Prospect Digest A Sabermetric Look At The Minor Leagues 2017-05-23T11:49:48Z http://www.prospectdigest.com/feed/atom/ WordPress Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: Jeren Kendall]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5460 2017-05-23T11:49:48Z 2017-05-23T11:49:48Z

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  • 2017 College Draft Profile: Jake Burger School: Missouri State University; Class: Junior Position: 3B; B/T: R/R Height: 6-2; Weight: 210 Previously Drafted: N/A   Background: The preeminent power hitter in this…
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School: Vanderbilt University; Class: Junior
Position: CF; B/T: L/R
Height: 6-0; Weight: 190
Previously Drafted: Boston Red Sox, 30nd round, 2014

 

Background: Easily one of the top prospects in the 2017 draft class, Kendall, a former 30th round pick of the Red Sox coming out of high school, has made his presence known since stepping on campus for the Commodores two years ago. As the only teenage regular to receive more than 27 trips to the plate for Head Coach Tim Corbin in 2015, the toolsy center fielder slugged a robust .281/.394/.530 with 24 doubles and 15 long balls while tying eventual top pick Dansby Swanson for the team lead in triples with six. Kendall also paced the club in stolen bases as well, swiping 19 bags in 23 attempts.

The lefty-swinging outfielder handled his own in the Cape Cod League that summer as well, hitting .253/.330/.392 with one double, two triples, a pair of homeruns, and four stolen bases in 20 games for the Cotuit Kettleers.

With expectations approaching a boiling point heading into his sophomore season – he was a pre-season All-American – Kendall got off to a scorching start for Vanderbilt: he went 10-for-15 with three dingers and 10 RBIs en route to earning SEC Player of the Week and National Player of the Week by Louisville Slugger.

And that was just a glimpse of what was to come.

In 62 games for the Commodores two years ago, Kendall battered the opposition to the tune of .332/.396/.568 while setting career highs doubles (16), triples (8), homeruns (9), and stolen bases (28). He would finish with 142 total bases, the most in the SEC in 2016 and tied for the 17th most in the conference since 2011. Kendall, of course, continued to shine brightly for Team USA last summer as well. In a team-leading 19 games, the future first round pick slugged .290/.329/.536 with five doubles, three triples, and a pair of homeruns.

This season he has continued to display his supreme athleticism. Through the school’s first 44 contests, Kendall’s slugging .301/.384/.579 with 12 doubles, three triples, 13 homeruns, and 15 stolen bases (in 19 attempts).

 

Projection: And now the bad news: Kendall’s propensity for the strikeout raises more than a few red flags. He’s whiffed in more than 24% of his plate appearances thus far in 2017. And he’s sporting a K-rate that’s only slightly better throughout his career. But to add just a little context to his production consider the following like tidbit:

• There’s been only 58 players to finish a year with a walk percentage between 8% and 12% and a strikeout rate north of 24% since 2011 (minimum 200 at bats). Only one of them, Derek Fisher, went on to have an established professional career.

Consider the following comparisons:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K%
Jeren Kendall 730 0.307 0.392 0.560 9.45% 23.84%
Derek Fisher 700 0.281 0.369 0.456 8.86% 18.00%
George Springer 869 0.348 0.469 0.653 14.73% 18.53%

Kendall, without question, is a better professional prospect than Fisher was. And the Commodore center fielder has a very similar toolkit to Springer, though the disparity in career production can be explained somewhat because Kendall faced off against stiffer competition on a more regular basis.

He’ll will have to prove that his already troublesome strikeout rate won’t balloon out of control any further in the professional ranks. But he offers up plenty of potential with the always sought-after power/speed combo.

If everything breaks well – and that means showing no major platoon splits against fellow lefties – Kendall looks like a .270/.330/.450 type big league hitter, capable of hitting 30 doubles, six triples, and 25 homeruns to go along with 15 or 20 stolen bases. A reasonable comp would be Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 2016 season with the Red Sox.

Make no mistake about it: there’s some risk here.

 

Ceiling: 4.5-win player
Floor: 2.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
Grade: First Round

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: Jake Burger]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5458 2017-05-23T11:49:29Z 2017-05-23T11:49:29Z

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School: Missouri State University; Class: Junior
Position: 3B; B/T: R/R
Height: 6-2; Weight: 210
Previously Drafted: N/A

 

Background: The preeminent power hitter in this year’s draft class, Burger, who went undrafted coming out of Christian Brothers College High School, burst onto the scene as a true freshman for the Bears in 2015. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound third baseman slugged a robust .342/.390/.518 with a team-leading 22 doubles, three triples, and four long balls. He also swiped four bags just for added measure.

The budding first round pick followed that up with an even more prolific season in 2016: in 56 games for Head Coach Keith Guttin, Burger walloped the opposition to the tune of .349/.420/.689 with 13 doubles, a pair of triples, 21 homeruns, and, of course, another three stolen bases. Burger garnered a litany of awards that year as well, including: ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove Award, Third Team All-American (Baseball America, NCBWA, D1Baseball, and Louisville Slugger).

The hot-hitting third baseman cooled considerably during the summer, however, hitting .271/.358/.373 with just five extra-base hits in 19 games for Team USA.

This season Burger, once again, raised the bar for offensive prowess for this year’s draft class. Through his first 50 games, Burger’s slugging a sizzling .345/.459/.706 with 11 doubles and 20 homeruns – currently the fourth best mark among all DI players.

For his career, he’s slugging .345/.423/.635 with 46 doubles, five triples, and 45 homeruns. He’s also sporting an impressive 93-to-73 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

 

Projection: Again, the prolific collegiate power hitter in this year’s draft class. Burger has not one, but two seasons in which he’s reached the 20-homer mark – the only hitter to accomplish that feat since 2011. In fact, here’s some more contextual evidence to support Burger’s dominance throughout his amateur career:

• Since 2011, there’s only 61 instances in which a slugger – at any level – batted at least .340/.400/.675 in a season (minimum 240 plate appearances).
• Continuing with the aforementioned factoid, only four hitters have accomplished that twice in their respective careers: Adam Giacalone, Dylan Johnson, Kyle Lewis, D.J. Peterson.
• Of those aforementioned four, only Kyle Lewis and D.J. Peterson played at the Division I level. Burger, of course, would be the third.
• Keeping with the original production levels (.340/.400/.675), only six of those hitters have slugged 20 homeruns in their respective seasons: Casey Allison, Miguel Beltran, Jake Burger (twice, potentially), Nick Feight, Jake Lowery, Heath Quinn.
• Again, extending the constraints a little more, no player has accomplished that with a walk rate north of 15.0%. If the season ended at the time of this writing, Burger would eclipse that mark.

There’s really nothing to not like about Burger: above-average to plus power, a premium defensive position who’s been recognized as a solid or better defender, and impressive plate discipline. Burger has the potential to be an All-Star.
Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player
Floor: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
Risk: Moderate
Grade: First Round

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: J.B. Bukauskas]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5456 2017-05-23T01:40:55Z 2017-05-23T01:40:55Z

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School: University of North Carolina; Class: Junior
Position: RHP; B/T: R/R
Height: 6-0; Weight: 201
Previously Drafted: Arizona Diamondbacks, 20th round, 2014

 

Background: In a word: dominant. The hard-throwing right-hander, who hails from Ashburn, Virginia, has simply been one of the best pitchers at whichever level he’s performed. After helping his prep team, the Stone Bridge Bulldogs, to a district title, the generously listed 6-foot Bukauskas committed to the University of North Carolina – as a freshman. Following another Bob Gibson-esque sophomore season, Bukauskas reclassified during the summer in order to attend college one year earlier. Then during his junior campaign he went a perfect 7-0 while fanning nearly 90 hitters without allowing an earned run. And that string of strong performances continued for the Tar Heels during his freshman year in 2015, as well.

On a pitching staff that had several notable eventual MLB draft picks (Trent Thornton, Zac Gallen, Trevor Kelley, and Benton Moss), Bukauskas stood out among his peers – easily.

In 14 starts that year, he threw 72.2 innings with 67 strikeouts, 30 walks, and a 4.09 ERA – all at the tender age of 18. The eventual first round pick followed that up with an even more impressive showing the following season: 78.1 IP, 111 K, just 29 walks, and a 3.10 ERA. Bukauskas also starred for Team USA that summer as well, throwing 21.2 innings without allowing an earned run while fanning 21 and walking just three. Oh, yeah, and just for good measure he posted an impeccable 17-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 9.2 innings with the Chatham Anglers in the Cape Cod League as well.

This season Bukauskas has simply been unhittable: through his first 71.2 innings, he’s fanned 96, walked only 22, and is sporting a paltry 1.51 ERA. And, if you’re into that kind of thing, he remains – at the time of this writing – a perfect 8-0 on the season.

For his collegiate career (at the time of this writing), he’s averaging 11.06 strikeouts and 3.27 walks every nine innings to go along with a 2.91 ERA and a 20-5 win-loss record.

 

Projection: Pure. Filthy. Dominance. Consider the following:

• Since 2011, here is a list of Division I pitchers to average at least 12 strikeouts and fewer than three walks every nine innings with an ERA below 2.00 (minimum 70 innings): Trevor Bauer, Danny Hultzen, Jack Leathersich, and Luke Gillingham. If the season ended today, Bukauskas would be the fifth member of the group.

Easily my favorite pitcher in the entire draft class. The lone knock on Bukauskas is his frame size. With that being said, though, the North Carolina coaching staff has done a fine job limiting his workload throughout his amateur career. Big, big time strikeout ability with better-than-average control. Bukauskas’s production is far more impressive than former Tar Heel – and 2010 seventh overall pick – Matt Harvey.

If his likely sub-6-foot frame can prove to handle the rigors of taking the ball every fifth day in professional baseball, he has the potential to blossom into a bonafide frontend starter. And the quick and easy comparison would be Marcus Stroman, another diminutive right-hander who dominated in college.
Ceiling: 4.5- to 5.0-win player
Floor: 2.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
Grade: First Round

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[How will the Cleveland Indians Fare in 2017?]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5453 2017-04-07T11:02:28Z 2017-04-07T11:02:28Z

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Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, who once called fictional A League of Their Own manager Jimmy Dugan a talking pile of pig…excrement, famously quipped: “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

For Northeast Ohio, well, it was a typically longer-than-normal winter – though that has more to do with the Indians coming oh-so-close to standing atop the baseball world than the actual weather.

So the 68-year question that remains is…Can the Indians win it all in 2017?

Let’s take a look…

History, itself, doesn’t quite know what to make of the Tribe’s odds this year. Consider the following two little tidbits:

  1. Between 2000 and 2015, any Major League team that reached the World Series lost an average of five additional games the following year. It’s essentially a playoff-like hangover. Teams play longer, pitchers accrue more pitches – it’s as simple as that.
  2. However, on the other hand, four teams – the Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, and New York Yankees – were all able to make back-to-back World Series appearances during that time. So there’s a recent precedent on what the Indians are trying to do.

So let’s take it another step – or several steps – further. Per the usual, here’s a position by position breakdown for the 2017 Cleveland Indians.

 

Catcher: What should be a strength for the team quickly turned into the blackest of black holes. Yan Gomes, Roberto Perez, Chris Gimenez, and Adam Moore hit a bile-infused .185/.244/.320 to go along with a -0.7 fWAR. Their combined offensive ineptitude – and, yes, it was offensive – was a mindboggling 54% below the league average mark.

So what does 2017 hold?

Hell, just through simple regression the Indians’ backstops are bound to improve.

Yan Gomes may never be the player he once was – the guy who once slugged .284/.325/.476 with 43 doubles, five triples, and 32 homeruns between 2013 and 2014 – but I find it difficult to believe that he’s a .167/.201/.327 hitter, even after posting a .659 OPS two years ago. But things shouldn’t be all doom-and-gloom for the Brazilian-born backstop in 2017.

His walk and strikeout rates and Isolated Power all remained consistent from year-to-year and he’s still on the right side of 30. Last season Gomes battled a litany of injuries including a dislocated shoulder and a broken thumb. He may never be the four-win player he once was, but I think he’s capable of posting a 1.5-win season in 100 or so games.

Roberto Perez is one of my favorite players on the Indians. But he, too, fell on hard offensive times last season. Coming off of a .228/.348/.402 campaign in 2015 with stellar defense (which would have him starting on more MLB teams than you think), Perez batted a Gomes-esque .183/.285/.294. And just like his catching counterpart, Perez missed significant time due to injury in 2016. The cause: a broken right thumb that eventually required surgery.

Perez isn’t a thumper behind the plate. But, again, he isn’t nearly as bad as he showed last year. Throw in some of the better backstop defense in the game, and he has the makings of a 1.0-win player in part time action for the Tribe – if not more.

First Base: In a lot of ways, Mike Napoli was the epitome of the Indians in 2016. He overachieved for a team desperate for veteran overachievers. He slugged a career-high 34 homeruns en route to topping 100 RBIs for the first time. But he wasn’t that productive – at least in terms of overall value.

According to FanGraphs’ version of wins above replacement, the Party Boy was worth just one single, solitary win – nearly half of the value Dan Otero provided, by the way.

Enter: Edwin Encarnacion.

And I’m just going to leave this here:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG 2B HR wRC+ fWAR
Mike Napoli 645 0.239 0.335 0.465 22 34 113 1.0
Edwin Encarnacion 702 0.263 0.357 0.529 34 42 134 3.9

Now Encarnacion’s contract may be a bit of a millstone in a few years. But his production will be miles above Napoli’s.

Last year I developed – or started to develop – a multi-year projection system. And, just by chance Encarnacion was one of the guys I had been using as a sample subject. My system projected that the slugging first baseman would put together a .273/.370/.574 triple-slash line in 2016 – which was reasonably accurate. It also said he was going to have a career year in 2017 by slugging .288/.383/.621. I find it hard to believe that’ll happen at the age of 34. But he should be no worse than a two-win upgrade from last year’s projection.

Second Base: Here’s a little fun fact to chew on: since 2015 only two other second basemen, Jose Altuve and Ian Kinsler, have topped Jason Kipnis’ 9.8-win total. The former second round pick is off to a not-so-great start to the season as he recently hit the DL with shoulder issues, something that can’t be easily dismissed (just ask Dr. Smooth). But a lot of his numbers seem quite repeatable, even if he does see a modest downtick in the power department. Ignoring his disastrous 2014, his 3.4-win season in 2012 seems like a safe floor given his wonky shoulder.

Shortstop: Here’s another little fun fact: No shortstop in baseball has bettered Francisco Lindor’s 10.8 fWAR since 2015 – despite the fact that he’s appeared in more than 40 games fewer than runner-up Brandon Crawford. Lindor’s a generational-type talent. He has the offensive wherewithal to post a 120 wRC+ with the defensive wizardry of Ozzie Smith. Assuming he isn’t besmirched by injury in 2017, he should have no problem repeating his 2016 production.

Third Base: Outside of the ineptitude that the Tribe’s catchers showed in 2016, third base was the least productive position for the team. And that’s despite Jose Ramirez getting more than 400 plate appearances at the hot corner. Of course, having Juan Uribe “hit” .206/.260/.335 in 68 games will do that for you.

Ramirez was the spark plug the Tribe’s offense desperately needed last year, especially at various times in the playoffs. But is he really a .312/.363/.462 hitter? I’m not entirely sold – yet. In other words: it wouldn’t be shocking to see him take a step back in 2017. Even if he bats .280/.330/.390 he’ll be one of the better third baseman, but I just don’t see him posting another WAR total near 5.0.

Back-up Yandy Diaz should be a nice contributor, as I mentioned in my latest book, coming off the bench.

Outfield:

Looking back at the Tribe’s playoff run, it’s impressive considering the fact that the club’s second best hitter, Michael Brantley, and three of their starting pitchers were injured (Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer). And while there was some talk being floated about that suggested Brantley’s shoulder woes, which limited him to just 43 plate appearances, might be career ending, the former All-Star has looked impressive during his jaunt through Spring Training.

Despite Brantley’s lost season, the team’s left field production was above average in 2016 as the group slugged an aggregate .286/.350/.437. It remains to be seen if Mickey’s kid can hold up for the entire season, but he should be able to eclipse that production (assuming he’s fully recovered).

Center fielder Tyler Naquin exceeded all expectations and provided one of the season’s iconic moments as he raced around the bases for a dramatic inside-the-park homerun.  But make no mistake about it, he’s headed for a crash landing. The former first round pick batted just .234/.331/.331 over his final 46 contests and his punch out rate, 30.7%, is well above red flag territory. He plays a passable center field, but I’d be shocked to see him exceed two wins over the course of a full season.

Surprisingly enough, right field was the least productive outfield position for the Indians last season. Lonnie Chisenhall topped the league average offensive production mark for the third time in his career. But his stellar defense regressed some. With that being said, there’s no reason to suspect that he can’t repeat his 2016 campaign.

Backups Austin Jackson and (personal favorite) Brandon Guyer, as well as Abraham Almonte, provide excellent depth.

Rotation: The strength of the team – without question – is the club’s arms. Corey Kluber’s been remarkably consistent – and dominant – over the past three seasons. The former Cy Young winner is now approaching his 31st birthday so he might start to show slight signs of slowing down.

Carlos Carrasco was limited to just 146.1 innings thanks to some non-arm related injuries. And while he may never exceed his dominant 2015, he should have no problems exceeding his modest 2.5-win season from a year ago.

Danny Salazar is still coughing up homeruns at the same troubling rate. And there’s some risk thanks to the yips he experienced in the second half. When he’s on, he’s great. When he’s not, well, we all saw that at various points in 2016.

Trevor Bauer hopefully won’t be battling any drones in 2017. The former UCLA stud has always been a personal favorite of mine and my gut tells me he’s going to put it all together one of these years. My head, on the other hand, tells me he’s a perfectly adequate #4 caliber arm.

Texas-born right-hander Josh Tomlin remains one of the most underrated starters in baseball. And if it weren’t for a hellish month of August – he allowed 34 ER in 26.2 IP – which might have been affected by some off-the-field issues, his overall numbers were quite impressive minus the poor month: 3.11 ERA.

Bullpen: The four-headed monster of Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Dan Otero are firmly in place. Add in southpaw Boone Logan and youngster Shawn Armstrong to go along with veteran Zach McAllister, and the Indians have arguably the best pitching staff in baseball.

 

So, what’s it all mean?: The Indians won 94 games last season and were mathematically a 91-win team (based on their runs scored vs. runs allowed). I think as long as their 2017 season isn’t decimated by injuries, the club’s a good bet to wins 96 games. But that’s all meaningless unless them can repeat that level of dominance in the playoffs.

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[Predicting the 2017 Rookie of the Year Award Winners]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5450 2017-03-07T11:29:37Z 2017-03-07T11:29:37Z

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Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

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American League

Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox

The former University of Arkansas outfielder has the perfect trifecta going for him:

1. He’s one of the best prospects in baseball.

2. He already has some playing time – with incredible success – in Boston under his belt.

3. He’s going to be handed the starting left fielder’s gig on Opening Day.

Jose De Leon, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays 

Another beneficiary of the perfect trifecta mentioned above, De Leon’s odds of winning the award skyrocketed with his trade away from the loaded Dodgers to the quietly solid Rays. Something else playing in his favor: he’ll be pitching at the backend of an extremely talented Tampa rotation.

Matt Strahm. LHP, Kansas City Royals 

This is largely dependent on the Kansas City moving the power-armed lefty into the rotation come Opening Day. If he does, he could be this year’s version of Michael Fulmer. But if he stays in the pen expect him to pitch in a lot of high-leverage innings.

Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees 

The former first round pick is going to struggle keeping his batting average north of .245, but he’s going to stuff a stat sheet enough that he’s going to grab more than a few votes. Twenty homeruns and a handful of stolen bases coupled with New York’s media hype will do wonders.

Francis Martes, RHP, Houston Astros 

He has enough to talent to step into a big league rotation now and average a punch out per inning with a sub-3.00 ERA. The problem – or problems: Houston’s small budget and the five arms holding down the fort (Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton, and Mike Fiers). He’s going to be lightning in a bottle for the club in the second half, though.

 

Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Chicago White Sox & Joe Jimenez, RHP, Detroit Tigers 

It all comes down to playing time for both of these talented flame-throwers.

 

 

National League

Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves 

The former #1 overall pick elevated his offensive approach as he was bumped up to Atlanta last season. It’s going to be difficult for Swanson to repeat his .302/.361/.442 MLB showing in 2017, but he’s a top prospect at a premium defensive position. Meaning: he’s going to get plenty of votes.

Josh Bell, 1B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

After a solid debut in 2016 – one in which he slugged .273/.368/.406 but managed to keep his rookie status in tact – Bell is entering the year as the Pirates’ starting first baseman. Also in his favor: The Buccos’ lineup has a bevy of talented hitters – Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco, Jung Ho Kang, Jody Mercer, and Francisco Cervelli – so Bell won’t be expected to shoulder a lot of the offensive responsibility. It’s safe to expect his counting stats (RBI, Runs, etc…) to blossom.

Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals 

St. Louis’ rotation is already spilling over with the likes of Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Mike Leake, Lance Lynn, and Michael Wacha. So Reyes may be relegated to relief work during his first extended look at the big leagues. Even so, the hard-throwing right-hander is poised for some high leverage, impactful outings.

J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies 

Judging by his showing in Class AAA last season, Crawford might need an adjustment period of sorts in Philadelphia. But, again, he’s a top prospect at a premium position. Plenty of voters will look his way.

Luke Weaver, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals & German Marquez, RHP, Colorado Rockies

Where will Weaver, who’s ready to step into the middle of a big league rotation, find innings? Can Marquez survive – and be successful – in Colorado?

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[The Most Underrated Prospects for 2017]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5445 2017-03-02T11:36:30Z 2017-03-02T11:36:30Z

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  • The 2017 Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as "an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings," The 2017 Prospect Digest…
  • The 2017 Washington Nationals Top 10 Prospects Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as "an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings," The 2017 Prospect Digest…
  • The 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers Top 10 Prospects Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as "an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings," The 2017 Prospect Digest…
  • The 2017 Cleveland Indians Top 10 Prospects Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as "an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings," The 2017 Prospect Digest…
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Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland A’s

As I’ve commented elsewhere, Chapman’s built in the traditional Oakland Athletic mold: he swings big, hits ‘em big, misses big, and walks…big. He is, in every sense of the meaning, the quintessential Three True Outcomes Hitter. Chris Davis has made – or is scheduled to make – a lot of money as one. The same could be said for Adam Dunn, Ryan Howard, and a litany of current and past big league hitters.

But what separates Chapman from his brethren, besides the gobs and gobs of money, is his ability to pick it at the hot corner.

Simply put, the former Cal State Fullerton slugger is arguably the best defensive infielder – perhaps position player – in the entire minor leagues. According to Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics, Chapman’s saved 46 runs at the hot corner during his three-year professional career – including 15 runs in just 80 games at Stockton in 2015 and another 23 runs in 117 games with Midland last season.

And just to add a little more context to that, consider this: If a player saves 10 runs in a season he’s considered a terrific defender; 15 or more runs is considered Gold Glove territory.

Chapman’s easily surpassed that mark during his last two seasons.

So let’s do a little think-tank thing right now…

Offensively speaking, let’s say Chapman develops into the second coming of Russell Branyan – which isn’t all that bad of comparison, really. Branyan finished his MLB career with a 111 wRC+. And let’s say Chapman continues to be a +15 fielder at the big league. Do you know what both of those add up to?

Roughly a 5.5- to 6.0-win player.

Even if he’s good, not Gold Glove caliber defender and a league-average bat, he’s still going to be a 3.5- to 4.0-win player.

Convinced yet?

 

 

T.J. Rivera, IF, New York Mets

Branch Rickey, my baseball idol, once said, “Success is that place in the road where preparation meets opportunity.” Well, Rivera’s been preparing for his crack at a big league lineup his entire life. All he needs is his opportunity. And, trust me, there’s going to be plenty of success to follow.

Since 2014, here’s Rivera’s Weighted Runs Created Plus totals at every stop in which he’s made at least 190 plate appearances:

  • 2014, High Class A+: 139 wRC+
  • 2014, Class AA: 132 wRC+
  • 2015, Class AA: 144 wRC+
  • 2015, Class AAA: 111 wRC+
  • 2016, Class AAA: 142 wRC+

And just for kicks, he also posted a 119 wRC+ in 113 trips with New York last season as well.

So the question remains, what else does he have to do to get an extended look?

No, seriously, what else do he need to do?

 

Austin Barnes, C, Los Angeles Dodgers

Locked in behind Yasmani Grandal and the Dodgers’ massive bankroll, Barnes continues to wait for more than a 37-plate appearance gig – even though he’s clearly deserving of an extended and/or permanent look. But let’s run through the checklist, just for fun:

  • Plays an offensive deficient position? Check. Major League catchers batted an aggregate .243/.310/.393 last season.
  • Does he have an extended history of offensive production? Check. He’s a career .299/.388/.439 minor league hitter, including slugging .303/.413/.503 in Class AA and .304/.384/.460 in Class AAA.
  • Can he play defense? Check. According to Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics, he’s been roughly a league average defender.
  • Can he control the running game? Check. He’s thrown out 30% of the would-be base stealers in his minor league career.

So, basically, the question really comes down to just one simple thing: Is he a better hitter than the league average mark?

You better your ass.

Barnes is currently slated to be Grandal’s backup, who, by the way, hasn’t topped more than 128 games in a season yet.

 

Mitch Garver, C, Minnesota Twins

Much of the same thing that was said about Barnes can – and should – be said about the former ninth round pick out of the University of New Mexico. Garver’s track record doesn’t extend doesn’t extend nearly as far back as Barnes’, but he’s proven his value behind the plate. He’s a .267/.359/.406 career minor league hitter. He’s thrown out 38% of would-be base stealers. He’s been a stout defender, saving 33 runs over the course of his four-year professional career.

Unfortunately for Garver, though, the Twinkies just inked Jason Castro to a multi-year deal. And backup John Ryan Murphy is already in place.

 

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[The Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2017]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5443 2017-03-01T11:29:45Z 2017-03-01T11:29:45Z

Related Posts:

  • The 2017 Top 100 Prospects Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as "an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings," The 2017 Prospect Digest…
  • MiLB Top Prospects   Arizona Diamondbacks Atlanta Braves Baltimore Orioles Boston Red Sox Chicago Cubs Chicago White Sox Cincinnati Reds Cleveland Indians Colorado Rockies Detroit Tigers Houston Astros…
  • Ranking the 2017 Farm Systems Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as "an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings," The 2017 Prospect Digest…
  • The 2016 Top 100 Prospects 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…
  • The 2017 Atlanta Braves Top 10 Prospects Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as "an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings," The 2017 Prospect Digest…
]]>
Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Ofelky Peralta, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

Since 2006, there have been only 38 teenage arms to post a strikeout percentage north of 22% in Low Class A (minimum 100 innings). Here’s a breakdown of those 38 arms:

13 have developed into above-average big league pitchers: Noah Syndergaard, Michael Fulmer, Madison Bumgarner, Carlos Carrasco, Michael Pineda, Lance McCullers, Jake McGee, Shelby Miller, Trevor Cahill, Jon Niese, Jarrod Parker, Archie Bradley, and Travis Wood.

7 are current top prospects (or was a top prospect in 2016): Alexander Reyes, Tyler Glasnow, Justus Sheffield, Grant Holmes, Roniel Raudes, Jose Berrios, and Lucas Sims

3 became serviceable big league arms with some upside: Randall Delgado, Matt Wisler, and Jordan Lyles.

11 were once considered top prospects, but never panned out: Kyle Crick, Will Inman, Michael Bowden, Manny Banuelos, Jesse Biddle, Nick Adenhart (who tragically passed away), Clayton Blackburn, Brandon Erbe, Robbie Erlin, Ryan Tucker, and Henry Owens.

4 never took the necessary developmental steps after their Low Class A showings: Paul Demny, Aneury Rodriguez, Omar Poveda, and Tyler Robertson.

So far those counting at home: 89.5% of the teenage arms to post a 22% strikeout percentage since 2006 have either developed into big league arms and/or were considered top prospects. Peralta is the 39th member of the group. His control/command has ways to go, but he’s looking awfully promising.

Fernando Romero, RHP, Minnesota Twins 

Fresh off of Tommy John surgery, the hard-throwing right-hander was simply unhittable during his return to action last season. And he’s just scratching the surface. Expect Romero’s name to jump up among the best arms in the minors as he removes himself further and further away from the surgical procedure.

Triston McKenzie, RHP, Cleveland Indians 

The Indians haven’t churned out a dominant high school arm since C.C. Sabathia. McKenzie’s poised to walk in the hefty lefty’s footsteps. Cleveland has handled the former first round pick with kid gloves. But expect some huge numbers and a potential rise as high as Class AA in 2017.

Luiz Gohara, LHP, Atlanta Braves 

It was a big, big time win for the Braves, who acquired the hefty Brazilian lefty from the Mariners in an offseason trade. Heading into last season I ranked Gohara as Seattle’s #3 prospect. And that’s before his control took a tremendous step forward. His 10 starts in the Midwest League – he threw 54.1 innings with 60 punch out and just 20 walks – is just the beginning. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Fernando Romero, Triston McKenzie, and Luiz Gohara all among the Top 25 prospects in baseball come this time next year.

Thomas Szapucki, LHP, New York Mets 

Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Jake deGrom, Steven Matz…Thomas Szapucki? The 2015 fifth round pick might just be the latest Metropolitan arm to quickly – and dominantly – ascend up through the minor league system. Szapucki looked awfully good in his brief stops in the Appalachian and New York-Penn Leagues last season. Because he was an older high school prospect, the lefty is now entering his age-21 season. A second half call-up to High Class A seems plenty reasonable.

Jose Lopez, RHP, Cincinnati Reds 

Admittedly, I’ve always been a fan of the Lopez since his early days at Seton Hall. Despite not appearing in a game during the 2014 season – thanks to Tommy John surgery, of course – I ranked him as 83rd best collegiate prospect available in the draft. The Reds eventually grabbed Lopez in the sixth round three ago, though he wouldn’t make it up to Low Class until last season. The peripherals are far better than his 4.07 ERA would indicate. After throwing 34.2 innings in High Class A at the end of last season, it’s very likely he’s on pace to spend a significant part of 2017 in Class AA. Lopez is like a right-handed version of Amir Garrett.

Sandy Alcantara, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Similiarly with the Mets, St. Louis has this uncanny ability to churn out hard-throwing pitcher after hard-throwing pitcher. Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes and, now, Sandy Alcantara. The then-20-year-old blew away the Midwest League by averaging nearly 12 K/9 and looked awfully good in his late-season push to High Class A. He’s ticketed to spend at least half of a year in Class AA.

Junior Fernandez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals 

A member of the Top Breakout List in last year’s book. Fernandez, unfortunately, didn’t. But I’m still betting on a coming out party in the near future. The Dominican-born right-hander made it up to High Class A before his 20th birthday. Obviously, the front office sees something special. Expect a bounce back in his strikeout rate in 2017.

Franklyn Kilome, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies 

The overall production in the Sally is impressive enough by itself: 115.1 IP, 130 K, 50 BB, and a 3.82 ERA. But consider what Kilome did after getting battered around during his first three starts of the year: in 105.2 IP with the Lakewood BlueClaws, the hard-throwing right-hander averaged 10.5 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 with a 2.73 ERA. But, wait, there’s more: Over his final 57.1 IP, he posted a laughable 74-to-18 K-to-BB ratio. That’s how top prospects are born.

Albert Tirado, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies 

Part of the bounty the club received from the Blue Jays in exchange for Ben Revere at the trade deadline two years ago. Tirado’s battled some major control issues throughout his career: he’s averaged nearly six walks every nine innings. And last season started out that way as well; he walked nine in his first 7.1 innings. But after taking some time off something seemed to click for Tirado when he made the move back to the rotation. Over his final 45.1 innings he struck out a mindboggling 73 and walked just 19 – or an average of 14.5 K/9 and 3.79 BB/9.

Adrian Rondon, SS, Tampa Bay Rays 

The overall production – .249/.301/.430 with a 100 wRC+ – is far less impressive until you consider his age, 17, and level of competition (Appalachian League). Consider the following: since 2006, there have been just five 16- or 17-year-old prospects in the Appalachian League with an ISO above .170 and a K-rate below 30%: Billy Rowell, Carson Kelly, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Wilmer Flores, and Adrian Rodon. A second half swoon depressed Rondon’s overall production; he batted .300/.343/.554 over his first 33 games and just .145/.221/.177 over his final 19 contests. Again, he was young and it looks like he simply tired down the stretch. I may be a year or two early, but I expect big, big things from Rondon.

Juan Soto, RF, Washington Nationals 

Following in the footsteps of future teammate Victor Robles, I aggressively ranked the 18-year-old outfielder among the Top 100 prospects in baseball. Soto ripped through the Gulf Coast League and short-season ball during his debut, hitting a combined .368/.420/.553 with 14 doubles, three triples, and five homeruns. Here’s an extensive list of 16- and 17-year-old hitters to top his 184 wRC+ mark in the GCL since 2006: none. It won’t be so much of a breakout for the gifted corner outfielder, but everyone will begin to take notice.

Omar Estevez, 2B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers 

Signed after defecting from Cuba two years ago, the front office aggressively challenged the then-18-year-old by pushing him directly into Low Class A at the start of last season. And the overall numbers look like it was a massive miscalculation: he batted just .255/.298/.389. But consider this: after an expected learning curve, Estevez slugged .308/.358/.473 with 16 doubles and seven homeruns over his final 56 games. His overall production, during that stretch, topped the league average mark by 45%. If you don’t have him in your dynasty leagues, grab him now.

Max Fried, LHP, San Diego Padres 

Limited to just 10.2 innings between 2014 and 2015 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, Fried finally made it back to the mound last season: he would throw 103.0 innings with the Rome Braves in the South Atlantic League. But, again, look at his second half numbers: 49.2 IP, 64 K, and 15 BB. He’s poised to make a couple stops in 2017 and regain his once bright prospect shine.

Franklin Perez, RHP, Houston Astros 

Here’s a list of 18-year-old pitchers to post a strikeout-to-walk percentage north of 20% in either Low Class A league (minimum 60 innings): Madison Bumgarner, Tim Collins, Jordan Lyles, and, of course, Franklin Perez. Obviously, that’s a pretty good list to be on. Ignoring his two clunkers against the Kernels and Cougars, here’s Perez’s overall numbers: 57.2 IP, 2.18 ERA, 65 K, and 16 walks. I have a strong suspicion that he’s going to be one of the most talked about teenagers in 2017.

Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP, Cincinnati Reds 

The Reds doled out a hefty bonus near $5 million to secure the services of the Cuban-born right-hander. And despite not appearing in a professional game, how do I know Gutierrez is going to be a breakout prospect in 2017? Consider this: In his last stint in the Cuban National Series, the then-18-year-old averaged 8.6 punch outs per nine innings; the third best showing in the league, better than Yaisel Sierra who was five years his senior.

Anderson Tejeda, 2B/SS, Texas Rangers 

The then-18-year-old shortstop blitzed through three separate levels last season – Dominican Summer League, Arizona Summer League, and short-season ball – en route to hitting .283/.326/.520 with 14 doubles, 10 triples, 10 homeruns, and seven stolen bases. That’s an impressive array of skills wrapped up into a wiry frame. The Rangers have had tremendous success in developing similar prospects. Watch out.

Blake Bivens, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays 

Over his final seven starts with the Bowling Green Hot Rods, Bivens posted a 1.88 ERA with a dominant 51-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The opposition batted a meager .179/.2447/.245 against him during that stretch as well. He could be the next great underappreciated arm the Rays have developed. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him mentioned in the same breath as Jacob Faria and Brent Honeywell.

Dylan Cease, RHP, Chicago Cubs 

The former sixth round pick finished out the year with a bang: he tossed a 5.0 inning, one hit gem against the Hillsboro Hops with 10 punch outs and zero walks. Cease was just one of just 11 pitchers to post a strikeout percentage north of 36% last season, at any level (minimum 40 innings). The control has ways to go, but he has some front-end potential packed in his power-laden right-arm.

Paul DeJong, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals 

The front office made the unexpected – and risky – move by pushing the 2015 fourth round pick straight up to Class AA after spending just 56 games in Low Class A during his debut. DeJong’s overall numbers, while impressive, don’t tell the entire story. After a predictably abysmal month of April – which is also known as the learning curve – DeJong slugged a robust .271/.334/.490 with 24 doubles, one triple, and 22 homeruns over his final 112 games; his overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 32%. And just for fun, here are those numbers prorated for a full 162-game season: 35 doubles, one triple, and 32 homeruns.

Dan Slania, RHP, San Francisco Giants 

The Giants’ system remains incredibly thing as it sports just three players – Tyler Beede, Chris Shaw, and Christian Arroyo – among the minors’ Top 250 prospects. But Slania, a fifth round pick out of Notre Dame in 2013, could potentially join the trio. Working exclusively as a reliever during his first three seasons, the organization started transitioning him into a full-time starting pitcher in the second half of last year. The results were encouraging: 97.2 IP, 81 K, 31 BB, and a 2.40 ERA between High Class A, Class AA, and Class AAA. It’s difficult to see where he fits into the big league’s rotation, but he’s a name to watch nonetheless.

Drew Anderson, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies 

After missing some of 2014 and the entire 2015 season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, Anderson split his return between the Sally and Florida State League, throwing 70.0 innings with a 78-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s likely going to spend a good portion of 2017 working in the Eastern League.

Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves 

The teenage outfielder looked awfully good in limited action in the Sally last season, slugging .311/.387/.432 with two doubles, two triples, and four homeruns in 40 games. His brief career has been littered by success in small samples, so I’m betting that it adds up to a big breakout in 2017 – barring injury, of course.

Meibrys Viloria, C, Kansas City Royals 

The numbers will never, ever approach his MVP-winning Pioneer League showing (.376/.436/.606 and a 159 wRC+). And, yet, no one’s really talking about him? But here’s a list of teenage prospects to post a wRC+ total of at least 150 and a strikeout percentage below 14% in the Pioneer League (minimum 150): David Dahl and Viloria. Granted, Viloria was a year older than the Rockies’ young outfielder.

Nabil Crismatt, RHP, New York Mets

Ridiculously dominant during brief stretching in the NYPL, the Sally, and Class AA last season. The Columbian right-hander posted an impeccable 74-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 65.2 innings of work. All he needs is a full season’s worth of innings.

Additional Potential Breakouts to Watch:

  • Domingo Acevedo, RHP, New York Yankees
  • Rogelio Armenteros, RHP, Houston Astros
  • Luis Arraez, 2B, Minnesota Twins
  • Dakota Chalmers, RHP, Oakland Athletics
  • Yu-Cheng Chang, SS, Cleveland Indians
  • Oscar De La Cruz, RHP, Chicago Cubs
  • Lewin Diaz, 1B, Minnesota Twins
  • Yusniel Diaz, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Marcos Diplan, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
  • Steven Fuentes, RHP, Washington Blue Jays
  • Wladimir Galindo, 3B, Chicago Cubs
  • Derian Gonzalez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
  • Taylor Hearn, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Clay Holmes, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Desmond Lindsey, OF, New York Mets
  • Shedric Long, 2B, Cincinnati Reds
  • Nick Longhi, 1B, Boston Red Sox
  • Francys Peguero, RHP, Washington Nationals
  • Luis Pena, RHP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  • Freddy Peralta, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
  • Franmil Reyes, OF, San Diego Padres
  • Victor Reyes, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Keibert Ruiz, C, Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Justin Steele, LHP, Chicago Cubs
  • Emilio Vargas, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Tyler Watson, LHP, Washington Nationals
  • T.J. Zeuch, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[The 2017 Top 100 Prospects]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5440 2017-02-24T12:10:51Z 2017-02-24T12:10:51Z

Related Posts:

  • MiLB Top Prospects   Arizona Diamondbacks Atlanta Braves Baltimore Orioles Boston Red Sox Chicago Cubs Chicago White Sox Cincinnati Reds Cleveland Indians Colorado Rockies Detroit Tigers Houston Astros…
  • The 2016 Top 100 Prospects 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…
  • Ranking the 2017 Farm Systems Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as "an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings," The 2017 Prospect Digest…
  • The Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2017 Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as "an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings," The 2017 Prospect Digest…
  • The 2015 Top 100 Prospects Announcement: For my analysis - including Ranking the Top 250 Prospects, Ranking the Farm systems, and in-depth commentary for over 900 minor leaguers - check…
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Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Rank Name Team POS
1 Austin Meadows Pittsburgh Pirates OF
2 Andrew Benintendi Boston Red Sox OF
3 Dansby Swanson Atlanta Braves SS
4 Yoan Moncada White Sox 2B/3B
5 Lucas Giolito White Sox RHP
6 Sean Reid-Foley Toronto Blue Jays RHP
7 Yadier Alvarez Los Angeles Dodgers RHP
8 Alex Reyes St. Louis Cardinals RHP
9 Victor Robles Washington Nationals OF
10 Francis Martes Houston Astros RHP
11 Gleyber Torres Yankees SS
12 Tyler Glasnow Pittsburgh Pirates RHP
13 Eloy Jimenez Chicago Cubs OF
14 Michael Kopech White Sox RHP
15 Anderson Espinoza San Diego Padres RHP
16 Josh Bell Pittsburgh Pirates 1B/OF
17 Cody Bellinger Los Angeles Dodgers 1B
18 Jose De Leon Tampa Bay Rays RHP
19 Matt Chapman Oakland Athletics 3B
20 J.P. Crawford Philadelphia Phillies SS
21 Amed Rosario New York Mets SS
22 Manuel Margot San Diego Padres OF
23 Mitch Keller Pittsburgh Pirates RHP
24 Francisco Mejia Cleveland Indians C
25 Mickey Moniak Philadelphia Phillies OF
26 Willy Adames Tampa Bay Rays SS
27 Ozzie Albies Atlanta Braves 2B/SS
28 Josh Hader Milwaukee Brewers LHP
29 Franklin Barreto Oakland Athletics 2B/SS
30 Phil Bickford Milwaukee Brewers RHP
31 Corey Ray Milwaukee Brewers OF
32 Reynaldo Lopez White Sox RHP
33 Nick Senzel Cincinnati Reds 3B
34 Fernando Romero Minnesota Twins RHP
35 Ian Anderson Atlanta Braves RHP
36 Rafael Devers Boston Red Sox 3B
37 Brent Honeywell Tampa Bay Rays RHP
38 Triston McKenzie Cleveland Indians RHP
39 Clint Frazier Yankees OF
40 Luiz Gohara Atlanta Braves LHP
41 Riley Pint Colorado Rockies RHP
42 Luke Weaver St. Louis Cardinals RHP
43 Brendan Rodgers Colorado Rockies SS
44 Aaron Judge Yankees OF
45 Lewis Brinson Milwaukee Brewers OF
46 Willie Calhoun Los Angeles Dodgers 2B
47 A.J. Puk Oakland Athletics LHP
48 Casey Gillaspie Tampa Bay Rays 1B
49 Jesse Winker Cincinnati Reds OF
50 Nick Gordon Minnesota Twins SS
51 Cal Quantrill San Diego Padres RHP
52 Braxton Garrett Miami Marlins LHP
53 Tyler Jay Minnesota Twins LHP
54 Cornelius Randolph Philadelphia Phillies OF
55 Kyle Lewis Seattle Mariners OF
56 Matt Strahm Kansas City Royals LHP
57 Joe Jimenez Detroit Tigers RHP
58 Harrison Bader St. Louis Cardinals OF
59 Kevin Maitan Atlanta Braves SS
60 Matt Manning Detroit Tigers RHP
61 Thomas Szapucki New York Mets LHP
62 Kyle Tucker Houston Astros OF
63 Kolby Allard Atlanta Braves LHP
64 Yusniel Diaz Los Angeles Dodgers OF
65 Domingo Acevedo Yankees RHP
66 Franklyn Kilome Philadelphia Phillies RHP
67 Ian Happ Chicago Cubs 2B/OF
68 Tyler Mahle Cincinnati Reds RHP
69 Zack Collins White Sox C
70 Jeff Hoffman Colorado Rockies RHP
71 Stephen Gonsalves Minnesota Twins LHP
72 Chance Sisco Baltimore Orioles C
73 Andrew Toles Los Angeles Dodgers OF
74 Gavin Cecchini New York Mets SS
75 David Paulino Houston Astros RHP
76 Erick Fedde Washington Nationals RHP
77 Matt Thaiss Los Angeles Angels 1B
78 Anthony Banda Arizona Diamondbacks LHP
79 Jacob Faria Tampa Bay Rays RHP
80 Jake Bauers Tampa Bay Rays 1B/OF
81 Sandy Alcantara St. Louis Cardinals RHP
82 Albert Almora Chicago Cubs OF
83 German Marquez Colorado Rockies RHP
84 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Toronto Blue Jays 3B
85 Rowdy Tellez Toronto Blue Jays 1B
86 Marcos Diplan Milwaukee Brewers RHP
87 Ryan McMahon Colorado Rockies 1B/3B
88 Dylan Cease Chicago Cubs RHP
89 Jason Groome Boston Red Sox LHP
90 Juan Soto Washington Nationals OF
91 Jorge Alfaro Philadelphia Phillies C
92 Justus Sheffield Yankees LHP
93 Alex Verdugo Los Angeles Dodgers OF
94 Amir Garrett Cincinnati Reds LHP
95 Grant Holmes Oakland Athletics RHP
96 Brandon Woodruff Milwaukee Brewers RHP
97 Trevor Clifton Chicago Cubs RHP
98 Jack Flaherty St. Louis Cardinals RHP
99 Cody Reed Cincinnati Reds LHP
100 Dakota Hudson St. Louis Cardinals RHP
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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[Ranking the 2017 Farm Systems]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5435 2017-02-23T11:39:42Z 2017-02-23T11:24:09Z

Related Posts:

  • The 2017 Top 100 Prospects Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as "an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings," The 2017 Prospect Digest…
  • The 2016 Top 100 Prospects 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…
  • The Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2017 Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as "an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings," The 2017 Prospect Digest…
  • Ranking the 2016 Farm Systems 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…
  • Ranking the 2015 Farm Systems Announcement: For my analysis - including Ranking the Top 250 Prospects, Ranking the Farm systems, and in-depth commentary for over 900 minor leaguers - check…
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Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

#1. Atlanta Braves (Last Year’s Rank: #13)

Atlanta’s Top 10 Prospects

Easily the best farm system in baseball thanks in large part to a plethora of impact arms and a pair of franchise-altering middle infielders. Atlanta owns five of the top 63 prospects in baseball with several others – Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna, Joey Wentz, and Kyle Muller – all capable of ascending to that lofty status in the coming year or two. Because of the relative youth of the system, as well as gaping holes/veteran holdovers littering the big league roster, their window of competitiveness likely won’t open till at least 2018 at the earliest.

#2. St. Louis Cardinals (#11) 

St. Louis’ Top 10 Prospects

Exceptionally heavy in terms of right-handed pitching, St. Louis has 15 minor leaguers among the game’s Top 250 – seven of them being of the right-handed variety. But the risk is spread across varying types of arms: Alex Reyes, Sandy Alcantara, and Junior Fernandez are youngsters that could chuck a ball through a cinderblock wall; Luke Weaver, Dakota Hudson, and Andrew Morales are polished collegiate arms; and Jack Flaherty is a combination of both groups (young and polished). Outside of Harrison Bader, Carson Kelly, and Paul DeJong, the system remains a bit thing on advanced sticks.

#3. Tampa Bay Rays (#2) 

Tampa Bay’s Top 10 Prospects

I’ve been the biggest supporter of this system over the past couple years. And, finally, all that patience is starting to come to fruition as many of the club’s under heralded prospects are starting to gain traction. Willy Adames has quietly developed into one of the best young shortstops MiLB has to offer. Casey Gillaspie and Jake Bauers are budding sabermetric darlings with their developing power and immense ability to find first base. Right-handers Brent Honeywell, Jacob Faria, and Hunter Wood all have the makings of quality big league starters. Don’t sleep on Jaime Shultz, who has the look of a front-of-the-rotation arm if he can shave down his walk rate, or Adrian Rondon who could be the next big time shortstop prospect.

#4. Los Angeles Dodgers (#1) 

Los Angeles’ Top 10 Prospects

Despite churning out three franchise-altering prospects the last couple of seasons – Julio Urias, Corey Seager, and Joc Pederson – the Dodgers’ system remains remarkably strong, in large part due to their international expenditures. Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez is poised to be the most talked about minor league arm in 2017. Cody Bellinger and Willie Calhoun could form the left side of the Dodgers’ infield for the next decade or so. Outfielders Yusniel Diaz, Andrew Toles, and Alex Verdugo offer up a trio of toolsy futures. It wouldn’t be shocking to see several of the club’s top prospects get dealt for another high-profile starter to slot in behind Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, and Julio Urias if/when injuries occur.

#5. Milwaukee Brewers (#6) 

Milwaukee’s Top 10 Prospects

Poised to be one of the surprise teams of 2019, Milwaukee’s system is loaded with potential impact arms and toolsy everyday players. Josh Hader is one of the preeminent swing-and-miss artists outside of the major leagues. Phil Bickford, who was acquired in the midseason deal with San Francisco, continues to fly under the radar – for some unbeknownst reason. Marcos Diplan could be one of the bigger breakouts in 2017. And Brandon Woodruff bounced back from an awful 2015 to establish himself as a viable mid-rotation arm. Outfielders Corey Ray, their first round pick last June, and Lewis Brinson could both be up in the big leagues by mid-2018. Don’t overlook young right-hander Jordan Yamamoto, who happened to be among the best moundsmen last season in Low Class A.

#6. Pittsburgh Pirates (#12)

Pittsburgh’s Top 10 Prospects

Arguably the envy in all of baseball, Pittsburgh already has an outfield to dream upon with Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Gregory Polanco, but the impending arrival of baseball’s best prospect – center fielder Austin Meadows – only adds to an embarrassment of riches. Josh Bell, the top minor league first baseman, looked at ease during his first taste of the big leagues, slugging an impressive .273/.368/.406 in 152 trips to the plate. Kevin Newman’s arrival will come just in time as Jordy Mercer departs via free agency. Oh, and then there’s Tyler Glasnow and Mitch Keller – easily two of the best pitching prospects on the planet.

#7. Chicago White Sox (#29) 

Chicago’s Top 10 Prospects

Thanks to a couple offseason trades – admittedly, huge offseason trades – the White Sox went from having one of the worst systems to landing squarely among the top 10. Chicago GM Rick Hahn did incredibly well landing future All-Star, and potential MVP candidate, Yoan Moncada and flame-throwing right-hander Michael Kopech (as well as Luis Alexander Basabe) in the Chris Sale deal with Boston. And Hahn hit another homerun by acquiring Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning in the Adam Eaton trade with Washington. A rotation with Carlos Rodon, Carson Fulmer, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, and Reynaldo Lopez looks dominating. Chicago also did well in drafting their backstop of the future in Zack Collins as well. Expect the system to add another influx of talent when Jose Quintana is eventually traded.

#8. New York Yankees (#18) 

New York’s Top 10 Prospects

Years and years and years and years of wild spending offseasons finally caught up with the Yankees as they suffered through disappointing final seasons from Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. But Brian Cashman pulled off a couple solid in-season swaps that sent Aroldis Chapman to Chicago and Andrew Miller to Cleveland. Three of the prospects netted in those deals – Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, and Justus Sheffield – all find themselves among the system’s Top 5 prospects. Frazier and fellow tools-laden outfielder Aaron Judge are going to make up two-thirds of the club’s outfield within months – which means that either Brett Garnder or Jacoby Ellsbury will be dealt away. They’re not far away from realistically contending again, they just need a couple decent mid-rotation arms.

#9. Cincinnati Reds (#8) 

Cincinnati’s Top 10 Prospects

The club’s top two prospects over the past several years – Jesse Winker and Robert Stephenson – both battled through disappointing 2016 seasons with one of them (Winker) likely to rebound. As for Stephenson, well, he just hasn’t found the strike zone with any type of consistency since entering Class AA a couple years ago. Tyler Mahle, one of baseball’s most underrated prospects, Amir Garrett, and Cody Reed will look awfully good with Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan. The front office just has to figure out what to do with Homer Bailey’s awful contract. Nick Senzel, the #2 pick in last year’s draft, was ridiculously dominant during his debut. And Vladimir Gutierrez, Jose Lopez, and Shedric Long could all be breakout prospects in 2017.

#10. Philadelphia Phillies (#10) 

Philadelphia’s Top 10 Prospects

Even after a bit of downturn in production last season, J.P. Crawford remains the heir apparent to Jimmy Rollins throne at shortstop. Mickey Moniak and Cornelius Randolph provide attractive upside as high ceiling outfielders. Backstop Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Roman Quinn are ready to step in and become above-average regulars. Right-handers Franklyn Kilome and Kevin Gowdy provide a strong foundation for their future rotation. With Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, Vincent Velasquez, and Odubel Herrera already in place, the Phillies’ reemergence in the NL East isn’t too far off.

#11. Houston Astros (#5)                                                           

Houston’s Top 10 Prospects

Equipped with arguably the most explosive lineup in baseball, the Astros’ shortcoming – outside of health, of course – was their rotation. Enter Francis Martes, who is likely only a few months away from stepping into the front half of the big league club’s rotation. Fellow right-hander David Paulino is likely only a year away from helping as well. Look for a breakout season from teenager Franklin Perez. Former first round pick Daz Cameron has shown glimpses of a toolkit that’s reminiscent of his father Mike Cameron. Unless injuries strike the club’s outfield or DH position, expect former Virginia outfielder Derek Fisher to be dealt for help at the deadline.

#12. San Diego Padres (#23) 

San Diego’s Top 10 Prospects

After cashing in all the franchise’s chips in an attempt to purchase a winner during a wild offseason a couple years ago, the Padres quickly reversed course and started collecting every notable prospect within arm’s reach. Enter: Anderson Espinoza, Manuel Margot, Chris Paddock, Adrian Morejon, Josh Naylor, and Fernando Tatis Jr. And that’s not including 2016 draft picks Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, and Hudson Sanchez. The real problem for the front office will be filling all the holes not manned by Wil Myers and Austin Hedges over the next several years. It would be in the organization’s best interest to pull a Jeff Luhnow and ship off everything not nailed down like Ryan Schimpf, Yangervis Solarte, and any number of relievers.

#13. Minnesota Twins (#3) 

Minnesota Twins

This is certainly not on the same level as season’s past, but Minnesota’s system, nonetheless, still has a bevy of interesting prospects: Tyler Jay and Stephen Gonsalves are among the better southpaws in the minor leagues; right-hander Fernando Romero, fresh off of Tommy John surgery, is going to be one of the biggest breakout players in all of baseball in 2017 – if not the biggest. Nick Gordon continues to move up the chain with slightly improving offense. And last year’s first round pick Alex Kirilloff looked at ease in the Appalachian League. Don’t sleep on Midwest League batting champ Luis Arraez, who isn’t garnering much in term of national recognition.

#14. Colorado Rockies (#7) 

Colorado’s Top 10 Prospects

Same story, different year: the Rockies just can’t seem to unlock the key to consistently winning while playing half of their games in Coors Field. But the system sports a quartet of high octane arms that might be able to pierce through the thin air of Colorado: Riley Pint, their first round pick last June, Jeff Hoffman, who’s going to team with Jon Gray to give the opposition all sorts of fits, German Marquez, and Miguel Castro. I’m probably alone in my analysis of Brendan Rodgers because I think he looks more like a solid big leaguer, not one destined for superstardom. Tom Murphy and Raimel Tapia are ready to step in and help today.

#15. New York Mets (#26) 

New York’s Top 10 Prospects

After years and years of struggling to find a long term solution to their shortstop problem, the Mets have two very solid options in Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini – though the latter is likely to slide over to second or third bases in the next year. Southpaw Thomas Szapucki and right-hander Robert Gsellman are just the latest promising arms the system has developed. Dominic Smith still has some questions about his long term future at first base. Don’t sleep on Desmond Lindsey as a big breakout in 2017. And TJ Rivera remains one of the most productive bats in the minors; hopefully he gets a chance to prove his value at the big league level.

#16. Toronto Blue Jays (#24) 

Toronto’s Top 10 Prospects

Sean Reid-Foley is one of the most underrated, dominant hurlers not pitching at the game’s pinnacle level and looks every part of an Aaron Sanchez clone. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. got off to a promising start to his professional career. Hulking first baseman Rowdy Tellez looks like the Canadian version of Cody Bellinger, though he’s going to have to prove that he can handle lefties moving forward. T.J. Zeuch is going to be one of the better picks in the second half of the first round last June. Max Pentecost could move quickly, now that he’s finally healthy.

#17. Chicago Cubs (#4) 

Chicago’s Top 10 Prospects

Definitely, definitely a far cry from the system that churned out a lot of the World Series winning team. But the Cubs’ farm isn’t exactly a barren cupboard either. Eloy Jimenez looks like a budding superstar with middle-of-the-lineup potential. Ian Happ is going to eventually fill the role that Ben Zobrist is currently manning. Albert Almora’s offensive will never live up to his lofty draft expectations, but his defense should help buoy his overall production in terms of wins above replacement. Mark Zagunis is a poor man’s version of Kris Bryant/Kyle Schwarber/Ian Happ. Hopefully, one or two of the low level wild card arms reaches their peak potential.

#18. Oakland Athletics (#15) 

Oakland’s Top 10 Prospects

It’s not surprising in the least that Oakland’s home to the single most underrated prospect in the game: third baseman Matt Chapman. A three True Outcomes Hitter that can pick it like Brooks Robinson at third base, Chapman should man the hot corner for the franchise for several years. Franklin Barreto is a nice little middle infield prospect. And there are plenty of high upside, high velocity arms: A.J. Puk, Grant Holmes, Jharel Cotton, whom I expect to be worth more than two wins in 2017, and Daniel Gossett.

#19. Washington Nationals (#21) 

Washington’s Top 10 Prospects

After dealing away three of their better/best prospects in the Adam Eaton deal with the White Sox, the Nationals’ system still calls home to two high upside outfielders in Victor Robles, the ninth best prospect in baseball, and Juan Soto, who also cracks the Top 100. Erick Fedde provides some nice insurance in case any of the big league arms fall to injury. Center fielder Andrew Stevenson looks like a potential better version of Peter Bourjos.

#20. Cleveland Indians (#14) 

Cleveland’s Top 10 Prospects

Another system that took a big hit thanks to a big trade – one, in which, helped propel the Indians back to the World Series. Francisco Mejia, who was almost traded to Milwaukee in the Jonathan Lucroy deal, established himself as the top offensive catcher in the minor leagues. Triston McKenzie is likely going to be the best high school arm the club’s churned out since C.C. Sabathia. Bradley Zimmer’s ballooning strikeout rates are a significant cause for concern. Shosrtstop Yu-Cheng Chang is a solid offensive prospect. Former #1 overall pick Brady Aiken could zoom up a lot of lists is he can prove that his UCL won’t be an issue. Bobby Bradley looks like another Russell Brayan-type power-hitter.

#21. Boston Red Sox (#9) 

Boston’s Top 10 Prospects

Veteran front office triggerman Dave Dombrowski has traded away a tremendous amount of talent as he cultivates the big league roster to his liking. Gone are Manuel Margot, Anderson Espinoza, Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopch, and the Basabe Brothers. But there’s still a handful of prime time minor leaguers. Andrew Benintendi could be the latest Red Sox left field icon. Rafael Devers has handled the low levels without problems and will spend the 2017 season in Class AA as a 20-year-old. And Jason Groome, their first pick last June, has a high ceiling.

#22. Kansas City Royals (#19) 

Kansas City’s Top 10 Prospects

Sporting just four players in the Top 250: Matt Strahm, Josh Staumont, Alex Mills, and the yet-to-be-heralded Meibrys Viloria. Strahm has the ceiling of a potential #3-type arm. Staumont has the makings of an once-in-a-lifetime arm – if he keep his walk rate around 4.5 every nine innings. Alec Mills is ready to step in as a backend arm. And Viloria is coming off of a Pioneer League MVP.

 

#23. Arizona Diamondbacks (#17) 

Arizona’s Top 10 Prospects

Heavy on collegiate arms with mid-rotation ceilings: Anthony Banda, Taylor Clarke, Cody Reed, and Alex Young. The only two position players to crack the Top 250 are Socrates Brito (#120) and Luis Alejandro Basabe (#166) thanks to years of mismanagement by Tony LaRussa and Dave Stewart.

#24. Seattle Mariners (#25) 

Seattle’s Top 10 Prospects

Kyle Lewis looks like a homerun of a first round pick – if he can come back from a gruesome knee injury. Fellow outfielder Tyler O’Neill is one of the better minor league thumpers but his lack of defensive contributions severely limit his upside. If he can repeat his double-digit walk rates then he might be able to develop into a Three True Outcomes hitter. Mitch Haniger was simply the most lethal bat in the minor leagues and should produce near the league average mark in 2017. Right-hander Andrew Moore and lefty Dillon Overton, who was acquired in a deal with Oakland, offer up some backend value.

#25. Texas Rangers (#16) 

Texas’ Top 10 Prospects

The once proud system is currently lacking after years of aggressive promotions and trades. Yohander Mendez and Ariel Jurado have #3/#4-type ceilings. Former international Bonus Baby Leodys Taveras looked pretty good as a 17-year-old switch-hitter. Second baseman Andy Ibanez is limited offensively. Expect slugging shortstop Anderson Tejeda to leap up a lot of lists in 2017.

#26. Baltimore Orioles (#22) 

Baltimore’s Top 10 Prospects

Despite another abysmal ranking, the system has a few intriguing prospects: backstop Chance Sisco is one of the better catchers in the minors; Ofelky Peralta can miss a ton of sticks and is poised for a massive coming out party in 2017; and former first round pick Ryan Mountcastle has quietly established himself as a solid offensive-minded shortstop. College arms Cody Sedlock and Keegan Akin could move quickly. Fingers crossed for the health of former budding ace Hunter Harvey.

#27. Detroit Tigers (#27) 

Detroit’s Top 10 Prospects

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Joe Jimenez closing out games with the Tigers by season’s end. I’ve long been on the dominant right-hander’s bandwagon. Former first round prep right-handers Beau Burrows and Matt Manning have been promising during their brief careers. Christin Stewart could help fill the void when J.D. Martinez eventually departs.

#28. San Francisco Giants (#20) 

San Francisco’s Top 10 Prospects

The organization’s top three prospects all rank between #138 and #145 in all of baseball. This is a poor farm with incredibly limited upside. Tyler Beede looks like a capable big league starter. Chris Shaw should be able to handle first base, but is currently blocked by Brandon Belt. And former first round pick Christian Arroyo is blocked at both shortstop and second base; his bat profiles terribly at the hot corner. One name to watch in 2017: right-hander Dan Slania.

#29. Los Angeles Angels (#30) 

Los Angeles’ Top 10 Prospects

Two prospects of note: last year’s first round pick, former Virginia catcher-turned-first-baseman Matt Thais and right-hander Luis Pena. They do have a bevy of hard-throwing former starters-turned-dominant-relievers, a few of whom could make their debuts in 2017.

 

#30. Miami Marlins (#28)

Miami’s Top 10 Prospects

Not good. Terrible. Hilariously bad. It’s the Braxton Garret Show. Tyler Kolek, he of a triple-digit fastball, is hurt and hasn’t missed any bats.

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[The 2017 Washington Nationals Top 10 Prospects]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5432 2017-02-22T11:22:52Z 2017-02-22T11:22:52Z

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Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

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1. Victor Robles, OF                                   
Born: 05/19/97 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: Jason Smit, Manuel Margot, Harold Ramirez, Mason Williams, Colby Rasmus
Height: 6-0 Weight: 185 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 17 R 213 14 4 3 0.313 0.408 0.484 0.170 8.00% 12.70% 157
2015 18 A- 167 5 4 2 0.343 0.424 0.479 0.136 4.80% 12.60% 168
2016 19 A 285 9 6 5 0.305 0.405 0.459 0.155 6.30% 13.30% 153
2016 19 A+ 198 8 2 3 0.262 0.354 0.387 0.125 7.10% 16.20% 110

Background: Last year the Nationals’ system, while weak on depth, owned a quintet of potential impact players at the big league level. All that remains, either due to promotion (Trea Turner) or trades (Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez), are Robles and right-hander Erick Fedde. But if you’re going to build a system around two prospects, you could do a lot worse than those two. Robles, a 6-foot, 185-pound supremely gifted outfielder, signed out of the Dominican Republic for the rather paltry sum of $225,000 – an amount of money that looks foolishly low four years later. Robles decimated the Dominican Summer League by slugging .313/.408/.484 as a 17-year-old. The front office bumped him stateside the following year and he continued his assault on the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues, slugging a robust .352/.445/.507 with 11 doubles, five triples, four homeruns, and 24 stolen bases in 29 attempts.

Robles opened last season up in the South Atlantic League – a stint that lasted all of 64 games. Of course, hitting .305/.405/.459 with nine doubles, six triples, and five homeruns with 19 stolen bases goes a long way towards convincing the powers that be that he’s ready for the next challenge.

So in late June Robles got promoted up to the Carolina League. And he continued to impress, hitting .262/.354/.387 en route to topping the league average mark by 10%.

Overall, he finished his first year in full-season ball by walloping a combined .280/.376/.423 with 17 doubles, eight triples, and nine homeruns with 37 stolen bases in 51 attempts. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by a whopping 32%.

All at the young age of 19, by the way.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book when I ranked him as the third prospect in the system:

“Well, that’s one way to announce your arrival as a potential top prospect. Robles topped the DSL average production mark by 57%, the GCL average by 109%, and he was better than the NYPL by 69%. And while his career is limited to just 108 games, it’s a damn near perfect 108 games. Speed, power, average, strong contact rates, average eye at the plate – it has the potential to be a very, very dynamic offensive toolkit. Very, very bold prediction: Robles finishes the 2016 season in Class AA.”

I wasn’t too far off from that bold prediction. The speed of his development path – as well as the relative ease – is extraordinary.

But let’s put Robles’ production into some perspective, shall we?

Consider the following:

  • Here’s a list of teenage prospects to hit at least 15 doubles, eight triples, nine homeruns, swipe 35 bags, and post a 130 wRC+ since 2006 (minimum 450 plate appearances: Victor Robles, Byron Buxton and Mike Trout (who did it twice).

Impressive company notwithstanding, Robles doesn’t own a red flag – he hits, hits for power (which is improving), runs like the wind, shows a decent eye at the plate, and has strong contact skills. He’s on the precipice of what could be a special career.

Oh, yeah, he’s been incredible patrolling the outfield, according to Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics.

Ceiling: 6.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

2. Erick Fedde, RHP                                
Born: 02/25/93 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Cory Vanallen, Chasen Bradford, Cy Sneed, Brad Mills, Brandon Workman
Height: 6-4 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 22 A- 35.0 4 1 2.57 2.60 9.26 2.06 23.50% 5.20% 0.26 68.00%
2015 22 A 29.0 1 2 4.34 3.48 7.14 2.48 19.30% 6.70% 0.31 62.50%
2016 23 A+ 91.2 6 4 2.85 3.22 9.33 1.87 25.50% 5.10% 0.69 74.30%
2016 23 AA 29.1 2 1 3.99 3.02 8.59 3.07 21.70% 7.80% 0.31 72.80%

Background: After blowing the doors off the Carolina and Eastern Leagues last season, it’s probably safe to say that Fedde’s Tommy John surgery is clearly in his rearview mirror. The former UNLV ace visited the elbow repair shop about a month before the 2014 draft, but that didn’t deter the Nationals from taking him with the 18th overall pick that year. The 6-foot-4, 180-pound hurler would eventually make his debut on June 21st, 2015 and he’s been remarkably dominant: over his first 185.0 minor league innings, Fedde’s struck out 182, and walked 45 to go along with a nice-looking 3.21 ERA. Last season Fedde spent time between High Class A and Class AA, throwing 121.0 innings while averaging 9.1 K/9 and just 2.2 BB/9.

Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about the injured ace heading into the 2014 draft:

“One of the more intriguing arms in college baseball, Fedde is another upper-rotation-type arm, perhaps peaking as a lower end #2. He’s going to miss a good amount of bats, limit free passes, and if the current trend holds, keep the ball on the ground with some regularity.”

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect about Fedde’s comeback from injury is that his control has been spot-on. The majority of the time pitchers rehabbing from Tommy John surgery often struggle controlling the strike zone. Fedde – not so much.

He’s nearing big league readiness, likely only needing half a season in Class AA for some additional tuning. But the Nationals have plenty of talent in the rotation: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, and Joe Ross. So Fedde will likely have to bide his time until an unfortunate – and inevitable – injury strikes.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

 

3. Juan Soto, RF                                           
Born: 10/25/98 Age: 18 Bats: L Top CALs: Jose Osuna, Jefry Marte,

Mike Trout, David Dahl

Height: 6-1 Weight: 185 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 17 R 183 11 3 5 0.361 0.410 0.550 0.189 7.70% 13.70% 184

Background: Signed out of the Dominican Republic two years ago for a pretty hefty sum: $1.5 million. Soto had one helluva debut in 2016, slugging a combined .368/.420/.553 with 14 doubles, three triples, and five dingers with a 188 wRC+.

Projection: Now that’s dominance. But just how dominant was he? Quite simply: he was the most productive qualified stateside bat in the entire minor leagues. But consider the following little tidbits about his 45-game stint in the Gulf Coast League last season:

  • Since 2006 no other player under the age of 18 has topped Soto’s 184 wRC+ showing in any rookie league. Hell, the closest was Jefry Marte’s 162-mark in 2008.

There’s not a whole lot of data to go off of, just 207 total trips to the plate, but he was simply spectacular. Between Victor Robles and Soto, the Nationals have one helluva potential one-two punch in their minor leagues.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

4. Andrew Stevenson, CF                       
Born: 06/01/94 Age: 23 Bats: L Top CALs: Estarlin Martinez, Justin Bass, Tyler Kuhn, Jose Martinez, Bridger Hunt
Height: 6-0 Weight: 185 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 21 A 153 3 2 1 0.285 0.338 0.358 0.073 5.20% 10.50% 100
2016 22 A+ 300 12 8 1 0.304 0.359 0.418 0.114 8.00% 14.70% 115
2016 22 AA 280 11 2 2 0.246 0.302 0.328 0.082 7.10% 18.20% 76

Background: After losing their opening round pick in the 2015 draft due to signing some guy named Max Scherzer, the organization’s first pick didn’t happen until the middle of the second round. They grabbed toolsy LSU center fielder Andrew Stevenson with the 58th overall pick that year. The wiry 6-foot, 185-pound outfielder left the school as a .311/.372/.392 career hitter, with 20 doubles, 10 triples, two homeruns, and 40 stolen bases in 177 games. Stevenson made stops at three different levels during his professional debut, though the lion’s share of it coming in the South Atlantic League, hitting a combined .308/.363/.379 with four doubles, four triples, one homerun, and 23 stolen bases. He opened last season up with Potomac in the Carolina League, hitting a respectable .304/.359/.418 with 12 doubles, eight triples, and one homerun, but his production took a noticeable – and somewhat expected downturn upon his promotion to Class AA. Overall, he hit a combined .276/.332/.374 with 23 doubles, 10 triples, and three homeruns while swiping 39 bags in 53 total attempts.

Projection: Stevenson’s calling card is his stout – and often spectacular – defense in center field, which is a good thing because he doesn’t offer up a tremendous amount of potential with the bat. The eye is merely average, the power well below that. The speed is the true standout offering. He won’t exactly kill a team at the plate, but he’s definitely not a leadoff hitter – something that’s he’s likely going to be miscast as in the big leagues. He’s very similar to someone like Ender Inciarte or Kevin Pillar. In other words, a lot of his production is going to be derived on the defensive side of the ball. According to Clay Davenport’s metrics, Stevenson has saved 19 runs in his 188 career games.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

5. Yasel Antuna, SS                         
Born: 10/26/99 Age: 18 Bats: B Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-0 Weight: 170 Throws: R

Background: The Nationals signed the Dominican-born switch-hitting shortstop to a hefty $3.9 million deal last July.

Projection: There’s absolutely no information to go off of except for his hefty bonus, which, by the way, was about what the Braves signed Ian Anderson to after picking him with the third overall pick last June. As such, he’ll be treated as an incoming high round pick until the data begins to collect.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

6. Carter Kieboom, SS                                
Born: 09/03/97 Age: 19 Bats: R Top CALs: Michael Chavis, Stephen King, Yossandy Garcia, Junior Arias, Austin Aune
Height: 6-2 Weight: 190 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 18 R 155 8 4 4 0.244 0.323 0.452 0.207 7.70% 27.70% 129

Background: Fun Fact Part I: Kieboom is the youngest of three baseball playing brothers; Spencer, the oldest, made his big league debut with the Nationals during the stretch-run last season; and Trevor spent the past two years manning the hot corner at the University of Georgia. Fun Fact Part II: the last time the organization grabbed a prep shortstop in the first round was all the way back in 1998 when they used the 11th pick on Josh McKinley – they were, by the way, known as the Montreal Expos during that time as well. As for Carter, well, he showed some offensive promise during his debut in the Gulf Coast League last season, slugging .244/.323/.452 with eight doubles, four triples, and four homeruns in 36 games.

Projection: Just for fun, here are those numbers prorated over a full 162-game season: 36 doubles, 18 triples, and 18 homeruns. Now the bad news: he struggled with contact issues in the lowest stateside level as he fanned in nearly 28% of his trips to the plate. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him spend next season in short-season ball.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

7. Koda Glover, RHP                  
Born: 04/13/93 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-5 Weight: 225 Throws: R

Background: Talk about a big win for the scouting department. The Nationals grabbed the 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-hander out of Oklahoma State University in the eighth round in 2015. Less than 14 months later Glover was pitching against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Originally at Eastern Oklahoma State College, Glover transferred to the Cowboys a year later and did some solid work as a full-time reliever. In 23 appearances, he would throw 23.2 innings with a strong 28-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio en route to tallying a 1.90 ERA, as well as saving five games. After coming to terms with Washington, Glover was ridiculous against the New York-Penn League (6.0 IP, 11 K, 1 BB) and absolutely absurd in 24.0 innings in the Sally (27 K and just 1 BB). Last season Glover blew through the Carolina League, dominated the Eastern League, and showed no signs of slowing in Class AAA either. Overall, he threw 56.0 minor league innings last season, posting a 2.25 ERA with a 66-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also made 19 total appearances with the Nationals down the stretch as well.

Projection: Very rarely do you see any prospect – let alone an eighth inning pick – blitz through the minor leagues as fast as Glover. But it sure as hell helps when you’re sporting a mid- to upper-90s fastball with pinpoint, sniper-like control. The Nationals’ bullpen is sort of mish-mash of talent without a true clear-cut leader, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Glover ascend to the closer’s role in the very near future.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

8. A.J. Cole, RHP                                              
Born: 01/05/92 Age: 25 Bats: R Top CALs: Andrew Carpenter, Ty Taubenhelm, Edwin Escobar, Chris Seddon, Brett Oberholtzer
Height: 6-5 Weight: 215 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A+ 97.3 6 3 4.25 3.69 9.43 2.13 25.10% 5.70% 1.11 68.70%
2013 21 AA 45.3 4 2 2.18 2.69 9.73 1.99 28.00% 5.70% 0.60 76.10%
2014 22 AA 71.0 6 3 2.92 2.58 7.73 1.90 19.80% 4.90% 0.13 70.10%
2014 22 AAA 63.0 7 0 3.43 4.48 7.14 2.43 18.70% 6.40% 1.29 76.60%
2015 23 AAA 105.2 5 6 3.15 3.90 6.47 2.90 17.20% 7.70% 0.77 76.50%
2016 24 AAA 124.2 8 8 4.26 3.96 7.87 2.53 20.50% 6.60% 1.16 71.20%

Background: It was another Cole-like year for the finesse right-hander. A former fourth round selection – who received a hefty bonus – in the 2010 draft, Cole spent the better portion of last season working of the Syracuse’s rotation, throwing a 124.1 innings with 109 strikeouts, just 35 walks, and a 4.26 ERA, as well as a 3.96 FIP. He also made eight starts for the Nationals down the stretch as well, throwing an additional 38.1 innings of work while averaging 9.16 strikeouts and 3.29 walks per nine innings, though he was battered around enough to post a 5.17 ERA and a 4.74 FIP. For his minor league career, Cole’s fanned 689 and walked just 188 hitters over 730.2 innings of work.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about the right-hander in my book two years ago:

“Sans his dreadful – and unlucky – eight-game stint with Stockton a couple years back, Cole’s been a steady, reliable source of minor league production. He’s incredibly stingy with the free pass and misses enough bats. The lone red flag: he’s been a bit homer-friendly at various points in his career. Cole’s a fringy #3-type arm.”

But I downgraded him a bit in last year’s tome:

“Cole showed the typical four-pitch mix during his short tenure with the Nationals – a 90 mph fastball, a low-80s slider, curveball, and changeup. He’s a nice #5 – maybe #4 – caliber starting pitcher. He’ll chew a bunch of innings, limit walks, and average about 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings. CAL, for what it’s worth, isn’t all that impressed either, comparing him to Sean O’Sullivan, Robert Rohrbaugh, Brett Oberholtzer, Michael O’Brien, and Anthony Swarzak.”

Cole’s been big league-ready for a couple years now, but he’s been locked behind a lot more talented arms in the Nationals’ organization. He saw a big uptick in his strikeout rate during his third trip through Class AAA and the control is as strong as ever. As for CAL, well, it’s still comparing him to a litany of backend arms: Andrew Carpenter, Ty Taubenheim, Edwin Escobar, Chris Seddon, and Brett Oberholtzer – which sounds about right.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Low

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

 

9. Telmito Agustin, CF                                 
Born: 10/09/96 Age: 20 Bats: L Top CALs: Isaac Galloway, Julio Morban, Max White, Connor Lien, Yorman Rodriguez
Height: 5-10 Weight: 160 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 19 A 259 12 1 5 0.265 0.309 0.387 0.122 6.20% 27.40% 99

Background: The Nationals have never been shy about aggressively challenging young prospects, particularly those in the lower levels. And Agustin is just another example of that philosophy. The slight-frame center fielder spent his age-17 season bashing the Dominican Summer League competition (.300/.413/.495) and he made stops between the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues the following year (.344/.380/.469). Despite appearing in just seven games with Auburn two years ago, the then-19-year-old made the leap all the way up to the Sally in 2016. In a shortened campaign, Agustin batted a respectable – at least for a 19-year-old – .265/.309/.387 with 12 doubles, one triple, five homeruns, and 14 stolen bases to go along with a 99 wRC+.

Projection: Agustin shows surprising power for a player of his stature (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) and it figures to only improve over time, hopefully. Combining that with his foot speed, he could be a potential 15/15 threat in the coming years. One thing to watch in the coming year or two: after posting reasonable strikeout numbers during the previous two years, Agustin’s punch out rate spiked to a red flag territory 27.4%.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

10. Pedro Severino, C                                                     
Born: 07/20/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Manuel Pina, Roberto Pena, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine, Christian Bethancourt
Height: 6-0 Weight: 215 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 19 A 302 19 2 1 0.241 0.274 0.333 0.092 4.30% 17.90% 74
2014 20 A+ 326 15 1 9 0.247 0.306 0.399 0.151 6.40% 17.50% 98
2015 21 AA 357 13 0 5 0.246 0.288 0.331 0.085 5.30% 14.30% 77
2016 22 AAA 317 13 0 2 0.271 0.316 0.337 0.065 6.00% 14.20% 87

Background: Aggressively pushed through the minor leagues the past couple of years – despite, you know, a lack of offensive production. That, of course, points to his stellar work behind the plate. Severino, who stands a stocky 6-feet and 215-pounds, has thrown out 35% of career would-be base stealers. Offensively speaking, well, he’s a career .243/.294/.338 minor league hitter – though he did show some impressive improvement in the International League last season. Coming off of a disappointing .246/.288/.331 showing in Class AA two years ago, Severino batted .271/.316/.337 with 13 doubles and a pair of homeruns in 317 trips to the plate with the Syracuse Chiefs.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book when I ranked him as the 11th best prospect in the system:

“Defense. Defense. Defense. The conversation will always focus on that side of the ball – which is clearly an above-average skill. Offensively, though, he’s never going to hit enough to earn more than the occasional spot start. For instance, here are his stop-by-stop Weighted Runs Created Plus totals since 2011: 62, 77, 74, 98, and 77. Zero power with matching on-base skills.”

Add another disappointing wRC+ mark to his resume: 87. But the .316 OBP is a career best for him. If he could hit like that in the big leagues Severino could be a fringy regular – assuming his defense grades out as well as the raw data suggests.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

 

Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5428 2017-02-22T11:22:03Z 2017-02-22T11:22:03Z

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Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

1. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP                                            
Born: 08/30/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Phil Bickford, Luke Jackson, Jake Thompson, Justus Sheffield, Randall Delgado
Height: 6-3 Weight: 220 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 FIP
2015 19 A 63.1 3 5 3.69 3.44 12.79 6.11 30.70% 14.70% 0.43 3.44
2015 19 A+ 32.2 1 5 5.23 3.81 9.64 6.61 23.70% 16.20% 0.28 3.81
2016 20 A 58.0 4 3 2.95 3.08 9.16 3.41 25.40% 9.50% 0.31 3.08
2016 20 A+ 57.1 6 2 2.67 2.12 11.15 2.51 32.30% 7.30% 0.31 2.12

Background: Fun Fact Part I: Reid-Foley, the club’s 2014 second round pick out of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Florida, was actually born in Guam. Fun Fact Part II: former Blue Jays third baseman John Hattig is the only MLB player to be born in Guam. Reid-Foley was an absolute monster on the mound last season as he split time between the Blue Jays’ Low Class A and High Class A affiliates for the second consecutive season. After battling some severe control issues the prior year – very reminiscent of a certain hard-throwing right-hander that led the American League in ERA in 2016 – it looked like Reid-Foley was going to go through another year with haphazard walk rates. He coughed up eight free passes across 10.2 innings between his first two starts and he accrued 19 free passes during in his first 30.0 innings.

And then something, simply, clicked for the fire-slinging, often erratic hurler: he stopped walked people.

Over his final 85.1 innings of work, 57.1 of those coming in the Florida State League, Reid-Foley punch out 97 and issued just 19 walks. In other words, he fanned 30.4% and walked just 6.0% of the hitters he faced during his stretch of dominance.

Projection: First, here’s what I wrote about the triple-named right-hander in last year’s book:

“Harkening back to memories of a young Aaron Sanchez, Reid-Foley can fan, and walk, hitters with exceedingly high frequency. Consider the following:

Player Age Level IP K% BB%
Sean Reid-Foley 19 A/A+ 96.0 28.34% 15.19%
Aaron Sanchez 19 A 90.1 25.73% 13.53%

How’s this for impressive: among all hurlers with at least 60 innings in the Midwest League, Reid-Foley finished with the second highest punch out percentage. And how’s this for impressive Part II: Reid-Foley was the only teenager hurler to throw at least 30+ innings in the Florida State League. Anyway, he clearly has front of the rotation caliber potential, whether he can eventually harness it or become the next Kyle Crick is an entirely different question.”  

So let’s update comparison after another year in the books. Consider the following:

Player Age Level IP K% BB%
Sean Reid-Foley 20 A/A+ 115.1 28.76% 8.41%
Aaron Sanchez 20 A+ 86.1 20.83% 11.11%

 

Sanchez’s age-20 season, as well as the following year, was mostly frustrating.

As for Reid-Foley, well, if his control over the final 85+ innings proves to be a repeatable skill than there’s not too many minor league arms – if any – that I would take over him.

Finally, here’s how production stacks up against all MiLB arms with at least 110 innings last season:

  • His strikeout percentage, 28.8%, ranked as the 10th best and no other 20-year-old hurler posted a better mark last season.
  • His strikeout-to-walk percentage, 20.4%, ranked as the 13th best and only two other 20-year-old arms – Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller and Milwaukee’s Jordan Yamamoto – posted better marks.

Ceiling: 5.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

 

2. Vladimir Guerrero, 3B                                  
Born: 03/16/99 Age: 18 Bats: R Top CALs: Victor Acosta, Jason Martin, Orian Nunez, Anderson Franco, Brian Mathews
Height: 6-1 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

Background: The Blue Jays doled out a pretty hefty sum to sign Vlad’s kid two years ago, agreeing to pay the 16-year-old third baseman $3.9 million. Junior didn’t make his debut until last season, hitting an impressive .271/.359/.449 with 12 doubles, three triples, and eight homeruns while going 15-for-20 in the stolen base category. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 22% – the best showing among the 18-and-under group.

Projection: There are a couple key things to focus on, outside of his bloodlines of course:

  1. Guerrero Jr. got pushed straight into the Rookie Advanced leagues and didn’t miss a beat. In fact, if we ignore the first 10 games of his season – a.k.a. the learning curve portion – he slugged .294/.382/.477 with 12 doubles, three triples, and six homeruns in 52 games.
  2. There were only two other qualified 17-year-olds in the Appalachian League: Tampa’s Adrian Rondon and Houston’s Jonathan Arauz.
  3. Here’s a list of qualified players under the age of 18 to post a 120 wRC+ in the Appalachian League since 2006: Guerrero Jr. and Wilmer Flores. That’s it, just two dudes.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

3. Rowdy Tellez, 1B                                             
Born: 03/16/95 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Kyle Blanks, Dominic Smith, Anthony Rizzo, Chris Marrero, Jose Osuna
Height: 6-4 Weight: 220 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 19 R 218 11 1 4 0.293 0.358 0.424 0.131 8.70% 12.40% 125
2015 20 A 299 19 0 7 0.296 0.351 0.444 0.148 8.00% 18.70% 130
2016 21 AA 514 29 2 23 0.297 0.387 0.530 0.233 12.30% 17.90% 152

Background: Fun Fact Part I: The Blue Jays grabbed the hulking first baseman in the 30th round four years ago; two picks after the Red Sox grabbed Nick Longhi, another promising minor league first baseman. Fun Fact Part II: The club agreed to a deal with Tellez in the neighborhood of $900,000 – that’s roughly second round money for the 2013 draft. And let’s just say that after four years, Tellez should have held out for a lot more money. After hitting an impressive .289/.347/.454 with 24 doubles and 14 homeruns between Lansing and Dunedin in 2015, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound slugger absolutely torched the Class AA competition with almost unprecedented ease for a 21-year-old. He slugged .297/.387/.530 with 29 doubles, a pair of triples, and 23 homeruns with four stolen bases (just for good measure, of course). His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by a whopping 52%.

For his career, Tellez is sporting a diabolical .289/.364/.470 triple-slash line, with 69 doubles, six triples, and 45 homeruns in just over 1,300 trips to the plate.

Projection: First, here’s what I wrote about the baby basher in last year’s book when I ranked him as a 121st overall prospect in the game:

“As impressive as his season was in 2015, imagine what his overall numbers would have looked like had he not batted a lowly .228/.265/.337 against fellow left-handers. If he can prove that to be nothing more than a speed bump, Tellez has a chance to develop into a middle-of-the-order thumper: above-average power, solid eye at the plate, strong hit tool. Again, there’s some risk here, but he has a chance to be a perennial 20- to 25-HR threat down the line.”

Keeping that in mind, here are a few points that need to be discussed/considered:

  1. He wasn’t completely helpless against fellow lefties last season. Actually, he was solid, hitting .264/.345/.456. He needs to continue to produce against southpaws though – without question.
  2. It cannot be overlooked that the 21-year-old spent just 35 games in High Class A before jumping straight into Class AA last season.
  3. Tellez got off to an incredibly poor – and not completely unexpected – start last season, hitting a paltry .143/.299/.275 in his first 27 games. He slugged .337/.413/.597 with 26 doubles, a pair of triples, and 20 homeruns in the remaining 97 games. And just for fun here are those numbers pro-rated for a typical 162-game season: 43 doubles, three triples, and 33 homeruns.
  4. Since 2006, here’s a list of players under the age of 22 that posted a 150 wRC+ in Class AA: Tellez, O’Neill, Joc Pederson, Oscar Taveras, Mike Trout, and Evan Longoria.
  5. And now the bad news: New Hampshire’s home ballpark is incredibly hitter-friendly. Once adjusting for the park, according to StatCorner.com, his triple-slash line drops from .297/.387/.530 to .282/.371/.485 – which is still quite impressive given his age and level of competition. And here are his home/road splits: .310/.404/.583 vs. .275/.358/.477. That’s a hefty difference, but the road production is still noteworthy considering his age/level of competition.

That’s a lot to consume, I know. Along with becoming a perennial 25-HR threat as I forecasted in last year’s book, Tellez’s peak should reside around a .280/.380/.500. But, again, he needs to continue to hit lefties well.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

4. T.J. Zeuch, RHP                               
Born: 08/01/95 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-7 Weight: 225 Throws: R
 

Background: Fun Fact Part I: For the third consecutive year the Blue Jays grabbed a collegiate right-hander with their opening pick in the draft – Jeff Hoffman (2014), Jon Harris (2015), and, of course, Zeuch. Fun Fact Part II: The big right-hander became the University of Pittsburgh’s earliest June draft pick when the Blue Jays grabbed him with the 21st overall selection. Zeuch, who stands an imposing 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds, was nothing short of stellar over his sophomore and junior campaigns with the Panthers, throwing a combined 158 innings with an ace-like 164-to-44 strikeout-to-walk ratio. After coming to terms with the club on a slightly below-slot deal of $2.175 million, the big hurler made stops at three different levels en route to tallying an impressive 38-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34.0 innings.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about him prior to the draft last season:

“Easily one of my favorite collegiate arms in the entire class, Zeuch still has some projection left given (A) his size and (B) the fact that he’s a northeastern arm. Zeuch does the one thing that many large-framed, power-armed hurlers struggle with: limiting walks. He’s averaged just a smidge over 2.5 walks per nine innings in his career.  

And how’s this for impressive company: Between 2011 and 2015, there have been 31 right-handed pitchers at the D1 level who has thrown at least 65 innings while averaging 9.5 K/9, and less than 2.5 BB/9. The majority of the list reads like a list of who’s who of top MiLB/MLB arms: Trevor Bauer, Mark Appel, Taylor Clarke, Kevin Gausman, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Jon Gray, Pierce Johnson, Kyle McGowin, Aaron Nola, Jake Stinnett, Marcus Stroman, Nick Tropeano, Luke Weaver, and Kyle Zimmer.  

Add Zeuch to that list. The big right-hander has legitimate front-of-the-rotation caliber potential. And he’s poised to be one of the biggest surprises in 2017”.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

 

5. Max Pentecost, C                                           
Born: 03/10/93 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-2 Weight: 191 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 21 A 267 15 3 7 0.314 0.375 0.490 0.176 7.90% 19.10% 154
2016 21 A+ 52 2 0 3 0.245 0.288 0.469 0.224 5.80% 32.70% 120

Background: It’s taken a lot longer than Pentecost – and the Blue Jays – would have liked but the former first round pick finally got an extended taste of minor league baseball after seeing just six games during his debut in 2014 and missing the entire following year. This year, though, the former 11th overall pick got into 74 total games. He batted a solid .302/.361/.486 with 17 doubles, three triples, and 10 homeruns.

Projection: First, here’s what I wrote prior to the 2014 draft:

“I’m a big believer in the bat. He’s done nothing but hit since turning down the Rangers’ contract offer [out of high school] and heading to college. Through more than two and half seasons of data, Pentecost has slugged .330/.402/.472 while making strides in his contact rate.

Now, Kennesaw’s home field tends to inflate offensive numbers a bit, but the power, patience, hit tool, and speed are average across the board. And according to his spray chart, he used the whole field fairly well last summer (warning: sample size of about 150 plate appearances).

Pentecost is a potential solid everyday backstop, [who should peak] around 3.0, maybe 3.5-wins above replacement. The total package is better than the individual pieces, though. Think .280/.335/.430 with 15 homeruns and solid defense.”

The bat’s still going to play. But I doubt he’s going to be able to withstand the constant rigors that come with catching over the course of a full season. Typically, Mark Shapiro-led organizations have taken the slow-and-steady approach when it comes to pushing prospects through the minors, so I would expect Pentecost to reappear back in High Class A. Personally, I would push him up to Class AA and see if the kid could (A) hack it and (B) make up for lost development time. He’s going to need to find another position. I think it might be worth trying him out at second, where his shoulder woes wouldn’t completely expose him. He certainly seems athletic enough – a la Craig Biggio

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

6. Anthony Alford, CF                                          
Born: 07/20/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Cameron Maybin, Joe Benson, Slade Heathcott, Marc Wik, Michael Saunders
Height: 6-1 Weight: 215 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 20 A 232 14 1 1 0.293 0.418 0.394 0.101 16.80% 25.90% 143
2015 20 A+ 255 11 6 3 0.302 0.380 0.444 0.142 11.00% 19.20% 153
2016 21 A+ 401 17 2 9 0.236 0.344 0.378 0.142 13.20% 29.20% 115

Background: Basically the Conner Greene of hitters. Alford came out of nowhere – figuratively speaking, of course – to slug .298/.398/.421 with 25 doubles, seven triples, and four homeruns with 27 stolen bases between his time with Lansing and Dunedin. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 48%. He promptly followed that up by batting a completely underwhelming .236/.344/.378 with 17 doubles, a pair of triples, nine homeruns, and 18 stolen bases to go along with a 115 wRC+ last season in a repeat of High Class A.

Projection: Well, there’s really no other way to put it: I have egg on my face after ranking the toolsy, now enigmatic outfielder as the club’s top prospect and the 54th overall minor leaguer. So what caused the downturn in production? In short: it could have been the knee injury that hampered him the entire month of April. The team didn’t disclose the exact injury, but it wasn’t reported that they were hoping he would avoid surgery. For now I’m going to give Alford – and his prospect status – the benefit of the doubt. But he’s got to come out swinging in 2017. One final thought: according to Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics, Alford looks like a potential above-average center fielder.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

7. Harold Ramirez, OF                                     
Born: 09/06/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Dustin Fowler, Charlie Tilson, Bridger Hunt, Gerardo Parra, Raimel Tapia
Height: 5-10 Weight: 220 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 A- 310 11 4 5 0.285 0.354 0.409 0.124 7.40% 16.80% 133
2014 19 A 226 14 1 1 0.309 0.364 0.402 0.093 4.90% 15.50% 117
2015 20 A+ 344 13 6 4 0.337 0.399 0.458 0.121 7.30% 14.00% 163
2016 21 AA 419 17 7 2 0.311 0.360 0.407 0.097 5.30% 15.80% 115

Background: The second prospect acquired from Pittsburgh – the other being backstop Reese McGuire – in the Drew Hutchinson deal. Ramirez has been a constant source of .300 batting averages with strong OBPs over the course of his five-year minor league career. And 2016 was no different. In 99 games in Class AA, all but one coming in the Pittsburgh organization, Ramirez batted a healthy .306/.354/.401 with 16 doubles, seven triples, and a pair of homeruns while swiping seven bags in 17 attempts. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 12% – a solid showing for a 21-year-old facing off against the minors’ toughest challenge. As for his time with his new organization, well, it was abbreviated. He played in one game before a knee injury prematurely ended his season.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in my book two years ago:

“Ramirez missed a good portion of the year thanks to a stress reaction in his shin. Ouch. Prior to that injury he missed some time with a hamstring issue. When he’s healthy he looks like a solid fourth outfielder-type – something that CAL would agree upon. He doesn’t walk often; the power’s been unnoticeable, but the hit tool and speed could garner some looks.”

 And I followed that up with the following when I listed him as the fifth best prospect in the Pirates’ system last year:

“OK. Even after his breakout season a lot of the same information could still be said about the plump outfielder: the hit tool and speed are definite, repeatable skills; the power, even though it did take a step forward, is still a below-average skill, and CAL still remains a bit suspicious, linking him to Dustin Fowler, Mason Williams, Danry Vazquez, and Joe Dickerson – though the Manuel Margot comp is incredibly interesting, Curiously enough, Ramirez seems to be able to repeat ridiculously high BABIPs: his last three seasons were .385/.365/.332.”

A year later and the same thing could be said – batting averages and speed, speed and batting averages.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

 

8. Reese McGuire, C                                                  
Born: 03/02/95 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Rossmel Perez, Jose Felix, Ramon Cabrera, Chace Numata, Tomas Telis
Height: 5-11 Weight: 215 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 R 198 11 0 0 0.330 0.388 0.392 0.063 7.60% 9.10% 132
2014 19 A 427 11 4 3 0.262 0.307 0.334 0.072 5.60% 10.30% 80
2015 20 A+ 411 15 0 0 0.254 0.301 0.294 0.040 6.30% 9.50% 82
2016 21 AA 365 18 2 1 0.254 0.335 0.332 0.078 9.90% 9.30% 90

Background: The Jays of Blue acquired the former first round pick – along with Francisco Liriano and Harold Ramirez – from the Pirates of Pittsburgh in exchange for enigmatic veteran right-hander Drew Hutchinson. McGuire, the 14th overall pick in the 2013 draft, turned in his best showing since his debut in the Gulf Coast League – at least before heading north. Prior to the trade, the lefty-swinging backstop was batting .259/.337/.346 with 16 doubles, two triples, and a dinger while posting a 93 wRC+. After the trade he batted a lowly – even for him – .226/.328/.264, which depressed his overall production.

Projection: One thought about the actual trade in general: When Mark Shapiro & Co. were in Cleveland they would essentially “buy” prospects by throwing in additional cash or taking on unwanted contracts. It’s how the club acquired Carlos Santana in the Casey Blake trade with the Dodgers. Well, this deal with Pittsburgh has the same type of makings. Liriano is owed $13+ million for 2017, so they agreed to it in return for two solid, albeit flawed, prospects. McGuire continues to be pushed up the ladder despite, you know, never actually showing any promise with a bat in his hand.

He’s a career .267/.324/.329 hitter with just four homeruns to his resume. He’s very solid defensively and catchers tend to take longer to develop offensively – so, yeah, some hope. The defense alone will get him to The Show. With the state of big league catcher, he still profiles as a potential league average starter, though.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

9. Conner Greene, RHP                            
Born: 04/04/95 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Amalio Diaz, Kevin Mcavoy, Jarred Cosart, Rafael Dolis, Jake Stevens
Height: 6-3 Weight: 185 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 FIP
2016 21 A+ 77.2 4 4 2.90 4.36 5.91 4.40 15.00% 11.10% 0.58 4.36
2016 21 AA 68.2 6 5 4.19 4.48 6.29 4.33 16.40% 11.30% 0.66 4.48

Background: From pop up to flailing, from surging to sinking, from emerging to submerging. Whatever you want to throw around, Greene’s production went from good to not-so-good over the past two seasons. Two years ago the then-20-year-old right-hander made stops at three different levels, throwing a 132.1 combined innings while average 7.8 strikeouts and just 2.7 walks per nine innings to go along with a 3.54 ERA. But this year, though, the Greene Express hit the skids. The former seventh round pick started the year back with Dunedin and eventually got bumped up to the Eastern League – despite some crazy disappointing numbers. He threw 77.2 innings in the Florida State League, averaging 5.91 K/9 and 4.40 BB/9. And those numbers more or less held firm during his time in Class AA too: 68.2 IP, 6.29 K/9 and 4.33 BB/9.

Projection: I have a theory as to what caused the major step backwards in production for the young righty. But I don’t want it to come across as haphazard, so I want to reiterate that it’s just an idea I’m floating out there. So here it goes: I think the excessive workload in 2015 carried over and eventually hampered him in 2016. Greene went from throwing just 59.1 innings in 2014, which happened over the course of two months, to hurling 132.1 innings a year later. That’s well beyond double the amount of innings, in my opinion. So if my theory proves to be true, I would suspect that his arm/body will be better conditioned in 2017. Meaning: he’s a candidate to bounce back – assuming he’s not hampered by any injuries.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

 

10. Jon Harris, RHP                                           
Born: 10/16/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Kevin Comer, David Francis, Matthew Hobgood, Silfredo Garcia, Christopher Lee
Height: 6-4 Weight: 175 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 FIP
2015 21 A- 36.0 0 5 6.75 4.02 8.00 5.25 18.20% 11.90% 0.25 4.02
2016 22 A 84.2 8 2 2.23 2.93 7.76 2.55 20.90% 6.90% 0.11 2.93
2016 22 A+ 45.0 3 2 3.60 3.68 5.20 2.80 14.30% 7.70% 0.40 3.68

Background: Fun Fact: The top eight draft selections in Missouri State University’s history have all been pitchers – Ross Detwiler, Brett Sinkbeil, Jon Harris, John Rheinecker, Pierce Johnson, Shaun Marcum, Jarrod Mays, and Scott Carroll. Toronto grabbed the 6-foot-4, 175-pound right-hander in the first round two years ago, 29th overall, and signed him to a $1,944,800 deal – the recommended bonus pool allotment. Harris was a three-year member of the Bears’ rotation, showing a modest improvement between his freshman and sophomore seasons before setting numerous personal bests during his junior campaign. In 15 starts with the school, Harris posted an 8-2 record with 116 strikeouts and 36 walks in 103 innings of work. The big righty spent his debut with Vancouver in the Northwest League two years ago, posting a troubling 32-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 36.0 innings. Last season, though, Harris opened the year up with Lansing, making 16 starts before getting promoted up to High Class A for another final eight games. Overall, he finished the year with a 99-to-38 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 129.2 innings.

Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about Harris prior to the 2015 draft:

“Big and projectable, Harris finally took a large developmental leap forward after two good, not great seasons. His control is merely average, but his ability to miss bats should help him grow into another steady mid-rotation arm. At the very least, he’s a potential dominant backend reliever. There is some risk given his relatively short track record of better-than-average production, especially considering his ho-hum work in the Cape [in 2014].”

A year later and the analysis still seems spot on. Harris easily passed the Low Class A last season, which isn’t surprising. He did, by the way, post back-to-back 11-strikeout, one walk performances with Lugnuts in late May. His first and last start with Dunedin skewed his short sample-sized production in quite a bit High Class A.

If everything breaks the right way he’s a good #3. But he’s more likely to slide into a #4/#5-type role.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

 

Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[The 2017 Texas Rangers Top 10 Prospects]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5426 2017-02-21T11:24:23Z 2017-02-21T11:24:23Z

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Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

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1. Yohander Mendez, LHP                   
Born: 01/17/95 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Sean Gallagher, Nick Struck, Jared Lansford, Javier Solano , Trevor Gott
Height: 6-5 Weight: 200 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 17 R 45.3 2 1 1.99 2.95 6.95 2.58 19.60% 7.30% 0.20 77.10%
2013 18 A- 33.3 1 2 3.78 5.30 6.21 4.59 15.20% 11.30% 1.08 72.70%
2014 19 A 31.0 3 0 2.32 3.65 8.13 0.58 24.10% 1.70% 1.16 84.80%
2015 20 A 66.1 3 3 2.44 2.41 10.04 2.04 27.50% 5.60% 0.27 75.80%
2016 21 A+ 33.0 4 1 2.45 2.78 12.27 3.00 34.60% 8.50% 0.55 78.80%
2016 21 AA 46.2 4 1 3.09 2.93 8.87 2.70 24.10% 7.30% 0.39 72.00%
2016 21 AAA 31.1 4 1 0.57 3.95 6.32 4.60 18.50% 13.50% 0.00 93.10%

Background: Overshadowed by other prospects the Rangers signed as part of their wild international spending spree in 2011. Mendez, who inked his name on the dotted line for $1.5 million, watched as Nomar Mazara zoomed through the minors with relative ease and Ronald Guzman make it up to the Midwest League as an 18-year-old – both of whom were signed at the same time as the lanky lefty. Mendez, on the other hand, battled some elbow issues early in his career, which limited him to just 115.1 innings over his first three seasons. So the fact that he stayed on the mound long enough to hurl 66+ innings two years ago was a victory in itself. And that’s before you consider his actual production: in 21 appearances with Hickory in the South Atlantic League, eight of which were starts, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound left-hander posted an impressive 74-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 2.44 ERA.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Mendez opened last year up in High Class A and closed it out with a pair of appearances in the Texas League. In between? A whole lot of dominance. The big southpaw threw a combined 111.0 innings during his three stops in the minors, fanning 113 and walking 41 to go along with a 2.19 ERA and a 3.17 FIP.

Projection: Talk about making up for lost time. There aren’t too many prospects that skip through three levels and make it the big leagues in a season’s time. Mendez showed tremendous poise for a 21-year-old hurler, missing a solid amount of bats during his stops in High Class A and Class AA and doing a fantastic job of limiting free passes. His fastball sat comfortably in the 91- to 92-mph range, so he’s not likely to ascend to a true #1. But he’s going to be a very solid #2/#3-type arm. He’s probably another year away though.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

2. Leody Taveras, CF                                        
Born: 09/08/98 Age: 18 Bats: B Top CALs: Pablo Olivares, Jahmai Jones, Jake Bauers, Daniel Jimenez, Yoman Rodriguez
Height: 6-1 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 17 R 155 6 3 1 0.278 0.329 0.382 0.104 7.10% 15.50% 104

Background: Never afraid to make a splash on the international market, the Rangers signed the Dominican-born outfielder to a spicy $2.1 million two years ago. Taveras, a switch-hitting center fielder, didn’t make his debut until last season, spending parts of the year in three different leagues: the Dominican Summer League, Arizona Summer League, and the Northwest League. Overall, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Taveras hit an aggregate .271/.324/.366 with 14 doubles, six triples, one homerun, and 18 stolen bases in 26 attempts.

Projection: Not too much data to go off of, especially the brief stint in the Dominican Summer League. But Taveras handled his extended action in the Arizona Summer League rather nicely, particularly for a 17-year-old. He showed a decent eye, a little bit of power, above-average speed, and strong contact skills. Just with incoming prep players, it’ll be a wait-and-see approach until more data is available.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

3. Ariel Jurado, RHP                                          
Born: 01/30/96 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Zach McAllister, Zack Littell, Joe Wieland, Eduardo Rodriguez, Jose Ortegano
Height: 6-1 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 17 R 49.0 6 0 2.39 1.93 8.63 0.55 23.70% 1.50% 0.18 64.10%
2014 18 R 38.7 2 1 1.63 3.26 8.15 1.86 21.70% 5.00% 0.23 68.10%
2015 19 A 99.0 12 1 2.45 2.62 8.64 1.09 24.40% 3.10% 0.45 70.40%
2016 20 A+ 79.1 7 2 3.86 3.53 8.05 2.72 21.50% 7.30% 0.45 68.40%
2016 20 AA 43.2 1 4 3.30 3.30 7.21 2.06 19.40% 5.60% 0.62 75.30%

Background: Jurado turned in one the most impressive showings in the South Atlantic League two years ago. Among all Low Class A arms with at least 90 innings, his 2.45 ERA ranked as the seventh best and no arm topped his 2.62 FIP. The organization pushed the Panamanian right-hander up to High Class A last season where he saw only a modest downturn in his peripherals, averaging 8.1 strikeouts and just 2.7 walks per nine innings in 16 starts. He also saw another eight games, six of which were starts, with the RoughRiders in the Texas League. Overall, he finished the year with 123.0 innings, 106 strikeouts, just 34 walks, and an aggregate 3.66 ERA.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote 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.”

Well, pretty much the exact same thing could be said a year later. Jurado fanned 20.7% and walked just 6.7% of the hitters he faced last season. He also generated a whole helluva lot of action on the ground – again. He posted a 63.4% GB-rate in High Class A and a 51.9% mark in Class AA.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

4. Anderson Tejeda, SS                                    
Born: 05/01/98 Age: 19 Bats: L Top CALs:  N/A

 

Height: 5-11 Weight: 160 Throws: R

Background: Signed for a six-figure bonus out of the Dominican Republic in 2014. Tejeda’s moved around quite a bit over the past two seasons: he split his professional debut between both of the organization’s Dominican Summer League affiliates, hitting a combined .312/.393/.522, and after a brief 14-game crash course back in the DSL last season, Tejeda split the remaining part of the season between the Arizona Summer League and short season ball. He batted a solid .283/.326/.520 with 14 doubles, 10 triples, and 10 homeruns last season.

Projection: One of the defining points of early statistical analysis has to do with sample size – or more specifically, beware of small sample sizes. Anything can happen in a small data sample: utility players can look like Babe Ruth and The Sultan of Swat can look like a Punch-and-Judy hitter. But what happens if a litany of small samples sizes all add up to the same thing – impressive production? That’s what we’re dealing with here.

Over the past two seasons Tejeda’s slugged a combined .295/.356/.521 with 33 doubles, 16 triples, 14 homeruns, and 16 stolen bases (in 23 attempts) in 121 total games. Granted half of that has come in the hitter-friendly DSL, but his production stateside has been solid. He’s showing some very, very intriguing power potential.

He’s going to be THE Breakout Prospect for 2017.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

5. Andy Ibanez, 2B                                               
Born: 04/03/93 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Devin Goodwin, T.J. Rivera, LJ Mazzilli, Matt Cusick, Dean Anna
Height: 5-10 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 23 A 220 18 1 7 0.324 0.413 0.546 0.222 13.20% 12.70% 171
2016 23 AA 340 18 2 6 0.261 0.318 0.391 0.130 7.40% 13.80% 104

Background: Considering his production in the Cuban National Series and the cost of notable prospects defecting from the country, one has to wonder how the Rangers were able to sign the second baseman to a $1.6 million deal two years ago. Ibanez, according to Baseball-Reference.com, made his professional debut in the Cuban National Series at the age of 18, hitting a respectable .278/.309/.383 with 18 doubles, a pair of triples, and three homeruns in 321 trips to the plate. And he really shined during his follow up campaign, slugging .300/.361/.441 with a league-leading 29 doubles and four homeruns. His numbers took a noticeable downturn during his final year with Isla de la Juventud, batting .267/.377/.435 with 13 doubles, four triples, and six homeruns. Ibanez didn’t make his stateside debut until last season. He made quick work of the South Atlantic League en route to slugging .324/.413/.546 with 18 doubles, one triple, seven homeruns, and 10 stolen bases (though it took 18 attempts) in 49 games. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 71%. Texas promoted the 5-foot-10, 170-pound second baseman straight up to Class AA in early June. He would string together a league average-ish .261/.318/.391 triple-slash line.

Projection: Ibanez’s production in the Sally is completely negligible – he was too old and had a professional background. It just proved that he wasn’t going to be a complete bust. His production in the Texas League, however, is more indicative of his true talent and production level. He showed a decent eye at the plate, strong contact skills, a little bit of power and speed. Ignoring his first 10 games with Frisco, a.k.a. the adjustment period, he batted a solid .274/.327/.401 over his final 71 games. He looks like a fringy big league starter, though that time won’t likely come in Arlington.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Low

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

6. Joe Palumbo, LHP                                
Born: 10/26/94 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Pedro Payano, Jose Rodriguez, Sebastian Vader, Ronny Morla, Edgar Ibarra
Height: 6-1 Weight: 168 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 19 R 42.7 4 4 2.32 3.00 10.34 3.16 28.30% 8.70% 0.00 70.20%
2015 20 A- 54.1 3 3 2.82 4.15 6.96 3.64 17.90% 9.40% 0.50 71.40%
2016 21 A 96.1 7 5 2.24 2.76 11.40 3.36 30.80% 9.10% 0.47 79.60%

Background: Fun Fact: The 30th round of the 2013 draft offered up a surprising amount of talent – the Jays signed slugging first baseman Rowdy Tellez for roughly $900,000, Boston came to terms with Nick Longhi for about $400,000, and the Rangers plucked promising left-hander Joe Palumbo out of St. John Bapist with the 910th pick that year. After a brief debut in the Arizona Summer League that season, the 6-foot-1, 168-pound southpaw put together a promising 49-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42.2 innings during his second stint the following season. He would spend the overwhelming majority of the next year, 2015, in the Northwest League with mediocre results. But last season, though, Palumbo shined as one of the top performing lefties in either Low Class A league.

In 33 appearances with the Hickory Crawdads, seven of which were starts, Palumbo threw a career high 96.1 innings with a whopping 122 punch outs and walked just 36 en route to cobbling together a 2.24 ERA and a 2.76 FIP.

Projection: Coming out of nowhere, Palumbo’s dominance certainly matches up well with a lot of pitchers in Low Class A. Consider the following (minimum of 90 innings):

  • Only St. Louis’ hard-throwing Sandy Alcantara posted a better strikeout rate, 11.86 K/9 vs. 11.40 K/9.
  • He paced the level in strikeout rate (30.8%).
  • His strikeout-to-walk percentage, 21.7%, tied for fifth best showing.
  • He finished with the ninth best FIP (2.76).

Palumbo didn’t make his first start of the year until the end of July, but he was particularly impressive during his seven-game stint in the rotation: 38.0 IP, 39 K, 10 BB, and a 2.37 ERA. There’s an awful lot of risk involved, because he lacks any type of track record, but he’s one to watch in 2017. He’s a long shot to develop into a backend starter.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2019

 

 

7. Cole Ragans, LHP                        
Born: 12/12/97 Age: 19 Bats: L Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-4 Weight: 190 Throws: L

Background: Death, taxes, and the Rangers taking talented high school players in the opening round. Texas plucked the 6-foot-4, 190-pound left-hander with 30th pick last June out of North Florida Christian High School.

Projection: Ragans’ debuted last all of 7.2 innings, so there’s virtually nothing to analyze. Per the usual, it’s going to be a wait-and-see approach.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

8. Josh Morgan, 2B/3B/SS                                 
Born: 11/16/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Matthew Cerda, Thairo Estrada, Danry Vasquez, Wyatt Mathisen, Edilio Colina
Height: 5-11 Weight: 185 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 19 A 416 15 1 3 0.288 0.385 0.362 0.074 10.80% 12.70% 121
2016 20 A+ 533 19 2 7 0.300 0.367 0.394 0.094 8.30% 11.40% 109

Background: Fun Fact Part I: There were only five players below the age of 21 to make at least 500 trips in the California League last season – Luis Urias, the lone 19-year-old to accomplish the feat, Johan Mieses, Franmil Reyes, Forrest Wall, and Josh Morgan. Fun Fact Part II: Among those five, Morgan finished second in batting average (.300), walk rate (8.3%), strikeout rate (11.4%), and on-base percentage (.367). The Rangers grabbed the 5-foot-11, 185-pound infielder extraordinaire in the third round out of Orange Lutheran High School in 2014. Morgan turned in a quasi-impressive professional debut as split time between the Arizona Summer League and Northwest League that year, hitting .322/.436/.347. The front office pushed him up to the Sally two years ago and he once again responded with a solid batting average and tremendous OBP-skills (.288/.385/.362). Last season Morgan batted .300/.367/.394 with career bests in doubles (19), triples (two), and homeruns (seven). His overall production topped the league average mark by 12%.

Projection: Typically when it comes to players spending half their time with the High Desert Mavericks you’ll see some extreme home/road splits, but that’s not the case with it comes to Morgan. He batted .296/.362/.391 at home vs. .304/.373/.396 on the road, an extremely positive sign for his future production. And even once his overall numbers are adjusted for the bandbox, they drop to a still respectable .287/.354/.367.

The problem with Morgan, however, is his complete lack of power. He’s sporting a career .073 ISO and only topped that mark modestly last season (.094). Texas seems intent on bouncing him around the infield, but his offense clearly doesn’t play well at the hot corner. There is a silver lining to be had: he posted a .422 slugging percentage over his final 82 games. Unless he can repeat that power outage moving forward, he’s going to slide into a utility role at the big league level.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

9. Ronald Guzman, 1B                    
Born: 10/20/94 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Nick Longhi, Chris Marrero, Jose Osuna, Austin Gallagher, Stefan Welch
Height: 6-5 Weight: 205 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 17 R 235 15 3 1 0.321 0.374 0.434 0.113 8.10% 17.90% 116
2013 18 A 191 8 0 4 0.272 0.325 0.387 0.116 5.80% 14.10% 106
2014 19 A 492 32 0 6 0.218 0.283 0.330 0.112 7.50% 21.70% 72
2015 20 A+ 452 25 7 9 0.277 0.319 0.434 0.156 6.00% 22.30% 103
2016 21 AA 415 16 5 15 0.288 0.348 0.477 0.189 8.00% 19.80% 135

Background: Another member of the club’s vaunted three-headed monster that was signed on the international market six years ago. The massive 6-foot-5, 205-pound first baseman blossomed into a legitimate offensive threat in the Texas League last season. In 102 games with the RoughRiders, the hulking Dominican-born infielder slugged .288/.345/.477 with 16 doubles, five triples, 15 homeruns, and a pair of stolen bases – just for good measure, of course. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 35% – easily the best mark of his five-year career.

Projection: I’m always curious about putting a player’s production into historical context. So let’s run Guzman through the gauntlet. First, here’s the list of criteria: between 2006-2016, 21-years-old, Texas League, a walk rate between 7.0% and 9.0%, an ISO between .180 and .200, and a strikeout rate between 15% and 20%. Now here’s the list of prospects that meets the aforementioned criteria:

  • Ronald Guzman
  • Nick Williams
  • Kyle Blanks

Blanks, by the way, is the only that isn’t currently a prospect. Anyway, despite possessing tremendous size, Guzman’s never hit for a whole lot of power. He offers a toolkit mostly consisting of average offerings – though he is sneaky quick for his size. And because he’s limited to just first base – a position that doesn’t provide a whole lot of defensive value – don’t expect him to generate a lot of wins above replacement.For his big league ceiling, think .240/.310/.410

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

10. Jairo Beras, OF                                                       
Born: 12/25/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Yorman Rodriguez, Elier Hernandez, Guillermo Pimentel, Cristian Santana, Johan Mieses
Height: 6-6 Weight: 195 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 18 A 427 18 0 7 0.242 0.305 0.342 0.100 7.70% 31.10% 83
2015 19 A 350 18 2 9 0.291 0.332 0.440 0.150 5.40% 25.10% 119
2016 20 A+ 441 28 4 22 0.262 0.306 0.511 0.249 5.40% 27.40% 112

Background: Some guys just look better sporting a baseball uniform – like the 6-foot-6, 195-pound outfielder. The Rangers aggressively pushed the man-child up to the South Atlantic League three years ago – despite only appearing in 17 games in the Arizona Summer League, the lowest level of stateside baseball, during his debut. The result: the toolsy outfielder wasn’t ready for full season action. In 110 games with Hickory, Beras batted a well below-average .242/.305/.342 with an unsightly 31.1% K-rate and an 83 wRC+. The organization did the prudent thing and kept him in Low Class A the following season and the results were much improved. He slugged .291/.332/.440 with 18 doubles, a pair of triples, nine homeruns, and nine stolen bases with a 119 wRC+ in 88 contests. And just for argument’s sake, here are those numbers over a 162-game schedule: 33 doubles, four triples, 17 homeruns, and 17 stolen bases. Not bad work for a 20-year-old in the Sally. Last season Beras got the call up to High Class A where he enjoyed spending half of his time playing in High Desert’s hitter-friendly confines. He batted .262/.306/.511 with 28 doubles, four triples, 22 homeruns, and five stolen bases en route to topping the league average mark by 12%.

Projection: I hate High Desert. If I were a member of a front office with some – significant – pull, the first move I would make is to relocate the club’s High Class A affiliate far, far away from that bandbox. Once Beras’ production is adjusted, his triple-slash line goes from .262/.306/.511 to a less impressive .244/.288/.458. The power is an above-average or better skill. But he doesn’t walk enough and he swings-and-misses too often. He just has the feel of one of those projectable prospects that quite never figures it out.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[The 2017 Tampa Bay Rays Top 10 Prospects]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5424 2017-02-21T11:24:13Z 2017-02-21T11:24:13Z

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Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

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1. Jose De Leon, RHP                                                  
Born: 08/07/92 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs:   Evan Scribner, Matt Garza, Jeff Stevens, Blake Snell, Josh Hader
Height: 6-2 Weight: 190 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 R 33.7 2 3 4.01 4.27 9.36 4.81 23.50% 12.10% 0.27 68.40%
2014 21 R 54.3 5 0 2.65 2.95 12.75 3.15 33.80% 8.30% 0.33 65.40%
2015 22 A+ 37.2 4 1 1.67 2.00 13.86 1.91 39.20% 5.40% 0.24 79.20%
2015 22 AA 76.2 2 6 3.64 3.64 12.33 3.40 33.10% 9.20% 1.29 74.40%
2016 23 AAA 86.1 7 1 2.61 3.24 11.57 2.08 32.50% 5.90% 0.94 76.40%

Background: It’s been talked about ad naseum at this point. But to a certain extent it does bear repeating – if only because it rarely happens. De Leon was barely an afterthought outside – and likely inside – the Dodgers’ organization when they took the 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander in the 24th round out of Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2013. While the school is home to such dignitaries as Lou Brock and Vida Blue, the Jaguars haven’t had a meaningful draft pick since the Brewers took Rickie Weeks with the second overall selection in the 2003 draft. And since De Leon’s selection as the 724th player taken four years ago, there’s been exactly one player chosen from the college: Lance Jones, a 36th round in 2015.

But in that time the Puerto Rican-born De Leon has flourished and developed into one of the most impressive arms in the minor leagues.

After dominating the lower and middle rungs of the system, De Leon found himself in the Pacific Coast League for the first part of last season. And he looked at home, at ease – even if he was hampered by some arm inflammation and an ankle injury. In 16 starts with the Oklahoma City Dodgers, De Leon threw 86.1 innings, allowed 25 ER while fanning 111 and walking just 20. He finished the year with a 2.61 ERA and a 3.24 FIP. For his career, De Leon is averaging a flat-out impressive 12.1 strikeouts and just 2.7 walks per nine innings.

Projection: From skeptic to perhaps his biggest fan on the planet, here’s my analysis beginning in 2015:

“Former 24th round pick fanned 119 in 77.0 innings between Ogden and Great Lakes. I’ll start believing once he spends more than 22.2 innings above the rookie leagues.”

And here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“De Leon has transformed from a late-round gamble into a legitimate front-of-the-rotation caliber arm, who, laughably, would be the system’s top hurler if it weren’t for Urias. Strikeouts come in gobs. The walks barely materialize.”

De Leon’s fastball averaged a smidge under 92 mph – a bit surprising given his propensity for missing wood. But his slider was absolutely filthy during his time in LA. Over his final three starts with Oklahoma City last season the young right-hander fanned 33 and walked 0 in 21.2 innings. And if you expand that to his last five starts he fanned 45 and walked two in 34.2 innings.

Yeah, I’d say he was big league ready. Wouldn’t you?

Tampa Bay is betting on it: they acquired the potentially dominant big league arm for second baseman Logan Forsythe this offseason.

Ceiling: 4.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

2. Willy Adames, SS                                
Born: 09/02/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Tim Beckham, Jonathan Galvez, Arismendy Alcantara, Alen Hanson. Karexon Sanchez
Height: 6-1 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 17 R 267 12 5 1 0.245 0.419 0.370 0.125 21.00% 16.50% 144
2014 18 A 514 19 14 8 0.271 0.353 0.429 0.158 10.50% 24.50% 124
2015 19 A+ 456 24 6 4 0.258 0.342 0.379 0.121 11.80% 27.00% 121
2016 20 AA 568 31 6 11 0.274 0.372 0.430 0.156 13.00% 21.30% 135

Background: Pop Quiz: Who had a better offensive showing in the Southern League last season, former #1 overall pick Dansby Swanson or Willy Adames? The obvious answer, of course, is Adames, who outslugged the Braves’ face of the franchise .274/.372/.430 (135 wRC+) vs. .261/.342/.402 (117 wRC+). I’d be remiss to mention that Swanson was two years his senior. In 132 games with the Montgomery Biscuits – man, is that the greatest name in sports or what? – Adams, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound shortstop out of the Dominican Republic, set career highs in doubles (31), homeruns (11), and stolen bases (13) while posting the second best marks of his professional life in walk percentage (13.0%), strikeout percentage (21.3%), and Isolated Power (.156). For his career, Adames is sporting a .265/.366/.409 triple-slash line against vastly older competition.

Projection: Let’s continue walking down the Southern League path for a minute, shall we?

  • The last time a qualified shortstop in the league topped a 135 wRC+ mark was four years ago when Marcus Semien, who was 22 at the time, finished the year with a 167 wRC+.
  • Since 2006, here’s a list of all qualified shortstops in the Southern League that have topped a 135 wRC+ mark before their age-21 season: Willy Adames.

Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book when I ranked him as the 61st overall prospect:

“Similar to [teammate] Jake Bauers in a sense because Adames is also one of the more underrated prospects in the game, especially considering his position (shortstop). To be fair, though, he remains a work in progress on the defensive side of the ball. With a bat in his hands, though, Adames has a solid eye at the plate – he’s walked in more than 13% of his plate appearances – with pop and a decent hit tool.”

Fast forward a year and he’s trimmed his fringe-red-flag territory strikeout percentage down from 27% to a solid 21.3%. The power continued to grow, the patience at the plate actually jumped even higher, and his defense, according to Clay Davenport’s metrics, has been OK. If he continues to take baby steps, there’s no reason his name won’t be in the same group as Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Brandon Crawford.

Ceiling: 4.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

3. Brent Honeywell, RHP                           
Born: 03/31/95 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Jake Thompson, Eduardo Sanchez, Ivan Pineyro, Eduardo Rodriguez, Jesse Litsch
Height: 6-2 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 19 R 33.7 2 1 1.07 2.20 10.69 1.60 31.30% 4.70% 0.27 77.20%
2015 20 A 65.0 4 4 2.91 2.40 10.52 1.66 29.00% 4.60% 0.42 64.80%
2015 20 A+ 65.1 5 2 3.44 2.72 7.30 2.07 20.20% 5.70% 0.28 67.40%
2016 21 A+ 56.0 4 1 2.41 2.77 10.29 1.77 29.50% 5.10% 0.80 81.30%
2016 21 AA 59.1 3 2 2.28 3.17 8.04 2.12 22.50% 5.90% 0.61 82.80%

Background: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book for Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2016: “Like a simmering pot of water, Honeywell is edging towards a boiling point. He’s entering his age-21 season and likely will spend a good chunk of it in Class AA. [He’s one] of my favorite arms in the entire minors.” Hello, boiling point. Honeywell, a supplemental second round pick out of Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tennessee, sandwiched 10 ridiculous starts in the Florida State League around a six week absence early in the season. In total for the Stone Crabs, he threw 56.1 innings with a 64-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 2.77 FIP. And he didn’t slow down upon his promotion to the Southern League either. In another 10 starts with the Biscuits, Honeywell fanned 22.5% and walked 5.9% of the total batters he faced en route to tallying a 3.17 FIP.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“Above-average or better control, Honeywell, who’s walked just 5% of the batters he’s faced in his career, has as high of a ceiling as any pitcher in the system – including budding ace Blake Snell. Honeywell has missed a ton of bats, shows poise beyond his years, and could be in the big leagues as soon as 2017 – as another front-of-the rotation caliber arm. And Cal remains a huge fan as well, linking him to Luis Severino, Robert Stephenson, Drew Hutchison, and A.J. Cole.”

A few things to note: CAL’s still a huge fan, comparing him to Lucas Giolito, Phil Bickford, org-mate Hunter Wood, Stephen Gonsalves, and Spencer Adams, all of whom are top minor league arms; and he’s still positioned to make it to the big leagues in 2017. Again, one of the top MiLB arms in the game with a ceiling as a front-end starter – assuming the arm soreness he suffered through early last season. Oh, yeah, he throws a screwball, which is cool by itself.

Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

4. Casey Gillaspie, 1B                                  
Born: 01/25/93 Age: 24 Bats: B Top CALs: Matt LaPorta, Rhys Hoskins, A.J. Reed, Kennys Vargas, Nick Evans
Height: 6-4 Weight: 240 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 21 A- 308 16 1 7 0.262 0.364 0.411 0.148 13.60% 21.10% 129
2015 22 A 268 11 0 16 0.278 0.358 0.530 0.252 10.40% 16.00% 155
2016 23 AA 357 21 0 11 0.270 0.387 0.454 0.184 16.20% 22.10% 145
2016 23 AAA 203 13 2 7 0.307 0.389 0.520 0.212 10.80% 18.70% 163

Background: After a bit of a disappointing debut in short-season ball, Gillaspie, whose production that year was buoyed by his tremendous eye at the plate rather than the thump of his bat, had a massive coming out party the following year. In 64 games with the Bowling Green Hot Rods, the switch-hitting Wichita State product slugged .278/.358/.530 with 27 extra-base hits – 11 doubles and 16 homeruns – en route to topping the league average production by 55%. The club pushed him up to High Class A in June, but a left wrist injury knocked him out after five games. Undeterred by his lack of playing time above Low Class A, Tampa Bay’s front office aggressively pushed the 20th overall pick up to the Biscuit for the start of the 2016 season. And he didn’t miss a beat.

Gillaspie got off to a hot start last season, slugging .302/.426/.518 with 16 doubles, nine homeruns and a down right, damn impressive 51-to-45 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his first 59 games. His bat turned cold over his next 26 contests – .202/.296/.319 – but it didn’t stop the team from promoting him up to Durham for the rest of the season.

With the Bulls, Gillaspie slugged .307/.389/.520 with 13 doubles, a pair of triples, and seven dingers while topping the league average production by a mind-boggling 63%.

Projection: First off, here’s what I wrote about Gillaspie prior to the 2014 draft:

“My favorite collegiate bat – bar none. Above-average power and patience, improving hit tool, the ability to hit from both sides of the plate, and a reasonably strong glove at first. And while he’s not going to be a game changer in the professional ranks, I do think he’s the cream of the draft crop in terms of [collegiate] offensive upside, perhaps peaking around a .280/.360/.490-type hitter.”

And I followed that up by writing the following in last year’s book:

“The analysis still seems on point. Gillaspie posted a .252 Isolated Power in Low Class A last season, walked in more than 10% of his plate appearances, and topped the average production by more than 55%. The problem, of course, is that he’s now entering his age-23 season with just 13 games above the Midwest League. Meaning: he’s performed how a collegiate high round pick should perform against inferior competition. And we likely won’t get a better feel until he faces off against Class AA.”

Well, we definitely have a better feel for his ceiling now. And let’s just say it’s a lofty one. He ripped through Class AA, the minors’ toughest test, by topping the league average production by 45%. Here’s the best part: it wasn’t BABIP inflated (.327). Tremendous, tremendous eye at the plate, 20-homer power with 35 doubles, and he handles lefties and righties equally well. He’s entering his age-24 season with zero red flags.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

5. Jacob Faria, RHP                                          
Born: 07/30/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Johnny Barbato, Josh Hader, Jose Berrios, Wade Davis, Dan Cortes
Height: 6-4 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 18 R 42.0 3 4 5.14 4.87 7.29 1.93 19.10% 5.10% 1.29 65.80%
2013 19 R 62.3 3 3 2.02 2.10 10.25 1.30 28.60% 3.60% 0.29 70.30%
2014 20 A 119.7 7 9 3.46 3.55 8.05 2.41 21.50% 6.40% 0.68 65.00%
2015 21 A+ 74.1 10 1 1.33 2.53 7.63 2.66 22.20% 7.80% 0.12 83.80%
2015 21 AA 75.1 7 3 2.51 2.85 11.47 3.58 31.90% 10.00% 0.60 76.30%
2016 22 AA 83.1 1 6 4.21 3.20 10.04 3.89 27.00% 10.50% 0.54 66.00%
2016 22 AAA 67.2 4 4 3.72 4.09 8.51 4.26 23.20% 11.60% 0.93 69.40%

Background: A late round selection out of Gahr High School, home to Kris Medlen and Shane Mack by the way, Faria, like teammates Willy Adames and Jake Bauers, turned more than a few heads in the Southern League last season. The former 10th round pick in 2010 paced the league in strikeout rate (10.04 K/4) and finished second in strikeout percentage (27.0%) among all pitchers with at least 80 innings last season. And even though his control wavered throughout the year, he still finished his time in the Southern League with fifth highest strikeout-to-walk percentage as well. After 14 starts with the Biscuits, 12 of which were at least five innings, Faria got the promotion to the International League for another 13 contests. Overall, he finished the year with 151 IP, 157 K, 68 walks, and an aggregate – and bloated – 3.99 ERA.

Projection: Like a lot of the Baby Rays, I’ve been on the Faria-Bandwagon for years now. Two years I wrote the following:

“Only two other qualified 20-year-old hurlers finished with a better strikeout-to-walk percentage in the Midwest League [in 2014]. He’s ready to be pushed aggressively. Let’s see if the franchise recognizes it.”

 And, of course, I was incredibly modest about it in last year’s book, writing:

“How’s that for spot-on analysis? The only thing I neglected to do was put Faria among the biggest breakout prospects for last season. Faria isn’t overpowering, but optimizes his talent incredibly well by limiting walks, pounding the zone, and keeping the ball in park. He’s not the same caliber arm as Snell or Honeywell, but he’s not far from it. Solid #2/#3-type arm. He’s knocking on the big league club’s door. Remember the name. CAL’s a big fan as well, linking him to Randall Delgado, Johnny Cueto, Edwin Diaz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Josh Hader.”

CAL’s still a huge fan, linking him to teammate Hunter Wood and Lucas Giolito. The control/command wavered a bit last season, but there’s no reason to suspect that it won’t bounce back in 2017 – even after he makes his big league debut (after the Super 2 deadline, of course). He still looks like a safe bet to develop into a 3.0- to 3.5-win pitcher in the coming years.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

6. Jake Bauers, 1B/RF                               
Born: 10/06/95 Age: 21 Bats: L Top CALs: Cheslor Cuthbert, Freddie Freeman, Dominic Smith, Logan Morrison, Anthony Rizzo
Height: 6-1 Weight: 195 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 17 R 188 8 2 1 0.282 0.341 0.374 0.092 7.40% 16.50% 102
2014 18 A 467 18 3 8 0.296 0.376 0.414 0.118 10.90% 17.10% 128
2015 19 A+ 249 14 2 6 0.267 0.357 0.433 0.166 11.60% 13.30% 142
2015 19 AA 285 18 0 5 0.276 0.329 0.405 0.128 7.40% 14.40% 105
2016 20 AA 581 28 1 14 0.274 0.370 0.420 0.146 12.60% 15.30% 132

Background: Pop Quiz Part I: Name the top three 20-year-old hitters in any Class AA league. Answer (in descending order): Cody Bellinger, Willy Adames, and Jake Bauers. Acquired as part of the three-team deal involving the Nationals and Padres, Bauers has been one of the top sabermetric performers throughout his entire minor league career. He posted a 128 wRC+ as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League, a whopping 142 wRC+ the following year in High Class A through 59 games, and was better than average after a mid-season promotion to Class AA. Back with the Montgomery Biscuits last year, the former seventh round pick batted .274/.370/.420 with 28 doubles, one triple, a career best 14 homeruns, and 10 stolen bases (another career high) while topping the league average offensive production by 32%. For his career, he’s sporting an impressive .280/.360/.413 with 86 two-baggers, eight triples, and 34 homeruns in 422 games.

Projection: Again, taking a page right out of Willy Adames’ book, let’s take another stroll down the Southern League path, shall we? Consider the following:

  • Number of qualified 20-year-old players to top a 130 wRC+ in the league: two (Adames and Bauer).
  • The number of qualified 20-year-olds to top a 130 wRC+ mark in the league since 2006: two (Adames and Bauer).

If having one player meet the criteria is impressive, it’s an embarrassment of riches for the Rays to have two. Here’s what I wrote about Bauers two years ago in my book:

“His power really seemed to be developing at the onset of [2014] when he was sporting a .169 ISO, but [it] really trailed off after that. Either way, though, he’s slugged just nine homeruns in his first 159 games. If the power takes a step forward, he has a chance to be a middle-of-the-lineup thumper. If not, maybe like an Eric Hosmer, post hype.”

  And I followed that up with this in last year’s book:

“Well, after noting Bauers’ power in the first part of 2014, he posted an eerily similar mark in the Florida State League last year (.166). It’s also incredibly promising that the power he showed in Class AA, .128 ISO, is also the second highest mark of his young career. He might be the best prospect you’ve never heard of – YET.”

Solid hit tool? Check. Damn fine walk rates? Yup, got those too. Developing pop? Yes. Can the lefty-swinging first baseman handle southpaws and right-handers equally well? Yes, historically. So there’s reason to believe that last year’s struggles against lefties (.236/.344/.340) should prove to be an anomaly. CAL’s a huge fan, tying him to Freddie Freeman, Logan Morrison, and Anthony Rizzo. Not sure his power gets to that point, but he should develop into an above-average big league bat.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

7. Jaime Schultz, RHP                                       
Born: 06/20/91 Age: 26 Bats: R Top CALs: Radhames Liz, Marquis Fleming, Brian Akin, Colton Murray, Robert Coelio
Height: 5-10 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 22 A- 44.3 1 2 3.05 3.73 11.17 5.89 29.10% 15.30% 0.61 79.00%
2014 23 A 37.0 2 1 1.95 2.27 14.11 3.41 39.20% 9.50% 0.49 84.20%
2015 24 AA 135.0 9 5 3.67 4.07 11.20 6.00 28.70% 15.40% 0.73 77.40%
2016 25 AAA 130.2 5 7 3.58 3.45 11.23 4.68 29.50% 12.30% 0.83 75.70%

Background: Among all hurlers with at least 130 innings under their respective belts last season, no pitcher posted a higher strikeout percentage than the fire-slinging right-hander out of little known High University. Schultz, a former 14th round pick in 2013, fanned a whopping 163 of the 553 total batters he faced – or just under 30%. And this wasn’t the first time the 5-foot-10, 200+ pound hurler compiled strikeouts in bunches either. He struck out 168 in 135.0 innings in Class AA two years ago, whiffed 79 in 60.0 innings between High Class A and Low Class A in 2014, and punched out 55 in 44.1 innings with Hudson Valley during his debut. For his career, he’s fanned 29.5%. Again, that’s for his entire career.

And now for the bad news…

Projection: He has as much accuracy as a little boy being potty trained. And how bad is it? His walk percentage, 12.3%, is just the second time in his four-year career that he’s posted a mark below 15.0%. He’s averaged more than five walks per nine innings in 85 games spanning 370.0 innings.

But we can dream, though…

Schultz fanned more than 10 hitters in four of his 27 starts and struck out at least seven guys six additional times.

In my first article published on ESPN, I asked a simple question: Would Nolan Ryan be a Relief Pitcher Today? The crux of the article is quite simple: Ryan suffered from notorious control issues early in his career, same thing with Randy Johnson too. But they were given ample – ample – time to develop into legitimate aces. The stocky right-hander is on the short, short list of best punch out artists in the minor leagues, so he’ll continue to get options in the rotation. I hope.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

8. Josh Lowe, 3B                                
Born: 02/02/98 Age: 19 Bats: L Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-4 Weight: 190 Throws: R

Background: Hailing from Pope High School in Marietta, Georgia, home to Chicago Cubs’ prospect Duane Underwood and former big league vagabond Brandon Boggs, Tampa Bay grabbed the lefty-swinging third baseman with the 13th overall pick last June and signed him to a $2.6 million deal, nearly a full million dollars less than the preceding pick, Jason Groome, received from Atlanta. Tampa Bay pushed Lowe to the Gulf Coast for a crash course in professional ball, where he slugged an impressive .258/.386/.409 with six doubles, one triple, two homeruns, and a stolen base in 28 games. He got bumped up to the Appalachian League for another 26 contests, hitting .238/.360/.400.

Projection: The strikeout rate the second half of the season isn’t concerning – especially considering how well he hit in the GCL. My initial impression: promising power, solid or better eye at the plate. Per the usual on incoming prep players, I’m going to wait until after the 2017 season to fully assess his ceiling.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

9. Garrett Whitley, CF                                            
Born: 03/13/97 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: Eduardo Sosa, Bralin Jackson, Benjamin Gamel, Rymer Liriano, Jose Rivero
Height: 6-1 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 19 A- 292 12 7 1 0.266 0.356 0.379 0.113 10.30% 25.70% 124

Background: The 13th overall pick two years ago, Whitley followed up a miserable debut showing – he batted .188/.310/.365 between both rookie leagues – with a performance more suggestive of his talent. In 65 games with Hudson Valley in the New York-Penn League, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound center fielder batted .266/.356/.379 with 12 doubles, seven triples, one homerun, and 21 stolen bases (in 26 attempts). His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 24%.

Projection: There were three players in the New York-Penn League that slashed six or more triples: Whitley, Jake Fraley, and Angel Perez – all of whom play in Tampa Bay’s system. The difference: Whitley was two years younger than his teammates. Anyway, the speedy center fielder offers up an above-average eye at the plate with developing power. His swing-and-miss tendencies were borderline red flag territory last year, so that’s something to keep an eye on.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2019

 

 

10. Hunter Wood, RHP                                              
Born: 08/12/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs:   R. Castillo, Hector Santiago, Chris Jones, Jordan Walden, Tyler Herron
Height: 6-1 Weight: 175 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 19 R 45.0 3 3 3.80 3.12 11.80 2.20 31.70% 5.90% 1.00 70.50%
2014 20 A- 64.3 3 4 3.08 3.35 7.97 2.24 21.30% 6.00% 0.42 72.40%
2015 21 A 64.1 1 4 1.82 2.28 11.33 2.24 33.30% 6.60% 0.42 82.00%
2015 21 A+ 42.0 1 3 2.79 2.74 6.86 1.93 19.20% 5.40% 0.21 67.30%
2016 22 A+ 63.2 3 3 1.70 3.08 7.92 3.39 22.60% 9.70% 0.28 78.30%
2016 22 AA 49.1 6 2 3.28 3.93 8.94 3.65 24.60% 10.10% 0.91 72.00%

Background: To say that the twice-drafted Wood got off on a hot start in High Class A would be an understatement of sorts. In 11 games, nine of which were starts, he posted a 1.70 ERA (third best mark in the Florida State League among hurlers with 60+ innings), fanned 22.6% and walked 9.7% of the batters he faced. And after he got the promotion to the Southern League, Wood, who was picked in the 32nd and 29th rounds, saw a noticeable uptick in his strikeout rate as he punched out 49 hitters in 49.1 innings. Overall, he finished the year with a promising 105-to-44 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 2.39 ERA in 113.0 combined innings.

Projection: Like his teammate Justin Williams, I named Wood among the Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2016, writing:

“After splitting last season between the Midwest and Florida State Leagues, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the former 29th round pick make his way up to Class AAA at some point in 2016. Impressive ability to miss bats with an equally strong feel for the strike zone. And, yet, no one’s really talking about him. For now.”

Well, he didn’t make it up to Class AAA, but he isn’t that far off. Typically, the Rays handle their young arms very cautiously, so I would expect him back in the Southern League for the first half of 2017. As far as his ceiling is concerned, Wood looks like a lively-armed #3/#4 starter – something the Rays seem to grow with ease.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[The 2017 St. Louis Cardinals Top Prospects]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5416 2017-02-20T11:32:22Z 2017-02-20T11:32:22Z

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Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

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1. Alex Reyes, RHP                                                  
Born: 08/29/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Tyler Glasnow, Yovani Gallardo, Eduardo Sanchez, Stephen Gonsalves, Henry Owens
Height: 6-3 Weight: 175 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 20 A+ 63.2 2 5 2.26 1.75 13.57 4.38 36.60% 11.80% 0.00 75.90%
2015 20 AA 34.2 3 2 3.12 2.32 13.50 4.67 36.40% 12.60% 0.26 67.40%
2016 21 AAA 65.1 2 3 4.96 3.72 12.81 4.41 32.00% 11.00% 0.83 67.30%

Background: I’ve never used an illegal drug or taken a legal drug without a prescription – so with that respect, maybe it’s a bit difficult for me to fully understand the need to do drugs. Now with that being said, I genuinely don’t understand when an athlete – for any sport, I’m looking at you Josh Gordon – can’t abstain from doing said drugs during their career. If they’re caught there are two pretty severe consequences (typically, speaking): #1 Suspension, which is crucial loss of development time for a young player, and this leads us to…#2 Loss of money. Enter: Alex Reyes, the latest flame-throwing right-hander St. Louis’ system has developed. As I noted in last year’s book this is the same pitcher, by the way, who became the third 21-year-old to lead the entire minor leagues in strikeout percentage in 2015 (minimum 100 innings of work).

So how does Reyes celebrate a wildly successful campaign? By toking up, of course. And just like we learn when we’re growing up, there are consequences if you get caught. He got caught in early November last year and subsequently suspended 50 games for marijuana usage. That suspension didn’t take effect until the start of the 2016 season.

Reyes, who didn’t make his regular season debut until the end of May, made 14 starts with the Memphis Red Birds, throwing just 65.1 innings while fanning a ridiculous 93 hitters and walking 32. The Cards called him up in early August where he mainly work out the club’s bullpen, posting a solid 52-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio (with a 1.57 ERA) in 46.0 innings of work.

Projection: I’m hesitant to use the word stupid in describing his action, but it certainly lacks a lot of maturity and/or foresight. One would have to assume that if he doesn’t get suspended, he likely gets called up sooner – perhaps a month or so. Pro-rate the minimum salary of a big leaguer, and you’re looking at a six-figure difference. That’s not a lot of money in the industry, but for a 21-year-old kid playing a position that one shoulder injury could end his future as a stud, it’s a lot of money.

Anyway, on to the actual analysis: Despite the bloated 4.96 ERA in the PCL, Reyes posted the fifth highest strikeout percentage, 32.0%, among all Triple-A hurlers with at least 60 innings.

But here’s where it gets better: Since 2006, here’s the list of 21-year-olds to post a strikeout percentage north of 32.0% (min. 60 IP): Yovani Gallardo and Reyes. That’s it.

Here’s what I wrote about the talented hurler in the 2015 Handbook:

“The control/command still has quite a ways to go, but anytime a teenager fans nearly 30% of the batters he faced in full season ball is definitely noteworthy. The fact that his strikeout percentage ranks third in all of Low Class A is just an added bonus. Reyes is still a minimum of three years from making his big league debut, but there’s mid- to front-of-the-rotation potential here.”

And here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“His dominant showing in 2015 leaves little doubt that there are all kinds of ace potential brewing in his thunderbolt-slinging right arm. The control didn’t take a step forward, but it’s also important to remember that’s he’s facing more and more disciplined hitters at an accelerated pace. Meaning: it’s not a concern yet.

Simply put, Reyes is just another high ceiling caliber arm in what’s seemingly become an endless march up to the big league rotation, ultimately following in the footsteps of Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, Trevor Rosenthal (he should be in the rotation), etc… True, legitimate #1 starting material – but the control/command needs to take that next step forward.

One final note: Reyes is a candidate for a late-season call up and/or could potentially be placed on the Earl Weaver break-em-in-easy pitching plan (i.e. having him develop in the big leagues as a reliever than transition him into a starting role in 2017).”

After the book went to the publisher, Reyes was scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery.   

Ceiling: 5.0- to 5.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

2. Luke Weaver, RHP                              
Born: 08/21/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Liam Hendriks, Marco Gonzales, Mitch Talbot, Rafael Montero, Javier Solano
Height: 6-2 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 21 A+ 105.1 8 5 1.62 2.28 7.52 1.62 20.70% 4.50% 0.17 72.70%
2016 22 AA 77.0 6 3 1.40 2.04 10.29 1.17 28.60% 3.30% 0.47 74.90%

Background: Fun Fact Part I: The Cardinals took six hurlers with their first six selections in the 2014 draft. Fun Fact Part II: The first four of those hurlers were right-handers. Fun Fact Part III: Four of those six hurlers were collegiate arms. Anyway, Weaver was absolutely unhittable during his final two years with Florida State, throwing a combined 204.2 innings with 204 punch outs, just 42 walks, and a 2.46 ERA. Weaver, who was the first hurler the Cards selected that year, 27th overall, continued to be unhittable as he moved his way to – and through – the minor leagues. He strung together a 1.62 ERA while averaging 7.5 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in the Florida State League two years ago. And made it look incredibly easy with Springfield in the Texas League the first half of 2016.

In 12 starts with the St. Louis’ Double-A affiliate, Weaver fanned 88, walked just 10, and posted a 1.40 ERA. After another dominant start in the Pacific Coast League, the Cardinals called up the 6-foot-2, 170-pound hurler in mid-August for another nine appearances, eight of which were starts. He finished his time in The Show with 45 strikeouts and 12 walks in 36.1 innings. The bad news: he tallied a 5.70 ERA.

Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about the talented Florida State prospect before the draft:

“Production-wise, Weaver falls into the same category as LSU right-hander Aaron Nola – extreme control pitchers that have historically exhibited some pretty strong strikeout numbers. The difference being, of course, Nola’s maintained status quo whereas Weaver’s taken a dramatic step backward, which adds some obvious risk associated with his draft selection.

Another mid-rotation-type arm poised to move quickly through the minor leagues. His K-rate probably won’t be as high as Nola’s in the professional ranks, but it should settle in around 7.0 K/9.

Plus, considering his slight build – he weighs only 170 pounds – there could be some room for velocity growth [if] he can add the right kind of weight.”

Weaver certainly had his moments in the Cardinals’ rotation – between August 20th and September 11th, he made five starts, throwing 27.0 innings with an impeccable 36-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio to go along with a 3.33 ERA. But when you finish with a near-6.00 ERA, it goes without saying he had a handful of terrible games too. I still think he’s a safe bet to churn out multiple 3.0-win seasons and hold the middle spot of the Cardinals’ rotation for the next decade or so.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

3. Harrison Bader, CF                                   
Born: 06/03/94 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Brandon Jones, Zoilo Almonte, Christian Marrero, Jose Osuna, Jake Marisnick
Height: 6-0 Weight: 195 Throws: R
 

Year Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 21 A 228 11 2 9 0.301 0.364 0.505 0.204 6.60% 19.30% 152
2016 22 AA 356 12 4 16 0.283 0.351 0.497 0.214 7.00% 26.10% 143
2016 22 AAA 161 7 1 3 0.231 0.298 0.354 0.122 6.80% 23.60% 74

Background: Pop Quiz Part I: Since the inception of the current MLB draft, there have been 51 players selected with the 100th pick in the draft; name the player with the highest career WAR total chosen with the 100th pick. The answer: Ron Gant. Pop Quiz Part II: Behind Ron Gant (33.9 bWAR) and Shane Mark (21.7 bWAR), who was the third most productive player chosen at #100? The answer: former catching vagabond Josh Bard, of course, who tallied just a smidge over 3.0 wins above replacement in his 10-year big league career. At this point, I’m sure you can probably guess which pick the Cardinals plucked Harrison Bader out of the University of Florida in 2015, right?

Bader put together a pretty stellar career for the Gators between 2013 and 2015, hitting an aggregate .312/.391/.466 with 29 doubles, five triples, 20 homeruns, and 36 stolen bases in 169 games. But it was his offensive explosion during his junior campaign that thrust his name up many clubs’ draft boards.

In a career best 67 games that year, the toolsy center fielder slugged .297/.393/.566 with career highs in doubles (16) and homeruns (17) – both numbers surpassing his previous career totals.

And since then, he’s continued to prove that the skill set he displayed heading into the draft was a reliable, repeatable one.

But perhaps his most impressive accomplishment to date: after appearing in seven games in short season ball and 57 contests in the Midwest League, Bader made the big jump to Class AA and didn’t miss a beat.

In fact, he was the second best offensive player in any Class AA league – trailing only teammate Louis Voit, who happened to be three years his junior. Bader also spent some significant – and difficult – time in the PCL as well.

Overall, he finished the year with a composite .267/.335/.452 triple-slash line with 19 doubles, five triples, 19 homeruns, and 13 stolen bases.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“A lot of the important skills trended in the right direction for Bader throughout his collegiate career – most importantly his power, which improved in each of his three seasons. His walk rate also took an important jump during his final campaign as well. With that being said, Bader’s never going to be mistaken for Houston’s Nolan Fontana when it comes to walks, but he does have an intriguing combination of power and speed. He could be a 15/15 threat if everything breaks the right way.”

Well, he barely missed the 15/15 mark so I wouldn’t be surprised if he posts a 20/20 or 20/15 season in the coming years. Average tools across the board with, perhaps, a slightly better-than-average hit tool, Bader looks like a very solid, capable big league outfielder – one who should post a 2.5-win season together in the two or three years.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

4. Sandy Alcantara, RHP                                 
Born: 09/07/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Luke Jackson, Phil Bickford, Frank Lopez, Jake Thompson, Justus Sheffield
Height: 6-4 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 18 R 56.7 1 9 3.97 2.92 8.74 3.02 22.30% 7.70% 0.16 62.30%
2015 19 R 64.1 4 4 3.22 3.49 7.13 2.80 19.10% 7.50% 0.42 67.70%
2016 20 A 90.1 5 7 4.08 3.21 11.86 4.48 29.80% 11.30% 0.40 65.70%
2016 20 A+ 32.1 0 4 3.62 2.54 9.46 3.90 25.40% 10.50% 0.00 67.50%

Background: How’s this for understatement of the year? In last year’s book I listed Alcantara, who had a good, not great season in the Gulf Coast League as a 19-year-old, among the Barely Missed section, writing: “[A] tall, lanky right-hander out of the Dominican, Alcantara made his stateside debut in 2015. In 12 starts in the Gulf Coast, the 6-foot-4, 170-pound hurler posted a 51-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64.1 innings of work. He will likely find his way into the club’s Top 25 next season.” Not only did he find his way in the Top 20, but the hard-throwing starter vaulted his way up to becoming one of the game’s most promising starting pitching prospects. The 20-year-old Alcantara made 17 starts with Peoria in the Midwest League, throwing 90.1 innings with 119 strikeouts, 45 walks, and a 3.21 FIP. St. Louis’ brass decided to give him a late-season push to the Florida State League where for the first time in his career he faced off against older competition on a consistent basis. And after a difficult first start (2.1 IP, 4 ER, 1 K, 4 BB), Alcantara finished the year with a 33-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his final 30.0 innings.

Projection: Consider this: Among all minor league hurlers with 120+ innings last season, Alcantara’s strikeout percentage, 28.7%, ranked sixth. Again, that’s out of all MiLB hurlers. So when’s the last time a 20-year-old accomplished this feat? Tyler Glasnow in 2014. Alcantara was absolutely dominating at various points throughout the season. Between May 17th and July 8th, he punched out 77 in just 50.1 innings of work. For those counting at home, that’s a strikeout percentage of nearly 35% and an average of 13.8 K/9. The control/command still has ways to go, but if he can refine it – even a little bit – the sky is the limit. He’s already walking down the path of Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes.

Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

 

5. Jack Flaherty, RHP                             
Born: 10/15/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Jake Thompson, Dan Cortes, Justus Sheffield, Giovanni Soto, Rob Kaminsky
Height: 6-4 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 19 A 95.0 9 3 2.84 2.83 9.19 2.94 23.70% 7.60% 0.19 72.30%
2016 20 A+ 134.0 5 9 3.56 3.20 8.46 3.02 22.30% 8.00% 0.54 68.60%

Background: Taken in the same draft that Luke Weaver to the fold, 2014, Flaherty continued to impress against older competition last season. Making 24 appearances with the Palm Beach Cardinals in the Florida State League, the then-20-year-old right-hander tossed a career best 134.0 innings with a very solid 126-to-45 strikeout-to-walk ratio en route to tallying a 3.56 ERA and a 3.20 FIP. This of course comes on the heels of his work in the Midwest League as a teenager in 2015: 95.0 innings while averaging 9.19 strikeouts and fewer than three walks per nine innings. For his career, Flaherty’s punched out 251, issued free passes just 80 times, and compiled a 3.11 ERA in 251.2 innings.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about Flaherty after his work in rookie ball three years ago:

“Another one of the polished pitchers that the club tends to collect. Flaherty overpowered the Gulf Coast during his 22.2-inning stint last season and should follow in the footsteps of both Alex Reyes and Rob Kaminsky and head to Peoria as a 19-year-old.”

 And I followed that up by writing the following in last year’s book:

“Test officially passed – with flying colors. Flaherty was simply too good, too polished for the Low Class A competition. He’s likely going to pass the next test, High Class A, with a relative amount of ease as well and could potentially spend a decent amount of the 2016 season in Class AA. Not quite on the same level as Reyes, Flaherty’s a nice ##2/3-type arm.”

 So let’s update this a bit, shall we?

Only one other qualified 20-year-old hurler in any High Class A league posted a higher strikeout percentage than Flaherty’s 22.3% – New York’s Justus Sheffield. But no 20-year-old posted a better strikeout-to-walk percentage (14.4%) or FIP (3.20). Poised beyond his years with pitchability oozing from his ears, Flaherty could be in line for a late-season promotion to the big leagues if everything goes well in 2017 – though 2018 is more reasonable.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

6. Dakota Hudson, RHP       
Born: 09/15/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-5 Weight: 215 Throws: R

Background: One of the biggest collegiate risers in the 2016 draft class, Hudson went from little used hurler – he threw 34.0 combined innings between his freshman and sophomore seasons – to one of the best arms available last June. But the potential to be an impact arm was always there. The Rangers reportedly had conversations with the talented right-hander heading into the 2013 draft about taking him in the top five rounds if he agreed to take the slotted-bonus. He didn’t. Texas, nonetheless, used a late-round flier on the then-prep hurler and subsequently failed to sign him. And after his first two years with the Bulldogs, it looked like a massive mistake for the Tennessee native; he posted 36-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio with an ERA above 4.00.

But something clicked last season – perhaps, it was just a chance to play more often? – as Hudson fanned 115, walked just 35, and tallied a 2.55 ERA en route to posting a 9-and-5 record for Coach John Cohen. St. Louis grabbed him with the 34th overall selection last June.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about Hudson prior to the 2016 draft:

“Going back to the 2011 season and extending through the end of 2015, there have been only seven pitchers – Mark Appel, Jon Gray, Nick Tropeano, Kevin Gausman, Jeff Degano, Andrew Barbosa, and Jonas Dufek – that have met the following criteria: at least 6-foot-4, 80+ innings, a strikeout rate of at least 9.5 K/9, a walk rate below 3.0 BB/9, and a homerun rate under 0.30 HR/9. Five of those players – Appel, Gray, Tropeano, Gausman, and Degano – were either high round draft picks and/or have become established big league starters.  

Obviously, the overall lack of a track record is a bit concerning when it comes to Hudson; through nearly three full college seasons he’s thrown just 114 innings (at the time of the writing). However, his work in the Cape last summer helped ease some concerns. Judging by the numbers, he seems to generate a lot of downhill action – as evidenced by his 0.24 career homerun rate – and has the prototypical innings-eater build. 

Hudson doesn’t have true ace material, but he should settle in nicely as a #2/#3-type arm. And one that could potentially move quickly through the minor leagues.

Well, the Cardinals seem to agree with his potential to move quickly through the minors as they pushed him into the Florida State League after just four innings in the Gulf Coast League. Hudson’s likely headed back to High Class A to begin 2017, but he’s going to spend the majority of his year in the Texas League

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

7. Junior Fernandez, RHP                               
Born: 03/02/97 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: Jarrod Freeman, Tyler Green, Luis Heredia, Foster Griffin, Colton Pitkin
Height: 6-1 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 17 R 28.0 0 5 5.79 4.72 4.18 3.86 10.50% 9.70% 0.32 47.10%
2015 18 R 51.0 3 2 3.88 2.21 10.24 2.65 26.50% 6.90% 0.00 63.50%
2016 19 A 78.1 6 5 3.33 3.86 7.24 3.91 18.80% 10.20% 0.34 69.00%
2016 19 A+ 43.2 2 2 5.36 4.88 5.15 4.12 12.50% 10.00% 0.82 64.20%

Background: “The next great flame-throwing St. Louis prospect, Fernandez got a brief two-game taste of the Florida State League [in 2015]. At the age of 18. His career numbers, 85.2 IP, 76 K, 29 BB, and a 4.31 [ERA], are very misleading. He’s a ticking time bomb. Tick, tick, tick…” That’s what I wrote in last year’s book when I named the Dominican-born hurler among the Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2016. So how’d Fernandez do? Well, he certainly had his moments as a teenager in the Midwest League. He punched out 10 without issuing a walk across eight innings against the Timber Rattlers in late April. Or the six-inning, eight-strikeout, two-walk performance against, well, the Timber Rattlers in late May. Or the seven-strikeout, zero-walk, four-hitter in 5.2 innings against the LumberKings on the first of July. He really, really has a disdain for teams associated with wood, I guess. Overall, he finished his time against the Midwest League hitters with 63 strikeouts and 34 walks with a 3.33 ERA in 78.1 innings.

St. Louis’s front office pushed the precocious 19-year-old up to the Florida State League where he struggled to get his footing, but dominated over his final four starts when he posted a 0.71 ERA over his final 25.1 innings.

Projection: So did Fernandez really breakout in 2016?

It’s up for discussion, I think. He had plenty of moments, but he also had more than a few clunkers as well. It’s important to remember that he (A) was only 19-years-old and (B) fewer than 90 innings under his belt heading into last season.

Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“Look, Fernandez is 85.2 innings into his pro career, so a lot of things could spiral off into different directions. But the Cards’ front office clearly sees something special in the teenaged right-hander, evidenced by having him spend his last two games in the Florida State League. He’s a big time power arm with the uncanny ability to hit the zone on a regular basis. Here’s one of the bolder predictions I will make in this year’s book: Junior Fernandez, a soon-to-be 19-year-old right-hander with 85.2 professional innings under his belt, is the best pitching prospect you’ve never heard of. Yet.”

Tick, tick, tick…

Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

 

8. Carson Kelly, C                 
Born: 07/14/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: John Ryan Murphy, Pedro Severino, Alex Monsalve, Austin Hedges, Austin Romine
Height: 6-2 Weight: 220 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 19 A 415 17 4 6 0.248 0.326 0.366 0.118 8.90% 13.00% 100
2015 20 A+ 419 18 1 8 0.219 0.263 0.332 0.113 5.30% 15.30% 80
2016 21 AA 236 7 0 6 0.287 0.338 0.403 0.116 5.90% 19.50% 115

Background: It took quite a while – a lot longer than anyone would have anticipated – but Carson Kelly, former second round pick who looked like a bust from the word go, turned himself into a legitimate big league prospect. It just took four years and a lot hard work and patience. And, oh yeah, a position change from the hot corner to donning the tools of ignorance. Last season Kelly, the 86th pick in the 2012 draft, put together his finest season to date. Splitting time between Springfield and Memphis, Kelly slugged .289/.343/.395 with 17 doubles and six homeruns. The kid also got a brief call-up to The Show as well, going 1-for-13 with a double.

Projection: You know, it’s incredibly difficult to pick up a position at the professional level and that’s before you consider that his move behind the plate is easily the most difficult in the game to make. So it’s not surprising his offense cratered as he learned the nuances of the position as well as dealing with all kinds of dings-and-dents that catching puts the body through. Defensively, he’s thrown out nearly a third of would-be base stealers in his career. And offensively he’s not completely hapless either. Decent eye at the plate, the power is slightly below average, but the hit tool is solid enough. Add it all up and he looks like a very sturdy starter.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

9. Magneuris Sierra, CF                                             
Born: 04/07/96 Age: 21 Bats: L Top CALs: Elvis Escobar, Dustin Fowler, Harold Ramirez, Yefri Carvajal, D’Arby Myers
Height: 5-11 Weight: 160 Throws: L
 

Year Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 17 R 252 6 3 1 0.269 0.361 0.340 0.071 11.50% 13.10% 115
2014 18 R 223 12 3 2 0.386 0.434 0.505 0.119 7.20% 13.50% 170
2015 19 R 239 8 0 3 0.315 0.371 0.394 0.079 7.90% 17.60% 117
2015 19 A 190 1 3 1 0.191 0.219 0.247 0.056 3.70% 27.40% 33
2016 20 A 562 29 4 3 0.307 0.335 0.395 0.088 3.90% 17.30% 115

Background: Existing proof that one of the best player development engines can make a mistake. St. Louis’ brass aggressively pushed the then-19-year-old up to the Midwest League in the second half of 2015 after a stellar performance in the advanced rookie league. The Dominican-born center fielder promptly fell flat on his face. He batted – a term used in the loosest of senses – a paltry .191/.219/.247 with just one double, three triples, and a dinger. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was a whopping 67% below the league average mark. So, of course, Sierra found himself back in the Midwest League for a recap in 2016. The results? Solid. In 122 games with the Chiefs, Sierra batted .307/.335/.395 with 29 doubles, four triples, three homeruns, and 31 stolen bases (in 48 attempts). This time he topped the league average mark by 15%.

Projection: Despite the dreadful showing in the Midwest League two years ago, this is what I wrote in last year’s book:

“There’s a lot to like about the package: the hit tool has a chance to be the best in the system; the power could jump up into 15-HR territory as his lean 160-pound frame fills out, and he’s quick enough to swipe 30+ bags in a season. I originally pegged Sierra as a potential fourth outfielder in last year’s book, but I’d bump that up to a better-than-average regular – though there’s some risk given his youth and failure in Class A.”

Well, he already swiped the 30 bags in a season, though it took a lot of attempts to get there. But the overall power numbers didn’t spike as I thought they would – though to be fair he hit .322/.355/.424 from June 1st through the end of the year. I still like his odds as a potential above-average center fielder, more so depending upon his defense.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

10. Paul DeJong, 3B         
Born: 08/02/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Brandon Laird, David Thompson, Wes Hodges, Will Middlebrooks, Mat Gamel
Height: 6-1 Weight: 195 Throws: R
 

Year Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 21 A 247 12 3 5 0.288 0.360 0.438 0.151 9.30% 17.40% 133
2016 22 AA 552 29 2 22 0.260 0.324 0.460 0.200 7.20% 26.10% 123

Background: Fun Fact Part I: Since the first player selected from Illinois State in 1967, there have been only six prospects from the university taken before fifth round in the June draft – Jeremy Rhoades and DeJong, both of whom were taken in the fourth round just a year apart, 2014 and 2015, respectively. Fun Fact Part II: former big league relievers Neal Cotts and 2004 All-Star Danny Kolb called the school home. Dejong, though, has a chance to the best player taken from the school – though, admittedly, that current title belongs to Dave Bergman and his 7.0-WAR career. After a solid, borderline dominant showing in the Midwest League during his professional debut, the Cardinals aggressively pushed the 6-foot-1, 195-pound third baseman right up to the Texas League. And he made it look pretty easy too. In 132 games with Springfield in the Texas League, DeJong hit .260/.324/.460 with 29 doubles, a pair of triples, and 22 homeruns while swiping a trio of bags. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average by 23%.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“It’s interesting, isn’t it? How the draft, no matter how much you research or study or scout a player, a lot of comes down to a roll of the dice. Take for example DeJong, a fourth round pick out of less-than-impressive baseball university, and 2012 first round pick Patrick Wisdom. DeJong blew the doors off of the NYPL and handled himself adequately in the Midwest League; Wisdom, on the other hand, spent his debut in Short-Season ball and batted a solid .282/.373/.465, but he followed that up with a paltry .231/.312/.411 showing with Peoria the next season. DeJong is another excellent value pick by the organization. He may not have the prototypical pop the average run-producing third baseman shows, but he’ll run into 15 or so homeruns once he gets above the A-levels.”

So he may have the prototypical power the average run-producing third baseman possesses. DeJong finished with the fifth most doubles and homeruns in the Texas League – as well as an impressive .200 ISO. But here’s the best part: after a terrible – and I do mean terrible – April, DeJong batted .271/.334/.490. With respect to his extra-base knocks, he logged all but five doubles and one triple once the calendar flipped to May. And do you know what we call that? An adjustment period.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[The 2017 Seattle Mariners Top 10 Prospects]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5415 2017-02-20T11:32:09Z 2017-02-20T11:32:09Z

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Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

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1. Kyle Lewis, CF                                 
Born: 07/13/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-4 Weight: 210 Throws: R

Background: Fun Fact Part I: Prior to the Mariners selecting Lewis with the 11th overall pick last June, no other Mercer University player had been chosen in the opening round of the June draft. Fun Fact Part II: There have been only two players taken from the school in the first 10 rounds this century – Lewis and Cory Gearin (2007, fourth round). So it’s easy to how the tools-laden center fielder was the crux of the Bears’ offensive punch during his three-year tenure. He batted a respectable .281/.340/.382 with three doubles and a pair of homeruns during his freshman season. Then his production exploded during his sophomore year as he slugged a whopping .367/.423/.677 with 19 doubles and 17 homeruns while earning a litany of acknowledgements including:

  • SoCon Player of the Year
  • Gregg Olson Award Finalist
  • Rawlings/ABCA All-South Region Second Team
  • Louisville Slugger Second Team All-American
  • NCBWA Second Team All-American

But most importantly, that production earned him an invite to show off his skills against the premier college talent in the Cape Cod League. And he did just that. In 39 games with the Orleans Firebirds, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound outfielder slugged an impressive .300/.344/.500 with seven doubles, one triple, and seven homeruns.

And, yet, he took his production to an entirely different level in 2016.

In a career high 61 games with Mercer, Lewis walloped the opposition to the tune of .395/.535/.731 with 11 doubles, a pair of triples, 20 homeruns, and six stolen bases. After the club grabbed – and signed – him, they sent him to the Everett in the Northwest League – where, of course, he continued to produce at an elite level: .299/.385/.530 with a 152 wRC+ in 135 plate appearances. Unfortunately, Lewis succumbed to a rather gruesome knee injury after just 30 games. The reports of his rehab have been favorable.

Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about Lewis heading into the draft last season:

“Just to kind of put Lewis production into perspective a bit, considering the following: Since 2011 there have been three other instances of Division I players that have batted .400/.500/.700 in a season in which they’ve slugged more than 15 homeruns in at least 180 at bats – D.J. Peterson, a former first round pick, C.J. Cron, another first round pick, and Trenton Moses, who wasn’t grabbed until the 26th round in 2012. 

But this also highlights something quite concerning: Peterson hasn’t solved Class AA across parts of two seasons, Cron’s been essentially a league average hitter, maybe a touch better, and Moses never made it above High Class A. Lewis is clearly feasting off of inferior, low level-ish DI competition, and while he’s made tremendous strides in the plate discipline department he’s fanned in nearly 16% of his plate appearances – a staggeringly high number for a player in the Southern Conference. 

Lewis’ power potential is quite tantalizing, but there’s an awful lot of risk involved in selecting him early in the draft as well.” 

Again, it all comes down to that knee injury he suffered; he tore his ACL, MCL, and lateral meniscus in his right knee in a collision with a catcher in mid-July. Here’s hoping for a full recovery. 

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

 

2. Tyler O’Neill, LF/RF                            
Born: 06/22/95 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Trayce Thompson, Domingo Santana, Jamie Romak, B. Borchering, Michael Burgess
Height: 5-11 Weight: 210 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 19 A 245 9 0 13 0.247 0.322 0.466 0.219 8.20% 32.20% 124
2015 20 A+ 449 21 2 32 0.260 0.316 0.558 0.297 6.50% 30.50% 128
2016 21 AA 575 26 4 24 0.293 0.374 0.508 0.215 10.80% 26.10% 152

Background: Fun Fact Part I: O’Neill finished second in the Southern League with 24 homeruns last season, trailing only Arizona’s Kevin Cron, who is two years older than the Mariners’ Baby Bopper. Fun Fact Part II: O’Neill’s 24 dingers were the seventh best total among all Class AA bats last season and the second best mark for any player under the age of 22. Fun Fact Part III: And this one’s a doozey – among all players under the age of 22 with more than 400 at bats in any Class AA league since 2006, O’Neill’s at bats per homerun last season, 20.5, ranks as the eight best total. The Mariners grabbed the stocky Canadian-born outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft. Since then, he’s moved methodically through the minor leagues.

O’Neill spent his debut battering the Arizona Summer League pitching to the tune of .310/.405/.450. He would then follow that up in an injury-shortened stint in Low Class A, topping the league average offensive mark by 24% in 57 games as a 19-year-old. He then spent the entire 2015 season bashing the High Class A pitching, slugging a whopping 55 extra-base knocks.

The front office pushed the 5-foot-11, 210-pound corner outfielder up to the minors’ toughest challenge last season: Class AA. And, needless to say, O’Neill passed with flying colors.

In a career high 130 games with the Jackson Generals, O’Neill batted .293/.374/.508 with 26 doubles, a career high four triples, 24 long balls, and 12 stolen bases (in just 14 attempts). His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by a mindboggling 52%.

Projection: So just to put some context around O’Neill’s dominance, consider the following:

  • Among all qualified Class AA bats last season, O’Neill’s overall production (152 wRC+) tied Blue Jays’ slugger – and fellow 21-year-old – Rowdy Tellez as the third best mark.
  • Since 2006, here’s a list of hitters under the age of 22 to post at least a 150 wRC+ in Class AA (minimum of 400 PA): O’Neill, Tellez, Oscar Taveras (20-years-old), Mike Trout (19), Joc Pederson (21), and Evan Longoria (21).

Notice something about the players in the second bullet point?

That’s sure as hell a lot of star power. But…

And there’s always a “but”, isn’t there? O’Neill, by far, has the worst swing-and-miss rate of group, sporting a borderline red flag 26.1%. The second worst K-rate of the group, Joc Pederson (22.0%), is more than four percentage points less. However, a little bit of a silver lining: That 26.1% K-rate for O’Neill was the second best mark of his entire career, a very positive sign considering his age and level of competition.

Because of his swing-and-miss tendencies (as well as his lack of double-digit walk rates throughout his career), O’Neill isn’t likely to develop into the same caliber player as Trout (obviously) or Longoria (obviously) or even Taveras’ projection ceiling. But there’s no reason that he isn’t going to develop into a slightly lesser version of Joc Pederson. CAL’s most optimistic comparison, Domingo Santana, is a slightly better-than-average MLB bat – which seems spot on.

In terms of O’Neill’s offensive ceiling, think: .250/.330/.480.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

3. Andrew Moore, RHP                             
Born: 06/02/94 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Lindsey Caughel, Ryan Weber, Andrew Lockett, Dillon Gee, Pedro Hernandez
Height: 6-0 Weight: 185 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 21 A- 39.0 1 1 2.08 2.29 9.92 0.46 28.50% 1.30% 0.46 75.30%
2016 22 A+ 54.2 3 1 1.65 3.18 7.74 2.14 22.40% 6.20% 0.33 75.80%
2016 22 AA 108.1 9 3 3.16 3.34 7.14 1.50 19.70% 4.10% 0.75 76.00%

Background: A three-year mainstay in Oregon State’s rotation between 2013 through 2015, the Mariners selected the slighted-framed right-hander in the second round, 72nd overall, two years ago. Moore left the school with a career 2.09 ERA with an impressive 27-9 record, 251 strikeouts, and just 75 walks in 347.2 innings. After his selection, Moore was ridiculously dominant during his debut with the AquaSox in the Northwest League, posting an absurd video game-esque 43-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. And after that type of production the Mariners aggressively challenged the 6-foot, 185-pound hurler by sending him straight up to High Class A to start last season.

He passed – with flying colors.

In nine starts with Bakersfield, Moore average 7.7 punch outs and just 2.2 walks per nine innings with a 1.65 ERA and a 3.18 FIP.

In late May the club bumped him up to the minors’ toughest challenge – Class AA – with another aggressive promotion. And, once again, he made it look quite easy. In 108.1 innings with the Generals, Moore averaged 7.14 K/9 and just 1.5 BB/9 to go along with a 3.16 ERA and a 3.34 FIP.

Projection: Again, just as a remainder: He went from squaring off against the PAC12 conference to reaching – and succeeding against – Class AA bats within a year’s time. And if you ignore his first start with the Generals, a three-inning clunker against the Montgomery Biscuits, Moore’s ERA and FIP improve to 2.77 and 3.15, respectively. He’s obviously going to need to prove that he can adjust to teams seeing him more than once or twice. But he has the makings of a very capable backend starting pitcher, one who will likely be big league-ready by mid-2017.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

4. Mitch Haniger, OF                           
Born: 12/23/90 Age: 26 Bats: R Top CALs: Tim Fedroff, Eric Thames, Ryan Rua, Allen Craig, Scott Van Slyke
Height: 6-2 Weight: 215 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 22 A 178 12 2 5 0.297 0.399 0.510 0.214 14.00% 13.50% 152
2013 22 A+ 365 24 3 6 0.250 0.323 0.396 0.146 8.80% 18.60% 107
2014 23 AA 301 10 1 10 0.262 0.328 0.419 0.157 7.30% 15.00% 109
2015 24 A+ 226 16 3 12 0.332 0.381 0.619 0.287 7.50% 17.30% 163
2015 24 AA 174 10 1 1 0.281 0.351 0.379 0.098 9.20% 18.40% 107
2016 25 AA 236 14 2 5 0.294 0.407 0.462 0.168 12.70% 15.70% 156
2016 25 AAA 312 20 3 20 0.341 0.428 0.670 0.330 12.50% 19.90% 185

Background: Pop Quiz #1: Name the most productive Class AAA bat last season (minimum 300 PA). The answer: Mitch Haniger, of course, with a mind-warping 185 wRC+. Pop Quiz #2: Name the last player to throw up a 185 wRC+ in Class AAA (minimum 300 PA). The answer: Chris Colabello in 2013. Pop Quiz #3: Since 2006, how many hitters have posted a 185 wRC+ in Class AAA (minimum 300 PA)? The answer: Two. The Mariners acquired the former first round pick, along with Zac Curtis and Jean Segura, from the Arizona Diamondbacks in late November as part of the deal that shipped Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte to the NL. Haniger opened the year up on a torrid stretch, slugging .294/.407/.462 in 55 games in Class AA before absolutely catching fire in the PCL. Overall, he walloped the opposition to the tune of .321/.419/.581 with 34 doubles, five triples, 25 homeruns, and 12 stolen bases (in 16 attempts).

Projection: What’s the likelihood that a hitter that posts a 185 wRC+ in a reasonably sized sample won’t put together a solid triple-slash line in the big leagues? I’m betting that it’s not 100%, but it’s more than 90%. CAL brings up some interesting comps, linking him to Eric Thames (96 wRC+), Ryan Rua (90 wRC+), Allen Craig (113 wRC+), and Andy Van Slyke (113 wRC+). I’m not entirely certain he’s going to post another walk rate north of 12.0% given his track record. And I can definitely state that he’s never going to throw up a .330 ISO again like he did Class AAA last season. But there’s a quality offensive foundation without question. Defensively speaking, he’s been solid, average in center and right fields.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

5. Dillon Overton, LHP                                       
Born: 08/17/91 Age: 25 Bats: L Top CALs:  Robert Ray, Simon Castro, Robert Rohrbaugh, Kyle Lobstein, Mark Leiter
Height: 6-2 Weight: 175 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 23 A+ 61.1 2 4 3.82 4.07 8.66 1.76 23.90% 4.90% 1.03 71.40%
2015 23 AA 64.2 5 2 3.06 3.34 6.54 2.09 17.70% 5.60% 0.56 78.00%
2016 24 AAA 125.2 13 5 3.29 3.46 7.52 2.22 19.80% 5.90% 0.43 73.40%

Background: Oakland grabbed the polished lefty in the second round out of the University of Oklahoma four years ago. And then they made the typical development move: they sent him under the knife for Tommy John surgery. Yes, sarcasm applies. But here’s the amazing thing: just 246.2 innings after coming out of college, with a significant arm surgery under his belt, Overton made it all the way to big leagues. Last season the 6-foot-2, 175-pound southpaw opened up with 83.2 solid innings with the Nashville Sounds in the Pacific Coast League, fanning 72 and walking just 22. Then from the end of June through the rest of the year he yo-yoed between the PCL and Oakland where the results were mixed – at best. He would finish the year with 125.2 innings in the minor leagues, averaging 7.5 strikeouts and just 2.2 walks per nine innings. As for the time in the major leagues…umm…it wasn’t so good: 24.1 IP, 17 K, 7 BB, 11.47 ERA.

Projection: Overton had an impressive string going on in the big leagues – and not for the right reasons. He made seven appearances with the A’s. Of those seven games, he allowed at least five runs four times. Ouch. With that being said, his homerun rate (4.44 HR/9), BABIP (.396), and strand rate (63.8%) were all out of whack – so he’s just going to improve a lot through regression. He’s your typical soft-tossing, finesse lefty who does the things he needs to win: limit walks, miss a couple bats, and typically keep the ball in the park. He’s a nice little #3/#4 type arm.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

6. Ben Gamel, OF                                      
Born: 05/17/92 Age: 25 Bats: L Top CALs: Sean Henry, Kyle Parker, Caleb Gindl, Denard Span, Jamie Hoffman
Height: 5-11 Weight: 185 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2011 19 A- 220 19 1 2 0.289 0.373 0.432 0.142 10.90% 22.70% 133
2012 20 A 476 23 5 2 0.306 0.342 0.394 0.088 4.80% 14.90% 104
2013 21 A+ 423 28 4 3 0.272 0.352 0.396 0.124 11.30% 18.20% 114
2014 22 AA 586 31 3 2 0.261 0.308 0.340 0.079 6.10% 15.00% 80
2015 23 AAA 551 28 14 10 0.300 0.358 0.472 0.172 8.30% 19.60% 138
2016 24 AAA 533 26 5 6 0.308 0.365 0.420 0.112 8.10% 17.60% 126

Background: Acquired from the Yankees on August 31st last season in exchange for a couple low level, intriguing minor league arms: Juan De Paula and Jio Orozco. Gamel, a 10th round pick out of Bishop Kenney High School all the way back in 2010, turned in another quietly strong showing in the International League with the Yankees’ affiliate. In 116 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound batted .308/.365/.420 with 26 doubles, five triples, six homeruns, and 19 stolen bases while topping the league average production by 26%. And that, of course, comes on his .300/.358/.472 showing with a 138 wRC+ showing in the level the previous season.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book when I ranked him as the 14th best prospect in the Yankees’ system:

“I’m not quite sure – or in other words entirely convinced – that Gamel’s power surge with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is a repeatable skill; his career Isolated Power mark is .100 vs. his .172 showing last season. And, unsurprisingly, his HR/FB ratio nearly doubled his previous career high as well. Gamel has typically handled LHP and RHP equally well, showcases double-digit stolen base potential, and a fringy-decent eye at the plate. Combine that with his CALs – Sean Henry, Caleb Gindl, Xavier Paul, Mikie Mahtook, and Juan Portes – and it’s easy to see how he’s likely to slide into a backup outfield role in the near future.”

So let’s do an update, OK?

As I suspected his Isolated Power, or ISO, came crashing back to earth, going from the .172 mark in 2015 all the way back down to .112 last season – a number, by the way, more or less in line with his career numbers. He still handles lefties and righties equally well. And the speed and plate discipline maintained status quo too. As for CAL, well, it’s still linking him to three non-descript players in Sean Henry, Kyle Parker, and Jamie Hoffman. But it does offer up some hope by linking him to Caleb Gindl, who owns a 103 wRC+ in his brief big league career, and Denard Span, who owns a 105 wRC+. That seems like a reasonable offensive ceiling for Gamel. And if his defense grades out as average – especially in a corner spot – he should have no qualms in churning out league average production.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

7. Dan Vogelbach, 1B                                
Born: 12/17/92 Age: 24 Bats: L Top CALs: Mike Carp, Max Muncy, Logan Morrison, Lucas Duda, Andy Wilkins
Height: 6-0 Weight: 250 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 19 A- 168 9 1 10 0.322 0.423 0.608 0.287 13.70% 20.20% 189
2013 20 A 500 21 0 17 0.284 0.364 0.450 0.166 11.40% 15.20% 128
2014 21 A+ 560 28 1 16 0.268 0.357 0.429 0.162 11.80% 16.30% 126
2015 22 AA 313 16 1 7 0.272 0.403 0.425 0.154 18.20% 19.50% 140
2016 23 AAA 563 25 2 23 0.292 0.417 0.505 0.214 17.20% 17.90% 147

Background: Once viewed as a key cog in the Cubs’ rebuilding efforts, Chicago simply ran out of room in the star-packed, power-laden lineup. Enter Seattle General Manager Jerry Dipoto. The two clubs got together near the trade deadline last year, agreeing to a two-for-one package that sent lefty reliever Mike Montgomery and minor leaguer Jordan Pries to the eventual World Champs in exchange for Vogelbach. Originally taken in the second round of the 2011 draft Vogelbach got off to a scorching-hot start in the Pacific Coast League last season, slugging a whopping .318/.425/.548 with 18 doubles, a pair of triples, and 16 homeruns while topping the league average production by a 58%. His numbers cooled a bit following the trade (.240/.404/.420), but he finished his sixth professional season with an aggregate .292/.417/.505 triple-slash line.

Projection: I’ve always been a fan of the former second round pick; he’s been an OBP monster during his minor league tenure. But his power took another leap forward last season. Vogelbach’s always shown some platoon splits, but not enough that would eventually limit the lefty-swinging first baseman. CAL compares him to a trio of solid big league bats: Mike Carp, Logan Morrison, and Lucas Duda – all three of them being better-than-average sticks. He doesn’t have a lot standing in front of claiming the starting gig in Seattle – Danny Valencia is currently slated atop the first base depth chart. And there are plenty of boppers to push him down the lineup until he gets his feet wet. In terms of big league ceiling, think .270/.360/.440 with 15-homer potential.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

8. Dan Altavilla, RHP                              
Born: 09/08/92 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Paul Clemens, Josh Taylor, Chris Jones, Dan Griffin, Kevin Comer
Height: 5-11 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 21 A- 66.0 5 3 4.36 4.84 9.00 4.36 22.50% 10.90% 0.95 73.90%
2015 22 A+ 148.1 6 12 4.07 4.15 8.13 3.22 21.30% 8.40% 0.67 63.50%
2016 23 AA 56.2 7 3 1.91 3.04 10.32 3.49 27.70% 9.40% 0.48 82.20%

Background: The Mariners made stocky right-hander the earliest selection in Mercyhurst College’s history three years ago when they used the 141st overall pick to obtain his services. Altavilla, who stands a brick shit-house-like 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, simply dominated the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference during his final year with the small Division II school. He would make 12 starts that year, throwing a career best 80.1 innings with a mind-warping 129-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio en route to posting a 9-and-1 record to go along with a 1.23 ERA. After his selection in the fifth round, the Mariners sent the hard-throwing right-hander up to the Northwest League for his debut – one in which he spent working exclusively as a starting pitcher. He would throw an additional 66.0 innings with a solid 66-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Seattle pushed him all the way to High Class A the next year, 2015, with impressive results: 148.1 IP, 134 K, 53 BB, and a 4.15 FIP.

Last season, however, Altavilla was converted in a full-time reliever. And let’s just say he was pretty damn good at it.

In 43 games at the minors’ toughest challenge, Class AA, he averaged 10.32 K/9 and 3.49 BB/9 to go along with a 1.91 ERA. Altavilla also appeared in 15 games with the Mariners as well, throwing 12.1 innings with a 0.73 ERA and a 2.01 FIP.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about him in last year’s book when I ranked him as the 14th best prospect in the system:

“Unsurprisingly, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Altavilla wore down in the season’s final weeks last year. He surrendered 27 earned runs over his final 36.0 innings. He was a bit homer-prone during his debut and got bit by the long ball quite often as well during his run with Bakersfield last year as well. So it’s not surprising that his groundball rate was only 34.7% last season. He doesn’t offer up a tremendous amount of upside in the rotation (especially given his small stature), maybe a fringy #5-type arm, but Altavilla could slide into a late-inning relief role in the coming years. “ 

And, viola!, instant dominance out of the bullpen.

Altavilla showed an explosive mid- to upper-90s fastball with a hard 89- to 90-mph slider. You’d like to see the control take a step forward, but he has the makings of a very good eighth-inning arm. And it wouldn’t be surprising to see him ascend to a closer’s role either.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

9. Tony Zych, RHP                                                         
Born: 08/07/90 Age: 26 Bats: R Top CALs: Framk De Los Santos, Jason Hursh, J.R.Graham, Adalberto Mejia, Matt Anderson
Height: 6-3 Weight: 190 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 21 A+ 36.7 3 3 3.19 2.17 8.84 1.72 24.80% 4.80% 0.00 61.00%
2013 22 AA 56.0 5 5 3.05 3.13 6.43 3.38 16.50% 8.60% 0.32 61.30%
2014 23 AA 58.3 4 5 5.09 3.74 5.40 2.78 13.80% 7.10% 0.46 65.40%
2015 24 AAA 31.2 1 2 3.41 3.13 10.52 2.56 27.40% 6.70% 0.57 78.20%

Background: Some early season shoulder/biceps tendonitis – and subsequent DL time – likely kept the rookie status intact for the hard-throwing right-hander. Zych, a fourth round pick out of the University of Louisville in 2011, broke camp with the Mariners and quickly developed into a reliable – often times dominant – setup man during the month-plus of the season. In his first 10 games, spanning 12.0 innings, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound flame-thrower held opponents to a putrid .171/.320/.244 triple-slash line as he punched out 19 and walked eight in 12.0 innings. He wouldn’t reach the big leagues until the end of August after making a few brief rehab appearances throughout the minors.

Projection: I was pretty high on Zych coming into last season as I ranked him as the eighth best prospect in the system, writing the following:

“It’s pretty easy to see how Zich can rack up strikeouts with the best of them: his fastball averaged a smidge over 96 mph during his admittedly brief tenure in the big leagues. He complemented it with a low- to mid-80s slider and a hard, high-80s changeup. And even though the Mariners’ bullpen is loaded with a bunch of promising – sometimes dominant – arms, Zych should easily see a fair amount of action, potentially even working his way into some high leverage situations as he continues to earn the trust of new manager Scott Servais. One more thought: CAL seems to be a pretty big fan as well.”

It didn’t take long for him to earn the trust of new manager Scott Servais last season. Of his first 10 games last season – you know, before he hit the DL – Zych pitched in the eighth or ninth inning six times. Assuming he’s going to be back to full health in 2017, he could be in line for a lot more high leverage work.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

 

10. Rob Whalen, RHP                                     
Born: 01/31/94 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Brooks Pounders, Adalberto Mejia, Richard Castillo, Bryan Shaw, Trevor Reckling
Height: 6-2 Weight: 220 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 21 A+ 83.0 4 5 3.36 3.84 6.61 3.69 17.10% 9.60% 0.43 69.20%
2016 22 AA 101.1 7 5 2.49 3.19 8.35 3.29 22.20% 8.80% 0.36 76.00%

Background: If there’s one thing that could be said about Seattle General Manager Jerry Dipoto it’s this: he’s not afraid to trade potential for production. Case in point: on November 28th, the team sent southpaw Tyler Pike (with his big strikeout and walk totals) and Alex Jackson, the sixth pick in the 2014 draft, to Atlanta for a couple of polished former college arms (Rob Whalen and Max Povse). At its very root, it’s the production vs. potential argument. And it looks like the Mariners will eventually win that deal. Whalen, a 12th round pick out of Haines City High School five years ago, has been on the move quite a bit over the past couple of seasons, going from the Mets to the Braves as part of the Kelly Johnson-swap; and then moving a year later to Seattle. As for the actual production, well, the right-hander with the upper-80s fastball plowed his way through Class AA and earned brief stints in Class AAA and the big leagues last season. He finished the year in the minors with a career-best 120.0 innings of work, with 112 punch outs, just 44 walks, and an aggregate 2.40 ERA. He posted an impressive 25-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 24.2 innings with the Braves too.

Projection: Your typical finesse-type right-hander with an assortment of low velocity offerings and strong control. Whalen, who battled shoulder fatigue late last season, is capable of stepping into the back of the Mariners’ rotation and producing enough to keep the job – assuming he’s fully healthy. He generates a ton of groundballs, so that bodes well for his future as well. He’s a nice little pickup by the increasingly savvy front office.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[The 2017 San Francisco Giants Top 10 Prospects]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5414 2017-02-20T11:30:41Z 2017-02-20T11:30:41Z

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Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

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1. Tyler Beede, RHP                                          
Born: 05/23/93 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Carlos Hernandez, Rafael Dolis, Deunte Heath, Paul Clemens, Matt Anderson
Height: 6-3 Weight: 210 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 22 A+ 52.1 2 2 2.24 3.43 6.36 1.55 17.20% 4.20% 0.34 67.00%
2015 22 AA 72.1 3 8 5.23 4.21 6.10 4.35 16.00% 11.40% 0.50 58.30%
2016 23 AA 147.1 8 7 2.81 3.48 8.25 3.24 22.10% 8.70% 0.55 74.80%

Background: Fun Fact Part I: Between 2009 and 2013, the Blue Jays failed to sign three first picks – James Paxton (2009), Tyler Beede (2011), and Phil Bickford (2013). Fun Fact Part II: Two of those selections, Beede and Bickford, were chosen by the Giants with their most recent top picks. Fun Fact Part III: Heading into last season, I ranked the duo as the top two prospects in the Giants’ system. Beede, who would eventually head to Vanderbilt University after declining Toronto’s overtures, turned in a good, sometimes dominant, sometimes frustrating three-year career with the Commodores. In 52 games, 47 of which were starts, the strapping right-hander threw 286 innings with 287 punch outs (an average of 9.03 K/9) and a whopping 148 free passes (4.60 BB/9) en route to tallying a decent 3.56 ERA.

The Giants grabbed the 6-foot-3, 210-pound hurler with the 14th overall pick three years ago – seven selections earlier than when the Blue Jays originally came calling.

After a very Tyler Beede-like debut – he threw 15.0 innings with an 18-to-7 K/BB ratio – the hard-throwing right-hander turned in a very unexpected sophomore campaign as he split time between San Jose and Richmond: his control improved drastically (3.2 BB/9), but his propensity to generate swings-and-misses plummeted all the way down to 6.2 K/9.

San Francisco decided to keep him back in the Eastern League for 2016. And, lo and behold, the control proved to be a repeatable skill but his strikeout rate rebounded. In 147.1 innings with the Flying Squirrels – what a great name, by the way – Beede fanned 135, walked 53, and tallied a 3.48 FIP.

Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about Beede heading into the 2014 draft:

“One of the best collegiate arms available in this year’s class, particularly coming from the rotation, Beede has the makings of a #2-type pitcher, though that depends upon how he [commands] the strike zone at the next level. His control has wavered in the earlier parts of his career, and he’ll need to continue to show that this season’s strong showing is more than just an aberration. Outside of N.C. State’s Carlos Rodon, Beede has [ceiling as] high as any collegiate hurler. That, of course, comes with a little more risk.”

And I followed that up with the following in last year’s book:

“Beede certainly looked the part of a potential upper-rotation caliber arm at points throughout his full-season debut last year: he fanned 11 and walked one in seven innings in his final start in the California League immediately comes to mind as does his seven inning two-hitter in his first start with the Squirrels. But the strides he made in reducing his walk rate quickly dissipated in Class AA; of his 13 starts with Richmond, Beede walked at least three batters nine times.

San Francisco develops arms as well as any organization in baseball, both in terms of pure development but also their uncanny ability to keep hurlers healthy, so Beede still has a shot to reach his #2-type peak. But after last year’s run in the Eastern League he looks more like a mid-rotation arm.”

So let’s update that a bit, shall we?

Beede’s control was particularly good over his first 14 starts last season, walking just 2.30 hitters every nine innings. But his walk rate ballooned to 4.57 BB/9 over his final 61.0 innings. The major difference between the two seems to be his strikeout ability. Meaning: when he’s missing far fewer bats, like in his first 14 starts, his control is sharper.

Beede still has a shot to become a Matt Cain-esque type pitcher if everything comes together. But he’s now entering his age-24 season, so those odds keep getting slimmer and slimmer. He’s more likely to slide into a very comfortable mid-rotation spot.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

2. Chris Shaw, 1B                                        
Born: 10/20/93 Age: 23 Bats: L Top CALs: Matt Clark, Mark Hamilton, Christian Marrero, Steven Hill, Jose Osuna
Height: 6-4 Weight: 235 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 21 A- 200 11 0 12 0.287 0.360 0.551 0.264 9.50% 20.50% 156
2016 22 A+ 305 22 0 16 0.285 0.357 0.544 0.259 9.20% 23.00% 136
2016 22 AA 256 16 4 5 0.246 0.309 0.414 0.168 7.80% 21.50% 99

Background: Pop Quiz #1: Name the only hitter that was selected out of Boston College earlier than Chris Shaw at #31. The answer: the infamous Tony Sanchez, who was widely criticized as a reach. Pop Quiz #2: Prior to Shaw’s selection in 2015, name the last collegiate first baseman the organization used a first round pick on. The answer: Will “The Thrill” Clark, all the way back in 1985. Shaw, who stands a hulking 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, put a rough – and I do mean rough – freshman season behind him to become one of college baseball’s most feared sluggers over his final two years with the Eagles: after batting a lowly .165/.266/.305 in his first season, the lefty-swinging first baseman hit .329/.393/.502 as a sophomore and upped the ante to an even more impressive .319/.411/.611 during his final season.

After a brief – and dominant – stop in short season ball during his debut, San Francisco aggressively challenged Shaw by pushing him straight up to High Class A to begin last season. He proceeded to batter the California League pitching to the tune of .285/.357/.544 with 22 doubles and 16 dingers in just 72 games. The organization bumped him up to the Eastern League in late June. And after a dreadful start, Shaw, who batted .211/.264/.352 over his first 33 games, quickly regained his footing by bashing .288/.362/.490 over his final 27 contests.

Overall, he finished the year with an aggregate .267/.335/.484 triple-slash line, with 38 doubles, four triples, and 21 homeruns.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about him heading in to the 2015 draft:

“He has a surprisingly strong knack for making contact, especially for a potential middle-of-the-order bat. [He owns] above-average to plus-power potential with the ability to slug 20- to 25-homeruns in a full professional season. It’s also important to point out that the Eagles’ home park, Eddie Pellagini Diamond at John Shea Field, is incredibly pitcher-friendly. Good, though far from great, eye at the plate.

Shaw looks like a solid, better-than-average first baseman who, once he’s further removed from the hamate injury [suffered in 2012], should surprise people with his minor league production.”

His overall production – especially his numbers in the Eastern League – are deflated quite a bit by his first month-plus of action with Richmond. But it’s important to remember that prior to reaching Class AA, Shaw had just 118 professional games under his belt. Obviously, there’s going to be a learning curve at the minors’ toughest challenge.

And just as I wrote two years ago, Shaw has the chance to be a middle-of-the-order bat: he flashes above-average or better power, decent contact rates, solid eye at the plate, and shows no platoon splits. In terms of offensive ceiling, he looks like a .265/.330/.450-type thumper. But because he’s currently limited to only first base, I wouldn’t count on him earning much more than 2.5-WAR in a season at his peak.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

3. Christian Arroyo, 2B/3B/SS                   
Born: 05/30/95 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Jorge Polanco, Abiatal Avelino, Franklin Barreto, Yairo Munoz, Didi Gregorius
Height: 6-1 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 R 209 18 5 2 0.326 0.388 0.511 0.185 9.10% 15.30% 145
2014 19 A- 267 14 2 5 0.333 0.378 0.469 0.136 6.70% 11.60% 135
2015 20 A+ 409 28 2 9 0.304 0.344 0.459 0.155 4.60% 17.80% 117
2016 21 AA 517 36 1 3 0.274 0.316 0.373 0.099 5.60% 13.90% 89

Background: With Brandon Crawford locked up for the foreseeable future thanks to his six-year, $75 million pact, San Francisco decided to move Arroyo around the diamond for the first time since 2014. So maybe – just maybe – the infield musical chairs carried over into his at bats. Because Arroyo, the 25th overall pick in 2013, finished the season with the worst Weighted Runs Created Plus total in his four-year career: a disappointingly low 89 wRC+. His next lowest mark, for comparison’s sake, was a solid 117. In a career high 119 games, Arroyo batted .274/.316/.373 with 36 doubles, one triple, and three homeruns. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 11% below the league average mark. For his career, he’s sporting a .294/.337/.423 triple-slash line, with 99 doubles, 11 triples, 20 homeruns, and 16 stolen bases (in 25 attempts).

Projection: Arroyo’s 36 two-baggers were enough to lead each of the three Class AA leagues. In fact, since 2006 there have been just four other shortstops under the age of 22 to hit at least 36 doubles in Class AA: Orlando Arcia, Arismendy Alcantara, Trevor Plouffe, and a pre-bust Brandon Wood.

Arroyo’s never shown a whole lot of patience at the plate – he’s walked in just 5.8% of career plate appearances – or speed on the base paths. The bat has a chance to be an average or better tool and his power has flashed average numbers over the course of his career, albeit not consistently.

Arroyo’s offensive ceiling is going to settle between slightly below-average to average, with the capability to post a .265/.320/.400 triple-slash line.  Defensively, according to Clay Davenport’s metrics, he’s been spectacular everywhere he’s played.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

4. Andrew Suarez, LHP                                
Born: 09/11/92 Age: 24 Bats: L Top CALs: Brandon Workman, Anthony Descalfani, Matt Chico, Mark Melancon, Ryan Mullins
Height: 6-2 Weight: 205 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2016 23 A+ 29.2 2 1 2.43 2.91 10.31 1.52 28.60% 4.20% 0.61 78.00%
2016 23 AA 114.0 7 7 3.95 3.72 7.11 1.89 18.60% 5.00% 0.87 67.30%

Background: The thrice-draft southpaw finally found a home in San Francisco’s farm system after bypassing overtures from Toronto as a ninth round pick coming out of high school and as a second round selection of the Nationals three years later.  The Giants grabbed the 6-foot-2, 205-pound lefty in the second round following arguably his finest collegiate season in 2015. And after blitzing through three levels during his professional debut, the Giants’ front office once again aggressively challenged Suarez: he made five starts back in the California League before spending the rest of 2016 twirling quality start after quality start for the Flying Squirrels. He would finish the year with a 143.2 innings while fanning 20.6% and walking just 4.8% of the total batters he faced.

Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote prior to the 2014 draft:

“Suarez has been one of the biggest risers this spring. He’s still not missing a whole lot of bats yet – just 6.82 K/9 this season. The control is a reliable, above-average skill, but he’s also been quite hittable too – 11 doubles, four triples, and three homeruns, the most extra-base hits surrendered by any of Miami’s top three starters. Solid backend rotation-type arm, peaking as a fringe #3 but should settle in as a solid #4/#5.”

 And I followed that up with this scouting report after his return to Miami:

“Well, nearly 12 months removed and there’s virtually no new data to analyze. When he’s healthy – which hasn’t been the case very often – Suarez does well in limiting walks, will miss a handful of bats, but tends to be a bit too hittable.

I’m still sticking to the original ceiling as a solid #4/#5 caliber arm – if injuries aren’t a concern. It will be interesting to see where a team grabs him, especially considering that he once again has an option to return to school for his senior season.”

Well, I hate to sound like a broken record, but a year later and it’s still the same thing: he limits walks, misses a handful of bats, and is a safe bet to carve out a career as a backend starter. I just don’t see how he’s going to get any type of extended look in San Francisco’s rotation over the next year-plus, though.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

5. Bryan Reynolds, CF                                          
Born: 01/27/95 Age: 22 Bats: B Top CALs:  Wesley Freeman, Collin Delome, Ryde Rodriguez, Kyle Jensen, Justin Byler
Height: 6-3 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 21 A- 171 12 1 5 0.312 0.368 0.500 0.188 6.40% 24.00% 141

Background: It’s – completely – unfair to label Reynolds as a breakout player last season, especially after his flashy first two seasons at Vanderbilt when he: (A) batted .338/.395/.480 as a freshman and followed that up with a .318/.388/.462 mark in 2015 and (B) appeared in the Cape Cod and on Team USA. But, in all fairness, Reynolds did have a nice little coming out party last year. In 62 games with the Commodores, the switch-hitting center fielder batted a scorching .330/.461/.603 with 16 doubles, three triples, a career best 13 homeruns, and swiped eight stolen bases. San Francisco grabbed him in the second round, 59th overall.

Reynolds made quick work of the Northwest League, hitting .312/.368/.500, and looked equally impressive in 16 games in the Sally, batting .317/.348/.444. Overall, he finished his debut with an aggregate .313/.363/.484 with 17 doubles, one triple, six homeruns, and a trio of stolen bases in 56 games.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about him prior to the draft last season when I pegged him as a second round pick:

“Pretty similar to Rhett Wiseman, a third round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2015, Reynolds just doesn’t have a true standout tool to rely on when he eventually transitions into professional baseball. His power is average, especially if he gets pushed into a corner outfielder position; the patience at the plate is solid, but his swing-and-miss tendencies will certainly limit his ability against professional pitchers (he’s fanned in nearly 19% of his career plate appearances). Again, he looks like a backup outfielder – just like Wiseman.”

When a player posts a BABIP north of .425 it’s an easy call that he’s going to face some type of regression the next year. Obviously, Reynolds played like a blue chip first rounder, but I’m not ready to buy into him just yet.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

 

6. Dan Slania, RHP                                   
Born: 05/24/92 Age: 25 Bats: R Top CALs: Mark Leiter, Ryan Thompson, Brandon Workman, Dan Merklinger, David Rollins
Height: 6-5 Weight: 275 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 22 A 58.7 2 5 3.99 4.25 7.06 3.22 18.50% 8.40% 0.77 66.20%
2015 23 A+ 71.1 4 5 3.53 3.20 11.36 1.89 30.10% 5.00% 0.88 66.90%
2016 24 AA 82.2 7 6 2.50 3.23 8.60 2.40 23.80% 6.60% 0.65 73.90%

Background: After missing a tremendous amount of bats at various points in his professional career, including the first half of 2016, the Giants made the prudent – and surprising – move and started to stretch Slania out as a starting pitcher late last season. And the initial results were…quite favorable. In 16 starts between San Jose, Richmond, and Sacramento, the former fifth rounder threw 96.2 innings while fanning 80, walking 30, and posting a 2.42 ERA. Combined with his relief numbers, Slania finished the year with a career best 119.2 innings with a 111-to-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 2.93 ERA.

Projection: I love it! Slania’s a bit old – he’s entering his age-25 season – but he showed some extreme promise as a starting pitcher. He’s going to miss some bats while showing solid control. If the Giants continue to stretch him out as a starting pitcher – which I hope they do – he could be one of the surprise guys in 2017. If not, he’s half-a-year away from becoming a reliable big league setup arm.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

7. Heath Quinn, RF                                           
Born: 06/07/95 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Chad Huffman, Cory Vaughn, Adam Milligan, Kelvin Encarnacion, Jesus Solorzano
Height: 6-2 Weight: 190 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 21 A- 239 19 1 9 0.337 0.423 0.571 0.234 10.90% 20.90% 175

Background: Samford University, has churned out a pair of toolsy outfielders over the past couple of years: 2013 first rounder Phil Ervin and Quinn, whom the Giants grabbed in the third round, 95th overall, last June. Quinn had a stellar three-year career for the Bulldogs, leaving the school with a .334/.424/.599 triple-slash line with 48 doubles, four triples, 44 homeruns, and four stolen bases – just for good measure. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound corner outfielder tore apart the Northwest League pitching to the tune of .337/.423/.571 before getting a crack – and succeeding – against the California League for four games. Overall, he slugged a robust .344/.434/.564 with 21 doubles, one triple, nine homeruns, and three stolen bases.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote prior to the draft:

“Far better overall production than [Phil] Ervin throughout their respective collegiate careers with the added caveat that his plate discipline numbers are definitely worse; Quinn has plenty of power, perhaps peaking in the 20- to 25-homerun range in professional ball, with an improving eye at the plate. The problem – or perhaps the question – will always be whether he can make enough contact. 

He’s not as athletic as Ervin, so don’t expect him to go in the opening round, but Quinn could be a nice little gamble in the supplement and/or second rounds.”

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

8. Aramis Garcia, C                                                   
Born: 01/12/93 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-2 Weight: 220 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 22 A 363 15 1 15 0.273 0.350 0.467 0.194 9.60% 21.20% 131
2016 23 A+ 160 6 0 2 0.257 0.323 0.340 0.083 8.80% 26.30% 83

Background: The former Florida International University standout – and Conference USA Player of the Year – had a rough go of it in 2016. With expectations riding high for the former second round pick, Garcia, who was coming off of a solid showing in Low Class A, got off to a nice little start with San Jose last season, batting .298/.359/.369 through his first 25 games. But a facial fracture, courtesy of Tim Locastro’s knee on a double-play ball, forced the offensive-minded backstop under the knife and onto the disabled list for more than two months. After Garcia returned he hardly resembled himself, hitting a lowly .205/.256/.289 with just five extra-base hits in 23 games. For his career, Garcia is sporting a decent enough .255/.328/.393 with 32 doubles, one triple, and 19 homeruns in 178 games.

 

Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about the FIU stud prior to the 2014 draft:

“Garcia’s offensive peak should reside somewhere near .290/.340/.440 with 15 or so homeruns and solid defense behind the plate. The lone knock, though, has been his level of competition and a rather sparse showing in the Cape [Cod Summer League] following his sophomore season.”

As I humbly admitted last year, I was wrong – incredibly wrong. Garcia no longer looks like a solid bet to develop into a league average starter. He’s not going to kill a team offensively, but he’s not going to be a force either. But he controls the running game exceptionally well (he’s thrown out 34% of would-be base stealers in his minor league career).

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

9. Austin Slater, 2B/OF                                
Born: 12/13/92 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Brandon Jones, Ryan Rua, Lucas Duda, Kelly Dugan, Jose Osuna
Height: 6-2 Weight: 215 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 22 A+ 265 15 1 3 0.292 0.321 0.396 0.104 3.80% 16.60% 95
2015 22 AA 218 11 1 0 0.296 0.350 0.362 0.065 6.40% 22.00% 108
2016 23 AA 172 8 1 5 0.317 0.413 0.490 0.172 14.00% 20.90% 154
2016 23 AAA 278 12 0 13 0.298 0.381 0.506 0.208 11.90% 19.10% 137

Background: The defensive vagabond finally found a steady home in 2016. Well, sort of. Slater spent at least 15 games at every outfield position. Either way, though, the late-developing eighth rounder turned in his finest season to date. Slater, hailing from Stanford University, batted .317/.413/.490 with eight doubles, one triple, five homeruns, and six stolen bases in 41 games with Richmond. And his production only took a modest step back during his promotion to the Pacific Coast League, hitting .298/.381/.506 with 12 doubles, 13 homeruns, and a pair of stolen bases. Overall, Slater put together a .305/.393/.500 triple-slash line, with 20 doubles, one triple, 18 homeruns, and eight stolen bases. Those 18 dingers, by the way, were nearly four times his previous career total and it was 13 homeruns more than he slugged his entire collegiate career.

Projection: The power really came out of nowhere for Slater last season. But I wouldn’t expect it to return either. Excluding the torrid bashing he did in the offensive-friendly PCL in the second half of last season, Slater slugged just 10 homeruns over his previous 302 games which extends all the way back to his freshman season with the Cardinal. Tremendous patience at the plate, a hit tool that’s capable of .270-ish big league batting average, and gap-to-gap power; Slater isn’t going to be a league average regular, but he could serve as a super-sub for the big league club.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

10. Matt Krook, LHP                                                       
Born: 10/21/94 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: David Perez, Matt Nevarez, Jacob Brentz, Enrique De Los Rio, Mac Marshall
Height: 6-4 Weight: 195 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2016 21 A- 35.0 1 3 6.17 5.54 10.03 8.49 22.40% 19.00% 0.51 65.50%

Background: The Giants did exceptionally well in terms of finding talent outside the first round last June. The front office landed the likes of toolsy Vanderbilt outfielder Bryan Reynolds in the second, Samford slugger Heath Quinn in the third, and former 2013 first round pick – 35th overall, actually – Matt Krook a round later. The Marlins originally drafted the 6-foot-4, 195-pound southpaw out of high school, but a post-draft physical raised all kinds of concerns and red flags so the two sides never came to a successful resolution. Krook, instead, opted to ply his trade at the University of Oregon – which lasted only a handful of starts before he underwent the knife. Tommy John surgery, of course. Finally healthy after missing a season-plus of action, the big lefty made 15 appearances for the Ducks, throwing 53.2 innings with an impressive 68 punch outs, but a whopping 49 free passes. San Francisco grabbed him in the fourth round, 125th overall, last June. Krook made two brief appearances in the Arizona Summer League before spending the rest of his debut hurling games for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. In total, he would throw 40.2 innings with a near one-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio (41-to-35).

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about the lefty heading into the draft last season:

“Such as interesting case. Krook obviously has the pedigree to go in the opening round – again. But will teams be scared off by his surgically repaired elbow? If not, what about his inability to find the strike zone in 2016? Now to be fair, Krook showed solid-average control during his freshman season, so there’s hope that he can bounce back. 

Personally, I like him. Quite a bit. 

And I think Krook is primed to go with a team with multiple first round picks. Assuming the control/command bounces back he could potentially develop into a #2/#3-type arm.”

I was certainly wrong about him finding his way into the opening round of the draft. But I do think there’s tremendous – albeit, quite risky – potential buried in Krook’s left arm. Let’s see if San Francisco can steer him away from the Kyle Crick path…

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk: High to Extremely High

MLB ETA: 2019

 

 

 

Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com

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