It might be a bit of a stretch to call a player who was drafted as a college senior a prospect. Sometimes, a player is more in the vein of organizational filler than prospect. That could still prove to be the case for 2013 14th round pick Mike Yastrzemski, Rooting for minor leaguers is about rooting for great stories, and Yastrzemski, the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, would be one of those great stories if he makes it to the big leagues.
The left-handed Yastrzemski, who is listed at 5'11", made his way through three levels of the Orioles system in the 2014 season. Even for a 24-year-old who started out the season at Delmarva, that's an impressive feat. He played for the Shorebirds, in Frederick, and in Bowie, ending the year in Double-A when he started it out in Low-A.
In 63 games for the Shorebirds, Yastrzemski batted .306/.365/.554, pulling off the trifecta of having double digit totals for triples, home runs, and stolen bases. To be sure, he was old for the level, about a year and a half older than the average player in the South Atlantic League. That's what is going to happen to a senior sign. Even in his first full professional season, he's a lot older than everyone else.
After a couple of months, the O's had seen enough and they kicked Yastrzemski up a level to Frederick. At a level where he was roughly the age of the average player, he continued to hit, if not quite as much. Over 23 games in the Carolina League, he batted .312/.364/.462, with two triples, a homer, and five stolen bases. Those are numbers that would tend to make you think he has speed as a real asset.
That short stint in Frederick impressed the Orioles enough to promote Yastrzemski a second time, letting him spend the final month and a half of the season. Things didn't go quite as well there. He batted only .250/.310/.413 there. That's an acceptable walk rate and fine in the power department; where he struggled compared to other levels was hitting for average.
If he somehow kept up that batting line to the big leagues, that would probably be enough for him to be a fourth outfielder, if he was good enough on defense. Since he's fast, you figure he probably could make that happen, though that's no sure thing.
For some guys, it's a sad truth that the talent level just isn't there for the majors to be in the cards. That sucks, because you want them all to make it. Maybe Yastrzemski has hit his ceiling somewhere in the vicinity of Double-A. Still, you never really know who might grind their way up as a late bloomer. No one could have guessed Caleb Joseph would be contributing meaningfully to this year's Orioles team.
If Yastrzemski is going to make it, that's probably the path he'll have to take. People don't just turn into Mike Trout overnight. There's a reason why he doesn't appear on a top Orioles prospect list even if you expand it out to 20 names. Senior signs aren't destined to be prospects. If they were that, they'd sign as juniors or even out of high school.
With how he performed in his first taste at Bowie this season, Yastrzemski figures to start next season at Bowie as well. If he shows improvement at the plate, maybe he'll find his way up another level to Norfolk. If he makes it all the way to the big leagues, it would be a heck of a story.