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October 12, 2012

Prospect Push

Big League Ready-or-Not

by Jason Churchill

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Even when a player has developed and shows he might be ready to handle major league competition, some clubs are still hesitant to promote from within, preferring instead to play a veteran incumbent. This is often particularly true if the club is trying to compete rather than rebuild. However, many organizations are willing to bet on youth, even if letting the incumbent go is more expensive.

Several top prospects figure to play heavily into the decision-making process this winter when their clubs consider trades and free agents to shore up their rosters. Here are just a few players who are good bets to get some consideration as viable options:

Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals
Right-hander Miller is ready to jump into the big-league rotation and has shown poise, command and stuff during his time with the parent club in September; if the Cardinals advance today, he could get the opportunity to show more of that in the postseason since he was added to the roster in place of the injured Jaime Garcia.

Miller was inconsistent at best during his first 17 starts in Triple-A Memphis before tweaking his mechanics and showing his offspeed stuff with more regularity. He also put back on some of the weight he lost over last offseason, which may have aided the life on his fastball and his durability within each start.

If the Cardinals are as convinced as I am that Miller is ready for a full season in the majors—workload should not be much of an obstacle, ether—it could mean the end of the line for soon-to-be free agent right-hander Kyle Lohse, even if Garcia's status for 2013 does not fall in the club's favor.

If Garcia is ready to go next spring, Miller could push Lance Lynn or Jake Westbrook to the bullpen, and certainly allows GM John Mozeliak to focus on improving the club's middle infield and bullpen depth rather than having to consider spending money or trade assets on the rotation.

Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers
Profar is a potential superstar whose presence on the Rangers' big-league roster could alter the roles of several established veterans, including shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler. Profar has five tools, bettered only by his maturity and instincts, and showed this summer that he was too good and too polished to leave in Double-A Frisco; in his ultra-small sample size in the big leagues he appeared utterly unfazed by the challenge.

Since day 1 in pro ball, Profar has shown an advanced set of skills to go with his confident approach at the plate. He won't turn 20 until February but could be starting for the Rangers right out of spring training in April. If this were to happen, there’s a domino effect this will trigger, since there isn’t exactly room for Profar as the Rangers roster is currently constructed. Ian Kinsler could move to left field to help fill a potential void left by free agent Josh Hamilton, while Profar could slide to second base.

Or, on the more extreme side, Andrus could be dangled on the trade market to try and land pitching or a bat to replace Hamilton's production, opening shortstop for Profar. Some believe Profar could be transitioned to center field in the long-term, but the Rangers would lose some positional value on a player who has shown he can play an above-average shortstop.

Trevor Bauer, RHP, Diamondbacks
Bauer, the No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft, has fallen behind teammate Tyler Skaggs on the depth chart and has potentially fallen a bit out of favor by the organization. Once thought to be among the sure things for a rotation spot in 2012, Bauer does not appear to have any kind of guarantee to win a big league job to start next season. If Bauer makes the kinds of adjustments the organization has asked him to make, I have to believe Bauer starts spring training with the upper hand on southpaw Patrick Corbin.

Once established, it's not out of the question that GM Kevin Towers trades from his rotation depth, but neither Bauer nor Skaggs have solidified their futures as big-league starting pitchers. Both could do so in 2013, which could make for an interesting trade deadline in the desert.

Wil Myers, OF, Royals
One scout told me late in the year that Myers was the best player he'd seen all season in the minors, and that included Baltimore Orioles young star Manny Machado and the game's top catching prospect, Travis d'Arnaud of the Toronto Blue Jays. Myers' power developed this past season and he showed good athleticism, instincts and arm strength that profiles well in right field.

Myers, if the Royals believe he's ready to play regularly in the majors, could push out veteran Jeff Francoeur, but if GM Dayton Moore is willing to listen, the offers for DH Billy Butler or even left fielder Alex Gordon could meet his standards in the club's search for starting pitching.

Gordon is coming off a terrific season and is signed through 2016, suggesting in theory that he could bring back a frontline starting pitcher in return. One can argue Myers could replace most of, if not all of, Gordon's offensive value very early in his career, if not right away.

Chris Archer, RHP, Rays
Archer improved both his changeup and fastball in 2012 but, most importantly, began using both pitches to set up his breaking ball, a 70-grade slider that induces a high rate of swings and misses. This progress suggests he can start in the long term, something many scouts questioned entering the season.

Archer's presence could give the Rays the depth to trade a starter, possibly James Shields or, more boldy, ace David Price. Jeff Niemann and Jeremy Hellickson could also be bait. If the Rays stick Archer in the bullpen—something I'm not yet willing to concede is necessary, at least not long-term—he could set up or close as the club looks to replace free agent Joel Peralta or if the club chooses to cash in on the career year of Fernando Rodney by trading him this winter.

Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Twins
The Twins aren’t likely to compete in 2013, so the timetable for Arcia—mid-to-late next season or early 2014—still could impact the club's offseason plans. The left-handed hitting corner outfielder greatly improved his approach this season, nearly tripling his walk totals from 2011 while maintaining his power and enough of his ability to make consistent contact.

The Twins may look to move a position player or two this offseason, preparing for 2014 and beyond as they rebuild the starting rotation. Josh Willingham may be prime trade bait, having just completed a career year, and first baseman Justin Morneau, who has one year left on his deal, could also be shopped.

With Arcia well on his way to MOTO (middle of the order) status, the Twins can confidently trade a hitter, even Willingham, to directly acquire pitching or clear space to sign a free agent. An improved 2014 lineup that includes Joe Mauer, Denard Span, Trevor Plouffe and Arcia should be able to competitively support a solid pitching staff in the American League Central.

Adam Eaton, OF, Diamondbacks
Eaton torched the PCL to the tune of a .381/.456/.539 triple slash—including a .371/.445/.504 mark away from the hitter's paradise that is Aces Ballpark—and played well in 22 games in the big leagues before suffering a broken hand.

Eaton handles center field well with terrific range, thanks to plus speed, great jumps and smooth routes to fly balls and liners, and is ready to take over at the leadoff spot and allow GM Kevin Towers to consider trading either Chris Young or Gerardo Parra. A.J. Pollock's development could be enough to warrant the club moving both veterans, or even Jason Kubel, but Pollock lacks ideal power and might be more of a fourth outfielder or platoon option for next season.

The club has needs at shortstop, third base and in the bullpen, so it's highly unlikely the entire outfield crop returns, as it serves as the Diamondbacks' best chance to make a significant trade without dipping into their starting pitching. If Young and/or Parra are dealt, the Diamondbacks should not miss a beat, as Eaton is already a better player than either. 

Related Content:  Prospects,  Scouting,  Minor Leagues

7 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Klochner

I assume then that you'd consider Arcia more ready than Hicks?

Oct 12, 2012 07:03 AM
rating: 0
 
Karl Hungus

In the AAA championship game Bauer looked as though he had lost it. He got roughed up a bit, which happens, but I don't think their issue is with his pitching as much as his makeup. He seemed to pout the entire time on the mound. I haven't seen enough of him to make a call either way but there were definite signs of a good pitcher hidden under his rough outing. I am hoping it is just the long season and a couple of rough outings and next year we see a happier and more team oriented Trevor Bauer. I have seen enough of Archie Bradley to know that there is serious depth in the Arizona pitching ranks so time is not on his side. As far as Profar goes the guy is real treat to watch. The Rangers would be wise to do whatever they can to put him at short. Great list and good to get updates on a couple of guys I don't follow. Great article.

Oct 12, 2012 07:06 AM
rating: 0
 
Jason A. Churchill

Arcia is flat out better than Hicks right now, but it's conceivable that Hicks hits the big leagues sooner. As a result of Arcia's upside and likely value once he hits the majors, he has the much better shot to impact the roster movement over the next 15 months than does Hicks, and that could start this season.

Arcia is the kind of prospect you plan around a little bit. Hicks hasn't come that far back from his developmental stagnation. Still a prospect, he's just fallen behind Arcia in probability and potential impact.

Oct 12, 2012 07:08 AM
rating: 0
 
Jason A. Churchill

rkowna,

Treat is the right word on Profar, and what's crazy is that it's been that way since he was 16-17 and in his very first few professional games. From the get-go, he was a future star.

And to think, almost every other club with strong interest in him wanted him to pitch.

Oct 12, 2012 07:10 AM
rating: 0
 
Scott44

Jason - Really enjoyed the write-ups. On Eaton, the PCL has a way of inflating hitting numbers. What kind of average/power/speed do you expect from him moving forward. Is Shin Soo Choo or Alejandra De AZa a decent offensive comp.?

Oct 12, 2012 11:48 AM
rating: 0
 
Cappy73

Is it really that likely that Lynn could end up not starting? He seemed to do alright, tired, then did ok after getting some rest. Wouldn't he just need and/or already be stretched out?

Oct 12, 2012 12:44 PM
rating: 0
 
Jason A. Churchill

Scott44,

Eaton isn't going to hit for a lot of power, IMO, but he will get on base, play defense and steal some bases. We're talking average regular -- although his power may inflate bit in his hone ballpark in the big leagues, too.

More De Aza than Choo, no doubt.

Cappy73,

Lynn could very well be caught in between. We know Carp, Wainwright and Garcia will start -- it seems Garcia's second opinion revealed non year-threatening injuries and he's now seeking a third opinion -- and they just gave Jake Westbrook an extension for almost $10 million. So it comes down to Miller or Lynn, or Westbrook as a $10 million long reliever.

Lynn's stuff plays much better in relief anyway, so Westbrook isn't being kicked to the curb, at least until he starts to struggle and needs to be replaced. I could see the club holding back Miller for a short time to start the year, but in the end he's far and away the better pitcher.

The 'pen should also get better next year with a full year of Kelly and possibly Trevor Rosenthal -- who could also start -- setting up Motte.

Oct 12, 2012 13:20 PM
rating: 0
 
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