Technically a couple of days early but I have the time for this right now. As always my goal is to highlight a dozen players or so who are greatly increasing their standing in the organization over the season so far, with an emphasis on the last month or so.
1. Roberto Osuna (RHP) - the 17 year old made a kinda good impression in his first start for the Vancouver Canadians after having been excellent in 7 appearances for Bluefield. In that game he struck out a mere 13 opposing hitters, while allowing one hit and one walk in 5 innings of work. His second start was less note-worthy but no pitcher in the organization has done more to climb the prospect list this year than Osuna. Albeit that is also owing to his bonus-baby status.
2. Taylor Cole (RHP) - if any "below the radar" guy in the system is prepared to challenge Osuna for the biggest leap up the charts, it's Cole. Last year he got into 11 games, 8 of them starts, and threw 33.2 innings. In those he gave up 22 runs and had a 1.54 WHIP. This year, so far, he's pitched 35 innings in seven games. in those he's given up ONE earned run. His WHIP this year is 0.91 and his 0.26 ERA is insane. Cole was considered something of a steal as a 29th round pick in 2011 but he's still much more of a "where did this guy come from?" player than Osuna.
3. Javiar Avendano (RHP) - this 21 year old RHP was a minor league Rule Five pick last winter and opened the season in the Lansing bullpen. He pitched well there but being a very good reliever in the low minors is a marginal thing. when the short season teams started he shifted to Vancouver and began his development as a starter and that's when he really caught some attention. In nine starts for the Canadians he has a 1.53 ERA and the ratios all support that. Like Cole, he could use a promotion to Lansing before the end of the season.
4. Marcus Storeman (RHP) - the very opposite of low profile, his promotion schedule is not a surprise but it's worth noting he's lived up to the hype so far. his arrival at AA on August 1 might seem odd to you (no stop in Dunedin) but there's a method to it - this makes him eligible for the AFL, where he will surely participate. In my view it's unlikely the team ties up a 40 man roster spot on him with a September promotion.
5. Aaron Loup (LHP) - Loup was not completely off the radar coming into the year because the jays made him part of the AFL contingent last fall, but in the spring the buzz was about Evan Crawford and Loup faded into the background. when the Jays turned to a young pitcher early in the year it was Crawford they called, but it's been Loup who's accumulated success. He did solid work in New Hampshire before joining the jays, and in the majors he's walked 1 against 9 K's in 13 innings of work, while making a fan of John Farrell.
6. Sanchez/Nicolino/Syndergaard - you already know who these guys are, and each in their own way have solidified their standing. I didn't want to let three such known quantities take over this list. they are only ranked so low because everyone expected great things so there's less room for upward movement in terms of prospect status.
7. Danny Barnes (RHP) - Lower-level relievers must always be viewed with some skepticism, but he's been mowing them down in Dunedin just as he did in Lansing last year. He certainly belongs in the conversation with other minor league relievers in the system that you have heard of, even if his "stuff" might take a back seat. .
1. Kevin Pillar (CF) - Viewed with some skepticism because of his age, Pillar has done nothing but flat out hit the baseball. After spanking the MWL for the entire first half, the speedy Pillar was promoted to Dunedin after the major league ASB and didn't miss a beat. Since he's played this year at age 23 there was a natural skepticism about his hitting as being "too old for the league" but his speed (43 steals over two levels) and consistency have to be respected. Reed Johnson comparisons spring immediately to mind.
2. Seth Conner (C/3B) - his conversion to catcher was accelerated when bonus baby Santiago Nessy spent a few weeks on the DL opening up playing time for Conner. In 26 games in Bluefield he's posted a .900 OPS and he's gotten better as time has passed. A 41st round pick in 2010 out of high school, he's obviously not the sort of guy who's high profile but he's beginning to catch some eyes.
3. Christian Lopes (2B) - One of my favorite picks from the 2011 draft, Lopes isn't setting the league on fire at Bluefield, but he's been a steady consistent above average hitter in that line-up. I hope to see him in Lansing to open the season next year. I would also hope to see his doubles-power develop into the over-the-fence variety at some point.
4. Art Charles (1B) - Speaking of over the fence, there's Charles. He's a 6'6" masher who hits for a low average and moon-shot power. He also walked more than once a game while playing for Bluefield before his late July promotion to Vancouver. Truth is, he's likely to be exploited against better pitching at higher levels, but you have to tip your hat to his work this year.
5. Kenny Wilson (CF) - to be clear, I'm not a big Wilson fan, but in a season when promotions, injuries, and trades have thinned the ranks of the upper level hitting prospects, he sneaks on to the end of this list just on the strength of having rescued what had seemed to be a lost career. Still just 22, the 2008 pick seems like he's been in the system forever. His highest BA before this season was .216 (this year he hit .252 at Lansing before being promoted and he's started off hot at Dunedin in a mere 7 games). His one offensive quality, he's good for 40+ steals a season (which is kind of a remarkable thing when you aren't even hitting .220)