Pipeline Podcast: Prospects off to hot starts

April 14th, 2017

More than a week of the 2017 regular season is in the books, which means rookies around the league have started making first impressions in The Show.

This week on the MLBPipeline podcast, host Tim McMaster talks with Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo to discuss which rookies have impressed, disappointed and puzzled them over the first few games of a still young season. The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's episode of the Pipeline podcast.

McMaster: How about some rookies in the Major leagues that are off to good starts? I guess, sadly, at this point, a little over a week into the season, there are not a whole lot of them. There have been some struggles as far as rookies go. Of course adjustments need to be made. But one guy that really stands out, when you look at the San Diego Padres, obviously there are plenty of reasons for the fan base out there in San Diego to be looking more to the future than to the present, but seems to be both right now. The team's No. 1 prospect. He came over from the Red Sox in that trade. He is off to a tremendous start. .343 he's batting heading into Wednesday's action. Three home runs already. Three doubles as well. He has the extra base thing going on. Obviously he's a center fielder to boot on top of that. This guy was moving pretty quickly. Have you been impressed at all or surprised how quickly he's moved out of the gate here as a rookie for the Padres?

Callis: I think the power part of it has surprised me. I'll go in there and put in the disclaimer. Tim, Jonathan and I all realize this is small sample sizes and we are not reading too much into them, in case anybody wants to tweet at us asking why we are going crazy over 40 at-bats or so. But Margot has always been able to put the bat on the ball. He's actually struck out a little bit more than I would have expected in this first week or so in the big leagues. But three home runs, I wouldn't have expected that. Coming into the year, if you told me, Margot would hit .280, I'd believe that. The guy is a really gifted hitter. I probably would have put the over/under on his home runs at maybe 8-10. His approach doesn't lend itself … He has some strength, and he can make some good contact, but it's more of a line drive, hit the ball in the gaps approach. I would think, off the top of my head, based on this small sample size, of guys who have had regular playing time, he's had to be the most impressive rookie to date.

McMaster: As far as batters go, there hasn't been too much else. I think had three hits on Tuesday night, finally kind of getting things going. We expect eventually he'll get back to hitting. And he'll have a good season. He's obviously the frontrunner for the American League Rookie of the Year award. , OK, Margot's teammate in San Diego. Mitch Haniger, where it's not even really a prospect situation, but some power numbers. Three homers. He's struck out a ton already for the Mariners. I don't know if anyone else stands out to you or is this just what we'll usually see the first couple of the weeks from rookies?

Mayo: It's seven games. It's the same thing that happens with teams. Teams start out really poorly and it really jumps off the page because it's the start of the season. A team can lose six out of seven in June or July and no one notices it. Just like Dansby Swanson can have a 5-for-32 stretch at some point in the season and its not going to make that much of a difference. I think a guy like him is going to be just fine. Hunter Renfroe has kind of done what we thought he would do. He's going to swing and miss a decent amount. He has a good amount of strikeouts. He hasn't walked yet. But he has a couple homers. I think that's what we're going to see. : I think that's about right. A couple of homers, hitting .260 over his first seven games. We'll see what happens as teams adjust to them. That's going to be the big key. The guys who have struggled out of the gate, how are they going to adjust to how they're being pitched to? Josh Bell in Pittsburgh. He performed pretty well last year. They were careful with how they used him, but he performed well. They are pitching to him a little bit differently so far this year, and he has largely struggled. So let's see how he adjusts. I think that's what the name of the game is going to be with all these rookies.

McMaster: On the pitching side, there is actually a little more success. A lot of times, you have these pitchers and they are on teams that are expected to struggle a little bit. But the Rockies have a lot of rookies in that staff. in one start was pretty good. very good over a couple of starts. He got his first Major League win on Tuesday. But has been real good for Oakland. real good for Cincinnati. There is a group, Jim, of starting pitchers, who have had a nice first couple of starts. Of those guys, who do you think has the best chance to sustain that and have a real good rookie season? That's so tough for pitchers to do a lot of times.

Callis: It is. The Rockies guys intrigue me because if we were talking Rockies rookie pitchers, we probably would have thought we would be talking about before we'd be talking about Freeland and Senzatela. Senzatela is a guy who had some arm issues last year, some shoulder issues, and didn't really pitch a lot. But he's always put up numbers throughout the Rockies system. It's not "wow" stuff, but it's a good fastball with really good command. The rest of the package is probably average. Freeland is a former first round pick, who, for a guy who was the No. 8 pick in the Draft, hadn't missed a ton of bats. Theoretically, he was working on his changeup and pitching to contact and those kinds of things. He struck out six in six innings in his first start. But I'd probably be foolish to pick a Rockies pitcher for sustained success, given how difficult it is to pitch there. I think it might be Jharel Cotton, who already has one of the best changeups in the big leagues. He has a solid fastball. It's interesting. As many injuries as the Dodgers had in their rotation last year, they never really gave Cotton a look before they traded him to the A's. I think it might be Jharel Cotton. He might be the best rookie pitcher when all is said and done. (Robert) Gsellman of the Mets is another interesting guy, too, who seems to put up numbers. With him, I think it'll be more, is he going to get the opportunity? Mets guys all seem to be of questionable health, or most of them, and he might surprise us too.