As we round third base on the minor league season, let's take a look at a couple farmhands who kicked off their coming-out party in 2015, and what adjustments they made to go from 'suspect' to 'prospect'.
Ruddy Giron - SS, Padres
Apparently A.J. Preller's aggressive, maverick style doesn't just apply to his offseason trade frenzies.
Shortstop Ruddy Giron struggled mightily in 2014 as a 17-year old getting his first taste of pro ball in the AZL, banjo-ing his way to a .168/.205/.222 line, which is not a misprint. The Padres' bold response to Giron's dismal season was a promotion to the full-season Midwest League, making Ruddy the youngest player in said league at the time (though he would later be passed by teammate Luis Urias' arrival).
As the legend goes, Giron received a call in mid-May at 3am Arizona time, while at extended spring training with the Friars. He was told to report to Fort Wayne for their game later that evening. After two connecting flights and little sleep, Giron landed and went 6-6 from the leadoff spot in his first game with the Tincaps.
Though his numbers have faded somewhat in July and August, Ruddy's strong showing thus far for Fort Wayne has put him squarely on the prospect map. After putting on 15 pounds of 'good weight' in the offseason, the teenager comes into the weekend with a .787 OPS and is comparable to fellow MWL shortstop starlet Gleyber Torres in most offensive categories. Giron features a line-drive approach at the plate powered by superb bat speed, traits that should translate well in cavernous PetCo Park.
Of course, at 18 years old, Ruddy is most likely several years from plying his craft in 'the Show'. But the reports on his attitude and work ethic are glowing, and it's possible he could still grow. One thing is for certain - with Giron performing at an all-star level as one of the youngest players in his league, GM/gunslinger A.J. Preller will be unafraid to challenge his prospects, just as he did during his tenure with the Rangers.
Jorge Lopez - SP, Brewers
Known more for his ability as a volleyball player coming out of Caguas Military Academy in Puerto Rico, the Brewers popped Lopez in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft.
The 6'4" right-hander had uneven results in his first three seasons of pro ball, battling command problems and struggling as a starter in the Midwest League. Lopez began to turn it around at high-A Brevard County in 2014, parlaying a 7-2, 2.69 first half into a spot in last years' Futures Game. The wheels came off a bit in the second half, but he showed enough potential to make the jump to #10 on minorleagueball's preseason Brewers rankings.
When digging deeper, what makes Lopez's ascension so special is the personal side to his story. Jorge's two-year-old son Mikael has spent most of his young life in the hospital, and doctors have only recently been able to diagnose the various genetic disorders that have plagued him. The reports are that the youngster's condition is improving, and the proud papa is responding with his best season as a pro.
Lopez comes straight over the top with his delivery, creating an effective downward plane and giving his hammer breaking ball - recently rated as the best in AA - a powerful spike. It's a combination that has given Southern League hitters fits during Lopez's breakout 2015 season, as he's within striking distance of a rare triple crown - currently placing first in wins and 2nd in ERA and K's.
The next step for Lopez would normally be a daunting one, as the Brewers' AAA affiliate resides in the thin, curveball-killing air of Colorado Springs. But judging from the way he's responded to the biggest curve that life can throw a young father, there isn't much that can slow the promising pitchers' climb to the major league rotation.