Pipeline Inbox: Will Correa or Seager make debut first?
Jim Callis responds to fans' questions about baseball's top future stars
I often feel like I'm not staying on top of the Minor Leagues as much I should in the first couple of months of the season, because I'm devoting so much of my time to the First-Year Player Draft. However, I have taken note of how good Cardinals right-hander Alex Reyes has been in his first four starts at Class A Advanced Palm Beach.
Reyes hasn't allowed a run since his first outing, and he is now 1-1 with a 1.77 ERA and a Minor League-best 35 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings, while opponents are hitting just .179 against him. His already formidable fastball has made another jump in velocity, hitting 100 mph more consistently than ever, and his curveball is looking sharp as well. Reyes still needs to refine his control and command -- he has 13 walks so far -- but he has ace-type stuff.
The 20-year-old Reyes didn't make our offseason Top 100 Prospects list, though I did identify him as the best pitcher to miss the cut. He's currently No. 100 on the Top 100 -- we add prospects at the end once guys graduate to the big leagues -- and will rocket way up the rankings when we revamp them at midseason.
Both Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager are off to great starts in the Double-A Texas League. At their present rate of development, whom do you see getting their callup to the Majors first?
-- J.P. S., Springfield, Ill.
First-round picks in 2012 and two of the best prospects in baseball, Correa and Seager are destroying Double-A pitching. Correa, the No. 1 overall choice three years ago, is hitting .387/.452/.760 with five homers in 18 games for Corpus Christi. Seager, who won last year's Minor League batting title with a .349 average, has produced at a .372/.398/.641 clip with four homers in 19 contests for Tulsa.
My guess is that Correa will make his big league debut first because Houston already has lost starting shortstop Jed Lowrie until after the All-Star break with a torn right thumb ligament. Correa hasn't played above Class A before this season and the Astros don't want to rush him, but they're also hoping to contend and his immense talent can't be denied. He'd help Houston win more games than Marwin Gonzalez or Jonathan Villar will.
Even if injuries didn't play a factor, Correa would have the edge. Seager's path to Los Angeles this year might be clearer at third base than shortstop, and he has played only a handful of games at the hot corner as a pro. Additionally, the Dodgers are trying to figure out how to get Alex Guerrero more at-bats, another obstacle for Seager.
Who do you see the Astros taking with the No. 2 and 5 picks in the Draft?
-- Hunter F., Nacogdoches, Texas
With five-plus weeks remaining before the Draft begins on June 8, teams aren't close to finalizing their plans. But there are persistent rumors that Houston will take a pair of position players. It's less a case of the Astros targeting a specific demographic -- which is dangerous with a premium pick -- than reflecting the talent available. The bats stand out more than the arms toward the top of the Draft.
Given how the talent stacks up, a two-position-player scenario likely would mean a shortstop at No. 2 (Florida high schooler Brendan Rodgers or Vanderbilt's Dansby Swanson) and an outfielder at No. 5 (Georgia high schooler Daz Cameron, Florida prepster Kyle Tucker or maybe Texas high schooler Trenton Clark). Louisiana State shortstop Alex Bregman also might be available at No. 5, though Houston may not want two players at the same position -- and one at which it already has Correa in its system.
How do you compare Carson Fulmer to Sonny Gray coming out of Vanderbilt?
-- William F., Madison, Tenn.
There are several similarities between the Vanderbilt right-handers. Both could have received sizeable bonuses were they willing to turn pro out of high school, but they opted for the Commodores instead. They have nearly identical builds (Gray was 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, Fulmer an inch taller and the same weight) and had almost the same stuff at the same stage of their careers.
As Vanderbilt juniors, both Fulmer and Gray had a fastball that could reach 97 mph, a power curveball and a decent changeup. They both needed to improve their control. The biggest difference in their Draft year is that Fulmer throws with a lot of effort in his delivery, leading some scouts to believe he'll have to be a reliever, while Gray was seen as a surer bet to remain a starter.
Fulmer has been more dominant so far this year (1.52 ERA, 12.8 K/9, .180 opponent average) than Gray was as a junior (2.43 ERA, 9.4 K/9, .213 opponent average). Gray went 18th overall to the Athletics in 2011, which was considered a once-in-a-decade talent pool, while Fulmer could go in the top 10 picks this June, which has a less bountiful Draft crop.
Can teams like the Red Sox and Yankees, who exceeded their 2014-15 international bonus pools and triggered penalties, trade their international pool money for competitive-balance Draft picks? What is the market for these selections?
-- Mike S., Washington D.C.
The Angels, D-backs, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees all blew past their 2014-15 international pool by more than 15 percent, so they can't spend more than $300,000 on any individual international player in the 2015-16 or 2016-17. There's language in the Draft rules that says that cash considerations of any kind aren't permitted in a trade involving Draft choices, but I have confirmed with MLB that a club would be allowed to deal an international pool bonus slot (essentially the equivalent of an international "Draft pick") for a competitive-balance selection (the only Draft pick that can be traded).
That said, Draft picks are so much more valuable that international pool money that I don't think we'll see trades along these lines. Teams toe the line in the Draft, where exceeding a bonus pool by 5 percent would cost them a future first-round pick (15 percent would cost them two first-rounders), but are less worried about the less-dire penalties for exorbitant international spending. Even if Arizona would give up its entire $5,393,900 international pool this summer (the largest in baseball), I doubt it could get a competitive-balance choice in return.