We're a handful of games into the minor league season, so I figured an update would be in order for my watch list. Again, this is not a top prospect list. These are prospects worth watching because they are potential sleepers, breakout candidates or former top prospects/ draft picks looking to make a leap.
As always this early in the season small sample size warnings are in full effect.
1. Elier Hernandez - First taste of full season ball for Elier. He's 10 games in and is triple slashing .231/.268/.256. He had a rocky start, going just 1-13 in his first four games. Since then he has hit 8-26. His key for the year was consistency, and since the rocky start he has only had one game in which he did not get a hit. Granted, that's only 6 games total, but its a start. He hasn't shown any power so far, with just one XBH (a double). His K% is much to high, with 13 Ks in 39 ABs. He also only has two walks on the year. Of course, he's also one of the younger players in the league, and even if he has to repeat low A next year, he would do so at the age of 20 (his DOB is 11/21/1994). Needs to hit with some authority as the weather warms.
2. Christian Binford - Only has 12 IP so far this year, but in that time he's struck out twice as many batters as baserunners allowed (8 hits, 0 walks, 16 K's). He has given up a HR, but because of an error, he has not given up any earned runs (2 unearned runs off the HR). He's faced 44 batters and K'd 16 (36%). It's also been reported that his velo is up a tick, which is good since his key was stuff. His control is still top notch, so I don't anticipate him having much trouble at high A. Still looking for him to move to AA sometime late this summer for a challenge.
3. Aroni Nina - He's made the move to the bullpen. Unfortunately, he did not find any control along the way. He's pitched 7 innings across three games and walked 6 while striking out 8. Since his key was control and he obviously still has none, I am not optimistic about his progress, as more advanced hitters will watch him walk the world. He needs to stop walking people, and he needs to do that soon.
4. Brett Eibner - Triple slashing .359/.432/.641 right now. He's struck out only 5 times in 44 PAs (down from a career average of nearly 31%). If he keeps this up, he could be in Kansas City for a cup of coffee this year and may be able to handle RF as soon as next year. Of course, it's still early and contact has always been an issue for him, but if he continues to hit (and hit with authority) he could help in the OF very, very soon.
5. Jack Lopez - His key this year is hitting and right now, he's slashing to the tune of .184/.244/.237. Safe to say this is not the ideal outcome. Lopez has never really hit at any level, so there's a pretty substantial concern that he just won't ever hit. If that is the case, there's plenty of middle infield depth around him, but it would be nice to add him to the mix, particularly since he's shifted to the right side of the bag now.
6. Chris Dwyer - He's back to starting in Omaha with some mixed results. I can't see him as a rotation candidate at this point, but for some reason, the Royals are still using him as a starter, even as they kick the tires on Danny Duffy as a reliever. Truly bizarre. He's fighting his control so far this year with 6 walks in just 10 innings (and only 6 K's). It'd be nice to see him perform in long relief, but right now he's a starter I guess.
7. John Lamb - His story isn't really about numbers at this point. It's about one number - velocity. If John Lamb gets back into the low 90's, I think he has a major league career ahead of him. If not, I think he's out of baseball in less than two years. So far, the reports have him in the high 80's consistently, with a couple of reports of him touching 90 or 91. He really needs to be sitting 89-91 and touching 92 or 93 to have a chance, and that has not been demonstrated yet.
8. Terrance Gore - In 24 PAs this year as a backup, Terrance Gore has walked 4 times. That's a good sign, given that his best asset is his speed. Unfortunately, in 18 ABs, Terrance Gore has one hit. When a player has more stolen bases (4) than hits, that's not a good sign. Gore needs to keep the ball on the ground and use his speed, otherwise he will never be Jarrod Dyson 2.0.
9. Cheslor Cuthbert - Cuthbert has always been a favorite prospect of mine. I've kept him on my personal watch list for the last three seasons, even as he struggled and fell down the prospect charts. He's slashing .286/.390/.371 at NW Arkansas right now, where he's nearly 3 years younger than the league average. The issue for Cuthbert, at least in my eyes, is not his ability to play baseball. It's his ability to bring it every day for six months. He spent his entire age 19 season at high A. He was at low A for a full season at 18. He's off to an okay start, but the question remains whether he will still be hitting above .270 when July rolls around, or if he will be in the middle of a serious slide.
10. Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado - when he was drafted it was notable because he was the youngest player available in the draft. That was two summers ago. He's been decent since then in short season (career slash of .287/.337/.373 at rookie level). Now it's time to see if he's just org filler or something more. He's not off to a good start, slashing .159/.178/.182 at low A Lexington. He has more strikeouts (10) than hits (7). He's been on my watch list since he was drafted in large part because of his youth. Now that he's playing in his age 19 season, it will be interesting to see if his production ticks up.