In analyzing prospects, we are often warned to beware of small sample sizes. Prospects can have the raw tools that make scouts salivate, but until there is a decent amount of concrete data on game-day abilities, it is often difficult to distinguish the Matt Kemps from the Wily Mo Penas.
With that in mind, we will look at prospects who are hot, and those who are not, as we are less than one week into minor-league play. I will attempt to reconcile past and future performance with the tiny data samples at our disposal for 2012. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to take some of these starts with a grain of salt.
Nick Franklin, SS, SEA - Franklin is 7-for-15 to begin 2012 for Double-A Jackson, including a home run and four RBI. The shortstop had a sizzling 2010 season, but came back down to earth a bit in 2011, hitting just seven home runs in an injury-shortened 88-game season between three levels. If Franklin can prove his power numbers from 2010 were no fluke, he is a middle-infield prospect with above-average power, stellar speed and a decent eye at the dish. This intriguing combination certainly makes him one to monitor as the season wears on.
Chris Archer, P, TB - The knock on Archer even from his Cubs' days is his lack of control. Archer delivered a superior opening start to his 2012 campaign, allowing one run on just two hits in six innings for Triple-A Durham. Archer did walk three batters, but also struck out eight. The Rays are pretty stacked in their young starting rotation, but if the 23-year-old continues to improve his control, he could end up a valuable trade commodity for Tampa Bay.
Matt Adams, 1B, STL - Remember when Adams was a power prospect with no place to go in 2011? My, how things have changed. The departure of Albert Pujols to the Angels leaves the 36-year-old Lance Berkman as the first baseman for the defending champion Cardinals. Berkman had a monster season last year but previously battled injury problems. Ditto for new St. Louis outfielder Carlos Beltran. Adams is off to a fast start for Triple-A Memphis, bashing three home runs and driving in six runs in four games for the Redbirds. The 23-year-old hit .300 with 32 home runs in 2011 and could be one injury away from getting an opportunity to shine with the big club.
Trevor Bauer, P, AZ - Give credit where credit is due; Bauer has been nothing short of spectacular since being drafted last season. The third overall selection in the 2011 draft made it to Double-A in just seven starts last season and tossed a gem in his first start of the 2012 campaign. The 21-year-old righty hurled five scoreless innings for the Mobile BayBears, allowing just two hits in the process. Bauer walked three while fanning seven for the game. One of the elite pitching prospects in baseball, Bauer should make his big-league debut by September; perhaps sooner if he continues to dominate his overmatched opponents.
Wil Myers, OF, KC - Myers lost some of value when he moved out from behind the plate. His lack of power in 2011 certainly didn't help either, as he hit just eight home runs and knocked in 49 runs in 99 games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He's off to a better start in 2012, already smacking two home runs in 17 at-bats for the Naturals. While he has always shown excellent plate discipline, Myers must continue to show improvement in his home run swing if he is to become a stud corner outfielder at the big-league level.
Joe Wieland, P, SD - Wieland came over from the Rangers with Robbie Erlin in the Mike Adams trade last season and is almost big-league ready. In his first start for Triple-A Tucson, Wieland fanned seven batters while walking just one. However, he did allow three runs on eight hits over 5.2 innings. In 2011, the 22-year-old righty struck out 150 batters while walking just 21 between three levels. Along with fellow rotation-mate Casey Kelly, Wieland could become a vital part of a new era for the Padres, particularly due to the pitcher-friendly confines of PetCo Park. He may not make his debut until late in 2012, though.
Danny Hultzen, P, SEA - How about the stacked rotation for Double-A Jackson? Hultzen, the M's top pick in the 2011 draft, joins teen-age sensation Taijuan Walker and the emerging James Paxton, who punched out 10 batters in his 2012 debut for the Generals. On the downside, Hultzen got blown up in his minor-league premiere, allowing five runs on four hits in just four innings. Hultzen walked three batters while striking out seven. Don't put too much stock in Hultzen's rough first outing, as he remains a stellar prospect for the Mariners. It merely means that he'll need some seasoning just like the rest of the minor-league phenoms.
Manny Banuelos, P, NYY - The Yankees remain cautious with their prized prospect, as they brought in Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda to shore up their rotation instead of relying on Banuelos and teammate Dellin Betances. Man Ban got rocked in his first start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, surrendering four runs on 11 hits in just 3.1 innings. Banuelos walked one while striking out two. The 22-year-old lefty has the talent to pitch in the bigs now, but it would be surprising to see him in the Bombers rotation this season. He could even end up as trade bait.
Matt Harvey, P, NYM - This is likely a premature downgrade, but Harvey got smoked in his first start for Triple-A Buffalo. The 23-year-old hurler allowed four runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings for the Bisons. Perhaps most disturbingly, Harvey walked four batters while only striking out three. It is also worth noting that Harvey had just 12 starts at Double-A in 2011, his first minor-league season. Over that span, Harvey's ERA was just 4.53. It's certainly too early to tell, but perhaps Harvey's Triple-A promotion right out of the gate was a bit too aggressive.
Tommy Joseph, C, SF - Joseph is 1-for-12 with five strikeouts to open his 2012 year with Double-A Richmond. The 20-year-old is still developing, but the Giants once again have shown no qualms with pushing their top prospects hard. Joseph connected on 22 home runs in 127 games last season at High-A but walked just 29 times in 514 at-bats over that span. The raw power is certainly there for the 6-foot-1, 215, backstop, but one wonders whether pushing a player with Joseph's lack of plate discipline, particularly while learning to catch and with no place to go at the big-league level with Buster Posey in place, could end up stunting Joseph's growth.
Deck McGuire, P, TOR - As good as Drew Hutchison was in his first start for Double-A New Hampshire, that's how bad McGuire was in his opening tilt for the Fisher Cats. The 22-year-old righty was bombed for five home runs in 5.0 innings, allowing eight earned runs. Although he struck out six batters, McGuire was tagged for 11 hits in his season debut. McGuire lacks the pure stuff of Blue Jays prospects like the aforementioned Hutchison and Daniel Norris, as Deck got by previously on location and control. It's only one start, but if McGuire fails to keep hitters off balance, he could be in for a rude awakening.
Domonic Brown, OF, PHI - Brown should serve as a cautious reminder that not all "sure-thing" prospects end up as successful major league ballplayers. Now, that's not to say that Brown still could not end up as the star that he was once envisioned. But at this juncture, he has failed to live up to lofty expectations. Once thought of as the right fielder of the future for the Phils, Brown struggled mightily in the field this spring. He also has just one hit in his first nine at-bats for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He turns 25 this season, meaning that he is hovering on lost-prospect status. If he doesn't make his mark in 2012, Brown's time as a phenom could be over.
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