Even if you're a pretty serious baseball fan, it's hard to keep up with how all the top prospects are doing in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. To try to help round things up, here's the first in a series of six round-ups of which prospects are impressing and which have fallen flat in big league camps.
Prospect Star Of Camp: If you haven't noticed Jason Heyward's spring, you're probably not a Baseball America reader. The No. 1 prospect in baseball has hit a 425-foot-plus home run and forced the Braves to build nets to protect a parking lot from batting practice bombs. But it is his knowledge of the strike zone that may be the most impressive aspect of his spring. He's shown he can't be baited into chasing pitches off the plate, whether he's up 2-0 or down 0-2 in the count. While there are plenty of economic reasons to leave Heyward in Triple-A at the start of the season, he's made it nearly impossible for Atlanta to not bring him north when camp breaks.
Keep An Eye On: Craig Kimbrel has always thrown very hard, but control has always been his big problem. In very limited action in Braves camp, Kimbrel has shown improved control to go with his filthy stuff. It's way to soon to say he's fixed his command issues, but the Braves have been impressed with his stuff.
A Rough Spring: The Braves didn't bring a whole lot of prospects to big league camp, and it's hard to find any of them who fell flat. Reliever Jose Ortegano had a brutal outing he'd like to forget (6 hits, 5 runs in 1 IP), but he was ticketed the minors before camp began.
NEW YORK METS
Prospect Star Of Camp: There have been a lot of players to choose from. First baseman Ike Davis has shown his power with two home runs in his first 10 games; even more impressive has been his 11-for-22 start. Shortstop Ruben Tejeda is a serious candidate to be the Mets' Opening Day shortstop because of Jose Reyes' thyroid condition. But the most impressive Mets prospect has probably been righthander Jenrry Mejia. Mejia struck out eight, walked no one and allowed five hits in his first 7.1 innings of work, compiling a 1.13 ERA. He's shown the same 94-95 mph fastball that broke bats through the Florida State League in 2009, and the cutting action that has baffled hitters in the minors is causing similar problems for big league hitters. Manager Jerry Manuel is open to Mejia breaking camp in the Mets bullpen, and even if he does go back to Double-A, BA correspondent Adam Rubin reports that the Mets may keep him in the pen in preparation for his likely impending call-up.
Keep An Eye On: The Mets appear to be sticking to their plan of sending Davis to Triple-A Buffalo for more seasoning, even though he's made their decision difficult with an excellent spring. Daniel Murphy is still the team's projected starter, but Davis has shown that he shouldn't sign a long-term lease in Buffalo. Tejeda's excellent glove is why he is considered the likely replacement for Reyes, but he's also hit (.357/.393/.419).
A Rough Spring: The gruesome torn hamstring injury that ended Jon Niese's 2009 season is now behind him, but the lefthander has struggled to regain his pre-injury form during the first two weeks of spring training. Niese was 0-0, 7.04 after 7.1 innings. Niese still has a good shot at being the fifth starter because his competition, Fernando Nieve, hasn't been any more impressive. The Mets have also hinted that Fernando Martinez will likely start the season in the minors despite a lack of impact bats among the healthy big league outfielders.
Prospect Star Of Camp: The NL East is the home of right field prospects this spring. Between the Braves' Heyward, the Phillies Domonic Brown and the Marlins' Mike Stanton, three of the top outfield prospects in Florida call the NL West their home. Stanton's first two weeks of spring were good enough that Marlins' manager Fredi Gonzalez didn't rule out putting Stanton on the Opening Day roster, although it's more likely he'll return to Double-A. Stanton has shown the power he's known for, but his first home run of the spring may have been the most impressive. He went the other way to line a slider over the right-field wall in the 10th inning of a Marlins' win, showing some of the improved bat control and discipline the Marlins are looking to see.
Keep An Eye On: Third baseman Jorge Jimenez's spring stats aren't spectacular (.214/.353/.357) but the Rule 5 pick has impressed the Marlins' coaching staff with a solid swing and better than expected defense. He has a good chance to make the team as a lefty pinch-hitter, and there's even an outside chance he could be the starting third baseman with Jorge Cantu sliding over to first base. If the Marlins' acquire Mike Lowell, however, Jimenez's chances of making the team diminish.
A Rough Spring: Logan Morrison came to camp with a solid shot of winning the Opening Day first base job. A 2-for-23 start to spring training will do nothing to convince the club he's ready for the majors. Morrison's case hasn't been helped by Gaby Sanchez's hot start. Sanchez, Morrison's competition at first, was hitting .421/.478/.474 in his first 19 at-bats.
• He's technically no longer a prospect, but Sean West still isn't an established big leaguer, something that was reinforced when he was dropped from the fifth starter competition this week. West's official stats don't look that bad–0-1, 4.50, but he also allowed seven walks in 13 batters in a "B" game against the Orioles. It was also disclosed that 2005 first-round pick Ryan Tucker has been diagnosed with Raynaud's disease. The circulatory condition leads to numbness in the hands when a person is cold or under stress. While Tucker is trying to pitch around the problem there is no known cure.
Prospect Star Of Camp: Domonic Brown
hasn't shown the power didn't show the power that the other NL East right field prospects (Mike Stanton and Jason Heyward) have shown until a two home run game on Thursday. Brown had seven hits in his first 15 at-bats–a subsequent 0-for-6 streak has lowered his averages to .333/.375/.429. He's also picked up three outfield assists, shown good speed for a big man and demonstrated a work-ethic that has impressed his veteran teammates.
Keep An Eye On: With a veteran team and very few open roster spots, there aren't a whole lot of prospects left in Phillies' camp after a cutdown sent 14 players (including Yohan Flande, Joe Savery, Freddy Galvis, Quintin Berry and Tyson Gillies) to the minors.
A Rough Spring: Phillippe Aumont made only two appearances in big league camp. In his debut he allowed five runs in two thirds of an inning against Florida State. He rebounded by throwing 2 2/3 scoreless innings against Tampa Bay before his demotion. The Phillies have made a significant tweak to his delivery this spring, although it's really more of a return to his old form. The Mariners had raised Aumont's arm slot when they moved him to the bullpen. Now the Phillies are trying to help Aumont return to the natural three-quarters arm slot he used in high school.
Prospect Star Of Camp: Ian Desmond's career has more twists and turns than an episode of Lost. Seemingly over his head as a 21-year-old who was demoted from Double-A, Desmond finally turned his impressive tools into solid production in 2009. That has carried over to spring training where he is making a pretty convincing case that he could be ready to start at shortstop ahead of Cristian Guzman. Desmond has hit .385/.448/.692 in his first 26 at-bats to lead the team in RBIs (11) and doubles (3). While there's always a worry in hurrying a prospect that doesn't really apply to the 24-year-old Desmond. He has 2,371 minor league at-bats, more than Jason Heyward and Mike Stanton have combined.
Keep An Eye On: Drew Storen is the Nationals' future closer, the only question is when the future begins. With Matt Capps struggling in spring training (0-1, 10.80), Storen's strong start (he finally allowed his first runs of the spring in his fourth outing) is being noticed by Nationals officials. He's not yet a lock to make the team, but it's hard to see how he won't log significant innings in Washington this season.
• It's not possible to write a spring training roundup of the Nationals and not mention Stephen Strasburg. He's still set to head to the minors for some polishing and so the Nationals can avoid free agency for one extra year down the road, but Strasburg has been everything the team expected when the drafted him. He's already the team's biggest name and already looks like the best pitcher in Nationals camp.
A Rough Spring: Outfielder Justin Maxwell is getting plenty of playing time, but his .130 average (3-for-23 with 10 strikeouts) and his misplay of an out into a triple isn't helping his case to be the team's No. 4 outfielder. Maxwell has plenty of company in his struggles–the Nationals didn't win their first spring training game until March 16.
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