Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors
We'll round out the evening with a few notes from around the National League:
- The success of the Pirates was not just about developing youngsters and gem-in-the-rough free agents, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Out of ideas on how to improve the club without extra cash to spend, the Pirates concocted what Sawchik calls "perhaps the most aggressive, systematic approach to run prevention -- from alignment to pitching strategy -- in baseball history." The plan was in the works for years in the organization's lower levels, and developed in the bigs as a combined front office, coaching staff, and player effort. I dare not attempt to encapsulate this interesting piece here, and will instead simply recommend that you give it a full read.
- The Phillies want to add a right-handed, outfielding power hitter to the lineup in 2014, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. While they are hardly unique in this pursuit -- the Diamondbacks and Giants are reportedly among the many teams keen to improve their pop -- the Phils' needs are somewhat more specific. With Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere, and Cody Asche presumably penciled in as regulars, and righty-swinging Darin Ruf and Maikel Franco already in the infield mix, the club is definitely shopping for a right-handed, corner outfielder, says Zolecki.
- Philadelphia's interim manager Ryne Sandberg says that the team's bullpen has had some questions answered over the last few weeks, reports Zolecki. Sandberg says that "solidify[ing] the starting rotation" is a top priority, along with "figur[ing] out the catching situation and better defense in the outfield." With youngsters like B.J. Rosenberg, Jake Diekman, and Justin De Fratus staking their claim to a spot in the big league pen, Sandberg says the club may have "a better feel [for] what they really need to concentrate on -- as far as the front office -- as far as the necessary pieces that either aren't here or that they need to go and get."
- Wondering where top international amateurs rank now that they've signed? Baseball America's Ben Badler, via J.J. Cooper, says that the Cubs' Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres -- the top two July 2nd prospects per BA -- would likely fall within the top-30 organizational list but outside the top ten. Both should skip the Dominican Summer League and head straght to rookie ball, according to the piece.
Since picking up Justin Grimm from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal, the Cubs have liked what they've seen from him in a relief role, writes Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Pitching coach Chris Bosio explains that the club is "presenting different roles for him," and Gonzales says that Grimm could stay in the pen going into spring training. On to more links from the AL and NL Central...
- The Pirates have shut down Wandy Rodriguez because of persistent pain and discomfort in his left forearm, according to a statement from GM Neal Huntington. The move will provide more time for the flexor tendon in Rodriguez's forearm to heal and sets him up to be ready for Opening Day 2014, Huntington said.
- Rodriguez says he hasn't considered whether he'll trigger his $13MM player option for next year, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets. However, it's unlikely that he doesn't do so, Biertempfel says. The Pirates are on the hook for $7.5MM of the option.
- The Twins don't plan to sign James McDonald, who elected free agency today after being outrighted to Triple-A by the Pirates, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com says. Minnesota will re-evaluate McDonald and take a look at his medicals over the offseason, however.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
SEPT 14: McDonald has refused his outright assignment and elected free agency, according to the Pirates' transactions page.
SEPT. 13: McDonald cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis, according to the International League transactions page. As a player that has been outrighted off his 40-man roster but has three or more years of Major League service time, baseball's collective bargaining agreement allows McDonald to elect free agency following the season.
McDonald, 28, was just reinstated from the disabled list after being out of action since April 30th due to issues with his throwing shoulder. The right-hander wasn't terribly sharp in six starts this season, posting a 5.76 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 6.1 BB/9. McDonald was once considered to be a high-upside prospect when he started out with L.A. and was rated No. 56 nationally by Baseball America before the '09 season. For his career, McDonald owns a 4.20 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9.
McDonald spent the entirety of the 2011-12 seasons in Pittsburgh's rotation, hurling 171 innings of 4.21 ERA each year with a combined 7.7 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9. His fastball velocity has declined in each of the past two years, though, falling from an average of 92.7 mph in 2011 to 91.8 in 2012 and 90.5 in 2013's small sample of 29 2/3 innings.
To keep track of McDonald and everyone else in DFA limbo, check out the MLBTR DFA Tracker.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
On this day in 2007, Terry Ryan announced that he would step aside from his post as the Twins general manager at the end of the season. As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes noted, Ryan's history was checkered at best at the time. Of course, as a read through this site's most recent post would indicate, Ryan is now back at the helm. Though the team has yet to post more than seventy wins in a season since Ryan returned in November of 2011, Minnesota stands at 15th in ESPN's latest future power rankings on the strength of its minor league system. While Ryan has long been said to have his job as long as he wants to keep it, some other GMs may not be so lucky ...
- There are four general managers around the league who could soon be replaced, writes Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. According to Gammons, two of those -- Jerry Dipoto of the Angels and Larry Beinfest of the Marlins -- have arguably been undone by meddling owners. (Gammons cites Arte Moreno's $365MM investment in Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, and Jeffrey Loria's propensity for "whimsically run[ning] everything.") Meanwhile, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik may not survive to see whether the team's top young pitching talent can drive a winner. And Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd -- the game's fourth-longest tenured GM -- has yet to figure out how to craft a squad that can win away from Coors field. (For what it's worth, O'Dowd was in charge for the franchise's lone season with a winning road record, when it posted a 41-40 mark in 2009.)
- It would be ridiculous to consider Rangers GM Jon Daniels among those at risk, writes Baseball Nation's Grant Brisbee. While he surely could have sacrificed future value to win at all costs this season, says Brisbee, Daniels was prudent not to and still delivered a team that should qualify for the post-season.
- Teams must determine whether to make outgoing free agents a qualifying offer just five days after the conclusion of this year's World Series, and those decisions will play a major role in setting the stage for the 2014 free agent market. For non-obvious candidates, writes Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, an important part of the equation lies in valuing the compensation pick that the team would receive if the player declines the offer and then signs with another club. Working off of a rough valuation of international signing slot dollars, Cameron opines that teams could value the dollars spent on a comp pick as much as three-to-four times higher than money the team could spend outside the draft. As he explains, this would imply that there is substantial excess value in obtaining non-marketable draft picks, which could move the needle in favor of making qualifying offers in marginal situations.
- As we prepare to weigh a new class of free agents, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman ranks the best signings of 2013. His top three are a collection of veterans whose contributions have vastly outweighed the relatively meager financial commitments that they received: Pirates starter Francisco Liriano, Red Sox reliever Koji Uehara, and Athletics starter Bartolo Colon. Next on his list is Boston's David Ortiz, who as Heyman notes was the only player to accept a qualifying offer in the first year of the system.
After 20 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates' record now sits at 84-61 -- one game out of first place in the NL Central and a near lock to make the postseason. Their drastic turnaround can be attributed to a number of different factors; Starling Marte's breakout season and the continued development of former first-round picks Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez have certainly played large roles. There may be no bigger factor, however, than the shrewd moves and calculated offseason risks made by general manager Neal Huntington and his staff.
The Pirates opened the season with a payroll just north of $66MM, making the franchise-record $17MM they gave to Russell Martin on a two-year deal a greater risk than it would be to most other teams, Huntington told MLBTR:
"As a small market team, any time those type of dollars are to be committed, there is some hesitation as our margin for error is much smaller than that of the large markets. That said, we felt catcher was the spot we could make the biggest impact on our club. We aggressively targeted Martin because of his defensive package, his attitude and energy and we believed he would have a better offensive season as well. We believed Russ could have the largest impact on the Pirates of any realistically attainable player on the free agent market."
Indeed, Martin's impact has been tremendous on both sides of the game. The 30-year-old is hitting .236/.340/.387 with 13 homers, nine steals and a robust 42 percent success rate in throwing out potential base stealers. He's earning just $6.5MM in 2013 but has already been worth more than four wins above replacement due to his on-base skills, solid pop and strong defense.
Martin was paired with a familiar face upon coming to Pittsburgh -- that of his former Yankee teammate A.J. Burnett. Following a pair of disappointing seasons in New York in 2010-11, the Pirates acquired Burnett in exchange for a pair of marginal prospects (Exicardo Cayones and Diego Moreno). The Yankees agreed to pay $20MM of his remaining $33MM salary to faciliate that deal.
One year later, Huntington and his team made another buy-low move by bringing in Francisco Liriano on what was originally a two-year, $12.75MM deal. A broken right (non-throwing) arm stalled that deal, but Huntington and Liriano's agent Greg Genske worked out a new contract that gave Liriano the opportunity to earn the entire $12.75MM via incentives but protected the Pirates in the event that he had to miss significant time due to the injury (Liriano has since had an option vest at $6MM for 2014).
"Despite their relative struggles, our scouts saw a plus pitch package in [Liriano and Burnett]," Huntington explained. "Metrically there were positive indicators for both. Anecdotally we felt there were some factors that would also lead to improved production in Pittsburgh. Overall we liked the upside of both pitchers if all things came together and still felt the risk of the downside was worth the investment."
The reward has been outstanding for both. In 371 1/3 innings as a Pirate, Burnett has a 3.49 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. He's been worth more than five WAR in his tenure with the Bucs -- a significant upgrade from his time with the Yankees despite the fact that he's thrown 200 fewer innings.
As for Liriano, in 142 innings since joining the Bucs, he's posted a 2.92 ERA with 9.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 50.8 perecent ground-ball rate. His contract was perhaps the biggest bargain of any free agent signing by any team this offseason, as he's on pace for about four WAR but will likely end up earning just $3.125MM this season, most of which has come via incentives. "Each pitcher deserves a ton of credit for their respective bounce backs but our pitching coaches, catchers and other staff have helped each guy as well," said Huntington regarding his hurlers.
However, the Pirates may never have been able to realistically pursue Liriano were it not for another series of moves. Firstly, they were able to re-sign Jason Grilli to a below-market two-year, $6.75MM contract. Grilli has missed some time on the disabled list this season, but when healthy, he's been one of baseball's best relievers. Grilli ranks third among relievers in K/9 and second in FIP. He also ranks seventh in xFIP, K/BB ratio and swinging-strike rate.
Grilli's signing gave them another power arm at the back of the bullpen to pair with former closer Joel Hanrahan. Or so it seemed. "After we were able to re-sign Grilli, we were prepared to have Hanrahan and Grilli at the backend of our bullpen for 2014," Huntington explained. "We also recognized that we may be able to trade Joel for a package that we felt had a positive impact on the organization and re-allocate dollars to other areas of our Major League club."
In the end, that's precisely what happened. The Pirates traded Hanrahan and his $7MM salary to the Red Sox along with Brock Holt in exchange for Mark Melancon, Jerry Sands, Ivan De Jesus and Stolmy Pimentel.
"We had liked Melancon since his days with the Yankees and felt like he was a quality bounce-back candidate with multiple years of control," said Huntington. "When we felt we had a chance to get Melancon as part of the Hanrahan package, it allowed us to focus on where we could re-allocate the available dollars, and we began pursue starting pitching options which led us to Liriano."
Huntington went on to add that while Liriano's injury ultimately changed the situation, the team likely wouldn't have been able to pursue him in the first place without the additional funds from the Hanrahan trade. Bringing Liriano into the fold makes that trade a winning move on its own, but Melancon himself has been nothing short of a revelation. The man pegged by the Pirates as a bounce-back candidate ranks third in the Majors with a 1.12 ERA and fourth with a 1.71 FIP.
The Pirates sit with one of the best records in baseball despite opening the season with just a $66.8MM payroll. Only the Rays, Marlins, Athletics and Astros opened the season with a smaller financial commitment. Huntington and his staff successfully identified rebound candidates and bit the bullet on the largest free agent contract in franchise history for Martin, and in doing so they built a World Series contender. The 2013 Pirates are an excellent example for fans that lament their favorite teams' limited payrolls, and they serve as proof that there are many ways to build a winning roster.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
While there has been a great deal of attention paid to Mariano Rivera's farewell tour, he's not the only MLB vet who could call it quits after this season, writes MLB.com's Doug Miller. The Indians' Jason Giambi and the Rockies' Todd Helton seem likely to call it a career and Yankees hurler Andy Pettitte could retire - again. Here's tonight's look around the Majors..
- Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus breaks down the changes in Ubaldo Jimenez's mechanics that have led to a resurgence since his first three starts of the season (subscription required). Two of the Indians' hurler's last three starts have been 10-strikeout, zero-walk outings, and he's posted a 2.82 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 since April 29 (24 starts). It makes sense for Jimenez to void his option and seek a multi-year deal, in Lindbergh's mind, though he carries significant risk as his mechanics are still flawed.
- The Diamondbacks face an interesting situation with Daniel Hudson this offseason, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Hudson, who underwent his second Tommy John surgery this year and hasn't pitched since early 2012, is eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason. Hudson says he "would be open to taking about pretty much anything (contract-wise) if it meant staying [in Arizona]." Hudson feels that he may have to come back as a reliever and is open to that role.
- The Pirates' 2007 hires of club president Frank Coonelly and General Manager Neal Huntington are paying off in a big way, writes MLB.com's Tom Singer.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
With a 1-0 win over the Rangers Monday night, the Pirates clinched their first winning season since 1992. 2011 draftee Gerrit Cole pitched seven dominant innings for the Bucs on Monday, and the Pirates have, of course, gotten big contributions from draftees like Andrew McCutchen (2005) and Pedro Alvarez (2008). But much of the Pirates' success in 2013 has stemmed from Neal Huntington's spectacular 2012-2013 offseason. He signed Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin, who have emerged as two of the Pirates' top players behind McCutchen. He also re-signed Jason Grilli, who dominated as the Pirates' closer, and traded for Mark Melancon, who has been even more dominant and who stepped in as closer after Grilli got hurt.
Mike Axisa of CBS Sports digs deep into the construction of the 2013 Pirates, noting that many of this year's Bucs also came from earlier trades. He singles out the then-unpopular Nate McLouth trade, which brought back Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton, as an important one for the Bucs. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- Jason Giambi wants to return to play for the Indians next season, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. "I would love to play next year," Giambi says. "Hopefully it will be here. I love it here. I love the direction the team is going and the things we've got going here." Giambi is hitting .186/.278/.372 in 198 plate appearances this season.
- The Cubs are giving Scott Baker starts in September, but it's unclear whether he'll be playing for them next year, writes Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com. Baker made his first start since 2011 on Sunday, after missing most of the last two seasons with an elbow injury. The Cubs figure to have Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson in their rotation next year, with a variety of possible back-end options, including Jake Arrieta, Carlos Villanueva and Chris Rusin. Mooney notes that the Cubs will likely pursue more starting pitching in the offseason.
- The White Sox will pursue position players via free agency and trade this offseason, MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports. Sox GM Rick Hahn says he will be "open to" trading young pitching in order to acquire hitters. The White Sox's top young-ish pitchers at the big-league level include Jose Quintana, Nate Jones, Addison Reed and Hector Santiago. Chris Sale would obviously be a very valuable trade chip, but he's an elite talent and the White Sox signed him to an extension before the season, so that appears unlikely.
In some non-traditional transactional news, some Tigers fans are mourning the apparent firing of one of Comerica Park's fixtures, opera-singing hot dog vendor Charley Marcuse. More from MLB's central divisions...
- The Tigers have a decison looming with Jhonny Peralta, who will return from a 50-game suspension with three games remaining in the regular season, John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press notes. The club may not reinstate Peralta to avoid associated media scrutiny, as the infielder was suspended for his connection with the Biogenesis scandal. However, keeping him on could protect the Tigers in the case of an injury to his replacement at shortstop, Jose Iglesias, or second baseman Omar Infante.
- Though righty James McDonald has finally recovered after hitting the DL with shoulder discomfort in early May, he didn't factor into the Pirates' plans moving forward, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports in a tweet. McDonald, 28, was designated for assignment earlier today. The former top prospect is only a year removed from a 4.21 ERA, 171-inning campaign and has just a year of arbitration under his belt, so he could draw interest if clubs believe he's healthy.
- The Cubs' Ryan Sweeney figures to get playing time this month so that the club can evaluate him, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports. Sweeney will be a free agent after the season. "You give him 500, 700 plate appearances that he’s never gotten before, I think you could project that to be a pretty good year," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. The 28-year-old signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs in April but missed more than two months after fracturing a rib.
Closer is "the most overvalued position in baseball," Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes, an opinion shared by no less an authority than Hall-of-Famer closer Dennis Eckersley. Kepner notes that teams often err in signing closers to expensive contracts and then end up using replacement closers that were already on their rosters in the first place. “I don’t want to take away anything from what I did, but it’s not as tough as you think," Eckersley said. “You could groom somebody to do it who’s on the staff, if you manage it the right way."
While the agents of this year's free agent stoppers compose their counter-arguments, here are some more news items from around baseball...
- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts isn't planning any major payroll increases in the near future, telling Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that, "You can’t just throw money at the problem. We have to build the organization from the ground up. And that’s what we’re doing right now."
- Chris Perez will be shopped by the Indians this offseason, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer predicts, and Pluto thinks Perez will be pitching elsewhere in 2014. Perez will earn a raise from his current $7.3MM salary in the arbitration process and Pluto feels the Tribe will want to move him rather than pay the closer that much. Perez's solid season could help his trade value, as Pluto notes that the Indians found only an "iffy" market for Perez when they attempted to deal him last winter.
- "In a strict, WAR sense, [Kendrys Morales] may not compute to be worth $14 million or more per season. But the real cost the Mariners will have to weigh is what it would be like without him," The Seattle Times' Geoff Baker writes. While Morales has slumped lately, Baker argues that the M's are still short of big bats and thus need to at least extend Morales a qualifying offer.
- Paul Konerko answered a simple "No" to questions about any decisions on his playing future, MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports. We heard yesterday that Konerko was telling friends he wanted to keep playing in 2014, but the White Sox captain reiterated his stance that he would wait until a later date to make a decision.
- Fangraphs' Dave Cameron looks at which free agent hitters should or shouldn't receive qualifying offers from their current teams this winter.
- Neal Huntington would win a fictitious "MLB Comeback Executive of the Year" award, MLB.com's Tom Singer writes. The criticism faced by the Pirates GM has turned to praise as his recent moves have the Bucs on the cusp of their first playoff berth since 1992.
- Despite Ryan Vogelsong's tough season, Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com (via Twitter) thinks the Giants will pick up his $6.5MM team option for 2014 if the righty remains healthy. Vogelsong has a 5.49 ERA in 14 starts, but entering tonight's action, Vogelsong had posted a 2.93 ERA over five starts since returning from the disabled list.
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.