Prospect three day weekendby Jeff Moore
March 04, 2011
With a full week of spring training action under our belt, we find ourselves inundated with prospect news, action, and updates to follow. And we couldn't be happier.
Most of the prospect action in spring games involves pitchers, as it's easy to get them an inning of work here and there. Everyone is working an inning or two at a time at this early stage of the season, so working in a top prospect doesn't do much to the team's preparation for the season. Among those turning heads are Jacob Turner of the Tigers, who caught the attention of Blue Jays manager John Farrell, who knows a thing or two about pitching, and could take a Rick Porcello-esque route to the majors.
Then there are teams like the Kansas City Royals, who seemingly get better with each passing inning and each prospect-for-veteran substitution that takes place. If nothing else, they certainly get more exciting to watch. The last few innings of each Royals spring training game is like looking into the future a the 2013 Royals. And the future looks good.
One exciting part of early spring is when teams call non-invite prospects into action in big league games to fill in. Split-squad games and injuries have opened the door for Jurickson Profar and Nick Castellanos to make appearances in big league games for the Rangers and Tigers, respectively, and give us glimpses into their promising futures.
Key position battles
The further we get into spring, the more we will see how much chance certain prospects have of making their respective teams, but we can already see two legitimate battles brewing.
All rational reasoning points to the Yankees sending Jesus Montero back down to Triple-A for at least the start of the 2011 season, and yet his offense may prove to be too tempting to resist. His bat is clearly ready to join the Yankees' major league lineup, but with Jorge Posada's switch to DH and Mark Teixeira's stranglehold on first base, the only place for Montero to get at-bats would be behind the plate, and there he finds newly signed Russell Martin.
Montero should be able to out-hit Martin, but the question for Montero has never been about his hitting. It's his defense that has held him back thus far. Reports have begun to surface that perhaps he's improved enough defensively to be adequate in the majors, thus justifying his spot in the lineup, but those reports could easily be fueled by spring training excitement. The other debate is whether it will impair Montero's development to keep him in the majors if he can play only twice a week. The Yankees have a decision on their hands; they have another month of spring games to see just how real Montero's progress is.
The Mariners have an equally tempting prospect on their hands, with Michael Pineda demonstrating his abilities and distinguishing himself as one of the team's five best starters. The Mariners have to be significantly more service-time-conscious than the Yankees, so the decision to keep Pineda in the majors or send him back to Triple-A may be turn into a simple accounting move. But it has become clear even this early in camp that if the Mariners want to put their best five pitchers forward, they have to consider Pineda.
The injury bug has struck a few prospects, with Andrew Brackman being the biggest (literally, not figuratively) to fall. The Yankees righthander missed a full week with a groin injury.
Jeremy Hellickson missed some time with the Rays, but he has returned to action, is throwing bullpens, and is scheduled to face hitters this weekend.
Julio Teheran, the Braves impressive young righty, missed four or five days with back spasms this past week, but could throw Friday.
Wilin Rosario, the Rockies catcher whose 2010 season ended prematurely with an injured knee, is still rehabbing but could be at full speed by early April.
References and Resources
Jeff Moore is the creator of MLBProspectWatch.com, your one-stop site for all the information you need about minor league prospects. He can be reached via e-mail at mlbprospectwatch AT gmail DOT com and can be followed on Twitter at @MLBPW