Selecting prospects to breakout is a haphazard business. I find that I can be anywhere from 50% to 80% correct on who I think will have a breakout season. In the first half of this year, I did not do too bad picking Trevor Clifton, Eloy Jimenez, Carlos Sepulveda, Craig Brooks, and Casey Bloomquist to have good seasons. I missed on Zach Hedges, Ian Rice, Preston Morrison (I sort of picked him), Kyle Miller, and Paul Blackburn. And, I don’t think anybody foresaw Jose Rosario going all the way from low A Myrtle Beach to AAA Iowa in 3 months.
Needless to say, my second half predictions aren’t looking too shabby right now. Though three weeks is a small sample size, Eddy Martinez is making me look like a genius along with Jose Paulino, Isaac Paredes, Ryan McNeil, Andruw Monasterio, and Yeiler Peguero.
The hardest picks to select to break out are at the rookie and short season levels. One reason deals with the lack of statistical data. The only reason I picked Sepulveda, Monasterio, and Peguero to break out this year was the August they had in 2015. The same is true of Clinton and Bloomquist.
Luckily, I am not perfect. Although, it is really enjoyable to watch Zach Hedges breakout when no one expected him. I liked Hedges last summer when I saw him pitch several times. He has really improved this year as he went out and busted his tail last winter to gain some mph on his fastball and add muscle to his frame.
However, there are other prospects who are “getting their names in the paper,” as we used to say in the 70s. Four of the players to keep an eye on as they head into the second month of the second half are in the Arizona Rookie League and three are at Eugene.
Isaac Paredes – I know I mentioned him as a player to breakout a month ago, but the dude is straight up on fire. He’s had two four hit games in the last week. After being injured to begin the AZL season, the 17 year-old is coming on strong!
Gustavo Polanco – The 19 year-old out of Venezuela is destroying Rookie League pitching so far. The former catcher, and now 1B, is hitting .424 in 59 at bats. While he doesn’t have any HRs, he does have 9 RBIs. At 6’0” and 190 lbs., he is not going to project much more physically.
Kevin Zamudio – From Mexico, Zamudio is just 18 and has 2 HRs in 14 games. His average was at .133 at point and is hitting .290 in his last ten games to bring it .239. A catcher, Zamudio stands at 6’ and 200 pounds.
Luis Ayala – After spending two years in Venezuela Summer League, the 20 year old has made it stateside and has been very good. He’s hitting .354 with 1 HR and 11 RBIs. Looking at his career stats, he has improved every year and this year is no different for the young outfielder. At only 176 pounds, there’s room to add to his 6’0” frame.
Jesus Castillo – I profiled him a couple weeks ago for Cubs Insider but he is exceeding expectations. The 20 year old starting pitcher has a 2.64 ERA. In his 24.2 innings, he has 31 Ks. He throws in the low 90s and has a wicked curve/cutter that I just love to watch him throw. While the pitch strikes the hitter out, the pitch also induces some ugly, ugly swings.
Chris Pieters – I talked about him on last Monday’s post, but this converted pitcher is now playing his second year as a first baseman/outfielder and lead the Emeralds in hitting, stolen bases, and runs. But what I really like about the 21 year-old is that he is excellent on defense at two positions. He has a great glove at first and a great arm out in left.
Robert Garcia – He is a pretty slick outfielder. Most days he can be found in left or right and he occasionally gives Darryl Wilson a day off in center. Garcia can hit for average. However, his power is deceptive as he leads the team in doubles. The doubles come from his speed and how he can go from home to second as fast as anyone.
Finally Heating Up
Rashad Crawford – Early in the year, I picked Crawford to break out at Myrtle Beach. I was correct for 13 games. Then due to several injuries, including a concussion, he is just now beginning to put it together for the Pelicans. He is hitting over .360 this July and his average has climbed from .228 to over .255! The last two weeks.
I am sure there will be more prospects who will break out the next seven weeks including some of the draft picks who just signed in the past week. Wyatt Short and Dakota Mekkes along with several other arms made their debuts. We are just waiting on Thomas Hatch and Tyson Miller to fire it up.