The Youngest of the Young

Well, here we go. I’m already thinking about 2013. Can’t help it. Sorry. No, wait. I’m not sorry. I’m an unabashed supporter of minor league baseball and I enjoy the process of watching players develop into prospects and then develop into players. Understand, this is a wildly inexact science. Seriously, I’m about to speculate where a pack of TEX prospects will play baseball in 2013 and I’m likely to be proven wrong on at least five of them by the middle of next month. Much of the basis for assignments comes from a player’s maturity level, coupled obviously, with their ability. I’ve met most of the dudes who rolled through AA last year, other than that, I’m trusting my rather relentless appetite for hearsay when it comes to mental makeup and other assorted skills that set some of these guys apart. For instance, Kellin Deglan & Luis Sardinas were somewhat surprising additions to the Arizona Fall League (a league primarily made up of guys who’ll spend ’13 in AA & AAA). They both spent all of ’12 at low-A Hickory. But Sardinas has remarkable talent, and Deglan has sound makeup and (despite a lagging hit tool) is regarded as having come a long way in how he calls a game & backstops in general. These were undoubtedly factors, though far from the only considerations in the decision to send them to the league, regardless, the organization clearly felt they could handle the move.  Anyway, you get the point, the club sends the kids where they think they should be.  Me? I’m just guessing here, educated guessing, but guessing. So, without further ado:

Arizona Rookie League and Spokane Short Season:

These two teams are the most ambiguous in all of this guess fest. Perhaps the coolest byproduct of the new CBA, with regards to player development, was the emphasis it ended up putting on players signing and getting onto the field. The AZ team is filled with international signings and a few of the raw kiddos whom have just been drafted. My clairvoyance has been diminished thanks largely in part to my friends from Shiner, so I’m unable to tell you who TEX will draft in ’13, but I can tell you the AZ team will likely feature a player whose every game will be scrutinized. Jairo Beras has been polarizing for the last couple of years and next year, he’ll be on the field. It won’t really matter if he’s 16,17, 18 or 22. Well, it would matter if he’s 22, that would suck. He’s likely to be joined by a couple of promising Venezuelans, lefty bonus baby Yohander Mendez, and teenage contact-machine Eduard Pinto. By most accounts, Mendez is as raw as you’ve heard. Around 6’5” and 185lbs, he’s not a flamethrower, but can run the FB into the low-90s with a potential plus CB & plus CH. Lots of reports include “smooth delivery” when discussing Mendez. In short, he’s wildly projectable, just needs time and reps. Pinto led the Dominican Summer League in hitting with a .396 avg. He’s a 5’11” 150lb, left handed 17 year old- so there’s that. EP’s an outfielder with little pop, but what appears to be an advanced hit tool, so we’ll see how he develops both physically, and at the plate. We’re also likely to see the stateside debut of big lefty and 1st team All-Name-Team candidate, Nerfy Nunez. Just wanted to type the name “Nerfy Nunez”.  The younger Leclerc brother, Jose, will likely pitch for the rookies in ’13 as well. Need some fun dark horses for the Rookies? Okey dokey. Howsabout 6’6”, 220lb, 18yr-old, LHP Zach Brill. He had TJ surgery in high school so his draft stock slipped, but he’s huge, has a ton of projection, and has those three letters “LHP” attached to his name. He pitched in instructionals and he’ll be ready to rock in ’13.  Brill is an interesting kid who turned down a classical music scholarship from the University of Washington to sign with TEX. Don’t believe me? Here ya go:  I’m also keeping an eye on 19yr-old righty, Kyle Castro. He’s a project at 6’4” 190lbs, but he’s crazy athletic as evidenced by the fact that he led the entire state of California in interceptions as a safety his senior year in high school. Coming off injuries and still learning how to pitch, he’s apparently an ambitious kid who just launched his own clothing line. Seriously.  Dark horses and crapshoots—Arizona Rookie Ball.

With regards to Spokane, they may end up with the short end of the stick in ’13. Unfortunately, for what seems to be a very well run club with tremendous local support and completely badass uniforms, it remains a distinct possibility most of the prodigious “Baby Rangers” will skip this stop in their development. Short-season ball is a fantastic mechanism for players who need a little more instructional time in extended Spring Training before being sent out to play in competitive games on a daily basis. For many of these kids short-season ball is their first exposure to travel and daily games in front of paying spectators and non-paying scouts, but sometimes it just comes down to who needs to stay in “extended” and who can handle/needs to be challenged by the daily rigors of a 140 game minor league schedule. Having said that, I expect some members of the ’12 AZ Rookie league champs to be key members of the Indians team in ’13. Infielders Janluis Castro and Alberto Triunfel are good candidates as are lefty pitchers Aliangel Lopez and Ryne Slack. Smerling Lantigua played for Spokane in 2012. He is younger than Gobbles Gallo, but he struggled at the plate and lost his 3B position when Gobbles was promoted. Lantigua played a fair amount of 1B later in the season, so it’s feasible that he stays in extended spring training to continue working on the bat and possibly, a new position. 21yr old Angelo Leclerc is a potential Indian, as is fireballing righty Keone Kela, who’ll be 20 when the SPO season begins. 2012 1st Rounder, Collin Wiles could find himself in the Great Northwest in 2013 too. (but maybe Hick bound-shhh)  I suppose David Perez is likely to end up in Spokane again following his Tommy John surgery and a rehabbing Matt West might join him. Both of those fellas would be well past short-season ball, had they not been derailed by wonky elbows. Predicting the SPO roster is inherently difficult. What if Beras shows the freaky-deaky skills we all think he has, would he skip rookie ball and play for SPO? Possibly. The ’12 team was comprised of a bunch of ’12 draftees with college experience and it is likely that the ’13 team will have a similar feel. Regardless of who is on the field, things we know for sure are they will play in a beautiful stadium with great fans and they will look really, really fantastic. And that’s important.