The Futures Game last weekend at Citi Field showcased many top prospects and frequenters of the Minor League Barometer. Among the standouts were future Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Cubs' riser Arismendy Alcantara, Arizona's Matt Davidson, Miami's Christian Yelich and Philadelphia's Jesse Biddle. It's easy to get carried away from merely one game, but with such an assembly of talent, those that looked a cut above the rest should be noted. However, let's be clear; nobody is jumping off the Byron Buxton or Addison Russell bandwagons, for example, because they went 0-for-2 in this contest.
With the second half of the 2013 campaign upon us, here are five more statements to rattle around your dome:
1. Taijuan Walker, 20, will make his big-league debut by the end of 2013.
2. Biggest prospect disappointments of the first half? Daniel Corcino, Trevor Story, Kaleb Cowart, Travis d'Arnaud.
3. Taller pitchers (6-foot-5 and taller) have more trouble keeping their mechanics in check and repeating their deliveries (see Trevor May, Alex Meyer). As such, I would like to see Tyler Glasnow (6-7), a breakout star this season for the Pirates, have the same success next season at a higher level before anointing him as a top pitching prospect.
4. As early as next year, the Diamondbacks could have an entirely homegrown infield of Paul Goldschmidt, Didi Gregorius (acquired from Cincinnati as a minor leaguer), Chris Owings and Matt Davidson. Let's also not forget about catcher Miguel Montero, who was also once a minor league prospect for Arizona.
5. Nick Castellanos and Kolten Wong will not be superstars, but merely solid everyday regulars.
Lack of real baseball this week got you down? Let's read on to find more diamonds in the rough.
Matt Wisler, P, SD - Max Fried gets the pub, but Wisler has been ultra-impressive for the Padres this season. The 20-year-old righty has had little difficulty since being promoted to Double-A, compiling a 3.15 ERA and 54:17 K:BB ratio through 60 innings. Wisler has been even better of late, allowing two runs or fewer in each of his last four starts. He controls the strike zone extremely well with a variety of fastballs in the low-90s, and has an out-pitch in his curveball. The Padres have been rather aggressive with Wisler, as he was in Low-A at the end of last year. It remains possible he sees the San Diego rotation as early as next season.
Marcus Semien, SS, CWS – Semien is a sleeper prospect for the White Sox. He has shown a very advanced approach at the dish. He has drawn 67 walks this season, while fanning 61 times in 92 games for Double-A Birmingham. His .390 OBP is currently second in the Southern League. Semien has also shown a decent combination of power and speed as well; Semien has 10 home runs and 16 stolen bases for the Barons. The White Sox have made nearly everyone available for trade at the big-league level, including starting shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Though middle-infield prospect Carlos Sanchez sits ahead of Semien at Triple-A, he has been underwhelming this season. A trade of Ramirez could still open up a fairly clear path to the majors for the 22-year-old Semien.
Chris Bostick, 2B, OAK – The 20-year-old Bostick has had a breakout season at Low-A Beloit. Bostick has put on an intriguing display of power and speed. He has 11 home runs, 63 RBI and 18 steals through 87 games. Add in a slash line of .295/.366/.484 from the middle infield position, and Bostick should be turning some heads. His athleticism is evident, and he may end up at shortstop. Bostick has to cut down on his strikeouts a bit (75 in 87 games), but he has also shown vast improvement from a raw, 44th round selection in 2011 to date. Keep him on your radar as he ascends the higher levels.
Pierce Johnson, P, CHC - Johnson has had a standout 2013 campaign, which started at Low-A Kane County. The 22-year-old righty notched a 3.10 ERA and 74:22 K:BB ratio in 69.2 innings before being promoted. From there, Johnson has continued his success at High-A, compiling a 2.86 ERA and 18:8 K:BB ratio through his first 22 innings at this level. Johnson has three plus-pitches, but his fastball remains his best weapon. Johnson's thin frame and injury issues in high school scared away a few teams during the 2012 draft, but he has big upside and is clearly paying dividends thus far for the Cubbies. He may even be the best pitcher currently in the system.
Ronald Guzman, OF, TEX – Guzman is a mere 18 and holding his own for Low-A Hickory. The first baseman is slashing .310/.355/.429 in 35 games for the Crawdads. The reason he has played so few games is that Guzman missed the first two months of the season due to a torn meniscus is his knee. He appears fully recovered, but this may hinder the development of his power stroke. The Rangers except the 6-5, 200-lb lefty to gain power as he matures, but that hasn't happened yet. However, he has certainly shown the ability to handle the bat during his brief professional career. Guzman remains a project who is a long way away from making an impact, but his future looks promising.
Miguel Almonte, P, KC – Almonte is flying under the radar for the Royals, even despite being named to the Futures Game. The 20-year-old righty has notched a 3.59 ERA and 87:29 K:BB ratio in 87.2 innings at Low-A Lexington. He possesses excellent control with polish and fluid mechanics. He throws largely a fastball/changeup combo, but mixes in his curveball as well. He clearly has strikeout stuff; Almonte fanned 12 batters in a game on June 25. He has emerged as the third-best pitching prospect in the system after elite hurlers Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer.
Travis Harrison, 3B, MIN – Harrison isn't normally a prospect mentioned along with the embarrassment of riches contained in the Minnesota Twins system. However, perhaps he should be. The 20-year-old is batting .267/.377/.492 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI through 88 games for Low-A Cedar Rapids. As with most young hitters, strikeouts remain a cause for concern, as he has fanned 83 times. However, Harrison has also drawn 45 free passes, showing decent patience at the dish. He'll end up being blocked by Miguel Sano at third, however, if he doesn't end up moving to first base or DH anyway. He also certainly doesn't have the upside of Sano or some of the other prospects in the system. Nevertheless, he has some upside with the bat and could be trade-bait for the Twins.
Zach Eflin, P, SD – Over his last 10 starts at Low-A Fort Wayne, the 19-year-old righty has amassed a 2.47 ERA and 50:12 K:BB ratio. His overall numbers aren't too shabby, either, as Eflin has a 3.32 ERA and 64:23 K:BB ratio in 76 innings. The 2012 first-rounder has a strong, projectable frame, mid-90's fastball with late life, above-average curveball and developing changeup. Combine that with his workmanlike approach to the game, and Eflin has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter. This upside assumes that Eflin can stay healthy; he battled a triceps injury during his senior season in high school which caused some concern among scouts and dropped his draft stock.
Mel Rojas Jr., OF, PIT - The baseball skills have never really caught up with the raw talent for Rojas, who was a third-round pick in the 2010 draft. He has decent speed, but limited power. He has also never hit above .246 at any level before this season. That said, Rojas is batting .276/.344/.417 in 2013, including .366 over his last 10 contests. However, with three home runs and eight stolen bases through 76 games this season, it does not appear that the 23-year-old will have much value in the fantasy realm moving forward. Add in the presence of Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte at the big-league level, and Rojas may be toiling in the minors for at least a few more seasons.
Bubba Starling, OF, KC - Starling could have been listed as one of the greater disappointments of this season as well. The two-sport high school star remains raw, his swing long and consistently being reworked. Rumors spread that he was having vision problems. Starling has a line of .215/.303/.353 with eight home runs, 41 RBI and 10 steals in 82 games for Low-A Lexington. The 20-year-old has 86 strikeouts in 82 games for the Legends. Starling's athleticism makes it nearly impossible to give up on him just yet, but he will have to improve his mechanics at the dish as well as his selectivity. He has actually drawn eight walks over his last 10 contests, while striking out just six times. However, he is batting just .143 over that span. It may be a long road to the big leagues for Starling.
Jed Bradley, P, MIL - It's safe to say that Bradley has lost his prospect luster. A first-round selection in the 2011 draft, Bradley has been stuck at High-A for the better part of two seasons. Bradley has not shown dynamic strikeout stuff as the Brewers had hoped; in 2013, the 23-year-old lefty has a 56:38 K:BB ratio through 73.1 innings. The lack of control has not helped his 4.30 ERA. Bradley's numbers are better than last season, but only marginally so. His progress has been slow, and he has been eminently hittable the last two seasons. The only saving grace for Bradley? The rest of the pitchers in the Brewers minor league system have been nothing special either, so he still has time to turn things around and stay in the good graces of the organization.
Blake Swihart, C, BOS - Swihart has been ice cold recently, slashing just .194/.275/.272 over his last 10 games for High-A Salem. Swihart also has just two home runs and 27 RBI through 70 games this season. On the positive side, he has shown solid plate discipline, with 32 walks as compared to 45 strikeouts over that span. And he does have a surprising six stolen bases. However, nobody drafts a catcher for stolen bases. A switch-hitting backstop, Swihart has made strides with his defense due to his athleticism (he started out as a shortstop). Nevertheless, Swihart was drafted in the first round in 2011 due to his bat, and thus far his hitting has not been overly impressive.