The Texas Rangers acquired Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs on Monday for corner infield prospect Mike Olt and three other prospects. While Olt will be the main headline, one of those other players included in the deal could end up being the real steal of the trade. C.J. Edwards, a 21-year-old right-handed hurler, also will go to Chicago with Olt. Edwards has been nothing short of dominant in his brief time in the minors. The only quasi-legitimate knock on Edwards is his size, as listing him at 160 would be generous. Despite the small frame, though, Edwards has a mid-90s fastball and a devastating curveball.
In 2013, Edwards has a 1.83 ERA and 122:34 K:BB ratio through 93.1 innings for Low-A Hickory. He gets an above-average amount of groundballs to the tune of a 1.60 GO:AO ratio. Likewise, opposing batters are hitting just .186 against him. His performance and ability to last longer into games at the higher levels will be the true test of his future role, but it seems rather convenient to knock a pitcher simply because of his size. Surely, Tim Lincecum and Pedro Martinez would have something to say about that.
Here are this week's five observations about the minors:
1. The Twins have the best farm system in baseball. The Astros have the second-best farm system. There's a big drop after those two organizations.
2. Padres outfielder Hunter Renfroe may be the most MLB-ready hitter selected in the first round of the 2013 draft. Meanwhile, Pirates catcher Reese McGuire is off to a scorching start; the fellow 2013 first-rounder is 23-for-50 (.460) through his first 13 games in the GCL.
3. The more I see Blue Jays outfield prospect D.J. Davis, the more he intrigues me.
4. I've finally, begrudgingly, given up on Cubs outfielder Brett Jackson.
5. Marlins prospect Christian Yelich will make his MLB debut before St. Louis outfielder Oscar Taveras. Taveras will not play in the majors this season.
Still can't get enough? There's more prospect talk up next in this edition of the Minor League Barometer.
Maikel Franco, 3B, PHI - Franco has been on fire since being promoted to Double-A reading. Franco hit .299/.349/.576 with 16 home runs and 52 RBI in 65 games before being promoted. The 20-year-old is slashing .370/.387/.583 with five home runs and 18 RBI through 26 games since the promotion. He does not draw many walks but also does not strike out a lot. Franco has drawn just two walks through 26 games at this level, though has also been punched out just six times over that span. In other words, Franco has shown a superior ability to make contact and put the ball in play. With plus-power as well, he should be a vital part of the Phillies' rebuilding efforts.
Corey Seager, SS/3B, LAD - Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton have largely gotten the headlines from the 2012 draft class, but Seager is quietly putting together a stellar season of his own. In fact, his stats are similar to those being put up by Correa, the No. 1 overall selection last year. Seager is batting .300/.382/.489 with eight home runs, 48 RBI and nine steals through 65 games at Low-A. Seager has shown patience at the dish to the tune of 31 walks and is expected to develop more power as he matures. He has even shown decent wheels on the base paths. In sum, don't sleep on Seager despite the fact that he isn't getting as much attention as he deserves.
Henry Owens, P, BOS - Owens has been a strikeout machine since being drafted in 2011. The 6-foot-6 lefty has fanned 237 batters in 193.2 innings since his debut at Low-A last season. In 2013, he has been virtually unhittable; opposing batters are hitting just .190 against him. Owens has turned that success into a 2.93 ERA at High-A Salem. The only knock on Owens has been spotty control, as he has walked 47 batters in 92 innings this season. Still, he has accumulated 107 strikeouts over that span as well, so he has not been hurt by occasional bouts of wildness. Mixing a low-90s heater with various curveballs, the 21-year-old has kept hitters off-balance during his brief professional career. As long as his mechanics stay true, Owens has the chance to be an excellent future starter for the Red Sox, albeit not for a few more years.
Lucas Sims, P, ATL - The Braves often stick with homegrown players in the draft, but Sims has proven to be worth the No. 21 overall selection in the 2012 draft thus far. The 19-year-old righty has notched a 3.28 ERA and 77:29 K:BB ratio in 71.1 innings for Low-A Rome. Sims has a live arm, with his best pitch being a fastball topping out at about 95 mph with movement. His secondary offerings are works in progress but clearly haven't hurt him too much thus far in 2013. Opposing batters are hitting a putrid .195 against him. The development of his curveball will be crucial toward his future development, and he must also continue to show improved command. Sims is an athletic, projectable righty with an extremely bright future for the Braves.
Sammy Solis, P, WAS - Solis is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, and the early returns have been decent. Solis has a 3.75 ERA and 15:7 K:BB ratio through 24 innings for High-A Potomac. The statistics are not quite as important as just building up his arm strength as well. Solis was considered one of the better pitching prospects for the Nats prior to the injury. In 2011, he posted a 3.26 ERA and 93:23 K:BB ratio in 96.2 innings between Low-A and High-A. However, 2012 was a lost season due to the elbow injury. He will turn 25 next month, but gets a pass this season on his age due to the injury. Assuming Solis rebounds effectively, the 6-5, 230, lefty could be moved quickly through the system due to his polish, college pedigree and control.
Ji-Man Choi, 1B, SEA - Choi took full advantage of the hitter-friendly confines of the California League to begin the 2013 campaign, hitting .337/.427/.619 with seven home runs and 40 RBI in 48 games. He was moved up to Double-A, where his power has continued to show. Choi has six home runs and 18 RBI in 35 games since being promoted. Although he is hitting just .225, Choi has almost as many walks (16) as strikeouts (20). The 22-year-old missed all 2011 due to a back injury, so he has not had a ton of at-bats since being signed in summer 2009. If he can keep his average up and continue to show progress in his power stroke, Choi could be worth snatching up.
A.J. Jimenez, C, TOR - The 23-year-old backstop has done nothing but hit since returning from Tommy John surgery. He scalded the ball in nine games at High-A to the tune of a .429 batting average, receiving a quick promotion to Double-A New Hampshire. Jimenez is batting .331/.371/.438 with one home run and 16 RBI through 30 games at this level. However, he is hitting just .205 over his last 10 contests. Likewise, Jimenez has never hit more than five home runs in a single season. In other words, at some point his slash line is going to level off, and the lack of power hurts his fantasy prospects.
Taylor Guerrieri, P, TB - When he's been on the field, Guerrieri has been a stud for the Rays. The 20-year-old righty has a 2.01 ERA and 51:12 K:BB ratio through 67 innings for Low-A Bowling Green. He has been surging of late as well; Guerrieri hasn't allowed a single run over his last five outings, a span of 24 innings. He induces a plethora of groundballs with a largely fastball/curve combination to the tune of a staggering 3.09 GO:AO ratio. Why not an Upgrade then? Guerrieri had to exit his last start July 15 due to elbow soreness. Likewise, he missed two weeks prior to that game due to a shoulder injury. His ceiling is extremely high, but a clean bill of health is obviously a must first.
Tyler Austin, OF, NYY - Double-A has been a rude awakening for Austin, who burst onto the prospect scene in 2012 for the Bronx Bombers. Austin is hitting .254/.344/.367 with six home runs, 39 RBI and four steals through 81 games for Double-A Trenton. The lack of power has been a bit disturbing this season; in 2012, Austin hit .322 with 35 doubles, 17 home runs and 80 RBI, in 110 games largely at High-A. perhaps some of the problem this year could be due to a right wrist injury, which has shelved Austin for the time being. He's only 21 years of age, so there's no reason to completely give up on Austin just yet. However, his impact at the big-league level will certainly have to wait due to a lackluster 2013 campaign.
Ronny Rodriguez, SS, CLE - Rodriguez hasn't necessarily had a horrible season; the 21-year-old is slashing .285/.303/.414 with four home runs, 44 RBI and 10 steals through 82 games for Double-A Akron. However, more progress was expected from a prospect whom is thought highly of in the Cleveland organization. In fact, Rodriguez has been outshined by fellow double-play compatriot Jose Ramirez. Ramirez is younger than Rodriguez and is hitting .268/.337/.368 with three home runs and 33 steals at the same level. Ramirez has flashed more speed and much better plate discipline than Rodriguez. In fact, Rodriguez has drawn just nine walks this season while fanning 51 times. Meanwhile, Ramirez has more walks (33) than strikeouts (29). Rodriguez still has the size and the upside advantage overall, but he's lost a bit of his luster in 2013 to be certain.
Michael Ynoa, P, OAK - Once upon a time, Ynoa was a 16-year-old hotshot prospect with the baseball world salivating over his future potential. Flash forward five years, and the 21-year-old righty is merely trying to stay afloat at High-A. The 6-7, 210, righty has been rocked in three starts since being promoted from Low-A. Ynoa has allowed a staggering 18 hits and 16 earned runs in just 9.2 innings. He has been exceptionally wild as well, walking 10 batters over that span. Ynoa finally seemed to be on the right track, too; he posted a 2.14 ERA and 48:18 K:BB ratio in 54.2 innings at Low-A earlier this year, by far his best stretch as a professional. However, a poor showing in the Futures Game and three bad starts in the California League has to give Oakland a second thought or two about Ynoa's future. The sample size is small, and Ynoa is still young, but it's safe to say he hasn't lived up to the hype thus far.
Nick Travieso, P, CIN - After being held in Extended Spring Training by the Reds for the first two months of the season, Travieso has been inconsistent in nine starts at Low-A. He has been absolutely dismantled in two starts, failing to last three innings. He has allowed at least four runs in five of his nine outings for the Dayton Dragons. The No. 14 overall selection in the 2012 draft, Travieso is a 19-year-old hurler with a sturdy frame and fastball/slider combo that has not turned into actual results thus far. He's very young and was not supposed to make any sort of immediate impact anyway, but the Reds were obviously hoping for an ERA less than 6.02 through his first 40.1 innings this season.