Announcement: After peaking as the #3 book among all baseball books on Amazon last year, my new book, The 2016 Prospect Digest Handbook, is on sale! Check it out here!
And for those wondering what CALs are, here’s an article on the Comparison And Likeness program I designed.
|1. Chance Sisco, C|
|Born: 02/24/95||Age: 21||Bats: L||Top CALs: Carlos Perez, JR Murphy,
Jobduan Morales, Danny Arribas, Tucker Barnhart
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 193||Throws: R|
Background: And because the injury bug struck the club’s top picks, why the hell should it avoid the system’s top bat? Sisco, a lefty-swinging backstop taken in the second round three years ago, missed about a handful of games after fracturing his right ring finger on an opponent’s bat during a stolen base attempt. And then he would miss about a month of action with another injury early in the season as well. But despite that, though, the big 6-foot-2, 193-pound backstop ripped through the Carolina League, hitting a robust .308/.387/.422 with 12 doubles, three triples, four homeruns, and eight stolen bases, before earning a 20-game promotion to Bowie, where he would bat a solid .257/.337/.392. Defensively last season, he threw out 25% of the attempted would-be base thieves.
Projection: Just to add a little bit of context to Sisco’s dominant showing with Frederick last season, consider the following: no 20-year-old catcher with 300 or more plate appearances in the Carolina League topped Sisco’s 140 wRC+ mark since 2006, the first year FanGraphs’ minor league data is available. He has a very promising offensive foundation in place, particularly for a catcher: an above-average eye at the plate, 15- to 17-homer potential, and a hit tool that could threaten a .300 average annually. He’s always shown some platoon splits so that’ll bear watching. Defensively, he…remains a work in progress.
Ceiling: 3.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2017
|2. Dylan Bundy, RHP|
|Born: 11/15/92||Age: 23||Bats: B||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-1||Weight: 200||Throws: R|
Background: Just a handful of years after capturing the imagination – and attention – of front office personnel and fans alike, Bundy barely registers a blip on the many prospect radars now – or at least that’s what it seems. But then again, that’s what happens when you make the big leagues at 19-years-old and then tally just 63.1 innings over the next three seasons. Bundy first missed the entire 2013 season and part of the following year with Tommy John surgery. And then he missed a good part of last year – and by good part, I mean more than three months – with an entirely new ailment: shoulder inflammation. Overall, he tossed 22.0 innings with Bowie, fanning 25 and walking five en route to totaling a 3.68 ERA. He would make two appearances with the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Summer League at the end the year.
Projection: So, what do you do at this point? Bundy clearly has – note the present tense used, not past – the potential to develop into a legitimate impact big league starter. But he has the durability of a cheap, wet paper towel. As a baseball fan in general you hope that Bundy can move beyond the shit luck and eventually realize his potential, because he’d be a lot of fun to watch. Keep your fingers crossed. Hell, even Rich Harden carved out three seasons with at least 140.0 innings.
Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2012
|3. Hunter Harvey, RHP|
|Born: 12/09/94||Age: 21||Bats: R||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 175||Throws: R|
Background: As if having one star-crossed, snake-bitten top pitching prospect wasn’t enough, Baltimore is the proud owner of two star-crossed, snake-bitten top pitching prospects: Dylan Bundy, the original hurler right out of a William Shakespeare tragedy, and Harvey, the son of former All-Star closer Bryan Harvey. But here’s where it gets…weird: the younger Harvey was originally diagnosed with a strained flexor mass in the middle of 2014, the exact same issue that first popped up with Bundy. But the Orioles opted to take the rest and rehab approach with the former first round pick. And Harvey came back last spring…until a comebacker slightly fractured his right fibula. Well, fast forward to the end the year, the first time Harvey toes the rubber against the Rays in the Instructional League he felt some elbow discomfort. I would assume that he’s likely going to be facing the surgical scalpel at some point in the very near future – unfortunately.
Projection: I think the most important question facing the identical injuries to Bundy and Harvey is this: Is this merely a coincidence or does it have to do with an organizational philosophy, be it throwing, working out, etc…? Harvey, like his injured counterpart, also captured the quite a bit of press before succumbing to the injury. Here’s hoping he can escape further issues/setbacks.
Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2019
|4. Jomar Reyes, 3B|
|Born: 02/20/97||Age: 19||Bats: R||Top CALs: Rafael Devers, Jorge Bonifacio,
Victor Acosta, Zachary Green, Steven Fuentes
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 220||Throws: R|
Background: Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $350,000 in early February 2014, Reyes has quietly become one of the more interesting low level third baseman after two solid showings. The big, stocky Reyes batted a respectable .285/.333/.425 with 10 doubles, a pair of triples, four homeruns, and a stolen base in the Gulf Coast League in 2014. And he followed that up by slugging .278/.334/.440 with a whopping 27 doubles, four triples, five homeruns en route to topping the Sally offensive average mark by 19% in 84 games. For his career, he’s sporting a solid .280/.335/.432 triple-slash line.
Projection: For those counting at home, here are Reyes’ numbers pro-rated over a full 162-game season: 52 doubles, eight triples, 10 triples, and a pair of stolen bases. And just to add a little bit of perspective to that: the Dodgers prospect Kyle Farmer led all the minors with 47 two-baggers last season.
Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:
“Outside of the sheer size, Reyes is a pretty promising prospect: he made a successful jump stateside, flashing above-average power potential, decent walk and strikeout rates, and a solid hit tool. He could be a fast riser next beginning next year.”
Well, how’s that for a fast riser? He owns the best power potential in the entire system, something that will eventually come to fruition given all the doubles he’s slugged. The lone knock on him at this point: a slightly below-average eye at the plate, though it’s worth noting he was just 18 last season.
Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2017/2018
|5. Mychal Givens, RHP|
|Born: 05/13/90||Age: 26||Bats: R||Top CALs: Santos Rodriguez, Stephen Shackleford,
Nathan Striz, Erik Davis, Barret Browning
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 210||Throws: R|
Background: Finally, perhaps my single most favorite minor league prospect to date. Givens flamed out as a light-hitting, albeit rocket-armed shortstop in his first three seasons. He “batted” – a term used in the loosest of senses – a disappointing .247/.331/.311 with just 44 extra-base knocks in 1,043 plate appearances. Add in the fact that he was a highly touted second round pick, and it was clear that he was encroaching upon bust territory. But then the heavens parted and Baltimore took advantage of his true God-given ability: to unleash a wicked power arsenal upon the opposition. Less than two years later he was up in the big leagues as arguably the Orioles’ top relief arm. In 22 appearances in The Show last season, Givens fanned 32.5% and walked just 5.1% of the total batters he faced.
Projection: Here’s the power arsenal: a mid-90s fastball, a snap-dragon of a slider, and a hard, mid-80s changeup. If the control is as good as advertised last season, the sky’s the limit. He’s a potential shut down, turn off the lights, empty the ballpark, game over caliber relief arm.
Ceiling: 2.0-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015
|6. D.J. Stewart, LF|
|Born: 11/30/93||Age: 22||Bats: L||Top CALs: Michael Taylor, Carlos Moncrief,
Ben Verlander, Tyler Marincov, Dan Gulbransen
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 230||Throws: R|
Background: Built like Kirby Puckett, in the latter years, the sweet-swinging corner outfielder was a consistent – eerily consistent, to be exact – dominant force for three years at Florida State University. His yearly OPS totals: 1.029, 1.029, 1.093.He left the school as a .344/.481/.570 career hitter, slugging 54 doubles, four triples, 27 homeruns, 15 of which came during his final year with the Seminoles, and 24 stolen bases. Baltimore grabbed the 6-foot, 230-pound lefty-swinging outfielder in the first round last June, 25th overall, and pushed him to Aberdeen for his debut. In 62 games with Aberdeen, he batted a disappointing .218/.288/.345 with eight doubles, two triples, six homeruns, and four stolen bases (in five attempts).
Projection: Here’s what I wrote prior to draft last season:
“An OBP-machine. Through his first 165 games Stewart owns a .488 OBP. To put that into perspective a bit, look at some of the more notable careers of some past collegiate hitters: Kris Bryant (.486), Michael Conforto (.376), Colin Moran (.452), D.J. Peterson (.463), Mike Zunino (.393), Dustin Ackley (.489), Pedro Alvarez (.451).
Stewart owns an elite eye at the plate – he’s walked 18.4% of his career plate appearances and a staggering 25.8% this season – and enough pop to develop into an annual 15-HR threat. At 6-foot and 230 pounds, he’s not overly quick, but his above-average hit tool helps compensate.
He won’t be your prototypical run-producing corner outfield bat, but has better-than-average production.”
Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2018
|7. Trey Mancini, 1B|
|Born: 03/18/92||Age: 24||Bats: R||Top CALs: Henry Wrigley, Joe Mahoney,
Curt Smith, Christian Marrero, Mitch Moreland
|Height: 6-4||Weight: 215||Throws: R|
Background: Alright, be honest, who in the hell saw this offensive surge coming? Really? Where the hell did this type of production come from? An eighth round pick out of Notre Dame three years ago, Mancini ripped the cover off the ball in 52 games with Frederick, slugging .314/.341/.527 with 14 doubles, three triples, and eight homeruns en route to topping the league average production by a whopping 50%. But it didn’t stop there, either. In 84 games with Bowie, Mancini looked like the second-coming of Babe Ruth, mashing to the tune of .359/.395/.586 with 29 doubles, three triples, 13 homeruns, and a pair of stolen bases. Here’s the best part: during his time with Bowie, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder basher topped the league average production mark by 80 freakin’ %. Overall, Mancini finished the year with a combined .341/.375/.563 triple-slash line with 43 doubles, six triples, and 21 homeruns – easily the greatest season of his career, amateur or professional.
Projection: Again, here’s some perspective for you: Among all stateside minor league hitters, Mancini finished in the top five in doubles and tied for eighth in overall production (169 wRC). He was an eighth round pick three years ago. And as much as I want to say that this smacks of being a complete fluke, I’m not completely convinced he can’t develop into a dominant big league bat. He still walked the same amount, the power took a noticeable uptick but (A) he slugged a lot of doubles two years ago and (B) he was an absolute force to be reckoned with during his time with Notre Dame, and even though his BABIPs were high, they aren’t that far out of line with his 2013 and part of his 2014 showing. And here’s something to keep in mind: Paul Goldschmidt, arguably the top hitter in the majors right now, absolutely annihilated the minor leagues but never garnered a whole lot of positive reviews. Could Trey Mancini be the next Paul Goldschmidt? Hell, even if he develops into 80% of that he’ll be a league average player. CAL is a little optimistic, comparing him to Mitch Moreland, owner of a career 101 wRC+ in 2,259 big league plate appearances.
Ceiling: 2.5-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2017
|8. Joe Gunkel, RHP|
|Born: 12/30/91||Age: 24||Bats: R||Top CALs: Jeff Manship, Andrew Gagnon,
Corey Vanallen, Chris Schwinden Williams Perez
|Height: 6-5||Weight: 225||Throws: R|
Background: Originally drafted by the Red Sox out of West Chester University of Pennsylvania in the 18th round three years ago, Boston flipped the underrated right-hander last June for the services of veteran outfielder Alejandro De Aza. As for Gunkel, well, he’s been incredibly underrated – and highly successful – during his relatively short minor league career. Last season the 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-hander tossed a career high 144.2 innings while fanning 113 and walking just 27 en route to tallying a 2.68 ERA and a FIP hovering around 3.00. For his career, Gunkel has fanned 247 and walked just 54 in 269.1 innings of work.
Projection: Incredibly underrated. Most people won’t give Gunkel a second look. But make no mistake about it – there is legitimate big league starting potential here. He’s shown above-average control/command, a solid ability to miss bats, and the skill to churn out plenty of innings. He’s a good bet to develop into a #4/#5 pitcher, one where you’ll look up and ask: where the hell did this guy come from?
Ceiling: 1.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2016
|9. Christian Walker, 1B|
|Born: 03/28/91||Age: 25||Bats: R||Top CALs: Matt Clark, Justin Huber,
Brock Peterson, Danny Dorn, Mike Carp
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 220||Throws: R|
Background: A collegiate basher taken in the fourth round out of South Carolina University four years ago, things seemingly clicked for Walker in the Eastern League two years ago when he slugged .301/.367/.516 with 15 doubles, two triples, and 20 homeruns in just 95 games. But his production took a noticeable decline when the club bumped him up to the International League, hitting an average-ish .259/.335/.428 in 44 games. And that type of production followed him back to his return to Norfolk last season. In 138 games with the Tides, the 6-foot, 220-pound first baseman hit .257/.324/.423 with 33 doubles, one triples, and 18 homeruns en route to tallying a 116 wRC+.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:
“Walker answered some questions surrounding his power potential last season by doubling his career homerun total. Still, though, it’s more of a line-drive type of bat with 15-homerun potential in the big leagues. CAL isn’t overly optimistic, linking him to a bunch of minor league flame outs. And the overall skillset – decent patience, OK hit tool, and average power – is pretty underwhelming.”
Well, CAL still isn’t impressed, linking him to Matt Clark, Justin Huber, Brock Peterson, Danny Dorn, and Mike Carp. But, again, line-drive power, average eye, decent hit tool – it can be a promising combination for a middle infielder, just not a first baseman.
Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2014
|10. Ryan Mountcastle, SS|
|Born: 02/18/97||Age: 19||Bats: R||Top CALs: Richard Urena, Preston Mattingly
Kenneth Peoples-Walls, Neftali Soto, Yeffry De Aza
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 185||Throws: R|
Background: Baltimore’s had a pretty strong track record of draft prep shortstops in the first round over the past several decades, with names including Bobby Grich, Manny Machado, and Ricky Gutierrez. Note: Cal Ripken Jr. was taken in the second round – as a third baseman. Anyway, Mountcastle is the latest high school shortstop taken in the opening round by the franchise. He batted a combined .313/.349/.411 with seven doubles, four homeruns, and 10 stolen bases in 53 games between the Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen in the NYPL.
Projection: It was a relatively solid professional debut for the 36th overall pick; he squared up a couple pitches, took a couple walks, and swiped a handful of bags. Per the usual, we’ll take a wait-and-see approach until we have a larger sample size to analyze.
Ceiling: 1.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2019
Author’s Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.