Pipeline Inbox: Could Newcomb be on mound for Angels in 2016?
Jonathan Mayo responds to fans' questions about baseball's future stars
With the end of August approaching, that means the completion of Minor League regular seasons is quickly arriving.
That also means September callups will be trickling in. Rosters expand Tuesday, and the floodgates might open once most Minor League regular seasons end (around Sept. 7). Until that time, here's a selection of your questions to keep you entertained.
Could we see Sean Newcomb on the mound for Angels in 2016?
-- Fred Z., Long Island, N.Y.
If you had asked me that question at the start of the year, I might've said, "Probably not." But as a 2015 season that has seen the 2014 first-rounder (No. 15 pick overall) pitch across three levels comes to a close, it's clear Newcomb has jumped on the fast track.
At the start of the season, the University of Hartford product was in the Class A Midwest League and was No. 67 on our Top 100 Prospects list. Newcomb is now at No. 22, to give you an idea of where we think he is. He's also been promoted twice, getting a bump out of the Midwest League after just seven starts, then from the Class A Advanced California League to Double-A after 13 starts. Newcomb has made five starts in the Texas League to date.
Overall, the 2015 Futures Gamer has been dominant, with a 2.04 ERA and a .193 batting average against across those three levels. Newcomb is second in the Minor Leagues with 158 strikeouts (11.1 per nine) and that BAA is good for fourth. The big, strong left-hander clearly has the stuff to keep missing bats -- and get ground-ball outs -- at the upper levels.
The only caveat to throw in there is Newcomb's walk rate. He has walked 4.8 per nine innings this season. That will have to improve if Newcomb wants to crack the Angels' rotation in 2016. Based on his quick rise and the fact he's in Double-A now, though, I'd look for him to improve in that regard and reach Anaheim in the second half of next season.
Can you explain Jairo Beras's improved stat line? It's tempting to see Nomar Mazara's low-Minors course repeating itself. Both players are tall corner outfielders who got paid a ton, repeated Hickory at a young age, and saw their numbers rise abruptly in spite of inability against lefties. We know how it turned out for Nomar, although he did slug better than Jairo.
-- Daniel H., Dallas
Thanks for providing such a solid background on Beras so I can go right to the crux of the matter: What's going on with Beras?
Beras has hit .288/.332/.428 this season with Hickory and has upped his OPS by over 100 points in a repeat of the South Atlantic League. At only 20, he's still ahead of the curve. The Rangers give most of the credit for the improvement to Beras' approach at the plate. While he's still not drawing many walks, Beras has done a much better job at laying off pitches out of the zone and at using the entire field.
Some of it has been mechanical. Beras' leg kick is less dramatic, he's getting his foot down more consistently and is on time regularly as a result. He has always had size, tools and bat speed, but he didn't know how to use them in the past. Beras has a much better idea of what pitchers are trying to do to get him out, and he's much more comfortable at the plate, seeing the ball better than he has at any point in his career.
Is Roman Quinn eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this season? How can he not be eligible or taken off? Do you see Jake Thompson being in rotation by the start of the 2016 season?
-- Chris B., Philadelphia
Quinn, the Phillies' No. 7 prospect, was having a terrific bounce-back season in 2015 when a hip flexor tear ended his season in June. Before the injury, he was handling the move to Double-A well. While Quinn has been a bit injury prone, the injuries aren't connected. And the good news is he's doing very well now, and if the Phils wanted to push him, he could've even returned in the next two weeks. Instead, he'll go to instructional league play for a bit before heading to the Dominican for winter ball.
Now, to your question. Yes, Quinn is at the point in his career where he would be eligible for the Rule 5 if he's not protected this offseason. Any high schooler (or international draftee) who was 18 or younger when he signed in 2011 is potentially eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this December. Quinn, as a second-round pick in the 2011 Draft, qualifies.
But the speedy Quinn won't be in the Rule 5 Draft. He's a cinch to be added to the Phillies' 40-man roster this offseason. That move will protect Quinn from being eligible to be selected in December.
As for Thompson, it is clear the Phillies are giving auditions to some young pitchers these days. I could see Thompson getting a long look in Spring Training next March, but it might be a stretch to think he'll break camp in the rotation. That might depend on personnel, obviously, but keep in mind that as a 2012 draftee out of high school, the Phils have another year before they have to add Thompson to the 40-man roster.
What are your thoughts on Austin Riley's start? Is he a legitimate prospect?
-- Blaine B., Marion Ind.
There's no question Riley is a legitimate prospect. He was, after all, taken No. 41 overall in the 2015 Draft, and we have him ranked at No. 16 on the Braves' Top 30. Riley is an intriguing guy as one of the better two-way players in this past Draft class, one some teams may have preferred as a pitcher.
The Braves, however, weren't one of those teams, and they sent Riley out as a third baseman. His summer debut has been very encouraging, to say the least. After hitting seven home runs in 30 Gulf Coast League games, Riley was moved up to the Appalachian League, where he's hit .326/.410/.522 in 24 games. The strikeout rate is a bit high, but not alarming, and he's drawing walks. It's looking like Riley could fit the offensive profile of a run-producing corner infielder very well in the future.