Anthony Franco’s debut story with Prospects Live is a dive into Garrett Stallings of Tennessee.
Professional baseball is part of San Antonio in the way that the people generally remember San Antonio is the second biggest city in Texas; it’s there, sure, but it isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
One of my favorite shows on TV is Adam Ruins Everything. If you haven’t seen the show it’s on Netflix, check it out, ignore his haircut. Essentially Adam Conover, the host, disproves a common misconception shared by a majority of the population. Today I attempt to do the same, but with a baseball slant, as I take on “The Rockies block their prospects” myth. My name is Ralph Lifshitz and this is Planting Flags!
Welcome to the first installment of my Planting Flags series! I know, great name right? I was going to call it pitching tents, but I was trying to avoid additional restraining orders that could potentially hamper my 2019 in-season coverage.
So Planting Flags, what the hell is it about? Simple, I drop a spicy take regarding a player and then explain why this potential outcome is possible. Perhaps very possible. That said, we’re keeping these takes as spicy as possible, because let’s be frank, this post isn’t all that interesting if I say something that the general consensus agrees with. So, the goal here is be both spicy and responsible. Meaning I’m not going to make a statement that has a 1% chance of coming to fruition, so instead we’ll live in the neat 20%-30% range. Now without further ado, let’s make our statement.
Here at Prospects Live, we use a standard four levels of risk when evaluating the overall future value of prospects. Using the 20-80 Scale, we assign a grade based on overall production. The SFV grades are not an average or combination of the 5 tools. Rather, it paints the picture on player value and the risk assigned to the SFV grade is the amount of risk in order to reach the grade.
Eight years after leaving the Dodgers, a soon-to-be 36-year-old Russell Martin is going back to the team where he broke out and proved that even catchers are capable of stealing bags. The Toronto Blue Jays, well equipped with rookie Danny Jansen heading into 2019, shipped Martin and cash to the Dodgers in exchange for prospects SS Ronny Brito and RHP Andrew Sopko.
This deal is a perfect one for both sides after the Mets signed Wilson Ramos and the Indians dealt away Yan Gomes. The Mets have Travis d’Arnaud and Tomas Nido around to backup Ramos if need be, and that made Kevin Plawecki expendable. The Indians have been in search of a backstop all off-season after sending Yan Gomes to Washington in one of their many cost-cutting moves of the winter.
Indians Receive Kevin Plawecki
The presence of Travis d’Arnaud and Tomas Nido behind newly signed Wilson Ramos made Kevin Plawecki the odd-man out for the Mets.
Plawecki was the Mets first-round pick in 2012 out of the University of Purdue. He’s spent part of four seasons in the big leagues with the Mets, and has been an above-average offensive catcher for the last two due to the plus raw power and above-average walk rates. The sub-par hit tool suffocates the plus power, and his ~48% ground ball rate over the last two seasons doesn’t help. Steamer projects Plawecki to hit .241/.313/.384, with seven homers in 296 PAs over 75 games. He should compete with Roberto Perez and Eric Haase for the starting catching job and would be a low-end fantasy option.
Mets acquire Walker Lockett, RHP, and Sam Haggerty, 3B
Walker Lockett made his Major League debut with the Padres last year and was moved to the Indians as part of the Padres 40-man roster crunch this December. It didn’t last long, and now the former top prospect is on the move again, this time to the Mets. This is what I wrote about Lockett in December:
“The Padres drafted the 6-foot-5 righty in the 4th round of the 2012 draft. He has battled shoulder and blister issues throughout his pro career thus far. He finally made his MLB debut on June 1st, 2018 filling in for the injured Joey Lucchesi. Lockett ended up appearing in four games for the Padres, making three starts and posting a disappointing 9.60 ERA. In 133.1 innings over 23 starts for Triple-A El Paso, Lockett struck out nearly eight batters per nine and had a 4.73 ERA (4.58 FIP). Lockett throws a 91-93 MPH fastball with some run and sink, an 80 MPH curve and mid 80s change.”
Nothing has changed here, and until Lockett finds a weapon to use against lefties its hard to project him as anything other than a depth piece. He should spend most of 2019 at the Mets new Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse.
Sam Haggerty was one of my last cuts from my Indians top 30 list and ultimately didn’t make the list due to his inability to stay healthy. Injuries hit Haggerty hard throughout his professional and amateur career at the University of New Mexico. He fell down to the 25th round due to an oblique injury that he played through, and the oblique popped up again in 2017. He missed some time in 2018 due to a shoulder injury.
His best offensive season came in 2017 while he was in High-A, and he hit .253/.355/.398 with three homers and 49 stolen bases over 501 PAs and 112 games played. The hit tool and power tool are both below-average, and always will be. Haggerty’s offensive value comes from plus speed and his ability to take a walk. He’s posted walk rates of over 11% at every stop and had a 15.9% walk rate in 2018 across Double-A and his Triple-A cup of coffee. He profiles as a utility option at the big league level but I’m worried he won’t hit enough to make up for the fact that he doesn’t play shortstop. He’s a strong defender at third and second base and there’s no reason to think he couldn’t be an asset in the outfield, but if he doesn’t hit it doesn’t matter. Haggerty is worthy of consideration for the backend of the Mets top 30.
Brodie Van Wagenen loves trades. We love trades. We love Brodie Van Wagenen? Time will tell on that last one but the former player agent and now Mets GM has made some significant changes to the Mets roster since taking over. This trade has the Mets acquiring athletic CF Keon Broxton in exchange for RHP Adam Hill, RHP Bobby Wahl and 2B Felix Valerio. Prospects Live’s Jason Woodell was in charge of the original Mets top 30, and he ranked RHP Bobby Wahl 25 and 2B Felix Valerio number 27, and Adam Hill was unranked but was the Mets fourth round selection this past June. The Mets pickup an elite gloveman in center with some speed and pop. The Brewers scoop up a potential bullpen piece for this year in Bobby Wahl, a future MLB starter in Adam Hill and a DSL lotto ticket in Felix Valerio.
Mets Receive Keon Broxton
The Mets acquisition of Keon Broxton means that he is likely their opening day centerfielder with Brandon Nimmo in right and Michael Conforto in left. The Mets needed some depth with the ever fragile Juan Lagares and Yoenis Cespedes, who is already hurt (bone spurs in heels surgically removed) as the only others on the 40-man. Juan Lagares has proven throughout his career that he simply cannot stay healthy, and this move could be either to keep him healthy or flush him out of flushing entirely.
For my money Broxton becomes the best outfield defender on the Mets 40-man, and is a better fit for a Mets team that can use his strong defense more than a Milwaukee club that has Lorenzo Cain patrolling center as well as Christian Yelich on one of the corners and Corey Ray, Tyrone Taylor and Troy Stokes Jr. in the upper minors. Broxton was the Brewers primary centerfielder in 2017 and hit .220/.299/.420 with 20 homers and 21 stolen bases while walking at an 8.6% clip and striking out at a staggering 37.8% rate. His 175 strikeouts were tenth worst in baseball that year. His 2018 season saw him spend most of his time in Triple-A down in Colorado Springs, which is one of the most offensive parks in all of professional baseball. Over an 82 game stretch there Broxton hit .254/.323/.421 with 10 homers and 27 steals, but clearly didn’t think he belonged there, and he was probably right. The defense is Gold Glove caliber, and at 28-years old he likely is what he is as a hitter. Broxton is out of options and will have to spend the entirety of 2019 on the big league roster or the Mets will have to expose him to waivers.
Brewers acquire Bobby Wahl, RHP, Adam Hill, RHP, and Felix Valerio, 2B
Bobby Wahl is the Major League ready piece in this deal, and could work in some low leverage spots in the Milwaukee pen right out of the gate. The former fifth round pick by the A’s in 2013, Wahl now finds himself with his third organization in six months after a brief stop with the Mets as part of the Jeurys Familia trade. Wahl has pitched in 14 career big league games in his career thus far and has a 6.92 ERA to show for it. He can miss bats, and his 12.5% SwStr rate is the same as guys like Aaron Nola and Luis Severino, but he has poor command. Wahl also led all Triple-A relievers in K%, K-BB% and the previously mentioned swinging strike rate. Here’s what our own Jason Woodell wrote about him:
“He throws 4 pitches, which is odd for a career reliever. His fastball sits 96 and he also features a change-up, curveball, and slider. Everything Wahl throws is hard and he lacks separation between his three off-speed pitches. His stuff generates swing-and-miss when he stays in the zone, but his ceiling is limited by below-average command.”
Adam Hill was the Mets fourth rounder out of South Carolina after a strong three year run in the Gamecocks rotation. At 6-foot-6, 185 pounds, Hill projects to be a future mid-rotation arm at best, or an innings eating back-end starter at worst. Hill throws a 90-93 MPH fastball which he relies on heavily. His primary secondary is a low-80s slider and he throws the two pitches in any count. His changeup is his primary weapon against lefties. He showed he was too advanced for short-season ball in his small 15.1 inning sample as he racked up 26 strikeouts. He checks in at number 19 on the Brewers top 30 list.
Felix Valerio is the lotto ticket portion of this deal for the Brewers, but there’s a lot to like here. Valerio paced the Dominican Summer League with 84 hits and his 6.9% strikeout rate was fourth lowest in the league for qualified hitters. At only 5-foot-7 Valerio is going to have to continue to hit and will have to earn every opportunity he gets but so far so good. He hit .319/.409/.433 with 22 extra base hits and 16 steals over 67 games and should make his stateside debut next year as an 18-year old.
Welcome to the first post of the New Year! No, it’s not our army of Top 100 posts, we’re still putting the finishing touches on those, but they’re coming soon, we promise. Instead, as you’re still recovering from last night’s shenanigans, we’d like to have a little bit of fun.
When the calendar flips to a new year, we take a little time to reflect on the past and think about how we’d like to change. Sometimes our hopes to change are small things. Other times they’re unreasonable asks! But a wish list is just that — something that you can dream on while the year is still free of pessimism.
Below you’ll find something each of us here at Prospects Live would like to see different in the 2019 minor league season. Enjoy and let’s make 2019 a great one.
More Aggressive Assignments
Some teams simply don’t give a damn about slowly bringing a player up through the minor league system. I love that. Shout out to the Braves, the modern leaders in this practice. Mike Soroka, Bryse Wilson and Ronald Acuña all debuted at 20 after flying through the minors. I’d like to see more of this with the players who deserve it. Here are some players that should be aggressively assigned to open 2019 so we can see just how good they are:
Wander Franco: (wish) High-A — (likely) A
Alex Kiriloff (wish) AAA — (likely) AA
Eric Pardinho (wish) High-A — (likely) A
Keston Hiura (wish) MLB — (likely) AAA
Vidal Brujan (wish) AA — (likely) High-A
Chris Paddack (wish) AAA — (likely) AA
Julio Rodriguez (wish) Low A — (likely) AZL
Elehuris Montero (wish) AA — (likely) High-A
Matthew Liberatore (wish) (A) — (likely) Appy
Malcom Nuñez (wish) A - (likely) Appy
Making the Leap
One of the coolest things about being in this industry is seeing the refinement of raw tools into results. For 2019, I want to see Estevan Florial and Cristian Pache improve their approach and take steps toward recognizing spin and making the adjustments needed to improve their respective hit tools. Both hitters have big time power that is currently limited by their approach. Better contact will translate into more game power.
Injuries suck. They often prevent us from seeing if a prospect can fully develop a part of his game and we’re left to wonder if he can still get there. I want to see a full healthy season from Rays two-way extraordinaire Brendan McKay. And in that healthy season, I want to see more aggressiveness at the plate and continued improvement with his pitch sequencing. - Jason Woodell
My wish is pretty similar to Jason’s in that I just want some prospects to refine their tools so they can become game changers. On offense I’m looking at you Seuly Matias. 80-grade raw power and 31 homers before a thumb injury ended his season. My wish is for him to acquire a useable offensive approach and to get someone to carry his luggage. On the pitching side, I’m wishing for Alec Hansen to throw more strikes. - Matt Thompson
Seriously can we just be blessed with 45 hit Monte Harrison? Imagine what he could do for the Marlins next year if he sported a contact rate in the 74% - 78% range? He hit .240 last year through the grace of God, or BABIP (.368). I confuse the two frequently. He had the third highest swinging strike rate among qualified AA hitters, and his 17.8% mark still sits 20th overall when expanded to players with a minimum of 100 plate appearances. The power, speed, and defensive value are there to make him an everyday player, but he lacks the hitting acumen that could make him a star.
There’s another player with a whole box full of tools, but much like Monte Harrison he swings and misses too much. After middling results heading into 2017, Jose Siri broke out, hitting for a high average and power, while swiping an eye-popping 46 bags. His numbers were uneven between high A and AA, and the swing and miss became a real issue in Pensacola. Siri led all of AA in SwStr%, not a great sign. As discussed in my Reds Top 30, Siri can make consistent contact, the issue is his hyper-aggressive approach at the plate. If he could hone his pitch recognition and stay away from spin off the plate, we might be talking about a first division centerfielder. While he’s made some improvements, his plate approach (or lack there of) still leaves his prospective future impact in doubt. - Ralph Lifshitz
My wish is for Luis Medina to take a step forward with control & command. Luis Medina is a white-hot ember capable of becoming a conflagration. The stuff is premium and watching him in a limited instructs look was a treat. Should he learn to better control his long limbs, he could take a quantum leap forward in 2019. - Jason Pennini
Injuries Stay Away!
A Six Million Dollar Steve Austin Elbow for Sixto Sanchez.
We need Sixto Sanchez to be healthy and never get hurt. That’s it. I love the skills but his prospect value is sinking like a stone with his murky health.
A healthy, normal season for Jason Groome.
After entering the 2016 draft season as a potential 1.1 candidate it’s been a rocky road for the big lefty. After a few injury plagued seasons, off-the-field issues out of his control, and poor performance, Jay Groome needs to get back on his feet after 2018 Tommy John surgery. Likely Groome will make a few starts at the end of the season. But staying on track for a normal offseason heading into 2020 would be a big boost to a player whose tanked professionally. - Ralph Lifshitz
James Kaprielian stays healthy.
In Fall of 2016 I saw Kaprielian in the AFL, and he flashed feel for four pitches. His fastball sat mid 90s. He looked like a mid-rotation starter, and I came away wicked impressed. Unfortunately, his career has been completely derailed by injuries. He had a right flexor strain in 2016, then eventually went down with a torn UCL in 2017. Last fall Kaprielian saw some action in instructs, reportedly throwing low 90s. Fingers crossed he recovers and comes close to the guy he was two years ago in the AFL. - Jason Pennini
Training and improving my scouting eye will be my main focus during the 2019 season. It was tough at times keeping notes on players while running from side-to-side of the concourse to get videos of open-side swings. Now that I have three camcorders, it will be much easier to just set them up in position while I sit back and grow my scouting eye. - Kyler Peterson
Dudes We Must See
Marco Luciano plays in the Giants January instructs.
I have been working on the Giants top 30 the past few days. Marco Luciano immediately stood out as one of the premier talents in the system. The body is incredibly advanced, and he already has crazy raw power. Luciano was one of the highest-rated 2018 J2 players, but he has yet to see action stateside. The Giants and Cubs opted to hold their instructional league camps in January instead of September. Will this be Luciano’s first action on US soil? We shall see, but for selfish reasons I sure hope it is. - Jason Pennini