The Carolina League All-Star Game features several players that are under the radar but might be primed for big careers.
Mike Yastrzemski - It’s not always easy for legacy prospects. The grandson of Red Sox hall of famer Carl Yastrzemski was drafted by the Orioles in the 14th round of the 2013 draft out of Vanderbilt and has played over 700 career minor league games before finally getting the call this year. Yaz has put together some strong minor league seasons while in the Baltimore system, but has battled injuries and was passed over in two Rule Five drafts before signing with the Giants as a minor league free agent prior to the 2019 season. His first taste of the Pacific Coast League has been an enjoyable one as he’s hit .316/.414/.676 with Triple-A Sacramento. The fantasy value here is limited for the 28-year old, but he’s in a situation in San Francisco that should give him a handful of starts a week as the Giants struggle to find a corner outfielder that’s a long term fit. He might be worth a look in NL-only leagues as he has started both games since getting promoted.
Seby Zavala - The power hitting backstop gets the call after the White Sox placed the disappointing Welington Castillo on the Injured List. Zavala was added to the 40-man roster after reaching Triple-A in 2018 and is hitting for more power as he repeats that level this year. This is an encouraging sign after a left wrist injury slowed him down last season. Zavala is hitting .218/.253/.506 at Charlotte with six homers in only 21 games. His power is mostly to the pull-side but he does hit the ball in air enough to hit 15-20 homers if given a full-time job. He’s an average defender with an accurate arm but profiles as a back-up catcher mostly due to the lack of a hit tool. Lance Brozdowski ranked him 17th on the Chicago White Sox top 30 list.
Garrett Stubbs - Stubbs is one of the more athletic catchers in professional baseball and has the tools to be a starting catcher one day. His offensive game is built on his average hit tool and strong walk rates as he has never posted a strike out rate above 18% or a walk rate below 10% in his professional career. He’s even an average runner and could chip in 6-8 steals a season from behind the plate. Defensively, Stubbs handles pitchers well, blocks well, and controls the running game as he nabbed 45% of base stealers in 2018. The biggest flaw here is his lack of power, but he’s a catcher with the ability to hit for a strong average and post strong walk rates so he should still be an above average offensive contributor. Still, he lacks the strength necessary to contribute in home runs and in slugging percentage. One area to keep an eye on: He has posted consistently high line drive rates in the past, but his ground ball rate has spiked this year early on. Ralph Lifshitz ranked Stubbs 21st on the Houston Astros top 30 list.
Will Smith - Smith has a lot of similarities with Garrett Stubbs and gives him a run for his money for the most athletic catcher in the minors. The 2016 first rounder out of the University of Louisville is an above average runner and has spent significant time at third base to get Keibert Ruiz some catcher reps as well. This move allowed him to put his plus throwing arm to good use while also giving him additional minor league at-bats. In fact, in addition to being a plus defender behind the plate he is even regarded as an above average defender at third base. His offensive game is much different than those Louisville days though as the Dodgers have him hitting the ball in the air and ultimately for more power. He does make significantly less contact now, but he has cut the strikeout rate down to a manageable 21% so far in 2019 in Triple-A. The pull-side power should make him a 20-homer threat, but will also likely come with batting averages in the .240-.250 range. Fortunately his elite walk rate will raise his on-base percentage significantly and he is currently hitting .290/.404/.551 in the minors and should be owned in all dynasty formats. He will likely go back to Triple-A once Austin Barnes returns from the Injured List, but it’s only a 29-mile trip back to Bel-Air from Dodger Stadium. Eddy Almaguer ranked Smith as the seventh prospect on the Los Angeles Dodgers Top 30 list.
This is going to be a running series, acting almost like a journal of things I pick up, challenges I faced, and things I learn in my path to improving my ability to scout live games. I’m going to be open about my shortcomings, some of which may be surprising for someone who’s been in this industry for almost a couple of years now. But I hope that if someone is out there and is hesitant about attending games for fear of feeling out of place or like you can’t learn to look at a game with a scouting eye, this spurs you to just get out and try your hand at it.
When the White Sox sent Luis Robert back to Winston-Salem to start 2019, it’s unlikely they envisioned him tearing through the two weeks of the season the way he has. After 10 games through April 14, Robert is slashing an otherworldly .475/.512/1.025 and making the Carolina League his personal playground.
The Cubs signed Eloy Jiménez for $2.8m out of the Dominic Republic in 2013. The Cubs blew past their bonus pool limits to sign Eloy and Gleyber Torres who were at the top of this international class. The two developed in to valuable assets the Cubs used to bolster their bid for a World Series. After dealing Gleyber to the Yankees in 2016, the Cubs sent Eloy to the cross town White Sox as the headliner in a package for LHP Jose Quintana in 2017.
At 6’4”, 205 lbs., he’s a presence in the box, and his size is warning enough of what he’s capable of. He has the appearance of a hulking slugger, but he’s more than that. Jimenez hit .337 and .312 the last two minor league seasons, becoming one of the top prospects in the game. With the Southsiders looking to excelerate their competitive window, they signed Eloy to a record-breaking deal for a player with no service time. The deal is for 6 years, $43 million with two option years that can push it closer to $75 million.
Eloy is a complete hitter and becomes one of the best hitters in the American League immediately.
Defense (40 Field/45 Arm): Eloy has alternated between left and right field in his pro career thus far, but his below-average arm makes him a better fit for left. He doesn’t cover much ground in the outfield and is a sub-par defender and designated hitter could be his future long term role.
Power (70 Game/80 Raw): The power comes easy, and there isn’t a fence in any ballpark that Eloy can’t clear. He famously did his best Roy Hobbs impersonation when he took out a light tower during the 2017 Carolina League home run derby. The swing is simple and repeatable. He starts his hands from a low slot, and at the top of his leg kick his hands rise up and his hips do their job. The result is a seemingly effortless stroke that produces hard contact and elite exit velocities. He’s already worthy of being a centerpiece in any lineup.
Hit (55 Present/70 Future): The above average present and future plus hit tool is the separator for Jiménez. It’s rare to come across a hitter of his size and power peak that has the ability to control the zone and recognize spin like he does. He’s a tireless worker that has famously been seen working on pitch recognition drills early in the morning after a two-strikeout game in the minors. He studies pitchers and their game plans and reacts and adjusts due to how they attack him. He makes consistent hard contact while posting sub-20% strikeout rates for a majority of his pro career. After a sub-par spring the plan right now is to attack him with breaking balls, and in fact 15 of the first 21 pitches he saw in the big leagues were breaking balls. It will be fun to see what happens when he adjusts.
Speed (40 Present/30 Future): Speed isn’t a part of his game, and he’s a good enough hitter where it doesn’t matter. I do expect him to slow down as he gets more physically mature.
Prediction: The White Sox have a franchise building block here, and he will be the face of the south side squad for at least the next six years, likely more. I believe Eloy can hit .290 right now, and is a .300+ hitter at his peak. Our Prospects Live peak projection was .310/.360/.580 while also hitting 40 homers. He draws Miguel Cabrera comps for a reason. The White Sox are going to let Eloy finish developing at the big league level, and he will become a top five hitter in baseball at his peak.
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.