by Jeff Moore
Draft picks come in as many shapes and sizes as the players themselves, and the plan for each is different. While some prospects are far away from the majors and their new organizations are prepared for a long developmental journey, others are considered to be close to the majors. The hope with many of these players is that they can help their major league clubs soon, sometimes in the year they are drafted or within a year’s time.
Unlike in past years when draftees like Chris Sale soared all the way to the majors in their draft year, last year’s draft has yet to produce a major leaguer. And while some appear to be knocking on the door, like the Diamondbacks' Trevor Bauer or Danny Hultzen of the Mariners, there were other picks that were expected to be fast movers, but have stalled early in their professional careers.
Anthony Rendon, 3B - Washington Nationals
|Rendon has played in only 2 games this season|
Picture courtesy of US Presswire
Unfortunately for Rendon and the Nats, that assumption has fallen through. After signing late and not playing at all last season after being drafted, Rendon made his debut this season in the High-A Carolina League, which would have put him a hot month or two away from a promotion to Double-A, and then just a phone call from our Nation’s Capital. But just two games into the season, Rendon screwed up his knee while running the bases and hasn’t played since.
The 22 year-old is hoping to come back in September to get a few more at-bats before the end of the season, but that’s a far cry from the possible major league call-up the team imagined at the beginning of the year.
Sonny Gray, RHP - Oakland A's
As a polished college pitcher, the A’s expected Gray to move quickly through the minors this season, as evidenced by giving him five starts in Double-A last season after signing. He dominated in those starts last season, posting an 0.45 ERA in 20 innings. Heading back to Midland this season, he figured to spend only about half of a season there, as long as he didn’t struggle.
But he has. Gray hasn’t exactly gotten rocked, but he hasn’t done anything to make the A’s feel like he’s ready for a promotion to Triple-A, let alone one to the majors. In 10 starts this season, the 22 year-old is 1-4 with a 4.19 ERA. The real red-flag, however, is his 5.37 K/9 rate, which is confusingly low for someone who throws 92-94 mph with ease. He’s also walking four batters per nine innings, which is way too high.
Gray still shouldn’t be too far away, but the A’s were likely hoping for a strong start in Double-A this season that they could follow up with a mid-season promotion to Triple-A and perhaps some late-season starts in Oakland this fall. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards anymore.
Joe Panik, SS - San Francisco Giants
Unlike many players who don’t see the field at all during their draft year, Panik got about as many at-bats in as any draftee could hope for, logging 304 plate appearances in the Northwest League last season. In fact, given that he dominated the league offensively, hitting .341/.401/.467, it’s surprising that the Giants left him in short-season ball as long as they did without testing him further.
The experience could have been good for him. The 21 year-old was assigned to the hitter-haven California League this season, where he has fallen well short of expectations (.249/.337/.348). The good news for Panik is that he’s continued to walk more than he’s struck out, so it’s not like he’s losing his status as a prospect. But given the Giants offensive woes at both shortstop and second base, it’s hard to believe they hadn’t envisioned Panik dominating the California League the way so many hitters do, getting a mid-season promotion to Double-A, and being just one step away from the majors. Instead, Panik will likely need to spend the entire season in San Jose, pushing his arrival timetable back into next season.
Jeff Moore is the creator of MLBProspectWatch.com, your one-stop shop for information, news updates, and analysis on all the game’s top prospects. If it happens on the farm, it happens here!