There are many reasons why some of baseball’s best prospects take a bit longer to get to the majors than others. There’s also quite a few reasons those same prospects should get their chance.
This season, despite being just three weeks in, has seen plenty of opportunity for some of baseball’s brightest prospects to get their chance. Whether it be injury, suspension, or simply the direction their teams are heading, opportunity seemed to arise.
Yet, several continue to bide their time in Triple-A.
Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Meadows has been one of the Pirates’ top prospects for a few years now. This past offseason, many felt the 21-year old was ready for prime time. Andrew McCutchen trade rumors began to fly, and many thought Meadows could crack the roster.
Much to their disappointment, McCutchen remained on the team. He shifted to left, handing over center field to Starling Marte while Meadows headed back to Indianapolis.
The recent suspension of Marte seemed to open a door for Meadows, but the Pirates called up Jose Osuna instead.
It makes sense in certain aspects. Meadows wasn’t on the 40-man roster, Osuna was. Osuna is a bit older, having climbed the minor-league ladder since signing in 2009. Meadows, meanwhile, has been bitten by the injury bug harder than any other top prospect, having played 100 or more games just once in five years.
Osuna, however, is a different player in the field than Meadows. The 24-year old prospect is primarily a first baseman that can play corner outfield. Despite his arm strength, his range is limited. He won’t be an option as an everyday outfielder, likely platooning with Adam Frazier and even John Jaso, but none have the wow-power that Meadows possesses.
It’s likely they want the 21-year old elite outfield prospect to show his .184/.255/.286 start is simply a slump and not a continuation of last season’s struggles in his Triple-A debut. With Marte not allowed back until midseason, Meadows’ 2017 debut may not be too far away.
Franklin Barreto, SS/2B, Oakland Athletics
Don’t be fooled by the lack-of-Triple-A-at-bats excuse. Fellow young shortstop Carlos Correa had only 20 more career Triple-A at-bats before he got the call to Houston.
No, Barreto is a victim of the service-time clock.
But that doesn’t mean he isn’t more apt to lead the A’s infield than some of their other options.
The A’s had a prime opportunity to begin the Barreto Era when they lost Marcus Semien to wrist surgery. Instead, they will hope Adam Rosales and Chad Pinder can hold down shortstop for the next two months.
Barreto has been a top shortstop prospect since the Jays signed him out of Venezuela for the 2013 season before including him in the trade that landed Josh Donaldson in Toronto. With the recent success of Semien as the A’s shortstop, they began to experiment with Barreto at second last season. Many thought this would be a transition year, with Barreto splitting time between second and short.
That hasn’t been the case. Barreto has played 11 of his 14 games at shortstop. He is also hitting the cover off the ball, slashing .340/.403/.547 and coming off his first Triple-A four-hit night.
Barreto, like any 21-year-old, has his flaws, but he has little left to accomplish at Triple-A except getting the reps. If Semien has any setbacks, Barreto may get his chance, but it doesn’t seem likely we see him before June.
Carson Kelly, C, St. Louis Cardinals
Kelly is the top catching prospect in the game. The problem is that one of the best catchers of his generation is blocking him in St. Louis.
If Kelly were on almost any other team he’d likely be starting by now. Instead, the Cardinals curiously extended the contract of the Yadier Molina through his age-37 season at a whopping $20 million a year. That’s not hang-around-and-mentor money. That’s everyday-player money.
One has to question where Kelly fits in at all now.
Kelly was raw behind the plate when the Cardinals made him their 2012 second-round draft pick. That’s simply because he was a third baseman during his high school career. He has improved tremendously in a short time. It speaks volumes of the special athleticism the Cardinals have behind the plate in Memphis.
Kelly doesn’t make errors, committing just three last season. His early troubles with passed balls have tempered, as he allowed just six in each of the past two seasons. He improved in throwing out runners from 2014 to 2015, but took a minor step back last season. He’s rebounded thus far, throwing out 40 percent of his runners in 2017.
There isn’t a big difference at the plate in what Kelly has to offer from Molina. Where Molina likely is more of an average hitter, Kelly could likely bring some more power to the plate. Kelly’s plate discipline has improved ten-fold since his rookie debut. In his 2016 Triple-A debut, he struck out just 13.5 percent of the time while walking 8.7 percent of the time.
Heading into this season, many felt that Kelly was the heir-apparent, ready to take over for one of the Cardinals’ mainstays. The ship is somewhat sinking in St. Louis and it seemed like the perfect time to hand over the reigns to Kelly.
Now, some are left scratching their heads as to what role Kelly will serve.