Javier Baez, SS, Chicago (NL)
Baez, 20, hit .333 at the low-A ball level in 2012 but he did it while walking just nine times in 57 games. He then finished his injury-shortened season with another 23 games in high-A ball but struggled. His plate issues have continued into 2013 with 18 strikeouts and two walks in 58 at-bats. While his aggressive nature has not helped his batting average, the Puerto Rico native is hitting with authority and eight of his 12 hits have gone for extra bases.
After opening eyes and earning a lot of hype in 17 spring training games (four homers, .298 average), Baez may be dealing with the letdown of shifting from big league camp to A-ball. The immense talent is there for him to be a star and there is no rush for Baez to reach the majors, thanks to the presence of the Cubs’ incumbent shortstop, Starlin Castro.
Hiram Burgos, RHP, Milwaukee
Milwaukee has dealt with disappointing returns from high-profile arms in recent years while Burgos has flown under the radar. Things really clicked for the Puerto Rican right-hander in 2012 when he showed his durability by pitching more than 170 innings.
He opened this season in triple-A and he’s made three starts so far this year. Burgos pitched 5.0 innings of shutout, two-hit ball in his last appearance. The prospect’s overall ceiling tops out as a fourth starter. His four-pitch repertoire includes an 87-91 mph fastball, curveball, cutter and changeup.
I watched Burgos’ last start and came away impressed. The ball comes out of his hand well and it has the illusion of being faster than it really is. His curveball was loopy in the upper 60s and lower 70s but it was a very cold night. His cutter showed a lot of potential. Burgos commanded the inner half of the strike zone against right-handed hitters and used three pitches with two strikes: fastball, cutter and curveball.
He received his first big league promotion on April 18 and has a shot to secure a spot in the Brewers’ starting rotation.
Jesse Hahn, RHP, Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay knows how to develop young arms and Hahn’s continued development just adds to the organization’s embarrassment of riches. The right-hander was selected out of Virginia Tech in 2010 but underwent Tommy John surgery that winter. The right-hander returned in 2012 and pitched well. Hahn then jumped over low-A to open 2013 in high-A ball. He’s pitched just 3.0 innings per start but has allowed one run during that stretch with nine strikeouts. Five of his six hits allowed came in one game.
Tyler Naquin, OF, Cleveland
Cleveland’s first round draft pick from 2012, Naquin was considered one of the best pure hitters available. However, he also fell into the ‘tweener category’ with scouts feeling his power tool was below-average for a corner outfield spot and his range was modest for center field. The Indians organization has shown faith in Naquin, with every one of his starts coming in center and they’ve been happy with the results.
At the plate, Naquin shows a line-drive approach and the ability to hit for average. He’s currently hitting .347with 17 hits in 12 games. In the early going, though, he’s showing a need to improve against southpaws if he’s going to develop into a reliable everyday guy for Cleveland.
Joe Ross, RHP, San Diego
San Diego has received positive early returns in 2013 on a number of its talented, young arms. Ross has stood out in that group by allowing just one hit in each of his two starts. He’s struck out 12 batters with a high number of ground-ball outs in 10 innings of work. He features a heavy, low-90s fastball, slider and developing changeup. The right-hander is a polished teenager who could eventually join his brother, Tyson Ross, in the Padres’ starting rotation.