Rafael DePaula, rhp, Yankees: Four years ago, Major League Baseball suspended DePaula for one year when it took issue with his paperwork. It’s not clear how MLB was able to suspend DePaula, given that he never signed a contract with a major league team and, unlike players such as Jairo Beras or Obispo Aybar, DePaula never went through any registration process (MLB now uses the term “ineligible to sign” instead of suspended for players who have yet to sign contracts). DePaula eventually came forward with a new age--this one only one year older than he had previously claimed--signed with the Yankees for $500,000 and stayed in the Dominican Summer League for his first season, where he overmatched a bunch of teenagers whose career highlight will probably be that they once faced Rafael DePaula.
DePaula’s first exposure to pro ball in the United States has been an overwhelming success. He’s averaging 15.7 strikeouts per nine innings with 58 strikeouts (most in the minors) over 33 1/3 innings and a 2.70 ERA. Given DePaula’s lack of experience, it’s understandable that the Yankees sent him to low Class A Charleston, but at this point, he just doesn’t belong there any more.
Michael Ynoa, rhp, Athletics: Ynoa was one of the best 16-year-old pitching prospects international scouts had ever seen when the Athletics paid him a then-record $4.25 million bonus to sign back in 2008. Over his first four seasons, Ynoa couldn’t stay healthy, and when he was on the mound, his lack of stuff and command led to some ugly performances. In a surprising move, the A’s placed Ynoa on the 40-man roster after the 2012 season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, but the 21-year-old is now taking baby steps in the right direction. He’s reaching the mid-90s with his fastball and coming off the best outing of his career on Saturday, when he allowed one run over four innings with seven strikeouts and one walk for low Class A Beloit, putting his ERA at 1.23 in 22 innings (spread over seven closely-monitored starts) with 23 strikeouts and seven walks.
As J.J. Cooper and I talked about on the Prospect Handbook podcast, the A’s decision to put him on the 40-man roster when he was unlikely to be claimed means the A’s could be faced with a tough decision with Ynoa if and when he exhausts his fourth minor league option in 2016, but given how little he showed the last few years, they’re just glad he might enter into the decision-making process for the big league team at all.
Tyler Glasnow, rhp, Pirates: Glasnow was the top-ranked pitcher in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League a year ago, yet he still seems to fly under the radar, perhaps due to the presence of Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole in a strong farm system. With another strong outing yesterday (5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 9 SO) for low Class A West Virginia, Glasnow’s ERA sits at 1.80 and he’s averaging 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings thanks to a plus fastball and a plus curveball. At 6-foot-7, Glasnow is still learning to coordinate those long levers into a more repeatable delivery and throw more strikes, but the stuff is there for him to be at least a mid-rotation starter.
Adam Brett Walker, rf, Twins: For all the Twins prospects off to great starts in 2012, Walker’s is particularly promising. It’s not that he’s a better prospect than Miguel Sano or Bryon Buxton, of course, but Walker’s ability to trim his strikeout rate has allowed his power to play in games with greater frequency and made him a more appealing prospect than he was coming into the year. In a crazy 23-16 victory yesterday, Walker hit two more home runs and doubled twice for low Class A Cedar Rapids, where he’s hitting .321/.369/.664 in 33 games with a Midwest League-leading nine home runs.
Domingo Santana, rf, Astros: Like Walker, Santana is another long-limbed righthanded hitter with huge power and a proclivity to swing and miss. Yet while Walker is a 21-year-old in low Class A, Santana is a 20-year-old already in Double-A. Santana went nuts on Friday, hitting three home runs in one game, and he’s now hitting .247/.358/.559 with seven homers in 26 games. Santana has a long swing with a lot of holes, but he can hit towering flies if pitchers put one into his kill zone.
Billy Hamilton, cf, Reds: We haven’t mentioned Hamilton’s name much this year, but there just hasn’t been much to write about. After setting the single-season professional baseball record with 155 stolen bases last year, Hamilton ranks seventh in the minors with 19 steals. He’s been more efficient than last year with only three caught stealing, but he’s had fewer opportunities to run because he’s had trouble getting on base in the first place. Hamilton is hitting . 222/.281/.333 in 33 games with Triple-A Louisville, but he’s coming off a strong series that included a two home runs in Friday’s game. Hamilton hit just two home runs the entire 2012 season and it’s never going to be a big part of his game, so he needs to show he can get on base at a higher clip to put his game-changing speed to work.
Taylor Guerrieri, rhp, Rays: Guerrieri has a chance to have three plus pitches, but it all starts with his fastball. He sits in the low- to mid-90s, generates sharp sink and spots the pitch extremely well for a 20-year-old. Yesterday Guerrieri struck out 10 over five shutout innings while allowing only one hit and two walks for low Class A Bowling Green. With a 2.00 ERA and a 25-6 K-BB mark in 27 innings, Guerrieri has the combination of stuff and polish to move quickly, although he’ll likely follow a more deliberate path that the Rays have used for their young arms with great success.