St. Louis Cardinals

Big League Debut: Tommy Edman, Peter Lambert and Jordan Yamamoto

Tommy Edman- The Cardinals selected Edman in the sixth round of the 2016 draft out of Stanford where he majored in math and computational science. He was a starter all three years on campus in Palo Alto and was even the Cardinal number three hitter despite his 5’10” 180 pound frame. The switch-hitter does a little bit of everything and fits the archetype of a pesky yet productive middle infielder.

Defensively Edman is widely viewed as a better long term fit at second base, but I disagree and think there’s enough defensive ability here to stick as a primary shortstop. The hands are soft, and he has enough arm and range be an average or close to average defender there. For Triple-A Memphis he has played primarily at second base because of the presence of Edmundo Sosa . He has also spent some time at third and also started playing some centerfield to diversify the portfolio. He’s a high IQ player that gets the most out of his tools.

Offensively, Edman has the type of profile that often exceeds expectations. What I mean by that is Edman’s ability to hit for a high average while also controlling the strike zone from both sides of the plate. Since entering pro ball Edman owns a career .286/.353/.415 line with a career 85% success rate on the base paths, including a 30-for-35 season last year between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis. Power is his biggest deficiency but he’s already hit a single season high seven homers in his 49 game stint with Memphis this year. The introduction of the Major League ball in Triple-A certainly helps, but Edman did also add 10-15 pounds of muscle this spring. Players of this ilk, above average to plus hit tools with strong plate skills, contact ability and above average speed are the ones that often exceed scouting reports and Edman is in an organization that has a strong track record of extracting the most out of college bats. Jedd Gyorko going on the injured list created an opportunity for the 24 year old infielder. Edman is currently hitting .305/.356/.513 for Memphis with nine stolen bases and seven homers. He’s played himself into position to be added in 20 team dynasty leagues because of his well-rounded profile and high floor. Lance Brozdowski ranked Edman 25th on the St. Louis Cardinals top 30 list.

Peter Lambert- Throw out the numbers when judging Rockies pitching prospects, especially guys pitching in Albuquerque. According to statcorner.com with 100 being neutral, the park factor for homers is 122 for left-handed hitters and 143 for righties, which are insane numbers. For comparisons sake Coors Field checks in at 119 and 117. So his home park in Albuquerque is more hitter friendly than Coors by a considerable margin. Ralph ranked Lambert fifth in the Colorado system, and broke down his arsenal as follows; “Lambert mixes a fastball in the 92-94 range with sink and run, a tumbling changeup pairs well with his fastball generating most of the whiffs I saw in Hartford. His curveball has nice 12-6 break, and he lands it for strikes, lots he’ll steal on the outside corner to lefties. His repertoire is completed by an average slider with some two-plane break. His complete control and command of his arsenal led Lambert to earn better reviews than perhaps his numbers would indicate. In the handful of Lambert starts I witnessed this season he showed the ability to locate all of his pitches for strikes, showing the ability to pitch backwards off his curveball and changeup.” He repeats his delivery well, with plus command/control that pushes the stuff up a grade. He’s not all that dissimilar to what Kyle Freeland can offer from a fantasy perspective.

Jordan Yamamoto- The Brewers drafted Yamamoto out of St. Louis High School in Honolulu. He came over to the Marlins in the Christian Yelich deal along with outfielders Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison and 2B Isan Diaz. He pitched well as soon as he entered the Marlins organization despite a battle with shoulder soreness that limited to just under 70 innings pitched in 2018. There were some stints in 2018 when Yamamoto’s fastball velocity dipped into the high-80s, but 2019 reports on his fastball have it back in the low-90s and he averaged 90.8 mph during his big league debut. Yamamoto gets by on the strength of his secondary offerings. His curveball is his best pitch and it grades out as plus. He commands it to both sides of the plate and its his primary swing and miss pitch against righties. He also throws an above average slider, and a change. His fastball is his only offering with a below average grade, but he also throws a cutter with good run. His overall below average stuff plays due to his above average to plus command, and the deception with the long arm action and a cross body delivery. He projects as a back end starter long term but definitely a play in almost any home matchup. Noted Marlins super-fan Eddy Almaguer ranked Yamamoto eighth on his Marlins top 30 list.

Big League Debuts: Pitchers! Pitchers! Pitchers!

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.

Big League Debut: Lovelady, Helsley and Swanson Get the Call

Big League Debut: Lovelady, Helsley and Swanson Get the Call

Three reliever callups, three reliever write-ups in this edition of Big League Debut.