Prospect Watch: Shark Hunting

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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Rebuilding organizations frequently shop their short-term assets to support the cause. Major League Baseball’s worst team, the Chicago Cubs, are proud employers of Jeff Samardzija and less than proud owners of a .370 winning average. The Shark’s contract will expire at the conclusion of the 2015 season, which should predate the club’s success. While Chicago has the financial ability to extend him, it’s likely he’s traded at the July deadline.

Based on Marc Hulet’s pre-season Top 100, the Cubs’ farm system is stacked.  Their 7 prospects were the most of any team (tied with Boston) and 5 of their Cubs’ hitters were ranked within the Top 52. Rumors suggest the Cubs would like to add an arm to their cadre of budding stars.

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1. The Toronto Blue Jays
Why: The Jays have been linked to Samardzija for weeks and they could use the his help. The Blue Jays rank 19th in RA/G and could use a replacement for J.A. Happ and/or Dustin McGowan. The combination of desperation and a difficult division makes than a likely front-runner.

Aaron Sanchez (Profile)
Level: Double-A   Age: 23   Top-15: 1st   Top-100: 22nd
Line: 54.1 IP, 4.65 FIP, 7.12 K/9, 6.14 BB/9, 0.33 HR/9 (.270 BABIP)

Summary
Untouchable during the R.A. Dickey trade, his 2014 performance no longer justifies that tag. Sanchez’s primary issue has always been his inability to consistently throw strikes. Sanchez suffers from a common ailment; many top starters battle control issues in the minor leagues, but Sanchez has shown little improvement over the years. The competition for Samardzija, who is relatively inexpensive at $5.35M, may be so tough that Sanchez may not satisfy the Cubs as their keystone piece.

2. The Colorado Rockies
Why: The Rockies’ run prevention has been better than predicted but still ranks near the bottom in baseball, projections aren’t favorable, either. They are nearly 10 games behind the Giants, but the NL Wild Card is wide-open. A half-season trade would be unwise, but with Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez in their primes, acquiring Samardzija  wouldn’t be crazy. 

Eddie Butler (Profile)
Level: MLB   Age: 23   Top-15: 1st   Top-100: 15th
Line: (Triple-A) 68.1 IP, 3.31 FIP, 5.24 K/9, 2.49 BB/9, 0.39 HR/9 (.269 BABIP)

Summary
Butler had a meteoric rise up the prospect charts before finishing 15th on Hulet’s pre-season rankings. 2014 has been successful enough to earn his Major League debut on Friday, but it isn’t without blemishes. While Butler’s ERA is a sterling 2.49, it’s the product of an unsustainable home run rate. The major cause for concern is how his strikeout rate has plummeted nearly 3 full points. The spectrum of pitching prospects’ initial success is vast. If Butler joins those who have had a poor initial start and can’t fill the Rockies’ need himself, he could be the perfect piece for the Cubs.

3. The Baltimore Orioles
Why: The Orioles trail the Jays by 3 games in the loss column and, like everyone else, are in the thick of the wildcard hunt. Their rotation is filled with league average or starters, so the Shark would easily become their ace.

Dylan Bundy (Profile)
Level: Disabled List (Tommy John) Age: 20   Top-15: 2nd   Top-100: 25th
Line: (N/A)

Kevin Gausman (Profile)
Level: MLB/Triple-A  Age: 23   Top-15: 2nd   Top-100: 25th
Line: (Triple-A) 41.1 IP, 3.48 FIP, 9.15 K/9, 3.70 BB/9, 0.65 HR/9 (.290 BABIP)

Hunter Harvey (Profile)
Level: Single-A  Age: 19   Top-15: 5th Top-100: 82nd
Line: 53.2 IP, 3.42 FIP, 10.73 K/9, 3.35 BB/9, 0.34 HR/9 (.244 BABIP)

Summary
When Hulet’s mid-season list is published, these three could easily feature among the top 10 arms in the minor leagues. Currently, Harvey is receiving the most ink because Bundy is recovering from Tommy John surgery and Gausman’s 2014 MLB spot-start was as poor as  his debut. That isn’t to imply Harvey is undeserving of the press, his present poise and command are rare for recent draftee with electric stuff. If the Orioles want Samardzija, they need to deal one of the three. With Bundy recoving and Gausman the most likely to help their 2014 playoff push, my money would on Harvey.





Formerly of Bullpen Banter, JD can be followed on Twitter.

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DJAnyReason
8 years ago

I believe Pittsburgh also had 7 on Hulet’s top-100 list.