So I really don't want to be stepping on toes of DFR, but I was looking at prospects yesterday for fun. I found 5 guys who were having great starts to the season and decided to just write up something short about each one. These write ups are solely based on statistics and anything I could find on B-R and Fangraphs. I didn't look at any scouting reports or video or anything like that. Here goes:
I'm going to look at 5 Cardinals' prospects who are tearing it up early this season - but trying to look at ones I don't remember looking at before (i.e. not James Ramsey or Oscar Taveras, who are both hitting awesomely as well.)
I'm going to start by looking at Starlin Rodriguez. Starlin was signed to a contract out of the Dominican Republic. He started as a 2nd base prospect, which was exciting because he can really hit. It's rare to find a really good hitting 2B prospect. Even Kolten Wong is considered to be a slightly above average hitter as a second baseman, and he's a top 2B prospect in all of baseball. However, Rodriguez has since moved to an already crowded OF - and has moved down from AA to High A ball because of that. He's walked around 6.7% of the time in the minors, but is at 8.4% this year. While he's hit better in the past than his .272 average this year, his ISO (extra base hit average minus singles) than ever before. He's had 39% of his hits drop for extra bases in 2014. He's got a little bit of speed as well, having stolen 14+ bases twice before. This year he's at just 2 steals so far. In any case, he's been slightly below league average age in the past, but this year as a 24 year old in High A, he's now nearly a year and a half over the average age of his league. Look for him to move up as others do. He's a bit buried on the depth chart.
Also slightly old for his league is Thomas Lee - a 24-year old pitcher in High A. He finished last year there as well, after signing in 2012 as an undrafted free agent reliever. Thomas Lee has thrown in 51 games, starting only 12 of them (but 6 this year in 9 games). The best thing about Lee seems to be his control. He walked just 1.6 per 9 innings out of the pen (and starting some) in 2012, while striking out 10 per 9. His K:BB was 6.33. Last year, he moved up to A ball (then 3ish innings at High A to end the year). There, he walked just 1.0 per 9 innings, while striking out 8.2 per 9 - nearly exclusively out of the pen - for a 7.83 K:BB. While he has only struck out 5.7 per 9 innings as a mostly-starter this year, his BB/9 has dropped so far (0.6 per 9) that his K:BB is nearly 10! His FIP for his minor league career (around 150 innings) is right about 3.25. If he can get his K%-BB% back up to around 20% rather than the 14% this year, then he could be a heck of a prospect from Sonoma State University.
The other pitcher on my list today is Mike Mayers. He was a 3rd round pick in 2013 from the University of Mississippi. After reporting to rookie ball last year, he impressed enough in 12 innings to move to A ball for his last 24 1/3 innings. He started 8 games out of 10 he was in during that time. This year, as a starter (9 games thus far, all starts), he is pitching at High A. Last year he struck out only 6.7 per 9 innings and walked 2.7. It was not extremely impressive, but serviceable, especially since he gave up less than a hit per inning. This year, he's giving up more hits (60 in 52 2/3 innings), but is striking out more and walking less (43 Ks to 12 BBs, good for a 3.58 K:BB, a K/9 over 7 and a BB/9 just over 2. Oh, this year he's also over a year younger than his competition instead of being about a half year younger like last year.
The other two players I'll look at today are hitters. I don't know which is the more impressive, but I'm more excited at the moment to talk about Cody Stanley, so I will. Stanley is a catcher at AA and he is absolutely mauling the ball, but has a very high .384 BABIP in doing so. He is a left-handed bat, which is helped by the very friendly LH confines in Springfield. All of that means that this incredible .350/.396/.517 line he is putting up could all just be smoke and mirrors - and likely is. It is said that catchers develop hitting a lot later than other prospects because they're taught to put the most work into catching a pitching staff first. However, a .912 OPS from a career .744 OPS hitter is a bit much, even in an inflated run environment. That said, Stanley is 25 years old and nearly a year older than his competition for the first time ever. He also got a taste of AA pitching last year and was quite unsuccessful (under .640 OPS) in nearly 300 PAs. This year, he seems to be making more and better contact, however. His K% is under 18% for the first time in years, and it's all the way under 15%. His BB% is his best in at least 2-3 years as well. Stanley has thrown out a respectable 37% of runners in his career, while he's at a 36% mark this year. I'll likely be keeping a very close eye on him as catching prospects are very hard to come by, especially ones that hit.
The last player today is a 22 year old in High A ball. Anthony Garcia was drafted in the 18th round in 2009 out of San Juan, Peurto Rico. He spent all of 3 seasons at rookie ball, getting accustomed to the mainland. In that time, he went from a .649 OPS catcher in year 1, to a .868 OPS catcher/corner outfielder in year 2, to a .935 OPS corner outfielder in year 3. He's stayed at corner outfield and hit .879 (OPS) at A ball in 2012, then suffered an injury last year and spent part of the time at High A ball and part at Rookie Ball again. He had just a .622 OPS (his worst in professional ball) along with that injury. This year he's bouncing back, hitting .238/.327/.454/.780 in High A ball. He's a right-handed bat with 15 extra base hits in 147 plate appearances and nearly 1/2 of his hits have gone for extra bases. He's got only a .240 BABIP, so his luck could quite easily change for the better. In all, Garcia has just over 1,400 plate appearances with 79 doubles, 11 triples, 49 homers, and an .806 OPS in the minors - and he's hasn't played at a stop where he's been less than a year and a half younger than his opponents until this year - when he's 0.7 years younger than his league. Again, the Cardinals have a crowded outfield, but this could very well be a kid that they hide in the lower minors for the remainder of this year, then move him up as players get moved around ahead of him. He's not likely to be a big leaguer until at least 2016 anyway, at the earliest. Let him develop slowly, I say.
Thanks for reading!