Baseball front offices are often cautious with young players, letting them establish success at each level of the Minor Leagues before rewarding them with promotions. It's a rarity that an 18-year-old gets tested with a promotion to Class A, and those players are usually there because their front offices think they're special. To wit, only seven players appeared in the Midwest League in their age 18 season between 2010-14, and the short list includes prospects like Carlos Correa, Orlando Arcia and Francisco Lindor.
The Texas Rangers are among the most aggressive teams when it comes to promoting teenagers, and so it probably shouldn't be a surprise that Padres general manager A.J. Preller -- formerly an assistant general manager with Texas -- would be willing to push 18-year-old Ruddy Giron.
Having turned 18 in January, Giron has been entrusted with everyday shortstop duties with Class A Fort Wayne. Based on his age alone, the promotion portends good things for the Dominican infielder. But his age isn't the only eye-popping number on his player page.
The Padres shortstop -- unranked on MLB.com's Padres' list -- hit .383 in 34 games with the TinCaps leading into the All-Star break. The 5-foot-11 right-handed hitter also slugged six homers, struck out just 19 times and managed a 1.044 OPS.
Giron entered the break with a 202 wRC+ with the TinCaps (per Fangraphs), meaning he's been more than twice as good offensively than the average Midwest League player. That's better than Nationals No. 3 prospect Trea Turner with Fort Wayne last year. It's better than Twins outfielder Byron Buxton with Cedar Rapids in 2013. It's better than Cubs infielder Javier Baez with Peoria. It's better than anybody in the Midwest League in the past five years.
His closest competition is Oscar Taveras' 191 wRC+ with Quad Cities in 2011. Now granted, Giron has only played in 34 games, and his numbers will likely regress as the year goes on. But the results he's producing right now are very much out of the ordinary for the Midwest League, and he's mashing as the league's youngest player.
Giron's tools are good enough to convince some this as a legitimate emergence. Fort Wayne hitting coach Lance Burkhart called Giron a "tremendous athlete" and "one heck of a good young man." There are a lot of boxes evaluators want to see prospects check, including those for tools, performance and makeup. Giron seems to be firmly placing his mark in all three.
He isn't particularly big, but he's added good weight since signing, with Burkhart estimating him at 190 solidly built pounds. When he bats, he spreads his feet wide and holds his hands high -- the former appears to be a change Giron has made as a pro, as his feet were just more that shoulder-width apart as an amateur.
Giron arrived in Fort Wayne with a quick, efficient swing, something that's allowed him to thrive out of the gate with the TinCaps.
"He's got a different bat path than a lot of guys," Burkhart said. "He's not trying to create any kind of balls hit in the air. It's just a flat swing. … It doesn't have any loop to it. That's impressive."
Giron's power comes mostly from his raw strength. All his home runs so far have been to the pull side, but he's driven some extra-base hits to the right side, and Burkhart says he employs an all-fields approach.
"He doesn't look like a power hitter, but the bat path is so good and he has so much bat speed," Burkhart said. "You couple that with not trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark, and to me, that's where the power comes from. He lets his strength do the work. He doesn't try to hit the ball out of the park, and that's why he runs into home runs."
In the field, Giron has been remarkably consistent given his age and lack of experience. He's committed just six errors in 33 games, and Burkhart thinks his awareness and steadiness are his best assets.
"When the ball is hit to him, he can make every play," Burkhart said. "I've seen him make some plays in the hole, off-balanced throws. He has instincts, field awareness.
"The toughest thing to teach at this level, in my opinion, is field awareness -- knowing the runner, who can run and who can't run. We're trying to get these guys to do that. He's got that already. He's able to slow the game down between pitches, recognize the situation. Then he's talented on top of that."
And on top of his athletic abilities, Giron draws raves for his makeup. The total package gives Giron an outstanding ceiling as a power-hitting middle infielder who hits for average and gets on base. Giron was more or less an unknown heading into 2015, but expect to read and hear his name much more in the coming years.
"He watches the game, listens, pays attention," Burkhart said. "He has got a demeanor about him that separates him from a lot of guys two or three years older. … That's just something he was born with, being beyond his years."
Red Sox OF Manuel Margot, Double-A Portland: The 20-year-old boasts some impressive tools, including plus speed and a special ability to get barrel to ball. Boston likes the Dominican center fielder for his physical abilities, but the praise for his makeup is even more effusive. That's why it's not surprising to see Margot on the move, getting bumped from Class A Advanced Salem to the Sea Dogs on Monday.
Margot batted .282 with three homers and 20 stolen bases with Salem in 46 games. He stuck out less frequently than any other hitter in the Carolina League and tied for third on the circuit with five triples. In addition to his innate hand-eye coordination, Margot is also one of the Minors' best defensive center fielders and could climb quickly to the Major Leagues, possibly by the second half of 2016.
Cardinals 2B Jacob Wilson, Triple-A Memphis: The 24-year-old was breaking out with Double-A Springfield last season when a knee injury ended his season in June. A year later, he's picked up where he left off, emerging as a promising power prospect with the ability to play second and third base.
The Memphis product hit .305 with five homers and an .885 OPS in Springfield last year before the injury. After healing up, he impressed evaluators in the Arizona Fall League, and this year he's mashed 14 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A. Wilson isn't hitting cheapies down the line -- have a look at where these two roundtrippers ended up:
Overall, Wilson is hitting .247 with an .813 OPS, with his numbers suppressed by a .222 batting average on balls in play in Double-A. Wilson has struck out in just 18 percent of his plate appearances and boasts an impressive .252 isolated power with Memphis. The Cardinals have an impressive track record of finding college bats outside the first few rounds, producing players like Allen Craig, David Freese and Matt Carpenter. It's hard not to think of those players when considering Wilson -- a 10th-round pick from the 2012 Draft.
…and one not
Red Sox 2B Yoan Moncada, Class A Greenville: Signed for a record $31.5 million in March, Moncada hadn't played in an official game in over a year heading into the season, so some rust was to be expected. Indeed, the 20-year-old has struggled in his U.S. debut. Moncada is batting .200 through 25 games, hitting just one homer and managing a .576 OPS. The switch-hitter has struck out in 28 percent of his plate appearances, well above the league average. Moncada's ceiling is as high as ever and his overall stock hasn't changed much since March -- he should still be expected to blossom into an excellent ball player. But perhaps it's time to cool the expectations that Moncada can use his Cuban professional experience to rocket his way through the Minors and to Fenway Park.