Jake Odorizzi’s opportunity has come at last. (Sportsreelboston.com)
The 2014 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit continues today as we resume our countdown of the Top 65 Prospects. So while Jon Lester continues to turn his season around, let’s review prospects 40 through 31.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
40. Jake Odorizzi, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (27): We liked Odorizzi enough this year to slot him 116th in our Starting Pitcher Rankings. He’ll likely top out as a No. 3 starter once he gets more experience under his belt. The opportunity is coming early this season for Odorizzi, as injuries have opened the door for him to hold a rotation spot in Tampa, and he was superb in his debut (see video below), justifying the Rays’ faith. The righty’s arsenal includes a fastball in the 90-91 mph range, a slurve and a changeup that’s gotten better over time. A former Royal farmhand, Odorizzi beat out Erik Bedard and Cesar Ramos to emerge with a rotation spot this spring, and based on his massively improved control at Triple-A, he’s ready to be a viable big league hurler. Odorizzi has had trouble against lefties, so bear this in mind when he faces a team that leans in that direction. Originally taken 32nd overall by Milwaukee in 2008, he’s been very durable in his career (and could remain as such thanks to a very smooth, easy delivery) and hasn’t shown any alarming weaknesses, but has periodically had issues with the long ball.
39. Jon Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros (24): Singleton is another player we think can contribute this year, slotting him 40th in our First Base Rankings. The fact that the Astros released Brett Wallace last month helped open the door for Singleton, but a poor spring consigned Singleton to Triple-A. In the minors, Singleton is hitting for power, but once again struggling to make contact. Once he shows development in that regard, there’s no doubt he’ll be in Houston in no time. The Astros are collecting some fine prospects at Triple-A, and Singleton remains one of the key pieces, and with the team in the majors off to a lousy start, the natives are already getting restless and wanting to see the future arrive. On the one hand, if Houston rushes him, it could be disastrous. On the other hand, you get the sense that Singleton is just a few mental and physical adjustments away from being a start-worthy first baseman in mixed leagues. We need to see him higher than the .220 mark he put up at Triple-A, because you’ve got to figure that’s going to translate into a sub-Mendoza mark in the bigs. Singleton is showing some improvements early this season, but we’re not convinced he’s ready for the big jump. He’s proved durable in his pro career so far, but the modest speed he flashed at the lower levels has disappeared as he managed just one theft last year. Last year’s suspension for weed (since when does this deserve as big a penalty as a PED?) likely cost him his MLB debut, so now it’s on him to prove he deserves a shot.
38. Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres (NR): Hedges had been off the radar until last year when he managed to reach Double-A by the final month of the season. Thanks to his rifle arm, he’s considered the top defensive catcher in the minors, but can the 2011 second rounder’s hitting ultimately match his glovework? Well, he held his own in Spring Training (5-for-19 with six RBI) and got off to a great start at Double-A this year before cooling more recently. Hedges may be ready to catch in the bigs right now, but he’s not ready to be Fantasy worthy by a longshot, so like with most catchers, owners must remain patient. Still, we love the productivity he flashed at High-A last year before getting his feet we at Double-A. As mentioned, Hedges is back at the level this year and so far has shown only modest growth with a .250 BA. Part of the 2013 AFL All-Prospect Team, he is a homegrown product, having starred at a San Diego high school. Since turning pro, Hedges has been fairly healthy, but he needs to become a more patient hitter at the plate before he’ll be ready to move to the next level. He has an outside shot at arriving in San Diego this year as a September call-up.
37. Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals (45): We like Wong enough this year that we slotted him 24th in our Second Base Rankings. He flashed some power this spring, but we’re still waiting to see that now that the games are counting. Wong is hitting in the two-hole for the Cards, and early on is exhibiting a superb batting eye — exactly what you want from a No. 2 hitter. Okay, so he struggled in the World Series (and getting picked off to end a game was a boneheaded play), but this kid has some mad skills. Wong has already shown much better contact skills this year, improving even more than we expected, and that’s another reason his BA is up over 100 points to finally reach respectability in the majors. The Cards’ first rounder in 2011 made the Futures Game last year as part of an excellent season at Triple-A (125 hits in 107 games). Wong has been very durable since turning pro and while his power is modest, he doesn’t really have a true weakness in his game. The Hawaiian native should settle in as a high average hitter capable of providing modest power and nice speed numbers.
36. Masahiro Tanaka, SP, New York Yankees (NR): In a Podcast a couple of months ago, we talked about how Tanaka’s transition to major league baseball and the U.S. would be so much easier with Hiroki Kuroda as a rotation mate. Early on, Tanaka is doing a great job of missing bats, and his 18 strikeouts through two starts is the most ever by a pitcher in his first two starts for the Yankees. There’s certainly nothing wrong with his ERA either (3.21). The Yankees fortunes this season really rest upon the shoulders of Tanaka — as well as the team’s big three offensive additions. It really does seem like he’s the real deal so far — as good as advertised and hyped. Of course, serving up a dinger to the first batter he ever faced in a regular season game was a bit of an inauspicious start. Tanaka’s HR/FB rate is ridiculously high, but it’s a small sample size, so let’s see how it plays out over 10 or 12 starts before calling it a trend. The man that went 24-0 in his final season in Japan likes to get ahead of hitters and then throw his split-fingered fastball in the dirt.
35. Kyle Crick, SP, San Francisco Giants (NR): Crick, a pitcher that caught our eye in the AFL, was a supplemental first round pick (49th overall) by the Giants in 2011. He’s part of the next great wave of San Francisco pitching prospects currently at Double-A — a collection so coveted that the Giants opted to send two of their long-time pitching coaches to this level to oversee the group, which also includes Clayton Blackburn, Adalberto Mejia and Ty Blach. Crick’s results early on this year have been mixed, but there’s a reason he’s considered the Giants’ top prospect. The big (6′2″, 220) righty is gifted with great stuff and his strikeout rate at High-A was through the roof. A 2.35 ERA through his first two Double-A starts is nothing to sneeze at, either. Some prospect lists had Crick ranked a bit higher, but we’re going to wait to see how he makes the all important jump to Double-A before going completely hog wild. We love how stingy he’s been with the long ball (two homers allowed in 195 IP as a pro), but the walks? A career mark of 5.49 BB/9 will need to be addressed before advanced hitters start making him really pay. Crick has great potential as a Texas power pitcher, but those free passes need to be brought down to a manageable level of, say, 3.5 per nine innings.
34. Alex Meyer, SP, Minnesota Twins (NR): Last May, when the Twins rotation was struggling (much like it is now), we considered Meyer one of the candidates to move up, but warned he needed more seasoning first. Thankfully, Minnesota agreed, and it will be best for the long-term prospects of Washington’s 2011 first rounder out of the University of Kentucky. Sure enough, Meyer is off to a very nice start at Triple-A and it’s clear that the righty could provide value as a big leaguer right now. Last year, he battled injuries but logged some valuable innings at Double-A, and then finished the season to rave reviews at the AFL, making the league’s All-Prospect Team. We’d like to see Meyer accumulate about 75 innings or so at Triple-A before the Twins summon him for his MLB debut. He has serious potential as a high strikeout pitcher (he’s averaged over 10 K/9 as a pro), and he seems to have very effectively addressed the control issues he had as a Wildcat. Meyer was originally drafted by Boston in 2008, shunning a $2 million bonus to pitch at Kentucky. Considering the Nats gave him the same bonus in 2011, time will tell if he’s a better pitcher for his college experience.
33. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (NR): Last June, it looked like Pederson would be the first Dodger outfield prospect to reach the majors, but he got passed by Yasiel Puig. Well, Pederson didn’t exactly impress with his BA this spring (.184), but he flashed plenty of power, and the team’s 11th rounder from 2010 has gone down to Triple-A and treated it like his own personal playground. In fact, there hasn’t been a minor league hitter at any level off to as good a start as Pederson is. His start certainly caught our eye — and also raised questions about what the Dodgers will do with all this outfield talent:
— Rob Blackstien (@RotoRob) April 17, 2014
Pederson recorded nine hits over his first 20 at-bats and with his solid walk rate, would already be a valuable MLB player. Last year, he soared back onto the prospect map by showing his best walk rate ever at Double-A. And all he’s done through 13 games at Triple-A is bash five homers already. Pederson will ultimately shift to a corner outfield slot, so maintaining this kind of power is essential to his future. A Topps Double-A All-Star last year, he is a lifetime .305 hitter in his five minor league seasons and really does not have a glaring weakness. If Pederson were to improve anything, we guess it would be his contact skills (he whiffed 114 times at Double-A, but is already showing tremendous improvements in that area early on this year at Triple-A). In a nutshell, this dude can rake and nothing will hold him back — even an overabundance of OF talent on the Dodgers. You have to know some sharp club will pry him from the Dodgers at the deadline.
32. Lucas Giolito, SP, Washington Nationals (NR): Giolito was off the radar before 2013, but he took a massive step forward and landed squarely on the prospect map. Now, his every outing is watched with scrutinizing eyes. Washington’s first round pick in 2012 (16th overall) added muscle this offseason which will help him pitch deeper into games. Giolito has quickly become the Nats’ top prospect, but the fact is he only slipped as far as he did in the draft because of health concerns. If he continues his career trajectory, he might be a top five SP prospect or better by season’s end. Just what Washington needs — more premium pitching! Last year, Giolito didn’t serve up a single homer in the GCL and after a late-season promotion to Low-A, he nearly matched his strikeout rate, continuing to average a K per frame. There’s no doubt all he needs now is experience and innings under his belt. Giolito’s walk rate is up so far in the Sally League, but it’s nothing to be alarmed about. The 19-year-old righty is actually a top 25 prospect on some lists, but again, we want to see more seasoning. Still, a kid that can hit triple digits on the gun is worth going a little gaga over.
31. Carlos Martinez, SP/RP, St. Louis Cardinals (26): We like Martinez’s 2014 prospects enough to have slotted him 44th in our Relief Pitcher Rankings this season. He once again vied for a rotation spot with St. Louis this spring, ultimately losing the gig to Joe Kelly and heading back to the bullpen. Martinez’s success in a set-up role may actually hurt his chances of returning to the rotation, but there are also concerns about his durability as a starter. Sure, he wants to start, but to credit, he’s not a boat rocker, and is simply biding his time until his chance comes. Kelly just landed on the DL, so there’s talk once again of Martinez taking his rotation spot, but you would think he’d need a bit of stretching out at this stage. In the meantime, Martinez just keeps racking up the holds, but there’s no doubt the hard-throwing righty will be a lot more valuable to Fantasy owners as a starter. Last year, he went undefeated during his brief time starting at Double-A, and then proved he can win games as a starter at Triple-A. All told, Martinez was tougher to hit, and so far this year in the bigs, he’s pretty much unhittable. He does a great job of limiting baserunners (career minor league WHIP of 1.25), but could stand to sharpen his control somewhat (it’s not a major issue, however). Martinez has an overpowering fastball that averages over 96 mph and if he commands it just a wee bit more, the sky is the limit. However, we still prefer him as a lights-out closer rather than a starting pitcher. long-term.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below which of this group you like the most as a long-term prospect.
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