Minor League Baseball Update - Triple A (AAA) Update
This week we are going to take a look at the Top Ten Prospects from all of Triple A. We will also feature a Top Five Prospects from the Lower Levels list in this week’s column. These lists are all based on the first half of this season. Do not forget to check out the special column this Tuesday featuring the first half Fantasy All Stars and Awards. Also, check back Friday for the normal weekly column on Player Values and my Second Half Expectations.
Triple A is not the hotbed of prospects it used to be at this point. Teams have shifted their focus from Triple A with many players now coming up directly from Double A (See previous Top 10 Column for Double A). Even with many of today’s top prospects coming direct from Double A Triple A still has several teams top prospects. Many of these prospects have been promoted to Triple A this year due to tearing up Double A. What this means is that the Triple A Top Ten should be considered very likely to come up during the second half of this season. Below are the top ten players you should be aware of moving forward.
Ian Stewart 3B/2B (Rockies, Colorado Springs): Stewart was called up by the Rockies due to injuries and was decent while playing a new position (2B). He has re-established himself as one of the Rockies top prospects and an integral part of the Rockies future. Stewart has been one of the best players in the minors during the first half, and he should be an excellent offensive player for years to come.
Max Scherzer SP/RP (Diamondbacks, Tuscon): Scherzer came up earlier in the season and was very good for Arizona. He has been excellent since being sent down to work as a reliever. He has a chance to be as dominant as any young pitcher in baseball. Expect Scherzer to help the D’Backs at some point in the second half.
Michael Saunders CF (Mariners, Tacoma): Saunders began the year at Double A, but after tearing up the Sally League he was promoted. I like Saunders as much as any player on this list. He is a similar player to Colby Rasmus, and I expect solid numbers across the board. He is one of those players who does many things well but nothing spectacularly. Saunders should play for the Mariners soon and could be a solid regular right now.
Steven Pearce 1B (Pirates, Indianapolis): Pearce may be another Brad Eldred for the Pirates. He is a solid hitter with excellent power, but the Pirates seem unlikely to give him a full-time job anytime soon. He is probably equal to Adam Laroche right now, and he should be given a chance during the second half. Pearce could easily put up Joey Votto type numbers if given the chance to play everyday, but the worst organization in the NL will not give him a chance. Pearce probably needs a trade to get a chance to play everyday.
Colby Rasmus CF (Cardinals, Memphis): After hitting very well in spring training Rasmus struggled at the beginning of the year for Memphis. He has turned it around and his numbers are now respectable. He is easily the Cards best position prospect and could probably produce decent numbers for the Cards right now. However, Tony LaRussa’s tendency to rotate outfielders will allow him to break in slowly, but he could quickly push for more playing time once he comes up.
Brandon Wood 3B/SS (Angels, Salt Lake): Wood has not been as good as the Angels were hoping this year. He has put up very good power numbers at Triple A, and still projects to be a very good offensive producer (shortstop eligibility would be a huge bonus). The Angels have an offensive hole at short (Wood’s natural position), but seem reluctant to play him there. Wood looks like he is going to be at third going forward for the Angels. If the Angels have another injury to Erick Aybar or Chone Figgins then Wood should get a chance to play everyday for a bit this season.
Andrew McCutchen OF (Pirates, Indianapolis): McCutchen has been the Pirates top prospect for what seems like forever. I have never been a big believer in McCutchen’s star potential, but he should be a solid fantasy player. I can even see him a pulling off a year or two of Jason Bay like numbers, but do not expect them every year. McCutchen is at best an above average regular and could easily be a bust. My best guess is that he will be Jeremy Hermida with speed.
Jeff Niemann SP/RP (Rays, Durham): Niemann has struggled in a couple brief stints with the Rays, but he has been very good this year at Triple A. He has a chance to be a solid starter for the Rays. On the other side, he has the potential to be a dominant reliever. The Rays have thought about using him there this season, and I would not be surprised to see that happen with excellent results.
Jeff Larish 1B (Tigers, Toledo): Larish is in a similar state to Steven Pearce. Larish is a solid hitter with big-time power. He is not as ready to hit major league pitching as Pearce, but he is not far away. Fortunately for him he is in a much better organization, and it is likely that he will either get a shot to play next year or be traded.
Nick Adenhart SP (Angels, Salt Lake): Adenhart has as many questions about him as anybody on this list. He has struggled all year, both at Triple A and in a brief ML stint. However, Adenhart still has as much upside as any pitcher at Triple A. If he can get his control problems fixed, and his strikeout rate up he should be fine. He is probably a year away due to his issues this season, but Adenhart should rebound and be an excellent starter for the Angels in the future.
Triple A had an excellent number of prospects this year. However, many of them have already been called up (Chase Headley, Jay Bruce, Evan Longoria, etc.). Expect many of the players on this list to get a chance during the second half. Several of these players should be solid contributors at some point this season. A couple that I expect is Max Scherzer and Jeff Niemann, both should play a role playoff race in the second half.
Lower Level Minor Leagues - Top Five Prospects
It is hard to quantify what a prospect is really going to be when they are only among the lower levels. Basically you just have to look at a players raw tools. That fact makes it difficult to create a top five list. So, unlike the other lists this list will be based on ability and not performance. This list will not include players from this year’s draft.
Josh Vitters 3B (Cubs, Boise (Low A SS)): The best young offensive prospect at Short Season ball, Vitters bounced back from a bad end to last year. He has been very solid to begin this year and has been recently promoted to Low A. Expect Vitters to continue to hit as he moves up, but the Cubs will take it very slow with the 18 year old.
Jon Gilmore 3B (Braves, Danville (Rookie)): Gilmore tore up the Rookie League prior to being promoted to Low A (SS). He is an excellent power prospect who needs to work on his OBP skills. Gilmore is the player who the Braves hope will replace Chipper in about three or four years.
Travis D’Arnaud C (Diamondbacks, Williamsport (SS)): D’Arnaud is another young catcher who could move quickly. He is a well above-average hitter with solid on-base skills. He should develop power as he moves up. D’ Arnaud has torn up Low A (SS), and he should continue to develop into an excellent catching prospect.
Neftali Soto SS (Reds, Billings (Rookie)): Soto gives the Reds another potentially exciting middle infield prospect. He was drafter as a third baseman, but the Reds quickly moved him to short. He will probably not stay at short, but his bat should prove to move him along no matter what. Soto is an extremely polished hitter for his age (19). The Reds will probably move the young Puerto Rican up pretty quickly, and if Soto can maintain his plate discipline he should be able to handle the pressure.
Jon Edwards OF (Cardinals, Batavia (Low A SS)): Edwards struggled last year in the Appalachian League, but he has been one of the best hitters in Low A Short Season this year. He has a chance to develop into a solid corner outfielder for the Cards. He is a solid pure hitter, and the Cards hope he will develop more power going forward.
The Low A Short Season and Rookie Ball levels are very hard to predict. Many of the top talents are from this current years draft, making them even more difficult to predict. These five players have already put up solid numbers at the lower levels, proving that they can hit professional pitching (somewhat). All of these players should finish this season at either Low A or High A. How well they do after their inevitable promotions will determine how quickly they move and their prospect status.