Breakout Prospects or Prospects to Watch - AL West

It’s a bit slow in the baseball world. The Cuban and Caribbean Leagues have taken some days off and the Australian League only plays on weekends so myworld thought we would look at some of the top prospects of each division. Myworld will select a prospect to have a major league impact in 2017 and another prospect to watch to see if he will find himself on the cusp of making the major league team in 2018. Some of these prospects to watch are veteran minor leaguers trying to over come surgery, former top prospects who have tripped in their minor league ascension or Cubans who have no history at the professional level in the United States. Today myworld takes a look at the AL West.

Los Angeles Angels

Breakout Prospect (Alex Meyer RHP) - The cupboard is bare but the Angels need starting pitching. A pitcher who has had trouble staying healthy, Alex Meyer was recently acquired from the Twins. He stands 6′9″ and heaves an upper 90s fastball. The problem has been injuries limiting the number of innings he has thrown. A lack of command has also destroyed his major league opportunities. Last year he pitched only 54 innings, with 25 of them being in the major leagues. He will be 27 in 2017 so his time is now. Because of a fragile arm expect him to start the season in the bullpen, but as shallow as the Angels are in the rotation with some success he could be moved to the starting rotation by the end of the year. The Angels will probably limit his inning count to less than 120.

Prospect to Watch (Manny Banuelos LHP) - At one point he was a top prospect with the New York Yankees and was on tap for making the major league roster out of spring training when his elbow failed him and he had to undergo Tommy John surgery. Since that surgery he has not been the same. Prior to the surgery he had a fastball that could hit the mid-90s. After the surgery it has wallowed in the low 90s. This will require him to rely more on some of his other pitches, especially his change to give the fastball the appearance of greater velocity. Elbow soreness stalled his 2016 season so expect the Angels to be cautious with him next year and move him along slowly. If he has success in the minor leagues he could be a September callup or a bullpen option if a lefty is needed.

Houston Astros

Breakout Prospect (David Paulino RHP) - Myworld is a sucker for tall pitchers and at 6′7″ David meets the height requirement. Many feel his best role will be in the bullpen but the Astros have too many holes in their starting rotation not to give Paulino a shot. Last year he got two relief appearances and one start but lacked the strikeout pitch he showed in the minor leagues to have success with the big boys. His fastball can blaze across the plate in the mid-90s and his curveball is a legitimate second pitch. Injuries have limited his innings so the Astros would not want to have him pitch more than 120 innings. Expect him to start in the bullpen if he makes the Astros at the beginning of the year, or work under a more controlled environment as a starter in AAA. If his arm is healthy he has the potential to be a number one or two starter. If his arm continues to be fragile and his change maintains inconsistency he could work as the Astros closer.

Prospect to Watch (Cionel Perez LHP) - Not a lot is known about the Cuban lefty. He initially signed for a bonus of greater than $5 million but after a physical it was reduced significantly. At 5′11″ he does not have imposing height, but that is not as important when you throw from the left side. He throws in the low 90s and has the typical array of pitches, curveball, slider and change that probably come from many different arm slots. He made his Cuban debut as a 17 year old and led the league in ERA at 2.06. Myworld had identified him as one of the top pitchers in Cuba in December 2014 when he pitched for Matanzas. At 20 years old he will probably begin the season in Low A, but if he shows the success he did as a 17 year old against Cuban veterans he will be promoted to the higher levels quickly.

Oakland Athletics

Breakout Prospect (Renato Nunez 3B) - The Venezuelan native is powering his way through the winter league, hitting 11 homeruns in Venezuela. The Athletics have a number of corner infielders stacked at AAA but none with the power of Nunez. He did struggle in a brief call up last year with a .133 average and some feel his fielding for third base is a bit spotty, making a move to first base a possibility. He lacks the foot speed to fit in a corner outfield. Expect him to club 30 plus homeruns for the Athletics once he finds a position.

Prospect to Watch (Norge Ruiz RHP) - Another Cuban pitcher recently signed. He is a smallish righthander at 5′11″ in the vein of Yunesky Maya. The Athletics hope he has more success than Yunesky. He is not really a hard thrower, sitting in the low 90s with the ability to mix in a slider, splitter and change. The hope is that he avoids the barrels of bats and when he puts men on base his ability to force the hitters to pound the ball on the ground will result in inning ending double plays. He could end up in the bullpen, but the Athletics will start him off in the starting rotation at High A. At 22 years of age he could move up quickly. A younger Cuban who the Athletics signed for a higher bonus is Lazaro Armenteros. At 17 years of age he is packed with a bundle of tools that could make him a Yasiel Puig sensation, hopefully without the attitude and lack of discipline. As he develops he could be an offensive oriented centerfielder or a complete basket case with more confidence than ability.

Seattle Mariners

Breakout Prospect (D.J. Peterson 1B/3B) - In 2014, a year after being drafted in the first round by Seattle D.J. slugged 31 homeruns in High A and AA. Things have not been so easy since as pitchers have adjusted to his pull only approach and he was slow to recognize it. 2015 was a disaster with a disappearance of his power, but last year he saw a resurgence. It still did not equal his 2014 season but his slugging average went over .400. His defense may force a shift from third base to first, and with Kyle Seager at third base that job was not open. So all he has to do is beat out Dan Voglebach for the first base job. Dan is more suited at DH. First D.J. has to improve on his power swing.

Prospect to Watch (Kyle Lewis OF) - This is a player with lots of tools but an early season injury to his knee prevented many from seeing his tool box. He was drafted in the first round by the Mariners out of a small college. Many were curious to see how he would handle the major league setting. He did quite well with a .915 OPS. Speed may have been one of his lesser tools so it will be interesting to see how the knee injury will impact that in 2017. He could be one of those hitters who bats over .300 with 30 plus homeruns if he develops. His best bet would be to play right field since his average speed may limit his range in center.

Texas Rangers

Breakout Prospect (Connor Sadzeck RHP) - The Rangers have traded away many of their top prospects to continue their playoff runs. As to be expected Connor is tall at 6′7″ and throws hard with a fastball in the high 90s. At AA last year myworld was not overwhelmed with his whiff to innings pitched ratio (140.2 to 133) and the opposition hit him at a .244 clip, but that heat will give him some attention. He still needs to develop his change as an effective third pitch, otherwise he will utilize his craft in the bullpen. His command also needs to improve as he walks three per nine innings. Major league development guys are attracted to the heat and few pitchers have a fastball that can match Connor.

Prospect to Watch (Yeyson Yrizarri SS) - The Rangers pay out huge bonuses to young prospects and nobody pays attention to them when they are 16 in the rookie league. It is when they begin raking at the higher leagues that the attention becomes focused. The Rangers paid $1.35 million for the Dominican back in 2013 and he has percolated up through their system. Last year he played in Low A where he showed he could be an offensive shortstop with power who also carries good defensive skills. He needs to improve on his 9/91 walk to whiff ratio as more advanced pitchers will exploit his tendency to swing at anything. Expect the Rangers to promote the 19 year old to High A with a move to AA possible if he achieves success.

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