Alex Reyes (STL, #1)

This week (A+/AA): 2 starts, 12.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 25 K

Encouraging might be an understatement when describing Reyes’ starts this week. 25 strikeouts in 12.2 IP is just plain comical. You could easily look at the level in which Reyes pitched at this week (High-A and Double-A) and attempt to discredit it; he was perhaps the top prospect in baseball going into 2017 before receiving bad news on his elbow and has pitched over 100 innings in AAA and the MLB in his career. But Reyes was incredible for these two starts, garnering 18 whiffs last Monday and then a whopping 25 on Saturday. His pitch count has also risen in each start and he threw 93 pitches on Saturday. His stuff is fully back, he’s already clocked triple digits during his rehab, and he could be ready to join St. Louis sooner rather than later. The command needs to be kept tabs on as he continues to get back to full strength, but he could be firmly back in the discussion for best pitching prospect in baseball.

 

MJ Melendez (KC, #4)

Last 10 days: 11 for 36, 4 HR, 6 XBH

Going into last season’s draft, Melendez was thought of very highly, being ranked the #2 catcher in the class by Baseball America, only behind San Diego Padres’ Luis Campusano. Melendez’ calling card was alway his glove; he’s a good receiver with a plus arm, and figures to be an above average defensive catcher, even as the worst possible outcome. Melendez also had all-fields power, but the concern was the hit tool, like it is for many toolsy high school picks. Melendez swing looks much, much better this season, despite what his current triple slash may suggest. He’s hitting .259/.317/.589 in the South Atlantic League with a 31% K% and a 7% BB%. You’d like to see a few more walks with a strikeout rate that high, but even with all the swing and miss (which will likely always be part of his game), the power is really shining through. With some quick math, we can see his isolated slugging percentage is .330… no player age 20 or younger in Low-A has ever had an ISO higher than .300. The power is real despite his smaller size, and Melendez is incredibly athletic. If the power and defense carry throughout the minors, and his hit tool can develop into fringe-average (something I’m betting on), Melendez could be a future All Star down the road.

 

Chris Paddack (SD, #21)

This week (A+): 5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K

Get this guy somewhere he will be challenged please. Paddack still has not allowed a run in 21.2 IP this season. He has also struck out 36 and walked just 2 in those innings. His curveball still needs work, but Paddack sit mid-90’s with his fastball and has what could be a plus-plus changeup with high end masking ability (a combo that is probably a good bet to do very well at High-A). Lefties have just a .119 OPS against Paddack this season.

 

Vlad Guerrero Jr. (TOR, #1)

Last 10 days (AA): 23 for 46, 3 HR, 5 doubles, 2 SB

I’ve avoided writing about Vlad in the Rundown up until this point. Not because he isn’t good – he’s literally as good as a prospect can humanly possibly be – but because I like to share my thought/opinions/writing for players that get less coverage than Vlad Jr. If I didn’t, it’s safe to say Vlad would be in every single one, and this week was simply too dominant to ignore, hitting .516/.568/.903… as a 19 year old… at AA. The kid is insane, and was my personal #1 overall prospect in our pre-season top 150 ahead of Braves’ Ronald Acuna. The bat is so, so special, and at this point, his ability to hit Major League pitching is a matter of when, not if.

 

Shane Bieber (CLE, #8)

This week (AAA): 2 starts, 14.2 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 15 K

Bieber took a bit of a break from the Rundown in the past 2 weeks, but he’s back this week after coming off of 2 more extremely impressive starts, highlighted but a 8 IP scoreless outing on Sunday afternoon. As I’ve said in articles past, Bieber’s sheer stuff is not something expected from a guy dominating like he is; the fastball sits 92-94 and he has another 3 pitches, but none of them wow you much. What Bieber does have going for him is the best control/command in the Minor Leagues, and it could be pushing 80 grade. Bieber has walked just 15 hitters in 255 professional innings. With the recent string of aggressive promotions throughout the league (Juan Soto comes to mind) and Josh Tomlin continuing to implode (7.84 ERA, -0.9 bWAR), Bieber could be sniffing the Majors very, very soon.

 

Jo Adell (LAA, #1)

Last 10 days (A): 13 for 39, 5 HR, 4 doubles, 1 SB

The 10th overall pick in last year’s draft has some of the most drool inducing tools in all of the Minor Leagues, but the one that was in question coming into the year was the hit tool. So far so good at Low-A for the barely 19 year old; this monster week brought up Adell’s triple slash to .326/.398/.611 on the season with 14 XBH and 4 SB. He’s also hitting .326 now in his 330 PA professional career.

 

Chance Adams (NYY, #5)

This week (AAA): 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K

Adams outdueled Phillies’ Enyel De Los Santos Wednesday in a rebound outing that was very much needed for the Yanks farmhand. He threw a season-high 102 pitches with a season-high 18 swinging strikes. In my opinion, Adams has a future as a starter with a 4-pitch arsenal featuring a plus fastball and plus slider, but the ceiling is pretty low with his current arsenal. Adams is a smaller guy, which leads to fastball plane issues, and his changeup currently lags behind his other pitches at the moment, pushing his projection to the bullpen for some. The Yankees’ have shown some glimpses of a need for SP depth, so Chance could make some spot starts here and there for the big league club this season.

 

Francisco Mejia (CLE, #1)

Last 10 days (AAA): 2 for 19

Mejia is now down to .184/.250/.294 on the year. The start is somewhat concerning. Not only is he not hitting like a potential 70 hitter should, but it also seems as though the Indians are now trying to develop him as a Swiss Army knife and not a primary catcher, which, to me, is bad. We’ve seen that sort of profile have success recently with players such as Austin Barnes, and catchers are catching less innings than they used to, but I don’t love the lost time behind the plate. Mejia’s glove behind the dish was still developing, but it had shown plenty of good signs; he isn’t nearly as bad defensively as someone like Zack Collins, who continues to play all of his defensive innings at catcher. Instead, Mejia played all ten of his games in the AzFL at 3rd base – not the biggest deal after catching a full 72 games in the regular season – and has now played just 17 of his 35 games at catcher this season. The other games have been spent primary in LF with some DH sprinkled in. He’ll be one to monitor closely in the coming months. I don’t think being in AAA is doing him any good if he isn’t practicing his catching. I’m still a firm believer in the bat.

 

Cionel Perez (HOU, #6)

This week (AA): 2 appearances, 9.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 14 K

The better of Perez’ two appearances came last Tuesday, when he pitched 4 scoreless innings (innings 6-9) out of the bullpen, allowing only a single base runner via a single and striking out 6. He also got the very next man after that single to ground into a double play. The 22 year old has been nothing short of great through his first 8 AA appearances this season, a positive sign after struggling in his 4 appearances there last season. A short lefty, Perez has a mid-90’s fastball that pairs well with an above average slider. He has two other pitches, a curveball and a changeup, but neither flash like the first 2. He throws everything for strikes. Back in 2016, Perez originally signed for $5.15M, but the deal was voided by Houston due to concerns with the medical, and Perez had to settle for just $2M. That could be nothing, but it could also mean some increased risk of injury, because stories such as that are not new. Still it’s a great start for Perez, who does have some initial starter ingredients.  (https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=aiken-000bra)

 

Corey Ray (MIL, #6)

Last 10 days (AA): 15 for 44, 5 HR, 2 doubles, 2 SB

A swing change followed by performance to start this season has Ray back into Top 150 consideration. Last season, when Ray hit .238/.311/.367, his swing was a mess. It was a handsy swing with little lower half, he was constantly vulnerable to better velocity, and maybe the worst of all, he seemed almost no willing to make any adjustments to it. Now, Ray is not only hitting but hitting with power, already reaching his 2017 HR total of 7 with a current slugging% 124 points higher than last year. Ray is a good runner (8/8 on SB this year) and most likely an above average CF, so he didn’t need to hit all that much to profile as a likely big leaguer one day, but a hitting Corey Ray is a much, much better prospect than the Corey Ray who doesn’t. I’m still slightly concerned with Ray’s massive pull-side ground ball tendency, and I think he runs the risk of getting shifted on pretty heavily, but to the OF, it’s a very well spread out chart, which alleviates some of that concern.

2017-2018 (per MLBfarm.com)

 

Brusdar Graterol (MIN, #7)

This week: 2 starts, 10.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 6 BB, 16 K

Like Reyes, Graterol’s 2 starts this week induced a crazy amount of whiffs and strikes looking, because he some crazy stuff. He has an upper-90’s heater that he can reach back and throw 101 with, a plus slider, and a curveball and changeup that both look like they can reach average, maybe better. He throws it all for strikes. He’s a great size and a great athlete. I love the delivery despite a little effort to it. Just watch:

Starling Heredia (LAD, #17)

Last 10 days (A): 9 for 38, 4 HR, 6 XBH

Heredia put up some great numbers last season between Rookie Ball and Low-A, hitting .325/.397/.555 in 234 PA. This season hasn’t been as kind to Heredia so far, and for a 1 month stretch from April 11 to May 11, he hit just .116/.191/.198. This week, Heredia homered 4 times from Monday-Wednesday and began raising that season slash line. Signed for a whopping $2.6M from the 2015 J2 class, he has above average power and speed for his size (6’0”, 200 lbs) and projects to be a pretty good right fielder. There’s some real concerns about his bat, but if it develops, he becomes an extremely good prospect.

 

Erich Uelmen (CHC, #17)

This week (A): 2 starts, 12 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K

The Cubs 4th round pick in the 2017 draft has run into a bit of bad luck in the early going this season, sporting a .400 BABIP and a 59% LOB% which have ballooned his ERA to 6.58; his FIP is 3.08 thanks to 0 HR allowed, a skill of his he’s had since college. Uelman is quite the interesting pitcher. He’s a sidearmer with a very fast arm and a very short stroke, which creates a good amount of deception, but also questions his long term role. Uelman primarily uses a low-90’s fastball which, thanks to the side armed nature of his delivery, has monstrous arm-side run and some sink. This make it difficult to square up, and thus, difficult to hit out. He also has an average slider. The fastball/deception give him some chance to start, but the delivery points towards the bullpen for me, where I think he could thrive, since he has thrown as high as 95 in the past.

 

Brendan Rodgers (COL, #1)

Last 10 days: 12 for 42, 3 HR, 9 XBH, 1 SB

I remain torn on Rodgers. Sometimes, he’s a guy who has good barrel control, one who can hit the ball with authority and lift while playing a good shortstop. Other times, such as in the 2 times I’ve seen him already, and in the plethora of times Jeff Paternostro over at BP has seen him, he is, well, not that. He continues to look just meh at shortstop and actually mostly split time with Garrett Hampson between there and 2B while Hampson was on the team. I think there could be some underlying pitch recognition issues here, masked by some better offensive tools as well. Still, Rodgers is having a fine year at Hartford, hitting .288/.337/.542 in 170 PA with a notably higher walk rate than in 2017.

 

Nick Neidert (MIA, #8)

This week (AA): 6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 11 K

Neidert was one of three players sent to Miami in the trade that sent Dee Gordon to Seattle, along with Robert Dugger and Christopher Torres. Neidert isn’t a wildy sexy prospect; he’s a strike thrower, plain and simple, and an extremely good one at that, as made evident by his career 1.6 BB/9 in pro ball. His changeup is no slouch either, a pitch that frequently gets plus plus grades and could even max at a 70 if the stars align. His fastball typically sits low-90’s – sometimes lower into the high-80’s – and his breaking ball is fringe average, so there isn’t a monsterous ceiling here, but with the changeup and plus command, he makes it work. He hasn’t allowed more than 3 runs in any starts this season on his way to a 3.25 ERA through 8 starts.

 

Shed Long (CIN, #6)

Last 10 days: 12 for 40, 4 HR, 2 triples, 1 SB

Long continues to hit, and his season line is now up to .298/.361/.497 with 5 HR, 17 total XBH, and 6 SB for AA Pensacola. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as Long has hit nonstop for the past 3 seasons, hitting north of .280/.360/.470 at every level. Since converting from the catcher position and moving to second base, Long has gotten lots of defensive reps in, but the glove is still fringe average at best and may settle in as average at best. Still, Long’s long (heh) track record of hitting, getting on base, hitting for some power, and being a more-than-average threat on the bases make him a good bet to be a future, bat-first regular at second base, a Josh Harrison type. There are some size concerns here, as he’s only 5’8”.

 

Jordan Romano (TOR, #27)

This week (AA): 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K

Thought Vlad Jr. and Bo Bichette and Sean Reid-Foley and Cavan Biggio have been getting most of the attention out of New Hampshire this season, Romano is having an equally good season without much fanfare, as he’s now 7-0 with the Fisher Cats with a 1.94 ERA and 44 K in 46.1 IP. Equipped with a 92-95 mph fastball and a potential above average slider, Romano was seen as an up and down #5 starter or a middle reliever due to a below average changeup and fringe average command. Nothing seems to be drastically different with Romano this season, so this could just be an exceptionally good stretch buoyed by a .162 BABIP and 88.5% LOB%. Hopefully, I’ll be up to NH to catch a start or two as the season goes on.

 

Jason Martin (PIT, #21)

Last 10 days (AA): 19 for 37, 2 HR, 3 doubles, 2 SB

The final and often overlooked piece in the trade that brought Gerrit Cole to Houston is having himself an extremely good year at AA Altoona, hitting .364/.417/.612 with 18 XBH. He collected 11 more hits this week alone and had 6 last weekend. The most encouraging part of this season for Martin is the power, because although he’s got CF tools, he takes inefficient routes and doesn’t have a stellar arm, so probably profiles better in LF. To really become a regular there, the power will have to max out. If it doesn’t, he’s probably better projected as a 4th OF as most if not all of the tools are fringe average to average.

 

Luis Madero (LAA, #30)

This week (A): 2 starts, 10 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K

The return in the trade that sent David Hernandez, the big, projectable, newly-21 year old has been having a very good season in Low-A to the tune of a 2.40 ERA in 30 innings. Madero pitches in the low-90’s with a decent curveball, but has some other things going for him like extension and strike-throwing ability. All-in-all, the package isn’t a great one though as is, but there more be more velocity in the tank as his body fills out or some more changeup with the arm speed he pitches at. Some development here and there with a little squinting could lead to a ML piece down the road.

 

David Peterson (NYM, #2)

This week (A): 2 starts, 14 IP, 7 H, 3 R (2 ER), 3 BB, 11 K

Again, more strong starts for Peterson, and again, you should put stock into neither of them. Peterson is massive 6’6”, polished, college, 1st round draft pick who threw nearly 70% strikes in these 2 starts. His dominance at Low-A is exactly what he should be doing. Expect a promotion to High-A St. Lucie very, very soon, where his starts will mean a bit more.

 

Lucas Erceg (MIL, #3)

Last 10 days (AA): 4 for 37, .027 ISO

I managed to squeeze Erceg onto the SMR Top 150 in the preseason, but so far, that isn’t looking so good for me, as Erceg hits .214/.276/.312 on the season. If there’s at all a silver lining, it’s that Erceg’s .200 BABIP is bound to come up (spray chart to the outfield looks good) and that even with a triple slash as ugly as that, Erceg is only striking out about 15% of the time. Erceg has once again had an issue will pop-ups this season, a strong sign that his quality of contact is inconsistent and may always be an issue with his current swing. Erceg may be falling off the midseason list.

 

Yefry Ramirez (BAL, #17)

This week (AAA): 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K

Ramirez has been bounced around a bit over the last year or two, selected by the Yankees from the Diamondbacks in the Rule 5 draft in 2016 and then shipped to Baltimore of International bonus pool $$ (of course) last season. Initially an infielder with the Diamondbacks, Ramirez has only been pitching for about 5 seasons, which is quite impressive honestly. Still, Ramirez’ profiel is tough one to project making any sort of hugh impact at the Major League level, as he has a FB that sits 91-94, a decent but inconsistent slider, and a changeup that gets above average grades. An arsenal of average stuff with some fastball command issues typically safely settles in at middle relief, but he could also churn out some innings as a #5 starter if BAL elects to use him like that. Ramirez has a 3.80 ERA and a 10 K/9 in 42.2 IP at AAA so far this season.

 

Brian Shaffer (ARI, #24)

This week (A): 11.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 17 K

Cory Abbott (CHC, #28)

This week (A): 11.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 18 K

Shaffer and Abbott were both 2017 college draftees, Shaffer in the 6th round and Abbott in the 2nd. I didn’t want to spend too much time talking about these guys, because, like Peterson, they’re most likely too good for the level as college arms, so performance isn’t wildly impressive. Both guys figure to be backend rotation pieces at best.

 

Myles Straw stolen base counter: Up to 27/31 SB in 41 games.

 

Promotions Notes:

Juan Soto (WAS, #2) – If you’re a baseball fan, which I’m assuming you are if you’re reading this, you probably don’t need me to tell you this.

Brandon Marsh (LAA, #4) – Promoted to High-A Inland Empire on Friday. Marsh was most likely to good for High-A, hitting .295/.390/.470 in just over 150 PA.

Dennis Santana (LAD, #10) – Promoted to AAA Oklahoma City on Tuesday. Santana had a 2.56 ERA in 38.2 IP with 51 strikeouts. More importantly, Santana’s changeup looks much better this season, making him much more of a possibility to remain a starter; last season, it looked as if there were a 0% chance of that ever happening.

Garrett Hampson (COL, #7) – Promoted to AAA Albuquerque on Thursday. Hampson was hitting .304/.391/.466 with 19 SB on 20 attempts in AA Hartford and had 4 more walks than he did strikeouts.

Michael Baumann (BAL, #13) – Promoted to High-A Frederick on Saturday afternoon. Baumann pitched extremely well at Low-A (as a college arm should) with a 1.42 ERA and 47 K in 38 innings. He pitched well in his debut on Sunday, going 7 innings and only allowing 1 run. Our Orioles writer James Neary had a very get article on Baumann that you can read here.

Evan Mendoza (STL, #30) – Promoted to AA Springfield on Friday. The 11th round pick was a catcher in college but converted to 3B once drafted and has fared well there. Mendoza was hitting .349/.394/.456 in 162 PA at High-A Palm Beach. Mendoza was a breakout pick of Friends With Fantasy Benefits lead prospect analyst Matt Thompson in the Cardinals episode of 80 Grade.

 

Injury Notes:

Estevan Florial (NYY, #2) – It was revealed Friday that Florial will be out until August because he will need to undergo hamate surgery. This was the same surgery that prompted a prolonged absence from Juan Soto Last season. Florial was hitting just .246 with a K% north of 30%, but was walking and getting on base plenty.

Yordan Alvarez (HOU, #4) – Placed on DL Wednesday for an injury he suffered from an outfield collision on May 6th.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

 

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