Prospect Rundown: Catching Up

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I haven’t written a Rundown in some time, thanks to a massive overhaul in branding and site design. So I have some catching up to do. Here’s what you missed in the last 30 days around Minor League Baseball.

 

Hitters

Ronald Acuna (ATL, #1) – Hit .381/.426/.627, 17 XBH, 4 SB. So, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know who Ronald Acuna is by now. At just 19-years-old, Acuna has traversed 3 levels of the Minor Leagues in 2017 and has managed to hit better at every level. There’s not much more I can say about Acuna that hasn’t been said over and over during the course of the season, but I will say this; Acuna is an early favorite of mine for the #1 prospect in baseball going into 2018 (assuming Amed Rosario and Rafael Devers will not qualify as prospects anymore).

Eloy Jimenez (CWS, #2) – Hit .321/.372/.643, 10 doubles, 8 HR. It’s really good to see that the transition from Chicago to Chicago didn’t affect Eloy at all.

Chance Sisco (BAL, #1) – Hit .238/.271/.350, 5 XBH, 2:18 BB:K. It’s been a forgettable past month+ for Sisco, who was arguably the best hitting catcher in the Minor Leagues coming into 2017. This year, however, Sisco’s walk rate is down almost 4% and his strikeout rate has ballooned to a career high of 25.8%, up 8.7% from last season. AAA can be weird; there’s disciplined hitting backstop in Sisco somewhere. We just may need to wait until 2018 to see him again.

Mickey Moniak (PHI, #1) – Hit .155/.190/.396, 4 XBH, 4:25 BB:K. Speaking of forgettable past months, Mickey Moniak is in the middle of one of his own currently and it’s… a lot worse than Sisco’s. In fact, Moniak’s whole year has been forgettable. His splits against LHP are especially concerning, as his OPS v LHP sits at .491 (compared to better-but-still-not-good .677 OPS v RHP). The #1 overall pick from 2016 has been quite the letdown so far through 1.5 years, but he’s still young (was barely 18 when drafted), and has time to make a adjustments. I’m not jumping ship so quickly.

Kyle Tucker (HOU, #1) – Hit .185/.214/.348, 9 XBH, 3:19 BB:K. Just one more struggling prospect and then I’ll get back to the fun ones, I promise. After an extremely impressive first 2 months in AA, Tucker landed on the DL with a vague “back issue” and has not done well since returning. There’s a possibility it’s still bothering him, but there’s also a possibility teams now have better scouting on him. Don’t let Ronald Acuna fool you, though; Tucker is still very young for Double-A and that can be tough. He’s showing signs of turning it around with 8 hits in his past 5 games.

Jahmai Jones (LAA, #2) – Hit .347/.397/.544, 15 XBH, 8 SB. Jones started the year very slowly, hitting just .195 in his first 32 games of the year. But he’s found his groove, hitting .327/.391/.516 in the 84 games since, earning a promotion to High-A in the middle of it all. He’s up to 46 XBH and 27 SB on the year and although he doesn’t have quite the ceiling that Jo Adell has, Jones is the #1 prospect in the Angels system in my opinion.

Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD, #4) – Hit .333/.491/.632, 15 XBH, 9 SB, 28:18 BB:K. In case you’re thinking, “that .491 OBP must be a typo,” it isn’t; Tatis Jr. has managed 28 walks in the past month and is nearing a .500 on-base clip in that time. To boot, he has 54 XBH and 29 SB. The man knows how to hit the ball in the air too, with just a 39.3 GB%, a batted ball profile similar to Francisco Lindor. Tatis Jr. was promoted to Double-A on Sunday, completely skipping over the High-A level. He does, however, have his flaws, as he has notable issues with sliders. That isn’t at all atypical of an 18-year-old, so it’s simply something to monitor, but very high bars are set for top prospects, which Tatis Jr. now comfortably is.

Austin Hays (BAL, #2) – Hit .356/.393/.703, 7 doubles, 8 HR. Hays has slugged over .700 in the last month, and just Sunday hit his 30th HR of the season, his 14th at Double-A in 207 AB. Hays’ walk rate needs work (currently 4.2% on the year), but his low K% (14.4%) helps make up for it.

Ryan Mountcastle (BAL, #3) – Hit .191/.204/.319, 2:21 BB:K. Most of this past month has been Mountcastle’s introduction to Double-A, and for most prospects, I’d be willing to give the benefit of the doubt. But Mountcastle is an aggressive hitting shortstop who is mostly likely a LF in the future, and his bat is his carrying tool. It’s only been about 100 ABs, so it could be small sample size, but it also could be exposed aggression.

JP Crawford (PHI, #4) – Hit .306/.398/.541, 14 XBH. After a long, well-documented struggle with Triple-A that dated back to last season, Crawford has begun swinging a hot bat. His stat line on the year is still a bit underwhelming, but the hot streak has induced some hope. To me, Crawford remains more a bottom of the order hitter with a decent average and good OBP than a top of the order hitter, but it is worth noting that Crawford’s ISO is at a career high. Also worth noting, Crawford has now played back-to-back games at 3B as the team tries out Scott Kingery at SS.

Garrett Hampson (COL, #8) – Hit .350/.405/.504, 9 XBH, 20 SB. Hampson was drafted in the 3rd round in 2016, but I pushed for him to be a 1st-rounder in our most recent redrafting of the 2016 draft. As made evident by the twenty stolen bases over the last month, Hampson’s elite tool is his speed, but he also has a great idea of the strike zone and a compact swing. His actions on the infield are very smooth and he could be a well-above 2B if his fringe arm won’t play at short. Hampson now has 47 SB on the season to go along with a very impressive triple slash.

Isan Diaz (MIL, #6) – Hit .185/.357/.278, 2 XBH. This is more than just a rough last 30 days for Diaz; he’s hitting .187 over the course of his last 71 games. Diaz’ walk rate remains high at 13.9%, keeping his OBP respectable despite a lackluster average, but Diaz’ previously cherished power output has taken a step back this year at High-A; his ISO has dropped nearly 60 points from 2016.

Dylan Cozens (PHI, #11) – Hit .115/.252/.161, 2 XBH, 13:44 BB:K. I was cautiously optimistic about Cozens coming into 2017. Reading-aided HR numbers aside, Cozens showed he had some serious in-game power in 2016. But his 31.5% strikeout rate was an alarming number, and he’s been getting to that power in-game less than last year (while his K% has increased) and you have to wonder if those swing-and-miss issues are the culprit.

Sheldon Neuse (OAK, #13) – Hit .370/.439/.620, 7 HR. Granted, the Nationals got exactly what they needed in their most recent trade with the Athletics, and that was very good, back-end bullpen pieces like Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson; Doolittle has been especially dominant since arriving in Washington. But between Neuse and Jesus Luzardo (who I’ll cover), the Nationals sure paid top dollar to get them. Neuse is now hitting .311/.373/.505 with 16 HR on the year across three levels.

Trent Clark (MIL, #13) – Hit .165/.273/.211, 15:32 BB:K. Now down to .224/.356/.358 on the year, which is equally as disappointing as last season’s .235/.352/.358 line. I’m jumping off the Trent Clark wagon. Feel free to join me.

Danny Jansen (TOR, #17) – Hit .394/.467/.667, 11 XBH, 8:4 BB:K. Jansen is a guy that I think people continue to sleep on. After starting the year in High-A, Jansen is now up to Triple-A, and just yesterday had a 4 for 4 game with 2 HR there. There isn’t a ton of power in Jansen’s swing due to a relatively flat bat path, but all he’s done all year is hit. Jansen has a .341/.418/.516 line on the year and his strikeout rate is below 9%.  Jansen is nothing special behind the plate, but he’s good enough to stick, and with the low offensive bar set for catchers, I like Jansen’s chances of being an impactful catcher for the Jays in the future.

Tim Tebow (NYM, UR) – Hit .146/.205/.223, 4 XBH, 6:33 BB:K. I don’t hate Tim Tebow’s attempt to play professional baseball nearly as much as the next guy. It’s his life and he’s giving another one of his dreams a shot. Doesn’t affect me at all, so you go Tim Tebow. But don’t get it twisted; Tim Tebow is in no way a good prospect, as I saw some people insinuate after his hot start at High-A.

 

Pitchers

Michael Kopech (CHW, #3) – 32 IP, 1.41 ERA, 45:7 K:BB. Kopech’s control/command profile still does not look very good; he had a 12.3% BB% before his promotion to Triple-A over this past weekend. However, reports have said Kopech has begun “dialing back” his FB velocity (to 95-96 instead of 100+) to better throw strikes with it. The results? In the 7 game stretch since he began dialing it back, he hasn’t walked more than 2 hitters in a single outing and had a 49:5 K:BB in his final 5 AA games before promotion. The White Sox may have a true ace on their hands. Kopech is easily the #1 pitching prospect in baseball.

Brent Honeywell (TB, #1) – 33.2 IP, 2.14 ERA, 43:4 K:BB. Brent Honeywell is very, very good. Over ten times more strikeouts than walks in the past 30 days, which brings his season K% to a godly 31%. Since the beginning of July, Honeywell has a 1.61 ERA and 57 K in 44.2 IP. Outside of Kopech, there aren’t many better pitching prospects.

Forrest Whitley (HOU, #2) – 21.2 IP, 4.15 ERA, 37:7 K:BB. The ERA is probably going to be the highest amongst players I discuss favorably, but most of that damage was done in one outing. Whitley has allowed 2 ER or fewer in 11 of his last 12 starts, including a stretch of 7 outings where he only allowed 2 ER total. Whitley recently joined Clayton Kershaw, Zack Grienke, Dylan Bundy, and Chad Billingsley as the only first round prep pitchers in the last 20 years to reach AA in their first full season. And in his first AA outing, he struck out 11 over 6 innings while only allowing 2 base runners because he’s very good.

Riley Pint (COL, #2) – 30.1 IP, 5.64 ERA, 26:17 K:BB. Although these one month sample sizes are relatively small, Pint’s last 30 days serve as a microcosm for his entire season: a high number of walks and not as many strikeouts as you’d anticipate. The upside is there for Pint, but how long until that elite raw stuff begins to miss some bats?

Jon Duplantier (ARI, #2) – 33.2 IP, 1.87 ERA, 43:13 K:BB. Duplantier is finally healthy for a full season and has been pitching very well. Though old for A/A+, the 23-year-old has a 1.49 ERA across both levels this season.

Jack Flaherty (STL, #3) – 38.2 IP, 2.09 ERA, 36:11 K:BB. He’s very good. That is all.

Jesus Luzardo (OAK, #5) – 16 IP, 1.69 ERA, 17: K:BB. Luzardo represents the second piece in the OAK/WAS trade that sent Doolittle and Madson to the Nationals. He now has a 36:2 K:BB this season in 32.1 IP, which, despite the small sample, is impressive for anyone, let alone a pitcher who had Tommy John in March 2016. Luzardo could be in for a big 2018 season.

Sean Reid-Foley (TOR, #6) – 26.1 IP, 7.52 ERA, 16:8 K:BB. At the risk of sounding like I’m tooting my own horn, I was never much of a Sean RF fan, keeping him off my preseason top 100 list. Walks have been a slight issue for him this season, but nothing more than past seasons. This season, however, along with the 5.18 ERA, SRF has been missing far fewer bats and his K% has dropped from 28.8% in 2016 to 19.4% in 2017.

Gregory Soto (DET, #9) – 32.2 IP, 1.65 ERA, 38:17 K:BB. Soto now has a 2.69 ERA with 132 K in 113.2 IP between A/A+. The lefty has a great fastball which can hit 96, but both his secondaries need work if he wants to start. Soto currently projects as a bullpen piece due to his lack of a changeup feel, but if starting doesn’t work, the back of a bullpen is a real possibility.

Joey Lucchesi (SD, #9) – 29.2 IP, 1.21 ERA, 27:7 K:BB. Lucchesi now has a 1.94 ERA in AA and a 2.30 on the year. Lucchesi comes equipped with an already plus changeup and his funky delivery causes real deception which help an otherwise flat fastball play up. He’s an older prospect at 24 years old, but development isn’t linear. He’s one to keep an eye on.

Joey Wentz (ATL, #10) – 33.2 IP, 2.14 ERA, 40:12 K:BB. Wentz won’t light up the gun, but his 6’5” frame and very high arm slot give his fastball extreme plane. Pair that with a potentially plus curve and decent changeup, and you’ve got yourself a damn good pitching prospect. Wentz has a 2.51 ERA and 140 K in 122 IP at Low-A this season. The fact that Wentz is the Braves #10 prospect speaks to the embarrassment of riches that is the Atlanta farm.

Julian Merryweather (CLE, #13) – 24 IP, 9.38 ERA, 22:13 K:BB. Merryweather, who pitched well in AA thanks to a great control/command profile, has lost some of that control and command in his first go at Triple-A. Merryweather’s BB% has spiked from 4.2% in AA to 7.3% in AAA. What’s really hurting him are the home runs; he’s now allowed 12 HR in 65 innings at Triple-A after allowing just 2 in 48.2 AA innings. Still, Merryweather has a decently long, successful track record in the minor leagues, and with a good control/command foundation, the 25-year-old can be a useful piece to a Major League club.

Enyel De Los Santos (SD, #13) – 34 IP, 2.12 ERA, 36:7 K:BB. De Los Santos was a sleeper pick of mine coming into this season, and he’s held up decently. He started the year well, including a perfect 6 inning start back in April, but then had a pretty rough patch from late April to early June, which caused his ERA to balloon above 5. Since then though, he’s allowed 2 or fewer ER in 9 of 12 of his starts. De Los Santos thrives off his FB/CH combo, while the curve draws mixed reviews.

Jorge Guzman (NYY, #14) – 25 IP, 1.44 ERA, 38:7 K:BB. Guzman was one of two pieces (the other being Albert Abreu) sent over in the trade the sent Brian McCann to the Astros in the offseason. Guzman CAN crank up his fastball as high as 103 mph, but works much better when he sits 97-99. Guzman is very much a project, and most likely a future bullpen piece, but he’s a hard thrower and the slider has its flashes of decency. Guzman has a 2.03 ERA and just 16 walks in 57.2 short season innings, both promising numbers.

Jordan Hicks (STL, #15) – 19 IP, 0.00 ERA, 20:4 K:BB. Hick remains one of the most intriguing prospects in the minors for me. Still mostly projection, Hicks comes equipped with a 100 mph fastball that has good sink as well. Like many low minors flamethrowers, however, his control needs work, his command, needs work, and his secondaries need work. One scout did put a 70 FV on the curveball back in December, however. Hicks now has a 1.04 ERA in his first 26 High-A innings.

Alex Wells (BAL, #16) – 34 IP, 2.12 ERA, 30:0 K:BB. Wells is another guy I think people underrate pretty heavily. A rare IFA Orioles signing, the Australian doesn’t have an arsenal that will blow anyone away; in fact, I’ve never seen any of his pitches other than his changeup grade out higher than average. But Wells thrives on his pinpoint control/command and has walked just 1.9% of hitters this season (just 10 batters over 136 IP). Wells has a 2.45 ERA over those 136 innings at Low-A.

Ryan Helsley (STL, #25) – 32.2 IP, 1.93 ERA, 40:17 K:BB. You’re not supposed to scout the stat line, and Helsley was old for Low-A in 2016, but his 1.73 ERA with 96:19 K:BB in 88.1 IP last season was a little hard to ignore. And this season, Helsley is doing more of the same, with a 2.69 ERA in 93.2 IP at High-A and now a 1.93 ERA in his first 28 Double-A innings. His fastball can be a 70 offering in short stints, and he’s found a better breaking ball this season. Some project him in the bullpen.

Caleb Ferguson (LAD, #25) – 33.2 IP, 2.41 ERA, 47:16 K:BB. Ferguson now has a 2.84 ERA over 117.1 innings at High-A. There are a few blemishes on his profile, such as below average velocity separation between fastball and changeup and tipping his curveball, but they aren’t things that can’t be worked on. For a 38th round pick in 2014, a pick with which teams hope for any semblance of value, Ferguson has taken steps forward every single year and now looks to be a noteworthy prospect.

Jose Suarez (LAA, #26) – 28.2 IP, 1.57 ERA, 40:9 K:BB. The Angels got Suarez out of Venezuela in 2014 and he has spent the last 3 seasons in Rookie ball. But Suarez shows 3 pitches that all have varying degrees of promise to them. Suarez is a lefty listed at 5’10”, and has a 3.83 ERA in his first full pro season.

 

And that is the first and probably last time I will ever have 4+ Baltimore prospects in one Rundown. Soak it in, Orioles fans.

 

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