George Springer

The Houston Astros called up their highly-touted prospect, George Springer, last Wednesday.  Last year I comped him to Will Venable.  This still seems right.  He’s going to swing and miss but he’s also going to offer power and speed and play a good centerfield.  And, although he struck out 161 times last season, he also walked 83 times.

Springer’s probably a better centerfielder than Venable given Venable never displayed the speed Springer displayed in the minors.  Springer stole 45 bases last season in the minors.

Venable really put it all together in 2012-2013, hitting for more power than he had in the past while remaining a threat to do some things on the basepaths.  Springer could develop into a rich man’s Will Venable, if you will.  Springer’s speed will not only help him in the outfield but could help him maintain a high BABIP.  If he can combine that with his power, he’ll provide tremendous value offensively, even with the high-strikeout propensity.

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Players to Know for 2014

SS Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners

He is a fairly tall, athletic shortstop.  He’s good all-around on offense but his glove is the question mark.  He could be a Jed Lowrie type player, although Miller is bigger.  A move to secondbase isn’t out of the question, at some point, and he probably has the bat to provide value there.  He’s big and athletic enough to play pretty much anywhere.

1B Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

Abreu looks like former journeyman firstbaseman Eduardo Perez, but obviously projects to be a much better player.  Abreu is the typical, big right-handed hitting firstbaseman.  This will be Abreu’s age 27 season so expect him to be one of the most productive firstbasemen in the game.

OF Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels

Calhoun is Trot Nixon reincarnate.  Calhoun is slightly shorter and a bit heftier, but like Nixon, he isn’t some flashy, athletic type.  He just looks like a ballplayer.  Calhoun doesn’t quite have Nixon’s skills but he’s a solid corner-guy that will provide value as a second-division guy or a role player on a good team.

OF Abraham Almonte, Seattle Mariners

Almonte is built a lot like Kirby Puckett.  With his body type, you have to do a double-take when you see him in centerfield and displaying his impressive speed.  Almonte is a switch-hitter.  There’s no denying his solid tools and high-energy play but there is a lot of swing and miss.  The fact that he plays a good centerfield helps but I think his bat will keep him from being anything more than an adequate major league centerfielder.

2B/SS Dean Anna, New York Yankees

Anna looks like the type of utility infielder who isn’t great at anything but is very good at a lot of things.  He looks like a decent hitter with decent power that can play the middle infield.  And he bats left-handed, so he’ll have a platoon advantage most of the time.  He’s sort of a Kelly Johnson with better defensive ability and not quite as much pop.

C Josmil Pinto, Minnesota Twins

Pinto is built and moves a lot like Mike Napoli.  Napoli had more power as a minor leaguer but Pinto has been better in the hit department.  Pinto has a good arm but receiving has been a question mark.  Still, it looks like he’ll be good enough behind the plate to stick.

SP, Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals

Ventura has that Pedro spin on his front (left) leg when he finishes his delivery but he comes over the top with the ball, almost like Tim Hudson.  Ventura has a big-time fastball, clocked at over 100 mph.  He also features a plus curve and a solid changeup.

SP Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners

Walker looks more like he should be playing outfield or perhaps wide receiver in the NFL.  He has a very athletic 6’4″, 230 lb. frame.  The size and athleticism reminds me of Chris Carpenter.  He has a curve, cutter and changeup to go along with a plus fastball.

SP Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays

Stroman is another guy who has a little Tim Hudson and Pedro Martinez in his actions.  He’s just 5’9″ and 185 lbs but he efficiently explodes to the plate. He’s a fastball-slider guy who will also throws a good changeup.

SP Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles

Gausman is the closest thing to Matt Harvey going right now.  He’s not quite as big as Harvey but he’s a couple of years younger and could easily add a little more muscle.  His fastball and changeup are his best pitches but his slider also impresses.

SP Erik Johnson, Chicago White Sox

Johnson is built like Joe Blanton.  He’s 6’3″ with a beefy frame but he’s not fat.  He has the kind of repertoire you want out of a right-handed starter: A fastball in the low-to-mid 90′s, a plus slider, a decent curve and a change-up that isn’t too shabby.

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Arizona Fall League Top Prospects

Byron Buxton, 19, CF, Minnesota Twins

I see a right-handed Carl Crawford in Buxton.  Crawford played most of his minor league games in centerfield but also got a lot of time at other outfield positions.  Buxton has played a vast majority of his games in center so far.  He’s also showed more power than Crawford.  By now you’ve probably heard of Buxton.  The fact that he looks like a more powerful, more centerfield-capable Carl Crawford confirms what kind of player he could become.  Obviously this should excite Twins’ fans.

Albert Almora, 19, OF, Chicago Cubs

Almora is only 19 and hasn’t played above A-ball, but he’s dominated.  He has a lean, athletic frame at 6’2″, 180 lbs.  He looks a lot like a right-handed Curtis Granderson.  While his slash line is impressive, he hasn’t hit a lot of homeruns or stolen a lot of bases so far in his young career.  But his tools and athleticism are obvious at his young age.

Jorge Soler, 21, OF, Chicago Cubs

Soler reminds me of Vladimir Guerrero with how quiet he is before he starts his swing.  It’s almost as if he doesn’t load, he just sets up ready to attack the pitch.  He’s big (6’4″, 215 lbs.) but athletic enough to play a good rightfield.

Alex Meyer, 23, RHP, Minnesota Twins

Meyer’s leg kick and quickness to the plate makes him an obvious Max Scherzer comp.  He kind of folds his leg so his foot is directly underneath his butt in his leg kick and then he explodes quickly to the plate.  Meyer however is 6’9″ to Scherzer’s 6’3″.  He relies on a mid-to-high 90′s fastball and a plus slider.  He’ll mix in a change-up rarely.

Addison Russell, 19, SS, Oakland Athletics

Russell’s lower half reminds me of Mike Aviles, the way he leans back on his back (right) leg and straightens out his front (left leg) to load up.  Defensively Russell has a tremendously quick first, crossover step, which would seem to give him excellent range.  For a defensive comp, I’ll go with Alcides Escobar.  They are around the same size and Russell’s range might match Escobar’s.

Austin Hedges, 21, C, San Diego Padres

Hedges looks like a catcher, his name sounds like a catcher’s and he’s built like a catcher.  His offense definitely hasn’t stood out in the low minors but he’s still very young and, if he reaches the majors, he’s going to make his living with the glove.  He has a quick feet and a quick release.  I see a lot of Brad Ausmus in Hedges.

Kris Bryant, 21, 3B, Chicago Cubs

Bryant’s size (a slender 6’5″, 215 lbs.) and ability to hit for power to rightfield, as a right-handed hitter, reminds me of Dale Murphy.  It seems as though he tries to shoot the ball to center or rightfield, and he has enough power to make it work.  This allows him to wait a little longer on the pitch before committing, and could make him a better hitter than his present hit tool would seem to indicate.  But there is no question about his power.

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Boston Red Sox Young, Left-Side Infielders

Let’s take a look at the two players playing for the American League champion Red Sox who are likely to be given first crack at left-side-of-the-infield duties next season.  

3B/SS Xander Bogaerts, 21, Boston Red Sox

When I look at video of Bogaerts hitting, I see a little bit of Hanley Ramirez, a little bit of Vladimir Guerrero and a little bit of Albert Pujols.  He has a noticeable leg kick and a high, one-handed follow-through like Hanley.  His swing path reminds me of Pujols, the way he waits back and really gets behind the ball and transfers everything he’s got through the pitch.  Bogaerts is long and lean, and plate coverage seems relatively easy for him, like Guerrero.  As are as production goes, I would project something like Ian Desmonds last couple of seasons, which would be outstanding for a left-side player, something like .285/.350/.480.

On defense Bogaerts’ looks more like a thirdbaseman than a shortstop, though he can handle shortstop at this stage of his career.  Although he’s 6’3″ and 185 lbs., he’s not a long, lean, rangy fielder.  His legs are like tree trunks.  But he still has the athleticism to play good shortstop defense.  If he settles in at thirdbase, though, I think he could be as good defensively as Evan Longoria or Adrian Beltre.  He has more of their builds than that of a big shortstop in the mold of a Manny Machado.

3B Will Middlebrooks, 25, Boston Red Sox

Middlebrooks’ swing reminds me of Michael Young’s, how it stays pretty level throughout and they both usually keep both hands on the bat through the follow-through.  I also see a little bit of Jason Bay in there.

Performance-wise, so far in his career, Middlebrooks has provided power but not much else.  He’s posted a .294 OBP in his young career, in 660 plate appearances.  Middlebrooks is a thirdbaseman, so he doesn’t have to hit a lot in this day and age.  He has enough power to be an adequate everyday major league thirdbaseman.  

Middlebrooks looks very ordinary on defense, and he rates as a below-average-to-average defender statistically.  For a comp, I’ll say David Freese.  Both are big, rather generic defensive thirdbasemen.  There’s nothing that stands out about their actions or their defensive metrics.



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Josh Donaldson

Josh Donaldson reached the majors in 2010, held his own last season but became one of the best players in the game in 2013.  He spent most of his pro career behind the plate but played some thirdbase, a little firstbase and a few games here and there in the corner-outfield before settling in at thirdbase in the majors in 2013.  It looked all along like he was probably going to provide some offense.  It was just a matter of him settling into a position.

Donaldson always showed signs of offensive prowess.  He’s not a tall guy but he’s big.  Baseball Reference lists him at 6’0″ and 220 lbs.  So he obviously has some strength.

Offensively he reminds me of Jose Bautista.  He wraps the bat kind of above and around his head, almost pointing the barrel to the pitcher.  He also has a leg kick, though not as pronounced as Bautista, and he follows through with one hand.

Unlike Bautista, it doesn’t look like Donaldson is trying to pull every pitch for a homerun but it does look like he’s trying to hit every ball for a homerun, confident in his strength and his ability to hit the ball out to all fields.

On defense, it’s hard not to see Eric Chavez in Josh Donaldson in that A’s uniform.  At 6′ (Chavez was only 6’1″) Donaldson plays low to the ground and has short, explosive motions when making a play or a throw.

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Trout, Harper, Machado

I’m late to the party but I want to talk about baseball’s Big Three young players.  With Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in the majors, we are looking at a Willie, Mickey and the Duke situation in Major League Baseball for another 15 years or so.  Let’s see what kind of interesting comps we can come up with for these three studs.  Okay, so maybe the comps won’t be that original, but hopefully I can make them sound interesting.

Mike Trout, 22, Los Angeles Angels

It’s hard to think of a comp for Trout in terms of things like his batting stance and his actions.  They are pretty typical.  Bo Jackson comes to mind.  Bo is listed on Baseball-Reference at 6’1″, 220 lbs.  Trout is listed at 6’2″, 230 lbs.  Pretty close there.  Trout definitely looks like he could lineup at running back for an NFL team.  The scary thing is that Trout is better at baseball, in addition to being a Bo Jackson type athlete.  The only question, besides something like a fluky injury, is whether he’ll eventually be too large to provide the elite defensive value is capable of providing as a centerfielder.  Trout is the closest thing to what Bo would have been had he focused on baseball.

Bryce Harper, 20, Washington Nationals

It’s hard to believe a 20-year-old with a 126 OPS+ in 1,085 career plate appearances has been overshadowed.  But the immensely talented Harper has been overshadowed by Mike Trout.  A more athletic Reggie Jackson is probably the best comp.  Harper has only scratched the surface of his power potential, he’s probably going to be a high-strikeout guy and he’s probably not going to win any batting titles.  I’m thinking Reggie Jackson with a touch of Mickey Mantle.

Manny Machado, 21, Baltimore Orioles

It’s hard not to think of Alex Rodriguez when you see Machado play.  He’s not quite as big at this point but his actions and his size still make you think of Rodriguez.  He may actually be a little more athletic.  Machado has basically been a league-average hitter so far, while Rodriguez was awesome offensively at 20.  Of course it’s hard to complain about even a league-average 20-year-old capable of playing thirdbase or shortstop in the majors.  Also, there is no shame in falling short of Alex Rodriguez, especially at age 20.  Machado’s slightly smaller frame may mean less offense than Rodriguez (although he still likely to provide plenty) but it might also mean a longer career as a shortstop.

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Obligatory Yasiel Puig Post

There is no doubt Yasiel Puig’s toolbox is full and, at 6’3″ and 245 lbs., he’s an impressive athletic specimen.  But there are concerns about how bright his star will shine going forward.  There are some red flags that may suggest something less than super-stardom.

Puig stormed onto the scene with a historically high batting average on balls in play and impressive athleticism.  In June his BABIP was .500.  On the season he has the highest BABIP in the game among players with at least 350 plate appearances.  

Puig has walked in just over 8 percent of his plate appearances while striking out in just over 22 percent.  But there is no doubting his strength and athleticism, so he’s the type player that could add plenty of value without an overly patient approach at the plate.

The player I come back to as a comp for Puig is Hunter Pence.  Pence is a big, athletic corner-outfielder; he’s a bit of a hacker who doesn’t walk at a very high rate; he appears to play recklessly at times (maybe that’s just because he looks so funny doing it); and he displays plenty of impressive tools.

Maybe I’m being a bit too skeptical of Puig’s approach and how much it might hold him back.  But I’m thinking Pence is about right.  Pence is a first-division player and in his best season, 2011, he was on the cusp of being in the MVP conversation.  This year, according to Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement, Pence has been one of the top six offensive players in the National League.  Pence is also a high BABIP guy.

The more digging, the more I think Pence may be slightly underrated and overlooked.  On the surface it may seem like a Pence comparison is selling Puig short, considering Puig has an OPS+ near 170 this season.  But it doesn’t take a knowledge of advanced metrics to understand he’s not likely to maintain a batting average over .330 with an on-base over .400 and a slugging over .540.  And Pence has now played 7 seasons in the big leagues with an OPS+ of 120.  If Puig settles into that kind of player, with the excitement he brings, I’m sure the Dodgers will take it.

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