Seuly Matias (KC, #3) – 6 for 15, 4 HR, 1 triple. Matias has long had a very intriguing set of tools, including some speed, an absolute cannon in the outfield, and the power he put on display this week. However, those other tools aren’t the issue; Matias hit tool needs work, as he hit just .243/.297/.423 last season in rookie ball due to a long swing and some pitch recognition issue. However, Matias did handle beakers much better in 2017, so let’s hope for more improvements this season. If the raw power turns to game power more consistently, a middling hit tool works just fine. If it can get to average, a big if, Matias could be an All-Star caliber player.

Khalil Lee (KC, #1) – 6 for 14, 1 HR, 3 XBH, 1 SB. Beautiful start for the 19 year old at High-A, who showed power, patience, and speed offensively this week after hitting 17 HR and stealing 20 bases last season. Like Matias, Lee comes loaded up with all tools that are above average or better, except for the hit tool, as Lee hit just .237 and struck out 171 times last year. The hands are lightning quick and some think the hit issues are setup related, so perhaps it is workable. Lee and Matias make for an extremely interesting, explosive duo at the top of a Royals farm system that is down on it’s luck.

Riley Pint (COL, #3) – 0.1 IP, 5 R (3 ER), 0 K. The line isn’t as bad as it may seem, as there were 3 errors in this inning which led to the runs, but Pint still allowed a lot of contact and walked 2 guys while not making it out of the inning. Pint also came out of the game with an injury after calling the trainers out. The injury has not yet been disclosed yet, but just about everything went wrong for Pint in his opener. Orioles sleeper prospect Brenan Hanifee, a ground ball specialist with some deception, pitched well across from him, allowing just 2 ER in 6 IP.

Tyler O’Neill (STL, #4) – 8 for 21, 4 HR. O’Neill continues continues to mash dongs, as he now has 91 HR in the minors since the start of the 2015 season, which is as many as some of the best power hitters in baseball such as Paul Goldschmidt and Jose Abreu. O’Neill knows how to take a walk and has a great arm for RF. Despite an iffy swing and some strikeout issues, he continues to make adjustments at the plate and showed better against breaking balls this last season. If he continues to get to his power in game, we could be looking at one of the more underrated prospects in O’Neill.

Mitch Keller (PIT, #1) – 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K. Keller may be good enough to be in Triple-A, so this outing from one of the league’s top pitching prospects is no surprise. I couldn’t find any in person reports about how his changeup looked, so nothing to report there, unfortunately, but the changeup and it’s development will be critical for Keller this season. It could be the difference between a one of the best starters in baseball or a guy who has trouble turning over a lineup more than twice.

Josh Naylor (SD, #16) – 9 for 16, 3 HR, 1 double. Good week for the big guy, who will be just 20 years old for another 2 and a half months. Naylor is a bad bodied, first base only prospect, and although he’s looked much better there defensively over the last year or so and shown a good approach at the plate, his power has never really shown through, hitting just 26 HR in over 1000 pro ABs. This could be the year.

Shane Bieber (CLE, #8) – 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 9 K. To no one’s surprise, Bieber didn’t walk anyone, either, after walking just EIGHT men unintentionally all of 2017. Bieber’s sheer stuff got much better post draft in 2016 but managed to maintain the elite control/command that got him drafted, and he picked up at AA Akron exactly where he left off last season. His ceiling is still somehow being underestimated, and if he continues to shove at AA, we could see him logging innings for the Indians sometime later this season.

Anthony Banda (TB, #16) – 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 8 K. Sent to the Rays as a part of the Steven Souza trade, Banda was impressive in his Durham debut, throwing a ton of strikes and hitting 95 mph with the fastball. Listed as the Rays 16th prospect, there may be a bit of prospect fatigue with Banda, who still has quite a good profile and figures to be a future rotation piece with some upside. We’ll see if people hop back on the bandwagon now that the PCL won’t be inflating his ERA any longer.

Colton Welker (COL, #4) – 8 for 12, 2 HR, 5/1 BB/K. All Welker did all week was get on base, as his finished out the weekend with a .722 OBP. He also went deep twice, including one absolute moonshot pull side. Playing at a great hitters park, it’s going to be important to take his potentially slightly inflated offensive numbers with a grain of salt, but Welker can really hit, and has one of my favorite swings in the minors. Great to see 5 walks and just the one strikeout.

Scott Moss (CIN, #23) – 5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 9 K. Drafted in the 4th round out of Florida in 2016, Moss pitched well in his first full pro season at Low-A Dayton in 2017, sporting a 3.45 ERA and 156 strikeouts in over 135 innings. Typically, for a college pitcher pitching at Low-A, we would expect this level of performance against less advanced hitters, but Moss missed his first 2 seasons at Florida recovering from Tommy John, so a successful, healthy year is definitely a plus. Moss typically pitches in the low-90s and sometimes even lower, but the Reds farm director is on record expecting a bigger fastball from Moss in 2018, as he used to touch mid 90s in short stints during his time with Florida. If that happens, which is obviously not a given, he becomes a guy to keep on eye on in 2018.

Juan Soto (WAS, #2) – 6 for 16, 2 HR, 1 triple, 1 SB. Soto got hit in the wrist with a pitch about a month into the season last year which required hamate surgery and it cost him a lot of time. He also suffered a hamstring injury and and ankle injury that ended his season. Health will be pivotal for Soto this season, but if he’s healthy, a top 10 prospect by the end of the year is not out of the question. There’s plus hit and plus power in the profile.

Jasseel De La Cruz (ATL, #29) – 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 8 K. Very intriguing first start for De La Cruz in his full season debut, as he sat 94 mph with his fastball almost all start and has hit 97 in the past. A smaller righty at 6’1”, 175 lbs., De La Cruz has good arm strength and feel to spin a breaker, which could lead to a potentially plus FB/slider combo, but with his smaller build, mediocre control, and a lackluster changeup, projection might be the bullpen. Nonetheless, De La Cruz is definitely one to watch in a system that has had success developing arms.

Touki Toussaint (ATL, #11) – 2.2 IP, 7 R (5 ER), 3 H, 3 BB. Not a hot start to the year for another Braves’ pitcher, however, as Toussaint got banged around and didn’t make it out of the 3rd inning. Similar to De La Cruz, Toussaint survives on his (much more advanced) fastball and plus curveball, but has long had trouble with his changeup and control. The FB/CB combo is so nasty, that he’s probably a late inning arm even if he has to move to the bullpen. Toussaint has a 4.75 ERA in 400 Minor League innings as a starter.

Jeter Downs (CIN, #7) – 6 for 16, 2 doubles, 3 SB. The official breakout pick from 80 Grade podcast co-host Rhys White, Downs had a great week, showing the potentially plus hit tool off while showing some unexpected basepath speed as well. As we discussed on the podcast, there’s a ton of potential in Downs’ bat, but the thing to monitor will be Downs defense at shortstop, with scouts mixed on whether or not he can stay there. He has good actions, but he has a very weird body that makes his range hard to project. Nonetheless, his bat should play at 3B if he has to move. Good breakout pick.

Gerson Garabito (KC, #28) – 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 9 K. Great start to High-A for Garabito after a great year at Low-A last season. Garabito works with a low to mid 90s FB with a really good curveball, but he’s a small righty without much changeup feel, so feel free to apply De La Cruz’ write up about bullpen projection here as well. Still, interesting start to the year for the Royals farmhand.

Myles Straw (HOU, #21) – 5 for 12, 5 SB. Straw could be a real sleeper prospect pick this season, as he got on base a ton last season with a .405 OBP and stole a ton with 38 SB in 47 attempts. He walked 94 times while striking out just 79 times. The plus speed also gives him a really good defensive profile in CF. There’s concern about his extremely limited power (just 2 HR in 2.5 pro seasons); if he only hits singles, pitchers may begin to attack him more aggressively. But if he can continue to draw a walk, steal, and play CF at an elite level, those concerns are mitigated a bit.

 

Photo Credit: Bill Mitchell Photography

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