Prospect Watch: AL East Prospects

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. This particular Prospect Watch feature will focus on prospect notes from around the minors — focusing on both top prospects and sleepers.

Baltimore Orioles

A highly-regarded 2013 draft pick, Chance Sisco has shown a solid, developing bat so far in 2014. The young catcher is hitting .290 through 43 games while also flashing gap power. The left-handed hitter has an .835 OPS against right-handed pitching but has struggled against southpaws in a small-sample size as witnessed by his .353 OPS in 25 at-bats. With Matt Wieters‘ future in Baltimore looking cloudy, Sisco could be the backstop of the future.

Boston Red Sox

A third round draft pick back in 2010, Sean Coyle fell off the prospect map after a slew of unproductive minor league seasons and injuries. Challenged with a promotion to Double-A in 2014, the diminutive infielder has responded well. Through 34 games, Coyle is hitting .347/.403/.551. He’s showing solid gap pop and has stolen nine bases in as many tries. Strictly a second baseman until 2014, the infielder has now made 12 appearances at the hot corner with mixed results. He could eventually develop into a solid big league contributor from the bench — if a starting role is not in the cards.

It’s been a disappointing season in Boston to date but pitching prospect Henry Owens is giving Red Sox fans something to look forward to in the future. The 6-6 lefty — who is still just 21 years old — currently has a 2.24 ERA through 12 Double-A starts. As well, he’s allowed just 43 hits in 72.1 innings of work. With 32 walks issued, he’s almost put more men on base via the free pass than by allowing a hit. He’s also shown swing-and-miss stuff with 74 punch-outs.

New York Yankees

The 32nd overall selection in the 2013 draft, Aaron Judge didn’t make his pro debut in 2014 thanks to an injury suffered after signing. He’s making up for lost time, albeit in Low-A ball. The hulking outfielder (6-7, 230 pounds) is currently hitting .318/.414/.507 through 59 games. Twenty-two of his 67 hits have gone for extra bases and he’s also getting on base at a strong clip due to his willingness to talk the free pass (34 walks). Judge, 22, is a tad bit old for the league so a promotion should be just around the corner.

It’s not often that Yankees prospects get overlooked by Peter O’Brien has quietly put up 21 home runs in just 59 games. Splitting the year between High-A an Double-A, the 23-year-old backstop has produced a .938 OPS. Unfortunately, he’s not doing much outside of hitting for power. He’s hitting just .237 in 29 Double-A games and has walked just 10 times all season (along with 55 Ks) leading to a .314 on-base percentage. He’s seen time behind the plate in 2014 but has also played some outfield; he appeared in 38 games at the hot corner in 2013. O’Brien may not have the defensive chops to be an everyday catcher in the big leagues but he plays the position well enough to serve as an offensive-minded utility player and third-string catcher.

Tampa Bay Rays

Blake Snell — a 6-4, 180 pound lefty — is having a breakout season. He showed flashes of promise in 2013 but walked 73 batters in 99.0 innings. He’s trimmed his walk rate from 6.64 BB/9 last season to 4.24 in eight Low-A appearances in ’14, followed by a 1.90 in two High-A starts after a recent promotion. He’s also produced an eye-popping ground-ball rate throughout the season with more than three ground-ball outs per ball in the air. With a little more development, the 21-year-old hurler has a chance to be at the top of the Rays’ prospects list by the end of the year.

Toronto Blue Jays

With trades of catching prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Yan Gomes, the Jays’ depth behind the plate has been thinned in recent years. However, the organization is receiving a boost from an unexpected source. Derrick Chung was a 31st round draft pick out of Sacramento State University in 2012 as a fifth-year senior. A 24-year-old utility player at the time of his selection, the prospect is now already 26 but he’s made huge strides behind the plate since moving back there permanently in 2013. So far this season, he’s thrown out 37% of base runners attempting to steal and he’s improved both his receiving and game calling. At the plate, he’s hitting .311/.388/.419 in High-A ball and has shown more pop while striking out just 20 times in 46 games.

Listed at 5-5, second baseman Jorge Flores is one of the shortest players in professional baseball. The former 19th round draft pick (2012 out of Central Arizona College) hasn’t let his size hinder him as he’s reached Double-A in just his third pro season. The 22-year-old Mexico native is hitting .400 through his first seven games at that level after producing a .308/.374/.365 line (with just 10 Ks) in 32 games at the High-A ball level. Flores has spent time at both second base and shortstop through his career and could eventually develop into a sparkplug back-up role if he doesn’t settle in at a starting position.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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9 years ago

I might be wrong here, but isn’t most of Owens’ success due to his changeup? Won’t that probably not play as well in the majors with his high walk rate? He’s pretty tall… I don’t know if consistent control is in his future.

9 years ago
Reply to  frivoflava29

Pitchers with really good change-ups tend to do well in the Majors

9 years ago
Reply to  sam

But I would think that he would be better able to fool guys in the minors with his change. Many people with good changeups also tend to limit the walk rates.

9 years ago
Reply to  Lazer_Town

Is there a type of pitcher who is not better able to fool guys in the minors than the majors?

9 years ago
Reply to  frivoflava29

Most of Owens’ success is attributable to pitching outside the strike zone. That drives the lack of hits allowed, the walks, and the strikeouts. Unfortunately it’s not very applicable to major league success, which is why I remain very down on Owens as a prospect.