Austin Riley (ATL, #6)

Last 10 days: 15 for 35, 3 HR, 10 XBH

After this week, Riley now has 13 XBH on the year, including two triples in Wednesday’s outing, tying him with Nationals’ Juan Soto for the most in the Minors since the start of the year. Riley was drafted 41st overall in 2015 with a pick they received from San Diego when they shipped out Craig Kimbrel. He was drafted as a 2-way player out of high school, and although more teams liked him as pitcher, the Braves took a chance on the huge power and ability to stick at 3rd base, electing to develop him there instead. The choice seems to now be paying dividends, as he’s put himself firmly near the top of a stacked Braves’ farm system. Riley is hitting .386/.435/.754 this season, and also had 6 HR and led the Arizona Fall League in SLG in his short time there. Scouts are still torn about whether or not he can stick at 3B long term, but he looked much better there last season. He also had some issues with higher velocity last season which is obviously not good, but there have been no reports on the matter that I’ve seen in 2018. I’m cautiously optimistic going forward, which is more than I would have said about him 6 months ago.

 

Jalen Beeks (BOS, #15)

This week: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K

My girlfriend was a real trooper this weekend as I dragged her along to this outing. Beeks looked extremely strong all game and his breaker looked above average all night and flashed plus on occasion, something I was absolutely not expecting. Beeks hides the ball very well in his delivery, which helps his modest 91-92 FB play a bit better. He did have some trouble hitting his spots here and there throughout the 6 innings, which caused a rather inefficient outing, but it wasn’t so frequent that it got him into trouble. There was very little hard contact. Braves’ lefty Kolby Allard pitched opposite of Beeks and was also impressive after the 1st inning, in which he left a lot over the plate. Allard works down in the 90 mph range with his FB as well, but his curveball is extremely good, far better than I’ve seen it on video. The velocity band separation is perfect, as the curve will usually sit close to 77 mph, and he tunnels it with the FB extremely well. Watching them back-to-back for 5 straight innings, I think Beeks and Allard have very similar Major League careers ahead of them.

 

Jesus Luzardo (OAK, #2)

This week: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K

Luzardo pitched an absolute gem last Tuesday afternoon, striking out 9 in 5 hitless innings for Stockton. After spending much of the year in 2017 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Luzardo retook the mound in late June and the very first pitch out of his hand was a fastball that clocked 98 mph. The Lizard was back. Luzardo usually sits a bit lower than this, typically 93-96, but has been more 94-97 this season. He features two distinct breaking balls, which both will flash plus here and there, and a changeup which also flashes plus with 15 mph separation from his FB. The kicker? He throws everything for strikes. Luzardo now has a 1.23 ERA and 25 K in just 14.2 IP in 3 starts for Stockton. Luzardo was promoted to AA Midland Sunday night.

 

Jesus Sanchez (TB, #4)

Last 10 days: 19 for 43, 3 HR, 8 XBH

I don’t think it would be incredibly out of line to say Sanchez has one of the highest offensive upsides in the Minor Leagues and he showed that this week, raking in what is the most pitcher-friendly league in all of professional baseball. Unlike some other potential plus hit/power corner OF prospects, Sanchez is no slouch defensively, as he has a “non-zero chance of playing CF” according to the prospect team over at Fangraphs and a plus arm that is well suited for RF if he has to move over. Sanchez was ranked as Six Man Rotation’s preseason #51 overall prospect.

 

Zac Lowther (BAL, #17)

This week: 2 starts, 10 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 18 K

Lowther’s week featured a 5 IP, 7 K start on Tuesday and a 5 IP, 11 K outing on Sunday, both 84 pitches. He now has a 0.56 ERA and 31 K in 16 IP last week. Lowther was in the Rundown last week as well, where I mentioned that his low level dominance shouldn’t be surprising or an indicator of future success. Lowther’s pitches are incredibly hard to pick up out of his hand due to an extremely whippy arm action, which is sometimes all you need against teenagers down at Low-A where he currently pitches. Despite below average velocity, the fastball plays up due to a huge spin rate and the aforementioned deception. Still, Lowther’s other offerings are average, and he isn’t any more than a future backend starter with his current profile.

 

Micker Adolfo (CHW, #10)

Last 10 days: 13 for 45, 2 doubles, 3 HR

Adolfo didn’t have a particularly strong week, but he finished out last week very strong, still holds a good triple slash, and probably deserved to be on the rundown then, so here he is. Adolfo was ranked as the #2 International Free Agent by MLB in a loaded 2013 class, ranked only behind Eloy Jiminez but ahead of guys such as Gleyber Torres and Rafael Devers. After a mediocre first 3 professional years bouncing around rookie ball and Low-A, Adolfo finally hit pretty well at Low-A last season, including 16 HR and 46 total XBH. Now up at High-A and still just 21 years old, Adolfo has come out of the gate scorching hot to begin the year, even winning the Carolina League Player of the Week award last week. Also, so far, his strikeout rate is way down and his walk rate is a bit up, though stats such as these typically take a little while longer to stabilize. Given his pedigree and semblance of a breakout last season, Adolfo should continue to be monitored.

Joey Wentz (ATL, #10)

This week: 2 starts, 10 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 12 K

Wentz now has a 0.64 ERA in 3 starts this season. Wentz pitches from an extremely high arm slot and is a big boy at 6’5”, so the plane on his low-90s fastball in one of the best in the Minors, and I am a huge fan of his delivery. The changeup and curve get different evaluations depending on outlet/view, but both have been seen as god as plus. I tend to think/believe the arm slot and arm speed are more conducive to a better curveball than changeup down the line, which is what I’d rather prefer for a big lefty. Wentz went 70 and 73 pitches in each of these 2 starts, though the Braves stretched him out in a similar fashion last season, pitching under 80 pitches in 10 of his first 11 starts of the season and then above 80 pitches 13 of his final 15 games, pitching over 100 twice. In a sea of good Braves arms, Wentz may be the most underrated one.

 

Calvin Mitchell (PIT, #16)

Last 10 days: 18 for 44, 7 XBH, 1 SB

Drafted out of California in the 2nd round in 2017, Mitchell comes equipped with a feel for hitting and some power from the left side. He is a below average runner with a below average arm with limited physical projection left, so with LF his most likely position long term, he’s going to really need to hit. But the Pirates knew this when he was drafted, so they must have liked the offensive profile here. Mitchell has opened up the year hot with Low-A West Virginia, hitting .364/.419/.652 with 10 XBH, including 5 just this week. It could a long road to the Majors for Mitchell, and he’s going to need to hit everywhere along the way, just he could be a bat first regular if it all comes together and Mitchell can learn to make more frequent and consistent solid contact.

 

Corbin Martin (HOU, #10)

This week: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K

Another strong outing for Martin, who actually pitched out of the bullpen in this one, though it came on regular rest and still featured a pitch total close to his previous 2 starts. Martin now has now struck out 21 and walked only 6 in the early going. Control has been Martin’s issue since his early college days, so while a 3.9 BB/9 isn’t great, it’s plenty good enough for a guy with strikeout stuff like him. He now has 0.64 ERA in 14 innings, though he hasn’t been super efficient in those innings.

 

Austin Allen (SD, #28)

Last 10 days: 15 for 39, 3 HR, 8 XBH

Allen was drafted in the 4th round back in 2015 out of the Florida Institute of Technology as a catcher with some great power from the left side but with concerns that he may not catch long term. Today, almost 3 years later, that profile remains very much the same. Allen had a good-not-great year in the CALL last season, hitting .283/.353/.497 while muscling 54 XBH. This season, to begin his first full go at AA, Allen has hit .373/.422/.780 with 6 doubles and 6 HR. Allen still remains a question mark behind the dish, though, with a far below average defensive profile which an average arm that plays down due to slow pop times and transfer times (as of last season). Allen caught only 26 base stealers in 126 attempts in 2017 as a result (21%). This season, however, Allen has caught 7 of 18 attempts (39%) so there may be something there, but it could also just be success in a small sample. Allen becomes much less sexy of a prospect if he has to move to 1B.

 

Corey Ray (MIL, #7)

Last 10 days: 14 for 50, 6 XBH, 4 SB

Ray, who’s swing was well documented to be all over the place in 2017, got a much needed overhaul to his swing. He now starts with his hands raised over his shoulders which forces him to use his better half, and he has lost his toe tap, which could have been hindering his weight transfer. The full details can be seen here. (https://www.brewcrewball.com/2018/4/16/17238522/milwaukee-brewers-corey-ray-has-found-success-at-the-plate-after-changing-his-swing) The change has seemingly paid off in the early going, as Ray has gotten off to a quietly encouraging start to begin the year, slashing .276/.313/.474 with 6 doubles and 3 triples in his first 17 games. The potentially plus defensive profile in CF has remained, so if the new swing is here to stay and Ray finds better results with it, he could catapult himself back into top 100 conversations.

 

Jose Suarez (LAA, #12)

This week: 3.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R (1 ER), 9/0 K/BB

Suarez was promoted to AA last week along with teammate Griffin Canning. Canning, who fell in the draft due to medical concerns, has looked unbelievable out of the gate and could very well be a top 100 prospect right now, but it was Suarez who excelled in his first AA start, striking out 9 of the 17 hitters he faced and only 1 earned run. The very short lefty (5’10”)  has seen his velocity increase year after year and he now sits 91-94 and can touch 95 with decent movement. His changeup is an extremely good pitch, getting tagged as plus frequently, perhaps better, aided by an extraordinary ability to disguise it. His curveball is no joke either. All of Suarez’ sheer stuff looks better this season, and he looks well on his way to becoming a breakout arm in the Angels’ system. He has now struck out 27 (!!) in 12.2 IP between A+/AA and 10 of his 15 balls in play have been grounders.

 

Dennis Santana (LAD, #10)

This week: 4.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K

Eye-popping strikeout numbers from Santana in his start Tuesday, something that is very possible with the stuff that he has. Santana was actually signed to the Dodgers as a shortstop back in 2013, but has since been converted and now works with a devastating sinker/slider combo that can result in outings such as these. However, with an almost side-arm delivery and no real 3rd pitch, Santana has had trouble against left handed hitters in the past and most likely will continue to have trouble against them in the future. There’s a very good RP profile brewing.

 

Blake Rutherford (CHW, #7)

Last 10 days: 14 for 35, 5 doubles, 3 SB

Notably good start for Rutherford, who last year lacked the power that he flashed in high school. Rutherford hit only 2 HR last season and still doesn’t have one yet this year, so I’m not sure there’s anything overly notable here or if Rutherford has just gotten a little lucky with his balls in play (.444 BABIP). But the .364/.403/.491 line to start the year looks promising.

 

Ranger Suarez (PHI, #11)

This week: 2 starts, 15 IP, 12 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 12 K

Obviously a great week for Suarez, but the week’s total line doesn’t do his last Monday’s start any justice; Suarez went 8 scoreless innings with 10 K and 0 walks in that outing. The week was exactly what Suarez needed after a tough 1st outing of the year on April 5th in which he allowed 7 runs in just 3 innings. Suarez is a smaller lefty who is now sitting in the lower 90s with his sinker, up from the upper-80s at this point last year. His change and slider get some pretty different evaluations depending on where you look, but the slider is seemingly average and the changeup is a tick better. Control/command guys with this sort of stuff typically do well in the lower Minors where he pitched last year, so this year will be quite the test for him.

 

Garrett Hampson (COL, #7)

Last 10 days: 13 for 33, 5 XBH, 6/6 SB

Hampson, who stole 51 bases in 65 attempts last season, now has 11 SB without getting caught in just 16 games to start the year. The power profile remains very limited, but Hampson continues to find gaps and with a career BB/K of 113/137 and OBP closing in on .400, I’m not incredibly concerned with that. There’s more than a utility player here. Garrett Hampson is very good.

 

Trevor Stephan (NYY, #15)

This week: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K

Stephan was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft out of the University of Arkansas and is often overlooked in an arm-heavy draft for the Yankees in favor of guys like Clarke Schmidt, Matt Sauer, and Glenn Otto, but Stephan could be just as good. His bread and butter is his fastball, which comes in at 93-95 but has hit as high as 97 in the past. Between the movement on the pitch and the low ¾, crossfire delivery, the pitch can be devastating, garnering many swings and misses. Fangraphs notes specifically that due to this pitch alone, Stephan should be able to tear up the lower Minors, which is exactly what he has been doing. He pairs it with an average but still improving slider and a changeup, which is currently below average. There are some other reliever characteristics here in addition to the lack of changeup feel; Stephan wore out a bit post-draft, pitching more in the 90-94 range by the end, and the low arm slot can cause platoon issues, though LHB didn’t hit him notably better last summer. Still, the extreme fastball and developing slider could get him into a rotation one day. Stephan now has 1.25 ERA and 66 K in just over 50 professional innings. Interesting arm to watch.

 

Resly Linares (TB, #28)

This week: 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K

For the record, I don’t think Linares is Tampa Bay’s 28th best prospect. These are not my rankings. Even in a loaded TB system, he should probably be roughly in the top 15 or so. Linares makes the list this week on the back of a hitless, 7 inning outing Wednesday in which he also struck out 7. Linares would have been perfect, but he hit a batter in the 1st inning. This was the rebound outing he needed, after he almost made the Rundown last week because of a horrendous first out in which he allowed 7 ER in 3.2 innings. Linares has a mid 90s FB, a sexy curveball, and a surprisingly advanced changeup for 19 years old. The lefty could be a nice little sleeper in the Rays system.

 

Sean Murphy (OAK, #4)

Last 10 days: 16 for 37, 7 doubles, 2 HR

Murphy is one of, if not the, best defensive catcher in the Minor Leagues, thanks to not only plus catching, but an arm that could be graded as an 80. The primary focus of his coming into this year was his bat, and he’s done nothing but hit since the year opened up, now slashing .404/.443/.719 on the year. Murphy’s hit tool may always lack a bit, but he has shown some power in the past, and it’s blossoming so far this year with already half as many doubles in 61 PA as he had all of last year in almost 400. If Murphy hits better all year, there’s a case here for the 3rd best catching prospect in all of baseball.

 

Pedro Gonzalez (TEX, #10)

Last 10 days: 11 for 35, 2 triples, 2 HR, 2 SB

Gonzalez was traded to the Rangers from Colorado as the PTBNL in the Jonathan Lucroy trade, and I don’t think it would be out of line to say that Gonzalez could be one of the better PTBNL in recent memory. A shortstop in the 2014 IFA class, Gonzalez signed for $1.3M, very quickly outgrew the position, and now stands at 6’5” and plays a decent CF, though he more than likely will be a corner guy when his frame fully fills. Offensively, Gonzalez power and bat speed is the highlight, and after 3 multi-hit games this week, Gonzalez is now hitting .273/.322/.509 on the year with 5 XBH. He also slugged .475 in 2017. There’s considerable ceiling here.

 

Corbin Burnes (MIL, #2)

This week: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K.

After a delivery change got Burnes’ lower half more involved in 2017, he was perhaps the biggest breakout prospect aside from Ronald Acuna. Despite pitching in the best hitter’s park in all of baseball, Colorado Springs, Burnes dominated on Thursday. There are bound to be a couple of ugly statlines from Burnes this season due to the extreme nature of the park, but don’t let it cloud what Burnes truly is, which is one of the most Major League ready pitching prospects in baseball.

 

Oscar De La Cruz (CHC, #3)

This week: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K

Great bounceback outing for DLC on Thursday after allowing 11 runs in 6 innings combined between his first 2 starts. No one has ever questioned DLC’s raw stuff; if you squint a little, there could be 3 plus pitches down the line between the fastball, curve, and change. However, he’s never healthy, even being pulled from the Arizona Fall League some 6 months ago with an apparent injury. Never in his 5+ years in the league has he pitched more than 75 innings in a year. His fastball was down in the 88-92 range just 2 months ago as well, though my search for his FB velo in this outing is still a work in progress. Here’s to hoping for a healthy season for DLC.

 

Joe Gatto (LAA, #29)

This week: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K

Gatto was a 2nd round pick all the way back in 2014, but only just this past year did he have a season that could be considered a success. Gatto’s FB sits 90-93 t94 and he has a good little curveball which was ranked best in the Angels’ system by Baseball America. Gatto still has control issues, still walking 4+ hitters per 9 innings just last year, and the changeup saw minimal improvement, if any. The velocity also has a tendency to back up into the high 80s in some starts. The ceiling here isn’t very high, maybe back end of a future rotation at best, but the stuff may play better in relief. Gatto now has 21 K in 13.1 IP.

 

Myles Straw (HOU, #21)

Last 10 days: 16 for 39, 2 triples, 5 SB

Straw continues to hit and steal for AA Corpus Christi, collecting 13 hits and stealing 3 bases just this week, bringing his season line up to .407/.535/.481 with 11 SB in 13 attempts. The SLG is a mirage, as he doesn’t project to much power with a 5’10” frame and line drive swing, and the AVG/OBP are obviously unsustainable, but Straw had a .412 OBP last season at A+ and has a career .409 OBP. He has top-of-the-scale speed and plays and above average defensive outfield, albeit with a below average arm. There are some questions as to how he will handle better velocity, as he goes the other way a ton, but his spray chart seems a tad more balanced this year, though it could just be noise in a small sample. I think there could be more than a 4th OF type in the profile.

 

Pablo Lopez (MIA, #22)

This week: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K

Lopez was acquired last year by the Marlins in the trade that sent David Phelps to Seattle. After missing all of 2014 recovering from Tommy John, Lopez came back and had 2 good years in 2015 and 2016. Though his ERA doesn’t reflect it, Lopez had a bit of a breakout in 2017, as his fastball ticked more into the mid-90s and his breaking ball saw some much needed improvement. He commands all his pitches well, and his control is phenomenal, walking only 20 hitters in over 145 innings, though he can get into a bit of trouble when he lives in the zone too much. Both offspeeds project to average and maybe a tad better, so there’s enough here to be a backend type down the line. AA will be a good test for Lopez.

 

Promotion Notes:

Tyler O’Neill (STL, #4) – Promoted to the bigs Wednesday morning. O’Neill had just hit 2 HR last Monday and was tied for the Minor League lead in homers.

Merandy Gonzalez (MIA, #14) – Promoted to the bigs on Thursday. Gonzalez had allowed 5 ER in 1 AA start before the promotion

Lourdes Gurriel (TOR, N/A) – Promoted Friday to the Majors and went 2-5 with a double.

 

Photo credit: Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

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