Where are they now?
A while back Fish and I put together our top prospects lists, ranking the farm kids on their current status within the system. Now that we’re halfway through the minor league season it’s time to revisit that list and see how some of these guys are doing. Our list was 40 deep, so i’ll put this out in a couple of articles. Taking it from the top:
Mason Williams – Mason got himself off to a slow start this year; in addition to his DUI and some apparent attitude issues, Williams struggled in the early goings. He, like a few others have turned it on as of late. In his last ten games he’s hit a .333/.381/.538/.919 quad slash. His season OPS still sits under .700 but the signs of life are encouraging. Mason is facing a pretty hefty platoon split thus far, hitting just .194 against lefties and his over the wall power is lacking a bit this year. Many of us were expecting to see that come up a few ticks but we’ve yet to see him develop that pop. Still just 21 there’s time for him to progress, but after an impressive 2012 campaign it leaves us anting more.
Gary Sanchez – Since the departure of the chosen one to Seattle, Sanchez has slotted in as the systems best catching prospect. I spite of JR Murphy’s work this year i’d say that’s still true. Sanchez is hitting to the tune of a .276/.338/.486/.824 slash, having already sent 12 of his 71 hits out of the park for round trippers. While the raw numbers aren’t ridiculous, he’s worked his BB/K ration down to nearly two to one, and even more importantly his defense behind the plate has continued to take steps forward. Once questioned as to whether or not he could stick behind the dish as a catcher, those worries are becoming a thing of the past as Sanchez puts in the work it will take to realize him as a ML catcher.
Slade Heathcott – After tearing up the AFL last year, teeth were gnashing over what Heathcott might do this season in the minors. Like Williams he’s been a bit of a disappointment this year overall; he’s had some little hot streaks tossed in there, but a .666 OPS isn’t anything to write home about. He’s stolen a few bags (7) but has been caught nearly as many times (6). The good news is that he’s still on the field. Being one of those full tilt players Slade has had little regard for his body over the years and it tends to cost him playing time in the form of trips to the DL. He has amazing tools, but like everyone else it’s a matter of realizing those gifts he has and making the most out of them. After only ~200 AB’s in Tampa and having his path obstructed by injuries i’m not too worried about Slade struggling in AA ball; it’s a big leap to make going to Trenton so some adjustment time is certainly in order.
Tyler Austin – Another one of our OF prospects sent to Trenton, Tyler blazed through the system and emerged as one of our top overall prospects of 2012. Tyler as well has had his struggles in the bump to Trenton, but has come on the last few weeks, raising his batting line to .273/.365/.393/.758. Like Sanchez, his walks are up a bit this year but more noticeably is his lack of power at this point. It should be noted that the Thunder host one of the bigger ballparks in their division and that 4 of his 5 HR’s have come on the road. That brings him a little closer to his 2012 pace, and at 21 years old there’s plenty of room for growth in that area. He also has more of a line drive swing without a ton of loft in it which puts a bit of a damper on getting the ball over the wall with any frequency. Tyler admitted to getting out of tune early on, and like Heathcott struggled with the advanced pitching sequences the AA hurlers approach them with.
Manny Banuelos – With the emergence of both Rafael DePaula and Jose Ramirez Manny’s position as top pitcher in the system may take a hit by the end of the year due to his lost season after undergoing TJS. The procedure is hardly a kiss of death these days with a over 90% success rate so he could easily make his way back up in 2014. Manny took a lot of flak for losing his command a bit the last year or so, but considerations must be taken to him working on a fourth pitch and in general just growing into his body and adding a bit of velocity to his FB. His size (or lack thereof) is used as a strike against him, bringing his durability into question. He has the abilities to be a top half of the rotation guy, and we really need to get some upper level pitching out of this system with the Stein’s and their self imposed salary cap, and Banuelos would be a great start.
Jose Campos – Another lost year for a prospect, Campos was part of the 2012 revolving DL door. He started the season brilliantly and went down with elbow fatigue, which turned out to be a fractured elbow relieving him from any further duties in 2012. This season has seen Campos struggle to get back to form, but could be in the process of getting the bugs worked out. Keith Law had a quick report on some of the youngsters a few weeks back and had really nothing good to say, which included a quip on Campos. He did however preface his report by saying that he hadn’t really seen him pitch much so the lack of enthusiasm could be off the mark. Personally I don’t know why one would even comment on a kid who was just getting back on the mound after a near year long layoff, but it is what it is. They have him on a regulated pitch count this year which keeps him around 4 innings per appearance; from what I gather they want to stretch out his innings across as much of the season as possible. Possibly another result of the Gil Patterson regime, which I am fine with. I expected a bit more from him at this stage of the season, but his last two games were more of what we saw last year before his injury so if thius is what we are in for moving forward then he’s on track and doing well in his return.
That’s it for this time…. i’ll get back to you shortly with another episode of where are they now, moving further down the prospect list as we examine the state of the farm prospects.