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. Nomar Mazara, LF/RF|
|Born: 04/26/95||Age: 21||Bats: L||Top CALs: Andrew Lambo, Caleb Gindl,
Chris Marrero, Josh Bell, Marcell Ozuna
|Height: 6-4||Weight: 195||Throws: L|
Background: Signed to a then-record $4.95 million deal on the international free agent market as a precocious 16-year-old during Texas’ wildly busy 2011 spending spree which also added fellow top prospect Ronald Guzman on a pact worth more than $3 million. Mazara, who stands an imposing 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, has quickly risen through the minors as one of the game’s top young bats. The Dominican-born prospect made his professional debut in 2012 at the age of 17, slugging .264/.383/.448 with plenty of extra-base firepower in the Arizona Summer League. He struggled a bit the next season as the organization aggressively pushed him straight up to the South Atlantic League as he batted a lowly .236/.310/.382, but fared much better in his return to the level in 2014. Still one of Low Class A’s youngest everyday bats Mazara hit .264/.358/.470 with 21 doubles, a pair of triples, and 19 homeruns in 106 with Hickory. And, once again, the organization continued to forcefully challenge the developing hitter by bouncing him all the way up the Texas League for his remaining 24 games.
Last season, just his fourth in professional baseball, Mazara ripped through the Class AA pitching, hitting .284/.357/.443, and torched the Pacific Coast League for 20 games (.358/.409/.444). He finished the year with an aggregate .296/.366/.443 triple-slash line to go along with 26 doubles, two triples, and 14 homeruns.
Projection: First, here’s what I wrote in last year’s book when I ranked the surging teenager as the system’s sixth best prospect:
“Plus-power potential with a tremendous feel for the strike zone and strong contact skills – against right-handers. Southpaws, on the hand, are a totally different issue.
In 317 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, Mazara’s hit .194/.290/.276 (compared to .276/.364/.486 vs. RHP). And [2014’s] work against lefties – .200/.268/.331 – was hardly better. So with all these potential platoon issues, one was to wonder why the club decided to push the then-19-year-old past High Class A and straight into the Texas League. CAL doesn’t seem to be particularly impressed with Mazara either, for what it’s worth. But he has plenty of time to [LHP] out.”
- Let’s update that a bit, shall we? Mazara tallied a .599 OPS against fellow southpaws in 2014, but he improved upon that total by nearly a 100 full points in 2015; he batted .239/.336/.358. But, again, just seven of his 42 extra-base hits came against LHP. Improvements are improvements, and it’s especially important given his youth, developmental path, and level of competition.
Mazara’s still flashing above-average to potentially plus-power, a solid eye at the plate, and incredibly strong contact skills for a middle-of-the-lineup thumper. And CAL seems to be coming around on Mazara as well, linking him to the Pirates’ Josh Bell and Miami’s Marcell Ozuna. If he can continue to make strides against lefties the world better watch out because he’s an impact bat waiting to happen.
Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2016
|2. Lewis Brinson, CF|
|Born: 05/08/94||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: Oswaldo Arcia, Brett Phillips,
Brett Jackson, Zoilo Almonte, Jay Bruce
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 170||Throws: R|
Background: Overshadowed by his draft mates, Brinson has a chance to develop into the best overall player taken by the Rangers in their vaunted 2012 class (which included Gallo, Nick Williams, and Alex Asher). The 29th overall selection that year, Brinson spent time at three levels last season, making stops at High Class A and Class AA before finishing with a quick eight-game jaunt through the Pacific Coast League. The toolsy center fielder, who sounds like he should be packin’ a pocket protector and not an offensive skill set loaded with above-average tools, hit a combined .332/.403/.601 with career bests in doubles (31), triples (8), and homeruns (20) while finishing with his second highest total in stolen bases (18). And just to add a little perspective with regards to his overall production consider the following: Brinson’s overall production topped the league average mark by a mind-boggling 69% last season; the next best showing for a player under the age of 22 with at least 400 plate appearances was Cleveland’s Bobby Bradley, who posted a 149 wRC+ in Low Class A.
Projection: Let’s run down the checklist: Above-average power? Yes. Solid or better patience at the plate? Yup. Speed? You got it. Defensive prowess? Right on. Promising hit tool? Check. Most importantly, unlike his more famous organizational mate Joey Gallo, Brinson’s strikeout rates have been trending in the right direction the past couple of years, going from 38% in the Sally in 2013 all the way down to a far more reasonable 21.5% last season. CAL seems to be a big believer in Brinson as well, tying him to Oswaldo Arcia, Brett Phillips, and Jay Bruce, who was once widely recognized as the game’s top prospect.
Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2017
|3. Joey Gallo, 3B/LF|
|Born: 11/19/93||Age: 22||Bats: L||Top CALs: Cody Johnson, Miguel Sano,
Telvin Nash, Mark Reynolds, Pedro Alvarez
|Height: 6-5||Weight: 230||Throws: R|
Background: Sharing the same personal hitting coach as Chicago’s Kris Bryant – who also happens to be Bryant’s father – Gallo failed to live up to expectations for first time in his four-year professional career. Part of the Rangers’ better draft classes in recent memory – the 2012 class infused the system with the likes of Gallo, Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams, and Alex Asher, the latter two being dealt to Philadelphia in the Cole Hamels trade – Gallo regularly sent the Texas League pitchers ducking for cover as he mashed a robust .314/.425/.636 with 20 extra-base hits in just 34 games. The Rangers called up the former supplemental first rounder in early June. And after a 3-for-5 showing against the White Sox in his Big League game, Gallo batted just .193/.280/.386 over his next 24 games with Texas before getting demoted to the Pacific Coast League.
After that Gallo never seemed to be able to right the ship: he had his worst showing at any minor league level, hitting .195/.289/.450 in 53 games with Round Rock and went 3-for-21 in his second call-up to Texas down the stretch.
Projection: Blessed with as much power as anyone at any level of baseball, both nationally and internationally. Gallo has posed three questions during his tear through the minor leagues:
- Where’s it going to land?
- Is he going to make enough contact?
- And can he do enough damage against left-handed pitching or will he ultimately be forced into a platoon role?
Here are the answers:
- Probably the moon. Maybe even Mars.
- I don’t think so. Gallo is whiffing at some pretty prodigious rates: since entering Class AA two years ago – and including his work with Texas – the lefty-swinging third baseman has punched out 311 times in 788 trips to the plate, or just a shade less than 40% of the time. It’s awfully hard to be a valuable player at any level when you’re punching out at that rate.
- Outside of last year’s pitiful showing against southpaws, Gallo has always performed exceptionally well against LHP: he posted OPS totals of 1.393, 1.186, and 1.049 from 2012 through 2014. So last year’s .151/.234/.317 was likely just a blimp on the screen.
It’s not really surprising that CAL links Gallo to a bunch of all-or-nothing bats in Miguel Sano, Mark Reynolds, and Pedro Alvarez. And just like the later two, I think Gallo will be a solid big league bat capable of mashing 35+ homeruns, but he’ll ultimately be a victim of his own hype (which is unfortunate).
Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015
|4. Dillon Tate, RHP|
|Born: 05/01/94||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 165||Throws: R|
Background: One of the – if not the – biggest draft riser in last year’s class, Tate had a successful conversion into UC Santa Barbara’s rotation after spending the previous two years pitching out of the school’s bullpen. In 14 starts, the bespectacled right-hander posted a strong 111-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in a career best 103.1 innings. The club grabbed Tate with the fourth overall pick last June.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote prior to the draft last season:
“An interesting tidbit: Since 1967, there have been just four players out of UC Santa Barbara drafted before the fourth round: Maury Ornest, Barry Zito, Chris Valaika, and Joe Gardner – all of whom were third round picks.
Obviously, Tate, who’s in the running for the top overall pick, will easily surpass them as the earliest Gaucho selection.
For his part, Tate offers up plenty of upside in the rotation to go along with an incredibly high floor as potential shutdown reliever. Because of his relative lack of his experience he has far less wear-and-tear than many of the other collegiate arms available, but that does come with a caveat of sorts: how will his arm/body respond to multiple seasons of 160+ innings?
It’s certainly encouraging that his strikeout rate during his season as UC Santa Barbara’s closer, 9.55, and this season, 9.37 [at that point], are nearly identical. And while he lacks a lengthy track record against premium opponents, he has shined against Kentucky (7.0 IP, 9K, 2BB), Oregon (7.1 IP, 8K, 4BB), Long Beach State (9.0 IP, 10K, 1BB), and Cal State Fullerton (5.2 IP, 8K, 4BB).
Tate looks like a potential upper-half-of-the-rotation caliber starting pitcher, maybe eventually peaking as a true #1.”
Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2017/2018
|5. Luis Ortiz, RHP|
|Born: 09/22/95||Age: 20||Bats: R||Top CALs: David Holmberg, Casey Kelly,
Arodys Vizcaino, Nick Adenhart, Luis Severino
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 230||Throws: R|
Background: The club’s first round pick out of Sanger High School two years ago put on a clinic of dominance during his abbreviated sophomore campaign. Ortiz, who missed nearly three months with a strained flexor muscle, strung together a 46-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 50.0 innings of work in the Sally. For his career, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound right-hander has fanned 22.9% and walked just 5.2% of the batters he’s faced in his brief, 70-inning career.
Projection: Not a whole lot of information to go off of here, just 70.1 innings of work spread across the Arizona Summer League and the Sally, Ortiz, nonetheless, has looked as dominant as any pitcher in the organization during that time. He’s missing bats, limiting walks, and succeeding against older competition. But after dealing with some arm concerns heading up to the draft last year, one wonders whether this is going to be a reoccurring theme throughout his career. CAL’s impressed: Casey Kelly, Arodys Vizcaino, Nick Adenhart, and Luis Severino.
Ceiling: 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2018
|6. Ariel Jurado, RHP|
|Born: 01/30/96||Age: 20||Bats: R||Top CALs: David Oca, Jayson Aquino,
Luis Cedeno, Miguel Sulbaran, Alexis Tapia
|Height: 6-1||Weight: 180||Throws: R|
Background: How’s this for a dominant start to a professional career: through his first 186.2 innings Jurado is sporting a paltry 2.27 ERA while averaging nearly a punch out per inning with a walk rate just over one per every nine innings. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound right-hander handled a big promotion last season as the club bumped him from the Arizona Summer League straight into the Sally – at the ripe age of 19. And Jurado barely missed a beat. In 22 games, 15 of which were starts, the promising hurler posted an impressive 95-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a barely there 2.65 FIP. He’s ready to start moving quickly.
Projection: A member of the Bird Doggin’ It section in last year’s book. Let’s just put Jurado’s performance up against some of his peers: among all Low Class A hurlers with at least 90 innings last season no one topped his strikeout-to-walk percentage, 21.3%. And the last two 19-year-old pitchers to post a strikeout-to-walk percentage above 21% were Lucas Giolito and Tyler Glasnow, two of the minors’ best young arms.
Jurado does everything you could ever want a young pitcher to do: he limits walks with the best of them, misses a whole lot of bats, handles aggressive promotions, and has succeeded against much older competition. Throw in one of the minors’ top groundball rates, 66%, and there’s a strong foundation for at least a mid-rotation arm.
Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2018
|7. Michael Matuella, RHP|
|Born: 06/03/94||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-6||Weight: 220||Throws: R|
Background: And sometimes the rich only continue to get richer – unless, of course, it’s dealing with real money in the real world, because that’s how it always seems to come down. Well, that’s what’s going to happen if the big right-hander out of Duke can finally free himself from the injuries that plagued him throughout his amateur career. Matuella had Tommy John surgery just six starts and 25.0 innings into what was supposed to be a dominant junior season. He has also dealt with some serious back issues as well, specifically when he was diagnosed with spondylosis, a degenerative osteoarthritis of the joints between the center of the spinal vertebrae and/or neural foramina. For his injury-shortened collegiate career, Matuella posted a 119-to-38 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 139 innings.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote in his pre-draft evaluation:
“Front-of-the-rotation potential, especially after posting a 93-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio [in] his previous 93.1 innings of work, Matuella offers a tantalizing mix of swing-and-miss ability with strong control, particularly for a bigger pitcher.
And in draft class that lacks a true standout #1 pick, Matuella could have easily settled that argument had he not required Tommy John surgery.
In terms of ceiling – and the assumption he can fully bounce back from TJ – Matuella has the upside of a #2-type arm, though that comes with some added risk: (A) he really[hasn’t] faced, at least on a consistent basis, top tier talent and (B) he’s tallied just 139 innings of work over the last three seasons. He could very easily be pushed into a late-inning role as well.
Finally, a pair of high-ceiling pitchers – Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde – both managed to land in the 18 selections last season despite going down with wonky elbows as well.”
Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player
Risk: High to Extremely High
MLB ETA: 2017/2018
|8. Luke Jackson, RHP|
|Born: 08/24/91||Age: 24||Bats: R||Top CALs: Maikel Cleto, Jake Barrett,
Mark Montgomery, Dan Cortes, Zack Wheeler
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 205||Throws: R|
Background: After battling control issues since entering pro ball as the 45th overall pick in 2010, the organization made the prudent decision and pushed the fire-balling right-hander into a late-inning relief role for the first time in his five-year career last season, a move that precipitated his late season call-up to help the club for the stretch run. Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 205-pounder out of Calvary Christian High School, opened the year in Round Rock’s rotation, posting an unsightly 5.64 ERA while the opposition batted .318/.396/.482 against him through 22+ innings. After those five starts, four of which were less-than-stellar, Jackson made the move towards short-inning work and finished his Class AAA season by posting a 62-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 44 innings of work to go along with a 3.68 ERA. Texas promoted the young right-hander in early September for another 6.1 innings.
Projection: Jackson unleashed a flurry of mid- to upper-90s fastballs during his run with the Rangers last season, adding a hard curveball and low-80s changeup to his power arsenal. Personally, I would have liked to see the club stick with him as a starting pitcher for the remainder of the season especially since the move was just two starts after he looked dominant against Colorado Springs in late April (6.2 IP, 8K, 0BB), but it was almost an inevitability anyway. Late-inning, high leverage power arm.
Ceiling: 1.5-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015
|9. Jairo Beras, OF|
|Born: 12/25/94||Age: 21||Bats: R||Top CALs: Yorman Rodriguez, Guillermo Pimentel,
Greg Burns, Elier Hernandez, Billy Rowell
|Height: 6-5||Weight: 178||Throws: R|
Background: Similar to Nomar Mazara is a handful of ways: Beras has plenty of size, 6-foot-5 and 178 pounds, patrols the outfield, and signed to a massive $4.5 million deal. And just like Mazara, Beras looked overmatched during his initial run through the South Atlantic League, but fared much better during his second run. Two years ago, at the age of 19, Beras batted .242/.305/.342 with 18 doubles, seven homeruns, and five stolen bases with an 83 wRC+. Those numbers improved to .291/.332/.440 with a 119 wRC+ last season. For his career, the Dominican-born outfielder is sporting a .263/.317/.391 triple-slash line with 38 doubles, four triples, and 18 homeruns in 215 games.
Projection: One gets the feeling that he hasn’t even begun to tap into his vast power potential. His eye at the plate is subpar and he’s already battling some borderline red flag strikeout totals. His production did improve after a bit of a slow start: he batted .204/.271/.241 through his fist 59 plate appearances, but followed that up with by batting .308/.345/.480 the rest of the way. There’s some tremendous sleeper value here – assuming the age issues that clouded his signing are completely out of the way.
Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2018
|10. David Perez, RHP|
|Born: 12/20/92||Age: 23||Bats: R||Top CALs: Scott Mitchinson, Chad Jenkins,
Christian Meza, Brett Lorin, Ryan Berry
|Height: 6-5||Weight: 200||Throws: R|
Background: A big 6-foot-5, 200-pound right-hander out of the Dominican Republic, Perez has quietly, consistently put together one solid season after the next while the organization has experimented with him as a starting pitcher and a relief arm. Last season, his sixth in the Texas, Perez split his time between Hickory and High Desert while posting a 97-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Projection: It was a strong return for Perez, who missed the majority of 2012 and 2013 due to injury. He continues to offer up a tantalizing combination of high punch out rates with very little walks. Texas started extending the promising hard-thrower towards the end of the season as he made six consecutive starts in High Class A. And here’s why you should stop and take notice of Perez: his first two starts in the rotation he tossed 10 total innings with 20 punch outs and zero walks. That type of production – at any level – won’t happen very often. He’s a candidate for biggest breakout in 2016.
Ceiling: 2.5-win player
Risk: High to Extremely High
MLB ETA: 2017
Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.