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Without a true minor league season on which to fixate, I’ve been spending most of my time watching and evaluating young big leaguers who, because of the truncated season, will still be eligible for prospect lists at the end of the year. From a workflow standpoint, it makes sense for me to prioritize and complete my evaluations of these prospects before my time is divided between theoretical fall instructional ball on the pro side and college fall practices and scrimmages, which will have outsized importance this year due to the lack of both meaningful 2020 college stats and summer wood bat league looks because of COVID-19.
I started with the National League East; below is my look at the American League West, covering players who have appeared in big league games. The results of the changes made to player rankings and evaluations can be found over on The Board, though I try to provide more specific links throughout this post in case readers only care about one team.
A rash of injuries has necessitated several pitching prospect promotions in Houston. Cristian Javier (ranked second in org) and Brandon Bielak (fifth) have been up the longest, and both have struggled in unexpected ways. Bielak, who threw lots of strikes in the minors, has wrestled with walks. He might be nibbling with his fastball because it’s getting crushed to the tune of a 90% in-zone contact rate and a .674 xSLG according to Baseball Savant. He’s been bullpenned for now, but I still consider him a likely No. 4/5 starter (45 FV), albeit one who probably has to pitch more heavily off his secondary stuff. Even though he’s walked more hitters than usual, Bielak has still shown a consistent ability to execute his changeup and breaking balls to good locations, especially against lefties.
Javier’s walk rate is actually better than usual, but he hasn’t missed bats at anything resembling his career norm, and a whopping nine of the 27 hits he’s surrendered this year have been home runs. That home run rate will likely regress across a larger sample, but if Javier is going to keep starting then he still needs to find a better way to deal with left-handed hitters because his splits have been pretty extreme. Because of an off day, Houston opted to skip Javier’s turn in the rotation over the weekend and use him out of the bullpen, where he had five strikeouts in two innings. I think he’s a candidate to move the ‘pen during the playoffs, and potentially long-term, and he projects as a high-leverage reliever if he does. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m starting with the National League East. Players who have appeared in big league games are covered below, as are a few players who have been at the offsite camps all season. The results of changes made to player rankings and evaluations can be found over on The Board, though I try to provide more specific links throughout this post in case readers only care about one team.
In an August post, I talked about how I was moving away from hitters who swing recklessly but failed to mention that I’d slid Drew Waters from the back of the 55 FV tier — around 50th overall — down to 76th overall, near a bunch of the high ceiling/high variance hitters grouped toward the back of the top 100.
I also slid Kyle Wright (now a 40+ FV — I know he has graduated off of other publications’ lists but even after counting his time on the roster I still have him classified as rookie-eligible, though perhaps I’m miscounting?) and Bryse Wilson (45+ FV). Both of them are throwing hard (Wilson up to 96 over the weekend, Wright up to 97 yesterday) but because they’re of the sink/tail variety, their fastballs don’t have margin for error in the strike zone and both of them too often miss in hittable locations. Each has the secondary stuff to start, but neither has seized a rotation spot even though Atlanta desperately needs someone to. Read the rest of this entry »
The closing bell rang on the trade deadline yesterday and, as always, many prospects were moved. I have the young players traded since early this month ranked below. Most of the deals these prospects were a part of were analyzed at length on this site. Those pieces can be found here, or by clicking the hyperlink in the “From” column below. I’ve moved all of the players below to their new orgs over on The Board, so you can click through and see where they rank among their new teammates; our farm rankings, which now update live, also reflect these changes, so you can see where teams’ systems stack up post-deadline.
A couple quick notes before I get to the order. The evaluations of players at the very bottom of the list (35 FV prospects) who weren’t on offseason prospect lists at all are subject to change as I continue to learn more about them. Follow the FanGraphs Prospects Twitter account or go to fangraphs.com/prospects for updates. Also, I’ve included a couple of post-prospect players in the order so you can get an idea of where I value them now as opposed to at their prospect peak. Both players, former top 100 guys, are highlighted in orange below. Read the rest of this entry »
Early this morning, the Padres and Indians officially consummated a much-rumored deal surrounding starter Mike Clevinger, one significant enough to demand multiple pieces of analysis, the prospect-centric slice of which I’ll serve you here. The broad strokes analysis of Cleveland’s prospect package is that in addition to the big league pieces they received, they added 20-year-old shortstop Gabriel Arias, yet another candidate to be the club’s long-term shortstop in the event that Francisco Lindor is either traded or leaves in free agency, and two other prospects, Joey Cantillo and Owen Miller, who fit archetypes that the org has often targeted and developed well.
He doesn’t have the highest ceiling of the group (Arias does), but I think Joey Cantillo is the best prospect in the trade. He entered 2020 coming off a breakout 2019 during which, at age 19, he struck out 144 hitters in 111 combined innings at Low-A Fort Wayne and Hi-A Lake Elsinore. It was a meteoric rise for a teenager who was less than two years removed from being a 16th round pick ($300,000 signing bonus) out of a high school in Hawaii, and Cantillo’s strikeout totals were especially confounding because he doesn’t throw all that hard, only living in the 87-90 range, touching 92. How does he do it? This piece has some specifics about how a fastball with below-average velocity can still miss bats in the strike zone. Cantillo also has an impact changeup. From his scouting report on The Board, where you can already see how the new Indians prospects rank in the system:
Not only does it have bat-missing movement but Cantillo’s arm speed really sells hitters on the notion that they’re getting a fastball; A-ball bats flailed at it in 2019. The carry on his fastball enables Cantillo to compete for swinging strikes in the zone, and that, plus his ability to throw lots of competitively-located changeups mean he can work back into any count. His breaking ball usage is ahead of its quality, something that might change if Cantillo does start throwing harder and adds power to his curve. The breaking ball and development of velo are now the two variables driving Cantillo’s potential future FV movement, but for now I think he has the tools to go right at hitters and be a No. 4/5 starter.
It seems like new Rockies pitcher Mychal Givens has had a robust trade market each of the last two summers, both because he is a good pitcher and because he has multiple years of team control left. The Orioles finally pulled the trigger on a deal for him and scooped up three prospects from the Rockies: Terrin Vavra, Tyler Nevin, and a player to be named later.
Givens has thrown 336 innings across parts of six seasons with the Orioles and has amassed a 3.32 career ERA (he’s sporting a cool 1.38 ERA this year) and struck out just shy of 11 hitters per nine (roughly 33% K%) during that time. His strikeout rate has climbed each of the last two years as Givens increased the usage of his changeup, which had previously been a distant tertiary pitch behind his fastball and a slider.
But Givens still works heavily with that mid-90s fastball (nearly 70% of the time), which averages 94 mph and tops out at 98. In addition to having a great arm, the right-hander has a unique low-slot delivery that lets him attack hitters in the top half of the zone from an odd angle. For how terse and explosive Givens’ delivery is, he has good feel for locating his secondary stuff to each pitch’s appropriate zip code and he adds stability to a Rockies bullpen filled with pitchers who have a history of being rather wild. Read the rest of this entry »
Sunday’s seven-player deal between the Mariners and Padres was the deadline’s biggest trade so far, impacting this year’s playoff race and both teams’ roster construction for years to come. While the most immediate effects will be seen in San Diego, the Mariners continued to collect talented, young players with their spyglass fixed on a long-term rebuild by acquiring Taylor Trammell, Ty France, Andres Muñoz and Luis Torrens (covered here) in a trade centered around catcher Austin Nola.
The headline prospect of the package is Trammell, a 23-year-old 50 FV prospect (meaning I expect him to be a an everyday player who generates around 2 to 2.5 annual WAR — commensurate with a good everyday player — over the course of his pre-free agency seasons) who was with San Diego’s big league club throughout spring training, then played during summer camp intrasquads, and has since been at the Padres’ alternate training site at the University of San Diego. Trammell spent all of 2019 at Double-A, albeit with two different orgs because he was also part of last year’s massive, three-team Trevor Bauer deadline deal that sent Trammell from Cincinnati to San Diego; Seattle is his third organization in 13 months.
Trammell is ranked toward the top of the 50 FV tier of prospects, 68th in all of baseball, because a) he’s fairly close to the big leagues and b) he has a few core attributes that I consider especially important. Chiefly, Trammell has a good idea of the strike zone, and he’s a good athlete who has good on-field makeup/competitiveness. I know the latter two sound hokey and perhaps antiquated, but they do drive some of my thinking related to prospect floor or certainty because, anecdotally, I think good athletes who try hard tend to turn into good players.
A career .270/.363/.406 hitter, Trammell has the ball/strike recognition (12% career walk rate) and contact potential to one day be a leadoff man. I say contact potential because I don’t think his bat is quite as polished as it appeared to be at the lower levels. He’s a short-levered hitter who can turn on pitches on the inner third of the plate, and he grinds out long, tough at-bats, but while Trammell has some all-fields spray ability, he struggled with velocity up and away from him during the spring and summer intrasquads. To my eye, he has done some tinkering with his hitting footwork, which may have been an attempt to tease out more in-game power, though I’m skeptical that will ever be part of the profile. I think a contact/on base-oriented approach fits best with Trammell’s swing and physical ability, though admittedly punting on his power potential (those Futures Game rockets he hit a few years ago were highly unusual) caps his ceiling. It’s tough to be an impact player without thump, which is part of why I have a solid regular FV on Trammell rather than a big, star-level one. Read the rest of this entry »
An Oakland Athletics offense that was already fourth in baseball in WAR has acquired Tommy La Stella — a man who has hit .265/.361/.461 this year (.287/.350/.480 over the last two), and who has the lowest strikeout among baseball’s qualified hitters at a paltry 5.6% (7.9% combined the last two years, also the lowest in baseball) — to solidify a second base situation that has been molten since Jed Lowrie’s most recent departure. The A’s traded 24-year-old infielder Franklin Barreto to the Angels in exchange for La Stella.
As his now twice former manager Joe Maddon once said when he was a Cub, La Stella could roll out of bed and hit, a notion he has since further reinforced, as La Stella’s strikeout and barrel rates have each trended in a positive direction since he left the north side. He makes the A’s lineup a top-to-bottom threat for the rest of the year before he hits free agency this winter.
La Stella is a clear upgrade over incumbent keystone Tony Kemp, who emerged from a crowded preseason group mostly made up of disappointing prospects. Kemp is hitting just .250/.377/.281, with the OBP portion of his line driven by an unusually high walk rate and BABIP compared to the five-year big leaguer’s career norms. Kemp, who also has experience in the outfield, is likely to shift to a bench role as a situational lefty bat, and a late-inning replacement for La Stella, who is neither a good defender nor runner.
There will likely also be some instances when La Stella serves as Oakland’s designated hitter in lieu of the struggling Khris Davis (who is hitting .155/.269/.241 this season, and .213/.290/.371 over the last two combined), with either Kemp or Chad Pinder starting at second base. In essence, La Stella bolsters the second base and DH spots simultaneously as he himself is an upgrade, and his addition means Bob Melvin can choose from whichever of Pinder, Kemp or Davis he thinks is more likely to do damage that day. For instance, Pinder could play more often versus lefties, Kemp versus righties, and Davis against pitchers who throw a lot of fastballs. I think this move may put Rule 5 pick Vimael Machín‘s roster spot in jeopardy, especially in light of Marcus Semien’s recent injury, which could leave Oakland without a viable defensive shortstop on their 40-man, perhaps necessitating a deal or Nick Allen’s addition to the active roster for a brief stretch. Read the rest of this entry »
In November, teams will need to decide which minor league players to expose to other teams through the Rule 5 Draft, and which to protect from the Draft by adding them to their 40-man roster. Deciding who to expose means evaluating players, sure, but it also means considering factors like internal player redundancy, as well as other variables such as the number of option years a player has left, whether he’s making the league minimum or is deep into his arbitration years, and if there are other freely-available alternatives to a team’s current talent, which happens a lot at certain positions, like toward the bottom of bullpen barrels and with first base-only types.
Teams with both an especially high number of rostered players under contract for 2021 and many prospects who would need to be added to the 40-man in the offseason have what is often called a “40-man crunch,” “spillover,” or “churn,” meaning that the team has incentive to clear the overflow of players away via trade for something they can keep — pool space, comp picks, or typically younger players whose 40-man clocks are further from midnight — rather than do nothing, and later lose players to waivers or in the Rule 5 draft. This exercise can be done by using the RosterResource pages to examine current 40-man occupancy, subtracting pending free agents (on the payroll tab), then weighing the December ’20 Rule 5 eligible prospects to see who has the biggest crunch coming and might behave differently in the trade market because of it.
Teams seem to be getting better at preparing for this ahead of time. In my opinion, this year has fewer situations that can be leveraged by rebuilding clubs in the way, for instance, the Rangers were able to pluck Nick Solak from Tampa Bay last year. Nevertheless, here is a rundown of the (mostly) contending teams with some prospect overage that I think is worth discussing on Ops Zoom calls.
Some quick rules about 40-man rosters. Almost none of them contain exactly 40 players in-season because teams can add a player to the 40 to replace a player who’s on the 60-day injured list. In the offseason, teams don’t get extra spots for injured players and have to get down to 40, so if they want to keep some of the injury fill-ins (like Mike Tauchman of the Yankees), they have to cut someone to make room. Read the rest of this entry »