In last week's House of Shlain, I looked at a few players on the cusp of the big leagues and this week it's more of the same plus any excuse to write about Mookie Betts (cc: @RealJRAnderson). Betts' strong performance last season is part of what makes his hot start this year so noteworthy and significant. The only remaining test for him was Double-A and he's on his way to passing with flying colors. Here are some notes on Betts and a few other prospects who continue to build on their performance.
It sure looked like Stroman might be getting moved to the big league rotation as the Jays now have him starting on the same day as Dustin McGowan, who threw a quality start his last time out. Manager John Gibbons has already said he believes McGowan might be more of a reliever, but that was before his last start. McGowan might have bought himself more time in the rotation, but he's going to have an increasingly difficult time holding off Stroman. In five Triple-A starts, Stroman has posted a 36:7 K:BB over 26.2 innings, while allowing just five earned runs. In his most recent start, he struck out 10 over six no-hit innings. The diminutive fireballer from Duke, Stroman has great potential and could be a good No. 2 starter in the majors before we know it.
In AL-only leagues, Bauer and Stroman should be stashed at this point. I think I'd prefer to stash Bauer more, but it's close. The key with Bauer right now is that it seems like he improved his control and that's exactly what we have been waiting to see from him. In 25.2 innings at Triple-A, Bauer's 7.1 BB% is the lowest he's had at any professional level (his previous low was 10% at Triple-A in 2012). If this continues, it will go a long way toward Bauer becoming a good major league pitcher. I think his upside is back in a big way and he still has a chance to reach his No. 2 starter ceiling.
Heaney's minor league numbers have been very good (28:6 K:BB, 7 ER in 28 IP) with Double-A so far, but I don't necessarily think the Marlins will call him up to the majors before June. Not only are there obvious service time concerns for the franchise, but it seems like the Marlins will want to be careful with their 22-year-old, pitcher. Miami's major league rotation isn't being stretched for depth yet either, so I believe they'll hold off on a callup for Heaney until they absolutely think it's necessary. Jose Fernandez's first test as a professional didn't come until he was in the majors last year, but Heaney can still get some use out of the minors.
Polanco was brought up in the comments on my article last week and rightfully so because he's hitting .400/.457/.632 in Triple-A with a 9:16 BB:K. Polanco is one of the youngest hitters in the International League and has played just 26 games at the level, but with his outstanding play he's at least making it tough for the Pirates to continue to keep him in the minors. There are Super Two concerns here for the Pirates, but it might not be very long into June that we see Polanco. He's ready.
I wrote about the historic run that Betts is on hitting in the minors, but this week it's time to discuss his fielding. Alex Speier, of WEEI.com recently wrote about what Betts is doing about the fact that he's blocked by Dustin Pedroia at second base. Betts takes flyballs in center field every day during batting practice and with his speed it's easy to imagine him being at least a good defensive center fielder. Betts also played shortstop in high school along with second base and center field. It's certainly possible that the Red Sox would move Xander Bogaerts to third base sometime in the future to open up a spot for Betts. It doesn't seem like Betts will make his major league debut at second base unless there's a serious injury to Pedroia, but that also doesn't seem like a big deal given his versatility.
Well, it looks like I jinxed Bradley pretty good last week. I merely noted that it might be time to pump the brakes a bit with regards to his prospect stock because he had struggled in a few minor league starts and didn't seem to be in contention for an immediate spot in the rotation. Now, he's injured and while the Diamondbacks say he'll be back in a few weeks, there has to be concern when the best pitching prospect in the minors is out. A mild elbow strain can be mild until it isn't anymore and then there's a problem. Given that control has been an issue for Bradley and he struggled with his control greatly in his last few starts, I'm very concerned for Bradley. This could be an ugly injury in the making.