This week I'm interested in looking at some of the National League prospects that are interesting stories, but we haven't heard much about them recently.
Reymond Fuentes - OF - San Diego Padres (age 22)
You may remember that Fuentes was a highly touted prospect when he went to the Padres along with pitcher Casey Kelly and first baseman Anthony Rizzo for Adrian Gonzalez. How'd that deal work out for both teams? Kelly is hurt. Rizzo is playing in Chicago (Andrew Cashner was returned to the Padres in that deal), Gonzalez is in Los Angeles and Fuentes played most of the season at Triple-A, but is now up with the Padres on the major league roster.
Fuentes is not a lost cause by any means, but he has not lived up to expectations. His speed is his best tool.
Now still only 22, the left-handed hitting Fuentes was just recently promoted to Triple-A Tucson after having played at Double-A San Antonio most of the season. He has since been promoted again. Fuentes hit .316 at San Antonio with 21 doubles and two triples. He also had six homers and 35 RBI. He stole 29 bases and was caught 10 times. In 45 plate appearances at Tucson, Fuentes is hitting .400. He's also stolen five bases. Keep your eye on Reymond Fuentes. I like his chances in a thin Padres outfield. He may not hit for any power, but he could give you some stolen bases. If he can reach first base.
With the Padres, Fuentes has not reached base through four plate appearances.
Eric Surkamp - LHP - San Francisco Giants (age 26)
Surkamp generated a bit of excitement when he pitched for the Giants in 2011. He has been hurt since, having Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2012. He is now back and pitching in the minor leagues.
At Double-A Richmond, Surkamp had an 11-4 record and an ERA of 1.94 in 2011. His WHIP was excellent at 1.072. Surkamp walked 45, which comes out a bit less than three hitters a game. He threw 148.1 innings and he struck out 170 hitters. It was an outstanding season.
Now in 2013, he has a composite 7-1 record and an ERA of 2.62 in 79 innings. He has yielded only 60 hits and 22 walks, pitching to a WHIP of 1.038.
I have heard the Giants are not too high on him, and I don't know why. I think he's having an outstanding year and with their lack of pitching depth becoming more of a problem than they originally realized, I look for Surkamp to get another shot with them.
Sean Gilmartin - LHP - Atlanta Braves (age 23)
I don't know how any pitcher makes strides in the Braves' organization. They are so deep, and really so young, that it's difficult for guys to make progress. Gilmartin has always been looked upon as a top prospect. He is the top left starter in their system.
With Julio Teheran's graduation to Atlanta, Gilmartin is probably next in line for a big league job.
He's currently pitching at Triple-A Gwinnett. Gilmartin moved so quickly in the system, he was pitching at Triple-A for 37.2 innings last season. This year, he has a 3-8 record with a 5.62 ERA in 80 innings. He's started 15 games and he has a WHIP of 1.625. He has yielded 100 hits in 80 innings. That isn't good.
Zack Cox - 3B - Miami Marlins (age 24)
When I saw Zack Cox is the Arizona Fall League he looked like a very good power hitting prospect. He was playing for the St. Louis Cardinals after having been a first-round 2010 draft choice.
The Cardinals cut ties with Cox rather quickly, trading him to Miami during his age-23 season.
Big and strong, Cox hits left-handed, which is a nice bonus in a third baseman. He looks much wider and bigger than his listed 5-foot-11 inch, 225-pound listing by the Marlins.
Who did the Cardinals get when they traded Zack Cox to Miami? None other than Edward Mujica. I have always said the Cardinals know what they're doing.
This season, Cox is played at both Double-A (307 plate appearances and a .270 batting average with three homers and 28 RBI) and six plate appearances at Triple-A New Orleans.
Cox still has a future. He makes contact and can hit the gaps, and he's a player to keep an eye on.
Travis d'Arnaud - C - New York Mets (age 24)
D'Arnaud was a focal point in the deal that sent R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays. That was after he was traded by the Phillies to the Blue Jays for Roy Halladay. So Mr. d'Arnaud has been around.
D'Arnaud is now playing with the Mets. He has three hits in 27 plate appearances in the Big Apple. Prior to his promotion, he played parts of seven seasons, hitting a composite .286 in 2,150 plate appearances for his three organizations.
This past season, he played for three teams. His greatest number of plate appearances took place at Triple-A Las Vegas, where d'Arnaud hit .304 with two homers and 12 RBI.
Cody Asche - 3B - Philadelphia Phillies (age 23)
Asche is the third baseman of the future for the Phils. Until they realize what I have seen in the Arizona Fall League. He makes contact, but he doesn't have the power yet to sustain that role. He is hitting .253 for the parent club, with two homers and 14 RBI. That's in 89 plate appearances. He's struck only 16 times, he's walked only on six occasions.
The left-handed hitting Asche hit .295 at Lehigh Valley this season. He had 15 homers and 68 RBI. Not bad, but I think he will scuffle against better quality pitching. I hope I'm wrong. Time will tell, but don't bet the ranch on him yet.
Jeff Kobernus - OF - Washington Nationals (age 25)
Kobernus is a guy I really like. He can play anywhere on the field. He has the ability to hit for average and has some pop in his bat.
The Red Sox selected Kobernus this past winter in the Rule 5 draft. They traded him to the Tigers. The Tigers failed to keep him on their 25-man roster, returning him to the Nationals, his original team.
I like everything about him. I don't think he got a fair shot with the Tigers after spring training.
Here are his numbers at Triple-A Syracuse - .324 with a homer, 34 RBI and 39 stolen bases.
The way the Nationals are playing, they can use a player like Kobernus, a second-round draft pick. I think he'll be playing in Washington during the month of September and giving the Nationals a good chance to see what they have. If they give him some playing time.
Brett Jackson - OF - Chicago Cubs (age 25)
Still considered a prospect, Jackson's time has never come. He is considered a very good defensive outfielder, but his bat remains suspect.
It isn't as if the Cubs are loaded with outfield prospects at this particular point in time. Maybe in the future, but not now.
Jackson has a whopping 2,143 plate appearances in parts of five minor league seasons. He has a composite batting average of .271, but this season, he hit .223 at Triple-A Iowa, .191 at Double-A Tennessee and .071 in the Arizona Rookie League on a rehab assignment. He has 26 homers for the season.
I still believe in Jackson. I just wish he'd get traded.
Daniel Corcino - RHP - Cincinnati Reds (age 22)
I have to keep remembering that Dan Corcino is still only 22.
I really expected the Cueto Clone to be pitching big league baseball by now. That's how good his arm is.
But, he's still in Triple-A at Louisville, where he's thrown to a horrible 5.61 ERA this season, with a 1.626 WHIP. He has issued 69 walks while striking out only 88 hitters. I'm concerned, and I'm sure the Reds are too.
Corcino throws his mid-90s fastball with a bit of aggression. This is his worst season as a professional. He's given up 137 hits in his 126.2 innings. I'm looking forward to spring training to see what has changed.
For now, keep him on your back burner, but he may be converted to a relief role. That's what happens when top prospects scuffle.
Hunter Morris - 1B - Milwaukee Brewers (age 24)
"Here Hunter, the first base job is yours until Corey Hart comes back."
In essence, Hunter was the team's first baseman going into spring training. Coming out of spring training, Hunter got a plane ride to Nashville. He's hitting .240 this season with 22 home runs. He also has 67 RBI. Translate that to good breaking balls in the National League, and I think Morris would be a flop.
His swing is late and long, a lethal combination. As a left-handed hitter, he sees lots of balls break into his hands. He should be able to succeed. Especially hitting at Miller Park.
I'm not writing off Hunter Morris yet, but I don't like what I've seen and I think the Brewers were wise to send him down for more seasoning. There is a caution here: but he's been playing a bit better lately.
Vic Black - RHP - Pittsburgh Piratesn (age 25)
I really liked what I saw of Victor Black in the Triple-A All-Star Game this July in Reno.
Immediately following an excellent performance in that game, Black was summoned to Pittsburgh where he threw four relief innings, yielding six hits and two runs while walking two.
Black has a nice assortment of pitches, but his future will be best suited coming out of the bullpen.
Given the outstanding quality of the Pirates' bullpen, it may be a while until Black joins the group on a more permanent basis, but he can pitch.
Oscar Taveras - OF - St. Louis Cardinals (age 21)
An ankle injury has ruined Taveras' season. He had a total of only 174 plate appearances before he was shut down. He hit .310 with five homers and 32 RBI for the Triple-A Memphis club in the Pacific Coast League.
I do not expect Taveras to be in the Arizona Fall League-the place I first saw him play. But he has at-bats to make up. I look for him to play Winter Ball somewhere though.
Nick Ahmed - 2B/SS - Arizona Diamondbacks (age 23)
Ahmed is rather tall at 6-foot-3. If he had more power, he would project better as a third baseman. I did like what I saw of Ahmed playing shortstop in the AFL. That was before the Justin Upton trade with Atlanta that sent Ahmed to the desert here in Arizona.
Ahmed is playing at Double-A Mobile, a location that has been a good proving ground for recent D-Backs prospects.
He's hitting only .229 after having hit .269 last season. He has only four homers and 41 RBI in 492 plate appearances.
Ahmed is a very steady hand at shortstop, with good range and a quick first step. Of course, both Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius are ahead of him on the club's depth chart, but teams can always use a good fielding shortstop. Especially one that can play second base in a utility role.
Ahmed will be playing in the Arizona Fall League where I expect some clubs will take a look at him as a possible trade candidate. Or the D-Backs will look at him as a second baseman.
Tyler Matzek - LHP - Colorado Rockies (age 22)
It may seem like he's been around forever, but Matzek was drafted in the first round of the 2009 first-year player draft right out of high school. We've been watching him since.
Matzek is currently pitching at Double-A Tulsa, where his record is only 8-9 in 25 starts this season. He has thrown 137.1, having given up 138 hits. Walks remain a problem, but not as badly as in the past. His walks so far total 74, and he had 95 last season.
Walking five batters a game and striking out six does not present the type of dominance on the mound the Rockies had expected from Matzek.
Matzek has further development to complete. Look for him to be promoted to Triple-A next season if he makes progress the rest of this month.
Matzek will be pitching in the Arizona Fall League beginning in October.
Zach Lee - RHP - Los Angeles Dodgers (age 21)
This should tell us all we want to know about what the Dodgers think of Lee. It is said the club declined to trade him even up for the Angels Howie Kendrick.
Lee is 10-10 this season at Double-A Chattanooga. He has flown through the Dodgers' system, getting to Double-A in only his second big league year. He has an ERA of 3.22, mostly as a starter. He has thrown 142.2 innings, yielding 132 hits.
Lee was the Dodgers' first-round draft pick in 2010.
Look for Lee to move up yet another notch next season.
Permit me a personal note if you will.
This will be my last column for RotoWire.
You will still be able to find me around the RotoWire media landscape on RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today each Wednesday on Sirius-XM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210). In addition, Derek and I are still planning on going forward with our Short Hops podcast produced by RotoWire, but I will not be writing On The Scene any longer.
I am grateful to the folks at RotoWire for the opportunity to share my thoughts about baseball prospects with you - the loyal and dedicated readers. I am especially grateful and thankful for my relationship with my editor - Derek VanRiper. For me, DVR is one of the great young minds in sports. He has earned my trust and respect for the high quality performance he delivers day in and day out. Hopefully our work together will continue in the projects I mentioned above.
I invite you to read my work on MLB.com and MLBPipeline.com several times a week. I will also be tweeting from major league and minor league ballparks all throughout the year. I will still be on the scene, but I will no longer be On The Scene, and that makes me sad.
Until our paths cross and we meet again, I wish you well. I hope I have helped you win your fantasy league. I'll say this - I sure tried.
I hope you will follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff and listen to the Wednesday segments at noon ET on Sirius-XM. And don't forget the Short Hops podcast. Derek and I are dedicated to providing engaging conversation about the game we both love.
The landscape in our industry is always changing, and with that growth, new opportunities become available to many talented writers. Bernie's experience is simply unmatched, and we wish him the best with his work for MLB.com and MLB Pipeline going forward.
As you can imagine, I enjoy reading and editing Bernie's column each week as it consistently provides a level of insight that teaches me something new, or introduces me to a player (or in some cases, several players) that was (or were) not previously on my radar.
Few writers, if any, spend as much time on their weekly columns and interacting with readers' questions and comments as Bernie has during his time writing for RotoWire over the years. Hopefully that extra time paid off in the form of helping many of you to league championships along the way.
On The Scene will be missed, but fortunately as Bernie noted above, we will still get to enjoy his commentary on RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today and through the Short Hops podcast each week. - DVR