Willie Calhoun Lives Up To Promise
Best Player: At a pre-draft workout in 2015, Willie Calhoun promised president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman "a laser show.” The show continued at Double-A Tulsa this season, where the 2015 fourth-round pick out of Yavapai (Ariz.) JC was one of the Texas League’s most dangerous hitters. Calhoun, 21, led the league in total bases (236) and RBIs (88) and was also among the leaders in home runs (27), slugging (.469), and OPS (.788). The 5-foot-8 second baseman was selected to the Futures Game in July.
"Willie has excellent baseball makeup and believes he belongs in the same breath as many of the game’s best players,” farm director Gabe Kapler said. "This confidence allows his natural bat-to-ball skills to shine on a regular basis. The contact is frequently loud. Willie has improved all aspects of his game and continues to open eyes wherever he plays.”
Best Pitcher: Jose De Leon was inseparable from fellow pitching prospect Julio Urias for much of their first spring in a big league training camp. The two are now side-by-side again, this time in the Dodgers rotation.
De Leon, a 24th-rounder in 2013 out of Southern, started slowly due to an ankle injury and shoulder soreness. Once he found his stride at Triple-A Oklahoma City, the 24-year-old righthander dominated, going 7-1, 2.61 with 111 strikeouts and only 20 walks in 86.1 innings. He earned his first big league callup over Labor Day weekend.
"He’s earned the respect of the organization by demonstrating a special brand of determination,” Kapler said. "He continues to pound the strike zone while taking advantage of his deception and unique fastball characteristics in combination with a dirty changeup.”
Keep An Eye On: Righthander Walker Buehler has been largely out of sight, out of mind in an organization loaded with pitching prospects. The Dodgers’ first-round pick out of Vanderbilt last year had Tommy John surgery just weeks after being selected and spent his first year as a professional rehabbing.
Jose De Leon's Stuff Returns To Prime Form In Reds Spring Training Debut
Once a premier prospect in baseball, Jose De Leon's stuff resembled what we saw from him at his peak prospect form.
The slender 22-year old finally got back on the mound in August and gave early signs that he might make up for that missed time quickly. Buehler struck out three of the six batters he faced in two hitless innings against Rookie-level Arizona League competition and followed with three hitless innings at low Class A Great Lakes to finish out the season.