Last week, I took a look at how our pre-season top-ten prospects were performing. And, as is the norm with prospecting, the returns were a decidedly mixed bag. Some have thrived, others have faltered, and more still have spent quite a bit of time on the disabled list. For every prospect that rewards our excitement and adoration, a few dozen break our hearts. What better way to get a head start on a few players that may fall into one of those two categories than to focus our attention on a few risers and fallers? The criteria here are fairly simple. A 'riser' is a player whose performance outclasses our pre-season expectations and projections, and a 'faller' is one who has failed to do so. In the interest of fairness, I'm going to ignore players that have failed to take the field this season - as high as my hopes were for Luis Torrens, it's difficult to fault him for suffering a season-ending injury. And I am grading on a curve to some degree, as I am looking at these players through the same lens that we used heading into the season.
Let's begin with some optimism, shall we?
Jorge Mateo, SS Pre-season rank: 11th (A) - .275/.331/.381, 106 wRC+, 33 R, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 50 SB (10 CS)
You can read Tamar's recent take on Mateo here, and rest assured that not much has changed. Well, other than the fact that the young shortstop has exceeded most reasonable expectations by thriving in his first season stateside, leading the league in SB and showcasing his tremendous defensive tools. With pure 80-grade speed, potentially plus defense, and an above-average hit tool, Mateo is a guy that will vault up rankings as he climbs through the system. And if we were to take stock of the farm right now, he may well be the team's third best prospect.
Eric Ruth, SP Pre-season rank: N/R (A+) - 22.0 IP, 16 H, 6 BB, 16 K, 3.27 ERA, 3.77 FIP (AA) - 57.2 IP, 45 H, 18 BB, 40 K, 2.03 ERA, 3.69 FIP
I will freely admit that Ruth was not in my consideration set for our top-30 heading into this season. He's an undersized, soft-tossing righty that went undrafted and will be 25 at season's end. And that, my friends, represents the pratfalls of scouting a statline instead of the player. Ruth throws four pitches for strikes and has quite a bit of deception in his delivery, which allows him to keep hitters off-balance and rack up more swings and misses than his raw stuff may suggest. His upside may be limited, but he has the pithcability to work at the back of a rotation for years to come. Check out this interview and scouting report for a bit more information.
Mason Williams, CF Pre-season rank: 19th (AA) - .317/.407/.375, 130 wRC+, 14 R, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 11 SB (6 CS) (AAA) - .321/.382/.432, 136 wRC+, 12 R, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 2 SB (1 CS) (MLB) - .286/.318/.571, 143 wRC+, 3 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB (0 CS)
Heading into 2013, Williams was a consensus top-50 prospect. His quick-twitch athleticism, bat speed, and defense portended success at an up-the-middle position for years to come. And then 2013 and 2014 happened, with struggles on the field and off the field, and Williams fell out of the public consciousness. Things seem to have clicked this year, though, as he has walked more, struck out less, and thrived at three levels (including the Majors). His defense has never slipped, so the ground he has made up with the bat in such short order is incredibly gratifying. Small sample size caveats apply, of course - but he has done this before, and he's still only 23.
Miguel Andujar, 3B Pre-season rank: 12th (A+) - .216/.260/.336, 80 wRC+, 27 R, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 3 SB (0 CS)
Andujar was earmarked as a breakout candidate for 2015, due to a strong second-half of 2014 and impressive raw tools. Instead, he is walking less, striking out more, and showing a bit less pop. Andujar's struggles are not limited to the plate, either, as his defense has slipped (in terms of both range and his ability to make routine plays). He is still barely 20 years old, so there is little reason to be scared off of his stock - most every prospect has his ups and downs. Yet in such a deep system, Andujar's failure to capitalize on those tools for any appreciable amount of time has to push him down the list at least a bit.
Tyler Austin, RF Pre-season rank: 10th (AAA) - .227/.291/.315, 75 wRC+, 22 R, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 5 SB (1 CS)
Yes, I was extolling Austin's hot streak prior to his injury a scant seven days ago - call me a hypocrite, if you must. Unfortunately, the fact remains that Austin has struggled to stay healthy over the last few seasons, and his first run through Triple-A has been nothing short of disastrous. Career-worsts in BB%, K%, and ISO do not bode well for future success. We were a bit aggressive in our ranking, as well, clinging onto the image of his impressive Summer of 2014, and hoping that Austin was all the way back from his hand/wrist issues.
Gary Sanchez, C Pre-season rank: 3rd (AA) - .256/.313/.432, 113 wRC+, 24 R, 8 HR, 28 RBI, 5 SB (0 CS)
Full disclosure: this may be a simple matter of prospecting fatigue. Sanchez has not been bad this season; in fact, he has been decidedly above-average with the bat (especially once position is factored in). The issue is simply that this is his third trip through Double-A, and he is producing more of the same. Sure, his power is up a tick - but he's also striking out more, and walking less. I have conjectured that he is either bored or needs to be challenged (or some combination of both) ... which isn't exactly encouraging, considering his alleged attitude problems.