I didn't set out and plan it this way, but in this week's House of Shlain we have notes on one player from Low-A, High-A, Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors. I know, right? Life is full of awesome surprises. This is like a trip through the full spectrum of the minor leagues, only with better food, batting practice balls, and transportation. You don't have to take your shoes off, just get in the house.
Signed as an international free agent in 2009, Santana's calling card is his power. He's a big guy and when he gets his arms extended he can crush the ball. Despite some issues about his hit tool and a .252 average at Double-A last season, he still slugged .498 thanks to 50 extra-base hits. In 197 plate appearances with Triple-A this season, Santana is hitting .297/.372/.480. He's been especially hot recently as five of his six home runs and nine of his 19 extra-base hits have come in the last 26 games. Still only 21, Santana has been one of the youngest players at every stop along the way in the minors. If he keeps up this hot stretch, he could be one of the youngest players in the majors by the end of this season.
This note on Snell is basically just to say: hey, in deep keeper leagues, don't forget about Blake Snell. A first-round pick by the Rays in 2011, the lefty hasn't been able to stay upright on the mound in his first couple minor league seasons. Last year, he was finally able to pitch 99 innings over 23 starts in the Midwest League, but he walked 73 batters due to major control issues. He's still having some trouble with the walks (17 in 33.1 innings) as the Rays let him start the season in the Midwest League once again, but he's also showing his swing-and-miss stuff with 33 strikeouts. Still just 21, Snell is one to watch because down the line he could pay off big time. Left-handed pitchers with his size and stuff don't grow on trees and his stock could rise in a big way in the next year or two. He just needs to harness that control.
In his last start at High-A, Urias allowed just one hit over five innings while striking out five and walking none, though he hit a batter. It was his first win of the season and the first time he's logged at least five innings. He hasn't been pushed very hard in terms of workload so far this season and two bad relief appearances have overshadowed the nice work he's done in the rotation. As a starter, Urias has a 3.81 ERA and 29:7 K:BB in 26 innings with a 1.07 WHIP. Urias made it his goal to make it to the big leagues during the 2014 season back in spring training, but really what he needs to do this season is just take the ball every fifth day and build arm strength. He's still just 17 and with this light workload so far, it'd just be great if he could stay healthy and make it to Double-A in the second half.
I've talked up Bauer quite a bit this year and it's probably just because I'm excited my selection of him with the first pick of the third round in the 2013 Fake Teams Prospect Mock Draft doesn't look stupid at all now. It was touch and go there for awhile, but Bauer seems to have worked out the control issues that were holding him back. He's thrown two solid quality starts at the major league level already this season and the most recent one came against one of the best lineups in the league in the Detroit Tigers. I think the best is yet to come with Bauer for the rest of the season, and it's time to sit back and watch as he tries to reach his No. 2 starter ceiling.
The Top 200 prospects list has been updated by myself and Jesse Siegel and while the list you see is combined, we do our own lists. Last week on SiriusXM, Andrew Martinez asked me about Mark Appel and his place on the list while noting that Jonathan Gray, who was selected after Appel in the 2013 draft, is ahead of Appel on the list. I told Andrew, I can do even better. There's a guy the Reds drafted 27th overall in 2011 and he's just made it to Double-A now and I have him ahead of Appel too. That's Robert Stephenson, the Reds' top prospect and potentially a future No. 2 starter. Stephenson is just a little nastier than Appel in my mind. He sits in the mid-90s and touches higher in most of his outings and his curveball is an outstanding strikeout pitch. Gray probably has the best slider in the minor leagues and I have him ahead of both, but, like Stephenson, his home ballpark isn't friendly to pitchers. It's something to keep in mind, but even factoring this in I have both ahead of Appel. I think Appel will still be good for a long time and he has three above average pitches, but it's that nasty factor and strikeout ability that gives Gray and Stephenson the edge here.