A look at the hottest players an MiLB, and a reality check for context in your fantasy leagues…
Photo courtesy of Bryan Green
You mad? Don’t be, for Prospects Jesus, King of the Couch Scouts has returned to feed his loyal followers with the same Sunday Notes you’ve been getting from yours truly since Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s pops was playing for the Expos.
This week, Tigers RHP Casey Mize, last year’s 1.1 pick, was promoted to Double-A. The right-hander will make his Erie debut in Altoona on Monday night, making it must watch MiLB.TV. Having caught Mize a few weeks ago now, I came away impressed, sitting 94-96 on his fastball, locating in all four quadrants. His primary secondary was a slider in the 86-88 range with tight break coming in on lefties, he tended to lead with his fastball, but wasn’t scared to drop his breaking ball on hitters early in counts. His put away pitch is his much discussed splitter, a true 70 offering that drops off the table, but shows enough command to bury just below the zone without bouncing it. One of the better out pitches I’ve seen in recent years. Mize has it all: the body, the stuff, and the elite command and control. We talked a little about Mize during our podcast with Eno Sarris this week. Listen in to hear us pit Mize versus Mike Soroka, Alex Reyes, Chris Paddack and more. Now that we’ve touched on my new man crush, let’s see what else is happening in the MiLB.
Let’s put out some flames of hate with some cold water! Hustle hard, stack paper. Hi hater!
Josh Ockimey, 1B (BOS) - I’ve never been a huge Ockimey fan, I felt that bat speed was only average, the path was long, and he never flashed as much power as you the body promised. As much as I have my concerns, Ockimey is enjoying his time with the MLB balls in Triple-A. Through 19 games Josh-Ock is hitting .250/.416/.617, five homers, and a 19.5 BB%. The strikeout rate is improved to a tad under 25 percent, and that’s hand in hand with the highest power output of his career. Cold Water: He’s obviously blocked at the highest level, but for how long? There’s certainly a chance he gets a shot at the first base job in 2020 if the Red Sox commit to Chavis as a second baseman. Then again this might just be a hot streak and the player could slide back to the status quo.
Keston Hiura, 2B (MIL) - I guess questioning his approach last week set off a fire in Hiura as he’s been on a tear the last week. Going 10-for-23, with six extra base hits including three homers. The nicest development was the two strikeouts, though I’m not sure it really should have been a huge concern, Hiura can hit. Cold Water: He’s hot, but the cold streak isn’t too far in the rearview. Hopefully with a few more weeks like this his strikeout rate stabilizes.
Wander Franco, SS (TB) - He turned 18 on March 1 and he’s dominating the Midwest League just as we suspected he would. He’s hitting .329/.412/.600 with six extra base hits in the last week. Actually since Tuesday, Franco is seeing beach balls to the tune of .529/.591/.1.235. The sweetest numbers might be his 9.4 K% and 12.9 BB%. The swing is as pretty as you can imagine, short to the ball, lightning fast, with a big whirlwind follow through. Cold Water: Ain’t no cold water, this boy can ball!
Nolan Gorman, 3B (STL) - Does anyone feel bad about drafting Nolan Gorman anywhere? He connected for his fifth and sixth homers on Friday, popping one in each leg of the doubleheader. Matt Thompson had looks on Gorman earlier this season, and he’s as impressive as the numbers state. Cold Water: There’s a fair amount of swing and miss, and he needs to learn to balance his aggression with patience.
Griffin Canning, RHP (LAA) - The right-hander will make his long awaited debut on Tuesday. Is Canning one of the best pitching prospects we have the least amount of enthusiasm for? His fastball sits mid-90s, touching 97, he mixes a plus slider, a promising changeup, and an average curveball. I think Canning has shot at sticking around, and that makes him worth an add.
Heliot Ramos, OF (SF) - The Giants outfielder flashed a glimpse of something special, and then he promptly hit the disabled list. I was chatting with Baseball Prospectus’ Wilson Karaman who caught Ramos recently, and came away impressed with the bat speed, raw athleticism, and defensive ability. Cold Water: He’s still overly aggressive and can swing himself into bad situations. It’s also the Cal League, so you can take some of the numbers with a grain of salt. That said, there’s been marked improvement year over year.
Kyle Tucker, OF (HOU) - It’s been a tough time to own Tucker in dynasty, everything is hung with a giant question mark. There have been few answers, as Tucker’s play has been uninspiring at Triple-A. Not to fear noble owners, Tucker has homered in three of his last four games, and four of his last eight, collecting hits in seven of his last nine. Cold Water: This might be the perfect time for Tucker to breakout, as he’s on the 40-man, and Yordan Alvarez isn’t.
Yordan Alvarez, OF (HOU) - Speak of the devil, Alvarez has been on fire this season, and questions of a promotion day build daily. Jake Kaplan of The Athletic had an excellent read on the ramifications of such a move, and why it’s a little more complicated. I know, I know, way to throw cold water on the hottest MLB ready prospect. If it makes you feel any better, he went 4-for-5 last night driving in three, and connecting for his 11th homer, tying him with Kevin Cron for the PCL lead.
Kevin Cron, 1B (ARI) - What do we do with 26-year-old Kevin Cron? He’s showing improved plate discipline (16.9 K%/12.4 BB%), hits the ball in the air a ton (28.4 LD%/43.3% FB%), and he’s continued to spray the ball to all fields. So what’s not to like besides the age? Cold Water: That’s kind of what scares me, is he an underappreciated asset buried by the Diamondbacks, or simply a Quad-A type?
Austin Riley, 1B/3B (ATL) - Started at first base for the third time this season, he went crazy with threes as he homered for the third consecutive game. Riley is blocked at the major league level, but an injury might open opportunity for the power hitter to show he’s ready. Cold Water: He was struggling mightily in the early part of the season, needs to show consistency if he hopes to break in with an everyday role.
Luis Urias, 2B (SD) - I feel your pain, I invested in Urias heavily late in redraft leagues and own him in a few dynasty leagues. There’s hope… Urias slugged two homers last night for the first multi-home run game of his career. Now if only Padres GM A.J. Preller would call him up and make Andy Green play him. Let the kids play! Cold Water: He’s never done much at the major league level to warrant playing time.
Jarred Kelenic, OF (SEA) - I’m no Mets fan, but God I wish he was still in the Mets system, really for selfish reasons. I might have to drive to West Virginia. If I catch a game like the one Kelenic had last night it might be worth the day of driving. What did he do last night? How about hit two homers, or better yet three in a little more than 24 hours. Over his last 10 games Kelenic is slashing .429/.489/.762 with three homers and three stolen bases. Cold Water: Most of his damage has come at home, as he’s hitting a putrid .171 in nine away games.
Nico Hoerner, SS (CHC) - Hit the 7-day, because nothing nice ever stays. Thank God it sounds like just a bad bruise and nothing serious. Likely looking at the minimum.
Brendan Rodgers, SS (COL) - Rodgers has been destroying AAA in his return trip, and enjoying the spoils of the MLB balls. He homered in both games of a doubleheader on Saturday, and is slashing .321/.398/.605 with five homers. Over his last ten games Rodgers is rocking a 1.192 OPS. The best number of all, might be the 10 walks to 15 strikeouts. If Rodgers can add the approach I always felt was missing in Hartford, he can be an impact bat. Cold Water: There’s a lot of options in Colorado in the middle infield, though Rodgers might be one of the rookies that earns a gig in Denver. I have a feeling it will take an injury to happen in 2019.
It’s about to be a surgical summer…
Sunday Starts To Watch
AAA: RHP Zac Gallen and his 0.36 ERA to Dell Diamond to face Round Rock. Should be a solid test with the aforementioned Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker.
AA: LHP Darwinzon Hernandez fresh off his MLB debut, is back in Portland and set to face LHP David Peterson and Binghamton.
A+: RHP Brady Singer faces off against RHP Eli Morgan and Lynchburg, but of course it’s not on MiLB.TV. The best alternative is LHP Ryan Rolison going at The Hanger against Visalia, the lefty pushed in his Cal League debut, and looks to keep it rolling in arguably the minors most difficult ballpark. Friend of the site John Calvagno wrote about his live looks on Rolison earlier this season. Be sure to check it out and all his great work from the Sally league.
Low-A: The newly re-charged LHP Ryan Weathers brings his new slider, to South Bend in the first leg of a Midwest League doubleheader. This game is on MiLB.TV, enjoy!
Sometimes a pitcher performs so well in the early going that you must drop your preconceived notions about said arm and embrace the new normal. So far on the young season the Marlins Zac Gallen is a shinning example of dropping what you know and buying in on a possible breakout. At this point there has to be thoughts of shipping Jose Urena for Gallen in the Miami front office. Two starts into the young season with New Orleans, and Gallen has turned in two strong starts going a total of 13 innings allowing one run, on 3 hits, and walks, while striking out 19 batters.
The new minor league season is upon us and with it comes the hopes of finding the next breakouts. While ideally we’d love to wait and see which hot starts are real, in competitive leagues we’re not afforded that luxury, so we have to act sooner than we’d probably like. I wanted to break down how I go about finding the pop up guys and what traits a player has to catch my attention.
Straight talk - prospecting is hard. It is time for us to accept this truth - we want believe we know so much more than we do. It is really hard to predict the future, and we are going to fail a lot. This is why it should come as no surprise that every year low minors prospects emerge from relative obscurity to make top 100 lists.
JP details 6 guys that could make the leap into the 2020 Top100.
It’s not how you start but how you finish. Mickey Moniak is a polarizing prospect. In fact, he may be the most polarizing prospect in the minor leagues. For a high school hitter taken 1.1, the amount of fans that have bailed from the bandwagon is staggering.
My favorite part of prospecting outside of going to games, and wearing sweatpants on Sunday afternoons is digging for deep league target years before they pop onto the radar of your league mates. Sometimes I’ll spend three days digging through scouting reports and videos from the far corners of the internet. Other times I ask Barry Baker. Not kidding, follow Barry about 27% of the stuff that comes out of his twitter fingers isn’t crazy. That’s an exact figure BTW. Today we take a look at a dozen such players with varying levels of hype. Only two of these players made our top 300 and just barely. But all of these players have the ability to break out in the coming months and years ahead. These are the players I’m targeting this season.
There’s moments in your life where you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing. There’s others that go beyond that, there’s some that begin a journey of sorts, large chunks of moments that stick with you for eternity. I had one of those moments recently, and it was the kind that began a journey in some ways. It was atypical Tuesday afternoon at my desk, sorting through emails, responding to clients, sneaking the faint glance at a video, article, twitter, etc. I checked my personal email, and immediately my eyes were drawn to an email from Jeff Erickson of Rotowire. I hadn’t had any correspondence whatsoever with Jeff in the past, so it had to be one of two things, 1. Jeff was commending me on my handsomeness (unlikely) or 2. I was getting the invite to Tout Wars in New York City!
We’ve been planting our flags, hyping up sleepers and being aggressive on our lists all offseason long. Now let’s take it to another level. With the digital ink below, we’re looking at bold predictions for hitters. Theoretically, none of what you read below should be an easy slam dunk. It should be close to absurd but have juuuuust enough leeway to make you say “Maybe?”.
These two third basemen are trending in opposite directions, it seems. Ke’Bryan Hayes is having himself a fantastic spring, showcasing power that many wondered if he really had. He’s getting ready to make the jump to Triple-A in 2019 where he’ll be 22 all year long and could be the full-time starter in 2020. Riley is about to turn 22 but already has 75 games at the highest minor league level, an accomplishment hard to overlook. There’s a little fatigue on him because he struggled with strikeouts in Triple-A (29 K%) and the Braves signed Josh Donaldson, essentially quelling all hopes of a call up in the early going (though there are reports he’s going to be tried in the outfield). But at the end of the day, these guys are both top 30 prospects, so where do we stand on them?