Mets demote Travis d'Arnaud, but he's not the only heralded rookie struggling
At a time when some big-name prospects are hitting the majors — the Cardinals' Oscar Taveras and the Astros' Jonathan Singleton being the most notable of recent weeks, with the Pirates' Gregory Polanco presumably imminent — the Mets' demotion of Travis d'Arnaud on Saturday is a sobering reminder that not every heralded rookie lights the world on fire upon arrival.
To an even greater extent than his fellow Mets, d'Arnaud was struggling mightily at the plate, batting just .180/.271/.273 through 145 plate appearances. Pair that with a similarly unimpressive showing in 112 PA last year, and he now owns a .189/.277/.269 line through 257 PA at the major league level, for a 57 OPS+. Though above average in pitch framing (+5.0 runs in his two seasons), he's been below-average defensively with regards to the running game (21 percent caught stealing rate) and pitch blocking (-0.7 runs).
A 2007 supplemental first-round pick by the Phillies who has since been included as a key piece in blockbuster deals for Roy Halladay and R.A. Dickey, d'Arnaud has been a fixture on prospect lists for the past several years; he's the rare prospect to crack the Baseball America Top 100 five times, peaking at number 17 in 2012 and remaining at 38 this spring; meanwhile, he's been on the past three top-100s of MLB.com (22nd this year), ESPN (36th this year) and Baseball Prospectus (48th this year) as well. Injuries have been a big part of why he hadn't exhausted his rookie status prior to this year; he's topped 71 games in a season just twice (2009 and 2011), with a herniated disc (2010), a torn posterior cruciate ligament (2012), a broken foot (2013) and a concussion (2014) just some of the maladies that have slowed his progress. He was just 3-for-26 since returning from a 15-day stint on the DL due to a concussion — his second in three years — caused by an Alfonso Soriano backswing.
With the equivalent of less than half a major league season under his belt, it's too early to label d'Arnaud a bust. The same goes for these other top-100 prospects, all of whom have struggled mightily in the majors this year to the point that a return to the minors may make sense.
With Jacoby Ellsbury's departure to the Yankees via free agency, the 24-year-old Bradley — ranked as high as 23rd by Baseball Prospectus — was expected to take over the starting centerfield job, but he's hit just .203/.286/.294 through 211 PA while striking out 30.8 percent of the time. Unfortunately for the Sox, both Shane Victorino and Mike Carp are on the disabled list, while neither Daniel Nava (.167.257/.256) nor Grady Sizemore (.222/.291/.333) has been very effective either, making it harder to demote Bradley than it might otherwise be. Victorino's return later this month could change that.
Blazing speed is the calling card of this 23-year-old, who stole 75 bases in the minors last year, added 13 in 13 September games for the Reds, and came into the year ranked as high as No. 37 (MLB.com) on prospect lists. While he's swiped 23 bags thus far, Hamilton has hit just .253/.288/.351, yet Reds manager Bryan Price — taking a page from predecessor Dusty Baker, perhaps — has stubbornly resisted moving him out of the leadoff spot. The Reds' .280 OBP from that slot is the worst in the majors, and in unrelated news, their 3.49 runs per game is the league's third-lowest mark.
Like d'Arnaud, Odorizzi — a supplemental first-round pick by the Brewers in 2008 — has been part of two blockbusters, namely the Zack Greinke and James Shields ones. Prior to this year, he made the BA and BP prospect list four times while accumulating six starts and three relief appearances in the majors. With their rotation thinned by the losses of Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore, Odorizzi has been a fixture in Tampa Bay this year, but he's been lit up for a 5.31 ERA in 12 turns. While he's striking out an eye-opening 11.1 batters per nine, he's burning an AL-high 4.37 pitches per plate appearance and averaging just 4.8 innings per turn; thus, he's made just three quality starts out of 12. Cobb is back, and Hellickson could be by the end of the month, so it's conceivable that a reckoning for Odorizzi could be in order soon.
Olt was on the major prospect lists in both 2012 and 2013, but blurred vision in the wake of a winter league beaning caused his performance to suffer and his stock to tumble; he failed to crack any of the lists this year. Traded to the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal last summer, he's seen semi-regular duty at third base, but has hit an impossibly low .153/.237/.372 in 156 PA, with his nine homers only partially offsetting a .158 BABIP. With Luis Valbuena hitting .267/.382/.433 while sharing time at third and second base, and top prospect Kris Bryant crushing at Double-A, Olt's window of opportunity in Chicago probably won't last much longer.Manny Machado