Like many of you, since March I’ve been experiencing time dilation while interacting with the gravity of our global situation. The pandemic itself, as well as the institutional frailty — and human stupidity and ugliness — it has exposed has been, to borrow a prospect writing cliche, eye opening. Unless you tied your sheets together and rappelled out of your socially distanced bedroom window to CSBI or a Prep Baseball Report event over the weekend (which I would find distasteful but also be extremely jealous of), it has somehow been three months since anyone in our industry has seen live baseball. It has felt like forever and an instant all at once. For those who derive their sense of self from the game, or who use it as a three-and-a-half hour respite from the daily drone, I imagine baseball would have been an especially welcome refuge from the global circumstances that have instead become psychologically unavoidable in its absence.
I’m hopeful we’ll get our collective acts together and that eventually there will be some better long-term outcomes for our planet as a result of this, but right now it sucks. And so here’s a two-day dose of what you need: a draft. Like everything else it has been altered, maybe forever, and it will feel bizarre to those who have been through the exercise before, but it’s still a draft. The entire industry has had to feel around in the dark looking for ways to deal with the many quandaries that arose as a result of the shutdown. Not everyone is going to have solved them. That will make the draft interesting and entertaining. The lives of many young people and their families will change for the better this week, either instantly or as their careers blossom. Some of the players drafted tomorrow will become so good that your grandchildren will know their names. It’s an unavoidably optimistic exercise. I hope you enjoy it and that this piece and the other work here at FanGraphs helps you engage with it on a deeper level.
My player evaluations and rankings are here. My latest mock draft is here. Read the rest of this entry »
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Oakland Athletics. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here.
The summer before his senior year of high school, Luzardo looked like a relatively unprojectable pitchability lefty, albeit an advanced one. His fastball was only in the 88-92 range at Area Codes, though his changeup and curveball were each above-average. He did not throw during the fall and instead devoted more time to working out. The following spring, with a new physique, Luzardo’s stuff was way up across the board, his fastball now sitting comfortably in the mid-90s, and touching 97. Four starts into his senior season, Luzardo tore his UCL and needed Tommy John.
After most of the first three rounds of the 2016 draft had come and gone, it seemed as though Luzardo might end up at the University of Miami. Four outings (including the one during which he broke) wasn’t enough for many teams to have high-level decision makers get in to see him and want to take him early, but the Nationals (who have a history of drafting pitchers who have fallen due to injury) called his name and signed him for $1.4 million, a bonus equivalent to an early second rounder. Luzardo rehabbed as a National and when he returned the following summer, his stuff had completely returned. He made just three starts for the GCL Nats before he was traded to Oakland as part of the Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson deal.
After a dominant first full year in Oakland’s system, Luzardo appeared poised to seize a rotation spot early in 2019, when suddenly, the very contagious injury bug that has bedeviled Oakland pitching prospects for the last several years infected his shoulder and, later during rehab, his lat. He was confined to early-morning sim games on the Mesa backfields until June, when he was sent to rehab at Hi-A Stockton and then to Triple-A Nashville, where Luzardo’s pitch count climbed back to typical starter norms. Oakland ‘penned him for September, a multi-inning weapon for the stretch and playoff run. He was sitting 94-96 and touched 99 as a starter in the minors, the same as he was out of the big league bullpen. It’s a sinker, but it has barrel-shattering tail and pairs nicely with both of Luzardo’s secondaries, which live at the bottom of the zone and beneath it. He’ll add and subtract from his breaking ball to give it a curveball shape that bends into the zone for strikes, or add power to it and coax hitters into waiving at pitches that finish well out of the zone. His changeup is firm but has late bottom and should also miss bats. The violence in Luzardo’s delivery combined with his injury history is slightly worrisome, but he was clearly operating at full speed late last year and has top-of-the-rotation stuff and pitchability, so his 60 FV has that risk baked in.
Puk looked like he had leveled up during 2018 Spring Training. His delivery was more balanced and repeatable, and he rebooted his old high school curveball, which he hadn’t used in college, and quickly reclaimed the feel for locating it; his changeup was also plus at times, much better than it was when he was an amateur. Then he tore his UCL and needed Tommy John, which kept him out for all of 2018 and most of 2019. Throughout the spring of 2019, you could just show up to Fitch Park in Mesa and run into one of Luzardo, Puk, James Kaprielian, or any of several other high-profile A’s rehabbers. Puk got into game action in April and May, throwing as many as four innings in an outing (that I’m aware of, anyway) before he was finally sent to an affiliate in June, but only in a two-inning start or bullpen capacity. He never threw more than 47 pitches in an outing and was limited to 20 or 30 bullets when the A’s finally called him up in September. He threw fewer curveballs in that role than he theoretically will as a starter, making that pitch tough to evaluate when he returned, but all the other weapons are intact, and Puk should contribute to Oakland’s rotation in 2020 assuming there’s a season. He projects as an above-average big league starter.
Murphy’s surgeries are starting to pile up. He’s had them for broken hamates in both hands, then was cut again in October because of his meniscus. Purely on tools, he’s a 55 FV prospect and it’s amazing that he’s gone from a walk-on at Wright State to one of the more well-rounded catching prospects in the minors. But the injuries, Murphy’s age (some of the sixish years I’m projecting here include his early 30s now), and the fact that some of his skills (he’s become a good receiver) may soon be less important caused me to round down.
Now if he starts hitting for more power in games, that’s a horse of a different color. He has plus raw power, though he hasn’t typically hit for it in games for various reasons. In college, his first broken hamate likely masked his thump and was part of the reason he fell to the 2016 draft’s third round. He had the second hamate break in pro ball and his swing is also very compact, relying on Murphy’s raw strength rather than efficient biomechanical movement to deliver extra-bases. He could be an above-average regular early on but I think there will be a little attrition over time, so I slid him back behind some players who I think have a higher long-term ceiling.
A physically projectable switch-hitter with infield actions, Puason is very similar to Mets shortstop Ronny Mauricio when the latter was an amateur, but Puason has shown better feel for airborne contact during workouts than Mauricio did at the same age. He has a chance to have plus tools across the board, but there’s some industry sentiment that in-game aptitude might cause those tools to play down. Specifically, there’s worry about his approach at the plate, which will be more problematic if Puason outgrows shortstop. He had already arrived in Mesa before the shutdown and had clearly been in the weight room during the offseason, which was especially evident in his shoulders.
Teams had seven-figure valuations on Davidson coming out of high school but he opted to go to Clemson, where he hit and hit for power for three consecutive years before getting $2.5 million as Oakland’s first rounder in 2019. He’s a big, switch-hitting 6-foot-3 shortstop (likely to stay there) with above-average power from both sides of the plate. He hasn’t hit for that sort of power with wood bats (he slugged just .266 both years on the Cape, .332 last summer) but that may be a stamina issue rather than a wood vs. composite one. There’s some hit tool risk here, and if Davidson ends up as a 30 or 35 bat in pro ball, he’ll probably end up as a utility guy, but if he’s making close to an even average amount of contact, he’s probably playing every day.
Jefferies walked off the mound with a trainer during his February 24 start and was later diagnosed with a biceps strain, the latest in a long line of injuries that limited him to just 20 pro innings before he finally had something resembling a full season in 2019. His injury history impacts his value pretty severely. Purely on talent, Jefferies is arguably a top 100 prospect (and was a 2020 Pick to Click before the latest hiccup) thanks largely to his plus, upper-80s changeup and plus command. Jefferies terse, upper-80s slider is effective because of his ability to locate it, and the rest of his repertoire, with precision. If healthy, he’ll likely contribute to the big club this year, but that’s a significant “if.”
One of the best high school shortstop defenders many scouts have ever seen, Allen’s size, or lack there of, is why he fell to the draft’s third round, as there was concern he would not have the requisite physicality to hit big league pitching. After a few years of pro ball, Allen’s wrists and forearms have become strong enough to put viable contact in play (and he makes plenty of it), though probably not with enough force to truly profile as an everyday shortstop.
He’s quite similar to fellow punchless leatherwizard José Iglesias, and could be a 1.5-ish WAR everyday player like Iglesias has been, but Allen started seeing time at second base and (in the Fall League) third base for the first time as a pro, and could also be an elite defensive utility infielder.
Buelvas doesn’t have monster tools right now. Instead, he’s got an advanced, well-rounded game and hit .300/.392/.506 in the AZL last year despite being two and a half years younger than the average player in that league. Yes, two and a half years younger than the average AZL player. Buelvas turns 18 today. His skillset is going to be augmented by how he physically matures. This isn’t a player with overt, striking physical projection like Kristian Robinson or any other 6-foot-3 prospect. Buelvas is an angular 5-foot-11, certainly likely to get bigger and stronger but probably not grow into huge power. He might hit 15 to 20 homers via consistent, quality contact, though. He’s fast and instinctive enough to stay in center field, so that would be all the power he needs to develop to play every day. His report reads a lot like contact/instincts high schoolers available in the 2020 draft — Pete Crow-Armstrong, Robert Hassell, Petey Halpin — and I have him valued in that range.
Neuse was Washington’s 2016 second rounder, then was traded the following summer as part of the Luzardo/Doolittle/Madson deal. He had a rough 2018, his first at Triple-A, then went bonkers in Vegas last year, slashing .317/.389/.550 with 60 extra-base hits in 126 games. He struggled during a brief big league stint (lion’s share of the reps there came at second base after playing mostly third in Triple-A) but didn’t get consistent at-bats outside of the first week of September. While I think the dramatic strikeout rate dip last year will probably regress to the mean, he’s going to be a valuable, multi-positional player (2B/3B with maybe some left, and shortstop in a pinch) with power.
What scouts think of Beck depends on how willing they are to view his struggles in the context of his pedigree. Remember, Beck had almost zero experience against elite high school pitching (he missed his showcase summer with a torn ACL) and was purely drafted based on the tools he showed during his senior spring. He’s only had two season’s worth of at-bats against pro-quality pitching, and (hopefully) he’s still adjusting. To that end, his ability to identify balls and strikes remains undercooked and it has undermined his performance in spite of blaring physical gifts. He still has power and arm strength but he’s swing-happy in the box, his swing is not yet geared for in-game power, and Beck is sometimes visibly frustrated, which appears to cause some of his approach issues to snowball. Again, Beck is only 21 and if you consider not only his relative inexperience but also his age (he was a 20-year-old at Hi-A in 2019 and was still nearly a league-average offensive player), there are reasons to be optimistic for late growth.
Kap finally threw his first innings at an A’s affiliate last year, making about 20 starts of three to five innings apiece, during which he threw plenty of strikes. His velocity was in the 88-91 range during Extended and then the 90-94 range during the summer. This spring, he was sitting 92-95, and while that’s not where Kap’s heater was at peak, it’s an encouraging sign for someone whose injury track record is as long as anyone’s in baseball. He missed nearly all of 2016 due to a flexor-tendon strain, blew out his UCL during 2017 spring training and needed Tommy John, then was shut back down with shoulder soreness in 2018 during rehab, and finally had more shoulder soreness early last year. So long as he has his spring velo if and when baseball returns, I think he’ll be a core member of Oakland’s staff in short order, possibly in multi-inning relief based on his 2019 usage.
Allen, who was acquired in exchange for non-tender candidate Jurickson Profar during the offseason, is a big, immobile defender with power. Some of his issues might be rendered moot by the eventual use of an electronic strike zone, but for now Allen’s reps need to be limited the way Evan Gattis’ were when he was seeing regular playing time, pairing him with pitchers who work in such a way that Allen’s problems are masked. With 26-man rosters coming, his presence as a third catcher, a late-inning lefty bench bat, a late-inning catcher when the A’s trail, or an occasional DH sub for Khris Davis against righties all make him immediately rosterable. He profiles as a bit player who does that sort of thing rather than an everyday catcher or first baseman.
Heim has been around for a while now and he’s always been notable because he’s a good receiver despite his size, and has an unusually low strikeout rate for a switch-hitter with such long levers. The quality of his at-bats has improved over the last couple of years and he’s pretty likely to play a big league role this year since Sean Murphy has had some issues staying on the field and Austin Allen isn’t a good defender. He might be more valuable than a 40 FV in the short-term because he’s a good framer, but if balls and strikes are soon called by tech, he’s probably more of a third catcher.
I’ve spoken with folks who think that even though he was one dinger away from going 20/20 and had perhaps the best surface-level stats of his career, Mateo’s approach actually regressed last year as he leaned into selling out for power in a hitting environment where it was more viable. That’s not to say that Mateo’s stats are a caricature of his physical abilities. He’s still an 80-grade runner with some power and arm strength, but at age 25, he remains somewhat inconsistent as an infield defender and is swing-happy at the plate. He hasn’t played center field since he was with the Yankees and it might be too late to revisit that. I think he’ll carve out a bench role somewhere based on his physical ability.
Wire-to-wire shoulder issues kept Holmes off the field for nearly all of the 2018 regular season and he was handled with care in 2019, working three to five innings at a time, same as Kaprielian. Also like Kaprielian, Holmes was 90-94 last year and came into 2020 spring training with more juice, sitting 92-95 before the shut down, with his typical slider and what looked like a new cutter. Based on the health and command track record, I have Holmes projected in middle relief.
For most of his college career, Baum’s stuff was not as electric as it was during his high school peak, but it ticked back up toward the end of his junior year at UNC. He was up to 96 after the draft. Baum’s arm slot wanders a little bit and some times his fastball has more run than at others. His changeup has fairly consistent fading action that mirrors the best of those fastballs, but his upper-70s, two-plane curveball is the headline pitch, and flashes plus. He’s on the starter/reliever line depending on how you feel about the delivery.
I’m not sweating Dunshee’s 5.38 Triple-A ERA. The Pacific Coast League is not a favorable environment for pitchers in general, and especially not for pitchers who take an approach like Dunshee’s (which results in lots of fly balls); the Las Vegas elevation is particularly punishing. Dunshee started nibbling and gave up way more homers in Vegas than he has for his entire career. I still view him as a deceptive, strike-throwing fifth starter or swingman.
Howard was a $40,000 senior sign in the eighth round of the 2017 draft and spent half of 2018 pitching well at Double-A. His stuff is pretty generic — 89-93 with an average cutter and curveball — but Howard’s size (he’s 6-foot-9) creates a unique angle on his pitches that hitters clearly aren’t comfortable with. He also has remarkable control for a pitcher of this size. It’s fifth or sixth starter stuff, which would already be a great outcome for a high-priority senior sign, and I’m inclined to round to the top of that range based on the weirdness created by Howard’s height and his purported competitiveness.
Bolt is somewhat injury-prone, but is otherwise a high-probability bench outfielder with some pop and speed. He’s a much better hitter from the left side than the right.
Selected from the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft, Machin walked more than he struck out at Double-A (he was 25 all last summer) and hit .294/.386/.403 there. He can play all four infield spots passably, and has favorable handedness. That’s a rosterable utility guy.
Romero experienced an unexpected velocity spike as a 24-year-old, his heater creeping into the 93-97 range after it was 92-94 the year before. He also drastically improved his slider, which he lacked feel for just after signing, and he now looks like a standard fastball/slider middle relief prospect in most outings, though remember that Romero also throws a knuckle changeup — coined “The Critter” by Mat Latos, the only other guy I know of who throws it — which he has de-emphasized as the slider has emerged.
The stocky Diaz took his advanced bat-to-ball skills to Vermont and performed pretty well, slashing .264/.307/.430 while only striking out 15% of the time. There’s a moderate chance he eventually has to move to first base, and he likely lacks the power for that, but if he can stay at third Diaz could end up a plus bat who makes enough contact to be a low-end regular despite modest power.
Eierman’s older brother Johnny was a third round pick of the Rays in 2011 and his father, John, played A-ball for the Red Sox in the mid-90s. Jeremy was a solid prep prospect, but not the type who gets a big bonus and signs out of high school, so he ended up at Missouri State, where he had a breakout sophomore year. He was often seen by high-level decision makers during that breakout because he was playing alongside first round third baseman Jake Burger, and he had 2018 first round buzz by the end of the college postseason because scouts thought he could be a passable shortstop with all-fields power, and analytics folks liked his huge season and higher-than-you’d-expect exit velos. Then Eierman had an inconsistent summer with Team USA and his draft spring was a bit of a letdown. He plateaued, arguably had a worse statistical season, and suddenly there were doubts about his approach and ultimate defensive home. He fell to 70th overall. He made his full-season debut at Hi-A and struck out so much that he only slugged .357 even though 40% of his hits were for extra bases. He’s trending down but still has power and a chance to stay on the dirt.
Already Paulino’s size suggests he’s not a long-term fit at shortstop, but he does have infield actions and arm strength and could be quite good at third, or perhaps even shoehorned at second. He won’t turn 19 until later this week, and will be one of the more interesting prospects on Oakland’s AZL team. For now, he simply has an intriguing combination of power and defensive profile, with very little actually in focus. His approach is immature so I consider him a high-risk prospect, but he has enough power projection to profile as a low-end regular if he can be more selective and attack pitches he can drive.
Pro scouts considering McCann’s post-draft, sub-Mendoza line flailing at Vermont think the lack of contact he made there is an early career red flag. I’ve held his pre-draft evaluation here. His head does have a tendency to fly out and he’ll swing through stuff in the zone, but my goodness McCann has big power. He caught at Georgia Tech and split time behind the plate and at first base after signing. The pre-draft consensus was that he’d eventually move to first.
Smith has a promising contact/speed offensive profile enabled by his uncommon feel for all-fields, line drive contact. This is a classic tweener teenage outfield profile that’s shaded a bit differently because, unlike most others, Smith is actually kinda stocky and physical-looking, which perhaps means he’s less projectable. His lower half is very upright throughout his swing and he struggles to get underneath some pitches because of it. There’s a path to an everyday role here, one spearheaded by contact and good center field defense, but Smith has to clear some strength/power checkpoints.
Millas is a good catch-and-throw backstop who had a really strong sophomore year with the bat before regressing a little bit as a junior. He has above-average bat speed when he’s swinging at stuff down the middle but has to sacrifice whip for contact to get to pitches in most parts of the strike zone.
Reed was a lightly-scouted multi-sport high school athlete in Maryland who also played hockey before he arrived at the University of Florida. Soon after he stepped on campus, scouts saw and become enamored with his enormous athletic potential. He has 70 speed and defensive ability in center field, along with a 60 arm and average raw power. As a 6-foot-4, 210 pound athletic specimen, he’ll probably play forever as a fourth outfielder in the Jake Marisnick mold.
Catch Charles on the right night and he’ll show you three 55 or better pitches. Other nights, though, he’ll walk three or four guys just trying to get through an inning or two of work. I have him in up/down relief right now because the control is too erratic to trust Charles as a core part of your bullpen day in and day out, but if he ever starts throwing strikes (and finds a more consistent release for his splitter), he’ll be an absolute monster.
Deichmann hit nearly as many home runs during his six week Fall League stint as he did during all of 2019 at Double-A Midland, where his statline may have been compromised by an injured shoulder. It was the latest of several weird injuries that have limited Deichmann’s playing time each of the last three years. He was hit in the face by a pitch in 2017 and required surgery, then broke a hamate in 2018. While his performance may have been impacted by this, we’re still talking about a 25-year-old corner outfielder who has struck out in excess of 30% of the time at his last couple stops, and that scares me.
Pantuso looked like a 31st round steal last summer. He’s a leviathan small-school senior sign who was up to 98 in the AZL, and flashes a plus slider in the 83-86 range that has more length than most sliders that firm. He’ll move as fast as his fastball control allows and has strong relief stuff.
Mariñez was a notable infield prospect early in his career due to his hands, actions, arm strength and frame, but he never developed even viable upper-level feel for hitting, so he was moved to the mound late in 2018. He barely threw at an affiliate, and so was most widely seen during instructional league, where he was a fluid and easy 93-97, with good nascent secondary stuff. He had a strong 2019 in the mid-minors and I thought he deserved Rule 5 consideration, but he went unselected.
There are scouts and front office personnel who see Lazarito’s strikeout issues (he punched out 42% of the time last year) as entirely disqualifying, and clearly his ability to make contact needs to improve dramatically if he’s going to be any kind of big leaguer. He still has a rare power/speed blend, though, and I think his issues have more to do with swing path than anything else, which is more fixable than, say, issues caused by pitch recognition. His cut is fairly similar to what Luis Robert’s was before Robert and the White Sox made relevant adjustments to his mechanics, so I’m holding onto some optimism for Armenteros, though it has largely dwindled throughout the industry.
Barrera slugged over .500 during an injury-shortened 2019 (right shoulder surgery) at Double-A Midland, but his approach and swing path aren’t really conducive to him hitting for power going forward. I have him projected as a bench outfielder, albeit an uncommonly toolsy one because of his impact speed and throwing arm.
Mora was sent back to Vermont for a second consecutive year and was moved to the bullpen, where he struck out 47 hitters in 27 innings after experiencing a little velo bump. He has a well-balanced lower half but he lacks tactile feel for release, which impacts his command. His upper body rotates in unison like a tilt-a-whirl, and his low 3/4s arm slot generates mediocre angle on his fastball but nasty, two-plane movement on his slider.
Like Pantuso, Varland became known to FanGraphs after he was drafted. Thick and physical throughout the torso and thighs, Varland has a lightning-quick arm that generates mid-90s velocity at peak. His fastball has bat-missing life, and both his breaking balls have sufficient bite to avoid barrels as well, especially when they’re well-located. He had Tommy John last August and will miss all of 2020.
Other Prospects of Note
Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.
Dustin Harris, 1B
Cobie Vance, 3B
Alexander Campos, 2B
Marcos Brito, 2B
Sahid Valenzuela, SS
Pretty self-explanatory group here. Harris, a 20-year-old JUCO pickup in last year’s 11th round, has a shot to be a four corners role player. Vance and Campos are thick-bodied infielders who are tough to strike out. I was all in on Brito’s hit tool for the last couple of years, and though he’s been young for each level, he hasn’t performed at all. Valenzuela is more of a glove-first, switch-hitting utility infield type, but I wanted to cheat him on here somewhere because I liked him while he was at Fullerton. He had TJ last year and was a shrewd 13th round pickup.
Dalton Sawyer, LHP
Colin Peluse, RHP
Sawyer was a 40 FV backend starter prospect who has now missed the last two and a half seasons due to TJ and the pandemic. His delivery, fastball command, and ability to dump his curveball in for strikes should be enough for him to deal with lefties and Swayer’s best pitch, a late-sinking, bat-missing changeup, could be enough to keep righties at bay. He’s now 26 and hasn’t pitched at the upper levels because of circumstances out of his control. Peluse had TJ toward the end of high school and began his Wake Forest career in the bullpen before transitioning into a weekend starter role as a sophomore. He’s a pitchability righty with fringe stuff that plays up because Peluse’s delivery screws with hitters’ timing. He lulls hitters to sleep at the onset of his motion, then suddenly speeds up half way through his delivery, which catches hitters off guard.
Jalen Greer, 2B
Jose Dicochea, RHP
Lawrence Butler, 1B
Lester Madden, LF
T.J. Schofield-Sam, 3B
Three of these players were 2019 high school draftees. Greer was Oakland’s fifth rounder last year and really struggled in the AZL but he’s a cold weather high schooler from the Chicago area, so that’s not immediately disqualifying. Dicochea was their eighth rounder, a high school righty from Tucson who has been up to 96, sitting low-90s. His delivery needs some love. Schofield-Sam has quick hitter’s hands but his hand load was way too high and deep when I saw him as an amateur. He’s from Ontario so, like Greer, it’s probably going to be a slow burn. The same is true for Butler, though he’s first base-only. Madden signed out of Cuba for $300,000 and 2019 was his first pro season. He looked good during the spring and got off to a strong start at Beloit before floundering from June onward.
Older Dudes with Arm Strength
Aiden McIntyre, RHP
Jaimito Lebron, RHP
Robin Vazquez, RHP
Nathan Patterson, RHP
McIntyre pitched as a starter last year and, even at 89-93, his fastball was dominant because it has plus-plus vertical movement. His control is bad and he needs to move to the bullpen, where a velo bump could make his fastball really dominant. Lebron, 23, was a minor league Rule 5 pick from San Diego who sat 93-96 and touched 97 last year; he has a 45 cutter and 30 command. Vazquez, 22, was old for the AZL last year but he’s up to 95 with a fastball that spins at 2500 rpm. You probably know about Patterson’s story. He sits in the low-90s in games and has 40/45 secondary stuff.
Assuming baseball is played this year and Puk, Murphy, and Luzardo have the opportunity to graduate, this is likely to become the worst farm system in baseball by the winter. That’s not an indictment on the org’s ability to find players. The reason Oakland remains competitive is because the amateur department drafted Matts Chapman and Olson (both of whom I was low on as prospects), while the pro department is responsible for Marcus Semien, Khris Davis, Ramón Laureano, etc.
Injuries are often a superficial reason farm systems look worse, but in this case they’re arguably helpful. All three top 100 types, as well as Kaprielian, Jefferies, and Holmes all probably would have graduated by now had they not been hurt for most of the last couple years.
Oakland is getting very little from its International program. Brito and Lazarito are barely hanging on, and Yerdel Vargas, Kevin Richards, Norge Ruiz, and little George Bell (injury) aren’t on here. I was high on several of those guys, too, but that group isn’t working out, which feels worse in light of the opportunity cost of that class. It kept Oakland in the bonus penalty box for the 2017 and 2018 signing periods, and then they dropped essentially their entire 2019 pool on Puason. This is a big reason this system is so shallow right now.
Below is my second 2020 mock draft. The first pass can be found here and is suggested reading as context for the top 13 or so picks. The full 2020 Draft Board can be found here.
Teams’ boards are entirely built now, and the focus of orgs and scouts has shifted toward assessing the signability of individual prospects so there aren’t high stakes mathematical puzzle pieces being smashed together on the fly on Wednesday. The higher a player is ranked, the more likely it is that someone higher up on a team’s organizational ladder is the one talking to the advisor. Some medical reviews are also underway.
I’ll do one more mock for Wednesday morning and, if necessary, a mock of just names with teams just ahead of the draft.
1. Detroit Tigers- Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State
No change up top, as the overwhelming industry sense remains that Tork goes here. If something unexpected occurs and negotiations break down, I’d have Lacy the favorite to go based on Detroit’s tendencies. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Los Angeles Angels. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
The baseball-loving world held its collective breath last year when Adell went down with two freak leg injuries on the same spring training play (while going from first to third, he strained his left hamstring, then sprained his right ankle trying to stop himself when he felt the pull) and was shelved for a couple of months. While his gait appeared compromised during Extended spring rehab outings, Adell was asymptomatic throughout the summer and during the Arizona Fall League. After a brief jaunt in the Cal League, the Angels sent him to Double-A Mobile, where he’d had a strikeout-laden cup of coffee the year before. He adjusted, cut the strikeout rate down to a very livable 22%, and hit .308/.390/.553 over two months before he was sent to Triple-A in August. Again, Adell struck out a lot when he was challenged, and there are people in baseball who worry about how often he K’s, but he was just 20 years old and has had success amid many swing changes since he signed, a common theme among Angels prospects.
Adell’s leg kick has been altered; he now raises it even with his waist at apex, and the height at which his hands load (as well as the angle of his bat when they do) was quite nomadic throughout last year. By the time Adell was done with Fall League and had joined Team USA’s Premier12 Olympic qualifying efforts, he had a Gary Sheffield-style bat wrap. Adell is one of the best athletes in the minors (there’s video of him box jumping 66 inches online) and the fact that’s he’s been able to manifest these adjustments on the field at will is incredible. Even if something mechanical isn’t working in the future, chances are he’ll be able to fix it. I’ve settled on projecting Adell in left field. The arm strength he showed as an amateur, when he was into the mid-90s as a pitcher, never totally returned after it mysteriously evaporated during his senior year of high school. He has a 40 arm and is such a hulking dude that he’s just going to be a corner defender at maturity. Strikeouts may limit Adell’s productivity when he’s initially brought up, but I think eventually he’ll be a middle-of-the-order force who hits 35-plus homers.
It’s possible the wait is over and that Marsh’s swing is now in a place that will enable him to hit for power more in line with the thump he shows in batting practice, but his in-season slugging performance (.428 in 2019, up from .385 the year before) is not the evidence. Marsh still hit the ball on the ground a lot during the regular season and only averaged about five degrees of launch angle, but by his Fall League stint things clearly looked different. Like Jo Adell showed late in the fall, Marsh’s hands loaded a little farther out away from his body and he had what some scouts called a “wrap” or “power tip,” where the bat head angled toward the mound a bit, setting up more of a loop than a direct path to the ball. I thought he lifted the ball better during that six week stretch and did so without compromising his strong feel for contact. Marsh is a better outfield defender that Adell and projects as a clean fit in center field, which, so long as this development holds, should enable him to be an above-average everday player.
Adams was seen as a football-first prospect until late March of 2018. He played at a couple of showcase events in the summer of 2017 and had some raw tools, but wasn’t yet under consideration for the top few rounds of the baseball draft. He was, however, a top 100 football recruit, set to head to North Carolina to play wide receiver, where his father was on the coaching staff. Then in March, Adams had a coming out party at the heavily-scouted NHSI tournament near his high school. Multiple scouts from all 30 teams watched him against strong competition for a few days, and he looked very, very good, much more comfortable than expected given his level of experience. Scouts were hesitant at first, worried they might be overreacting, but eventually they came to think that Adams’ only athletic peer in recent draft history was Byron Buxton. Teams assessed his signability and the Angels were comfortable using their first rounder on him.
He didn’t play much during that first pro summer, but the Angels surprisingly skipped him over the Pioneer League and sent him right to full-season ball, even though he’d only been solely focused on baseball for a year. Adams had a slightly above-average statline there, which is incredible for someone who only just picked up a bat. He is built like you probably expect a D-I wide receiver recruit to be built, he’s an 80 runner, and while the swing foundation isn’t great, the Angels are one of the most proactive, swing-changing orgs. Adams’ rare physical gifts make him a potential star, though more advanced pitching will probably be a real challenge for him this year.
When he was drafted, Paris was closer in age to many international free agent prospects than he was to some of the older high schoolers in his class, and he’s still younger than a bunch of the high schoolers slated to go in the 2020 draft. Paris’ pre-draft profile existed at the intersection of traits a lot of models seem to prioritize (chiefly, his age) and old school scouting (this was one of the 2019 draft’s best athletes with one of its most projectable builds). Paris is really fast, might be capable of staying at shortstop (and should stay on the middle of the diamond if he can’t), and his feel to hit was much better during his draft spring than it was the summer before. Some teams thought it was just a product of him facing weaker pitching, while others thought he was truly emerging and cited his age as evidence that the late improvement was legitimate. A broken hamate limited Paris to just three games after last year’s draft. He arrived to camp this spring looking absolutely yoked, and he has a chance to hit for some power sooner than I anticipated a year ago. I still consider him a slow-burning prospect with a high ceiling (a leadoff hitting middle infield or center fielder) but it’s possible things will come together sooner than I initially anticipated based on how physical Paris worked to become during the offseason.
It’s hard to find prospects who have an infielder’s grace and athleticism as well as a big, projectable frame. He’s currently skinny as a rail, but Vera is one of these prospects and has a chance to mature in the Goldilocks Zone, where he stays lithe and athletic enough to remain at short but also grows into impact power. He took some good cuts in the Fall during intrasquads, but if Vera worked deep into counts and swung several times during the same at-bat, his later swings weren’t as controlled and strong. He needs to get stronger. I’m a bit less confident in Vera filling out than I was with Ronny Mauricio at the same age just because Vera’s physical composition is a little narrower and more slender, but if he does, his swing is already in a better spot to hit for power than Mauricio.
I’m taking Sandoval’s 2019 big league walk issues with a big grain of salt because the Angels altered his release point during last season (which you can see in the graph section of his player page), lowering it slightly. It created a bit more tail on his changeup, which Sandoval has surprisingly good arm-side command of despite his vertically-oriented slot. Assuming his strike-throwing regresses to career norms, I have Sandoval evaluated as a big league ready No. 4/5 starter.
Jackson’s swing has already been tailored for extreme lift and power. He only hit 29% of his balls in play on the ground last year (down from 42% the year before) and averaged a 20 degree launch angle (second highest in the org behind Trent Deveaux), which would put him among the 10 steepest swingers among qualified big leaguers last year. He hit 23 homers in 65 games, and while that number was inflated by the league’s hitting environment, to the naked eye, he clearly has explosive hands and big power. Scouts who saw him last summer were all scared of this swing, with one going so far as to say it’s “jacked up.” They worry the lack of contact (33% strikeout rate last year) won’t enable him to get to that power against upper-level pitching, and that as Jackson slides down the defensive spectrum (he’s likely to move to third base), it might make it tough for him to profile.
That he has a chance to stay at short, or on the infield at all, and hit for big game power means Jackson’s got an airplane hangar’s ceiling, but he’s a prospect of extreme risk. I’m optimistic that, because he’s already been able to make adjustments, he’ll continue to do so.
Yan is like a mirror image of Freddy Peralta. Like Peralta, he’s best-suited to attack hitters with a lot of fastballs. Several aspects of Yan’s delivery enable his heater to dominate even though he only averaged 92 mph last year. He’s a long-armed side-armer with a cross-bodied delivery, which means he is releasing the ball way behind the backs of left-handed hitters, and his fastball has weird angle in on the hands of righties. The rest of the repertoire isn’t great. Yan’s slider lives almost entirely off of his arm slot and really only works against left-handed hitters, and he doesn’t throw his changeup with conviction yet. I think he’ll move to the bullpen where I believe he’ll experience a velo bump and work with a 70-grade heater. He’ll still need to develop a way to deal with righties to pitch in high-leverage spots. If he does, he’ll be a high-leverage arm.
A stress reaction in his back cost Rodriguez all of 2018 and 2019 (he made three starts in April before he was shut down again and had surgery) but when healthy, he has the best stuff in this system, a pitch mix befitting a top 100 prospect. Prior to Rodriguez’s shutdown in 2018, he had experienced a velo spike (93-97, up from 91-94 the year before) and lowered his arm slot. Both of his breaking balls were excellent, but his changeup had regressed a bit compared to his first year (or at least, he lacked feel for it the last time I saw him). The injury adds fuel to the speculative fire that Rodriguez’s violent delivery will eventually limit him to the bullpen. It didn’t prohibit him from having starter control, but scouts were concerned about injury. Now, there’s been one. If health eventually moves Rodriguez to the bullpen, he has high-leverage stuff. If not, and his changeup returns, he could be a No. 3 or 4 starter.
So young is Ramirez that he had to wait almost two months after the July 2 signing day to turn 16 and become eligible to put pen to paper on his pro contract, which included a $1 million bonus. At the time, he was a typical, frame-based power projection outfield prospect at a lean, high-waisted, broad-shouldered 6-foot-2. But Ramirez has grown into serious power more quickly than anticipated. In fact, his 95 mph average exit velo was the highest in the entire DSL last year. He also struck out a lot, and corner bats who punch out at this rate at any level, let alone against bad DSL pitching, are inherently volatile. I saw Ramirez in the fall and I don’t think he’s 6-foot-2 anymore; to me, he looked closer to 6-foot-4 and didn’t look maxed out physically. I think he still has a ton of room on his frame and a chance to grow into elite raw power, but of course the feel to hit really hasn’t been tested yet, and it’s a necessary component for corner players.
Jones had the worst offensive season of his career in 2019 and arrived in the Arizona Fall League having made yet another swing change. He ran an unusually low BABIP last year, his underlying TrackMan data was still favorable (39% of balls in play hit 95 mph or above), and he was a college-aged player who spent all of last year at Double-A. I’m still betting on Jones’ makeup and athleticism, and think he’ll find a way to be a 1.5 to 2 WAR role player who sees time at second base and in left field.
Knowles has electric tools — a plus arm, plus-plus speed, sneaky power for a guy his size — and is the same age as several players who the Angels left back in the AZL. He didn’t hit especially well — .240/.310/.387 — but was 2.5 years younger than the average player in that league. That’s not to say Knowles’ bat doesn’t need polish. His left-handed swing (this system has a lot of switch-hitters) is pretty grooved, and I think he’s likely to be strikeout prone from that side for good. From the right side, he might be able to do real damage. Knowles needs more reps in center as his reads on balls are mixed. Again, Knowles is a 19-year-old switch hitter and it’s possible that his feel to hit from the left side still develops. If it doesn’t, he easily projects as a fourth outfielder who could be the short half of a platoon at any outfield spot.
Many teams considered Holmes to be one of the, if not the, best on-mound athletes among high schoolers in the 2018 draft, but many of them also thought he was sushi raw as both a hurler and an outfielder, and that he would end up at the University of Tennessee. A $700,000 bonus brought him to Tempe for a summer free of pitching in games, an approach the Angels have taken with several recent draftees. He’s begun to emerge as a pitching prospect, showing refined command of three viable pitches late last summer. He’s a No. 4/5 starter if he can continue to do that consistently, and perhaps as he continues to focus on pitching, there might be late-blooming raw stuff quality, too.
Soriano had Tommy John in February. It was already pretty clear that his future would be in the bullpen, but the surgery, and what it does to his developmental timeline, make it even more likely. He experienced another velo bump last year (not as huge as the jump from 2017 to ’18) and was touching 99 as a starter at Low-A Burlington.
I wrote last year that I thought Deveaux’s horrendous 2018 season was largely caused by the constant mechanical changes he was asked to make. His 2019 swing was still noisier than a Dinosaur Jr. concert in a giant aluminum dome, but he seemed to get a better feel for syncing it up and timing fastballs late last summer before the club promoted him to Orem for the last week of the season. He remains a high-risk prospect whose hit tool might be disqualifying, but if he finds a swing that works for him and is allowed to keep it, he has a shot to be a power-hitting center fielder.
Kochanowicz is a physical beast from a cold weather locale. He has surprisingly advanced feel for locating his curveball, and for a changeup that I think has a chance to be his best pitch at maturity. He was 90-94 during his pre-draft spring and didn’t pitch after he signed.
Franco’s velocity spiked last year — 90-94 in 2018, 93-96 and touching 97 in 2019 — and he’ll flash a plus breaking ball. He’s small but athletic, an indication he can hold the velo and also refine his command. I think it’s more likely he ends up a power reliever, living off of velo and that two-planed power curveball.
It took a $100,000 bonus to sign Hermosillo away from a football scholarship to Illinois. What with two-sports and a cold-weather background, he was understandably raw when he entered pro ball, and it took Hermosillo three years of adjustments before he finally experienced a statistical breakout in 2016. Since then, he has continued to make mechanical tweaks to reshape his skillset, and was rewarded with brief major league stints in 2018 and 2019. He likely would have graduated last year had he not missed a big chunk of the season recovering from hernia surgery and post-op issues with scar tissue. He’s likely to be Brian Goodwin’s platoon partner this year.
Placencia’s left-handed swing is the sweetest-looking cut in this system, and his righty swing is the second. He has feel for lengthening his path to create good angle on pitches at the bottom of the zone, but he can also keep things short and direct to catch pitches near the top of the zone. This kind of bat control is rare for anyone, let alone a switch-hitter this age. He’s a smaller-framed kid who may not grow into much power (though I’m cautiously optimistic about him developing enough pop to keep pitchers honest), and ends up painted into a bit of a corner at second base.
It’s very possible that Rivas’ elite feel for the strike zone won’t translate to upper-level play. He owns a 16% career walk rate, but Rivas and his childlike, Lilliputian frame lack even a modicum of over-the-fence power, and advanced pitching may choose to attack him rather than nibble and let the speedy infielder reach without putting the ball in play. Even if his walk rate comes down, Rivas does enough other stuff to contribute to a big league roster. He won’t hit homers, but he stings high-quality line drive contact to all-fields and can slash doubles down the third base line. He has sufficient speed and range for the middle infield, and has experience at every position but first base and catcher, though he hasn’t played the outfield since 2015. Rivas’ most realistic path to everyday production involves him retaining something close to his current walk rate, but he’s more likely to become a valuable utility man who can play all over the field, and is a fairly high-probability prospect in that regard.
Signed out of Cuba at 19, Martinez has hit .280/.337/.433 in two pro seasons, though the bulk of that has been in the Pioneer and Cal Leagues. He has a balanced and well-timed cut, above-average bat control (though he sometimes sacrifices contact quality), and average raw power. The physical tools are modest, short of a corner regular, but Marintez could play a well-rounded platoon role.
Hernandez has good secondary stuff but his control is raw for a 23-year-old, and he hasn’t been able to make up the reps he missed in college (he made just 19 starts in three years) due to a 2019 injury and, ya know, the pandemic. He probably also needs a bit of a velo boost, since he averaged about 92 last year, which I think he has a shot to find in one-inning bursts.
A growing number of teams shut down their newly-drafted pitchers during their first pro summer, which is what the Angels did with Stallings (it’s why he doesn’t have a player page yet), who threw a career-high 103 innings at Tennessee during the spring. In 251 career collegiate frames, Stallings walked just 37 hitters, and he didn’t issue a single free pass during his summer on Cape Cod. You’d think an extreme strike-thrower like this would have the most vanilla, stock footage delivery, but Stallings’ is actually kind of funky, and helps his stuff (which is very vanilla) play up a little bit. He’s a low variance fifth starter prospect.
The Angels are one of what is now a majority of teams that don’t have a traditional instructional league and instead play brief intrasquad scrimmages in the fall. It was there that Tapia popped, showing the group’s most polished feel for pitching even though he was the youngest guy on the roster. Tapia has a semi-projectable frame, so hopefully his fastball, which currently sits 88-91, has an extra gear as he develops in his late teens and early 20s. If it doesn’t, his advanced command may enable it to play anyway. Most impressively, Tapia’s changeup is already plus pretty often and he shows mature usage of it, working it down-and-in to righties for whiffs, and running it back onto the outside corner against them for looking strikes. His 73-77 mph curveball is loose and blunt right now, but has good shape. He has a shot to be a rotation piece.
Walsh may pitch in mop-up duty, but his primary role will be as a lefty bench bat with power. He had among the highest average exit velocities in the minors last year at just under 96 mph.
Pina pitched out of the bullpen in 2018, then moved to the Low-A rotation last year and struck out 146 hitters in 108 innings despite pitching with diminished velocity in the starting role. He has a prototypical 6-foot-4 frame and generates nearly seven and a half feet of extension down the mound, which helps that fastball get in hitters’ kitchens. He has both breaking ball consistency issues (though it flashes plus) and mechanical consistency concerns, so I have him projected in relief, where I think the fastball will live in the mid-90s.
Ortega had a breakout 2019, striking out 121 hitters in 94 innings at Hi-A Inland Empire before finishing his year with five rough starts at Double-A. Most of those strikeouts were accrued via Ortega’s mid-90s fastball, which lives in the top of the strike zone, and a low-80s, vertical curveball. Ortega doesn’t repeat his delivery consistently and I have him projected in up/down relief.
Scouts like Soto because of how hard he plays, and some analysts like him because of how hard he is to strike out (he had a measley 7% swinging strike rate last year), but I don’t think he has big league physicality. At the same time, he does have speed, defensive versatility, advantageous handedness, and is only 20, so if he gets stronger, he could be a good bench piece.
Bonilla has a mature build (which is why I’ve got him projected at third rather than short, where he mostly played last year) and approach, as well as a plus arm. He’s not likely to grow into huge power and instead has a shot to profile with a balanced combination of contact, on-base ability, and modest pop.
Aquino missed 2018 due to TJ and his velocity wasn’t quite back last year, living in the 90-94 range rather than at 92-96. His fastball has relevant backspin but because Aquino doesn’t get down the mound very well, it has hittable, downhill angle. He’s still a good-framed 21-year-old, and I wonder where the fastball would live in relief.
Higgins’ stuff was up and down in college, peaking in the upper-90s during his underclass stint in the Alaskan Summer League. Arizona State didn’t have a pitching coach (seriously) for part of his college tenure and Higgins might only now be thriving in a more stable developmental environment. He’s a vertical slot lefty relief prospect.
Adrian De Horta, RHP
Zach Linginfelter, RHP
Matt Ball, RHP
Luke Lind, RHP
Davis Daniel, RHP
Adrian Almeida, LHP
De Horta and Ball were spring NRIs. De Horta, 25, sat 92-96 last year and has an average curveball. Linginfelter was the club’s ninth rounder last year and, at his best, would be in the mid-90s with an above-average slider, but not consistently. Lind and Ball are both 25 and live off of fastball deception. Daniel, the club’s seventh rounder last year, was up to 96 at Auburn and had a very pretty 12-to-6 curveball, but he blew out early during his draft spring and needed TJ. Almeida was a Minor League Rule 5 pick a few years ago. He’s one of the hardest lefty throwers on the planet (93-97, touch 99), but he has 20 command.
Erik Rivera, LHP/OF
Jose Reyes, CF
Edwin Yon, RF
Kevin Maitan, 3B
Rivera, 19, is being developed like Holmes, where he’s still doing a mix of hitting and pitching. I like him better on the mound. He’s an above-average athlete with some breaking ball feel, and he was up to 94 in the bullpen this spring after sitting at about 87-88 as an amateur. Reyes is another well-built lefty stick with good secondary tools, but the bat looked light to me last year. He’s only 19. Yon was a Minor League Rule 5 pick last year. He’s about 6-foot-6 and has huge power. His lever length is a problem but he missed a lot of time with a gruesome leg injury and I think he’s got a puncher’s chance to break late. Maitan is still only 20, but I can’t find anyone who’s still in on him.
This system has the two big fish at the very top, a third who is tracking like one (Adams), and then a bunch of young, toolsy, risky sorts with big ceilings. There is not a lot of depth in the system, which has lost Luis Rengifo, Griffin Canning, Jose Suarez, and Matt Thaiss to graduation in the last year. The Angels have also traded some prospects, though not always for the right reasons. They sent a host of interesting college-aged arms to Baltimore for Dylan Bundy (they’d all have been toward the bottom of the list), and last year’s first rounder, Will Wilson, was sent to the Giants as part of a Winter Meetings salary dump that in retrospect was a tip that Arte Moreno was starting to cry about the ops budget.
All of baseball thinks Moreno’s mandate to furlough scouts was distasteful and cheap, and especially demoralizing given the timing, since the affected area scouts would have all been paid just once more before the draft. People in baseball seem less inclined to want to work for the Angels going forward.
Other org tendencies? Age and athleticism seem to be drivers in the draft room. The pro side hasn’t had many opportunities to act like buyers in recent years, but in the cases when they have (Sandoval), they’ve often hit. The Angels have also made a habit of signing post-hype players who have been released, like Adrian Rondon, Michael Santos, Gareth Morgan, and several other past prospects of note.
I’m wading into the gaming and streaming space with Yeoman’s Work, a lo-fi, multimedia presentation that follows my pursuit of a championship in the baseball simulator, Diamond Mind Baseball, paired with single-camera footage from my baseball video archives. Below is Episode 2, which features my tilt against the division-leading California Red-Legged Frogs, paired with highlights of Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson and footage from the first time I saw Jesuit High School (OR) right-hander Mick Abel, the consensus top high school pitcher in this year’s draft.
Both DMB’s gameplay and most of my video archive are very quiet, low-sensory experiences without music or crowd noise, and I think this will appeal to those of you who enjoy Baseball Sounds, as they are front and center in the footage. If this tone appeals to you, my “musical influences” in this department (i.e. the non-FanGraphs Twitch streams I watch on my own time) are Kenji Egashira’s and Luis Scott-Vargas’ live Magic: The Gathering content, Kate Stark’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds streams, and Kathleen De Vere’s pirate radio show, Brave New Faves. Read the rest of this entry »
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Milwaukee Brewers. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
Turang has two profile-carrying attributes in his ball/strike recognition and defense, while the rest of the profile struggles because he doesn’t square balls up very well. He has a chance to be a plus defender who reaches base a lot, which is basically what J.P. Crawford‘s skill base was, even when he was struggling. It’s possible that upper-level pitching challenges Turang with impunity and his walk rates tank, at which point I’ll move off him. If his frame, which is broad-shouldered and quite projectable, fills out and suddenly there’s relevant pop, he’s an everday player.
Feliciano hit .273/.324/.477 with 19 homers as a 20-year-old in the Carolina League, a level he was semi-repeating, as he’d spent about a month there in 2018 but missed much of the rest of that year due to injury. He is one of the more talented offensive catching prospects in the minors thanks to a potent combination of power and barrel feel. When Feliciano puts balls in play, they’re very often scorched — just under 50% of the balls he hit last year entered play at 95 mph or above, which is a 65 on the 20-80 scale if you curve out big leaguers’ hard hit rates. All of that seems likely to be hampered by Feliciano’s hedonistic approach. The dude likes to swing, and has only walked at a 6% clip as a pro.
Scouts also have tepid opinions about his defense, but let’s remember that he’s essentially a JUCO-aged player who missed a year of development due to injury. I anticipate some defensive improvement, and think we’ll have a electronic strike zone a year or two after Feliciano hits the 40-man, which will help him stay back there. His approach is kind of scary and there’s a chance his contact profile bottoms out against big league pitchers who prey on his swing-happy nature, but I have Feliciano evaluated as an everyday catcher based on how much power I think he’ll hit for, even if he’s running OBPs close to .310.
For the second straight year, Lutz got off to a slow start before righting the ship and hitting .271/.354/.446 from May onward. His skillset remains the same: big power, some stiffness and limited bat control, and an ability to crush lefties. Lutz’s overall performance in two full pro seasons has been just shy of what I’m comfortable with 50 FV’ing but he’s been very young for his level and only took three at-bats off of pitchers who were younger than him last year. He has a good shot to be an everyday corner outfielder who hits 25 homers annually.
Small is a mechanical doppelgänger for Clayton Kershaw and, like late-career Kershaw, he’s blowing fastballs with mediocre velocity past opposing hitters because he hides the ball well and creates pure backspin, helping it carry at the top of the strike zone. Small has a bat-missing changeup but needs to find a better breaking ball to really max out as a prospect. He could be a 50 FV, league-average starter if he does, but otherwise is likely to slot toward the back of a rotation.
Ashby has nasty, left-handed stuff and reliever’s control. He was up to 94 during his first pro jaunt in 2018, then was up to 96 last year as a starter, velo I think will climb in the bullpen. His two breaking balls need better demarcation, but they each flash plus and Ashby will even show you an average changeup on occasion. Since he has viable starter’s stuff, it’s logical for the Brewers to continue developing him in that role just in case he develops starter’s control later than is typical, and also to refine that secondary stuff with more reps than he’d get in the bullpen. Coming off his age-21 season, Ashby was on pace to reach Double-A during the back half of this year before the world turned upside down. He has a shot to debut in 2021, especially if Milwaukee ‘pens him.
Unsigned by the Padres after the 2018 draft, Kelly’s velocity spiked into the mid-90s in 2019. He’ll bump 98 and has a big, athletic frame and fluid delivery, but Milwaukee will need to develop the rest. Fastball location seemed to be the developmental focus for Kelly after the draft. In both my look and those of several scouts, he featured something like 80% fastballs. Teams have disparate opinions of Kelly. Some are intrigued by the canvas he presents, while others think painting it will be a chore. He need only develop one pitch to be a power reliever, which I think is pretty realistic.
Lazar sits just 86-89 but his deceptive, funky, over-the-top delivery combined with the extreme length of his stride down the mound (nearly 7.4 feet of extension, among the top 50 in all the minors) make him an uncomfortable at-bat for opposing hitters. If there’s an Oliver Drake delivery comp in the minors, it’s Lazar (though he gets much lower to the ground), and like Drake, he can somehow turn over a changeup from this arm slot. We’ve seen fastballs thrive despite mediocre velocity before. Often it’s from someone who has an extremely vertical arm slot, like Drake or Josh Collmenter, or huge extension and a flat approach angle, like Yusmeiro Petit, guys who can successfully remove the table cloth without disturbing the place settings. Lazar has both of these, and has a bat-missing changeup, too. I’m not as confident in the breaking stuff, which often finishes high in the zone — it’s that aspect of the skillset I’m scared will be exposed by upper-level hitting. Even if they don’t develop further, Lazar has two legit weapons that would work fine in relief, and he throws strikes at such a high rate that he could be a multi-inning piece. Based on how Milwaukee deployed him last year — 10 starts, nine relief outings, highly variable pitch counts — it appears he’s being groomed for a non-traditional role of some kind.
Garcia broke his ankle and didn’t play in games at all last year, so other than that, my report on him remains the same. Garcia had an eye-opening 2018 instructional league. His range, hands, actions and arm are all easy fits at shortstop, and he could be a plus glove there at peak. His entire offensive profile depends on his frame filling out. Garcia’s lack of strength is evident with the bat in his hands, but you can go kind of nuts projecting on much of his skillset, including the speed and arm strength, because he so clearly has lots of physical growth on the horizon and is an above-average athlete. He’s so young that he wasn’t even eligible to sign immediately on July 2nd because he was still 15. Were he a domestic high schooler, he wouldn’t have been draft eligible until 2020, and he’s still just shy of 18. His development may initially be slow, but he has significant literal and figurative growth potential and a non-zero shot to be a well-rounded everyday shortstop at peak.
Ray has pretty severe strikeout issues that, at nearly age 26, are ridiculous to expect him to remedy. Instead I think what lies ahead for him is a career similar to Brian Goodwin’s, a whiff-prone lefty power stick with a good approach.
Perez is a physical, lefty-hitting outfielder with a swing that is compact but still has some lift, especially to his pull side. He runs well, has advanced feel to hit, and is generating more power on contact than is typical for a hitter his age. He doesn’t have big, frame-based power projection but might hit enough that it doesn’t matter. He’s likely four or five years out, but has the tools of an everyday corner guy if, in fact, the bat is as advanced as it appeared after he signed.
Rasmassen became famous for some dominant starts in college but had medical issues that led to a failed physical after the 2017 draft and two subsequent Tommy John surgeries. His velocity is back after the second of those, comfortably in the upper-90s during what have primarily been 40 to 50-pitch outings, mostly as a starter. He was 96-99 out of the bullpen this spring. He’s a 40+ FV relief prospect on talent, the second or third best guy in a good bullpen (a set-up type for the traditionalists), but I’ve got to account for his injury history, perhaps more so than for all but a handful of pitchers in the minors, and so he’s shaded down a little bit.
Brown was Milwaukee’s 2018 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, then had such a rough 2019 that he was passed over in the Rule 5 Draft. It’s worth noting that while Brown had no velo decrease from the year before, his fastball spin rate dropped from 2300 rpm on average to 2000 rpm. Drops in spin rate seem to occur as part of injury-related stuff regression, but that’s often paired with a downtick in velo, and there wasn’t one here, nor was there an IL stint. Instead, it’s possible a change was made to intentionally reduce Brown’s fastball spin, since his arm slot and fastball spin axis are more conducive of sinker movement. The point is, there was a change amid Brown’s struggles, something that may be undone or further adjusted. It’s why I’m staying on him despite the age and the offseason indication (via the Rule 5) that a big chunk of the industry is not. I have Brown projected in middle relief.
I was skeptical of Gray’s hit tool when he was an amateur but because he’s missed so much time and dealt with the physical aftermath of pneumonia (2018) and a severe hamstring strain (2019), it’s premature to declare his hit tool specious. Gray has big present power, power projection, and the instincts to stay in center field despite not being a real burner. He’s a high variance prospect but still has everyday talent.
A senior sign reliever coming out of Virginia, Bettinger experienced a velo bump in his second pro season and also developed better movement separation between his curveball and slider, which has enabled both of them to play better. He still only sits 89-92 but he gets way, way down the mound and generates about seven feet of extension, causing his heater the jump on hitters and create flatter approach angle. His fastball is also spin-efficient and has plus vertical movement. He’s gone from elder org-filler to back of the rotation prospect in half a season.
Andrews is a plus on-mound athlete with a plus changeup and breaking ball. In 2019, the Brewers let him return to playing some center field and take a few dozen at-bats (he played two ways in college and barely ever struck out), which actually went pretty well (.333/.391/.381 in 70 plate appearances). He’s a great athlete and has surprisingly good instincts in the outfield, though he’s not likely to play a real role as a position player. Instead Andrews projects as a middle reliever, but his unique blend of secondary skills may enable the Brewers to use him creatively. The new three-batter minimum rules make that harder.
Rodriguez is a plus-plus-running center field prospect with a slash-and-dash approach at the plate and outstanding feel for contact. He is currently unable to turn on pitches and do any real offensive damage, but his defensive profile, speed, and hand-eye coordination give him a chance to be an everyday player if those skills are all plus at maturity. Barring a swing and approach change that better enables him to turn on pitches, I think a fourth outfielder role is more likely, but that’s what I thought about Luis Arraez, and Rodriguez is a better defensive player.
File throws strikes at will and has already reached Double-A because of it. He hides the ball really well and it helps his otherwise pedestrian fastball sneak past hitters at the top of the zone for the occasional swing and miss, while his two-plane curveball also garners the occasional swing and miss. He’s a high-probability fifth starter who might generate more WAR than is typical of someone with this level of stuff because File works so efficiently.
Henry’s groundball rates have now fallen for two consecutive years, reinforcing optimism that he’ll get to enough of his considerable raw power in games to play some sort of big league role. A bat-first high school catcher who was considered a long shot to stay behind the plate, Henry has made sufficient developmental progress as a defender and now projects to stay back there, especially since most of the industry thinks arm strength is likely to drive catchers’ defensive profiles once we have robozones. Henry’s peripherals are scary — about 30% strikeouts, 7% walks, and he was hit by pitches nearly as much as he walked last year — but as long as he continues to actualize that raw power in games, I think the total package fits in a backup role.
The owner of one of the most entertaining hacks on the planet, Dilly takes big, uncompromising swings from both sides of the plate. He hit .286/.419/.505 at Ole Miss while walking at an 18% clip. Though he caught some in college, Dillard played mostly left field and first base, and projects to do the same in pro ball. Because he’s so committed to hitting nothing but tanks (Dillard’s footwork is actually pretty conservative as a left-handed hitter, he just has big time uppercut), he’s probably going to swing and miss in pro ball more often than he did in college, but he’ll likely reach base and hit for enough power to play some kind of corner role.
Williams has been hurt a lot and is now 25 and still walking lots of batters, but his heater touched 100 last year and his breaking stuff fits in a relief role. He’s big league ready.
In high school (he and Lutz were on the same Area Codes team), Hamilton was a terrific defensive shortstop with some feel to hit, but some teams didn’t think his narrow frame would fill out in a way that generated relevant power, so he ended up matriculating to Texas. He had a rough freshman year, then rebounded as a sophomore and was in the third to fifth round mix following his summer on the Cape. Then Hamilton tore his Achilles tendon and missed not only his junior year at Texas, but the entire summer as well. His first pro at-bats came during 2020 big league spring training. He looked considerably stronger coming out of rehab and I think he has a shot to have a breakout 2020 if given the opportunity to play.
Castaneda pitched in relief during the summer and was stretched out as a four-to-five inning starter during the Fall League, where he continued to have success. His forkball is an obvious out pitch and he held his average velo in the longer Fall League outings, but the get-me-over curveball only works situationally (often to garner strike one) because it’s easy to identify out of his hand. As such, I think Castaneda profiles as a reliever, long-term.
Kahle is a thick-bodied catcher with limited tools, but he is great at diagnosing balls and strikes (he had twice as many walks as strikeouts as a junior at Washington) and his approach should allow him to hit for enough pull power to make a 40-man.
A 2018 seventh round senior sign, Fry’s combination of power and a chance to play several positions (including catcher) makes him an interesting potential bench piece. He seemed to be undergoing a swing and approach change late last year, as he was a dead pull hitter for all of 2019, and struggled to turn on pitches in the fall, instead peppering the opposite field gap.
Supak is a strike-throwing backend starter who has now had success up through Double-A. His velocity was down a bit last year but his fastball has a lot of spin for how slow it is, as well as other traits that bolster it. He’s a bigger-bodied guy whose athletic longevity is a question.
Bello signed for an under slot $550,000 as a second rounder. He’s a polished, contact-oriented center field prospect without typical big league physicality. He has several tweener traits, and might end up as a bench or platoon outfielder. A path toward everyday reps involves Bello developing a plus bat or glove, which are both in the realm of possibility as he has great breaking ball recognition and bat control, and good instincts in center field. He is one of several Hawaiian players drafted by Milwaukee since 2014 (Kodi Medeiros, Jordan Yamamoto, KJ Harrison, Kekai Rios).
Howell was a pleasant, toolsy, post-draft surprise whose combination of speed and crude bat control was too much for AZL defenses to deal with. He went to Low-A for his first full season and had less offensive impact, but still projects as a speedy, up-the-middle bench player.
Taylor made a relevant swing change in 2018 and probably would have exhausted his rookie eligibility last year had he not dealt with injuries, which have been pervasive throughout his career. He has bench outfield tools and is big league ready.
Perdomo was in Toronto’s system for seven seasons, then left for Milwaukee on a minor league deal after 2018. He had posted gaudy strikeout rates before then, but never in the 34-35% range for an extended stretch. He struck out 14.33 per nine at Triple-A, doing most of the damage with his fastball (a 17% swinging strike rate), which sits at about 93 and touches 97. He’s on Milwaukee’s 40-man and likely to play a role this year. I have him in as an up/down reliever.
Milwaukee’s 2019 sixth rounder is a four-pitch lefty with a funky, noisy delivery and a breaking ball-heavy approach to pitching. His slider has length, his curveball has depth, and Bennett sits 90-93 with the heater. It’s a backend starter mix with a delivery that likely pushes Bennett to the bullpen.
Long a notable amateur prospect due to his projectable, wide receiverish frame, Ward has made mechanical progress and is already much more of a refined baseball player than he was as a senior in high school. He’s still mostly a lottery ticket frame you’re hoping grows into big power, and even if he does, there are still swing plane issues the Brewers need to address, but Ward’s underlying skills have started to develop.
Ramirez is a super loose and fluid (but also inconsistent) righty with big arm strength and some breaking ball feel. He projects in the bullpen, where there may be even more velo.
Abreu has an interesting power/speed combination, which the Brewers sent him to the Fall League to stress test last year after he missed most of 2019 due to injury. He didn’t look great, and has strikeout and swing efficacy issues undercutting his power. Barring a significant improvement in his bat-to-ball performance, he’s unlikely to be added to the 40-man or Rule 5’d this offseason, but he is a 20-year-old with relevant tools and a chance to play a premium defensive position, so he’s still in this tier for now.
Webb was a rare draft-eligible freshman because he had Tommy John as a senior in high school, then missed all of what would have been his freshman year at South Carolina while he recovered; he was a 21-year-old redshirt freshman when he was drafted in 2016. His measurables don’t properly capture his size; his broad shoulders mimic the shape and proportions of a generic minor league batter’s eye. He has a mid-90s fastball and upper-70s curveball that pair well together, as the latter has sharp, vertical action and bat-missing depth when he’s healthy. In 2019, he wasn’t. After a rocky start and demotion to A-ball, he was shelved for two months and returned as a reliever, rehabbing in rookie ball late in the year. Milwaukee has stubbornly continued to develop him as a starter but I think he fits as an up/down reliever.
Robinson works in the low-90s with a flat-planed fastball that plays at the top of the zone, and a snap dragon, 12-to-6 curveball. He’s not that projectable, but he’s athletically built and has a good arm action. He needs to refine his strike-throwing pretty badly and it would be nice if he ended up throwing harder, but the repertoire works well together, and I think he has a good shot to be a big league bullpen piece.
The Last Two Cuts
Bowden Francis, RHP
Reese Olsen, RHP
Both of these guys have a shot to be 40-man arms relatively soon. Francis is up to 95 from a funky, lower slot that also helps him create effective two-plane movement on a breaking ball. He missed a lot of upper-level bats last year but in my opinion has relief-only control, and doesn’t have no-doubt big league bullpen stuff. Olsen’s stride is longer now than it was when he was in high school and it’s helped him throws strikes. He’s up to 96 and his breaking ball has power and finish beneath the zone. He’s another Brewers pitcher with a value-adding delivery.
Recent International Signees
Eduarqui Fernandez, OF
Luis Medina, OF
Jesus Parra, 3B
Jeferson Quero, C
A $1.1 million signee, Fernandez is a R/R corner outfield projection bat with present feel to hit. He’s already quite a bit more physical now than he was as an amateur, so I’m not sure how much more power is coming. Medina has an interesting swing: he takes a big leg kick but lands very upright, whereas most kickers have very flexible front sides. While he has fairly advanced feel for contact, most international scouts thought he was a tweener. Those who think he’s more projectable than the average evaluator see a chance for him to be a regular. Parra is a stocky infielder with an advanced bat. Quero is a glove and contact-oriented teenage catcher with modest body projection and athleticism.
Young Sleeper Arms
Lun Zhao, RHP
Brayan Salaya, RHP
Pablo Garabitos, RHP/OF
Harold Chirino, RHP
Kelvin Bender, LHP
Zhao is a few months shy of 19 but probably won’t pitch again until he’s 20 as he’s rehabbing from a late 2019 TJ. He was up to 93 and flashed a plus curveball (he averages 3,000 rpm) in 2018. Salaya has a good frame and was up to 95 as a 19-year-old last year. Garabitos, 19, played both ways last season but his best shot at making it is as a lefty reliever. Chirino missed all of 2018 with injury, then came back last year throwing really hard, 92-95, up to 97. He’s 22. Bender is an athletic, small high school lefty who shows good touch and feel in the bullpen but struggles to throw strikes in games. He’ an interesting athletic projection follow with a good changeup.
Potential Utility Types
Yeison Coca, SS
Antonio Pinero, SS
Felix Valerio, 2B
Daniel Castillo, 2B
Of this group, Coca is the most well-rounded, Pinero is the best defender, Valerio has the best bat-to-ball skills, and Castillo has the most physical projection.
High School Projection Drafts Three Years Removed
Chad McClanahan, 1B
Caden Lemons, RHP
McClanahan has a high offensive bar to clear and he has the power to do it, but he hasn’t really performed. Lemons’ velo has been all over the place in pro ball, and he didn’t pitch last year. Both of these guys are the big-framed types who sometimes develop late.
Justin Topa, RHP
Lucas Erceg, 3B
Bobby Wahl, RHP
Cooper Hummel, LF
Luis Contreras, RHP
C.J. Hinojosa, 2B
You’ve probably seen a lot of these names before. Topa is pushing 30 and was working in mop-up duty with a nameless jersey this spring, but he’s an Indy ball signee who I saw touch 99, so he’s a great story waiting to happen. Wahl is also an older relief contributor. Erceg might be a candidate for conversion at this point. Hummel is a corner bat with some pop and experience as a catcher. Hinojosa have a shot to be bench role players. Contreras, 24, signed with the Cubs in 2015 but never threw a pitch for them, and didn’t pitch in pro ball until last year. He pitched pretty well in the Low-A bullpen, touching 95 with plus spin and an effectual axis.
The Brewers have contended for the last two years, which means they’ve traded prospects and other assets for big leaguers, weakening the system pretty significantly. They’ve also pretty meaningfully reconfigured the structure of their scouting during that time (they have just two people listed as pro scouts on this year’s org roster) and this, combined with it having been a while since they last traded for a bunch of prospects, makes it tough to nail down the org’s tendencies on the pro side.
On the amateur side, pitch data clearly seems important. Last year I mentioned that this org appears to desire mechanical uniqueness moreso than other clubs, which I still think is true. The Brewers also have more junior college and Venezuelan prospects than the average org.
Below is my first mock draft of the year, a mock I’ll link to (along with The Board) at the top of and along with each subsequent iteration, as this one lays a foundation of context that I reserve the right to refer back to.
Teams are largely in the final stages of board building right now. National cross checkers are convening electronically; the last of the staff positional group discussions are wrapping up. How accurate can a mock be at this point? If you’d like to use mock accuracy as a proxy for how things will evolve over the next two weeks, take a look at the first complete round one mock Kiley McDaniel and I did last year and compare it to the one we did the day of the draft. You can see the initial mock has players in the right general range, while the final one is more precise. That’s how readers should think about what they’re about to read.
Of course, things are likely to be harder to predict than usual this year. A monkey wrench the size of the planet itself has been thrown into the cogs of the draft process. The draft’s reduced length, signing bonus limitations on players signed after the five rounds, the bonus deferral guidelines, minor league baseball’s imminent contraction, the asymmetry of prospect-to-prospect playing time this spring, the increased involvement from pro departments and otherwise uninvolved executives who had nothing else to do, the relative ease with which pitchers can upload opinion-changing video during the shutdown compared to hitters, the way teams’ cash flow issues might impact strategy, the way each player’s family’s financial situation may have recently changed and altered their signability, and how a college’s scholarship shortage might make players more or less inclined to return to school or matriculate, not to mention how all of those things (I’m sure I’ve missed some) interact with player, agent, and team incentives, make this year’s draft very unpredictable.
In broad strokes, teams seem more inclined to minimize risk this year. For instance, there are teams that do not have some higher profile high school players on their boards because they didn’t see them this spring. Prospects who were only scoutable for a brief window in March, never began play at all, or were in a crowded region and so were an opportunity-cost casualty, are at risk of not being on a team’s board here and there and sliding. There might be a couple of cases where someone slips past where they’re signable.
In my opinion, this is cowardly. Teams have had plenty of looks at Mick Abel, Ed Howard, Freddy Zamora, Austin Hendrick, and most all of the other names who I’ve heard might slip or become unsignable because of this apprehension. Even Nick Bitsko, who teams have the least history with because of when he reclassified, was widely seen last fall (he was awesome) and by about a third of teams in the bullpen this spring — he clearly belongs near the top of the high school arms in this draft.
I agree that a seven month layoff for high school prospects (that’s how long it’s been for guys who played in Jupiter last October) is not ideal, but neither is a three-month layoff for literally everyone else. Some teams seem more inclined to buy into some of the pop-up college arms who made four good starts in February and March rather than cold weather high schoolers who have a multi-year pedigree of performance. Was anyone really going to learn anything new about Ed Howard’s feel to hit by watching him crush bad Midwest varsity pitching? I don’t think so. On to the mock. Read the rest of this entry »