It’s rare that any player will dominate an entire season of professional baseball with no hiccups. This can be especially true for prospects at the beginning of the season, when very young players are often first facing a more advanced level of baseball. On that note, this week we will look at three prospects who had a strong May, and three prospects who struggled this month.
Jorge Soler, OF
21 years old, High A Daytona
May stats (all stats through May 28): 94 ABs, .309/.374/.564, 5 HRs, 11 BBs, 18 Ks
Soler started the season hot, but the back end of his April was not as strong. After being suspended for extracurricular activity involving using a baseball bat in a threatening manner during a bench clearing brawl, Soler was benched after failing to run out a pop fly and had a low BABIP over the back half of the month. May has been much kinder to the young Cuban, hitting for average and power while drawing walks and limiting strikeouts. If Soler had not officially surpassed Javier Baez as the number one prospect in the Cubs system, he certainly did so in May.
Christian Villanueva, 3B
21 years old, Double A Tennessee
May stats: 94 ABs, .298/.356/.500, 2 HRs, 6 BBs, 22 Ks
Of the numerous legitimate third base prospects in the Cubs system, Villanueva probably has the lowest ceiling, but also has the highest likelihood of contributing as a regular in the show. He will never be more than average hitter at the hot corner, but he is excellent defensively there. After a rough April where he just could not get a batted ball to avoid finding a waiting glove, his May was much stronger. While the walk rate is nothing special and strikeout rate is a little higher than you would like, he showed more than enough offense to still be able to slot in as a slick fielding, average hitting third baseman in 2014 or 2015.
Gioskar Amaya, 2B
20 years old, Low A Kane County
May stats: 96 ABs, .292/.382/.448, 1 HR, 12 BBs, 26 Ks
Amaya’s story in April was different than Villanueva’s. His issue was not BABIP, but was instead overmatched by his first taste of full season pitching. That changed in May, when he quadrupled his walk total. While the strikeout numbers were still high, the combination of drawing walks and decent power, especially at a middle infield position, reestablishes Amaya’s fairly lofty preseason prospect status.
Ronald Torreyes, 2B
20 years old, Double A Tennessee
May stats: 93 ABs, .172/.248/.258, 1 HR, 8 BBs, 8 Ks
If we were being honest, Torreyes is more of a curiosity than a real prospect. He’s absolutely tiny, will almost certainly never hit for power, cannot play shortstop, and is not a stolen base threat. His one big skill is that he is a contact making machine. But without power or burner speed, the question is how that was going to play out at higher levels. May 2013 might be an indication that the answer to that question is “not well.”
Zeke DeVoss, 2B
22 years old, High A Daytona
May stats: 76 ABs, .211/.319/.211, 0 HR, 8 BB, 17 Ks
Zeke DeVoss is a prime example of why a player cannot just walk their way to the majors. While the ability to get on base is vitally important, at some point you have to regularly hit the ball with some authority to be a legitimate prospect. Not only did DeVoss only hit .211 over the month, but he did not have a single extra base hit.
Rock Shoulders, 1B
21 years old, Low A Kane County
May stats: 95 ABs, .200/.315/.453, 7 HRs, 16 BBs, 36 Ks
The greatest name in baseball actually did not have an awful month. Sure, the batting average was bad, but he continued to walk a bunch and hit for power. The big concern is the huge strikeout rate. A 21 year old who is striking out in 30% of his plate appearances in Low A just does not have a great likelihood of ever making it past Double A.
Here is the good news about this list. The three guys I have listed in the Three Up section are all without question Top 15 prospects in the system, and include its best prospect. Meanwhile, the three guys who were in the Three Down were fringe prospects who did not make most Top 20 organizational prospect lists.