Much of the baseball world is talking about young pitching, especially after Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal stymied the Red Sox in Game 2 of the World Series. As a result, we felt it only fitting to begin this week's MLBPipeline.com Inbox with a question about a potential future Major League pitching star.
What is the ceiling for Kyle Crick, and do the Giants have quality pitching depth in the low Minors?
-- Will M., Patterson, Calif.
Crick currently is honing his craft in the Arizona Fall League, where the 20-year-old right-hander has made three starts for the Scottsdale Scorpions. It's been a mixed bag so far: He has struck out 12 in 6 2/3 innings, but he's also walked eight and given up eight hits and five earned runs.
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Of course, whatever he does in the AFL shouldn't be used to draw any conclusions. The 2011 supplemental first-round pick out of the Texas high-school ranks threw just 68 2/3 innings this year because of an oblique injury, so he's trying to make up for some lost innings. If all goes well, he should be ready to start next season in Double-A.
From there, who knows how long it will take for him to get to San Francisco. The Giants haven't been shy in the past about pushing young pitchers up the ladder, and they have a good track record of developing them into big league starters. But Crick has thrown just 187 professional innings and he clearly needs to refine some things. Chief among them is his command, as he has averaged 5.5 walks per nine innings, 5.1 this year). But the No. 42 prospect on MLB.com's Top 100 list (and No. 1 among the Giants' Top 20) has a chance to have two plus pitches in his fastball and slider, along with a curve and changeup. If the command continues to improve, he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter.
After Crick, there are some interesting arms in the Giants system. There are 11 other pitchers among their Top 20 prospects, with five of them yet to pitch above Class A. As intriguing as some of the pitchers were in Class A Augusta (Chris Stratton and Martin Agosta are both in the top 10), none have Crick's upside.
What will the Chicago Cubs do with their infield issue, with Mike Olt, Javier Baez, Dan Vogelbach, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro? What will happen?
-- Cole B., Moraga, Calif.
I'm curious as to the makeup of the Cubs' upper-level infielders, particularly at third, where they have some excess. I assume that Baez and Arismendy Alcantara will move to Triple-A Iowa together to form its middle infield, but what happens at third, where you have Olt and Christian Villanueva? I assume neither will be demoted to Double-A because Kris Bryant will be there playing third. On the flip side, I'm not sure either is MLB-ready. Which leads to this follow-up question: With so many top infield prospects in the high Minors probably a year or less from the Majors, who stays in the infield, who moves to outfield and who gets dealt?
-- Neil B., Yardley, Pa.
We've been getting a lot of questions related to Cubs prospects, for good reason. Their system is pretty packed, and as these two readers point out, a lot of it comes in the form of highly talented infielders.
Five of the Cubs' Top 10 prospects are infielders. There are three more in the 11-20 group. Throw in young big leaguers like Rizzo and Castro and there is a logjam developing.
It's a good problem to have, and more often than not, things do have a way of working out. Some guys don't develop as expected, some get hurt, some will invariably be dealt -- organizations tend to trade from their strength.
The Cubs have options. Olt had a lost 2013 and needs to show he can return to the form he showed in 2012 before worrying about where he fits into Chicago's picture. He's also capable of playing first and a corner-outfield spot, if necessary. That might come into play if Villanueva is there with him in Triple-A.
Alcantara and perhaps Baez could be in the Iowa infield as well, with Alcantara sliding over to second if that's the case. It wouldn't be shocking if Baez began the year in Double-A, allowing he and Alcantara to play shortstop, at least to start the season. A left side of the infield at Double-A with Baez and Bryant would be quite something. Baez, most believe, will have to move from shortstop. Third would be a possible destination, but a corner-outfield spot might work, too.
Bryant, by the way, could play left or right field as well -- he was solid in right at San Diego during his final year of college. Rest assured, the Cubs will find a way to get his bat into the lineup when he shows he's ready.
As for Vogelbach, he's likely to start the year at Class A Daytona in the Florida State League. He's a first baseman only. I'd look for him to go one level a year, so that would put his ETA at 2016 or '17.
By 2015, an infield with Rizzo at first, Alcantara at second, Castro at short and Bryant at third could happen, with Baez in left or right. If Olt turns it around, perhaps he pushes Bryant to an outfield corner. And if Villanueva puts it together, that's icing on the cake.
Which pitcher not in a team's Top 10 do you think has the best chance to make a major impact? Could you expand to include one per each position?
-- Jim K., Coral Gables, Fla.
A non-Top 10 pitcher today could easily be a Top 10 tomorrow and a big league standout the day after that. There are a number of pitchers in the 11-20 range on team lists who could be excellent choices to answer Jim's question. You could go with a 2013 draftee like Alex Gonzalez, who is No. 11 on the Rangers' Top 20, or someone returning from injury like Jeurys Familia of the Mets (No. 11).
Instead, I'm going to go with a guy who was a 48th-round pick of the Rangers but was dealt to the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal in July. That would be C.J. Edwards, who finished the year with a combined 1.86 ERA in 24 starts, good for fourth-best in all of the Minor Leagues. His .182 batting average against was third-lowest and his 1.01 WHIP was fifth-best. He struck out 12 per nine innings.
The Cubs pushed Edwards, ranked No. 11 in his new organization, up a level upon his arrival and he handled the jump without blinking. He topped off the season by tossing five innings of one-hit ball to help Daytona win the FSL championship. Edwards obviously needs to show what he can do at the higher levels, but he's definitely moving in the right direction.
The Mets have two shortstop prospects in short-season, Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini, who could be ready for Class A Savannah. Who do you see as the better prospect and how do you think the Mets will handle the two of them going forward?
-- Mike L., New York
Based on our rankings, the quick answer is Cecchini. The 2012 first-round pick is currently No. 8 on the Mets' Top 20. Rosario began the year 20th on the list but dropped off through no fault of his own, but because the Mets added talent via the Draft and trade market.
It's possible Rosario will end up as the better player or at least with more upside than Cecchini. The Dominican Republic native won't turn 18 until next month but played well in his U.S. debut in the rookie-level Appalachian League. Cecchini, for his part, is a grizzled veteran at age 19, one who just finished his second summer of pro ball in the short-season New York-Penn League.
The conundrum Mike raises isn't one that's likely to surface anytime soon. After a solid turn with Brooklyn, Cecchini should move up to full-season Savannah in 2014. But there's no rush for Rosario. He can spend a summer playing in Brooklyn, and it shouldn't be surprising if the pair continue that way, with Cecchini a step ahead on the Mets' ladder.