Tagged: Travis d’Arnaud

2014 Top 100 Prospects: NL East

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MLB prospect expert Jonathan Mayo released his top 100 prospect list on January 23rd and for the most part, it seems as if there are no real surprises. There are plenty of newcomers, some of which impressed enough that they warranted top consideration, plenty of prospects also graduated from the list and are replaced by those who have similar caliber.

While last year’s profiling counted down from 100-1 (and did not finish), this year, Minor League Madhouse will be profiling the top prospects by division. How is that going to work? Quite simply, I will be going over each team’s top 100 prospects. I will look at their movement from last year’s list, when they were drafted/signed, what their strengths are, and how they fit into their future team. Twitter handles will also be provided for prospects. We start off with the NL East.

Atlanta Braves: 

Prospects: Lucas Sims, RHP (60) and Christian Bethancourt, C (82)

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Sims: Drafted in the first round out out Brookwood High School in Georgia with the 21st pick in the 2012 draft.

2013: Pitched for Rome in South Atlantic League, Went 12-4 with a 2.62 ERA and 136 K’s.

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The Braves have a knack for developing young pitchers out of high school, just ask Tom Glavine. Sims, a local product, has been nothing short of impressive since being drafted. He has a decent pitchers toolbox with the fastball, curveball, changeup combo, but does need to improve mechanics in his delivery. Sims takes over as the Braves’ top pitching prospect after Sean Gilmartin was traded to Minnesota for Ryan Doumit. He clearly has a ways to go before he’ll settle in the Atlanta rotation, but should he develop the way that he has, he could be an ace for the Braves staff.

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Bethancourt: Signed as an international free agent in 2008.

2013: Played for Mississippi in Southern League and Major League club. Hit .277 with 12 HR’s and 47 RBIs in AA, had one appearance in MLB. Played in Futures Game.

@ChristianBeth27

Barring a major setback or the team wanting him to develop in AAA, Christian Bethancourt is pretty much set to take over as the catcher for the Braves in 2014. And why not? Bethancourt is a defensive star, with a solid arm, and decent plate skills. He is scrappy, and profiles as a 5-7 hitter in any lineup. Having seen Bethancourt play in the Futures game, albeit for a pinch hit appearance, I can honestly say that he’ll be a decent catcher.

Miami Marlins:

Prospects: Andrew Heaney, LHP (29), Colin Moran, 3B (51) Jake Marisnick, OF (65), Justin Nicolino, LHP (81)

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Heaney: Drafted in the first round out of Oklahoma State University with the 9th pick in the 2012 draft.

2013: Pitched for Jupiter of the Class A Florida State League and Jacksonville of the AA Southern League. Combined for a 9-3 record, 1.60 ERA and 95 K’s.

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Heaney’s first full season of baseball was certainly one of the more dominant ones. Although he started out with an injury which kept him out for a month, he managed to dominate the Florida State League, earning him a quick promotion to the Southern League where he continued to flourish. Heaney has a weird delivery which baffles hitters on both sides of the plate. He has pinpoint control, and he knows the strike zone. Heaney could find himself competing for a starting rotation spot this year in a rotation that already has one of the best young arms (Jose Fernandez) in the game.

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Moran: Drafted in the first round out of the University of North Carolina with the 6th pick in the 2013 draft.

2013: Played for the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Atlantic Coast Conference in the NCAA, and the Greensboro Grasshoppers of the Low A South Atlantic League. Won ACC Player of the Year, named consensus NCAA All American, and was a finalist for Golden Spikes Award. Hit .299 with 4 home runs and 23 RBI for Greensboro.

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Colin Moran was one of the better prospects in the 2013 MLB draft, in fact, some had him as the number one pick. Although he fell 5 spots, he’s still regarded as a high level prospect. Despite taking a while to sign, Moran did show promise in his short stint at Greensboro. While he’s no Giancarlo Stanton, he certainly has decent hitting ability and solid defense, reminding me of a collegiate David Wright. Moran projects as a 5-7 hitter in the Marlins lineup, but could move to a 2-5 hitter, perhaps a 3 hitter, if he continues to show his ability.

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Marisnick: Drafted in the third round of the 2009 draft out of Riverside Poly High School by the Toronto Blue Jays. Traded to the Miami Marlins with Justin Nicolino, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Yunel Escobar, and Anthony DeScalfini for Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, John Buck, Emilio Bonifacio, and Mark Buehrle.

2013: Played for Jupiter of the Class A Florida State League, Jacksonville of the AA Southern League, and the Major League Club. Hit a combined .289 with 12 HR and 46 RBI in the minors, and .183 with 1 HR and 5 RBI in the majors.

@JSMarisnick

I honestly didn’t like the Marlins rushing Jake Marisnick to the majors so quickly, mainly because he missed out on AAA. That being said, I don’t think they’ll make the same mistake again. Marisnick, when developed properly, has a great arm and fast legs. He and Christian Yelich should make up the other two outfield spots for Miami in the future. Marisnick’s one knock however is his plate patience, which can be fixed if he’s allowed the time to mature.

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Nicolino: Drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft out of University High School in Orlando by the Toronto Blue Jays. Traded to the Marlins in the Marisnick deal.

2013: Pitched for Jupiter and Jacksonville, Posted a combined 8-4 record with a 3.11 ERA and 95 K’s.

@J_Nicolino22

Nicolino was part of the famed Toronto Blue Jays 2010 Arms Class which included Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard. Two years later, he was dealt to the Miami Marlins and proceeded to have a generally solid year. After having success in single A Jupiter, Nicolino was promoted to Jacksonville where he put up pedestrian numbers due to the class shift. Nicolino, whose fastball is decent and whose control is generally solid,  would benefit from an extended stay in Jacksonville, but could find himself in the majors by late 2014-mid 2015. With him, Fernandez, and Heaney, as well as the other arms obtained in the fire sale trades, the Marlins could have a very scary rotation set for the future.

New York Mets: 

Prospects in top 100: Noah Syndergaard, RHP (11), Travis d’Arnaud, C (22) Rafael Montero, RHP, (85)

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Syndergaard: Drafted in the first supplemental round of the 2010 draft out of Mansfield Legacy High School by the Toronto Blue Jays. Traded to the New York Mets with John Buck, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra for R.A Dickey, Josh Thole, and Mike Nickeas.

2013: Pitched for St. Lucie of the Florida State League and Binghamton of the Eastern League, went a combined 9-4 with a  3.06 ERA and 133 K’s, Pitched in the 2013 Futures Game.

@Noahsyndergaard

Syndergaard is a special talent, but in order to show it, he needed to get out of a system which had two other promising arms from his draft class. After the Mets acquired him in the Dickey deal, Syndergaard showed how special he was, excelling in the Florida State League, before being promoted to the Eastern league, where he put up similar numbers. Syndergaard was so hyped that he was given the start for Team USA in the Futures game, a high honor. His fastball is a high 90’s pitch and his other pitches are generally solid. He does have good control and command. The Mets will be promoting him, but probably not until mid may or early June. He’ll probably be spending time in Las Vegas, a.k.a Pitchers Hell, but regardless of what happens, he’ll be up.

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d’Arnaud: Drafted in the first supplemental round in the 2007 draft out of Lakewood High School in California by the Philadelphia Phillies. Traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010 in the Roy Halladay deal, then to the New York Mets in 2012 in the R.A Dickey Deal.

2013: Played for the GCL Mets, Binghamton, and Las Vegas, before joining the Major League club. Hit a combined .286/3/20 in the minors and .202/1/5 in the majors.

@TdArnaud

2013 was an aberration for d’Arnaud, the top catching prospect in baseball for the second year in a row. He missed most of the year thanks to a freak foul ball related foot fracture, and had to go through four levels of competition. That being said, d’Arnaud, despite his weak major league debut, is still a prime candidate for the Rookie of the Year award, as his eligibility is still intact. d’Arnaud’s best asset is hitting, and his fielding is definitely a work in progress, in short, he could be another Paul Lo Duca.

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Montero: Signed as an international free agent in 2011.

2013: Played for Binghamton and Las Vegas, combined for 12-7 record, 2.78 ERA, and 150 K’s. Played in 2013 Futures Game

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Rafael Montero has always been a late prospect, being signed at age 20, a full four years behind the optimum international free agency age, developing slowly until his meteoric rise last season which included an unusually strong showing at the pitchers’ Siberia in Las Vegas. Regardless, Montero may not be with the Mets by the end of the year, as his name has constantly been mentioned in trade rumors. He will be fighting for a rotation spot in Spring Training, but barring an outstanding showing, will be in AAA in order to delay his arbitration clock. Montero does have a solid offering at fastball, and his control is certainly up there. If he stays, he could help ease the long term loss of Matt Harvey and help establish a strong young rotation.

Philadelphia Phillies:

Prospects: Maikel Franco, 3B (26), Jesse Biddle, LHP (53)

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Franco: Signed as international free agent in 2010

2013: Played for Lakewood and Reading, combined for a .320 batting average, 31 home runs and 103 RBI. Appeared in 2013 Futures Game

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Maikel Franco could join Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard as the next big homegrown Phillies infield star. Blessed with an amazing stick and good fielding capability, Franco absolutely tore through two levels of competition. If Franco continues to play at the level that he has been and incumbent option Cody Asche continues to struggle, Franco could be in the majors by June.

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Biddle: Drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft out of Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, PA.

2013: Played for Reading of the Eastern League, went 5-14 with a 3.64 ERA and 154 K’s. Pitched in 2013 Futures game.

@jessebiddle_54

Since being drafted out of high school, the Phillies have had nothing but praise for their local boy, Jesse Biddle. And rightfully so. While his record doesn’t look like that of a top prospect, he actually had a halfway decent year. and capped it off with a Futures game selection. Biddle’s fastball and control are destined to be basic, but his curveball is quite nasty to behold. He’ll likely be spending the bulk of 2014 in Lehigh Valley, but could make it up to Philly by August.

Washington Nationals:

Prospects: Lucas Giolito, RHP (44) AJ Cole RHP, (69)

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Giolito: Drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft out of Harvard Westlake School in Studio City, CA.

2013: Pitched for the GCL Nationals and the Auburn Doubledays. Went a combined 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA and 39 K’s.

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Before Giolito had to spend a year recovering from a sprained UCL and the majority of his debut season recovering from Tommy John Surgery, there was debate as to the possibility of him being the first overall pick in the draft. While that never happened, the Nationals once again (Anthony Rendon ’11) used their philosophy of drafting high profile names with falling stocks. Giolito showed no long term problems after the surgery, as his triple digit fastball remained intact, but he did play on an abbreviated schedule. Still, in the short time he played, Giolito dazzled, blazing through the Gulf Coast League, then the New York Penn League. Giolito will likely see the full year in short A, but if he continues to develop the way that he has, he could be up in the majors by early 2016. 

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Cole: Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of Oveido High School in Oveido, Florida. Traded to Oakland with Derek Norris, Brad Peacock, and Tommy Milone for Gio Gonzalez and Rob Gilliam, Traded to Washington in three team deal for Michael Morse and John Jaso.

2013: Played for Potomac Nationals and Harrisburg Senators. Combined for a 10-5 record with a 3.60 ERA and 151 K’s. Pitched in 2013 Futures Game.

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Cole is an interesting story, having been drafted by the Nationals organization out of high school, only to be traded a year later to Oakland, then back to the Nationals two years later. While Cole looked somewhat lost on the West Coast, his return to the DC farm system certainly helped, as he made it over the Single-A hump and had a great Double-A debut. He was rewarded with a Futures game invite and effectively served as Team USA’s closer, helping preserve the 4-2 win. Cole has been a starter in the minors, but his fastball speed could lead to a role in the bullpen, specifically as the team’s eventual closer. Expect Cole to start the season in AAA, but possibly could be in the majors by August if he continues the way he has been.

 

That’s the Wall Street Way: How Sandy Alderson’s able to make the trades he has made.

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Phew! My two month hiatus is done. Sorry that I didn’t post anything for a while, but nothing really broke, and with the trade deadline being literally dead, never mind the fact that the expected happened, although the return could have been better, I really had nothing to write.

Anyway, yesterday was a big buzz day in terms of August trades. With Matt Harvey possibly shut down until 2015, the Mets pulled a classic “Oh sh*t” and promptly traded their two best players to Pittsburgh for Futures game alumnus and Pirates infield prospect Dilson Herrera, as well as a player to be named. Herrera is a 19 year old who, while undersized, can hit for power. He has above average speed, and while his glove needs work, he certainly could factor into the team’s long term plan. Dilson, at the time of the trade, ranked as high as the Pirates number 9 prospect, and as low as number 11.  It’s also been reported by Pirates GM Neal Huntington that the PTBNL is expected to have people say that the Mets got very solid pieces in the deal (Update: The PTBNL in question is pitcher Vic Black, former 2009 first round pick of the Pirates). And all it took was a 36 year old outfielder having a miracle season and a catcher who had just lost his starting job to the team’s second best prospect.

This begs the question, how does Sandy Alderson do it? Since becoming the team’s general manager in 2011, Alderson has made three major trades, including the one above, in which he shipped out players who either had one miracle season, or who were starting to get past their prime, in exchange for at least one hotshot prospect. Examples:

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July 2011: Trades outfielder Carlos Beltran, who is in the midst of a comeback season after an injury plagued 2010, to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Zack Wheeler, who rises through the Mets system as the team’s number two, then number 1 prospect, before making his major league debut with the Mets. Wheeler is currently the number 3 starter in New York, behind Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. He is expected to get some points in the already established Rookie of the Year race. Beltran on the other hand, serves as a rental player, and the Giants do not make the postseason in an attempt to repeat as World Series champions. He signs with the Cardinals, and is named an All-star for them twice.

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December 2012: Trades pitcher R.A Dickey and catchers Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole to the Toronto Blue Jays for catchers Travis d’Arnaud and John Buck, pitcher Noah Syndergaard, and outfielder Wuilmer Becerra. Buck ends up serving as catcher for most of the year and actually ends up third in the All-star vote, before being traded in the above deal. d’Arnaud starts as the team’s top prospect, ahead of Wheeler, ends up in Triple-A, gets hurt, rehabs, and makes his long anticipated big league debut in mid-August.  Syndergaard blazes through Single-A and Double-A, and is named the starting pitcher in the 2013 Futures game. He is regarded as the team’s new number 1 prospect. Becerra is playing modestly well in the Gulf Coast league, and may or may not factor into the team’s future.

If you think about it, Alderson, in his three seasons as the general manager of the Mets, has, on a shoestring budget, brought the team out of the Omar Minaya induced darkness, when the team had no prospects, and no real chance of competing. He dumped off bloated contracts and revitalized the farm system with not one, not two, but four top ten prospects, all for guys who on any other teams would have gotten maybe a top 40 prospect and chump change.

Let’s look at each team’s situations to get an idea of how Sandy does it.

1. Carlos Beltran had already served his purpose in New York and looked to be coming off the books if he wasn’t traded. His value was severely diminished due to the 2010 injury, and Alderson had no plans to keep him on the team regardless of whether he revitalized or failed as a man in his last year. When Beltran exceeded expectations, teams were interested. When he made the All-star team as a starter, they were literally falling over themselves for him. Alderson could have basically asked for a contending team to gauge their farm system and they would have not only offered their top two prospects, but also a top ten who had the upside to be a top 5, which, incidentally, the Giants did offer not only Wheeler, but also outfielder Gary Brown and first baseman Brandon Belt. Alderson may not have jumped on the opportunity to gauge the team’s future, but he did get a franchise arm in Wheeler, one that could compete with Harvey when they both came up, and revitalize a much-maligned rotation. Suffice to say, it worked in the Mets favor. Wheeler rose through the system, and despite some mechanical issues, not to mention playing in the baseball Siberia that is Las Vegas, he’s become a much hyped part of the team’s rebuild.

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Somewhere in San Francisco, Brian Sabean is watching Zack Wheeler highlights and muttering “Goddamnit.”

2. Again, the Dickey deal was an effort to capitalize on a solid season. After seeing that the Blue Jays had gutted half their farm system in exchange for practically everyone good on the 2012 Marlins team, save Giancarlo Stanton, Alderson was ready to deal with Toronto. Granted, he could have made a deal with any team that wanted Dickey. The Red Sox would have offered a package that surrounded either Xander Bogaerts or Jackie Bradley, but not both, thus dropping them on the list. Texas offered a package that surrounded Mike Olt, but without Jurickson Profar, the deal was dead. The Dodgers offered Zach Lee, their top pitching prospect, and Dee Gordon, a shortstop, but given the fact that the Dodgers system has been weak, no deal there. Alderson had one big priority: Capitalize on Dickey’s wonder year by getting the next Piazza. In Alex Anthopolous, he found a sucker. Not only was Anthopolous willing to give either d’Arnaud or JP Arencibia up, he also was willing to get rid of one of his 2010 high school pitching phenoms. Having already given up Henderson Alvarez AND Justin Nicolino, you’d think he’d want to hold on to Syndergaard and Sanchez, but no. Alderson insisted, and also asked for Buck so that d’Arnaud’s transition be smoother. Anthopolous was more than happy to oblige, and the team soon found itself with two top prospects and a solid veteran catcher, not to mention an outfield throw in.

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Somewhere in Toronto, Alex Anthopolous is getting ready to take a cyanide pill.

So there really is no magic in Alderson’s dealings, it’s just a simple matter of market philosophy. Remember Schoolhouse Rock’s infamous video, Money Rock? That song, Walkin’ on Wall Street? Basically, Alderson is selling high on guys who are past their prime, and reaping returns of enormous value. And again, this is on a shoestring budget. With that problem going away in the offseason, Alderson will be able to make bigger investments, like signing a big free agent outfielder.

The Byrd deal likely won’t pay dividends immediately for the Mets. Herrera is a good two or three years away, and with no clear idea who the PTBNL is (Update: Vic Black), he may or may not contribute to the team’s immediate future either. However, it may turn into another win-win for the Mets, as the team is interested in bringing back Byrd next year. In this case, even if the Pirates do end up relying on the contributions of Buck and Byrd, the team will still lose the deal. Score another for Alderson.

Futures Game 2013: What you need to know about Team USA.

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All-Star Sunday is only 16 days away. What is considered the precursor to the big game consists of the All-Star Legends and Celebrity softball game and the Futures game. While we still do not know which celebrities will be playing, we were treated to the 2013 futures game rosters.

Here is the full list, from CBS Sports.

As you can see, the rosters are a little different from last time. Now, there’s no Jurickson Profar, Zack Wheeler, Dylan Bundy, basically, those who have reached the majors are all off the list. Still, there are some interesting names to look for.

Today, we look at part of the roster for Team USA.

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Team USA’s staff consists of plenty of high school arms. Among them are Phillies top prospect Jesse Biddle, Diamondbacks top prospect Archie Bradley, Giants top prospect Kyle Crick,  Rays 2011 top draft pick Taylor Guerrieri, Mariners top prospect Taijuan Walker, and the most interesting USA pitcher, Noah Syndergaard, acquired by the Mets in the Dickey deal in the offseason. Syndergaard is interesting in the fact that he blazed through Port St. Lucie en route to a well-deserved promotion to Double-A Binghamton. Syndergaard is turning heads, and may be considered the real top prospect in the Dickey deal, as Travis d’Arnaud has been sidelined with a broken foot since April. It is widely believed, and in some ways, hoped, that Syndergaard will start, although in all likelihood, Walker may get the ball, as he is the only pitcher in Triple-A.

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In the catcher/infield department, the two big standouts are Padres backstop Austin Hedges and Addison Russell of the A’s. Hedges, who needed a lot of money in order to break his college commitment, tore through the Midwest league, and is now playing for the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm, where he has done similar work in the California League. Addison Russell was the first pick in Billy Beane’s Anti-moneyball philosophy era, and he’s proven to be one wise choice. Having dazzled in his pro debut last season. Russell is now playing for the Stockton Ports, where he faces Hedges. Russell will not see any major league action for a while, but when he does come up, expect the label #1 prospect in baseball to come with him.

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In the outfield, the two notable names to look out for are Twins prospect Byron Buxton and Reds prospect Billy Hamilton. Buxton was the number two pick in the 2012 draft and while he started out slowly, he’s really turned himself around this season, and has already made it to the Fort Myers Miracle in the Florida State League. On the other hand, Hamilton is a name that has been on the radar for quite some time. Last year, Hamilton broke the minor league record for most stolen bases in a season, and although he has yet to be promoted, given the future of the Reds outfield, expect him to suit up in either August or September.

This year, Major League baseball has decided to add a little fun to the game, by having the people choose the final representative. a la the final vote in the MLB all-star game. There are five candidates to choose from.

Tyler Austin, outfielder, Yankees

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All you need to know about Austin is that he’s a converted catcher, and has been the most hyped Yankees prospect since Robinson Cano.

Nick Castellanos, outfield, Tigers.

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Castellanos caught national attention when he was named MVP of last year’s game. A return appearance would be welcome, although if Castellanos is promoted, he will no longer be eligible.

Garin Cecchini, Third baseman, Red Sox

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Cecchini is probably the most hyped Red Sox prospect not named Xander Bogaerts. He is currently leading the minors in batting average, and may be the clear favorite for the final spot.

Courtney Hawkins, outfield, White Sox

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Hawkins currently stands as the White Sox best prospect, and his athleticism and tools certainly have put him on the map. He has made a quick jump to the Carolina League, and would be a darkhorse for the final spot.

Brandon Nimmo, Outfield, Mets

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Nimmo is the ultimate underdog here. Not only is he at the lowest level among the Final Vote prospects, but he was drafted out of Wyoming, a state that does not sponsor baseball. Nimmo is toolsy with speed, and he can hit. He can make the final roster based on hometown popularity, though.

To conclude this post, there is a poll, which will ask who you want for the final spot for Team USA.

(Update: Brandon Nimmo is currently leading in the real poll with 39% of the vote. Trailing him with 23% is Garin Cecchini, followed by Castellanos at 20% while Austin and Hawkins bring up the rear at 9%)

Up next: the World Team profile.

The Arbitration Clock and its Negative impact on Top Prospects

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One of the biggest things in baseball that fans don’t give a damn about is arbitration. They know it’s there, but they couldn’t care less about considerations for service time, monies to be payed to player X, and all the complicated legal jargon that is the underbelly of baseball business. Granted, even P2P did try and read about salary arbitration, but fell asleep before getting past the second sentence. Basically, to put it in a nutshell, arbitration is when a player has reached a certain amount of service time and is a free agent, the team that owned him can offer him a salary for that year. The player can accept that salary or counter, by which point, a judge, colloquially referred to as an “arbitrator” will determine if the player’s price is fair or if the team’s price is fair.

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Fans are not generally enthusiastic about arbitration, especially for those players who haven’t even made the big league club yet. Prospects are often at the butt end of the arbitration process, because teams want an extra year of control on their prospects. This is why such players as Zack Wheeler, Dylan Bundy, Jurickson Profar, and Travis d’Arnaud are languishing in the minors while less than talented incumbents continue to lumber around with what limited time they have left, like Shaun Marcum and Anthony Recker, among others. P2P cannot speak for players, but is pretty sure Travis d’Arnaud has had enough of Sin City, especially since that’s where he suffered his season-ending injury that has continuously delayed his big league debut. That, and Zack Wheeler was one of the top performers this spring, and with the rash of injuries that has plagued the Mets, many have called for his call-up.

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Some teams however, have no qualms about losing the extra year of team control that they would normally get with stashing their top prospect in the minors. This is apparently the case with Minnesota Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks and Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who will be making his big league debut at the age of 20 against the Mets. Given that the Marlins are inclined to jumpstart their prospects, the move should not be surprising, but with Fernandez having never pitched above A ball, the results can be disastrous. The same goes for Hicks, who has yet to play a game of Triple-A ball, and looked like the struggling minor leaguer he was after he got drafted in his first game. The thing is, the Marlins and Twins acknowledged that they both are top 25 talents on the team who clearly deserve their roster spots sooner rather than later. On the other hand, Mets fasn will have to wait a month while Wheeler faces “command issues” and d’Arnaud “gets back up to fielding strength”.

Many writers agree with P2P and say that the arbitration system preventing the top prospects from making their debuts sooner rather than later is stupid. While nothing can be done now, the owners and the MLBPA, as well as commissioner Bud Selig should really consider looking over the Collective Bargaining Agreement and smooth over the rough spots.

One does not simply ban home plate collisions

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Yesterday we learned that new Mets catcher and the #6 prospect in baseball, Travis d’Arnaud, has been banned by his superiors from engaging in home plate collisions. The reason for this is because the team wants to exercise caution with their top prospect’s knee, the same one he injured in June last year while sliding into second base. Granted, player safety is a high priority, and it is reasonable to want to protect the future, but the one thing that I don’t completely get is banning home plate collisions.

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The issue started two years ago, when the San Francisco Giants faced the Florida Marlins in a then-unconsequential May game. With the score tied 6-6 in the 12th inning, and runners on first and third, Marlins infielder Emilio Bonifacio lifted a shallow fly to right center field, which was caught by Nate Schierholtz. Scott Cousins tagged at third, then bolted for home, where Buster Posey was waiting for him. Cousins railroaded Posey, causing him to drop the ball, and allow the winning run to score. As the play unfolded, Posey fell back on his leg, and somehow fractured his fibula and tore knee ligaments. Posey was lost for the season, and Cousins was vilified by fans, even subject to death threats.

While no notable collisions happened in 2012, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a former catcher himself, called for the outright ban on collisions, citing not only safety issues, but also the possibility of suffering a concussion during a collision.

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I understand what Matheny is saying, and if I was in his position, I would be concerned, but the question here is, how does one go about banning home plate collisions, or in d’Arnaud’s case, prevent himself from being involved in a collision?

In the banning collision department, is the instigator or the catcher ejected if there is a collision? Is there a suspension or a fine? If this happens, will teams be required to keep three catchers on their roster instead of two?

And how about d’Arnaud? He relishes the opportunity to get down and dirty, but in his case, if a runner is barreling down the third base line, does he simply allow the run to score, or does he try something like standing up and slapping the tag on?

Another thing that I find crazy about home plate collisions is that they are a natural part of the game, and you don’t usually ban natural parts of the game. A spitball is unnatural, steroids and HGH are unnatural, even the recently banned pickoff move is unnatural, but come on, a home plate collision? Some of the best postseason plays have come on home plate collisions, like JT Snow moving Dusty Baker’s boy out of harm’s way in the 2002 World Series, Ivan Rodriguez securing an NLDS victory for the Marlins in 2003 by blocking Snow from scoring, and even Paul Lo Duca, in 2006, nabbing not one, but two Dodger baserunners in game one of the NLDS that year, (a game that I attended myself). My philosophy on that is that if it isn’t natural, it goes, but if it is, it stays.

We get that collisions are dangerous and could lead to serious injury, but before calling for an outright ban, think about how exactly this affects the game, and if it’s even a logical move in the first place.