Baseball America

Thursday Prospect Notebook

Nick Castellanos

Nick Castellanos (Photo by Cliff Welch)

Marcell Ozuna, rf, Marlins: Watching the Marlins’ offense has been an unpleasant experience this year, but there’s at least hope that what happened in Double-A Jacksonville yesterday will be coming to Miami soon. With Jacksonville trailing Chattanooga 9-5 entering the bottom of the ninth, Ozuna hit his second home run of the game—this time a three-run, walk-off blast to cap a 3-for-5 day. Center fielder Christian Yelich also chipped in for Jacksonville, going 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles and a walk. Injuries delayed their seasons getting started, with Ozuna suffering a broken left wrist, Yelich having plantar fasciitis and Jake Marisnick still on the disabled list with a broken hand. Yesterday was a glimpse of what the Marlins can dream on happening in Miami perhaps as soon as 2014—Yelich using his smooth swing to get on base out of the leadoff spot, with Ozuna using his 70 raw power to drive him home.

Nick Castellanos, lf, Tigers: We always knew there was a good chance Castellanos might end up in the outfield—both because of his own defense at third base and the presence of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in Detroit—but the full-time move off the dirt last July placed higher demands on his bat. Even though Castellanos struggled in three months at Double-A last year, the Tigers bumped him up to Triple-A Toledo this year, where he’s been decent enough with a .256/.315/.427 line in 21 games. The last two games have helped, including yesterday when he homered for the second straight day and reached base in all five plate appearances, going 3-for-3 with two walks.

Chad Bettis, rhp, Rockies: Bettis showed durability and a knack for missing bats in the high Class A California League in 2011, but he didn’t pitch in a game the entire 2012 season after straining a muscle behind his shoulder during spring training. So the Rockies have to be excited about what Bettis has done since his return, including an outstanding start yesterday for Double-A Tulsa in which he struck out 11 over 6 2/3 innings with one walk, four hits and one run allowed, dropping his ERA to 2.91 with a 26-2 K-BB mark over 21 2/3 innings. With his low-to-mid 90s fastball, a plus slider and an average changeup, Bettis has the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter if he can stay healthy.

Renato Nunez, 3b, Athletics: It took Nunez a year to get himself settled in pro ball, but his offensive game has been impressive since getting to the U.S. last year. With a hit in eight straight games, Nunez, 19, is bating .319/.373/.596 in 51 plate appearances, which is a pretty small sample but nonetheless an encouraging sign that his bat will play beyond the rookie leagues, even if he still has a long way to go defensively.

Alex Yarbrough, 2b, Angels: When the Angels drafted Yarbrough out of Mississippi last year with their fourth-round pick (their second selection in the draft), it marked a notable change in the franchise’s philosophy. In an organization full of hackers, Yarbrough stands out for his strike-zone discipline. The 21-year-old is off to a fast start (.303/.349/.487 in 19 games) for high Class A Inland Empire, but the real test for him probably won’t come until he gets to Double-A or higher, where scouts wonder whether his modest bat speed will hold up.

Danry Vasquez, lf, Tigers: When Detroit signed Vasquez for $1.2 million in 2010, they felt Vasquez had an advanced feel for hitting, while scouts from other organizations were skeptical about whether he’d hit for enough power as a corner outfielder. So far, everyone’s been right. After going 4-for-5 with a triple and two steals yesterday, Vasquez is hitting .302/.333/.365 through 16 games for low Class A West Michigan. At 19, Vasquez still has a skinny frame and has hitting aptitude, but the strength and power just aren’t there quite yet.

Josh Bell, rf, Pirates: The Pirates have stocked their low Class A West Virginia affiliate with talent for a second straight year. After Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson broke out in the South Atlantic League last year, this year the team has the comeback/conversion story of Stetson Allie, righthander Tyler Glasnow, second baseman Dilson Herrera and catcher Wyatt Mathisen on the roster. There’s also Bell, who was on the team last year too until he tore a meniscus in his left knee that limited him to 15 games. He’s back and showing plenty of power, with a .284/.326/.519 line in 18 games with three homers, including one yesterday in a 1-for-5 day. The concern with Bell, 20, is that he’s swinging and missing at a higher clip than you’d like to see, with 43 whiffs in 33 games in his career, including 22 in 18 games this year.

Maikel Franco, 3b, Phillies: Franco was pretty rough when the Phillies signed him out of the Dominican Republic three years ago, but he’s transformed himself into one of the organization’s most promising position prospects. Franco is hitting .282/.337/.459 in 20 games for high Class A Clearwater, with nine doubles that are tied for the Florida State League lead. Franco does some unorthodox things with his swing, but it’s worked for him so far, and the early success in the FSL as a 20-year-old is another encouraging sign.

Mason Williams, of, Yankees: Williams had an uneventful 1-for-4 performance for high Class A Tampa, then made news afterward when he was arrested by Tampa police, who suspected him of driving under the influence. The official police report and mug shot are here, and Williams was arrested on a misdemeanor DUI charge. According to published reports, his blood alcohol level was below the 0.08 legal limit in Florida, but Williams still will have his day in court. It’s certainly not a good start to the season for the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect, who has a .271/.400/.371 line with Tampa.