-year-old threw just 4 2/3 ineffective innings in 2014, but tossed 43 2/3 frames of 4.12 ERA ball in his debut season last year. Entering 2013, Cisnero was rated Houston’s 15th-best prospect by Baseball America, which noted that he could become an innings-eating starter.
- Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia has seemingly defied the odds and worked himself back to the point that he is now a candidate to receive a big league start this weekend, tweets Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Garcia’s most recent problems have been in the shoulder, though he has previously undergone TJ surgery. Garcia, still just 27, has logged just 177 innings under his four-year, $27MM contract, which runs through 2015 and includes club options for the two following seasons ($11.5MM and $12MM, respectively, each with a $500K buyout).
- The Giants will be without first baseman Brandon Belt for at least six weeks after successful thumb surgery, reports Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com (on Twitter). It appears that the team will utilize a mix of Michael Morse and Hector Sanchez at first while Belt recovers.
- Twins minor leaguer Byron Buxton — the game’s consensus top overall prospect — learned today that he has re-aggravated the wrist injury that cost him most of the early portion of the season, reports MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (Twitter links). Though the team does not believe the wrist is any worse than when it was first injured, but another extended absence would obviously further delay the 20-year-old’s final development push.
- Outfielder Carlos Beltran, one of the major offseason signings by the Yankees, has been diagnosed with a bone spur in his right elbow. As MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports, the club will see if a cortisone show can allow Beltran to avoid surgery. “They believe it’s an old bone spur,” said manager Joe Girardi. “It’s aggravating his elbow now. If in a couple of days he doesn’t feel better, then my level of concern would be pretty high.”
Byron Buxton, the Twins‘ top prospect and perhaps the top prospect in all of baseball, re-injured his wrist today while sliding into third, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan tweets. The extent of the injury isn’t yet known, and Buxton will soon have an MRI. 2014 has likely been a frustrating season for Buxton — he injured his wrist in spring training and sat out the entire season until last week. He has played just five games so far this season, all at Class A+ Fort Myers. Here are more notes on prospects.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was in Raleigh yesterday to watch NC State pitcher Carlos Rodon, a candidate to be taken first overall in next month’s draft, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes. Rodon struck out nine batters and walked one in seven innings. “We’re still gathering information,” says Luhnow. “I know where I personally stand, but I haven’t seen these guys near as much and seen nearly as many guys as everybody else.”
- Calling up Gregory Polanco this weekend would have been a great move for the Pirates, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Polanco continues his hot hitting for Indianapolis (he’s currently at .374/.434/.580), and the Pirates are short on outfielders, with Travis Snider serving a suspension (and with Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen both currently out of Saturday’s game with injuries). The Pirates will also be on “Sunday Night Baseball” this weekend. Of course, Polanco’s arbitration status will likely be a factor in the Pirates delaying his promotion until mid-June, by which point he will be past the Super Two threshold.
The Twins have activated top prospect Byron Buxton from the 7-day disabled list, so he’ll soon make his 2014 debut, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger explains. The Twins are sending him to Class A+ Fort Myers even though he hit .326/.415/.472 in a half-season at that level last year. “If he gets rolling and it looks like he’s in mid-season form and ready to go, we’ll move him up to [Double-A] New Britain where we planed to have him be,” says assistant GM Rob Antony. “He played his way out of this league last year but we’ll give him enough time here to get going.” MLB.com ranks Buxton the top overall prospect in baseball. Here are more notes from the AL Central.
- The White Sox claimed Moises Sierra from the Blue Jays in part because of injuries to outfielders Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia, CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes writes. “It’s another piece,” says manager Robin Ventura. “With Eaton going down, we’re light in the outfield area. You can have Leury (Garcia) go out there, but it adds another piece to us and being right-handed keeps us more balanced that way.”
- The White Sox are satisfied with Rule 5 pick Adrian Nieto‘s progress so far this year, Hayes writes. When the team selected Nieto from the Nationals last offseason, he had never played above the Class A+ level, but he’s held his own in 11 games so far in the big leagues, hitting .280/.280/.360. That includes three hits on Friday.
- In the wake of the Joel Hanrahan signing, John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press explains that the reason the Tigers did not simply keep Joaquin Benoit is that Benoit wanted “closer-type money,” and the Tigers were already paying Joe Nathan to be their closer. They also wanted Bruce Rondon to slot into a late-inning role.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Byron Buxton holds the top position in Baseball America's 2014 ranking of the top 100 prospects in the sport. It's no surprise that Buxton was ranked #1 given that the Twins outfielder was similarly ranked in BA's midseason top 100 last summer. Red Sox infielder Xander Bogaerts, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (who qualifies for the list despite his long career in Japan) and Cubs shortstop Javier Baez round out the top five.
Here's some more from around baseball….
- Baseball America's John Manuel picks out some of the best and worst rankings from the past 24 years of BA's Top 100 Prospects lists.
- The Braves signed long-term extensions with several core players but only extended Jason Heyward through his two remaining arbitration years. While some believe that this means Heyward's time in Atlanta is limited, MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby writes that "the expectation is that after next season, the Heyward deal can be expanded so that he, too, will be locked up at least through the first year in the new ballpark." Such a deal would require extending Heyward through at least his first two free agent years, which could get very expensive for the Braves if Heyward finally breaks out into stardom, as many have predicted for the young outfielder.
- Padres chairman Ron Fowler told reporters (including Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune) that the club is prepared to raise payroll even further beyond the current $87MM+ projection for 2014.
- In regards to negotiations with Chase Headley on a multiyear deal, Fowler said, “There has been dialogue and we will continue to have dialogue at the appropriate time through the appropriate sources.” Headley recently hinted that not much progress was being made and that talks could be tabled until after the season.
- According to a talent evaluator who has seen Joe Saunders throw, the veteran southpaw could be the "steal of February," the evaluator tells FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link). Saunders posted a rough 5.26 ERA over 183 innings for the Mariners last season. "No one saying he’s a star, but he’s a major-league pitcher," Rosenthal writes.
- The Nationals' acquisition of Doug Fister from the Tigers is the best transaction of the 2014 offseason, as judged by Fangraphs' Dave Cameron. The Fister trade headlines Cameron's list of the winter's top 10 moves.
- Though Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts denied that his club's profits were going anywhere but back into the team, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times wonders why the Cubs' revenues haven't been reflected in the Major League payroll.
- NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon stands alone in his own tier atop ESPN's Keith Law's four-tier breakdown of the 2014 draft's top prospects (Insider subscription required).
Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports that the Royals maintain there is a possibility for them to retain Ervin Santana this offseason. GM Dayton Moore has gone on the record in saying that Santana will get a qualifying offer, notes Dutton, and one club official pointed to the struggles that gave Kyle Lohse on last year's market. Lohse was significantly older than Santana, of course, but a qualifying offer does up the price to sign Santana for everyone other than the Royals. Dutton senses that at this time, the team doesn't want to go beyond three years, but that could change once they gauge the market. Here's more out of the AL Central…
- MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger tackles a host of Twins-related topics in his latest Twins Inbox, starting off by dismissing the notion that Joe Mauer's concussion and Josmil Pinto's impressive big league debut spell the end of Mauer's days behind the plate. Mauer and GM Terry Ryan both say that Mauer will still catch, and the proposed destination of first base for Mauer may not be vacant. Bollinger reports that Justin Morneau is a candidate to return to the team, but there mixed feelings about whether or not he'd return, as he may prefer to sign with a contender.
- Bollinger also notes that Brian Dozier's strong season at second base could make top prospect Eddie Rosario a trade chip to land starting pitching, or it could make Dozier himself a trade chip with Rosario nearing the big leagues. He adds that the Twins need to acquire starting pitching this summer, and Ryan will have the funds to do so via free agency and the prospects to do so via trade. Only Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Mauer (who has a full no-trade clause) are untouchable in trade talks this offseason, according to Bollinger.
- The White Sox gave a club-record $1.6MM signing bonus to Dominican outfield prospect Micker Adolfo this July, writes MLB.com's Scott Merkin, and GM Rick Hahn expects more of the same next season as he looks to rebuild the team following a 99-loss campaign. Hahn anticipates being allotted roughly $5MM to spend on international free agents, which should give him plenty of ammunition to be aggressive.
Where did the year go?
The 2013 minor league regular season is in the books, and the lucky few are currently competing in the playoffs. We've seen a lot of exciting moments during the year. We've also seen a lot of prospects significantly improve their values. To celebrate the best of the best, MLBTR is celebrating the 2013 All-Prospect All-Star Team, which features the top players in the minors at each position. Given the depth at some positions — as well as the lack there of at others — this was no easy task.
The players were chosen by considering a mixture of future potential and statistical results.
Catcher: Austin Hedges, Padres — Because of his abilities on both defense and offense, San Diego's catcher of the future narrowly edged out the Yankees' Gary Sanchez. His abilities on both sides of the ball also impressed his employers, according to Padres Assistant General Manager of Player Personnel Chad MacDonald. "He has the tools and skill set to impact both sides of the ball… and we are excited about his future with the San Diego Padres," MacDonald said.
Hedges will probably never be the strongest offensive catcher in the league but he won't embarrass himself, either. Behind the plate, he's perhaps the best defensive catcher in the minors if you take everything into consideration: arm, receiving, blocking, game calling and leadership.
First Base: Dan Vogelbach, Cubs — This position was the hardest one to find a deserving candidate. The Astros' Jonathan Singleton missed the beginning of the year due to a suspension and then struggled with his consistency. The Angels' C.J. Cron failed to consistently tap into his raw power. Vogelbach, just 20, performed well at two A-ball levels and showed the ability to hit for average and power while also getting on-base at a solid clip.
Brandon Hyde, the Cubs' director of player development, said Vogelbach's successes came from hard work. "It was an impressive season with raw power to all fields," he said. "He has an advanced approach for his age, and he controls the strike zone."
Second Base: Rougned Odor, Rangers — Second base was another tough position to settle on the winner. The Angels' Taylor Lindsey, Cardinals' Kolten Wong, and Twins' Eddie Rosario also received serious consideration before the award went to Odor. The Rangers' prospect hit more than .300 between High-A and Double-A with a strong OPS and 32 stolen bases — all at the age of 19. The left-handed hitter also popped 58 extra base hits, including 41 doubles. With all the middle infield depth in Texas, Odor could make things very interesting — and crowded — in short order.
Third Base: Miguel Sano, Twins — Sano was the runaway winner at third base, although the Cubs' Kris Bryant could give him a run for his money in a year's time (assuming both prospects are still in the minors). The Dominican native launched 35 home runs and produced a .610 slugging percentage. However, he didn't hit for a great average after his promotion from High-A to Double-A, and he combined to strike out 142 times in 123 games, so there are some holes in his game that need to be addressed.
Shortstop: Javier Baez, Cubs — There were five players that were considered in this slot, including Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), Francisco Lindor (Indians), Addison Russell (Athletics) and Carlos Correa (Astros). Baez, though, came out ahead when considering his outstanding statistical results and the fact that he has a chance to be as good as any other player on the list. Just 20, he finished the year in Double-A and hit a combined 37 home runs with 20 stolen bases and a .920 OPS.
Hyde was impressed with Baez's ability to make adjustments after being promoted to Double-A. "He hit in the middle of the order on a prospect-laden team. He made huge strides defensively and with his plate discipline," Hyde said. "He has a unique combination of raw power, speed and off-the-charts instincts, especially for a 20 year old in Double-A."
Outfielder: George Springer, Astros — Springer, 23, had an eye-popping season while playing at both Double-A and Triple-A. He narrowly missed becoming a 40-40 player (HR-SB) with 37 homers and 45 steals while playing at the highest levels of the minors. Springer's approach produces massive strikeout numbers, but he showed improvements in that area as the year progressed.
The prospect impressed the club's front office not only with his play but also his attitude, according to Quinton McCracken, the Astros director of player development. "George is an exceptional five-tool talent, and even better person. He has great makeup, work ethic, off-the-chart intangibles coupled with incredible athleticism… He's a very special player," he said.
Outfielder: Byron Buxton, Twins — Buxton was the biggest no-brainer on this list. Just 19 and in his first full pro season, the five-tool outfielder played at two A-ball levels while hitting more than .330 and producing double digits in doubles, triples and homers. He also got on base at a .424 clip, stole 55 bases in 74 tries and played above-average defense in centerfield. The Twins have one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball and could be a massive threat in two to three seasons.
Outfielder: Gregory Polanco, Pirates — Polanco edged out a few other players because, at a very young age, he showed a five-tool approach and had an impact in numerous areas. The 21-year-old outfielder showed that he may one day develop into a 20-20 or perhaps even a 30-30 player. After beginning the year in A-ball, he ended the season in Triple-A.
Pirates Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway said the most impressive thing about Polanco's growth has been his maturity. "He has fit into each clubhouse and added value to the culture of each club that he's been on," Broadway explained. "He continues to approach the game with a learner's mentality and is always looking to find a way to get better. He's not afraid to make a mistake in the process, which has allowed him to progress well in all areas of his game."
Starting Pitcher: Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks — Bradley and Dylan Bundy grew up playing baseball together, but the former passed the latter on top prospect lists after the Orioles' prospect blew out his elbow. Just 20 years old, Bradley spent the majority of the year in Double-A and finished the season with a combined ERA of 1.84 and 162 strikeouts in 152 innings of work. He also allowed just 115 hits.
Starting Pitcher: Taijuan Walker, Mariners — Utilizing a strong fastball and excellent breaking ball, Walker, who just turned 21 on Aug. 13, made older competition look foolish as he produced outstanding numbers in Double-A and Triple-A before earning his MLB promotion. The right-hander struck out 160 batters in 141 1/3 innings while allowing just 112 hits.
Chris Gwynn, the Mariners director of player development, said Walker is oozing talent but he's also an extremely hard worker. "Going into the offseason last year he realized there were some things he needed to work on to get better," Gwynn said, listing fastball command (down in the zone, to both sides of the plate) and improved secondary pitches as two of those things. "Coming into this season he was a man on a mission… and had a dominant season in Double-A and Triple-A didn't phase him. It shows he wants it really bad."
Starting Pitcher: Noah Syndergaard, Mets — Jameson Taillon (Pirates), Kevin Gausman (Orioles) and Robert Stephenson (Reds) also received consideration as the one of the top pitchers in the minors but the final spot went to the Mets' prospect. Syndergaard showed a rare combination of power (his fastball can tickle triple digits) and control when he struck out 133 batters in 117 2/3 innings and issued 28 free passes. Just 20, the Texas native finished the year with 11 starts at the Double-A level.
Reliever: Steve Geltz, Rays — It's hard to find a worthy reliever because many of the best MLB bullpen aces originally come from the starting ranks. Geltz, though, is still only 25 years old and he was the hardest pitcher to hit in Triple-A (minimum 50 innings) by allowing a batting-average-against of just .152. That mark was actually the seventh lowest in the entire minor leagues. His strikeout percentage (31.3 percent) was good for 12th in Triple-A ball. Not bad for a player that went undrafted and signed with the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent in 2008.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Archie Bradley | Arizona Diamondbacks | Austin Hedges | Byron Buxton | Chicago Cubs | Dan Vogelbach | George Springer | Gregory Polanco | Houston Astros | Javier Baez | Miguel Sano | Minnesota Twins | New York Mets | Noah Syndergaard | Pittsburgh Pirates | Prospect Rumor Roundup | Rougned Odor | San Diego Padres | Seattle Mariners | Steve Geltz | Taijuan Walker | Tampa Bay Rays | Texas Rangers
The Twins look like sellers again this year, as they're on pace for their third straight 90-loss campaign. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports looked at the team's trade chips last week, noting that a market for first baseman Justin Morneau hasn't really materialized as of yet. Here's more on the Twins from Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twins news comes about halfway into the article)…
- Even though they're sellers, vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff tells Wolfson that the Twins could still add a player that is controlled beyond 2013. Radcliff wouldn't comment on specific names, but a league source informed Wolfson that the Twins are interested in Bud Norris. The Twins would have plenty of competition were they to make a play for Norris, as he's been connected to the Rangers, Pirates, Dodgers, Giants, Blue Jays and Red Sox in the past week alone.
- The Red Sox, Braves, and Phillies all had scouts at Target Field over the weekend. All three teams have been connected to bullpen help of late, and the Twins have trade candidates such as Jared Burton and Brian Duensing in their 'pen. Glen Perkins, of course, has drawn quite a bit of interest, but the Twins have turned interested parties away thus far. Casey Fien also drew some interest from the Giants earlier this summer.
- No international signings are imminent, but Radcliff described the process as "fluid," noting that the Twins still have money to spend. However, the team has no plans to trade any of its remaining bonus slots.
- The Twins are still interested in 18-year-old Taiwanese righty Jen-Ho Tseng, who is reportedly close to a deal with the Cubs. The team will remain in contact with his camp until they receive official word.
- Radcliff said Byron Buxton, who was recently named the No. 1 prospect in baseball by ESPN's Keith Law (ESPN Insider required), could ascend to Double-A New Britain before the season is over. That would be a quick rise for the 19-year-old, who began the season with Class A Cedar Rapids and has moved up to High-A Fort Myers recently.
- The Twins were interested in Jake Arrieta before he was acquired by the Cubs in the Scott Feldman deal earlier this month.
In what might be the most eclectic collection of names to ever headline a division notes post, here's the latest from the AL Central…
- Despite the Tigers' late-game problems this season, Dave Dombrowski has no regrets over not acquiring a proven closer last winter, the general manager tells MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. "We didn't feel there was a lock-down, shut-down option in the wintertime that fit in with what we were trying to do, role-wise and financially," Dombrowski said. "Other people may think differently, but there weren't a lot of guys out there, and we felt we had options internally. Now, it may have taken some time, but we still have a chance to do that."
- Joaquin Benoit has recently taken over the closer's role in Detroit and pitched well, which could erase any plans the Tigers had to acquire a stopper at the deadline. "Where are you going to go out and get a guy with better stuff than Benoit?" Dombrowski said.
- Marten Gasparini, the 16-year-old Italian prospect who signed a $1.3MM contract with the Royals, spoke to Fangraphs' David Laurila about his transition to North America.
- The Twins haven't asked agent Jaime Torres about the location of Cuban right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne's showcase in Barcelona tomorrow, 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson reports (Twitter link). Wolfson notes in a follow-up tweet that this just means the Twins haven't informed Torres, not that they won't attend altogether, and Wolfson says the Twins "have a book" on Despaigne.
- Byron Buxton holds the top spot on Baseball America's midseason ranking of the top 50 prospects in the sport. The Twins outfielder "is even better than expected with power, speed, defense and an extremely advanced hitting approach," states BA's staff report. Buxton was ranked as the No. 10 prospect in Baseball America's preseason rankings but has risen to No. 1 after hitting .344/.424/.548 with nine homers and 33 steals in 366 PA at the low and high-A levels this season.
- In AL Central news from earlier today, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported that Twins right-hander P.J. Walters had cleared outright assignment waivers.
Last night, Baseball America's JJ Cooper wrote that an NL scout told him Twins' center field prospect Byron Buxton is the best prospect he's seen in more than a decade of scouting. Buxton's hype has soared this season following a jaw-dropping start at Class A Cedar Rapids, and he's recently been promoted to Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Here's more on last year's No. 2 overall pick and the team that drafted him…
- Baseball America's Jim Callis opines that were he in the Astros shoes in last season's draft, he'd have taken Buxton over Correa, still gone over-slot on Lance McCullers Jr., and neglected to give fourth-rounder Rio Ruiz his over-slot deal. Callis adds that he likes Correa very much, but preferred Buxton and wasn't high on Ruiz (Twitterlinks).
- Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports that the Twins are expected to pursue Phil Hughes as a free agent this offseason (Twitter link). The Twins have struggled tremendously in the pitching deparment over the past few years, and Hughes has been a better pitcher away from Yankee Stadium throughout his career.
- Wolfson also spoke with vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff regarding the upcoming international free agency period. Radcliff expects to sign eight to 10 international free agents and cited the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Italy as areas of focus. The Twins, who have the fourth-largest bonus pool, have been approached by the Rangers about trading some of their funds from that pool, but the team won't do it this week at least (Twitterlinks).
- Radcliff also told Wolfson (link) that there's "nothing imminent" on the trade front for the Twins. However, he and the other pro scouts are diligently watching players that they may add at the deadline.
Zach Links contributed to this post.