It’s been a whirlwind the last month for yours truly; I spent a three-week period scouring the Cape Cod League in search of the top players for the 2020 and 2021 draft, followed that up with a few weeks of chasing the New York-Penn League, took a vacation, started a new job, and did my usual dad thing. It’s made it harder to produce content at my usual rate, so apologies that it’s been a few weeks since I last dropped anything. It hurts, I want to write everyday and give you my thoughts, but I also want to take the time to get things right. With that in mind, I’ve done a little couch scouting, a little in-person observation, and talked to some smart people outside of my geographic area to get a feel on some of the top young players at the short-season level. I included a trio of higher profile players, because why would I not want to mention Kristian Robinson, George Valera, and Brayan Rocchio?
The Backfield Stars and Big Names
Kristian Robinson, OF Hillsboro Hops (Northwest) Diamondbacks (18) - The biggest name at the short season level, at least for now, has lived up to his hype so far. Hitting .325/.386/.544 with five home runs and six stolen bases. There’s also 37 strikeouts to just 10 walks.
George Valera, OF Mahoning Valley Scrappers (New York-Penn) Indians (18) - Another top name making some noise early in his short season stint. Despite dealing with a multitude of injuries since first signing with the Indians Valera has hit the ground running, hitting .279 with an .905 OPS despite being one of 15 players 18 or under in the circuit. His swing and approach make his hit tool floor incredibly high, and he naturally generates power without selling out for it. I can’t stress enough how devoid of power and approach most teenagers are at this level. It puts into perspective just how remarkable Valera’s 2019 has been.
Brayan Rocchio, SS Mahoning Valley (New York-Penn) Indians (18) - The numbers aren’t quite as strong on the surface, but he’s rarely swung and missed (6.4 SwStr%) and he’s put the ball in the air a fair amount with a 42.9% flyball rate. I’ll catch Mahoning Valley later this month. Hopefully the band is still together at that point.
Johnathan Rodriguez, OF Mahoning Valley (New York-Penn) Indians (19) - A 2017 third rounder out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in PR. He’s spent a couple of seasons in the AZL, and has been slightly above league average during his first 16 games with a wRC+ of 114. There’s questions about his defense, the production has been lacking, and his batted ball profile isn’t great. In speaking with Chris Blessing he voiced concerns over Rodriguez, but recognized it was a single look and there was upside at the dish. Another of the Mahoning Valley Gang I’m excited to see in Auburn.
Gilberto Jimenez, OF Lowell Spinners (New York-Penn) Red Sox (18) - One of the Red Sox Top J2 signings in 2017, Jimenez has been one of the biggest stock risers in the early part of the New York-Penn League season. Hitting .400/.429/.480 through the first 13 games, Jimenez has slowed down a little over his last nine but has still produced good results (.316/.350/.447). An 80 runner with good bat-to-ball skills and an inside-out approach, Jimenez puts his speed to good use, but I echo Jason Pennini’s sentiments that I’d like to see some power to the pullside.
Raynel Delgado, 2B/SS Mahoning Valley (New York-Penn) Indians (19) - Another high upside draft pick the Indians plucked in the sixth round of last year’s draft. Delgado has impressed the likes of JP during extended spring training, and is off to a precocious start with Mahoning Valley. Through 30 games Delgado is slashing .259/.325/.411 with a pair of home runs and three stolen bases. Most impressive is his solid walk rate (9.5%) and ability to man multiple spots in the infield. His strikeouts are high at 30 percent but his swinging strike rate is slightly above average at 12.7 percent.
Jordy Barley, SS Tri-City Dust Devils (Northwest) Padres (19) - Signed in 2016 alongside many of the top young players in the San Diego system such as players like Luis Patiño, Adrian Morejon, Tirso Ornelas, and others. He’s still exciting from a tools standpoint, but he has been unable to get the raw power and plus speed to translate. So far he’s hit .238/.309/.361 with nine extra base hits across 18 contests with Tri-City.
U-20s Of Note
Bladimir Restituyo, MI/OF Boise Hawks (Northwest) Rockies (17) - This one is for the couch scouts in the back. The youngest player currently at the short season level, is slashing .291/.292/.385, with a homer and 11 steals. He’s also rocking the 12th-highest swinging strike rate in the league and has walked once in 122 plate appearances.
Miguel Perez, OF Everett AquaSox (Northwest) Mariners (18) - Alex Jensen of Baseball Farm caught Perez recently and was impressed with Perez’s physicality and aggressive hacks. He was solid in the field, covers ground, and shows at least an average arm. The plate approach however is an issue. How much of a prospect Perez really is will depend upon the development of his hit tool.
Kevin Richards, OF Vermont Lake Monsters (New York-Penn) Athletics (19) - The numbers aren’t great, but when you consider that Richards is three years removed from his signing year and still just 19 it’s easy to remain positive. Richards signed in 2016 and his approach and swing mechanics were as raw as raw could be. He’s a premium athlete with double plus speed and a future in centerfield, worth keeping an eye on in super deep formats.
Steven Leyton, SS Hillsboro Hops (Northwest) Diamondbacks (20) - Leyton started the season in the Midwest League, took a ball off his noggin with our own Matt Thompson in attendance, he returned from the IL seven days later, struggled for a few weeks before being reassigned to extended spring in order to receive some more seasoning. The aggressive assignment out of camp proved too much but Leyton (also known as Brandon Leyton) has gotten back into the groove in Short-Season ball.
Michael Cooper, 1B Mahoning Valley (New York-Penn) Indians (19) - I’m still weeks away from getting a look at Cooper, but I did some digging into the back end of the player stats on the Mahoning Valley page. Cooper is interesting, there’s a raw approach for sure, but the batted ball data is excellent. Baseball HQ’s Chris Blessing recently caught Mahoning Valley on a trip to Ohio and had this to say “raw hitter with some swing path inconsistencies. Bat speed when he wasn’t extending early. Power potential in frame…” Not a bad report for a young bat with some power potential and solid contact skills.
Everson Pereira, OF Staten Island Yankees (New York-Penn) Yankees (18) - I caught a few games with Jason Pennini a few weekends back including batting practice before one and got to see a fair amount of Pereira. There’s a pretty significant bat wrap, and I’m not sure as currently constituted if he’ll really be able to get to his raw power. He’s striking out a ton, pounding balls into the ground, and in general not showing a ton of offense upside.
Antoni Flores, SS Lowell Spinners (New York-Penn) Red Sox (18) - Flores was all the rage in the off-season as Jason Pennini (and others) got a good look at the young shortstop. The approach has been solid, as he gets on base at a high clip, but it’s certainly passive, and I haven’t seen him drive a ball or turn on anything to his pull-side in four looks.
Nicholas Northcut, Lowell Spinners (New York-Penn) Red Sox (20) - Part of a strong class of prep bats the Red Sox scooped in the 2018 draft, Northcut is a third baseman with projectable power and raw approach. He flashes some raw power and puts the ball in the air at a fairly high clip (43.5%). In my trip of Looks I haven’t been floored by Northcut, but he looks like a player with the ability to blossom into a second division regular.
Nick Decker, Lowell Spinners (New York-Penn) Red Sox (19) - Another 2018 prep bat from the aforementioned Red Sox class. Decker has teamed with Gilberto Jimenez, Antoni Flores, and Northcut in a stacked Lowell lineup. Decker has a high-waisted athletic frame with the ability to add good weight. He shows the most refined approach of the Spinners young guns, and overall shows a promising profile of at least average hit and a chance at plus game power.
Ezequiel Tovar, SS Boise Hawks (Northwest) Rockies (17) - The third youngest player in short-season, Tovar at 17 has shown good underlying peripherals despite underwhelming production. He combines a solid batted ball profile (35.6 FB%) and a solid swinging strike rate (15.4%) for a 17-year-old.