Since everything I write is for you, the reader, I asked Twitter who they wanted to read about today. Amongst the comments that sheep are overlooked and that Old Macdonald really needs a player profile, you came up with Jairo Beras, Michael De Leon, and Jake Skole.
First off, Jairo Beras: The 19-year-old saw his first professional action after July 2nd of last year, and jumped into full-season ball with the Hickory Crawdads to begin 2014. Though a weak April and beginning of May had some suggesting he was Spokane bound, Beras made adjustments through those early weeks and had a hot June and July, hitting .307/.373/.493 and .284/.344/.398 respectively. A recent slump has Beras' August numbers at a disappointing level, but his growth as a baseball player across this season has been encouraging, as he settled into the game after the absence forced by his suspension.
Beras began the year as one of the rawest players in full-season ball, a prospect with all the tools for success, but little demonstrated ability to master them. Perhaps the largest problem was that Beras had little-to-no approach at the plate, which combined with a swing that both used too much and too little of his body led to him completely missing even average Sally League offerings. Now, according to Ryan Parker of Baseball Prospectus, Beras has improved his control of his swing, and has begun engaging his lower body, with his 'legs and hips [...] actually driving [the] swing instead of along for the ride.' Defensively, Beras has a long way to go in the outfield, but he still has some time to gain control of his long limbs. No matter where he ends up positionally, the raw tools could come together into a spectacular offensive package, making Beras a top talent.
Michael De Leon burst onto the Rangers prospect scene earlier this season when the 17-year-old played his first professional baseball games with the Frisco RoughRiders rather than with one of the rookie teams. De Leon was then sent to the Hickory Crawdads, which some assumed would be a stop until Spokane, like teammate Jairo Beras. De Leon also began the year slowly, only hitting .158/.183/.175 in May, but then proceeded to hit above .250 in the next three months, putting together an impressive .284/.337/.364 line in 23 games across June for a season high. De Leon could become a nice hitter, and he already demonstrates a more advanced approach at the plate than some of his teammates. Though he's only walking 7.3 percent of the time, De Leon has struck out only 37 times in low-A, a miniscule 10.9 percent rate.
Where De Leon really shines is his glove, as discussed in an earlier article. His natural ability at the position showed even in his one game at Double A, and sources say that he demonstrates a leadership beyond his years, organizing other fielders, encouraging struggling pitchers, and showing an abundance of energy. His arm is good for the position, too, meaning that it's likely he stays there for a good long time.
Of course, the thing to remember about De Leon is that he's 17. There have been other 17-year-old wunderkindern who have not gone on to succeed at the higher levels, and time will tell whether De Leon can put on the muscle and weight needed to help him hit for more power than he is currently. Sometimes, even the most sure of prospects bust, and a 17-year-old is far from sure.
While the two discussed above have improved their offensive prowess by leaps and bounds throughout this season, Jake Skole's talents lie purely in the field. The left-hander has never been much of a hitter (though he will occasionally show some special power), his trademark is impeccable centerfield defense. Skole's speed allows him to get to balls that others wouldn't, and he has the ability to read balls off the bat, meaning that he can take the shortest point to where he can make an easy grab. Unlike some defenders who make a habit of diving, sprawling plays, most of Skole's work in center is efficient and easy, though he's willing to throw himself towards a ball if needed. Skole's range in center also allows the corner outfielders (often including Mazara) to both play closer to the fouls lines, and gives them a bit of leeway.
Offensively, Skole does get on base via walks at an above average rate, taking the free pass 10.0 percent of the time. Despite his quickness, Skole hasn't had a year with over 10 steals since his career high in 2011 of 21 successful attempts, but can create runs by getting from first to third quickly. His nine homers in that year were also a career high, though all three of his Double-A homers have been impressive. At this point in time, his defensive value will be what propels him further in his career, and if he can find the base-stealing form he demonstrated in 2011, that could only help.
Got a prospect (or not) you're curious about? Find Kate on Twitter @unlikelyfanatic.