If you asked me point blank to name one player outside the Top 100 this pre-season that’s moved onto the list, the first player that would come to mind is Dylan Carlson. A 2016 compensation round pick, Carlson has quietly rose through the ranks. Putting together a solid season last year in the Florida State League where he produced a wRC+ of 115 despite being nearly three and half years younger than the average competition, a good batted ball profile has long pointed to more power potential, but not until 2019 has Carlson found that pop in games. Just 39 contests into his age 20 season, Carlson has produced a .240 ISO (.110 higher than his career average) and has maintained his 10%+ walk rate and sub-20% strikeout rate.
The odd thing about Carlson’s breakout is it’s come at the expense of his fly ball rate, which is at a career low 26.6%. He’s also spraying the ball all over the field, seeing a nine percent jump in his opposite field contact. Here’s the catch: his line drive rate is up to 29 percent. Well that means he’s making lots of hard contact then right? Well, maybe not... Checking Rotowire.com’s MiLB batted ball data his hard hit rate isn’t that high. Still, not that concerning, he’s certainly making quality contact to all fields and I’m always a little weary of minor league line drive and fly ball rates. Just 20, Carlson has plenty of time to grow, and he’s performing impressively following an aggressive assignment. Add him where you can in dynasty leagues.
MacKenzie Gore, LHP Padres - If you jumped off the MacKenzie Gore train after 2018 you might want to skip ahead. The 2017 second overall pick pitched five scoreless innings Friday, while allowing two hits, striking out six, and walking one. Gore’s ERA now sits at 1.07 ERA. One of the most impressive elements of Gore’s performance statistically is the volume of swing strikes. The lefty had 10 on Tuesday, and has double-digit swinging strikes in seven of eight starts. His 16.6 SwStr% rate is the third highest in the California League and his .153 batting average against is the lowest on the circuit. How much longer until Gore is promoted to Double-A?
Cold Water: He’s a pitching prospect. Pretty much all I can say. I mean, he’s doing this in the Cal League for Christ sakes!
Trevor Larnach, OF Twins - After hitting .244/.297/.322 in April, Larnach has turned it on since the calendar flipped to May slashing .361/.451/.590 with a 14.1 BB% and nine extra base hits. His season line now sits at .291/.360/.430 after his torrid stretch.
Cold Water: As an advanced college bat we expect Larnach to ace the A-ball levels. In many ways we won’t really know what we have until he reaches Double-A.
Jonathan India, 3B Reds - Another top college bat from the 2018 draft that struggled in the early weeks of the Florida State League season but has turned it around in May. On the month he’s slashing .308/.438/.558, and is walking at a 15.6 percent clip. Though I’d take Nolan Gorman and Jarred Kelenic ahead of him in a FYPD re-do, I still love India long term. He’s blessed with great hands, and bat speed India should see statistical power gains once he graduates from the pitching friendly FSL.
Cold Water: Second verse same as the first. India is an advanced college bat from the top of the draft, we expect him to master A-ball. That doesn’t mean there won’t be struggles, adjustment periods, etc. Development isn’t linear.
Daniel Johnson, OF Indians - Traded for Yan Gomes in the off-season, Johnson had a mediocre season at Harrisburg last year. Now in a new organization Johnson seems to have found his stroke, making fly ball and line drive contact at the highest clips of his career. It has not come at the expense of his approach either, as Johnson has nearly doubled his 2018 walk rate, while cutting his strikeout rate year over year. The improvements in his batted ball profile have manifested themselves in his a career best slugging percentage of .574. In addition to his skills at the plate, Johnson is a dangerous base stealer with 63 steals in 84 attempts spanning his minor league career. He also possesses one of the best outfield arms in the minors making him a good fit for a corner outfield spot in the future.
Cold Water: Johnson has always been a streaky hitter and he does have six of his nine homers in the last ten games. I want to buy the breakout, and believe he’s worth a speculative flier in most leagues, but I need a little more sustained success to jump in with both feet.
Nate Pearson, RHP Blue Jays - The massive right-hander has now made three starts in Double-A (though one was a truncated two-inning performance Monday), and his line sits at 11 IP, 9 hits, 2 walks, 3 ER, and 17 K.
Cold Water: He threw 78 pitches over four innings on Sunday, allowing three runs on seven hits, and two walks, striking out six. There will be some growing pains for Pearson, especially considering his lack of professional experience. This is still a special arm, and it’s early in his development.
Monte Harrison, OF Marlins - The outfielder is having a strong campaign in the first two months with New Orleans. His line is now up to .288/.370/.466, with six homers and 16 stolen bases. He’s actually yet to be caught on the bases this season, a pretty telling number at Triple-A. With opportunity in Miami at some point his season Harrison is knocking upon opportunity’s door.
Cold Water: Harrison’s strikeout rate has improved year over year, but it’s still over 30 percent in 2019. The near 11 percent walk rate softens that blow a little, but the K rate still scares me at the MLB level. If Harrison could get his strikeout rate in the 25-26% range, he could be deadly.
Brady Singer, RHP Royals - The Royals top pick in the 2018 draft was dealing on Thursday going six scoreless on 95 pitches (64 strikes) while striking out a career high 10 backed by 14 swinging strikes, also a career high.
Cold Water: Despite good overall numbers on the season, Singer hasn’t been overpowering A-ball hitters with his three-pitch mix and has struggled to command his two fastball variations.
Jasseel De La Cruz, RHP Braves - Threw High-A Florida’s first ever no-hitter on 89 pitches on Saturday and was promoted to Double-A on Sunday. De La Cruz works 92-95 on the fastball touching 97, mixing in a plus slider, his best pitch, and an improving changeup. He’s now jumped two levels since the beginning of 2019, making four starts at Low-A Rome, and High-A Florida respectively. His 15 SwStr% is the 14th highest mark in the minors this season, backing the improvements in K%. His control has taken a step forward too, with a career best 6.7% walk rate.
Cold Water: He’s not going to cost you anything in dynasty leagues, well he might now, but still not a ton. There’s really not a lot of downside. He’s still a somewhat raw arm working on fastball command and feel for his changeup. He can nail down both, De La Cruz can shoot into the Atlanta rotation by 2021. If he doesn’t he’ll likely end up in the bullpen or as a shuttle starter.
Logan Gilbert, RHP Mariners - Had his best performance of the season Sunday, following up Tuesday’s five shutout innings with seven shutout innings on 91 pitches. Gilbert struck out 11 while allowing just two baserunners to reach. He now sits at 3-0 through seven starts across both levels of A-Ball with a 53/9 K/BB in 36 innings.
Cold Water: Gilbert needs to stay healthy and show and can continue to find success when he hits the upper minors. All the ingredients are there for a special arm.
Royce Lewis, SS Twins - What the hell is going on with Royce Lewis?!? This question is number two on the “commenter Hot 100” only behind “What’s wrong with Forrest Whitley” and just ahead of “What’s Yordan Alvarez’s promotion date?”. The top overall pick in the 2017 draft is looking to put a putrid April (.209/.305/.253) behind him, and so far in May he’s doing a good job. Through 17 games in May, Lewis is slashing .271/.320/.457 and connected for his first homer of the season on Friday night.
Cold Water: Don’t stop believing is more than just a great karaoke song. Lewis will come around, but I think it’s legit to question some of the more lofty hit tool grades at this point. But remember folks, it’s still early.
Kevin Cron, 1B/3B Diamondbacks - The minor league home run leader, Cron is up to 18 gopher balls on the season, one ahead of the Astros’ Yordan Alvarez. The hard hit rate numbers on Rotowire back this up with his 42.1% fitting in between the aforementioned Alvarez and Austin Riley. This boy hits tanks, walks at a high clip (14% in 2019), and strikes out less than 20% of the time. It’s just a matter of time before he gets his shot.
Cold Water: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he’s 26. Other than that there’s not much to knock with Cron’s game. I really like the profile.
Ryan Mountcastle, 1B Orioles - Do I write about Mountcastle every week? Just about. The approach still stinks, and you’d like to see him hitting for more juiced ball power, but uses making a lot of good contact. A 29.9% line drive rate and a healthy 35% fly ball rate, I think Mountcastle will bring value immediately when promoted to Baltimore.
Cold Water: The approach and I want more homers.
Carter Kieboom, SS Nationals - Made his major league debut earlier this season, but struggled in his 11 games. He took a few games to settle back into life in the PCL, but had a big weekend going 7-for-16 with two home runs in this weekend’s four game slate with Sacramento.
Cold Water: He wasn’t quite ready for prime time, but he’s still one of the elite talents in the minor leagues. Don’t think he’ll get a shot at a full time role this season unless there are significant injuries in the Nationals infield. There’s still an outside chance he disposes Brian Dozier at second, but that remains to be seen.
Zac Lowther, LHP Orioles - This season seemingly all of the Orioles arms are trending up under the new administration. Entering May, Zac Lowther was one of the few starters that had been somewhat disappointing. Fast forward a few weeks and through four starts in May, Lowther is 3-1 with a 0.75 ERA, 1.87 FIP, 27.2 K%, and a 5.4 BB%. Despite moving up to Double-A the ability to miss bats has not disappeared. His 12.3 SwStr% ranks ninth in the Eastern League circuit. It’s been trending upward too, with a 13.7% mark over his last five turns. It’s Lowther’s elite deception, fueled by his ability to hide the ball for most of his delivery, and then pair it with excellent extension, Lowther creates a very uncomfortable at bat for hitters.
Cold Water: There were some struggles early on and he’s never had much velocity on his fastball. Lowther’s brand of pitching leads to questions about sustained success at the big league level. Despite this, Lowther has continued to defy expectations.
Moises Gomez, OF Rays - The 20-year-old slugger, had a rough go of it in April slashing .210/.301/.333 with 30 strikeouts in 81 at bats. However, Gomez is another player making up for it through two-thirds of May slashing .263/.313/.509 with three homers.
Cold Water: He still striking out at an astronomical rate of 40 percent this month. Much of his success in May is fueled by a few big games including Sunday’s 3-for-5, two homer effort.
Mitch Keller, RHP Pittsburgh - There was rampant speculation that Keller would be called up on Wednesday after having his next start bumped. Pirates GM Neil Huntington threw some cold water on those hopes Sunday, saying they would like Keller to further develop his new cutter. Despite the juiced balls Keller has improved year over year, currently sitting at a 3.83 ERA, with a 28.6 K%.
Cold Water: His 10.9 BB% is the highest of his career, and his 10.8 SwStr% is just mediocre. He’s allowing a fair amount of hits as well, with more than a hit per inning. I still think Keller has legit stuff, and a shot to be a mid-rotation piece one day, but he’s still got a ways to go.
Nick Solak, 2B/OF Rays - The Rays acquired Solak in the three-team Steven Souza - Brandon Drury trade and has a real shot to be the best player moved in the deal. Solak has displayed excellent on base skills posting a 11.8 BB% since the beginning of 2018. To go along with the on-base skills Solak shows contact ability, with a .286 batting average the last two years combined. As well as some game pop (.179 isolated slugging), and the ability to steal bases (22-for-29). He’s been scorching hot the last 10 games hitting .371/.410/.771 with four home runs.
Cold Water: The playing time situation in Tampa is a little murky, but a couple of injuries could open up some opportunity for Solak. He’s also not running much this year in Durham, which without elite power could damper his overall line a little for fantasy if the trend continues at the the highest level.
Derek Hill, OF Tigers - Is this a breakout? I think this might be. In Double-A Hill is showing his best power numbers of his career, connecting for his fifth homer of the season on Saturday. The number is a new career high and in just 33 games, his .471 slugging percentage is also a career high. He’s actually hitting the ball pretty hard with a 30.1 Hard% according to Rotowire (Unpaid Plug: this data is worth a subscription). Hill has always possessed elite speed, stealing 25 or more bases in four consecutive minor league seasons.
Cold Water: He’s hitting less fly balls than ever before, walking less, and striking out 30 percent of the time. Also despite the 79 SB% on the bases over his career, that number has decreased the last two seasons sitting at 72 percent between High-A and Double-A, and just 63 percent this season. He’s pushed himself into a fourth outfielder profile, but he has a ways to go to conquer the full-time regular hurdle.
Adam Haseley, OF Phillies - The 2017 first rounder moved into the three hole in the Fightin’ Phillies lineup on April 27 and has been on fire since, slashing .328/.413/.625 with a 12 BB% and a 13.3 K% over that time. He’s had an excellent run over the last week connecting for three homers going 8-for-21 with a steal.
Cold Water: He’s still making mostly line drive contact due to a lack of lift in his swing path. He’s also become incredibly pull happy this year. He’s been making good contact, and producing so far this year. I’m willing to write off the early season struggles due to the cold weather of the Northeast. Should be knocking on the door for a callup to the Iron Pigs in the coming weeks. How his power plays with the new balls will be interesting to watch.
Seth Beer, 1B/OF Astros - Promoted to AA Corpus Christi, connecting for his first Double-A long ball on Saturday. The former Clemson star is 4-for-9 with 2 walks, 2 hit by pitch, 3 runs, and 3 RBI in his first three games. Threes all around. I’m just going to leave this here...