Welcome to the first edition of the weekly Prospect Rumor Roundup here at MLBTR…
Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston Red Sox: Both the Red Sox and the Twins made aggressive player development decisions this spring when the clubs gave opening day roster spots to young outfielders Jackie Bradley and Aaron Hicks. Each player had their share of struggles early on in 2013 and Bradley has already found his way back to the minor leagues.
Both players spent the bulk of the 2012 season at the Double-A level, but the Red Sox prospect's promotion was far more aggressive. A 2011 amateur draft pick, Bradley was added to the 40-man roster at the conclusion of spring training, a full two years before he had to be added to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. This decision could potentially cost the organization two seasons of cost-controlled development time. Hicks, on the other hand, was added to the 40-man roster on time, last November, after his fifth professional season. He still has all three of his minor league options remaining. With the recent demotion to Triple-A for Bradley, the young prospect has now burned one of his three option years.
While speaking with Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe, Red Sox manager John Farrell said the rookie's early taste of big league action — and struggles — could be good for Bradley in the long run. "We fully expect and have the utmost confidence he's going to be a very good everyday player in time… Players are going to fail and they're going to get challenged and the fact that Jackie got it early in his career, I think, will serve him well going forward."
Boston will certainly hope that holds true. Now at Triple-A, Bradley is off to a hot start with his new club. He's hitting .400 with six hits and four walks in four games. With incumbent center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury a free agent after the 2013 season, the smooth-fielding outfield prospect could be a cost-effective replacement if his offense stabilizes in time.
Jesse Biddle, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies: With more uncertainty than usual in their starting five, the Phillies may be looking for an infusion of youth in starting rotation sooner than expected. Former first round draft pick (2010) Jesse Biddle could find himself in the right place at the right time. Currently pitching at Double-A, the southpaw struck out 16 batters and took a perfect game into the seventh inning of his start on April 22. He ended up allowing just one hit in seven innings of work. Through four starts, he's now allowed just 11 hits in 25 innings on the year.
Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com said the organization is buzzing about Biddle's early 2013 efforts. The scribe spoke with Joe Jordan, the Phillies director of player development, after the pitching prospect's dominating start. "What Jesse did was very exciting. To strike out 14 hitters in six innings with 73 pitches is almost impossible to do. That's like 12 pitches and inning. Very impressive."
As Salisbury pointed out, the Phillies have a number of young arms like Biddle to choose from in the event of injury or ineffectiveness to the current big league starters. Pitching prospects like Tyler Cloyd, Adam Morgan and Jonathan Pettibone, who was recently promoted in the wake of veteran starter John Lannan's injury. "We feel like we've got more than one guy to turn to depending on what the major league club's needs are," Jordan said.
Biddle's success should come as no surprise as he opened the year rated as the Phillies' No. 1 prospect by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs. Working against him, in terms of earning a promotion to the Majors, is the fact that he doesn't need to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2014 season — at which point he'll be awarded three option years that will allow him to be sent up and down between the Majors and the minors without being exposed to waivers. Adding him to the roster in 2013 would start the process two years early.
Prospect Tidbits: Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter link) was the first to announce that the Angels' 2012 ninth round draft pick Michael Roth would make a spot start last night. Known for being a 'big game pitcher' while playing for the University of South Carolina, the southpaw needed just 12 games in the minors — one above rookie ball — to reach The Show….. After narrowly missing an opening day roster spot with the Tigers, Bruce Rondon has finally received the call. The sturdy right-hander did not allow a run in seven Triple-A appearances and continued to show improved control with just two walks during that span. The 22-year-old hurler has a dominating fastball that can reach triple-digits. Tigers manager Jim Leyland told George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press that Rondon will be used in the sixth and seventh innings.