Prospect fever continues to grip the baseball nation, as Mookie Betts became the most recent phenom to make his much-anticipated MLB debut. Another second baseman turned outfielder could be the next prospect in line for a promotion to the bigs. The Cubs have been playing former middle infielder Arismendy Alcantara in the outfield recently, and he could end up being the center fielder of the future for the Cubbies. The Cubs will eventually have a loaded infield, possibly with Javier Baez and Starlin Castro up the middle, meaning Alcantara's best bet may be to catch on in the outfield. Learning the position appears to be the last step in his development, as he has been raking for Triple-A Iowa. Over his last 10 games, Alcantara is hitting .447 with two home runs, seven RBI and three stolen bases. In total, the 22-year-old is slashing .307/.348/.540 with 10 home runs, 39 RBI and 20 steals through 82 games. As a result, Alcantara's time in the minors may be coming to an end very soon.
Here are some more prospect tidbits in this week's "Three Strikes" section:
1. The Yankees could sure use some extra hitting, particularly from second base. Could Rob Refsnyder provide some much-needed aid? Since being promoted to Triple-A, the 23-year-old is slashing .342/.468/.553 with three home runs, nine RBI and two steals in 23 games.
2. Arizona pitching prospect Aaron Blair gets overshadowed by Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley, but Blair has more than held his own since being promoted to High-A. He has been particularly hot recently, fanning at least seven batters in five of his last six starts.
3. Rumors abound that Toronto Blue Jays top prospect Aaron Sanchez could see the majors before the 2014 season is finished. However, it remains to be seen if he would join the starting rotation or pitch in relief. Likewise, his name has also been mentioned in trade rumors, as the Jays hunt for their first playoff appearance since 1993.
Still can't get enough? Potent prospects litter this week's edition of the Minor League Barometer. Jump right in. The water's just fine.
Luis Severino, P, NYY - The Bronx Bombers have not had much luck manufacturing top-flight starting pitching prospects the last few years. The current rotation features underwhelming young starters in David Phelps, Chase Whitley and Vidal Nuno, none of whom were considered anything close to frontline rotation anchors. Severino is hoping to change that, and while he may not hit the bigs for a couple seasons, he has shown signs of promise. The 20-year-old righty mastered Low-A quickly to begin the 2014 campaign, posting a 2.79 ERA and 70:15 K:BB ratio in 67.2 innings. In two starts since being promoted to High-A, Severino has performed similarly, notching a 2.53 ERA and 14:2 K:BB ratio in 10.2 innings. Severino has demonstrated pinpoint control, while also inducing a bevy of ground balls. Add in the strikeout stuff, and the Yankees could have a gem on their hands.
Renato Nunez, 3B, OAK - It'd be difficult to have a better last 10 games than Nunez, who hit .450 with six home runs and 11 RBI for High-A Stockton. The 20-year-old has now slugged 17 home runs in 73 games, albeit in the hitter-friendly confines of the California League. Still, Nunez hit 19 home runs at Low-A in 2013 as a teenager, so his power looks to be real. The recent hot streak has also brought his slash line up to .285/.350/.539. He has cut down n his strikeouts a bit this season as well, while also drawing more walks. He has 22 walks in 73 games in 2014; by contrast, Nunez walked just 28 times in 128 contests last season. Assuming his plate discipline continues to improve as he matures, Nunez will be a scary power prospect for the A's.
Nick Williams, OF, TEX - After being sidelined with a hamstring injury for few weeks, Williams returned to the starting lineup for High-A Myrtle Beach with a vengeance. In eight games since being reinstated, Williams is hitting .333 with a home run and 11 RBI. On the year, the 20-year-old is hitting .309/.359/.492 with seven home runs, 46 RBI and three steals through 59 games for the Pelicans. Just like the aforementioned Nunez, Williams does have to work on his plate discipline; he has been punched out 68 times over that span, while drawing just 11 walks. Still, he is being pushed aggressively by the Rangers, and a .300-plus average is certainly worth noting despite the lack of patience at the dish. A second-round pick in 2012, Williams also could have double-digit steal potential as well. The raw tools are evident for Williams, and the Rangers like what they see thus far.
Chance Sisco, C, BAL - Not only is Matt Wieters out for a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but there's no guarantee he will even be back in Baltimore at all. Wieters was demanding a big contract before ultimately settling on a one-year deal prior to the season, and he may be too pricy for the O's even with the injury. As a result, the O's could be in the market for a catcher of the future. Enter Sisco, a second-round selection in 2013 straight out of high school. He has done nothing but hit since entering the minors; Sisco hit .371 in 35 games in the Gulf Coast League in 2013 and is batting .335 through 61 games at Low-A this season. Baltimore is also expecting him to develop a power stroke as he matures, as Sisco has just three home runs in 2014 but is still a teenager. Regardless, Sisco is certainly off to a promising start for the O's.
Trevor Story, SS, COL - Everyone likes a comeback Story, and Trevor is writing his own in 2014. The 21-year-old suffered through a well-documented horrific season in 2013, striking out an astounding 183 times in 130 games at High-A. Still, he did end up with 12 home runs 23 stolen bases, while bringing his average up to at least a modestly respectable .233 after an absolutely horrific start to the year. Story began 2014 in the same location, but had markedly different results. Story slashed .332/.436/.592 with five home runs, 28 RBI and 20 steals in 50 games before being promoted to Double-A. He still struck out 59 times over that span, but also drew 31 walks. He's off to a slightly slow start at Double-A, but the sample size is extremely small. The real question will be if Story can continue to improve on his ability to make contact, or if the jump in levels will be too tough to master.
Deven Marrero, SS, BOS - Widely considered a glove-first middle infielder, Marrero has shown vast improvement with the bat in 2014. Marrero posted a career-high slash line in 68 games at Double-A before being promoted, hitting .291/.371.433. He also notched career highs in home runs (5) and RBI (39). Speed has always been his greatest asset on the offensive side of the coin, as he swiped 12 bags at that level after stealing 27 in 2013. Position could be the biggest question for Marrero; Xander Bogaerts is playing third base but is a shortstop by trade, and Mookie Betts is a second baseman playing outfield because of the presence of Dustin Pedroia. It's a good problem for the BoSox to have, but could make Marrero a mere utility infielder or even trade bait.
Rymer Liriano, OF, SD - Liriano missed all 2013 due to Tommy John surgery, but returned to Double-A San Antonio to begin the 2014 campaign. Liriano has had an up-and-down season for the Missions. On the plus side, the 23-year-old already has 12 home runs, tying his career high in dingers for any season. However, his speed has been on a noticeable decline the last few years. In 2011, Liriano swiped 66 bags. In 2012, Liriano stole 32 bases in a virtually identical amount of games. In 2014, Liriano has managed just 14 steals in 81 games. Perhaps missing a year has also affected his plate discipline; though Liriano always battled strikeout issues, he has actually regressed in that category with 84 Ks in 81 contests. Liriano remains one of the better prospects in the San Diego system, but there are a few red flags that are worth monitoring at this time.
Alec Asher, P, TEX - Asher hasn't gotten the pub of some other more highly-touted pitching prospects in the Texas system, but perhaps he should be gaining notoriety. A fourth-round junior college pick in 2012, Asher was dominant in his first full season in 2013. For High-A Myrtle Beach, the 22-year-old righty notched a 2.90 ERA and 139:40 K:BB ratio in 133.1 innings. Asher has maintained success this season, compiling a 3.12 ERA and 77:20 K:BB ratio through 92.1 innings at Double-A. Something to watch with Asher is his penchant for giving up the long ball, though. In 2013, he yielded 10 home runs. In 2014, he has already served up 12 dingers. Asher has managed to limit the damage overall, but he will eventually be pitching in the hitter-friendly Ballpark at Arlington, which could pose problems if he cannot keep the ball down.
Noah Syndergaard, P, NYM - It's safe to say the Mets pitching prospects haven't had a very productive season. Rafael Montero was uncharacteristically wild during his brief time in the big leagues earlier in 2014, then subsequently landed on the disabled list in the minors with a left oblique strain. Syndergaard has battled injury problems of his own to his pitching arm, even giving the Mets a bit of a Tommy John scare earlier this year. He has been back on the mound at Triple-A for the last month or so, but has been hit extremely hard over that span. He has allowed at least four earned runs in each of his last four starts, including a five-run, 11-hit barrage in his last outing Tuesday. The 21-year-old righty does have 74 strikeouts in 72.2 innings this season, but opposing batters are hitting a blistering .310 against him. He has also surrendered nine home runs, leading to a bloated 5.70 ERA. At this rate, Syndergaard may not see the majors at all this season.
Tim Anderson, SS, CHW - One of the better prospects in the White Sox system, Anderson will miss at least a month after breaking his right wrist. A first-round selection in the 2013 draft, Anderson was hitting .297/.323/.472 with six home runs, 31 RBI and 10 steals in 68 games for High-A Winston-Salem before the injury. The 21-year-old will need to work on his plate discipline upon his return; Anderson fanned 68 times in 68 games, while drawing just seven walks. Still, he has an intriguing combination of power and speed, and the injury should only be a minor blip on the radar for the Chicago shortstop of the future.
Raul Mondesi Jr., SS, KC - It's hard to be disappointed in an 18-year-old already playing at High-A, but Mondesi has really scuffled lately for the Wilmington Blue Rocks. He is hitting an abysmal .095 over his last 10 games, fanning 10 times during that time period. Overall, he has just one home run and 12 RBI through 58 games, sporting a slash line of .220/.266/.303. His plate discipline has taken a nosedive; Mondesi has been punched out 65 times while drawing just 11 walks. The teenager does have 11 stolen bases on the season, though, and won't turn 19 until the end of the month. As a result, this is only a temporary downgrade for Mondesi, who is being aggressively pushed by the Royals. Let's see how he responds to some adversity, likely for the first time in his professional career. Mondesi remains a project, albeit with huge upside.
Victor Roache, OF, MIL - Roache has been one of the bigger disappointments this season. He started the season on a tear, but has since seen his numbers tumble. Roache is batting a putrid .198 through 67 games for High-A Brevard County. He has 74 strikeouts as compared to just 17 walks over that span. Unlike the above-referenced Mondesi, Roache was a college draftee who should have more polish than he has displayed. He is certainly a power prospect, but has just eight home runs due to the inability to make consistent contact. He'll be 23 at the end of the season, with limited development at the dish. Roache and Chicago White Sox outfielder Courtney Hawkins, another first-rounder from the 2012 draft, came into the season with similar skill sets and similar expectations. However, Hawkins is two years younger and has had a solid season at High-A, while Roache has struggled mightily at the same level. Roache's stock is clearly trending in the wrong direction.