Diminishing Returns: prospects that have struggled the most in 2013

With the All-Star games quickly approaching, it’s time to look at the prospects that have faltered the most during the first half of the 2013 season. Prospects listed below were previously ranked in the Top 150 and have not played in the big leagues this season.


Bubba Starling, CF, Kansas City Royals — Previous Rank #32

The talent is undeniable for Starling, the fifth pick in 2011, but the problem as I alluded to prior to the season is his ability, or lack thereof, to consistently put the ball in play. After posting a K-rate just over 30% last season, he’s improved upon that total slightly (27.5%) while being bumped up to A-ball. Overall, he’s hitting .230/.308/.383, though he’s shown slight improvements after undergoing Lasik surgery.


Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds — Previous Rank #39

Already bested his previous career high in homeruns, Hamilton’s production has taken a noticeable step backward during his debut in Triple-A. Through 76 games he’s hitting .247/.302/.343, and according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, his total production has been 25% worse than the league average. He’s still running (48 stolen bases in 57 attempts), but there’s some serious concern about his hit tool.


Cody Buckel, RHP, Texas Rangers — Previous Rank #45

After breezing through the lower levels of the minor leagues, Buckel has struggled so mightily early this season that the Rangers opted to send him back to extended Spring Training. Historically, he’s shown a strong feel for the strike zone, but he managed to walk 28 batters in just 9.1 innings this season.


Mike Olt, 3B, Texas Rangers — Previous Rank #47

Linked to several teams during the offseason following a breakout year in Double-A (.288/.398/.579), I expressed some reservations about his contact skills saying that he has the potential to become a Three True Outcomes-type hitter. So far this year, Olt’s looked the part (13.2% BB-rate, 32.5% K-rate, .202/.307/.388) except his power has nearly evaporated, taking along any potential trade value.


Dorssys Paulino, SS, Cleveland Indians — Previous Rank #57

One of the Indians most successful international signings in recent years, Paulino dominated the Arizona Summer League (.355/.404/.610) and held his own in Low-A (.271/.306/.407) as a 17-year-old last season. The Indians, an organization not known for aggressively pushing prospects, decided to bump the young shortstop to A-ball this season, where he’s hit just .235/.279/.335.


Slade Heathcott, CF, New York Yankees — Previous Rank #89

Wrote previously: “Heathcott, like the Cubs’ Brett Jackson, has all the tools to develop into something along the lines of an All-Star caliber player, but the strikeout numbers will eventually cap his career to something far less.” He’s hitting .245/.312/.364 while swinging-and-missing nearly 27% of the time thus far.


Josh Sale, OF, Tampa Bay Rays — Previous Rank #99

An immature idiot whose unacceptable social media posts have forced the organization to suspend him, Sale has yet to play one game this season. Oh, yeah, he was also suspended 50 games for drugs (methamphetamine and amphetamine). Stupid.


Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Los Angeles Angels — Previous Rank #101

Baseball’s worst system takes another step back. Cowart, the Angels’ lone player to make it into the Top 150, is hitting a lowly .215/.283/.311 in nearly 80 games in Double-A, showing no power (.097 ISO) and offering a lot of groundballs (48.2%).


Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies — Previous Rank #103

Story showed a lot of promise as a 19-year-old in A-ball last season, hitting .277/.367/.505 with 67 extra-base hits and 15 stolen bases. This year, however, has been a completely different story. He’s striking out more than 11-percentage points higher (22.1% K-rate in 2011 vs. 33.8% this year); his power has nearly halved (.229 ISO to .131 ISO), and he’s been 37% worse than the league average offensively.


Miles Head, 3B, Oakland A’s — Previous Rank #108

Last season, Head dominated High-A (.382/.433/.715) and more than held his own in Double-A (.272/.338/.404) as a 21-year-old. Back in Double-A this season, he’s hitting .196/.264/.264. He could easily be the single most disappointing minor leaguer in 2013.


Courtney Hawkins, CF, Chicago White Sox — Previous Rank #112

Breaking from the norm in the first round last year, the White Sox selected the teenaged center fielder with the 13th pick. His numbers split between three levels (rookie, A-ball and High-A) looked impressive enough: .284/.324/.480. And Chicago, a team known for aggressively pushing youngsters, started the 19-year-old in High-A this season, where he’s promptly hit .189/.273/.472 while striking out nearly 44% of the time. Yikes.


Daniel Corcino, RHP, Cincinnati Reds — Previous Rank #122

Both his K- and BB-rates have taken serious steps backward in Triple-A this season. And his 6.57 ERA isn’t that far removed from his 5.16 Skill Independent ERA.


Gary Brown, CF, San Francisco Giants — Previous Rank #138

Brown has gone from a potential above-average player to serviceable center fielder to now a decent fourth outfielder-type option. He’s hitting .243/.303/.425 with 11 homeruns and 11 stolen bases in Triple-A. He’s also not running nearly as much as he did two years ago.


Richard Shaffer, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays — Previous Rank #148

One of the more polished college bats in the 2012 draft, Shaffer bypassed A-ball and headed straight to High-A this season, where he’s struggled making adjustments. Through 72 games, the young third baseman is hitting .247/.299/.375 with little power.



Photo of Bubba Starling Courtesy of Cliff Welch via MiLB.com.


After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.