Minor Developments: Failure to launch

Rob Steingall
Yahoo Sports

Let’s take a look this week at some of the more disappointing starts among the minor league’s top prospects. It’s early yet, so small sample sizes must be taken into consideration, but these slow starts could also be a sign of things to come and shouldn’t be ignored.

Cubs shortstop Javier Baez has had a difficult time adjusting to Triple-A pitching, evident by his .151 average thus far. While the power is a tick below what he normally produces (3 HR, .156 ISO), what’s more concerning is his propensity for whiffs (36.2 K%). The strikeout concerns scouts had seem to be manifesting themselves in his first look at Triple-A pitching, but this is something he should be able to adjust to with more seasoning. If you’re still holding on to Baez in a yearly league, it may be time to look elsewhere.

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has recently hinted that top prospect Maikel Franco’s slow start could be attributed to his lack of experience playing in cold weather. Whatever the excuse, Franco was brutal in April (.172/1/7). Since the calendar turned to May though, he’s been a different player, hitting .340 with two homers while also showing the plate discipline that made him so impressive last season. If he continues his hot hitting and Cody Asche continues to scuff along, a promotion could be in the cards. Both players should continue to be monitored, as this could turn into a more volatile situation in the next month.

Another Cub, outfielder Albert Almora, is also slow out of the gate. After holding his own during the Arizona Fall League (.307/1/12, .173 ISO), many believed he was in line to really break out this spring. That hasn’t been the case thus far, as he’s seen his ISO dip to a paltry .087, while also showing an unwillingness to take a walk (2.5 BB%). Almora has been a bit unlucky so far this year (.267 BABIP), so a correction should be coming in the batting average department (.243), but the fact remains that he’ll need to be more selective at the dish.

When the White Sox traded for third baseman Matt Davidson, they hoped for a fast start. But Davidson is currently nothing more than a strikeout machine, whiffing 41% of the time through his first 29 games. Bottom line, Davidson is broken and needs to be fixed, and is unlikely to see time in the majors any time soon. His value is so low right now that you almost have to hold him in dynasty formats, as you’re unlikely to acquire anything in trade for him.

It was a meteoric rise up prospect lists for Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias, but he’s come crashing down to earth in the early goings of this year. His ERA sits at an inflated 5.40, but the bigger issue is his lack of control, evident by a 5.40 BB/9 that is nearly three walks higher than last season. Should his struggles really be a surprise though? Consider the fact that he’s a 17 year old pitching in High-A ball for the first time before passing judgment. Hold his stock and hope for adjustments and growth the rest of the year.

I expected big things out of Kansas City lefty Sean Manaea this season, but on the surface, the results have been extremely lackluster (5.96 ERA). While the ugly ERA may deter some, his FIP sits at 3.06, which shows some of his poor start is somewhat luck driven. He’s striking out hitters at an aggressive clip (12.71 K/9) and keeping the walks down (3.18 BB/9), which are good early signs. It’s only been 22.2 innings, so patience is in order. Remember, Kyle Zimmer got off to a rough start last season at Wilmington also, and he’s considered one of the top pitching prospects in the game now. Manaea’s upside is lofty, so this might be a good opportunity to buy low.

Giants pitching prospect Kyle Crick has unbelievable stuff. The problem is, most of the time he has no idea where it’s going. Exhibit A is his 11.09 K/9. Exhibit B is his 9.16 BB/9. If there was ever a pitcher worthy of the Jekyll and Hyde label, it would most certainly be Crick. His propensity to walk the ballpark is too strong to ignore. A move to the bullpen may eventually be the best thing for the young righty.

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