After spending many, many months locked away in my office delving into every minor league prospect for my book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, I wanted to take a look back at how my Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2015 have performed so far.
Frankie Montas, RHP, Chicago White Sox: I’ve been on the hard-throwing right-hander’s bandwagon for quite some time now, ranking him as the White Sox’s fifth best prospect two years ago and then bumping him all the way up to #2 this season (behind only Carlos Rodon). I also listed him among the Top Breakout Prospects of 2014 – something he was on track to do until a pair of bizarre knee injuries limited him to just 11 starts (not including his rehab work). Pitching for Birmingham in the Southern League this season, Montas has held his own: 41.0 IP, 3.29 ERA, 31 punch outs, and 17 free passes. It’s worth noting that he garnered just 10 starts in Class High A before making the leap into Class AA, and while his production thus far hasn't been a breakout, per se, there's still plenty of hope.
Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers: One of my personal favorites in all of the minor leagues, I ranked the young shortstop as the 52nd best prospect among all MiLB’ers heading into the season as well as the most underrated prospect in the game. He’s easily surpassed those lofty expectations, making the jump into the Southern League as a 20-year-old where he’s slugging .341/.393/.495 with 17 doubles, one triple, and three home runs to go along with a 16-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Michael Lorenzen, RHP, Cincinnati Reds: The franchise placed the former two-way star on an accelerated path to the majors by having Lorenzen make the leap all the way to Class AA with just a handful of innings above college ball. Last season he handled himself surprisingly well – especially considering he was a reliever making the transition into the rotation. The front office pushed the promising right-hander even harder this season, having him make just three starts in Class AAA before promoting him to the big leagues. He’s still not missing many bats, but it’s incredibly important to remember that he’s thrown barely 200 innings since debuting for Cal State Fullerton.
Roberto Osuna, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays: With his Tommy John seemingly in the rearview mirror and a history of missing bats and limiting free passes, I figured the 20-year-old Osuna could be poised for some big things in 2015. I just didn’t expect them to come at the big league level. To date, he has posted 24.2 IP, 24 K, 6 BB, and a 2.99 SIERA as an important part of the Blue Jays bullpen. Prior to the year I had the young hurler as the 82nd best prospect.
Nick Burdi, RHP, Minnesota Twins: The premier closer for the majority of his run with Louisville, I originally likened the hard-throwing right-hander to college baseball’s version of Craig Kimbrel thanks in part to his insane ability to miss bats. Minnesota pushed him all the way up to Class AA this season, and after a rough start he’s been steadily improving. He’s posted a 17-to-six strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 10 games (15.1 IP). Burdi still has a chance to be called up during the stretch run, especially if Minnesota continues to hang close in the Central race.
Dillon Overton, LHP, Oakland A’s: It was Overton, not Jon Gray, who opened his junior year as Oklahoma’s top hurler. But an elbow injury, which eventually required TJ surgery after the A’s grabbed him in the second round, hampered his production. Finally healthy, he’s sporting a 35-to-nine strikeout-to-walk ratio in 37.1 innings in Class High A.
Tyrone Taylor, CF, Milwaukee Brewers: Toolsy, toolsy, toolsy. But Taylor has struggled putting it all together as he’s hovered around league average production for his levels. This year he’s been one of the bigger disappointments, hitting .272/.314/.333. He’s still plenty young enough – 21 – but the power hasn’t taken the next step forward as I expected.
Andrew Morales, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals: One of my favorite prospects in last year’s draft class, I originally slapped a first round grade on the UC Irvine right-hander. He lasted until the supplemental second round, but that didn’t stop the Cardinals from pushing him all the way up to Class AA this season, despite having just 12.1 professional innings under his belt. He’s struggled a bit in his time at Springfield so far – 45.2 IP, 31 K, 22 BB – but, again, he basically went from pitching against collegiate competition straight into what’s widely recognized as a make-or-break level in the minors. I am still a big, big believer. The Cardinals just need to let him get his feet under him for a bit.
Jake Bauers, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays: I noted in my book how Bauers, who was acquired in the Wil Myers deal with San Diego, faded in the second half of 2014, something that’s not overly shocking or alarming. Tampa Bay bumped the young first baseman up to Class High A this season, at the age of 19, and all he’s done is post the second highest wRC+, 156, in the Florida State League.
Michael Fulmer, RHP, New York Mets: The 2.63 ERA over his first five Eastern League starts is certainly nice enough, but his mediocre peripherals – 6.59 K/9 and 4.28 BB/9 – suggest he’s going to crash back to Earth at some point.
Joe Jimenez, RHP, Detroit Tigers: Signed out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy for a relatively modest sum – $100,000 – Jimenez sported some impressive numbers across two small sample sizes in 2013 and 2014. This year, his first taste of full season ball, the 20-year-old has fanned a whopping 27 opponents in his 14.1 innings. As I mentioned in the preseason write-up, the Tigers have to be thinking about moving him into the rotation at some point, right?
J.B. Wendelken, LHP, Chicago White Sox – The franchise has been incredibly savvy under the guidance of General Manager Rick Hahn. But transitioning the 22-year-old southpaw into the bullpen after a solid showing with Winston-Salem last season – 8.0 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 – is a bit shocking. What isn’t a surprise, however, is that his production has ticked up even more than I would have guessed: 25.1 IP, 30 K, and just four walks. He could be pitching in Chicago very, very soon.
Amir Garrett, LHP, Cincinnati Reds: The 6-foot-5 southpaw decided to walk away from his spot on St. John’s basketball team this offseason, wanting instead to focus fully on his work on the ball diamond. So far, he’s more than handled his own in the Florida State League: he’s fourth in strikeouts (56) and has yet to allow a home run in his 48.2 innings of work.
Bobby Wahl, RHP, Oakland A’s: At one point there was talk that the right-hander would go in the first round. A disappointing junior campaign pushed him all the way down to the fifth round. As I noted prior to the draft, a move to the pen was a distinct possibility. After seven horrible starts Oakland moved him to the bullpen, and he’s been lights out since. This year he’s averaging more than 10 punch outs and fewer than three free passes per nine innings in Class AA. He is another player that could get called up in September.
Jordan Guerrero, LHP, Chicago White Sox: How is this for a breakout: 51 IP, 56 K, 10 BB, and a 1.90 FIP. He seems capable of handling things at Class High A. Granted, it's a repeat of the level, but it's the first time he's doing it as a full time starting pitcher.
Franmil Reyes, RF, San Diego Padres: I’ve been holding out hope over the past two years that Reyes would capitalize on his potential as a power-hitting corner outfielder, but after a ho-hum showing with Fort Wayne in 2014 (.248/.301/.368), he’s basically maintained status quo in a repeat of the level (.233/.276/.374). He’s still only 19, so things could improve.
Daniel Mengden, RHP, Houston Astros: Lost in the sheer volume of Houston prospects, Mengden blew through 38.2 innings in the Midwest League (8.4 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 1.16 ERA) before earning a recent promotion to the bandbox known as Lancaster.
Mitch Brown, RHP, Cleveland Indians: Brown quietly had a strong year for Lake Country in 2014, but he’s struggled making adjustments as the club bumped him up to High A Lynchburg (45.1 IP, 31K, and 23 BB). His control has taken a noticeable step backwards.
LeVon Washington, OF, Cleveland Indians: He’s proven time and again that he’s as sturdy as the rusted out Titanic. Washington’s failed to appear in a meaningful game this season. Blame it on my Tribe fandom for not being able to let go earlier.
Tyler Danish, RHP, Chicago White Sox: The youngest qualified arm in the Southern League this season (so far), Danish has been solid. Through nine starts, he’s averaged 7.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. He’s likely still a year away from the big league squad.
Max Kepler, 1B, Minnesota Twins: In terms of overall production, Kepler’s 158 wRC+ total ranks as the fifth best mark in the Southern League. The German-born first baseman/outfielder is batting a robust .333/.373/.540 through his first 33 games.
Justin Williams, OF, Tampa Bay: Acquired from Arizona, Williams has really struggled in a repeat of Class A this season, hitting a paltry .248/.274/.373. He’s still only 19, so there’s plenty of time.
Edwin Diaz, RHP, Seattle Mariners: The young right-hander was absolutely ridiculous in seven starts for Bakersfield in the California League: 37.0 innings pitched, 42 punch outs, and just nine walks. He recently got the bump up to the Southern League.
Yoel Mecias, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies: He’s made just two appearances since coming back from Tommy John surgery.
Jon Keller, RHP, Baltimore Orioles: Less than inspiring production so far in Class High A: 31.0 innings pitched, 23 K, and 9 BB. Complicating matters, he’s a reliever.
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For more prospect analysis, check out Joe's newest book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, here.
For more analysis check out Joe Werner's site, ProspectDigest.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoltinJoey