AL minor league samples (May, 2014)
HITTERS (All rankings will be updated on a weekly basis.)
Players in bold have appeared in the majors this year.
PITCHERS (All rankings will be updated on a weekly basis.)
1 Byron Buxton, OF (MIN) 1st rounder
3 Carlos Correa, SS (HOU) 1st
4 Miguel Sano, 3B (MIN) (out for season)
5 Francisco Lindor SS (CLE) 1st
6 George Springer, OF (HOU) 1st
7 Nick Castellanos, 3B (DET) 1st
8 Clint Frazier, OF (CLE) 1st
9 Rougned Odor, SS (TEX)
10 Gary Sanchez, C (NY)
11 Raúl Mondesi, SS (KC)
12 D.J. Peterson, 3B (SEA) 1st
13 Mookie Betts, 2B (BOS) 5th
14 Garin Cecchini, 3B (BOS) 4th
15 Jonathan Singleton, 1B (HOU) 8th
16 Joey Gallo, 3B (TEX) 1st
17 Blake Swihart, C (BOS) 1st
18 Hunter Dozier, SS (KC) 1st
19 Tim Anderson, SS (CHI) 1st
20 Domingo Santana, OF (HOU)
Hak Ju-Lee, SS (TB)
--Billy McKinney, OF (OAK) 1st
--Matt Davidson, 3B (CHI) 1st
Mitch Nay, 3B (TOR) 1st
Jorge Alfaro, C (TEX)
Eddie Rosario, 2B-OF (MIN) 4th (susp.)
Greg Bird, 1B (NY) 5th
Micah Johnson, 2B (CHI) 9th
Eric Jagielo, 3B (NY) 1st
C.J. Cron, 1B (LA) 1st
Marcus Semien, SS (CHI) 6th
Josmil Pinto, C (MIN)
Michael Choice, OF (OAK) 1st
Jonathan Schoop, 2B-3B (BAL)
Delino DeShields, 2B-OF (HOU) 1st
Aaron Judge, OF (NY) 1st
Taylor Lindsey, 2B (LA) 1st
Rio Ruiz, 3B (HOU) 4th
--Jorge Bonifacio, OF (KC)
--Henry Urrutia, OF (BAL) (hernia)
Jorge Polanco, INF (MIN)
Gabriel Guerrero, OF (SEA)
Adam Walker II, OF (MIN) 3rd
Bubba Starling, OF (KC) 1st
Andrew Toles, CF (TB) 4th
Nick Williams, OF (TEX)
Devon Travis, 2B, (DET) 13th
Tyler Austin, OF (NY)
Luis Sardinas, SS (TEX)
Dariel Alvarez, OF (BAL) CUBAN
Mason Williams, CF (NY) 4th
Sonny Gray, RHP (OAK) 1st
Yordano Ventura, RHP (KC) 1st
Taijuan Walker, RHP (SEA) 1st
Kevin Gausman, RHO (BAL) 1st
Trevor Bauer, RHP (CLE) 1st
Kyle Zimmer, RHP (KC) 1st… (shoulder)
Aaron Sanchez, RHP, (TOR) 1st
Alex Meyer, RHP (MIN) 1st
Marcus Stroman, RHP (TOR) 1st
Mark Appel, RHP (HOU) 1st
Dylan Bundy, RHP (BAL) 1st (elbow)
Mike Foltynewicz, RHP (HOU) 1st
James Paxton, LHP (SEA) 4th (shoulder)
Lance McCullers, RHP (HOU) 1st
Hunter Harvey, RHP (BAL) 1st
Kohl Stewart, RHP (MIN) 1st
Erik Johnson, RHP (CHI) 2nd
Jake Odorizzi, RHP (TB)
Henry Owens, LHP (BOS) 1st
--Miguel Almonte, RHP (KC)
Rafael DePaula, RHP (NY)
Mike Montgomery, LHP (KC)
--Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP (BAL)
--Vincent Velasquez, RHP (HOU)
Matt Barnes, RHP (BOS) 1st
Taylor Guerrieri, RHP (TB) suspended
Kevin Gausman is off to a good starts for AAA Norfolk but they are monitoring his pitch counts. He was 3-5 with a 5.66 ERA in 20 games with the Orioles last year, five of them starts. “It looks like they're holding him to 75 pitches,” Buck Showalter said. He pitched 130 innings in the majors and minors last year. “So the potential is there for him to pitch in October, September, get a head of it and not wait until late and have to shut him down. Trying to get where we don’t have that issue if we get to where we're trying to get. Don't want to wait until August,” Showalter said.
Triple-A Norfolk outfielder Henry Urrutia had sports hernia surgery and will miss two months. He was batting .220 with no homers in 20 games this season.
Dylan Bundy (elbow) is pitching in extended spring games, and his fastball averaged in the low-90s. Buck Showalter said: "I can say ahead (of his rehab), definitely not behind, but I'm not going to. He's just right in the progression. It's kind of like [Johan] Santana -- you got to make sure you don't get ahead of it." The 21-year-old had Tommy John surgery last June and is hoping to be activated at midseason.
BOSTON RED SOX
2B Mookie Betts is off to a hot start for AA Portland.
3B Garin Cecchini has drawn walks at lower levels but is having a bit of trouble at AAA even though he’s batting over .300. “The umpires get better when you get up here on what their zone is. It’s not that it’s tightening up, but they’re more consistent. They don’t miss as many calls — and pitchers up here are a little bit more consistent at throwing strikes. It’s the same type of process as far as learning the pitchers,”PawSox manager Kevin Boles said. “But he’s ahead of the curve. He may not agree with everything that’s called against him. Most hitters don’t. He’ll learn.”
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
3B Matt Davidson is really struggling at AAA Charlotte, batting under .200 with a terrible k/bb ratio. He was acquired from Arizona for Addison Reed last winter. "Solid actions, strong arms, good hands," GM Rick Hahn said at the time. "The question you'll hear from time to time with scouts and has been written about publicly is about the lateral movement. We think it has improved. We think it's going to continue to improve. We see him over there for the long term once the development is finished."
The Sox patience with former top prospect Courtney Hawkins might be paying off. Coming off a dismal season last year, the 19-year-old is leading the Carolina league in RBIs while hitting over .300. They still believe he has 40-homer, 130-RBI potential. He has a long swing and strikes out a lot though.
2B Micah Johnson is off to a hot start for AA Birmingham and is worth watching despite a relatively low ranking on most prospect sheets. His .472 on-base percentage is second in the league and he is fourth with a .557 slugging percentage. He was taken in the ninth round of the 2012 draft after falling because of an elbow injury.
Erik Johnson was sent down to AAA Charlotte to work on his command. He is 1-3 with a 6.46 ERA in 23 2/3 innings. “He just needs to go and get his stuff back, get that competitive stuff that we’ve seen before,” Robin Ventura said. “He can work on it down there. He’s a good pitcher. He’s young. You don’t expect not to see him for a while. I would expect to see him again pretty soon.” Johnson has walked 15 batters. “It’s just something where I have to go down and refine my stuff and get it back to where it was and hopefully come back up and help the team as best as I can,” he said. “No one expects to go down. I think it’s definitely a privilege to be in the big leagues and it’s a privilege to play here and you’ve got to bring it every day. Right now what I’m doing is not what they, or not what gets results out there.”
Matt Davidson is showing signs of breaking out of his slump. He battled through a deep hand bruise but is healthy again. "Prior to the hand bruise, which is now behind him, it was more a matter of timing for the most part," GM Rick Hahn said. "It's not entirely rare where you see a guy who performs really well in the spring, he gets reassigned and then all of a sudden he gets off to a poor start at his Minor League affiliate. Matt wasn't quite where he was when he left camp, from a timing standpoint, offensively. We've been real pleased with the defense, but he wasn't able to carry over in the early part of the Minor League season what he was doing for us in Glendale. He then had the hand thing and now that the hand thing seems to be behind him, I think he's turning a corner."
Micah Johnson was placed on the disabled list by AAA Charlotte with a left hamstring injury. Johnson, 23, hit .329 with 10 stolen bases in 37 games for AA Birmingham before being promoted to Charlotte. He has a .273 average in 10 games for the Knights.
SS Francisco Lindor, 20, is holding his own at AA Akron while playing excellent defense. He could be the Tribe’s starting shortstop next year if Asdrubal Cabrera leaves via free agency.
OF Clint Frazier is playing for Class-A Lake County. The 19-year-old played in the Rookie-level Arizona League last year, batting .297/.362/.506 with 11 doubles, five triples, five home runs and 28 RBI in 44 games. “I've been impressed overall, for a young kid,'' manager Mark Budzinski said. “It took me four years of college ball as an outfielder before I felt like I knew what I was doing. He's very athletic. He has quick feet.''
RHP Trevor Bauer is pitching well for AAA Columbus topping out at 96-mph placing him back in the top prospect mix. “He is attacking hitters with his fastball and throwing his off-speed pitches for both strikes and swing and miss. In the early going, this is allowing him to work more efficiently on the mound and pitch deeper into games,'' said Ross Atkins, vice president of player development.
Veteran RHP Josh Tomlin is also looking good in the Clippers rotation although he’s been a bit wild. A year removed from Tommy John surgery. “Josh Tomlin is an experienced starter with an incredible feel to pitch,'' Atkins said. “He is showing more arm strength than he did pre-injury. He does everything to help himself on the mound. He attacks the strike zone, holds runners and fields his position well. It’s beyond impressive to hear his thoughts on how he reads hitters in the box and develops a plan of attack.''
Ross Atkins, director of player development, said 1B Jesus Aguilar will continue to play third base about once every 10 days at AAA Columbus. "There are two variables," Atkins said. "He's done it (in winter ball) and we want to keep that as part of his game to make sure we're not eliminating it. The other component is we want to make sure we're making him the best first baseman that he can be. The plan is to keep it as part of something he does once every 10 days." Aguilar is hitting .361 (30-for-93) with seven homers but is not considered a top prospect.
2B Devon Travis was placed on the minor league disabled list with a strained pectoral muscle.
RHP Corey Knebel, a relief pitcher drafted in the second round last year, was promoted to AAA Toledo. The 22-year-old posted a 1.20 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 15 innings for AA Erie. He throws in the mid-90s with a good curveball and could see the majors in the second half.
SS Carlos Correa is off to a good start for Class-A Lancaster, a great hitter’s park due to the ballpark's altitude and jet stream winds, particularly to right field. That could be part of the reason Mark Appel is struggling so far. Appel (appendectomy) missed part of spring training and has been hittable although his k/bb ratio remains strong.
Mark Appel, the top overall pick in 2013, was sent down to extended spring training in Kissimmee, Fla., after struggling at Class-A Lancaster. “Mark pitched four years at Stanford and was very used to a seven-day routine,” GM Jeff Luhnow said. “Even last year when he was in short-season with us and (then Class A) Quad-Cities he was pitching about every seven days. He missed almost all spring training with the appendicitis issue, so he never got a chance to really get into the routine of pro ball either last year or this year at spring training. We thought he could catch up by going to Lancaster and jumping right into the rotation there. The feeling was after I spoke to him a couple of nights ago and speaking to the pitching coach there, we’re going to take half a step back and send him to Florida and have him pitch in some extended (spring training) games and get him more used to the pro routine because he’s not really used to it. It’s a little unsettling but the results aren’t what he’s capable of at this point.” Appel isn’t the first top Astros prospect to struggle with the tandem-pitching structure.
Mike Foltynewicz suffered elbow discomfort last year at AA Corpus Christi after he was asked to pitch in the four-day tandem for the first time in his life. And the 22-year-old is off to a rough start this year as they want him to throw more upper-90s 4-seamers. “The people who throw sinkers are people that can’t throw fastballs,” pitching coach Brent Strom said. “Foltynewicz throws 98-mph. A lot of the Tommy John (surgeries) that you’re reading about, and one of the things that we’re going to address with the minor league pitching coaches in Houston, is we have to keep our hand inside our elbow as we’re driving a ball in a straight line.” The slider was allowed again last year after they told him not to throw his breaking stuff, but midseason elbow soreness put the kibosh on that. “My whole life has been on a five day rotation and that’s all it was, that’s all it’s been,” he said. “Throwing in a piggy-back system and throwing one more day of rest, I couldn’t tell you what the issue was, but I definitely was a little sore. I feel good now, I feel great.” Foltynewicz is also revising his curveball calling it a spike curve which is similar to a knuckle curve. He also need to work on his location. Said Strom: “This kid might be special. Very very special.”
OF Delino DeShields was activated from the DL. He was diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture of his right cheekbone after being hit by a pitch three weeks ago.
1B Jon Singleton is still slugging at AAA Oklahoma City and GM Jeff Luhnow said he would be up soon. "Singleton's progressing," Luhnow said. "We see him as a guy who's close to being able to contribute at the Major League level. We're excited. We've all seen the reaction the fans had at bringing up prospects like [George] Springer and last year with [Jarred] Cosart and we have more coming. I would say Singleton is on deck. We have our own process for determining when a player is ready to come up," he said. "I'm not going to disclose what that is or the details, but just suffice it to say we're doing our homework and when the time is right, he'll be here." The Astros could wait until mid to late June so Singleton doesn't quality for Super Two status.
Mark Appel is set to rejoin Class-A Lancaster. He had an appendectomy two weeks before spring training, so GM Jeff Luhnow conceded he made a mistake sending him to Lancaster in the first place without enough time to build up strength. He had soreness and made four appearances with a 6.23 ERA.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
SS Raul Mondesi is off to a hot start for AA Wilmington, not bad for one of the youngest players in the league (19). He is also showing strong defensive improvement at shortstop.
RHP Kyle Zimmer (shoulder) will remain in extended spring training until the third week of May. He will then be assigned to AA Northwest Arkansas, where he posted a 1.93 ERA in four starts in 2013 before being shut down with biceps tendinitis. The team projects him to pitch 130-150 innings. He threw 108 last season. “If he factors in with our big-league club, he’s probably going to be more at the 150 mark,” assistant GM J.J. Picollo said. They want him to compete for a rotation spot next spring – and maybe in September.
LHP Mike Montgomery is off to a good start at AAA Durham after a few years of struggles so the team likely wants to rebuild his confidence. He still has three above-average pitches (he’s also working on a curveball) but he sometimes falls in love with his fastball too much. He needs to work on commanding that pitch better, as his walks are still a little too high. So he needs to mix his other pitches, learning how to set up hitters so they don't always know what's coming. "The biggest thing that stands out to me is pitch selection, what to throw in different moments," Joe Maddon said. "I just think to me, he seems to be pigeon holed into throwing his fastball when he might be behind in the count. He has all the ingredients, he just doesn't know what to do with them yet. As he learns how to pitch better and is less predictable, I think you're going to see the results become better." He probably is not going to develop into an ace starter like they thought after taking him in the sandwich round in 2008, but he should be a decent mid-rotation guy eventually.
Bubba Starling, the No. 5 overall pick in 2011, is finally starting to hit a little. “A lot of people tried to work on this or that with me,” he said. “Change my hands, put them in a different spot or change my feet or whatever it is. It seemed like every time I turned around, it was an oh-for-four, an oh-for-five, two or three punchouts and you know, it kind of took a toll on me. I was trying to do way too much at the plate. I feel like with my hands, they were just stiff and I wasn’t getting my hands through the zone. I wasn’t seeing the ball when it was released,” he continued. “A little herky-jerky, I guess.” Wilmington hitting coach Milt Thompson just told him to relax. He is hitting .321 in the last two weeks since then. “Up at the plate I kind of had a different stance and stuff. Now I’m just in a comfortable spot for me and kind of going back to what I did in high school. That’s what I’m doing now,” Starling said. “It’s very close to what I did in high school. I just feel really comfortable. Milt does a great job of not putting too much stuff in my head. He just tells me to keep it simple and go get my work in. Milt said if I can take the confidence I have in center field up to the plate, I’ll be a pretty good player. I just feel like any ball hit to left- or right-center, I’m going to track it down and catch it. It may not always be the case, but I’m just competitive out there. And I think sooner or later, when I get more and more at-bats and get comfortable in the box, the hitting will come.”
Kyle Zimmer, still in extended spring training, has been shut down for 6-8 weeks due to a lat strain. "My guess is, it'll more on the side of eight weeks," assistant GM J.J. Picollo said. "Then he'll start on a throwing program again. Really, he's starting over again -- it's spring training again."
2B Eddie Rosario is serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for recreational drug use. It's the second time he has violated the minor league drug policy.
Miguel Sano is out for the season following Tommy John surgery. "Thank God, everything went well," he said. "I think I'll be playing baseball in the fall, but I'm between playing in the Arizona Fall League or winter ball in the Dominican Republic."
RHP Alex Meyer is making great strides with his changeup at AAA Rochester. “I thought that was very encouraging,” said Rob Antony, assistant general manager. “We told him, ‘Too many guys are getting good swings off your 98-mile-an-hour fastball.’ That’s the difference between being a good major league pitcher and really good major league pitcher. He has the fastball and he has a breaking ball. Now if you can change speeds and slow it down, he’s got all the pitches to be successful.” 24-year-old Meyer, like most AAA phenoms, won’t be recalled until at least mid-June when he is no longer a "Super-2" player (he won't be able to accumulate enough service time to become arbitration-eligible a year early). He also missed several weeks last season due to shoulder problems so they want to be careful with him.
2B Levi Michael, a first-round pick in 2011, has battled injuries and inconsistency but is getting it back together at Class-A Fort Myers. “Levi Michael is playing as well as he has in a long time,” Steil said. “That’s encouraging. He’s being aggressive, playing solid in the field, swinging the bat pretty good.”
OF Byron Buxton (sprained left wrist) was finally activated and assigned to AA New Britain. "He joined the Miracle today because he passed everything he needed to do in extended," assistant GM Rob Antony said. "Now we'll get him in over there with the Miracle and get him going. If he gets rolling and it looks like he's in midseason form and ready to go, we'll move him up to New Britain where we planned to have him be. He played his way out of this league last year, but we'll give him enough time here to get going."
Byron Buxton had a setback with his left wrist and will undergo an MRI exam. “He will have an MRI this week to compare it to his MRI from the spring,” director of minor leagues Brad Steil said. He first injured his wrist on March 16 while diving for a ball during a minor league spring training game. He then reinjured it on a slide. Originally they had hoped he would make his major league debut this season. The wrist injury has put that in doubt for a player who was the consensus pick as the top prospect in baseball.
NEW YORK YANKEES
1B Greg Bird was activated May 5 after beginning the season on the DL with a back injury. The 21-year-old sleeper prospect is coming off and nice season in A-ball (.288 with 20 homers and a 132/107 k/bb ratio) last year. Good power potential. Draws walks.
OF Billy McKinney is struggling with his average and strikeout rate at Class-A Stockton but is hitting for power and is expected to improve as the season wears on. The 19-year-old is making the tough transition from the New York-Penn League.
SS Addison Russell (right hamstring) is playing in an extended spring training games in Arizona. "We won't have any other updates on his progress or expected return to action until he is ready to leave the extended program and join a full-season club," assistant GM David Forst said. Russell, 20, has a .306 average through 167 games in the minors so far.
1B Jesus Montero is hitting .300 with six home runs for AAA Tacoma and could be recalled soon. The former top catching prospect is still just 24 so keep an eye on him. He is a lifetime .258 hitter with a poor k/bb ratio in the majors.
OF Gabriel Guerrero is off to a big start for Class-A High Desert and is worth watching. The 20-year-old is a pretty raw prospect who strikers out a lot but he has power potential and the fast start is an encouraging sign – even in a hitter’s league.
James Paxton (lat) has been shut down after an MRI revealed shoulder inflammation. He felt tightness in his left triceps after throwing three innings for AAA Tacoma. "He's been throwing and he's built up," Lloyd McClendon said. "I wouldn't suspect it'll take him more than 10 days to get back to where he was. But without a doubt, he'd need at least one or two rehab starts."
TAMPA BAY RAYS
SS Hak-Ju Lee was activated after suffering a spring training left calf strain. He missed most of last season with torn ligaments in his left knee.
2B Rougned Odor (ROOG-ned O-Door) and SS Luis Sardinas are two 20-year-old Venezuelans who have played together for three years and are currently at AA Frisco. “I don’t think [Odor’s] quite ready yet,” manager Jason Wood said. “But by no means, if something drastic happened and he had to go up there, he’d do just fine. I think the best thing for him and [Sardinas] would be to be down here, probably most of the season and really get comfortable and tune their game up here.” Odor said he’s just been focusing on improving his defense.
C Jorge Alfaro is hitting well of late at Class A Myrtle Beach after a slow start but still needs to draw more walks. He has just three for the season. Also at Myrtle Beach, 3B Joey Gallo leads the Carolina League in homers and is second in RBIs. He also leads the league in slugging (.750) and OPS (1.171). Most scouts don’t think he’ll hit for average in the majors though. Gallo, 20, hit 40 homers between Class-A Hickory and the Arizona Rookie League last year.
3B Joey Gallo is off to a great start for Class-A Myrtle Beach as one of the younger players in the league and is moving up our charts. Gallo, 20, hit 40 homers last year but hit just .260. the difference is being more selective at the plate so far. “Huge power,” said Mike Daly, senior director of minor league operations. “We want Joey Gallo to be known as a hitter with power. Not just as Joey Gallo, the power hitter.” Gallo struck out 165 times last season but has cut that number about 6%. “I’ve really focused on shortening up my swing with two strikes and I think about half my hits have come with two strikes,” he said. “I’ve gotten more comfortable with that approach and really have taken it upon myself to be better in those situations.” He is projected to hit for power in the majors but not batting average.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
RHP Marcus Stroman, 23, is off to a good start for AAA Louisville and we hear they he could be called up soon to join the rotation. Dustin McGowan is struggling and could be sent to the bullpen.