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.
Jared Walsh - Walsh may not be one of the most exciting players to debut this year, but he sure is an interesting one. The former 39th round pick had a breakout year offensively in 2018 as he hit .277/.359/.536 and jumped from High-A to Triple-A. He’s continued that offensive success so far in 2019 hitting .302/.398/.604 with 10 homers in 37 games with the Salt Lake Bees prior to the call up. He has made some improvements with his strikeout rate but is still going down on strikes over 25% of the time.
Walsh is interesting because he represents a new wave of player that will surely be more common as today’s benches keep shrinking. Walsh was being used as a LOOGY (left-handed one out guy) in Triple-A. In 2018 the Angels dabbled a bit with him in the bullpen as he amassed eight appearances throughout the year and he’s already received five this year. The Angels liked enough of what they saw to actually bring Walsh to instructs over the winter to work as a pitcher. Even with Bour being sent down the presence of Ohtani and Pujols will cut unto Walsh’s playing time and I don’t think he works his way into regular playing time for the Angels this season. He can safely be let on the wire in 15 or less team formats. Walsh ranked 22nd on my Los Angeles Angels prospect list.
Shaun Anderson - The long-haired righty was a third round pick by the Boston Red Sox in the 2016 draft. Anderson couldn’t crack the loaded rotation in Gainesville but found his niche as the closer as was behind guys like A.J. Puk, Dane Dunning, Logan Shore and Alex Faedo on the loaded Florida Gators staff. He’s always had the stuff to start and after the Red Sox drafted him they began building stamina and getting Anderson back into the rotation. He was traded to the Giants along with RHP Gregory Santos in a deadline deal for Eduardo Nunez in 2017, and was our eighth ranked prospect in our Giants prospect list. He relies on ground balls and weak contact more than missing bats, and his deep arsenal lacks a truly plus pitch. He’s primarily fastball/slider, but also throws a sinker, change and curveball. With average command, Anderson’s best trait is his ability to keep the ball in the yard and a favorable home park plays into that. Anderson is a useful streamer at home and should be up with the rebuilding Giants for the remainder of the season.
Luis Arraez - A career .331 hitter in the minors, Arraez has a plus hit tool due to his elite hands. He makes contact at a high rate as has only struck out more than 10% of the time once his career and that was in 2018 when he posted a 10.9% strikeout rate while playing in the Florida State League. Arraez’s offensive approach is simple as he is a left-handed hitter with a knack for slapping the ball over the shortstops head or through the 5.5 hole. Despite his plus hit tool, Arraez’s overall skill set isn’t interesting to me because he completely lacks power and is a slightly below average runner. His range is limited at second base, but as we’ve seen in today’s game that’s becoming less and less of an issue. He does have good hands and the Twins have begun moving him around the diamond a bit to add some versatility to the package. Arraez was our 21st ranked prospect on our Minnesota Twins top 30 list, and projects as an offensive-minded utility option going forward. I don’t think he is up for the long haul and he can remain safely on the wire.