Panning For Gold: Hot Streaks And Cold Water

Sometimes a pitcher performs so well in the early going that you have to drop your preconceived notions and embrace the new normal. This spring, the Marlins’ Zac Gallen is demanding that we throw out what we thought we knew and buy in on a possible breakout. At this point there have to be thoughts of demoting Jose Ureña for Gallen in the Miami front office. Two starts into the young season with New Orleans, Gallen has gone a total of 13 innings allowing one run on three hits, no walks, and 19 strikeouts.

Gallen is simply overwhelming Triple-A hitters with his four-pitch mix. His fastball sits 90-92 and touches 94, and his changeup stands out amongst three average or better secondaries. His ability to command his arsenal and throw strikes makes him a high-floor gamble in dynasty leagues—just how high the ceiling reaches remains to be seen. But over the course of his professional career Gallen has continued to exceed expectations.

Drafted by St. Louis in the third round of 2016 out of UNC, Gallen reached Double-A in his first full season. That off-season he was dealt to Miami in the Marcell Ozuna trade and impressed at Triple-A New Orleans, but he still struggled to master the hitter friendly PCL. With real opportunities available in Miami in the short term I’d look to roster Gallen in even the shallowest of dynasty formats.

Alright, time for some cold water!

  • Luis Robert - The last of the big bonus babies has spent nine games on a bender, hitting .475/.512/1.025 with 13 runs, five HR, 15 RBI, and three SB to open the season. The production is finally matching the hype… Cold water: The strikeouts are very much still there—9 K/1 BB is a little Brendan Rodgers in Lancaster-like.

  • Carter Kieboom - Mashing at Triple-A with a .406/.500/.704 slash line, five XBH, one SB, and 8 K/5 BB. What’s not to like at this point? The swing is picturesque and the plate discipline keeps improving… Cold water: ahhh it’s the PCL, I guess?!? Nah this is crazy.

  • Vidal Brujan - He’s back and raking in the FSL, hitting .371/.425/.429 with 8 SB and 8 K/2 BB to open the year. We love Brujan—you can tell by our ranking in the pre-season… Cold water: he only has two extra base hits.

  • Kris Bubic - spun a gem Friday night, going six frames of two unearned runs on three hits, and racking up 12 K’s. He struck out the side in the second, third, and sixth! The Royals 2018 crop of draft arms is looking pretty, preeetty goodCold water: He’s a former college arm in Low-A.

  • Nolan Gorman - He looks like a monster in the making, with a .395/.442/.868, four homers, and nine total XBH. His homer on Saturday was reported at 108 mph off the bat. Looking like he should have been the consensus number one pick in FYPD… Cold water: 11 K to 3 BB not great.

  • Vladimir Guerrero Jr. - In Triple-A Buffalo, Vladdy hit his first homer in a big season debut. Had a scheduled off day Saturday. He was there in uniform… Cold water: Not playing everyday isn’t great—not really worried, but his durability is a concern.

  • Shed Long - Impressive so far in Tacoma. In nine games he’s slashing .412/.487/.588 with three XBH and 9 K/5 BB… Cold water: He’s playing above his head and he’s blocked. There’s really not much bad to say, as the results are very encouraging. There are still some quirks, like the hand pump in his load, that make Long divisive.

  • Terrin Vavra - Rockies third rounder out of Minnesota, hitting .361/.455/.611 with six XBH and three SB. One of my off-season sleepers, and a player Smada’s flyball data loved, albeit in a small sample… Cold water: He’s an advanced college hitter in Low-A hitting in a very friendly home park.

  • Will Stewart - The lefty acquired alongside Sixto Sánchez and Jorge Alfaro, he went seven and two-thirds innings allowing a single hit and a walk while striking out seven for Jupiter. It’s Stewart’s second outing of the season after going five and two-thirds on the sixth of April… Cold water: Still likely a back end of the rotation profile.

  • Yordan Alvarez - There were questions regarding Yordan’s future value entering the season, and apparently he heard. Alvarez homered for the sixth time in eight games including a three-homer effort last Saturday… Cold water: Where does he play long term? Left field? First base? DH? Yordan is the classic “bat only” prospect. Luckily Alvarez’s bat seems to pass the smell test.

  • Casey Mize - The first pick of the 2018 draft has been en fuego in 2019. Through two starts with Class A Advanced Lakeland, Mize has gone 11 total innings, allowing one run on five hits and striking out 15 while not allowing a free pass. If you want more on Mize check out Kris Dunn’s post from last week… Cold water: This is what Mize should be doing as an elite college arm from a power conference.

  • Cole Tucker - Is the power here? It looks like it might be coming: during the off-season Tucker looked to add thump to his game and so far on the young season he’s doing a good job of driving the ball to all fields. The shortstop has two homers in his first nine games and hasn’t sacrificed his polished approach. He’s also continued to run, with four steals in nine contests. Cold Water: It’s only been a few games, so it would be nice to see a more substantial sample size before jumping in. That said, I’m very much a believer.

  • Nick Solak - Acquired in the three-team trade that sent Steven Souza and Taylor Widener to Arizona and Brandon Drury to New York, Solak might end up being the best player moved in that deal. Assigned to Triple-A Durham, the second baseman has hit .346/.452/.462 with a homer. In 2018, Solak combined for 19 homers and 21 steals—it will be interesting to see how the base running translates in Triple-A and eventually the Majors… Cold water: Despite the excellent slash line Solak has just one extra base hit. It’s early, and I’m planning on getting some first hand looks later this Spring. I’ll reserve judgement.

  • Myles Straw - He’s getting as much time at shortstop as he is at his usual center field this season for Triple-A Round Rock. He’s not super exciting for fantasy unless he’s getting everyday at bats. The move to a new position should give him a better shot of breaking into the majors in the next year. Straw likely fits the Jarrod Dyson bill—you’re playing him for speed... Cold water: He’s just not going to play everyday. But when he does play, you’ll get some serious speed.

  • Ke’Bryan Hayes - We’ve talked about the Hayes breakout toward the end of last season, and so far in 2019 it’s carried over. He has seven extra base hits on the young season and has continued to get on base at a high clip. Likely the best third base prospect in the minors. A complete talent through and through… Cold water: Only one homer and he’s struck out more than usual.

  • Julio Rodriguez - Hit on his left hand by a pitch in Friday’s game—X-rays came back negative, and he isn’t expected to miss much time. Prior to that Rodriguez was impressing in his full-season debut, hitting .355/.444/.452… Cold water: He’s hurt but it’s hard to find too many flaws at this point with Rodriguez already far ahead of schedule.

  • Jorge Mateo - How many posts in Mateo’s post-hype sleeper title? After a dreadful 2018, the former Yankees top prospect is looking to bounce back in 2019. So far so good, as Mateo has shown improved plate discipline... Cold water: Not sure an opportunity opens up in Oakland without an injury. He’s also taken a good chunk of time to adjust to each level.

  • MacKenzie Gore - Looks like we’re all getting the Gore we anticipated in the early going. So far through two starts, Gore has gone 10 scoreless innings, surrendering six hits and two walks to 15 punch outs. Elite talents stay elite… Cold water: He’s a pitching prospect…at this point that’s all I can say.

  • Leody Taveras - Is this the breakout we’ve been expecting for years? Or is this just a hot streak? Cold water: I think it’s the latter—Taveras is striking out at a near 40 percent clip, and his .412/.459/.500 line is fueled by a .700 BABIP. No homers and two extra base hits. Not buying it.

  • Josh Van Meter - Who is this guy? Welp, he’s likely one of the best players in the minors you’re not following. He slashed .253/.309/.464 with 11 homers in 2018 with Triple-A Louisville. In 10 games with Louisville this season Van Meter has popped four homers and is slashing .361/.425/.750. Not sure where he fits in Cincinnati, but he’s started at five different defensive positions dating back to the start of last season… Cold water: It’s taken a long time for Van Meter to get to this point, so there’s some skepticism as to whether he’s a future second division regular type.

  • Gavin Lux - The Dodgers shortstop prospect has picked up right where he left off in 2018, slashing .424/.472/.667 on the young season. Lux is going to move up a ton in prospect rankings this year as he continues to destroy the upper minors… Cold water: There’s no ice water here—Lux has been fantastic for a season plus now.

Sunday Start To Watch:

AAA: Dylan Cease goes for Charlotte at 1:35 PM ET against Ke’Bryan Hayes, Cole Tucker, and Indianapolis.

AA: Adonis Medina leads Reading against Garrett Williams and Richmond at 2:15 PM ET in an Eastern League matinee.

A-Advanced: Cristian Javier and Fayetteville take on Myrtle Beach in some prime time (6:05 PM ET) Carolina League action. Casey Mize and Nate Pearson both start in separate Florida State League matchups, but neither are featured on MiLB.TV.

Low-A: 2018 first day picks Sean Hjelle and Logan Gilbert square off in Sally League action, but the game isn’t covered by MiLB. The best watching this Saturday at the Low-A level belongs to Greenville where Red Sox teenager Brayan Bello will make his second start of the season for Greenville vs Rome.