MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Six prospects who had big second-half turnarounds

Six prospects who had big second-half turnarounds

Baseball, as it has often been said, is a game of adjustments. Players who can make those adjustments -- within a season, a game, even an at-bat -- are those who succeed for a long time.

All players struggle at some point in their career. It's how they get out of those tough times that can truly make a player. That's especially true for young prospects trying to make their way to the big leagues. Talk to most big leaguers and they'll point to a time that they slumped while coming up as a period of important growth and learning.

This 2016 season has been no different. There's still playoff baseball being played in the Minor Leagues, but for the vast majority of prospects, the year has come to an end. There are many who started the season poorly, but turned it around in the second half to enter the offseason on a relatively high note.

Whether that breeds confidence heading into 2017 remains to be seen. But these hitters and pitchers all experienced second-half turnarounds they, and their organizations, should be proud of.

Hitters

Rafael Devers, 3B (Red Sox's No. 3 prospect)
1st half: .233/.300/.335
2nd half: .331/.371/.555

Playing all year in the Carolina League at age 19, Devers began by hitting .138 with a .504 OPS in April. It got better in May, when he hit .248 with a .652 OPS, but he really got it going in June (.313 AVG with a .738 OPS). A 1.078 OPS in July, followed by a .845 OPS August capped off the year as Devers hit seven of his 11 home runs and drove in 40 runs in those two months. He ended up in the Carolina Leauge's top 10 for both RBIs and SLG.

Isan Diaz, SS/2B (Brewers' No. 10 prospect)
1st half: .232/.309/.370
2nd half: .296/.404/.569

Like Devers, Diaz started off extremely slowly, hitting just .212 over the season's first two months. Then he hit .316 with a .972 OPS in June, and he put up a .327/.413/.645 line in July. Diaz ended up with 14 homers and a .973 OPS in the second half. His 20 homers for the season actually led the Midwest League, as did his 238 total bases, more than Cubs breakout prospect Eloy Jimenez.

Dom Smith, 1B (Mets' No. 2 prospect)
1st half: .277/.340/.436
2nd half: .345/.413/.492

It's not that Smith's first half in the Double-A Eastern League was terrible. It was just on the pedestrian side. Smith has always hit for average, showing an ability to post very low strikeout rates while getting on base at a solid clip. This year, he added power, setting high marks in his three full seasons in hits, total bases, home runs, RBIs, OBP and SLG. While more of the home runs came in the first half, everything else got better in the second, allowing Smith to raise his OPS from .777 before the break to .904 after it. And keep in mind he didn't turn 21 until mid-June.

Pitchers

Francis Martes, RHP (Astros' No. 1 prospect)
1st half: 4.12 ERA, .249 BAA, 1.45 WHIP
2nd half: 2.67 ERA, .201 BAA, 1.02 WHIP

Much of Martes' first-half numbers came because of a dreadful April (13 earned runs in 13 innings), and he struggled with command for much of the first two months of the season. But there was a complete turnaround after the Texas League All-Star break, with the right-hander upping his strikeout rate (10.3 vs. 8.2) while lowering his walk rate (2.5 vs. 4.4). Martes gave up the same amount of hits in both halves, but threw 16 more innings in the second half. He finished third in the league in K's and fourth in both ERA and WHIP as a result.

Brandon Woodruff, RHP (Brewers' No. 26 prospect)
1st half: 4.73 ERA, .233 BAA, 1.33 WHIP
2nd half: 2.32 ERA, .201 BAA, 0.92 WHIP

Woodruff actually pitched really well in the Florida State League to start the year, earning a promotion to Double-A after eight starts, where he then put up that 4.73 ERA in the remainder of the Southern League first half. Then Woodruff figured things out and dominated in the second half, limiting hits and missing a lot more bats (10.5 K/9 vs. 8.1 in the first half). The turnaround enabled him to lead the league in WHIP and finish third in ERA.

Trevor Williams, RHP (Pirates' No. 27 prospect)
1st half: 3.61 ERA, .279 BAA, 1.34 WHIP
2nd half: 1.55 ERA, .222 BAA, 1.09 WHIP

The scene of Williams getting the win in his Major League debut and then being able to celebrate it with his wife and understandably emotional father has been one of the highlights of an otherwise disappointing September in Pittsburgh. It was Williams' strong pitching in the second half that set him up for that September callup. The big drop in walk and hit rates were huge for Williams, and it dropped his season ERA to 2.42, which would have led the Triple-A International League had he accrued enough innings to qualify.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.