The Carolina League season has been highlighted by the exploits of Luis Robert, some terrific pitching out of Brady Singer, and a power surge from Seth Beer. Here are some live looks recaps from my time thus far:
Nick Madrigal, 2B - Chicago White Sox
I discussed Madrigal on a podcast with Kris Dunn but the video below highlights some of our concerns regarding his long-term outlook. The high leg kick is likely in effort to generate more power out of his 5’7/165 pound frame but his swing path is long. Consequently, he has an incredibly difficult time pulling the ball and I have a lot of concerns about his ability to hit for any kind of power as he moves up. Better pitching is going to present a major problem and while he might be able to get on guys throwing 93-95, he will find things more difficult as he consistently sees 97+. On the positive side, the strikeout rate is microscopic and his glove could play at the major league level today. The White Sox will give him every chance to be their regular 2B by 2021.
Jomar Reyes, 3B - Baltimore Orioles
I’ve seen Reyes twice this year and the first time I saw him the approach look much different from the second time. He was trying to stay middle earlier in the year and it paid dividends as the batting average hovered around .300 for the better part of April. The last time I saw him, however, he was way out on his front foot and it seemed to me like he was selling out for power. His arms are stiff coming through the zone creating a less than ideal swing path. There seemed to be some pitch recognition issues here as well. Still, he is a projectable guy who I look forward to seeing more this summer.
Michael Baumann, P - Baltimore Orioles
Baumann was lights out the night I went to see him (6.2 of no-hit ball) and I don’t think it was a fluke. Armed with a fastball that can touch 97 and a slider that he got better command for as the night went on, Baumann is an intriguing arm for me. He has an easy, low-effort delivery that includes an over-the-top arm angle. He had some good glove-side run on his fastball as he sat 91-94 most of the night. The slider was a put-away pitch in the later innings and had some good, late life. He has already struck out 43 in just 28.2 innings this year and while I tend to agree with Ralph that he is likely a bullpen arm, if he can develop his changeup he might profile as a #3 starter. Either way, he is a guy will we will definitely see in Baltimore at some point and I em excited to watch him progress.
Seuly Matias, OF - Kansas City Royals
At this stage of his development, Matias is a true two-outcome player but that doesn’t mean the potential for more isn’t here. His lower body is above average as his front side is quiet through the swing. He could stand to get more hip swivel but he generates sufficient power without it. There is simply a lot of swing-and-miss to his game right now but here is the bottom line: For a 20-year-old kid, he is built really well. His lower body is thick and he is a muscular guy. The defense is spotty and the strikeout issues are real but he is two levels ahead of his age. The Royals have had some luck with getting Jorge Soler on track so there I am bullish on Matias and his long-term outlook.
M.J. Melendez, C - Kansas City Royals
Much like Matias, M.J. Melendez is young and he strikes out a lot. That said, I like the potential that’s here for him at the catcher position because he is built like a middle-infielder and he moves well behind the plate. Defensively he had a few lapses but his arm is terrific. At the plate, Melendez has a bigger leg kick than I would like but I believe it is something that can be tamed over time. He will likely unlock more power as he continues to grow into his body. In general, the swing is nice (albeit, big) but the contact rate needs to improve. The second swing of the at-bat below is why I have reason for optimism: It is toned down from the first swing and his front shoulder didn’t fly out. Making these adjustments during the at-bat is a sign of maturity.
Carolina League Notes
Luis Robert (White Sox) was the early story in the Carolina League but Wilmington’s Brady Singer (Royals) has been pretty dominant through his first eight starts as he carries a 2.47 ERA and is striking out a batter per inning. His latest outing was a 10-strikeout masterpiece against D.L. Hall and the Frederick Keys that pushed his record to 4-2 on the year. It seems to me that a late-summer promotion to Double-A is likely in the cards here… Going back to 2011, the Astros have had an incredible run of drafting impact players in the first round and it looks like 2018 first rounder Seth Beer is their latest gem. Beer is slashing .328/.414/.602 to go along with a league-leading nine homeruns and 34 RBIs for the Fayetteville Woodpeckers. Like Singer, Beer seems destined for a move to Triple-A by late summer and he might be a name to watch at the deadline as the Astros look to add pieces for the stretch run… The Woodpeckers also boast one of the Carolina League’s top arms as Cristian Javier (Astros) is dominating hitters so far to the tune of a 0.94 ERA and 40 strikeouts in just 28.2 innings. Javier is a polished arm with with three plus pitches and above average command and I am excited to see him when he comes to Frederick… Salem’s Jarren Duran (Red Sox) is batting above .400. Duran’s approach at the plate and quick hands are cause for optimism and when you add in his double-plus speed (he has 13 steals which also lead the league), this is a guy who could crack our Red Sox top-10 this offseason.