Happy holidays, minor league fans. With it being Christmas Eve (and the beginning of Hanukkah this evening), I thought the time may be appropriate to share a few things on my 2017 wish list. Everyone of us here in this awesome community that John has created has hopes and aspirations for the next season as soon as the current one ends.
Well, I thought I would ask Santa to deliver mine.
When in Rome…
My first time covering a team (as opposed to all of the minor leagues) was last season. I had the honor of covering the Rome Braves on their SAL Championship run. That team was fueled by a sick pitching staff, consisting of four first-rounders (Kolby Allard, Max Fried, Touki Toussaint and Mike Soroka) as well as the Braves Minor League Pitcher of the Year in Patrick Weigel. This coming season has the chance to be just as special.
Ian Anderson (2016, 3rd overall), Joey Wentz (2016, 40th overall), and Kyle Mueller (2016, 44th overall) should all make their South Atlantic League debuts at some point this season, if not from day one. Mueller dominated in the GCL, posting a 0.65 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over ten appearances (nine starts), striking out 38 and walking 12 in 27.2 innings. Wentz and Anderson also dominated in the GCL, but they were both promoted to Danville before the season ended. They both were a little more hittable — Wentz more so than Anderson — but both showed positives as well.
Bring them to Rome, and let's see how they handle a full-season league in a farm system that has done very well developing pitchers lately.
Eloy to the world…
There were some question marks surrounding the then 19-year old entering 2016. Could he develop into the hitter that the Chicago Cubs had hoped he would when they signed he and Gleyber Torres in the same international class?
2016 proved the answer was yes.
Jimenez struggled as a 17-year old in his Arizona League debut, mainly with his big, undisciplined swing. He cut down the strikeouts and improved his plate mechanics in his sophomore campaign in the Northwest League, and even returned home to the Dominican Republic to finish out his high school diploma. Talk about makeup.
Last season, Jimenez was one of the best prospects in the game, jumping from outside the Top 100 to a consensus Top 25 talent. He was the Prospect of the Year in a MVP season for South Bend, posting a .329/.369/.532 slash line with 14 home runs and 40 doubles in his full-season debut. His strikeouts were a little bit too much, striking out 20 percent of the time while walking just five percent of the time, but he improved nearly everywhere else as one of the youngest players in the league.
Jimenez is an exciting prospect. I’m a lot higher on him than some, and this could be the year he becomes the best prospect in baseball.
Can we please see what Crawford and Renfroe have to offer?
How long do we have to wait?
All Renfroe has done for three straight years is rake. I know, his strikeout numbers are frightening (although a career low in his 2016 PCL MVP campaign), but who cares? This is 2017, when striking out 30 percent of the time has become acceptable if you can drill homers and drive in runs. When the 24-year old finally got his chance after the Chihuahuas lost the Triple-A Championship he hit four home runs in his first eleven big league games.
A big arm in the outfield and a bigger bat at the plate. Oh, and the Padres really don’t have much going for them as it is aside from their youth, so let’s get this Alex Dickerson, Manuel Margot, Renfroe outfield going already.
There are a lot of question marks surrounding J.P. Crawford, especially coming off a very disappointing season that saw him originally jump to a Top Five prospect in the game and seemingly take a big step backwards. Many are concerned with how he’s been developing, and at 21, the Phillies can proceed with caution and start him with the Iron Pigs.
Crawford is a stud defensively, and his plate discipline is still ahead of many players his age, walking at least ten percent of the time and striking out less that 17 percent of the time since the Phillies made him the 16th overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft (minus his offseason in the AFL). Reports are that he will be healed just fine from offseason knee surgery. I’m ready to see what he’s got in Philly.
As a Yankees fan, Christmas obviously came early back at the trade deadline, so I hope this isn't too much more to ask for Santa.
Happy holidays and Merry Christmas Minor League Ball!