We all want our prospects to succeed right away at every level, but that isn’t always the case.
When prospects get the call many times a new level could reveal something about the player that we couldn’t see at his previous level. Was he not walking because there weren’t many swing and miss pitchers at that level? Or is he a strikeout pitcher pitching in A ball where his raw stuff alone could play at the AAA level.
Poor starts at a new level doesn’t mean the end for prospects, but it could dim the lights on the big hopes we had for some players.
I want to preface this with the obvious statement that this is all based on a small sample size. This is half of a season if not less for some of these players.
Lucas Giolito – P
This list is starting off with one of the biggest prospect names in baseball.
Giolito is a top five prospect for just about anyone who has a prospect list, and probably those who don’t. He has a curveball and a fastball that are at the elite level. He probably has the best stuff of any prospect in the minors.
He used his phenomenal stuff to dominate prior to his promotion to AA. This season up to his promotion he had a 2.35 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with a 2.7 BB per nine along wtih an elite 10.3 K per nine.
The jump to AA hasn’t gone as well as some might have hoped. The good news is that it only means a 3.48 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. His strikeout rate has dropped to 8.9 per nine and his walk rate is up to 3.5 per nine, but neither of those scream worry.
This is an extremely small sample size, only seven starts. Looking deeper into his game logs his struggles primarily came in his first two starts in AA.
In his first two starts at the level he allowed 10 earned runs in 10 innings with 7 strikeouts and six walks. Those numbers have put a dent into his totals for the level. In his five starts since the two bad outings he has been back to himself.
Over his last 31 and a third innings he has a 1.72 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. During this span he has allowed less runs and only four more walks in more than 20 more innings. His BABIP allowed (.338) is still high so he could even get better if that normalizes.
One thing of, mild, worry is that he only has a 10 percent swinging strike rate in his seven AA starts. There is no problem with the rate, but at the AA level that is expected to be a star at the major league level you hope for something a little better.
I am not all that worried about Giolito’s chances to be a great major league pitcher. Maybe he won’t be the Clayton Kershaw type pitcher his owners are hoping he will become, but he will still be an all-star for however long his elbow will let him.
The numbers he showed after his promotion could even help get him cheaper in an offseason trade, as long as they don’t realize the struggles primarily came in just two starts.
Aaron Judge – OF
Judge is one of the best outfield prospects for fantasy purposes.
His 6’7” 275 pound body screams power potential. To this point Judge hasn’t blown anyone away with his numbers, he owns a career .284/.379/.473 slash line in the minors. Many, myself included, are enamored with his potential to hit 30 plus homers at the big league level.
In his AA stint this season he got off to a good start homering in 12 of his 63 games, which would put him around a 30 homer pace for a full major league season, while keeping a good average of .284.
With the big league club in the playoff hunt many hoped Judge would get the call to the big leagues, but we can settle for a June promotion to AAA.
In a few less games Judge has seen a slight drop in his home run rate and his average has plummeted 60 points. The strikeout rate hasn’t changed much, although that has also gone up about three percent.
The month of August Judge has managed only a .188 average while racking up 40 strikeouts in 108 plate appearances, an insane 37 percent rate. The only good news from August is he is he hit six homers.
I still think Judge has great potential in the majors, but with his struggles in AAA I would back off my hype of him a little bit. He would stay in my top-25, but instead of being grouped with Nomar Mazara he takes a drop down to the lower half of the top-20.
Manuel Margot – OF
Margot’s best trait is his ability to protect the plate and keep the strikeouts to a minimum. Prior to his promotion to AA his strikeout rate was just 11 percent through his minor league career and 7.5 percent in 2015.
His average took a hit after his promotion to AA, it is 38 points lower than his career average before AA. There are a few potential reasons for his struggles.
One cause could be an uptick in his strikeout rate; it rose three percent over his career average. He is also getting a little unlucky with his BABIP; a career .316 BABIP is 30 points lower at .286 in AA.
Margot does not have great power or speed, so his high contact rate to go with a high average will be important for him to have success at the big league level. As with Judge I am a little concerned with how he has performed at AA, but I am not in panic mode yet.
Bradley Zimmer – OF
The Indians’ first round pick from 2014 got off to a blazing hot start this season. Zimmer was tearing up high A with 32 steals and 10 homers through 78 games.
The high steal total was a very nice surprise for Zimmer. He has attempted a few less steals since his promotion, but still has a good success rate swiping 10 bags in 12 attempts.
This season Zimmer has shown that he can be a nice supplier of steals in the future. The promotion has caused some concern because you can’t steal bases if you aren’t on base.
His average and on base percentage have dropped 53 and 54 points. The big issue for Zimmer is that his usual high BABIP has taken a big hit. His BABIP in high A was .387 and this season it is .306 so far through AA.
Some might consider his high-A BABIP luck, but through Zimmer’s minor league and college career he has shown that he is a high BABIP player. His BABIP in college stood at .357 and it was .348 in his stint in low-A last season.
The rest of Zimmer’s numbers don’t see much of a drop with his promotion.
His AA slash line doesn’t look impressive, but I expect his BABIP to be in the .340-.350 range and that should help inflate the rest of his numbers.
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