It’s been too long, weeks have gone by, I’ve been working the draft coverage, hitting the Cape Cod League in its opening weeks, and waiting for my schedule to free up so I could dump some cold water all over your dreams and fantasy teams.
The Sultan of the Sectional has returned for yet another installment of the critically acclaimed (not critically acclaimed) Cold Water series. Since the last time we spoke the Mariners 2017 first rounder Evan White has been doing unhealthy things to baseballs. How unhealthy? Try a cool slash of .354/.385/.616 with six home runs, and a wRC+ of 170. White has long been known for his advanced approach at the plate racking up a career 19.3 K% to a 9.3 BB%, while slashing .296/.366/.462.
Over this torrid stretch, White has maintained his sub-20% strikeout rate while getting more aggressive in counts, looking to barrel up and out the ball in play. It’s yielded the best power stretch of his minor league career as he’s homered six times since June 2. Should we buy into this new found pop, and is he an add in your shallower dynasty leagues? The short answer is yes. When a first baseman with pedigree starts to unlock the part of his game many have questioned, it’s worthwhile to get shares while you still can. With Dan Vogelbach better suited for DH and White being one of the better defensive first baseman in the minors, it seems like by 2020 we could see White capture the role and not relinquish it for sometime. It’s unlikely we see Mr. White for more than a cup of coffee in 2019, but he’s hitting in the upper-minors and I have little doubt he can continue his power-hitting ways in the Moon-like environment of the PCL.
Jake Fraley, OF Mariners - Acquired in the Mallex Smith trade with Tampa, Fraley was a second round comp pick from LSU with a variety of skills but some questions regarding his overall impact and ability to stick as an everyday guy. An injury plagued 2018 limited the left handed hitting outfielder to just 66 games with Charlotte. So far Fraley has been on a tear first slashing .313/.386/.539 with 11 home runs and 16 steals in 61 Double-A contests before getting the promotion to Triple-A Tacoma earlier this week. He didn’t slow down following the promotion either, going 2-for-4 with a home run, a steal, and a walk in his first game, followed by a 1-for-4 on Sunday with a triple off Dinelson Lamet. He’s putting the ball in the air more and has the supporting skills (speed, approach, solid outfield defense) to earn a full-time role later this summer. Great buy, though he’s likely owned, and not such an awful stash in redraft. Fraley’s stock is ticking way up.
Cold Water: I don’t foresee a superstar, but he’s got a nice set of skills. Based on what you likely paid to acquire Fraley there’s not too much negative to add.
Sixto Sanchez, RHP Marlins - The fire-balling right-hander Miami received in exchange for J.T. Realmuto is fully healthy and pitching well once again. Over the last month he’s shown good control (4 BB in 34.1 IP), limited runs, and struck out around a batter an inning. Sixto’s ability to miss bats has ticked up some this year as he’s jumped levels. He’s still not in elite company best exemplified by his somewhat pedestrian 11.4 SwStr%. He utilizes two variations on his fastball, a four-seamer with the ability to miss bats, and a two-seamer that gets weak contact. His fastballs have been sitting in the upper 90s and velocity comes easily to Sixto, but it’s his secondaries working in a way that allows him to miss bats with consistency. That hasn’t come to fruition yet. It will be dependent upon his ability to sequence effectively and the consistency of his changeup. Chris Blessing caught Sixto recently, and aided me in freshening up my understanding of his arsenal. If you’re not following Chris you should, and it would be worth you money to get a Baseball HQ sub.
Cold Water: The issue has mostly been health with Sanchez. He’s never missed as many bats as his stuff dictates and generally his hype is mostly rooted in his fastball velocity. It’s great stuff, and the Marlins are on a roll, perhaps he’s creeping toward his ceiling.
Esteury Ruiz, 2B Padres - Props to Ray Butler of Prospects 365 for this dig on Minor Graphs. A player who’s tools and baserunning acumen have long made him one of my favorites in dynasty. The second baseman is doing his usual, stealing bases at a high clip, swinging and missing and showing the baseline of at least average power. The last month he hasn’t put many balls over the fence, but he’s showing an increased ability to get on base, which should help him use his speed.
Cold Water: It’s the Cal League, we should be seeing power gains from Ruiz, and while we’re seeing some, it’s not enough to warrant an actual grade change. It’s an interesting set of skills, but he’s a player with some flaws.
Marco Luciano, SS Giants - The 17-year-old wunderkind for the 2019 season, Luciano is making his owners feel really smart through the first six games of his professional career. So far Luciano has slashed .345/.441/.793 with three home runs in his first week, and is getting rave reviews from those at the back fields including our own Jason Pennini. There’s massive upside with Luciano and he’s a player to add or one to acquire in all formats. Top 10 prospect upside.
Cold Water: The power is plus and it’s already playing in games at 17 years old. The issue is the hit tool isn’t necessarily on par with come of the company in the top prospects in the game. That’s not to say he won’t improve his bat to ball, but the hit tool is not elite at this point. In other words there will be some swing and miss.
C.J. Abrams, SS Padres - One of the biggest question marks coming out of the recent draft was just how good is CJ Abrams? The shortstop out of Blessed Trinity in Georgia has shut up his critics if only temporarily by slashing .485/.514/.697, with a home run and a three steals. There’s a five-tool player here and another notch in A.J. Preller’s amateur scouting departments belt.
Cold Water: There’s still concerns regarding all the tools translating, and it’s hard to take much away from rookie ball numbers on the surface, that’s not to say the reports haven’t glowing, they have. But let’s not get too wild about a week of games.
Brendan McKay, LHP/DH Rays - One of the top left-handed arms in the minors since we last discussed McKay has moved all the way up to Triple-A. Unfortunately I missed McKay in the Durham series, as he went Saturday. That said he’s looked excellent across five appearances and 25 innings in the International League, striking out 26 while walking just six. He’s also hit well at the plate with four home runs in just 49 at bats, while walking at a 16.3% clip. Should have serious impact as a pitcher, with an outside shot he hits 10-12 homers annually with 250 plate appearances as a DH and pinch-hitter.
Cold Water: McKay doesn’t miss as many at bats as you would like and despite the difficulty hitter have squaring up his stuff, he’s still living off a very unrealistic BABIP (.203). McKay the hitter is almost a three outcome DH, which has it’s place but I don’t expect him to be Shohei Ohtani at the plate.
Ronny Mauricio, SS Mets - The Mets’ top hitting prospect has been on a tear the last month in the Sally slashing .311/.321/.447 and is starting to show his plus raw in games. He has 11 extra base hits since May 23, which is nearly double what he did his first two months of the season. He hasn’t sacrificed his ability to put bat to ball either. This is an elite hitting talent, and I think his rank will surprise you in my Top 100 list in our forthcoming mid-season fantasy ranks.
Cold Water: Ronny can hit, but Ronny HATES the walks. A two percent walk rate isn’t going to cut it. He has time to add to this number, but you need to walk at the major league level unless you’re Javy Baez. Then again maybe he is… (probably not)
Thad Ward, RHP Red Sox - Moved up to High-A Salem earlier this week after thoroughly dominating the Sally League to the tune of 16 earned runs in 72.1 IP with 87 punch outs to 25 walks. This is supported by strong peripherals as well with a 2.90 FIP, 11.9 SwStr%, and an arsenal that’s featured five different offerings, but only four at a time. Ditched his inconsistent changeup, for a cutter that flashes above average. He features a show me curveball and a slider as well.
Cold Water: My man showed up to High-A and done lost all his control in the process. He walked seven in his Salem debut Sunday but somehow escaped with just one run over 4.1 IP. Certainly something to watch as it’s hard to trust college arms in Low-A often they’re just too advanced for their competition and impossible to get a read on.
Luis Urias, 2B Padres - Can they call this guy up already? He’s essentially the best statistical hitter on the planet. He’s slashing .336/.424/.651 with 17 home runs, a total that’s more than double his single season high and two away from his career total entering the season. To say he’s added the power to his game is an understatement. Many have long thought the power was coming and it seems to be here. Lesson: never write off an advanced hit tool.
Cold Water: Are they going to ever call him up? Will the less friendly confines of Petco dim the power production to a flicker? All this and more on the next episode of Padres Confidential.
Matthew Liberatore, LHP Rays - You can argue that Liberatore was the top prep arm in the 2018 draft, and certainly his bonus from the Rays backs that up. So far this year the tall lefty from the Arizona sun has been just as hot (you like that corny ass line? I know you do!). Through 41 innings over seven starts Liberatore has posted a 1.76 ERA backed by a 2.80 FIP, and .170 BAA. Liberatore is tough to square up, he’s also missing a fair amount of at bats despite lower strikeout numbers. His 13 SwStr% is nothing to sneeze at.
Cold Water: His 24.7 K% rate and 8.9 BB% leave something to be desired, but it’s not like he isn’t getting swings and misses, see above at aforementioned swinging strike rate. The control is the bigger issue for me. I’d like to see that tick up a little bit more before getting too caught up in Liberatore’s upside.
Triston Casas, 1B/3B Red Sox - The big-bodied slugger is justifying his first-round pedigree so far in Greenville. A player that technically was a 2019 draft choice re-declared for the 2018 draft, Casas is slashing .264/.341/.510 with 13 home runs and a 10 BB%. Casas was my number two prospect in the Sox system coming into the year and with Michael Chavis graduating he slides into the top spot in the system. Massive 70 raw power and some on base ability, not too shabby a debut for the 19-year-old.
Cold Water: Easy to spot: too many groundballs (50.3 GB%) and still some serious swing and miss (14.8 SwStr%). Two areas the young buck should likely overcome… we hope. Not too much of a concern, but it’s something to monitor.
Luis Robert, OF White Sox - After destroying the high-A level over the first month or so of the season, Robert has kicked it into gear across 45 Double-A contests slashing .315/.358/.536 with seven home runs and 13 stolen bases. In my opinion Robert is one of perhaps a dozen players in the minors with true first-round fantasy talent. He hits for power, steals bases, and shows enough contact skills to be dangerous. If Robert can get his walk rate close to 10 percent he’s going to be fantasy gold very shortly.
Cold Water: My man is the king of the high BABIP hitters, and he’s not all that efficient on the bases. I’m picking nits for sure, but this ain’t no disco, it’s cold water.
Jo Adell, OF Angels - The 10th overall pick back in 2017 is making nine other teams look foolish at the moment. Upon returning to Double-A following an early season injury and rehab stint in the Cal League, Adell is seeing beach balls, slashing .403/.471/.694 upon returning with three home runs and a 14.3 K%(!). Those are serious numbers, factor in the 4-for-4 on the bases, and we have one of those first round talents I talked about.
Cold Water: Hmmmm, Ahhhhh, I… wish it was more games I guess? There’s not too much negative to throw Adell’s way.
Leody Tavares, OF Rangers - Promoted to Double-A Frisco, Tavares is a player we’ve been writing about seemingly forever, but he’s done little to warrant the love up until this season. So far in 2019 Leody is starting to deliver on his promise, hitting .297 with 21 steals while walking at a 10.6 percent clip. He’s made some incremental increases to his profile, putting the ball in the air more, though it hasn’t led to a big power jump. He’s 20 years old at Double-A, so suffice it to say he’s back on track.
Cold Water: The hitting and speed is nice, but where’s the power? If Leody starts to hit for a little more power, his stock could tick up to pre-2018 levels. With a ton of opposite field contact there’s certainly a path to increased power but tapping into the pullside is easier said than done for some players.
Monte Harrison, OF Marlins - Few players possess the power and speed combo that Monte Harrison does. This is what makes the Marlins outfield prospect one of the most exciting for fantasy purposes. He’s cut six percentage points from his strikeout rate year over year despite jumping levels, while his walk rate is up by 3.5 points year over year. He’s been nearly flawless on the bases in Triple-A, only caught once in 21 attempts. There’s an exciting albeit frustrating talent in Harrison.
Cold Water: He’s still striking out too much despite the improvements, and he’s a little too oppo-heavy at times, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing with his speed. He’s only hitting .286 despite a BABIP near-.390, meaning there’s some unevenness in the profile. There’s also a lot more groundballs than you’d like to see (51.7 GB%), and his 17.1 SwStr% is one of the highest in Triple-A. Neither are great signs for future success, but Harrison might be able to make it work with his raw talent. That said, there’s improvements that still need to be made.
Carter Kieboom, SS Nationals - Over the course of the last year I’ve had my doubts about just how good the 2016 first rounder could be. I came out of 2018 wondering if his late season swoon in Double-A was due to fatigue or something being exploited in his game. I remember chatting with Jason Pennini about his looks in the AFL, and they jived better with my first look at Kieboom than my last few. So far this season the better of the two Kieboom’s has surfaced in Triple-A, and in many ways this version has been super-sized. Few players bring the raw hitting skills Kieboom does. He hits for contact (7.8 SwStr%), power (.300 ISO, .631 SLG, 32.5 Hard%), and gets on base (16.9 BB%). That combination of skills and the ability to stick in the dirt makes Kieboom one of my favorite prospects.
Cold Water: I wish he ran a little bit more, some of the power should come with the usual PCL skepticism, his first taste of the bigs wasn’t exactly peachy either. I’m digging a little bit here, but it’s not to say Kieboom is flawless.
Aaron Ashby, LHP Brewers - The 2018 fourth rounder out of Crowder College is nasty, mixing four pitches, including two breaking balls that flash above average, a fastball that touches 94, and an average changeup he shows some feel for. He’s boasting the 10th-highest swinging strike rate in the minors, and one of two in the top ten in SwStr% that pairs it with a 50%+ groundball rate.
Cold Water: He’s still a college arm with some command issues dominating in the low minors. Definitely a profile to follow, but don’t crown him.
Jazz Chisholm, SS Diamondbacks - Few players hit the ball harder than Jazz-Uno and there are even fewer with his level of swagger and excitement. The combination of power, speed, and on base skills give Chisholm an outside shot of developing into a top ten prospect.
Cold Water: One problem is the hit tool is a 40 or worse FV at the moment. His strikeout rate is above-30%, and his swinging strike is 14.7%, the combination of a somewhat passive approach and just plain swinging and missing is limiting his upside. Much of the swing and miss is due to his bat path. Bat path giveth, bat path taketh.
George Valera, OF Indians - I am here for Valera mashing. Always have been always will be. Through 10 games and 44 plate appearances Valera is slashing .333/.409/.641 with three home runs and 11 strikeouts to five walks. The batted ball profile looks gorgeous with a 42.9 FB%, 25 LD%, and a 9.8% SwStr%.
Cold Water: He’s striking out a little more than I would have hoped and Valera has dealt with injuries already in his young career.
Isan Diaz, 2B Marlins - I’ve always loved Diaz dating back to before the draft. His bat path will always lead to some swing and miss, but he seems to be getting it under control in Triple-A. So far on the season Diaz is slashing .289/.379/.540 with 16 bombs and a much improved 21.8 K%. Over the last month Diaz has been one of the hottest bats in the minors slashing .340/.413/.680 with eight home runs. There’s certainly an outside shot we see Diaz in the next month in Miami.
Cold Water: A player that’s notorious for his hot streaks, Diaz is just as famous for his cold streaks. I would expect there to be some serious up and down moments his first season or two in the bigs, but weather the storm.