Pipeline Inbox: Who will rise next season?
Jonathan Mayo answers fans' questions about 2014 draftees and more
It's an interesting time of year.
Teams that were sellers at the Trade Deadline are giving young players an opportunity to show what they can do, and fans of playoff hopefuls are thinking about next year a bit, too. The 2014 draftees are making their pro debuts, leading to questions about performances from those newbies.
All of that leads to another edition of the Pipeline Inbox.
As the Red Sox have recently revamped their roster (and specifically their rotation), which fielding and pitching prospects do you see having the biggest impact the remainder of this year and/or next season? And is Henry Owens the real heir apparent to the lefty ace role vacated by Jon Lester?
-- Sean H., Portsmouth, N.H.
It certainly is an interesting time in Boston following the Deadline. Keep in mind that the Red Sox are not in a long-term rebuilding mode, but rather, they are clearly trying to retool for 2015. They are well-poised for it, with several prospects in the upper levels of the system who are either up now or should be ready to make big contributions in the near future.
In terms of position players, I think the obvious choice is Mookie Betts, currently ranked No. 1 on the Red Sox Top 20 list (and No. 13 overall). He's already shown what he can do while learning to play center field at the highest level. He's only going to get better and should be an outstanding catalyst -- next year, if not this season. There are a number of pitchers who could be in that mix, from guys currently up like Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa to Anthony Ranaudo. But I'll pick the guy you specifically ask about: Owens. As long as he can continue to refine his command, he has every chance to be an elite-level lefty starter. Whether he has to try to replace Lester remains to be seen. Would it surprise anyone if Lester came back in 2015, serving as an outstanding mentor to Owens?
Is Eric Jagielo striking out too much or was this expected?
-- Nick S., Maplewood, N.J.
I guess it might depend on your definition of too much or what your expectations might have been going in. The Yankees' No. 3 prospect really made strides with his overall hitting in the Cape Cod League and then during his junior season at Notre Dame, leading many to believe he will hit both for average and power.
Has Jagielo taken a step backward? I think it's a little too soon to tell. While his strikeout rate this year isn't great (26 percent, according to FanGraphs), I think the walk rate (9.5 percent), down from 11.9 in his summer debut, is a bigger culprit in his up-and-down season. Remember, though, that he made his full-season debut in the pitcher-friendly Class A Advanced Florida State League. Jagielo also missed a lot of time with a rib-cage injury, making it even more difficult to get into a good rhythm at the plate. At the time of his injury, he was tied for the FSL lead in home runs. He's never going to be a batting-title type, rather someone who hits around .270 with 20-plus homers annually.
Do you think Jose Peraza can become the second baseman and leadoff hitter for the Braves next season?
-- Jeff M., Lakeland, Fla.
He certainly seems headed in that direction, doesn't he? Hitting leadoff all year, Peraza -- ranked No. 1 on the Braves' Top 20 list -- has hit .339/.364/.426 with 60 steals across two levels. He hasn't slowed down one iota since moving up to Double-A Mississippi. He's third in the Minors in steals. Peraza doesn't walk a ton, but he also doesn't strike out much. Perhaps slightly better on-base skills would be good for a leadoff guy, but that's quibbling.
Whether he's ready to fill that spot to start the 2015 season remains to be seen. There isn't anything that suggests otherwise; he could at least provide Spring Training competition. He won't be 21 until late April, so there's also no reason to rush him. I'm also a Tommy La Stella fan. La Stella may not have the exciting profile that Peraza has, but he can at least fill the spot capably until the Braves are sure Peraza is ready to stick full-time.
What are your thoughts on first baseman Bobby Bradley, the Indians' 2014 third-round pick, and his tremendous start in the Arizona League?
-- Todd P., Tallmadge, Ohio
It's certainly an encouraging debut. I included him in a recent list of 2014 draftees who have had strong starts. Bradley has hit .367/.441/.615 in his first 27 games. He leads the Rookie-level Arizona League in batting average, slugging, OPS, home runs and RBIs. So far, so good.
Bradley's carrying card is his bat, with a nice left-handed swing and bat speed that should allow him to hit for average and power as he progresses. He's settling in as a first baseman after trying catching and third base in high school. His bat should fit the profile for a corner-infield spot just fine.
It's important not to get too excited. Leading the Arizona League in offensive categories does not a big leaguer make. But to this point, it's looking like the Indians' decision to go over pick value to keep Bradley from attending Louisiana State was a wise decision.