The White Sox and Cleveland Indians are the runaway darlings of the AL Central prospect Top 10s.
It’s been a busy week over here at Prospects Live with our draft coverage coming out and some interesting pitchers making their big league debuts. We will touch on three interesting arms here.
Devin Smeltzer- The Twins acquired LHP Devin Smeltzer, along with 2B Logan Forsythe and OF Luke Raley, as their return for sending Brian Dozier to the Dodgers last July. Smeltzer had a strong amateur career that began at Florida Gulf Coast University before he transferred to San Jacinto (TX) after one season. The Dodgers drafted him in the fifth round in 2016 and signed for just under $500,000. Our own Ralph Lifshitz saw Smeltzer this season in Pawtucket, and this is what he wrote:
Tall lanky lefty with some of the wildest mechanics you’ll ever see. He’s reminiscent of a spider, as he has a big leg kick, with long arm action and a glove arm that stays fully extended almost until he finishes his motion toward the plate. This arm action and motion allows him to hide the ball well, his low three quarters, almost sidearm, Smeltzer plays up the movement on all his pitches including his fastball. He mixes four pitches, a deceptive but low velocity fastball in the 87-90 mph range, a plus curveball in the upper-70s, a changeup 83-84 with nice drop that plays off his fastball, and a slider in the low-80s with sweepy break and glove-side run. He landed all of his pitches for strikes, threw all of them at any point in the count and drove loads of soft contact in the form of weak grounders and pop-ups to the catcher. Efficient contact minded lefty with control and deception.
Don’t be scared off by the fastball velocity. Smeltzer knows how to pitch, and commands his arsenal extremely well. During his big league debut against a tough Brewers offense, the crafty lefty went six scoreless innings only allowing three hits and striking out seven, including Lorenzo Cain three times. He threw an incredible 53 of his 69 pitches for strikes. Before his promotion to the big leagues, the spectacled lefty had a sparkling 1.15 ERA over 54 innings across Double-A and Triple-A with only ten walks and 48 strikeouts. The Twins have announced that Smeltzer will make another start with the Twins on this road trip against the Indians. I have confidence in Smeltzer and will be rolling him out in that start.
Zach Plesac- Plesac was a relative unknown in prospect circles until a few months ago, but when you add velocity and flash new skills it won’t take long to get noticed, which is what happened here. Plesac was pitching at Ball State, sitting 89-92 before an arm injury sapped some velocity and brought the fastball down to 87-90. Despite this, the Indians liked what they saw from his changeup/command centered mix and selected Plesac in the 12th round of the 2016 draft, and gave him $100,000 to buy him out of his senior season at Ball State. After getting drafted he underwent Tommy John Surgery. The Indians built his workload up to 142 innings in 2018, and he popped up on radars early in 2019 by showing some velocity numbers that have exceeded what he was hitting while at Ball State. Plesac averaged 93.9 with the fastball in his debut and reportedly has hit 97 this year. There’s a bit of deception and he hides the ball behind his body before he attacks hitters with his mostly two-pitch mix, but he does also mix in two below average breaking balls. Plesac is an intriguing pop up prospect, and there’s enough here with the plus command of his two-pitch mix to be an asset in 12-team leagues if the matchup is right. Plesac is a back-end rotation piece long term if he doesn’t develop a third pitch. This is a profile that the Indians have had success with in the past though, so in any dynasty league he needs to be added if somehow still available.
Genesis Cabrera- The former Rays farmhand was acquired as the centerpiece in the Tommy Pham deal. The flame-throwing lefty has a big fastball sitting 95-98, and it averaged 96.3 mph during his start on the road against the Phillies. The fastball itself is a weapon, but the command of the pitch is below average, and when he falls behind in counts he becomes extremely reliant on the pitch. The changeup and slider have a chance to be above average pitches and the curveball can be average, but no secondary profiles as a potential plus pitch for my money. The overall profile screams reliever to me, as I think he will have a difficult time turning lineups over multiple times due to the issues with his command and lack of a plus secondary. His extreme flyball tendency also offers another layer of volatility to the profile. The mechanics are intriguing to me, and the long sweeping arm action is reminiscent of teammate Carlos Martinez. Cabrera is a plus athlete though, and I think could find success in a multi-inning relief role, although the Cardinals are hesitant to make that conversion. Cabrera is not a guy I’m interested in deploying in fantasy formats right now. Lance Brozdowski ranked him 16th on the Cardinals top 30 list. Cabrera has pitched 39 innings in Triple-A this year with a strikeout per inning but also 11 homers and 19 walks and a 6.35 ERA.
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.