Every team has a prospect whose performance has not met expectations. Here’s a look at one significant prospect from each organization who has struggled in the first month and a half of the season.
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS: As if watching Justin Upton go on a tear wasn’t bad enough, most of the players the Diamondbacks received in the offseason deal with the Braves weren’t doing much to make their fans feel any better. Shortstop Nick Ahmed was the worst offender, batting just .145 through 43 games for Double-A Mobile. He wasn’t a huge power threat to begin with, but his ability to impact balls took a nosedive with Mobile, where he had only one extra-base hit through mid-May.
ATLANTA BRAVES: One expects bumps in the road for 19-year-olds making their full-season debuts, but hard-throwing righthander Mauricio Cabrera’s 30-to-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 42 innings for low Class A Rome says it all.
BALTIMORE ORIOLES: As the organization waits to see how righthander Dylan Bundy responds to a platelet-rich plasma injection to his elbow, the system’s top shortstop prospect, 2012 third-rounder Adrian Marin, was hitting an empty .254 with six extra-base hits and 36 strikeouts through 37 games at low Class A Delmarva.
BOSTON RED SOX: Cuban shortstop Jose Iglesias went 9-for-20 as an injury fill-in for Stephen Drew in April, but upon a demotion to Triple-A Pawtucket he’s reverted to old ways, batting .205/.262/.330 through 31 games. His career OPS for Pawtucket stands at .589 in more than 900 plate appearances.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX: Second baseman/shortstop Carlos Sanchez’s glove is one of his biggest assets, but he’s also considered a potential top-of-the-order hitter because of his bat. That hasn’t been apparent this year as Sanchez is hiting .226/.298/.267 in 146 at-bats at Triple-A Charlotte. The glove is still impressive.
CLEVELAND INDIANS: His struggles can be explained in part by his youth, but shortstop Dorssys Paulino’s lack of power is surprising. Playing at low Class A Lake County, he has just three extra-base hits in 131 at-bats as part of a .206/.273/.229 line. That’s disappointing for a shortstop whose defense is less advanced than his bat.
COLORADO ROCKIES: Shortstop Trevor Story showed impressive aptitude and tools for his age in holding his own as a teenager in low Class A last year, but he was struggling to keep his head above water with high Class A Modesto. Story was hitting a paltry .187/.261/.273 through 150 at-bats for the Nuts, and while the Rockies had been hopeful his contact rate would improve, his 54 strikeouts were third-most in the California League.
DETROIT TIGERS: The organization’s patience with lefthander Casey Crosby has to be growing thin. After struggling in 2012, Crosby has been even worse in 2013. Control continutes to be a problem, as Crosby is walking nearly seven batters per nine innings, which explains his 1-5, 5.30 record at Triple-A Toledo.
HOUSTON ASTROS: While teammate Carlos Correa had pulled out of an early season slump with a hot May, third baseman Rio Ruiz remained mired with an average near the Mendoza Line. Another member of the Astros’ big 2012 draft haul, Ruiz was showing laudable patience, drawing 18 walks in 29 games at low Class A Quad Cities, but he was struggling to unleash his above-average power, hitting .206/.328/.367 after 102 at-bats.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS: A number of Royals prospects got off to rough starts, but none has found 2013 as difficult as righthander Jason Adam. He failed to make it to the fifth ining in any of his first four starts, compiling a 15.85 ERA. He’s cut that to 8.22 with four solid starts, but he has a long way to go to show he’s more than a backend starter.
MINNESOTA TWINS: It wasn’t long ago that center fielder Joe Benson appeared nearly ready for a big league job. Instead, he’s stuck at Triple-A Rochester, seemingly closer to a demotion than a promotion. Benson was hitting .182/.250/.273 without the explosiveness that once intrigued scouts.
CHICAGO CUBS: He’s still hitting for power (six home runs and 19 extra-base hits in 160 at-bats) but shortstop Javier Baez’s swing-and-swing-some-more tendencies are growing troubling. He has 46 strikeouts and just seven walks, which explains his .293 on-base percentage for high Class A Daytona.
CINCINNATI REDS: Righthander Daniel Corcino was thought to be ready to serve as a fill-in if the Reds needed a callup from Triple-A Louisville. Instead he’s lost his feel for the strike zone. That’s lead to more deep counts, more fastballs to hitters sitting on the fastball, more solid contact and a 2-6, 7.20 stat line.
MIAMI MARLINS: Fellow Double-A Jacksonville outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich have earned accolades (and, in Ozuna’s case, a big league callup), center fielder Jake Marisnick has struggled to recover his stroke after fracturing his left hand this spring. The 22-year-old has hit .235/.290/.352 in 72 games at Double-A this year and last.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS: The Angels bumped top prospect Kaleb Cowart to Double-A Arkansas despite his hitting just .259 in high Class A in the second half of last year, and the early returns were not positive. Cowart got away from the improved plate discipline he showed last year, drawing just 12 walks and striking out 40 times in his first 42 Double-A games, and he was hitting .201/.262/.321 with three homers in 159 at-bats through mid-May.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS: Lefty Chris Reed went back for a second stint with Double-A Chattanooga looking to refine his command but was expected to be no more than some fine-tuning away from a shot at the majors. Instead, the 2011 first-round pick put up a 5.48 ERA through his first nine outings, allowing a .290 opponent average. Most troubling was the sharp decline in his strikeout rate, which plummeted from his career mark of 8.8 per nine innings coming into the year to a meager 5.7 in 2013, with just 29 whiffs to go with 21 walks after 46 innings.
MILWAUKEE BREWERS: Righthander Taylor Jungman got to move up to Double-A Huntsville while fellow 2011 first-round pick Jed Bradley went back to high Class A. Jungmann isn’t a strikeout pitcher, but he was expected to do better than the 20 strikeouts, 20 walks in 41 innings he’s compiled this year.
NEW YORK METS: Shifted to the bullpen full-time this season, 23-year-old righthander Jeurys Familia has struggled to find his footing in the big leagues, striking out seven in 10 innings but also allowing 17 baserunners and two home runs.
NEW YORK YANKEES: Righthander Brett Marshall received an emergency callup to New York despite going just 2-2, 4.60 with a 29-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In his big league debut he allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings of long relief.
OAKLAND ATHLETICS: Two of Oakland’s best hitting prospects were off to miserable starts. Top prospect Addison Russell’s .209/.321/.432 line at high Class A Stockton was eye-opening if somewhat understandable given the 19-year-old’s aggressive assignment. A bigger surprise was third baseman Miles Head’s struggles at Double-A Midland. One of the best natural hitters in the system, he was limping along at .197/.272/.265 with two homers through 36 games.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: Throwing strikes has never come easy for righthander Ethan Martin, the prize of last July’s Shane Victorino deal with the Dodgers. He has virtually matched his career rate for walks—5.4 per nine innings—this season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley as he’s logged a 5.23 ERA and 1.50 WHIP through eight starts.
PITTSBURGH PIRATES: Righthander Clay Holmes earned his spot in the South Atlantic League by dominating the short-season New York-Penn League last year. That dominance has disappeared after the jump to low Class A West Virginia. Holmes has walked 28 batters in 36 innings this year, and it looks like he is in for a long stay with the Power.
SAN DIEGO PADRES: Austin Hedges, one of the top catching prospects in the low minors, is more renowned for his advanced defense at age 20 than for his offense, but there should be a lot more in there than the .229/.333/.343 line he was putting up at high Class A Lake Elsinore. Making matters worse, Hedges was knocked out of action with a bruised hand in early May.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: The Giants sent outfielder Gary Brown to Triple-A Fresno knowing he still needed some refinement before he’d be ready for the majors, but he might need more than some refining after starting the year with a .202/.272/.315 line after 178 at-bats. The 24-year-old utilizes some unorthodox swing mechanics and was struggling to make contact, as his strikeout rate climbed from 14.3 percent of his plate appearances in Double-A last year to 23.4 percent this year.
SEATTLE MARINERS: Top prospect Mike Zunino blasted his way out of the gates with Triple-A Tacoma, homering four times in his first six games, but then the reality set in that going to Triple-A for one’s first full season isn’t an easy assignment, no matter how advanced you are. Since his opening barrage, Zunino was hitting just .178/.259/.356 with three homers between April 12 and May 21. He could still see the majors at some point this season, but it’s looking more likely that may not come until September.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: Patrick Wisdom should be ready for low Class A after a solid college career at St. Mary’s. The third baseman has found the Midwest League to be tougher than expected, and he’s hitting .201/.280/.410. It’s not an awful start, but in a deep Cardinals system, that counts as disappointing.
TAMPA BAY RAYS: The natural laws of the universe don’t always apply to young power lefties like Double-A Montgomery’s Enny Romero. Still, his walk rate of 5.4 per nine innings this season has led him into too many hitter’s counts, and batters have taken advantage, collecting 36 hits (including six homers) in 43 innings.
TEXAS RANGERS: While Mike Olt (vision problems) and Cody Buckel (poor control) went through some well-documented issues, they weren’t the only Rangers prospects struggling to produce. Down in low Class A Hickory, two of Texas’ heralded young bats were following the same pattern. Center fielder Lewis Brinson (10 homers) and third baseman Joey Gallo (12) were each putting up strong power numbers but struggling to make contact. Brinson was batting .226 while leading the minors in strikeouts with 77, while Gallo ranked seventh in whiffs (62) to go with a .221 average.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS: Lefty Daniel Norris misses plenty of bats (8.3 SO/9), but with 19 walks in 30 innings for low Class A Lansing, he also misses the strike zone too often, which has led to an 0-3, 7.71 performance through nine appearances. Since signing for $2 million out of the 2011 draft, Norris sports an 8.14 ERA over 73 innings.
WASHINGTON NATIONALS: Four pitchers from the organization’s preseason Top 10 Prospects list began the season on the disabled list, including 2012 first-round righty Lucas Giolito (Tommy John surgery in August), 2011 third-round lefty Matt Purke (shoulder surgery in October) and 2010 second-round lefty Sammy Solis (TJ surgery in March 2012).