Written by: Jake Bridges
If you read this article last week, you’ll remember I strayed from my typical format to give you some info on a few sure-fire 1st round picks for next week’s MLB draft. Fear not though because it’s back to the traditional format this week in Farming For Gold. If you just discovered this series, I usually talk about three prospects a week in various stages of their progression towards the big leagues.
First we have a player fresh off his MLB debut or making his debut within a week (At Bat)
Next a player whose call-up should be within a month or two (On Deck)
And finally a deep prospect to start monitoring (In the Hole)
Hope you enjoy!
At Bat: SP Eduardo Rodriguez – Boston Red Sox
The #4 prospect in the Red Sox organization has taken Beantown by storm in his first two MLB outings. Simply put, Rodriguez has been good. Really good. So good, in fact, that the bus ticket back to AAA-Pawtucket will have to wait for now. In fact, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald has reported that the Red Sox are toying around with the idea of a 6-man rotation to get Rodriguez in the mix. And they would be justified in doing so considering the results so far from Rodriguez. In his debut, this flame throwing lefty didn’t even allow a Ranger to get past second base in a stellar 7 2/3 inning, 7 K, 3 hit shutout. His second start yesterday against Minnesota was equally as masterful with a 7 inning, 7 K, 2 hit line while only giving up one run. For those keeping score at home, this is his line so far in 2 major league starts.
So let’s break down this first start and touch on Wednesday’s outing as well. The thing that jumps right off the page is his blazing fastball. Fangraphs’ Eno Saros recently did a piece on Rodriguez highlighting the fact that not only is a high velocity fastball rare for a lefty, but his is already one of the best among southpaws in the majors. His fastball comprised 68.6% of his pitches against the Rangers, and he consistently hit 95 mph on the gun. Also, he was still throwing straight gas at 94 mph in the 8th inning when he was nearing the 100-pitch mark. Scouts had this pitch rated as high as a 65 on the 20-80 scale, so it’s no surprise he leaned on it heavily with these results.
Another positive sign for Rodriguez has been his lack of command issues. Just 4 walks in 14 2/3 innings. That will keep you around as a starter. Also, before he got to the majors, his walk rate shrank from 7% in AA last year to 3% in his 8 starts at AAA Pawtucket this season. This is actually an aspect of his game that scouts have noticed has improved greatly since he was traded from Baltimore for Andrew Miller a season ago.
Rodriguez has really outdone himself so far, but keep in mind he has now set the bar extremely high moving forward. How will he handle the pressure that will surely be mounting after these first two terrific starts? Stay tuned, but I’m guessing he’s had enough seasoning in the minors and is ready to rock and roll.
On Deck: 2B/3B Hector Olivera – Los Angeles Dodgers
After a lengthy process of defecting from Cuba, establishing residency in Haiti, and finally obtaining a visa to travel to the US, the Dodgers $62.5 million dollar man has finally arrived. Oh, and I forgot to mention the whole possibly torn UCL thing, but that seems to be under control for now. After all that, the 30-year-old “prospect” will now make his way to Double-A Tulsa to work his way into an organization that already has a few solid options at third base and second in Justin Turner and Alex Guerrero. Guerrero; his former teammate says he welcomes Olivera and doesn’t see his fellow Cuban as a threat…for now at least.
As for what Olivera brings to the table, let’s take a look at some of his more recent seasons in Cuba. You’ll notice the 2012 campaign is completely missing, which was due to a blood clot in his left biceps.
As you can see, Olivera is a superior contact hitter. With very quick hands and enough power to drive the ball to all fields, Olivera can get on base at an elite level. Scouts salivate over his advanced plate discipline, and it has many looking for him to be a better all-around hitter than recent defectors Yasmany Tomas and Rusney Castillo. Keep in mind, though, that he has “just” 15-HR power, which is a far cry from the projected ceiling of Tomas. Bottom line: if you’re looking for a stud home run hitter, look elsewhere. The same applies with speed. He is more advanced in age, and he only stole 20 bases once many moons ago.
Recent viewings of Olivera have been hard to come by due to injury and defection, but clearly the Dodgers saw enough at his showcases in the Dominican Republic to sign him to a mega-contract. It’s a big gamble on a 30-year-old who’s never played a full 162-game slate, but this hasn’t proved to be a problem for guys like Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig, and Yeonis Cespedes. His track record in Cuba is very impressive, and I see a guy who can hit .280, pop at least 15 HRs, take a good number of walks, and have one of the best OBPs in the entire league. My guess is the Dodgers will have some serious playing time decisions to make by this August to get all their talent on the field at once.
In The Hole: OF Andrew Benintendi – University of Arkansas
Last week when I wrote this article solely about SEC players, it pained me that I didn’t have time to mention one of my favorite college players, Andrew Benintendi. The mega-talented sophomore, otherwise known as Bennie Baseball to the Razorback faithful, did nothing this year but produce the video game stat line you see above. He led the ultra-competitive SEC in an absurd amount of offensive categories including batting average, OBP, slugging, HRs, walks, and even finished a “measly” second in stolen bases. After all this, he has also been named a finalist for the prestigious Golden Spikes Award with fellow-SECers Alex Bregman (LSU), Carson Fulmer (Vanderbilt), and Dansby Swanson (Vanderbilt). So, what’s next?
Though not on many radars a year ago, Benintendi rocketed up draft boards while carrying the Razorbacks to the Super Regionals (against Missouri State this weekend), and Keith Law has him going as high as 7th overall to the Red Sox. You’ll notice from my previous article just about everyone is projected to head to Boston at #7, but more recent mock drafts have all 3 names from last week gone by the time Boston is up. I would say that’s more likely than not, and Benintendi either lands in Minnesota (#6 pick) or Boston (#7) this June.
So what kind of player can Bennie Baseball be at the next level? Scouts are anxious to see if his raw power can translate when he sticks a wooden bat in his hands, but the speed and the hard contact swing are already there. He often displayed ridiculous gap power with his ability to really square up on pitches, so teams should have no fear that he can contribute offensively in the pros. After all, keep in mind that he was raking off future MLBers like Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer this season. His contact ability is impressive, no doubt, but it’s his ceiling as a future Gold Glove center fielder that gives Benintendi serious top-10 potential on draft day. Grab this guy in the first round of any and all prospect drafts because Benny Baseball is going to be a big name in fantasy sometime soon.
That wraps up another edition of Farming for Gold. If you’ve got any questions about a prospect, David Dahl’s miraculous recovery, or baseball in general, don’t hesitate to comment below or hit me up on Twitter. Thanks for reading!
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