The prospect news is scarce these days as we float here in prospect purgatory between the end of the minor league season and the start of the winter leagues, but there’s always something to dig up, and I don’t mind doing the digging.
For instance, there is some action going on in Florida and Arizona. They may not be keeping score, but the instructional leagues are where the rawest players fine-tune their abilities. This is where the progress is made from one season to the next.
Of course, for super-prospects like Bryce Harper, one season should have been his junior year in high school, but instead it was in junior college, and next year should be prom, but likely it will be promotions. After a rocky first day or so in the instructional league, where the rust of three months away from live pitching was painfully evident, it appears Harper has already begun to adjust.
Not surprising for a player whose ability to understand the game and make adjustments quickly has been praised from the start, Harper has impressed the Nationals staff with his work ethic and ability to fit in with his teammates, despite the reputation that precedes him. As for on the field, reports of getting blown away in his first few games were soon replaced with stories of opposite field triples and 12-pitch walks, and adjectives like “grinder” being tossed around. The following day, a report of his first home run, an opposite-field shot. And from over the weekend, a report of a 400-foot plus bomb by Harper, which apparently came off of Tigers prospect Jacob Turner, who is one of the top prospects in the low minors and was blowing away the Nationals hitters.
Other prospects garnering rave reviews include Jurickson Profar of the Rangers and Wil Myers of the Royals, two young players with tremendous talent. Profar and Myers are the exact kind of players that the instructional league was designed to help— young, talented players who need to work on one particular aspect of their game that can’t necessarily be worked on during a regular season packed with travel, live games, injuries, etc.
Profar’s biggest issue is getting his ability at the plate to catch up with his outstanding defensive skills. It’s not that he’s a poor hitter, but he must work on being a more powerful hitter, not necessarily by hitting home runs, but by driving the ball with more authority rather than being a singles hitter. With Myers, the Royals are focusing his time in the instructional league on his defense behind the plate. Myers’ bat is already advanced for his age and should develop with reps, but there are those who question his ability to remain as a catcher. This extra time focusing on defense, then putting it right to use in game situations, could be the difference in that ultimate decision.
If you are desperate for some prospect game-action, there’s always Team USA, which is playing in the Pan-Am Games qualifying tournament. The team includes prospects such as Brett Jackson, Mike Moustakas, Todd Frazier, and Mike Trout.
And the season may be over, but the future is still unclear for three pitching prospects who got some big league experience this season in one form or another. The question is how they will be used. Chris Sale was dominant in the White Sox bullpen, but was envisioned as a starter when drafted. He should get that opportunity next season, but the temptation of a power arm in the bullpen may be too much to resist.
Casey Coleman may not be the most highly-touted pitching prospect in the Cubs organization, but he impressed some people during his time in the majors and with the anticipated turnover in Chicago this offseason, he could get a chance to join the Cubs rotation next season.
The same may not be said about Mark Rogers and the Brewers, however, not because of his performance, but rather due to the team’s desire to limit his innings. Even if they anticipate Rogers being a part of their 2011 rotation, the Brewers may hold him back at the beginning of the year and start him in the minors to protect his oft-injured arm.