Earlier this week, FanGraphs’ lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen and former FanGraphs prospect writer Kiley McDaniel released their book Future Value: The Battle for Baseball’s Soul and How Teams Will Find the Next Superstar.
In this excerpt from the chapter “Everybody Wants a Job in Baseball (But Nobody Wants to Die),” presented with permission from Triumph Books, Eric and Kiley discuss the different paths to working in baseball, and how to become a scout – from the tools and skills you’ll need to the people who can help clear the way.
Depending on what your career goals and timetable are, and despite the fact that everyone in baseball took a unique path, there are lanes to place yourself in to increase your odds at success.
If your goal is to be a GM (this is the most common dream), then you need to figure out what your separating skill will be (you don’t have one right now) and go down the path to be an expert in that area. Increasingly, being an ace scout isn’t a recipe to run a team, so that’s not the smartest way to position yourself for a move up the ladder to GM. You can come up in scouting departments or player development, but be based in the office so you have a management point of view, are getting face time around those people, and are in those meetings. You may need to be a coach or scout as a first step, but know that your path needs to get you into the office sooner than later.
More commonly, GMs come from people who are office-lifer types, who come up as assistants in baseball operations (general contributors across departments), a step up to coordinator or assistant director (managing schedules and interns or entry-level employees, introduced to decision-making meetings), then becoming director of baseball operations (in charge of budgets, rules, running the office day-to-day, pitching in on hiring and higher-level decisions) then assistant GM, where your specialty (running the office, rules, overseeing a scouting or player dev department) is the flavor that your job takes, along with the thing that can headline your résumé for GM.
A sitting GM once described to us that he and his three AGMs are in charge of servicing the various departments (analytics, big league operations, international scouting, domestic scouting, pro scouting, player development). There’s more departments than the four of them, so they’re playing a zone coverage, constantly going between all the areas, making sure each department has what they need to succeed and, ideally, not needing further direction or correction. Read the rest of this entry »
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Detroit Tigers. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) 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.
Editor’s Note: Rony Garcia, a Tigers’ Rule 5 selection from the most recent draft, has been added to this list at No. 31.
Shao-Ching Chiang, a minor league free agent signing, was added to the list at No. 27.
If you get déjà vu reading this report it’s because Manning has become the dream. All of the physical components that many front-end arms have while they’re in high school were there when he was an amateur — shooting guard frame, premium arm strength and athleticism, a breaking ball — the stuff that enables your imagination to run wild. And Manning succeeded while devoting time to two sports, which caused him to get a late start during his draft spring because the hoops team was in the middle of a deep playoff run (Manning threw late into the prior summer, so this may have actually been good for limiting innings).
After some initial strike-throwing issues and a change in stride direction, the REM cycle arrived. The walks came down, Manning’s changeup got better, and he started working with two different fastballs and was clearly manipulating the shape of his spike curveball depending on the hitter and situation. He’s never had arm issues (his 2018 IL stint was due to an oblique injury), and he has rare on-mound athleticism coupled with an understanding of how to pitch. He’s going to have three out-pitches thanks to adjustments he’s already made, and it’s fair to assume he’ll be able to make more. Manning is tracking like an All-Star starter and a potential top-of-the-rotation arm.
We would not have guessed that, at this stage, the two-sport prep pitching prospect in this system would have lower perceived variance than the dominant SEC arm who went first in his draft class, but here we are. Mize has hellacious stuff. His four-pitch mix has actually gotten better since college because he and the Tigers successfully added greater demarcation between his cutter and slider, the latter of which now has more two-plane sweep. His entire repertoire is capable of missing bats, like Manning’s, but Mize’s split is superior to Manning’s change and he has an additional weapon, the cutter, that Manning does not.
So why ever-so-slightly prefer Manning? Mize’s injury track record is as scary as his stuff. Some teams had concerns about his shoulder when he was a draft-eligible high schooler, he had elbow issues as a sophomore at Auburn, he had a PRP injection after he pitched for Team USA the summer before his draft year, and in 2019, he missed a month with a shoulder injury. After Mize returned, he had some outings where his fastball was in the 90-92 range, he used his splitter less frequently, and when he did use it, it had more spin than usual. It’s speculation, but perhaps he was tinkering with changeup grips after the injury. That’s an awful lot of smoke. Purely on quality of stuff, Mize is arguably the top pitching prospect in all of baseball. We still love him and think it’s perfectly reasonable to consider him the top youngster in this system and one of the best on the planet, but what Manning has become, what he might continue to develop into based on his athleticism and now-evident ability to make adjustments, combined with his much, much cleaner bill of health, shades him ahead of Mize, in our (mostly Eric’s) opinion, within the same FV tier.
Advanced high school hitters are common on Florida’s diamonds, and while Greene constantly squared up top high school pitching as well as any of his peers, he also underwent a bit of a physical transformation that made at least some scouts more optimistic that he’ll be able to play an instincts-driven center field long term. During his pre-draft summer, Greene was a little soft-bodied, his running gait was odd, and he seemed destined to play little more than an average outfield corner. The player scouts watched the following spring had a better physical composition, was more explosive and a better runner, and had as ripe a high school hit tool as was available in the draft. This was similar to how Jarred Kelenic’s skills were colored as he came out of high school.
Greene’s swing, curated by his father from an early age, is beautiful. He can clear his hips and turn on just about anything on the inner half, drop the bat head and lift balls with power, strike balls the other way with authority, and he tracked and whacked many high school benders. The bend and flexion in Greene’s front knee as his swing clears the point of impact is reminiscent of several Dodger hitters. Though there are many examples of Greene having certain types of athleticism (he is a tremendous leaper, for instance), he’s not a runner and we don’t have him in center field. But we think he’ll hit enough that it doesn’t matter.
Skubal was rehabbing from Tommy John during his junior year at Seattle University and only managed to throw a few bullpen sessions in front of scouts before the 2017 draft. Scouts liked what they saw, but not enough to meet a price tag that was up around $1 million according to sources. Skubal went back to school and was horrendous early in the year before he slowly began to throw more and more strikes. Now 29 teams and their evaluators are cursing themselves for either failing to notice that upward trend throughout the 2018 spring, or for noticing but lacking conviction in the draft room.
There are some folks in baseball who have Skubal right up in the same tier with Mize and Manning. He has a dominant fastball, equal parts velocity, ride, and tough-to-square angle. So unhittable is Skubal’s heater that he’s struck out 37% of hitters during his pro career (48% over the final few weeks over Double-A play last year) while throwing the pitch roughly 70% of the time. No current big leaguer with a fastball that plays at the top of the zone throws their fastball that much; anyone close to 70% is a sinkerballer. An occasionally good changeup and slider aside, Skubal’s secondaries are not all that great in a vacuum, but luckily they too benefit from the funky angle created by Skubal’s cross-bodied, high-slot delivery. His overall swinging strike rate (18%) was higher than the rate on his fastball alone (15%), which means the secondaries were a net positive for him, but we’re unsure of what big league hitters will do if they know a fastball aimed at the letters is coming most of the time. So while he’s had nothing but goofy strikeout rates for two years, we think Skubal ends up more toward the middle of a rotation rather than the front.
Paredes has a .291/.376/.425 line in 166 Double-A games. He’s quite comfortable in the box, and shows balance throughout his swing and incredible hand-eye coordination. A lack of in-game power and/or defensive excellence, combined with the abnormally high bar to clear at third base right now, may overshadow Paredes’ short-term impact in a league-wide context. Body-related concerns about his athletic longevity pinch what we think he’ll do in his late 20s. Paredes should hit enough to be an average everday player, like Luis Arraez except on a corner.
We were quick to move off of Faedo after he sat out the summer of 2017, then returned in 2018 with a fastball several ticks lower than where it was at peak, but we did so prematurely. Much of his velocity was back in 2019. He’s still searching for a consistent changeup, one with a little more velocity separation than it currently has, but Faedo’s slider and slider command give him an out-pitch. He’s thrown about 120 innings each of the last several years and should end up with a similar big league workload, a No. 4/5 starter.
Wentz has given scouts a number of different looks over the years: he hit the showcase circuit as a position player while resting his arm, showing 70-grade raw power, then showed 92-95 heat and a plus curveball at times in an uneven spring, followed by a full season debut where he mostly sat 88-91 with a great changeup. In 2018, Wentz had shoulder and oblique issues and his stuff played closer to average; in 2019 he was a bit healthier and better. He still has a near ideal frame and athleticism to go with a bag of 50- and 55-grade pitches and other qualities that give him a good shot to be a No. 4/5 starter.
The Tigers are in a bit of a pickle with Perez. He’s one of the few position players in the system who has a realistic chance of playing some sort of everyday role because of his speed, defensive profile, and feel for contact. He’s also still very young, physically immature, and a very raw swinger from the left side of the plate. He’ll be Rule 5 eligible next winter. Unless Perez grows into better quality contact, be it physically, mechanically, or both, he may become one of the several quality prospects who get exposed in the Rule 5 every year because the parent club thinks they’re too raw for other teams to bite. Red Sox 2019 Rule 5 pick, Jonathan Arauz, is a similar player. For now, Perez projects as a second-division regular at shortstop so long as the bat-to-ball feel turns into more than spray/grounder contact.
2019 was the worst statistical season of Cameron’s career by far. Strikeout frequency (which had been an underlying issue throughout much of his pro tenure) combined with a low BABIP (well below Cameron’s career norm) to generate a .214/.330/.377 line. He still had 40 extra-base hits, and Cameron’s all-fields power (he doesn’t have huge raw, but he does have wall-scraping pop to center and right center because the swing has some inside out elements) and selectivity give him the ability to do some slugging damage and reach base amid all the whiffing. Daz has been a known prospect for seven or eight years now. He’s got great body control but isn’t especially toolsy, and his instincts and baseball acumen play a large role in his defensive ability and baserunning. Overall, he’s a well-rounded player with fair tools, a 1.5 WAR type.
Perez’s first few pro seasons were notable because of how quickly Houston pushed him through the minors. A polished strike-thrower with four good pitches, he reached Double-A as a 19-year-old back in 2017 before he became the centerpiece of the Justin Verlander deal. Advanced though he was, various injuries have robbed Perez of innings. In 2016, he had knee trouble; in 2018, it was a lat strain, then shoulder inflammation. An ominous trap issue popped up during the early parts of 2019 spring training but Perez was back on the mound quickly and sitting his usual 93-96 into late-March, before he had three IL stints — in April, May, and June — and was shut down for the year.
He has yet to throw more than 86 frames in an entire season, so while he may be fairly advanced for someone his age, and definitely for someone who has pitched so little, the industry has yet to see his stuff hold up for a whole summer of starter’s innings. He has mid-rotation stuff, but has one of the longest injury histories in the minors, and he’s barely 22.
The younger brother of Rays outfielder Austin Meadows, Parker has some similarities to his big league sibling, but his tools are actually compared more often to those of Indians center fielder Bradley Zimmer. Zimmer and the younger Meadows both have deceptively easy plus speed due to their long frames, and each has a plus arm and plus raw power; Christian Yelich is the advanced hitter version of this profile. But as a high schooler, Meadows’ main concern was tied to contact issues caused by his long limbs and lack of rhythm at the plate. The Tigers took him in the second round out of high school in 2018 and he hasn’t quite dialed in the offensive approach yet, with a high strikeout rate in the summer after signing and marginal power in his full-season debut, but the upside remains the same.
Quintana had a four-year track record of statistical performance dating back to his senior year of high school, but after the draft he suddenly stopped hitting against Low-A and Short Season pitching. His swing is somewhat grooved, but he has an athletic move forward and should hit a ton of doubles. A well-rounded offensive skillset and above-average defense at third is an everyday profile, but there’s some hit-tool risk here.
Lange’s velocity last year was back to what it was during his best days at LSU, and his strikeout rate spiked after the Cubs traded him to Detroit in the Nick Castellanos deal and he was moved to the bullpen. Our high speed footage shows Lange throwing two different breaking balls, though their movement is hard to distinguish in real time. The slider is effective despite lacking spin, and has late, downward movement. Lange might fit in a multi-inning relief role.
Castro shares many offensive similarities with a young Freddy Galvis. He’s a switch-hitter with some pop who hasn’t totally figured out how to get to that power in games yet. Galvis, who is a superior defender, figured it out and became a low-OBP, 45 FV type of player, so Castro fits in a tier below that. He may be a placeholder at shortstop.
Hess was a well-known power arm on the high school summer showcase circuit and into the spring, showing mid-90s heat, a plus power curveball, and a reliever’s command and approach in his best stints. Due to the prep righty reliever profile, his price wasn’t met and he went to LSU, where they tried to make him a starter after a solid freshman year in relief. The starter role never quite took, as he mostly sat in the low-90s with lesser stuff. His stuff got back to his showcase circuit best in pro ball in short stints, which seems like the best role for him going forward.
De la Cruz has a right field prospect toolkit straight out of central casting — plus raw power, plus arm, average underway speed, contact issues at present — and a year of DSL statistical performance arguably derived from his physical maturity. His Trackman data is very strong, especially for his age. He could be a middle of the order power bat, but he’s years away.
Injuries — shoulder inflammation, biceps tendinitis, oblique strain — ruined Burrows’ 2019. When healthy (well, when he was pitching), Burrows’ fastball was fine, but his secondaries were not. He could bounce back into the 45 FV tier if they’re back in 2020.
Packard’s junior year power output dipped because of injuries (back and wrist), but he had a stock-up summer after the draft. He’s patient, has above-average raw power, and looks like a potential Lucas Duda type of lefty stick.
Contact-related warts and all, we still like Rogers as a low-end regular who played elite defense while hitting for some pull power, much like what Austin Hedges has been. We’re not sure how valuable the foundation of Rogers’ skillset will be in a few years if automated strike zones are instituted, and fear interesting players like this will disappear if they are.
Hernandez is one of two Angels rookie-level pitchers Detroit received in the Ian Kinsler (Hernandez) and Justin Upton (Elvin Rodriguez) trades. Of the two, Hernandez is the one who experienced an uptick in velocity. Both had been in the 88-92 range with frames that portended more. Then last year, Hernandez was suddenly up to 96. And there might be another jump if Hernandez ends up in the bullpen, where he’d be a power fastball/breaking ball reliever. His changeup quality and year-over-year strike-throwing improvements merit continued development in the rotation, and give Hernandez a shot to be a No. 4/5 starter.
Reyes is one of several examples of Detroit targeting physically mature corner bats with present raw power on the amateur market. He worked out as a shortstop as an amateur but projected to third base at best. He has an athletic, rotational swing and plus bat speed, and his bat path has some natural lift, while his frame appears destined to add considerable mass and strength. Arm accuracy and mobility issues, especially as he gets bigger, could move Reyes way, way down the defensive spectrum, but he could end up with above or plus hit and power tools.
Clemens had a pretty strong Florida State League line (.238/.314/.411 is above average in the FSL), albeit as an old-for-the-level hitter. He generates consistent hard contact because of the strength in his wrists and hands. His lower half and hands often appear disconnected, which can result in ugly contact that’s still hit hard because of Clemens’ strength. He projects as a one-ish win, shift-aided second baseman.
Even on a loaded Arkansas team, Kenley stayed under the national scouting radar since he didn’t play much until his junior year, and was an infielder without much power who didn’t play shortstop. He shows 45 raw power in BP, but has a flat swing plane that’s geared for line drives and contact. He seems like candidate for a swing change, but could also carve out a bench role as a lefty-hitting, contact oriented bench bat infielder along the lines of Tommy LaStella.
A vanilla but well-rounded college infielder, Kreidler’s best defensive fit is at third base, but he’s fundamentally sound enough to stand at a middle infield spot if needed. A conservative, contact-oriented approach coupled with limited raw power shade the projection toward a bench infield/utility type.
Campos defected from Cuba with his brother in 2016 at a Little League tournament in the Dominican Republic. The Tigers locked him up pretty quickly after their first couple looks, with some clubs barely seeing him at all. He’s a corner outfield prospect with present power who needs to hit to profile. We know next to nothing about the hit tool at this point.
The career saves leader at Miami, Garcia tore through the minors and pitched across four levels, all the way to Triple-A, in his first full pro season. Then he blew out during the spring of 2018. He works fastball/slider to righties, fastball/changeup to lefties, and both secondaries are very firm, upper-80s pitches. Neither is a dominant offering, but the pitch mix lifts Garcia above an up/down role.
Chiang is going to pitch in the big leagues next year. He throws hard (up to 96 during a pre-tournament exhibition, up to 98 during the 2019 minor league season) and has a backspinning fastball due to his vertical arm slot. He’ll also flash a plus changeup, which he uses against right-handed hitters sometimes, and his two-plane slider is fringy. It’s an arm strength relief profile.
He’s not as physically projectable as most pitchers his age, but Montero’s fastball will crest around 95 and he has a potential out-pitch in his curveball.
Funkhouser was added to Detroit’s 40-man despite more injury and erratic performance in 2019. At times he’ll show three above-average pitches; at others he can’t get anyone out. He hasn’t thrown more than 100 innings in any pro season, and at this point he’s considered a relief prospect with a long track record of injury.
Rodriguez was an advanced pitchability righty with physical projection when Detroit acquired him from the Angels for Justin Upton. He’s now 22, and the velo hasn’t arrived. He still has a great build and arm action, but he’s looking like a sixth or seventh starter now because the heat just hasn’t come.
Lipcius moved from first base as a freshman, to shortstop as a sophomore, to his natural home of third base as a junior at Tennessee, and then all over the infield during his first taste of pro ball. He hit for more power in his draft year than was expected given a contact-oriented approach (Lipcius ditches his leg kick with two strikes, and he’s willing to poke balls, softly, the other way). He projects as a multi-positional bench infielder.
Garcia spent most of 2019 at Double-A Trenton, where he posted a FIP of 4.21, then he went first overall in the 2019 Rule 5 Draft. He sits 91-94 and touches 95 with pretty significant fastball spin for that velo range — about 2400 rpm on average — but because Garcia has a lower arm slot, the pitch doesn’t have the kind of lift that would miss bats. The arm slot and Garcia’s above-average, two-plane breaking ball make him especially tough on righties, who he held to a .197/.273/.356 line in 2019. The changeup needs to get better if Garcia is going to continue to start, but Detroit is becoming quite good at implementing coherent pitch design, so maybe it will, or perhaps the Tigers will find a way to give him a relevant second breaking ball.
Foley’s arm strength was back after his Tommy John, but his out-pitch changeup was not. His secondary pitch of choice last year was a slider. He’d be a 40 FV with that split/change back in the fold, but as an arm strength-only sort, he’s more of an up/down reliever.
“This guy isn’t pitching yet?” one of us was asked by a source as we talked about this system. Alcantara has a laser arm, he can run, he’s a good defensive shortstop, and he even has above-average ball/strike recognition. But the quality of contact is arguably insufficient for even a utility role. He’s nearly out of option years. We wonder if reps in center might enable a 26th man sort of role, but also think it’s possible the Tigers give a conversion to the mound a shot since Detroit is getting better at developing pitchers, including a few interesting conversion arms.
Pinto has a huge fastball and both of his secondaries dovetail in opposite directions, but neither has consistent, bat-missing movement. Fold in a career walk rate in the teens, and even though he’s doing damage with his fastball at Double-A, Pinto was passed over in the Rule 5. He’s only 21 and is a realistic up/down relief prospect with some ceiling above that due to the arm strength.
He doesn’t have sleeves (which is the nature of the garment) but Vest still does a good job hiding the ball from hitters. His deceptive, overhand delivery looks like a trebuchet and creates late carry on his fastball, which sat 94 and touched 97 during the season, but was 91-93 in Eric’s Fall league looks. His secondary stuff is more average, so it’s important the velo returns.
Two seasons ago, Guzman was an exciting, new conversion arm who was sitting in the mid-90s and rapidly gaining feel for a good changeup. But in 2019, his stuff was down, his command backed up, and he was eventually shut down with injury. Rather than a 2019 leap placing Guzman in late-inning air, he’s now a bounce-back candidate who won’t be on the list if his velo isn’t back in the spring.
An extreme strike-thrower, Richan is severly lacking in stuff. He relies on freezing people and inducing weak contact with his changeup and fastball location. He’s likely a sixth starter type.
McMillan is an athletic, well-built catcher with ball/strike recognition, and a slow bat. He projects as a third catcher on the 40-man, and his build suggests he’ll probably hang around for a while.
De Jesus signed at 19 and had been slow to develop (he spent parts of three seasons in the DSL) until 2019, when he skipped a level, then earned a mid-year promotion to Hi-A. He throws hard — 91-96 with huge extension — and his fastball has relevant movement up and away from lefty batters. He’s well-built but not very athletic, and he throws a lot of non-competitive pitches because he struggles to repeat. He’s a lower probability reliever but there’s some ceiling because of how the fastball plays.
Other Prospects of Note
Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.
Manuel Sequera, SS
Abelardo Lopez, OF
Pedro Martinez Jr., 3B
Alvaro Gonzalez, SS
Other than Sequera, this group is comprised of more of those bigger, stronger teenage corner types. Sequera has a shot to stay at short and grow into some pop. Lopez is a corner power bat who signed for about three quarters of a million in July, along with Sequera. This Pedro Martinez, like the Cubs’ Pedro Martinez (no relation), has a medium build and average tools. Gonzalez is the shortstop version of this, with less present pop.
Marco Jimenez, RHP
Anthony Castro, RHP
Hugh Smith, RHP
Max Green, LHP
Daniele Di Monte, RHP
Wilmer Fenelon, RHP
Isrrael De La Cruz, RHP
Gio Arriera, RHP
Jimenez, 21, has mid-90s fastball/slider reliever projection. Castro throws hard and is built like he might pitch forever, but his heater has natural cut and gets hit when he misses his spot, which is often. He could be a fastball-heavy “look” reliever. Smith is 6-foot-10, he touches 96, and has fringe secondaries. Green is a lefty up to 97 with a slow but very deep curveball. Di Monte is an Italian 17-year-old with a low-90s fastball and average curveball. His vertical arm slot creates big carry on his heater. Fenelon was the hardest-throwing Tigers DSL arm, and was up to 96 and sitting 91-93 as an 18-year old with a stronger current build than most teens. It was his second DSL year. De La Cruz is a converted outfielder with big spin on a low-90s heater. Arriera is 21; he’s the club’s fourth rounder from 2017. He was up to 96 as a starter last year
Mature-framed Power Bats and Upper-Level Tweeners
Jose Azocar, CF
Nick Ames, OF
Derek Hill, CF
Lazaro Benitez, RF
Jacob Robson, CF
Azocar, Hill, and Robson all have bench outfield ceilings. Azocar, 23, has the best chance to grab hold of a bench role. Ames is a giant (6-foot-3, 240) who has had big power since high school. He’s explosive but not very athletic. Benitez was 20 in the DSL but hit the ball hard.
The Tigers system has been on an upswing over the last few years as the team has committed fully to a rebuild and started to stockpile prospects rather than aggressively move them for big leaguers, as Detroit did during the Dave Dombrowski era. Until recently, the Tigers were regarded as one of the more traditional scouting and player development operations in baseball, but we’ve seen and heard of some progress in these areas — specifically the use of high-speed video and pitch design — with Casey Mize seeming to benefit most particularly. We liked their mostly-college 2019 draft crop, headlined by Riley Greene, while Mize was an easy 1-1 in 2018, and the top players in their recent J2 classes (Campos, De La Cruz, Reyes) have all shown solid returns thus far.
When you combine this acquisition momentum with the team holding the first overall pick in June (another 50 or 55 FV), the fact that trades will likely only add to the list at this point, and a farm that already ranked eighth for us at the end of the 2019 season, there’s plenty of reason for hope in Detroit. It’s a hell of a drug but a necessary one in this case, because Matthew Boyd (who isn’t a free agent until 2022) may be the only slam-dunk core piece currently on the big league roster.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Atlanta Braves. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) 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 new feature at the site that offers sortable scouting information for every organization. That can be found here.
Even though he hit .278/.340/.474 as a 20-year-old at Double-A Mississippi, there are still some level-headed, long-term questions about Pache’s offensive ability. He had a 17% swinging strike rate last year (if we 20-80’d swinging strike rates, that’d be a 30), and you might quibble with elements of the swing, most notably that the bat path only allows for power in certain parts of the zone, and Pache has a passive, shorter move forward. The hand speed and rotational ability to hit for power is there, and he’s athletic enough to make adjustments in order to get to that power (selectivity might also be an issue), which, coupled with some of the flashiest, most acrobatic defense in pro baseball, gives Pache a cathedral ceiling.
Even though he’s already started to slow down a little bit, Pache’s reads in center, his contortionistic ability to slide and dive at odd angles to make tough catches, and his arm strength combine to make him a premium defensive center fielder — he’s a likely Gold Glover barring unexpected, precipitous physical regression. Even if he’s not posting All-Star offensive statlines, we think he’ll provide All-Star value overall because of the glove.
Waters’ initial rise to top 50 prospect status was surprising to some, coming as it did by the end of his first full season. He’s got 55-to-60 grade tools across the board and always hit in high school. Some teams were and remain turned off by his loud personality, while others just see him as a colorful guy. The other concern is his aggressive approach at the plate, which didn’t give him any trouble until his taste of Triple-A late in 2019, and some scouts and analysts think it could be a problem in the big leagues.
That’s the soft part of the profile, but the indicators both to the eye (scouts rave about the swing, bat speed, and feel at the plate) and in the stats point to elite ability to manipulate the bat. One club told us his percentage of balls hit with 95 mph-plus exit velo and a launch angle between 10 and 30 degrees (i.e. hard hit line drives and fly balls) was in the top 3% of the entire minor leagues. And that comes as a 20-year-old in the upper minors who has plus speed and a plus arm, and who profiles in center field, with other variables that could allow you to keep rounding up from there. The happy version of this story is Starling Marte, and as soon as the middle of 2020; the sad version includes multiple years stuck in neutral at the big league level, trying to argue that the upside and defense makes up for the big strikeout rate. We’re leaning more to Marte at this point.
Anderson is tracking like a mid-rotation starter, even though he hasn’t added velocity since high school, because his secondary stuff is excellent. The pitch with the most obvious beauty is his shapely curveball, which has enough depth (despite its paltry spin rate) to miss bats in the zone, and also pairs well with his fastball’s approach angle. His change has tail and fade, and either it or the curve can finish hitters. The Braves amateur department really stuck out their necks in 2016 by cutting an underslot deal with Anderson, and then using the savings to sign Kyle Muller and Bryse Wilson, who are both key near-term pitching staff stalwarts, and Joey Wentz, who was traded. That’s an impressive class, especially considering how risky a subgroup prep pitching is.
Wright has now had two frustrating cups of coffee with the big league club, and some of his underlying issues (chiefly, a fastball that doesn’t produce results anywhere close to what you’d expect given how hard he throws) mimic those of the Aaron Sanchez type of pitching prospects who Look Right but don’t quite pan out.
We’re betting that Wright, who is very athletic and has the frame and mechanical ease to eat innings, and who has also developed a very deep repertoire, will find a way to be at least a league-average starter eventually. Whether that’s through further changes to his fastballs’ movement (he throws a four- and two-seamer right now, but both are sink/tail pitches rather than the ride/vertical life breed) or a heavy mix of his various secondary offerings, Wright has promising outs. If he and the Braves ever find a way to make the fastball play better than that, his ceiling is substantial, so there’s rare variance for a 24-year-old here.
Wilson is a scout favorite. He’s an aggressive bulldog with a football background who relies on spotting his fastball in all quadrants of the zone, with the velocity, movement, and command all grading above average on his various fastballs (he has a distinct four-seamer, two-seamer, and cutter). He’s a solid athlete with strong command and a solid average changeup, and everyone raves about his work ethic and makeup.
The issue, which will dictate his value in the bullpen or rotation, is his breaking ball. He’s been working on the slider all offseason and the team is optimistic that all his other strong qualities will manifest themselves in its development. Wilson will be limited to one time through the order if he can’t live up to that optimism, though it’s not as if there isn’t value in that, and Wilson’s mentality might arguably be better suited for it.
Stay on Contreras despite the relatively vanilla offensive performance. The Braves pushed him quickly — half a year at Hi-A, half at Double-A at age 21 — and the developmental priority seems to be defense for now. Contreras also has quite a bit more raw power than his 2019 output would suggest. His swing is a lot like Pache’s right now, which is indicative of some of his issues but also how athletic Contreras is for a catcher. He can drop the bat head and yank balls out to his pull side at times, then lunge at breaking stuff away from him at others. It’s rare physical talent for a catcher who projects as Atlanta’s everyday backstop.
Davidson was a low-profile JC arm who the Braves gambled on in 2016. After improving his body composition entering the 2017 season, his stuff and command improved too, and he looked like a potential no. 4 starter. After plateauing at that level for a bit, Davidson’s 2019 represented another step forward. He ran his heater up to 98 during the regular season, then got some attention weeks ago when he hit 100 mph at Driveline on a motion capture-enabled mound. His four-seam fastball has big rise and velocity, while his curveball has plus spin and his slider is 88-91 mph, with all three garnering strong results in terms of whiffs and grounders. The main adjustments in this bump were mechanical, with another round of refinements to his frame. There’s now mid-rotation upside, and Davidson has reached Triple-A as the optimization process is now closer to complete.
Langeliers was a mid-tier prospect in high school who took a big step forward as a freshman at Baylor and on the Cape that summer, developing the raw power to be more than just a catch-and-throw type. He still didn’t put up much in the way of traditional statistical production until the second half of his junior season, which amazingly occurred after a very quick return from a broken hamate bone. He was scouted heavily over the summer with Team USA, so scouts knew solid average raw power and some feel for contact were present to go along with above average defensive skills and a plus arm.
Langeliers’ frame is compact and stout, and his bat’s impact is a question mark, but he has everyday tools and more power should come in 2020 with the broken hamate in the rear view.
Shewmake isn’t a traditionally exciting player, as nobody really saw big raw power or flashy tools leading up to the draft. Some clubs were down on him and we piled on by moving him down in our rankings just before Day One, seeing a non-shortstop with a track record of hitting but without much power or any loft, who seemed one-dimensional given a swing that often barred-out. It would appear that point of view was wrong, given Shewmake’s quick transition to pro ball, which better showcased his ability. He went straight to Low-A after signing and was outstanding at the plate, with an excellent approach and sneaky power, to go along with very positive public and private defensive metrics at shortstop.
The key gap between the two points of view was tied to Shewmake’s long frame: his long stride made his speed, defensive range, and defensive instincts seem less impressive and impactful, when in reality, they may all be plus. There’s also raw power upside if there’s more physical development and a possible loft/swing adjustment, and that now seems more likely given how advanced, instinctual, and coachable he’s proven to be so far. There’s a good bit more variability here than you’d expect for a college hitter with a three-year major conference track record, so the first half of 2020 will let us know if there’s more helium left in this balloon.
A bit of a pitch design autodidact who got the Driveline treatment during the 2018-2019 offseason, Muller came back with more interesting stuff, as well as a skyrocketing walk rate. His stuff is great, especially the fastball, which has one of the highest spin rates in the minors. Muller’s delivery has become less staccato, less deliberate, and more athletic, but his max-effort style and difficulty repeating likely pushes him to the bullpen, or at least keeps his innings count down if he ends up starting.
Not only does Jackson have the highest hard hit rate (95 mph or above) in this system, he has one of the highest in the minors, as 51% of his balls in play last year were scorched. His epicurean approach at the plate, and what it does to his peripherals, makes Jackson a hit-tool risk, and at most other positions that would be very scary. While he is still not a great catcher, he improved considerably in 2019 defensively, particularly at framing, by copying some of Tyler Flowers‘ methods. The league average wRC+ at catcher before framing quantification was in the low 90s. If things return to that level, Jackson’s power should enable him to profile everyday. He could be more of a backup, DH/1B sort for a few years and fall into an everyday role toward the end of our six-year evaluation window.
De La Cruz is sitting 91-97 and touching 99 as a starter, and it’s reasonable to expect that he will be parked toward the top of that velocity range in relief, which is where we have him projected. It’s rare for deliveries as chaotic and violent as De La Cruz’s to root into a rotation, but with his arm strength and the power, downward action on his slider, he could end up with high-leverage stuff. He’s now on the 40-man.
Harris would have been an elite college player with top-five round ability both as a hitter and a pitcher, but most scouts preferred him on the mound. He was used unusually during his senior spring, and some scouts think that he could be 90-93 with everything average to above within 12 months in a pro setting, counting on his quick arm and above average athleticism, projectable frame, and his limited showcase presence and coaching in the projection.
The Braves preferred Harris as a hitter most of the spring; he blew them away in a pre-draft private workout, showing plus raw power, making him a priority on draft day. He also beat expectations in his pro debut, and there’s now some thought that he could be a center fielder as he gets more instruction, and may get faster as he gets stronger. There’s no bad data to consider due to his lack of exposure before his draft spring, so some would see Harris as a comp round pick in a 2019 redraft. We won’t really know his ceiling until he fails some, making him one of the biggest risers from the 2019 class thus far.
Vodnik got on the national stage hitting 97 mph in the fall before his draft year, but his size and 87-90 mph draft spring velo kept him from becoming a high pick. The Braves scooped him up late and got him back to 92-95, touching 98 mph, with solid average offspeed in instructional league the fall after the draft. He made another stuff jump in 2019.
Vodnik is a good athlete with plus extension, particularly for his size, and he’ll run his heater up to 100 while mixing in a plus breaking ball and throwing more strikes than Jasseel De La Cruz. But Vodnik is still on the smaller side, and is more butcher than surgeon. Given the athleticism and lack of experience with his current arm speed, Atlanta is optimistic and wants Vodnik to tell them what sort of role suits him best going forward, with one to two inning relief stints most likely.
Because he was a high school teammate of 2019 fifth overall pick Riley Greene, Grissom was heavily scouted as he broke out during his senior spring, rising from a pocket follow to an early round prospect. The Braves saved money on their picks in the top 10 round so they could splurge on prep prospects who slipped. Grissom wanted to be a Brave and Atlanta scouted him closely all spring, convinced he could stick at shortstop, despite a 6-foot-3, 180 pound frame that had many scouts assuming he’d move off the position. His tools are average to a hair above across the board, and his offensive approach is more power-over-bat.
In many ways, Ynoa is like De La Cruz: a minor league starter with big time arm strength who ultimately projects in the bullpen. In fact, some industry feedback on this org list thought Ynoa, who is a little younger than De La Cruz and a level ahead of him in the minors, belonged higher. But Ynoa’s slider has horizontal wipe and relies more on location to miss bats, and he doesn’t stick it there consistently, whereas others in the system are more likely to have an impact breaking ball. The Braves briefly tried Ynoa in the bullpen last year before returning him to the rotation for most of the summer, but we think he’ll ultimately end up in middle relief role.
Tarnok was primarily a hitter in high school, and many teams didn’t take him seriously as a pitcher or even see him multiple times until late in the spring. The Braves were the team highest on him, and talked him into giving pitching a shot full-time with a well-over-slot bonus.
Tarnok is, as expected, still raw, but it’s easy to see what Braves scouts were so excited about: he has near-ideal body and arm action, along with standout arm strength, athleticism, and ability to spin the ball. He was a trendy breakout pick for 2019 but had a mostly lost year, including a velo dip into the mid-to-upper-80s in a game we saw, but bounced back to the normal 92-95 mph heater late in the year. Some teams were ready to buy low during the velo dip, but the Braves still believe in Tarnok’s potential.
Alexander (the brother of D-backs shortstop prospect Blaze Alexander) slid to the 20th round due to questions about his profile as a large-framed, power-first, likely first baseman who had only player at the JC level and was 22 just after the draft. He answered many of these questions with a big pro debut, getting to Hi-A and playing in instructs, where his defense at third base was better than expected as was his hit ability against pro-level pitching. The profile is now a prospect who’s a lefty stick who can play all four corner spots, but his progress slowed with an injury-marred 2019. He’s still a hair ahead of Trey Harris and Greyson Jenista in the bench power bat competition near the bottom of the list.
Walker is a big, athletic kid who’s always had an above average sinker — which got into the mid-90s deep into games — along with two good breaking balls and control. But his command, changeup, and the optimization of his tools kept him from reaching his potential as a starter. In 2019, the Braves moved him to the bullpen, and things went well, leading to a late-season cup of coffee. Walker leaned into the heavy sinker and the curveball and found something that works for him. The role is a groundball middle reliever who could also be a longman who goes multiple innings, but the upside is basically just a 40 FV if he gets there.
Paolini was known to most Northeast area scouts entering the spring of 2019, but as a kid who wasn’t good enough at the Area Code Games tryouts the summer before to go see again in the spring when the weather warmed up. Atlanta was one of the only teams that scouted him heavily; in face, many teams didn’t turn him in at all. The Braves came up with $600,000 to buy him out of a commitment to Elon as a pure tools bet.
He has above average power potential, easy plus speed, and an above average arm, along with the elements to hit, but not much of a track record against pro-level pitching yet, so this one may move slowly.
Jenista had mid-first round buzz at times leading up to his draft year, with a deceptively-athletic body that packed plus raw power, average speed, and an above average arm into a 6-foot-4, 240 pound frame. We dinged him at draft time for having too flat of a swing plane for his type of player, and cautioned that he may age quicker than other similarly-aged and tooled guys.
He made it to Double-A by age 22 in 2019, but the lack of in-game, over-the-fence-power, along with too many strikeouts as he’s reached the upper levels means that real changes need to be made soon to keep his prospect status. His results were stronger in the second half of 2019, and appeared to be BABIP-fueled, but the Braves saw some positive adjustments.
After two seasons at Northern Iowa Community College, which has produced a bunch of NFL players — including Kurt Warner — but never an MLB athlete, Ball transferred to Dallas Baptist for his junior year, and he raked. He followed up a .362/.487/.625 line at NIACC with .325/.443/.614 at DBU, then followed that up with a raucous summer in pro ball. Between his spring with the Patriots and summer with the Braves, Ball hit 35 bombs, though many came while he was in the GCL, crushing pitching that was beneath him. The power is real.
There’s skepticism surrounding the bat control, but Ball has the power to mis-hit balls into the gaps, or over the fence. We want to see him pushed quickly and see how the contact skills play against full-season pitching, but Atlanta may have something here.
Devito’s stuff was up after the draft. He was 90-94 when former FanGraphs’ Northeast correspondent Josh Herzenberg saw him during the spring, then he was up to 97 after he signed, like on the Cape the summer before. The command/control element is still on the starter/relief-only fringe, but if Devito’s pitch-quality improves a little bit he has a strong chance to be a three-pitch reliever.
Harris is a stocky stick of right-handed hitting dynamite, listed at just 5-foot-8. He was a 2018 senior sign who, after two bad underclass years, has performed at every stop. He could play a lefty-hitting bench outfield role.
Weigel had made tons of progress through college and the low minors, and was on track to possibly be a big league starter (or a late-inning reliever if the command didn’t come) until he needed Tommy John surgery as he got to Triple-A in 2017. He returned late in 2018 and in instructional league with velo that peaked in the mid-90’s, but he wasn’t all the way back yet. The Braves added him to the 40-man anyway, expecting his stuff to return and by the end of 2019, it had.
Weigel’s velo is back to pre-surgery levels, sitting 95 and hitting 99. His slider is above average while his curveball and changeup flash average and his command is fringy. He was best when in relief in Triple-A late in the year, and is likely a big league middle reliever with a little more in his toolbox than the average two-pitch bull in a china shop.
Owens was a smallish righty who looked likely to be a valuable college utility arm for Florida (up to 95, solid average breaking ball, some feel) until he hit 98 mph in a pre-draft All-Star game, at which point the Braves felt comfortable overpaying him in the 13th round for $547,500. He hit 99 mph in his pro debut and, similar to Victor Vodnik, will also flash a plus breaking ball at times with the newfound arm speed. He’s likely limited to short stints given his build, and the command hasn’t been quite dialed in since the velo bump.
Power as a Carrying Tool
Kadon Morton, CF
Mahki Backstrom, 1B
Jefrey Ramos, LF
Greg Cullen, 2B
Brendan Venter, 3B
Drew Lugbauer, C/3B/1B
Morton, a two-way high schooler with a great frame and easy plus speed, and Backstrom were two of Atlanta’s Day Three, overslot high schoolers. Backstrom has more power right now, but Morton is toolsier and has the higher ceiling. The rest are big power corner guys of varying ages. Ramos is only 20 but seems poised to be a low OBP hitter. Cullen has pretty strong exit velo data but was old for the level. Venter and Lugbauer are really only first base fits, and it’s a tough profile.
Beau Phillip, SS
Andrew Moritz, CF
AJ Graffanino, SS
Justin Dean, CF
Phillip was a second rounder who took a $500,000 haircut. He has utility bench tools. Moritz is a tweener outfielder with good instincts. Scouts really liked Graffanino at times in high school and in college, but he’s been hurt at times and not performed at others. Dean is a 70 runner.
Darius Vines, RHP
Roddery Munoz, RHP
Jared Johnson, RHP
Kasey Kalich, RHP
Alec Barger, RHP
Lisandro Santos, RHP
Justin Yeager, RHP
There’s a relative lack of arm strength toward the bottom of this system. Vines is TrackMan0friendly reliever with an average heater/breaker combo and a 55 changeup. Munoz is a two-year DSL pitcher up to 97. Johnson was a 2019 overslot high schooler on Day Three. He was up to 92 in pro ball, and is a bigger kid with a stiffer delivery that popped up late in the spring. Kalich spent a year at a JUCO, then was a draft-eligible sophomore at Texas A&M, so he may be an under-scouted, sleeper relief prospect with a mid-90s heater. The last three are all 21-year-olds who were up to 96 at Danville.
Corbin Clouse, LHP
Thomas Burrows, LHP
Daysbel Hernandez, RHP
Josh Graham, RHP
Luis Mora, RHP
Kurt Hoekstra, RHP
Troy Bacon, RHP
Brad Roney, RHP
Clouse and Burrows are both close to the big leagues and profile as the second lefty in a bullpen. Hernandez has mid-90s heat and could be a middle relief piece if his breaking ball becomes more consistent. Graham throws hard but his fastball doesn’t miss bats, and it affects the way his excellent changeup plays. Mora has the highest ceiling of this group, and he’s been up to 101, but he’s very wild. Hoekstra is a conversion arm up to 95 with an average slurve. Bacon isn’t big, doesn’t have huge velo, and operates with small margin for error at the top of the zone, but is getting results. Roney was a conversion arm at Southern Miss that quickly showed upper-90’s velo in pro ball, but command and health have been problems.
The tide has receded in this system, and it’s currently shallow due to trades and graduations, and because of the fallout from the previous regime’s scandal, which has kept it from acquiring two years of international talent. Still as top-heavy a system as you’ll find in baseball, Atlanta has several promising, everyday type players at the very top of the farm but very little depth right now.
But wait, let’s talk about their 2019 draft class. Initially, we did not like it. We were lukewarm on Shewmake, and thought Beau Phillip was a reach. But the team took a high-volume approach with a bunch of overslot picks on Day Three, which was a logical approach considering that the International program’s hands were tied, and the class looks pretty interesting now. There’s industry love for Shewmake among clubs that think he’s still growing into his body, Harris and Ball had summers so strong that their stock rose. Suddenly there are some interesting, toolsy types percolating near the bottom of the system.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the St. Louis Cardinals. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) 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.
By torching the Appy League during his first pro summer, Gorman laid to rest any concerns that his whiff-prone pre-draft spring was anything more than a hiccup caused by the whiplash of going from facing elite, showcase high schoolers (who he crushed) to soft-tossing, Arizona varsity pitchers. He struck out a lot (again) during the 2018 stretch run, when St. Louis pushed him to Low-A Peoria because he wasn’t being challenged in Johnson City. Sent back to Peoria for the first half of 2019, Gorman adjusted to full-season pitching and roasted the Midwest League to the tune of a .241/.344/.448 line, cutting his strikeout rate by eight percentage points. He was promoted to the Florida State League for the second half, and while his walk rate halved and his strikeout rate crept above 30% again, Gorman still managed to post an above-average line for that league as a 19-year-old. The strikeout issues will only become a real concern once Gorman stops showing an ability to adjust over a long period of time.
His huge power, derived from his imposing physicality and explosive hand speed, is likely to play in games because of the lift in Gorman’s swing and his feel for impacting the ball in the air. Because we’re talking about a teenager of considerable size, there’s a chance Gorman has to move off of third base at some point, but for now we’re cautiously optimistic about him staying there for the early part of his big league tenure. There are apt body comps to be made to either of the Seager brothers, while the offensive profile looks more like Miguel Sanó‘s.
A year ago, on the Cardinals list and in our Picks to Click article, we tabbed Carlson as one of the prospects in this org likely to break out. But even we didn’t expect he’d nearly go 20/20 and slug .518 at Double-A Springfield. Judging by the fervor this performance created among our more fantasy-focused readers, they may be wondering why we were ahead of the curve a year ago, but aren’t hitting the gas on Carlson’s evaluation now after the year he had. We certainly like him — Carlson is balanced and coordinated while hitting from both sides of the plate, his left-handed swing has gorgeous lift and finish, he has advanced bat control for a switch-hitter this age, he’s athletic and moves well for his size, and he has high-end makeup. But we have some questions about the ultimate ceiling.
Carlson is an average runner and a large dude for a 20-year-old. His instincts in center field are okay, but not good enough to overcome long speed that typically falls short at the position. Because of where we have his arm strength graded, we think he fits in left field or at first base. The TrackMan data we sourced also indicates that his 2019 line is a bit of a caricature. His average exit velo (about 88 mph) and rate of balls in play at 95 mph or higher (about 34%) are both right around the big league average, rather than exceptional. The in-office types we talk to about this kind of thing are in love with Carlson because he’s only 20, and they anticipate these things will improve, but visual evaluation of his build don’t suggest as much physical projection as is typical of someone this young, because he’s already a big guy. As a result, he was on the 50/55 FV line for us during the process of compiling this list. The league-average offensive production in left field has been lower than you might expect (it’s 100 wRC+ over the last five years) and Carlson might also be able to play a situational center field when the Cards are behind and need offense, as well as some first base. That versatility is valuable, so he tipped into the 55 FV range. But we think he’s closer to the line than one might conclude if they were just looking at his surface stats.
With January’s trade with Tampa Bay, the Cardinals rolled some of their seemingly unending, upper-level outfield depth into Libby, That means that between him and childhood friend Nolan Gorman, the Cardinals, who picked 19th in the 2018 draft, now have two of the players most teams had in the top five to seven spots on their pre-draft boards in the system.
Because Liberatore’s fastball has sinker movement, the growth of his changeup is going to be the most important aspect of his development, since those two pitches have similar movement, and will theoretically tunnel better. The results produced by his knockout curveball, which has all-world depth, may suffer because he doesn’t have an up-in-the-zone four-seamer to pair with it, but should Liberatore decide to get ahead of hitters by dumping that curveball into the zone, good luck to them. It’s the type of pitch that’s hard to hit even if you know it’s coming, but might be easy to lay off of, in the dirt, because its Loch Ness Monster hump is easy to identify out of the hand. All of the advanced pitchability stuff — Libby started learning a slider during his senior year of high school, he varies his timing home, and he’s likely to pitch backwards with the breaking balls — is here, too, and that’ll be important given the lack of a bat-missing fastball. The total package should result in an above-average big league starter.
When we began sourcing data on the Cardinals system, we weren’t aware of a max exit velocity for a teenager in excess of 109 mph (Kristian Robinson, Marco Luciano, Luis Toribio) — until we learned of Herrera’s. It was surprising considering Herrera is physically quite modest, and looked sluggish at times during the Fall league, but by that point he had played in three times as many games as he had the year before, and was likely exhausted. Regular season Herrera was a little leaner, twitchy, and athletic, and was an advanced defender with a mature approach at the plate. He also hit .286/.381/.423 as a 19-year-old catcher in the Midwest League. This guy checks all the proverbial boxes and looks like a well-rounded everyday catching prospect.
Arguably the most talented college arm in the 2019 draft, Thompson fell, at least in part, because of injury issues speckled throughout his amateur career. He was used pretty conservatively in a bullpen role after he signed for workload/health reasons, but expect the Cardinals to push him to the upper levels next year, as they often do with recently-drafted college arms.
The headline pitch here is the curveball, a deadly, mid-70s parabola much like Liberatore’s. Like Libby, Thompson’s fastball traits don’t fit perfectly with it and it probably won’t matter very much. The changeup is already quite good, a likely second out-pitch. Thompson gets down the mound well, his arm action is loose (though it comes through a little late), and he has east/west command of all his stuff. He’s a concerning injury risk, but has top 100 stuff.
Knizner’s 2019 was a great example of how the convergence of the PCL’s hitting environment and lively big league baseball affected statistics at that level. His .276/.357/.463 line was only good enough for a 99 wRC+, the lowest of his career. Long a contact-oriented doubles hitter with a very compact stroke, Knizner is perhaps not the sort of hitter who would have greatly benefitted from a bouncier ball. He’s still a much better hitter than most big league catchers, but he’s a bad receiver. For the last two years, we were hopeful Knizner would become a passable defender, if later than most, because he only started catching in his early 20s, but it still hasn’t happened. He and Yadier Molina are the only two catchers currently on the Cardinals’ 40-man, so it looks like he’s slated for some kind of timeshare, at least for his rookie season, the last of Yadi’s contract.
His value may be impacted by the implementation of robot umps, which would make Knizner poor receiving moot, but would also put more pressure on him to hit for some power since suddenly every gloveless backstop who can hit will suddenly be viable back there. Knizner’s bat-to-ball skills should make him a second-division regular in that scenario.
We’ve gone from thinking Cabrera was a high-probability middle relief piece with a shot at pitching high-leverage or multiple innings, to thinking either of those outcomes is likely, and that he has a shot at pitching in St. Louis’ rotation. He has premium lefty velocity, and two usable secondaries. In a vacuum, we prefer Cabrera’s changeup to his breaking ball, but his delivery is violent and deceptive, featuring a huge hook in the back (the flexibility in Cabrera’s upper back is incredible) and a huge stride home before the ball suddenly appears from a high three-quarters slot.
In 2017, the Cardinals traded away some of their international pool space for minor leaguers, including Thomas, who had a breakout 2018 at the plate. A high school shortstop, Thomas got a $750,000 bonus to sign with Toronto as a fifth rounder in 2014. He played some second and third base and outfield for the Jays before moving off the dirt entirely in 2017, and he’s quickly become a very good center field defender. He couldn’t quite repeat that 2018 burst — a .264/.333/.489 line between Double and Triple-A, including more home runs (27) than in his previous four seasons combined — in a 2019 shortened by a fractured wrist, but Thomas has good plate coverage that enables a pull-heavy approach, has mostly doubles power, and is fairly selective, and because he’s such a good center field defender, we think he’s a second-division regular there.
After Torres, who was acquired from Cleveland for Oscar Mercado during the summer of 2018, paved over rookie ball, the Cardinals skipped him over two levels, sending him right from the complex to Low-A in early-May. He struggled, striking out nearly 40% of the time, and after a couple of weeks the Cards hit the breaks and sent him down to Johnson City for the remainder of the summer. Torres bounced back in a huge way, and hit .286/.391/.527 in the Tennessee humidity.
This is a traditional, corner outfield projection prospect. Torres is an immense teenager built much like Franmil Reyes was at the same age. Torres has a chance to grow into similar power as he fills out, though hopefully he stays a little more agile than Reyes and is able to play better outfield defense. Some of the swing elements (how long the barrel is in the zone, the stride length) may need to change to max out the game power, but there’s middle-of-the-order thump here.
Fletcher emerged very early in the recruiting/scouting process as an elite prospect due to a power/speed combination that is rare, especially coming from Maine. He played at East Coast Pro, a major summer showcase, as an older-for-the-class member of the 2020 class, playing against 2019 prospects. He played well and reclassified to the 2019 class in March of that year after switching high schools. Clubs weren’t prepared and hadn’t scouted Fletcher intensely, with only a few months of rain-filled Maine high school games versus weak competition to make what was potentially a seven figure decision. Between having Scott Boras as his agent, a strong commitment to Vanderbilt, and the off-field drama surrounding his eligibility, some teams punted on Fletcher because they couldn’t get enough info to be comfortable by draft day.
The Cardinals were not one of those teams, but both they and more casually-engaged clubs saw flashes of plus raw power, speed, and arm strength. St. Louis popped him in the second round for an overslot $1.5 million deal and pushed him to the Appy League after nine good GCL games to get him under the lights and in a more professional game atmosphere, where Fletcher struggled a bit. The ceiling is sky high but we don’t have much reliable data, so the variance is very high at this point, too.
Finally, a healthy season for Fernandez, who pitched across four levels, including the big leagues, in 2019. He has two big league bat-missers in his upper-90s fastball and upper-80s changeup. The changeup doesn’t even need to be located toward the bottom of the zone to be effective since hitters, who are geared up for the heater, are so flummoxed by its speed and movement. You’ll see him freeze hitters with cambios near the top of the zone, and the pitch might be so dominant that Fernandez will be able to pitch high-leverage innings.
Oviedo looks the part of a mid-rotation starter. He’s a hulking 6-foot-6, body comps to a young Josh Beckett, throws hard, and flashes an above-average curveball and changeup. All of these components are present intermittently, but Oviedo just hasn’t leveled up as a strike-thrower yet. Unless his walk rates come down a little bit, he won’t be able to start. If he can’t, we’re hoping his fastball velo ticks up out of the bullpen so he has greater margin for error in the zone. We have him valued around where we had Alec Hansen valued coming out of college.
He doesn’t have Kolten Wong’s range, but in all other aspects of infield defense — hands, actions, arm utility — Sosa is the best defender on St. Louis’ 40-man. He projects as a versatile infield utility man.
Multiple wrist injuries made it impossible for Montero’s 2019 to get off the ground, so toss out his lousy 60-game Double-A statline. His body looked great in the Fall League, and he still has a shot to stay at third base long-term because he’s kept what used to be a big, softer body in check.
His approach, however, is a problem. During some of his Fall League starts, Montero saw five pitches over the course of an entire game. During the regular season, he averaged just shy of 2.5 pitches per plate appearance. For comparison’s sake, among big league hitters with at least 200 PAs in 2019, Willians Astudillo ranked last in pitchers per PA with 2.9; no other big leaguer was under three. From a hitting talent perspective — the bat speed, primarily — Montero has everyday upside, so he belongs ranked ahead of prospects who project to be lesser role players at best. But we’re weary of how swing-happy he is and think, at the very least, there will be growing pains as he climbs the minors and is forced to adjust to big league pitching.
Whitley and his Josh Collmenter-style delivery carved the upper levels in 2019, posting a 1.60 ERA mostly at Double- and Triple-A. He had a velocity uptick during the summer (93-96, touch 98) but it was down a bit during Whitley’s Fall League stint (more 92-93, touch 94 or 95). He lives at the top of the strike zone and gets his swings and misses there, while his secondary stuff gets help from his delivery, which puzzles opposing hitters. He has worked multiple innings, working against seven hitters over two frames when things go smoothly for him, but for now, we have him projected as being a good middle relief piece very soon, and maybe more if that peak velo comes back and sticks.
Locey had a rocky end of high school and beginning of college at Georgia, but emerged in a big way in 2019 as the most dependable starter for the Bulldogs down the stretch, ahead of banged-up possible 2020 first overall pick Emerson Hancock. Locey would hold mid-90s velo late into games, hitting 97 regularly and landing a solid average breaking ball that dev-minded folks in baseball think has more ceiling. His control is fine, but the command and changeup were both weaker points in a starting role, so relief is a natural fit without a change to that profile. His aggressive, bulldog approach is also conducive to shorter stints.
Baker’s amateur career was bedeviled by freak injuries — a left arm fracture and ligament and muscle tear, a few missed games after taking a bad hop to the face, a fractured fibula and torn ankle ligament while sliding into second base — which likely snuffed out our chances of watching him play two ways at TCU. Because Baker is the size of one of the Easter Island Moai statues, there’s some Zion Williamson-ish fear about his athletic longevity. But he has monstrous raw power and has performed when healthy (we’re not sweating a .390 SLG in the Florida State League), so he has a fair chance to hit at least enough to be a CJ Cron, Jesús Aguilar sort of performer.
Woodford was a widely-known prep prospect because he was teammates with Kyle Tucker at Plant. He was a sandwich rounder who fell off our lists as his fastball velocity ticked down (91-93, touch 95 around draft time, then 88-92 in the following few years) but has returned here (and to the 40-man) now that the velo’s not only back, but at times harder than its ever been. He’s a kitchen sink righty with below average control, a backend starter who needs a long relief partner.
Traded from Atlanta in exchange for Matt Adams, Yepez was a heavy-bodied, power-hitting prospect who’s passable at a few positions. His best fit is probably first base, but with a remade body, he also saw meaningful time at all four corners last year, which helps his likely big league profile of a lefty-mashing extra bat. Yepez’s calling card is his plus raw power, but he’s been dialing in his offensive approach to make more contact. He’s one of a number of corner-only righty power bats in the system with Baker, Montero, and Nunez.
This is the player in the system about whom the scouts and data most disagree. Scouts see an unathletic infielder, arguably positionless, without the power to make up for his defensive issues. But on paper, Urias has a .270/.360/.420 career line in the minors — after two DSL seasons with Texas, Urias’ rights were loaned and then sold outright to Diablos Rojos in Mexico City, where he hit .318/.402/.467 over five seasons before the Cardinals came calling in the spring of 2018 — and he’s hit well for two consecutive years at Double and Triple-A. His TrackMan data is strong (91 mph average exit velo, 47% of balls in play at 95 mph or more), and he plays an up-the-middle position. He’s an interesting sleeper, though we acknowledge there’s no margin for error here. Urias can only really play second base passably as he lacks the arm strength for the left side. He’ll either hit enough to be an everyday second baseman, or he won’t and will be very difficult to roster.
Mateo is the son of former big league infielder Benji Gil and, despite not being on the showcase circuit much in high school, looks primed to carve out a big league career as well. He’s a shortstop for now, but could slide over to second or third depending on how his body develops. He closed 2019 strong and his exit velos were also above average for his age and level. There may not be a plus tool on the card, but Gil has low-end regular upside.
Initially a bit of an afterthought (in our minds, anyway) in the Tommy Pham trade with Tampa Bay, Ramirez had a great 2019 as a multi-inning reliever at Double-A Springfield. He has the repertoire depth to pitch in that role in the big leagues, but his fastball has cut action rather than ride/carry, so it accidentally runs into barrels. That might be problematic, but on arm strength and the pitch mix, he’s pretty clearly a valuable long relief type.
Nunez became famous back in 2018 when he posted a god-like .415/.497/.774 line with 31 extra-base hits in 44 DSL games. He was bigger and stronger than most of the kids down there, so the industry was ultra-skeptical of that line. After a little time in Florida, two months after he turned 18, St. Louis sent him to Low-A to stress test the bat. Nunez flopped and was demoted to the Appy League later in the summer. He’s a big-bodied, projectionless, 1B/DH prospect who needs to mash all the way up the ladder.
A fourth round pick by Seattle in 2017, Elledge was traded to the Cardinals for Sam Tuivailala just over a year after he was drafted. He profiles as a two-pitch middle reliever.
Romeri was a slightly-over-slot 12th round pick in 2019 from a loaded IMG Academy prep squad that included Brennan Malone (first round), and Rece Hinds and Kendall Williams (both second round). Romeri was so below the radar on that team that many scouts didn’t have him turned in despite watching him numerous times on what was likely the most-scouted high school team in the country. The seventh hole hitter on a high school team is not usually where you find a prospect; He wasn’t on our pre-draft rankings either. Romeri is a solid average runner and thrower who profiles in right field, and his exit velos and OPS both stood out in his pro debut in the GCL. There’s a faint chance for a low-end regular but he’ll more likely profile as a part-time player.
Pallante was young for a college draftee (just 20 on draft day), and had a strong, two-year track record of starting at Irvine. He threw on the Cape and for Team USA, so he’d been seen by most everyone and wasn’t subject to the anti-small school bias. He has four pitches, including two quality breaking balls and a fastball that might play a little better than its velocity. He has a backend shot.
A $300,000 signee from 2017, Cruz has a traditional corner outfield profile. He has a projectable 6-foot-3 frame and a swing geared to lift the ball to his pull side. He could grow into plus, playable power; he’s likely a left field-only fit, so he’ll need to. He missed almost all of 2019 due to injury.
Gingery had Tommy John in March of 2018 before he was drafted, and finally took a pro mound in late-July of last year. He was 87-91, up to 92 in his lone outing before he blew out again and required a second TJ. Healthy Gingery had a nasty changeup and advanced command. He projected as a backend starter.
When the Cardinals signed Cruz, he was 21 and pitching for Sultanes de Monterrey in Mexico. He’s serviceable, non-40-man upper-level depth for now. His current control is likely a barrier to a solid, middle inning relief role, but Cruz has real stuff and we like him in an up-and-down role.
A downward bat path long undercut Williams’ in-game power despite his considerable raw juice. He had the second-highest average exit velo in this system and the lowest average launch angle, and this with a swing that’s better than it was two years ago. He has a shot to break out if there’s a relevant swing change; if not, a bench role is going to be tough to grab hold of because of the lack of other skills.
Roberts had one of the best breaking balls in the entire 2018 class, a two-plane Wiffle ball slider that was at least a plus pitch on draft day. But his stuff was down last year amid a weed suspension, and he’s already almost 24. What looked like a lock to be a quick-moving, breaking ball-heavy reliever now requires a bounce back.
Jones had a storied if somewhat tumultuous amateur career (he was an early-round prospect in high school but, like many after him, was convinced to go to UVA) that included a National Title and several fluctuations in the quality of his stuff. He’s now a sinkerball reliever (63% groundball rate).
Part of the Liberatore/Arozarena/José Martínez trade, Rodriguez was injured for almost all of 2019, so his report is the same as it was when he appeared on last year’s Rays list. It’s not abundantly clear whether Rodriguez will be able to catch as, at age 18, he’s already a pretty big, long-levered kid who was initially unsure if he even wanted to try it. But Rodriguez can really hit. He has excellent timing, bat control, and feel for all-fields contact, and he can open up and get his barrel on pitches inside. He might end up at first base or in an outfield corner, but he might hit enough to profile at those spots, and if he can catch, his ceiling is sizable.
Avelino has no idea where most of his pitches are going (he has 99 walks in 51 career innings) but he has big time arm strength for his age (94-99) and several other fastball traits that could make the offering dominant — even elite — if he ever becomes an even passable strike-thrower. The chances of that seem low considering how badly Avelino has struggled with it to this point, but his stuff is just too good to stick him in the honorable mention section.
Julio Rodriguez, C
Pedro Pages, C
José Godoy, C
Rodriguez, 22, has some power and arm strength, and aside from a bad 2018, he’s always performed. Pages is similar but faces an uphill climb as far as visual evaluations are concerned because he’s on the Alejandro Kirk spectrum. Godoy might get some big league time in 2019. He’s a contact-oriented lefty stick with well-rounded defensive ability.
Young Arm Strength Fliers
Luis Ortiz, RHP
Logan Gragg, RHP
Yordy Richard, RHP
Alvaro Seijas, RHP
Luis Tena, RHP
Jeffry Abreu, RHP
Nathanael Heredia, LHP
Leonardo Taveras, RHP
Tyler Statler, RHP
Seijas and Taveras are the oldest names in this group (they’re 21). Seijas gets up to 97 and has a good changeup, but we also spoke with someone who saw him sit 90-92. He has relief projection if the velo can settle into the 94-plus area. Taveras has a live arm (up to 98), and he’s somewhat projectable at 6-foot-5. His mechanical inconsistency impacts his control and breaking ball quality. He also has relief ceiling. Ortiz, 19, is the most projectable of the group at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds. He’s up to 94 with lots of spin and some curveball feel. Gragg’s velo was up after he was the Card’s eighth rounder. He’s 92-94, touching 95, with a slider that could use some tweaking. Yordy Richard is only 17 and up to 94 with an advanced changeup. His frame is a little more stout. Tena’s is, too. He’s 20 and has been up to 96, though the secondaries are fringy. Abreu was acquired from the Dodgers for Jedd Gyorko. He has a low-90s fastball but the best curveball of this group. Heredia is 19, projectable, and up to 95; the delivery is a little less good than others here. Statler is purely a physical projection lottery ticket. He’s a very wiry 6-foot-6, up to 93 with a sinker.
Various Kinds of UTM (Up The Middle) Bats
Chandler Redmond, 2B
Franklin Soto, SS
Albert Inoa, 2B
Nick Dunn, 2B
Joerlin De Los Santos, CF
Ramon Mendoza, 2B
Redmond is a huge guy with huge power who is a Muncy/Shaw non-traditional second base fit. Soto, 20, has plus bat speed and a good build, but his in-the-box footwork is rough right now. Inoa, 18, is a contact-oriented second baseman with a medium build and some speed. Dunn also has contact skills, but he’s a 40 athlete who needs to perform, and he didn’t last year. Mendoza is similar but a few levels behind Dunn. De Los Santos lacks physical projection but is twitchy and athletic.
Conversion Arms and Older Dudes
Walker Robbins, LHP
Ben Baird, RHP
Edgar Escobar, RHP
Evan Kruczynski, LHP
Angel Rondon, RHP
Mitchell Osnowitz, RHP
Escobar is 23, and has a swing-and-miss heater up to 96 and an average slider. Kruczynski’s velo and command backed up last year but we liked him as a four-pitch fifth starter before that happened. Rondon is also an arm strength-only relief type. Osnowitz is 28 but might pitch in the big leagues. He’s up to 98 with other bat-missing fastball traits (backspin, mostly). Robbins and Baird were both 2015 Perfect Game All-Americans as position players who are moving to the mound. Robbins is up to 92 with some feel for spinning a curveball. Baird has more arm strength but his conversion is so new that all we know is he’s been into the mid-90s.
This system is fine. There are a couple of potential impact talents up top, several young, high-variance players who could join them if things click (most of the 40+ tier), and pitching depth and depth up the middle, though you have to venture into the Others of Note to find the latter.
There seems to be an org-wide taste for righty corner power bats, as all three departments have acquired at least one in the last few years. The pro department has had an impact even though the Cardinals perennially compete because the club has traded for younger prospects with the glut of upper-level outfielders they signed and developed well. The same stable vibe the big league team gives off is present in St. Louis’ talent acquisition track record.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the New York Mets. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) 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.
Similar to the way Andres Gimenez skipped over short season ball (though, he also skipped over the GCL), the Mets pushed Mauricio to Low-A after he had spent just a year on the complex. He was three and a half years younger than the average Sally League player and was still hitting an impressive .283/.323/.381 before he had a lousy August. The exciting physical characteristics — a lanky, projectable frame, the sort you typically see on the mound, the hands, actions, feet, and arm strength for short, precocious feel to hit — shared by Mauricio’s franchise-altering shortstop predecessors, the stuff that had us deliriously excited about him before he even signed, are still present.
The explosiveness and physicality of cornerstone, power-hitting shortstops still percolates beneath the surface, which is fine because Mauricio will be 18 until April and it isn’t reasonable to expect that he’d already have grown into impact power. When most players his age are either in the midst of their freshman season of college or getting ready to start Extended Spring Training, he might be in the Florida State League. Because he’ll be so young and in a pitcher-friendly league, it’s very likely that a year from now, we’ll be ignoring a pretty lousy statline for contextual reasons. With another full year of data to consider, we now know Mauricio is a little swing-happy and that, even if that explosion arrives, he either needs to develop feel for lift or tweak the swing if all the power is to actualize. Hopefully we’re not living in the timeline where Mauricio outgrows shortstop and those two things remain issues. Switch-hitting shortstops with power, uh, don’t really exist. That Mauricio has a chance to be one means he may one day be the top overall prospect in baseball, and several outcomes short of that ideal are still very, very good.
We now have what you could say is a softer 50 on Gimenez. Defensively, at either short or second, Gimenez’s wide array of skills, especially his range (it’s less important than it used to be because of improved positioning, but Gimenez can really go get it) is going to make him a strong middle infield defender.
On offense, even though Gimenez spent 2019 all the way up at Double-A Binghamton, things are less clear. He looked physically overmatched against Double-A pitching, which is fine because he was only 20, but he was also chasing a lot and seemed doomed if he fell behind in counts because of it. The all-fields spray (lots of oppo doubles) that comes when Gimenez targets more hittable pitches is very promising. We’re not optimistic that any kind of impact power will ever come (he’ll golf one out to his pull side once in a while), but the hit tool and doubles would be plenty to profile everyday on the middle infield if Gimenez learns to be more selective.
The way Vientos’ strikeout/walk rates trended in 2019 combined with continued skepticism regarding his ability to stay at third base led some of our sources to express trepidation about where we had him on our 2019 summer top 100 update. But he also put up an above-average statline in full-season ball as a teenager and he has some of the most exciting, frame-based power projection in all the minors. He’s tied for the highest average exit velo among hitters on this list and he has room for another 20 pounds on the frame, which is likely to come since Vientos was one of the younger prospects in his draft class and is younger than 2019 first rounder, Brett Baty. Because we’re talking about a corner bat with strikeout/walk rate yellow flags, Vientos is a high-risk bat but the power gives him middle-of-the-order potential.
In an age when more and more teams are taking model-driven approaches to building a draft board, Baty’s age was such a unique trait that precedent couldn’t inform one much: he was 19.6 on draft day while some other Day One prospects were as young as 17.6. A player’s age relative to his peers is a predictive variable for pro success (younger is better) and Baty is older than a lot of 2018’s high school draftees, against whom we had pro performance to judge while Baty only had high school stats on draft day.
Baty compares quite closely to Cardinals 2018 first rounder and top 100 prospect Nolan Gorman: he’s big, strong, and has huge power and advanced feel to hit. He may not be an athletic fit at third base, especially long-term, and is at risk of moving to first, but his quicker-than-expected feet (he’s a standout hoops player as well) could help delay that. Baty essentially held serve in his first taste of pro ball and his 2020 season will go a long way to dictating his value, as another half-season of pro performance will wipe out all the pre-draft considerations.
Allan was one of the top pitchers in the 2019 prep class over the summer, then took a big step forward in the spring, touching the high-90s in every start after peaking in the mid-90s over the summer. His fastball and breaking ball were both anywhere from 60 to 70 grade pitches during the spring depending on the day and scout, while his changeup was a 55 at times over the summer, when he also sometimes flashed average command. If you put together the best elements from both versions of Allan, there’s a potential ace, but the worry is that either one or the other will the the actual outcome, which is still a solid mid-rotation type.
He’s not projectable and is an average athlete, so there are some limits on his upside. He had a rumored $4 million price tag in the draft, which many thought would push him to college, but he ended up changing his asking price and signing for $2.5 million in the third round after throwing a much higher number out to clubs that almost took him at multiple spots in the first. Mets brass are thrilled with their first draft under the new regime and some specifically think Allan is already the best prospect of the group. He could be a top 100 prospect by midseason if he continues his current streak of good health and performance, as his TrackMan figures are very strong.
Young catchers are notoriously slow to develop as they adjust to the physical and mental demands of the position, which often stymies their offensive production. But Alvarez’s first pro season was statistically impressive. He only played in 42 games, but he hit .312/.407/.510 (mostly in the Appy League) while playing very good defense and appearing more svelte and conditioned than he had as an amateur.
His swing (his front foot is down very early) could stand to be a little more athletic to take advantage of his movement skills, but he rotates hard anyway and his hitting posture enables him to lift pitches in various locations. The receiving, lateral mobility, and arm strength are all promising on the defensive side, too. Teen catchers are risky and often take forever to develop, but Alvarez’s track record of hitting extends back to amateur play, so we’re a little more comfortable here. We view him very similarly to the way we viewed Miguel Amaya a few years ago, except Amaya’s frame was more obviously projectable.
Working back from a year and a half of Tommy John rehab, both Szapucki’s in-game pitch count and velocity climbed as the summer burned on. He worked in 20 to 30-pitch stints for the first several weeks of the year before rounding into more traditional starter form late. His sinker and changeup have similar movement, which will benefit the change (which is just fine in a vacuum). The curveball, though, the pitch that enabled Szapucki’s earlier breakout, remains excellent. We’re hoping more mechanical consistency in season two back from TJ will yield better command, but even if this iteration of Szapucki is where things settle, that’ll still be a strong multi-inning relief piece if not a No. 4/5 starter.
Peterson was a known prep prospect as an underclassman in Colorado due to his 6-foot-6 frame and ability to touch 90 mph from the left side at an early age. Then he had two decent years at Oregon before he dominated as a junior, striking out 140 hitters and walking just 15 in 100 innings. He has never had a plus pitch, nor does he project to have one, and instead works in the low-90s with tough angle and great extension, and several other pitches. He doesn’t have high spin rates on his breaking stuff and pitches more to weak contact with a sinking, sometimes cutting changeup, looking like a steady, durable, No. 4/5 starter who we’ll see in the big leagues this year.
Tommy John surgery late in the fall of 2018 meant Kilome didn’t pitch at all last year, though he was throwing with effort in the bullpen late in September. He has shown a starter’s mix of pitches, especially during his brief time with the Mets (he was acquired from Philly for Asdrúbal Cabrera ahead of the 2018 deadline) when his strike throwing and changeup improved. Prior to that, he had been pretty raw for a pitcher his age and had begun to look like a bullpen arm, an outcome that became more likely due to the injury and his presence on New York’s 40-man. There’s a chance Kilome looks really good in the spring and the Mets decide to let him start while managing his workload, but we expect to see mid-90s heat and a great curveball out of the bullpen sometime in 2020.
As we sourced for this org list, we spoke with a scout who saw Newton play terribly for a week and still thought he belonged high on this list because his physical talent is so remarkable. This is an extreme risk hit tool prospect, the kind who sometimes tricks us into thinking relevant adjustments have been made and performs at upper levels only to flail at big league pitching (see: Brinson, Lewis), but also sometimes becomes Aaron Judge.
Newton is built like an SEC wide receiver, he already has sizable power and will likely grow into more, while also staying on the left side of the infield. He has a shot to be what we have Mauricio projected to be; a switch-hitting shortstop or third baseman with impact power. But Newton has run two consecutive years of strikeout rates up around 32% and the quality of his at-bats is wildly variable. He’s still growing into his body, so perhaps more reliable bat-to-ball skills will arrive once he does. Even if he cuts the K’s down to the 25% range, we could be talking about a valuable everyday big leaguer.
A slight dip in velo and a strike-throwing regression isn’t enough to slide Santos down the pref list at this point, not as his age, nor at his size, and especially not when you consider both. This is a giant teenager with a good arm and some breaking ball and changeup feel (for creating movement, not for locating) who was pushed hurriedly to an affiliate when he was still 17. The arm action looked a little less fluid and was a bit compromised last season, but we’re still on Santos as a long-term projection arm with an elite frame.
Wolf was a lower-end follow after the summer showcase circuit, then popped up during his draft spring as a high school senior. When making the rounds in Texas, Kiley ran into him with no background; Wolf sat 94-97 with plus life and a plus curveball while there were a couple dozen scouts in the house who were trying to double Wolf up with eventual first round pick Jackson Rutledge (both are based in the Houston area). Wolf’s frame and delivery aren’t ideal for a 200 inning type, but the stuff is loud, the arm is fresh, the velo is new, and there’s no track record of any trouble in the way of injuries, overuse, or walk rate, so at some point we’re just nitpicking.
Rodriguez lost some time to a hamstring strain last year and it may have masked his real athleticism for a while during an otherwise stellar first summer in the states. This is a very athletic, switch-hitting catcher with advanced feel for contact, and a few of the sources we spoke with about Rodriguez were actually most excited about his defense. The movement, receiving, and catch-and-throw skills are fine, but Rodriguez has also seen time at first base and in the outfield, so he might be a very interesting, multi-positional player. We have him valued where we had Rafael Marchan and Gabriel Moreno at the same stage.
Smith was a seventh rounder in 2018 out of Georgia. He’s a big lefty who sits around 90 with a three-pitch mix, but he was used in a number of roles in college, so nobody was really pounding the table for him. Well, maybe they should have been: he carved up Low-A after being drafted, then did the same to High-A and before pitching well at Double-A as a 22-year-old in his first full season. The stuff still isn’t great, but his slider flashes above average, his fastball has a solid spin rate and overall characteristics to go along with some deception and the feel to get the most out of his stuff. The intangibles seem to be driving the success here and the tools aren’t bad, so a big league look in 2020 or 2021 now seems likely.
This is one of, if not the highest variance prospects in the entire system. Unearthed in the Mets’ backyard as an overslot Day Three pick, Palmer surprised the industry by going to Kingsport and performing well above what was expected of him. We think there’s a gap between the contact performance (Palmer hit .250) and actual skill at this point, but that’s okay for such a lanky, cold-weather, out-of-nowhere high school prospect.
The measurable power Palmer generates on contact is shocking. He’s tied with Mark Vientos and Brett Baty for the highest average exit velo on this list and he’s arguably more physically projectable than either of them. His long-term defensive profile is still unclear, and Palmer’s ability to make contact and recognize offspeed stuff is raw. It’s possible he becomes a whiff-prone corner outfielder and falls off the list in two years, but he may also stay on the dirt and develop passable feel to hit and huge raw power.
Like Desmond Lindsay, who is a ways down this list, Hernandez is muscular, explosive, tightly-wound, and suffered a severe soft-tissue injury (a torn hamstring) that cost him most all of 2019. And so, the scouting report remains the same as it did on last year’s list: Hernandez runs well enough to stay in center field and he has sizable raw power for a teenager. The cement on the bod is pretty dry, and while we think that means limited power projection, it also probably means Hernandez stays in center. The exit velos on THE BOARD for both Hernandez and Lindsay are from the 2018 season, when they were healthy enough to generate sufficient data.
Dominguez was a known, and not all that highly-regarded, pitching prospect at the beginning of 2019. He was then a 17-year-old Venezuelan righty with some effort who sat 90-93, which is typically a $10,000 to $25,000 bonus pitcher. He was then 94-97 at an event in the summer, and teams sat up straight to reconsider him, but some clubs wanted to see it another time or two to make sure it wasn’t an anomaly. The Mets moved quickly, though Dominguez’s bonus, which we were told was $95,000, reflected that level of uncertainty.
Between when Dominguez was waiting for his contract to be approved and the end of Dominican instructs, he continued to sit in the mid-90s and hit 99, flashing a plus breaking ball at times. A scout who saw him during this period told us he would “blow the doors off” of the GCL this time next summer. He’s only thrown a handful of times since the velo spike and not even all of the Mets upper level decision makers have seen him yet, but the talent level is on par with a compensation or second round pick. There’s just significantly more uncertainty and less track record than even later-developing players taken in that range, like Josh Wolf.
Ventura began the summer in the DSL but had reached Kingsport by August. He doesn’t have the big frame to dream on but he’s very athletic, can spin it, his fastball has life, he already throws pretty hard, and he’ll show an occasional plus slider. You can go kind of wild projecting on his command because of the athleticism, but realistically he could be a No. 4/5 starter.
Cortes is unique in that he’s a switch-thrower who stood out early in his high school career and pitched along with playing all over the diamond, including an attempt at catching. He had plus bat control at that stage but his body has thickened and he’s lost some of his athleticism as he’s aged, though he still has good feel for the bat. He’s played a passable second base and otherwise would fit in left field or maybe at first, but the defensive value is minimal regardless. The calling card is plus raw power and feel to hit from the left side. There isn’t much else there, so a role as a Frank Catalanotto/Matt Stairs style platoon player or bench bat seems to be the most likely outcome.
While he isn’t your typical, huge-framed teenage arm, Cornielly has a lot of starter traits. He’s a plus athlete with a squeaky clean delivery, and advanced changeup feel and fastball command. The breaking ball needs work, but it’s a shape problem more than a raw spin one, and we think Cornielly is athletic enough to develop in this area. He has a realistic shot to be a No. 4/5 starter down the line, and a non-zero chance to develop a premium change, command, or both, and be more.
Humphrey’s Tommy John rehab started and stopped (more of the latter) last summer before he threw during the Fall League, where he sat in the low-90s on about a week’s rest. He showed a rare changeup but mostly worked off an 82-85 mph slider otherwise. He looked like a potential backend starter before the UCL blew out and all the setbacks started, but looked more like a “maybe” reliever in the fall. We like his chances of bouncing back but he’ll need to show it early in the spring and stay healthy.
This Alexander Ramirez and the Angels recently-signed Alexander Ramirez are going to be conflated with one another for the next several years because they have almost identical builds. They’re each classic, big-framed, power projection outfielders. This Ramirez runs well enough to try center field for a while, though we expect he’ll move to a corner eventually due to his size. Lever length may be an issue here.
Added to the 40-man during the offseason, Sanchez projects as a glove-oriented backup.
Toffey was a notable player on the national stage all the way back to high school and has been a similar guy for those last seven years. He’s got solid feel to hit and works counts with mediocre raw power and ordinary bat speed. He’s made offensive adjustments at each level but has excelled only once he’s been on the old side for prospects at each level, so the low-end regular chance has mostly dried up now. He’s a solid defender with a plus arm who probably fits best as a lefty platoon corner bat and is still on schedule to be that at some point in 2020 or 2021.
Valdez got a big bonus as part of the 2018 class and is a beefy power guy who we were a little skeptical of athletically, but he performed in the DSL and was pushed to the GCL last summer. The exit velos are a little lower than we expected given how big and strong Valdez is already.
Gilliam was the ace starter for one of the most prospect-laden prep teams in the country in 2015, Kennesaw Mountain High School, which also had current top 100 prospect Tyler Stephenson (Reds) and center fielder Reggie Pruitt (Blue Jays), who got a $500,000 bonus in the 24th round. Gilliam could’ve received a low-to-mid six figure bonus out of high school, but instead went to Clemson, where he mostly relieved, a role that agreed with his aggressive approach and fastball/curveball combination. He has two above-average offerings rather than a true plus out pitch, which is why he’s in this tier rather than the 40 FV one.
A torn hamstring cost Lindsay virtually all of 2019, a familiar refrain in an injury-riddled pro career, which has included several hamstring issues. Lindsay has big tools, but he struggles with contact and hasn’t had the in-game reps to remedy it.
A slight velo dip (92-95 in 2018, 90-93 last year) now has Lockett projecting as more of a spot starter or swingman rather than a sinkerballing No. 5.
Megill has a similar profile to his older brother, Trevor, who was a recent Rule 5 pick by the Cubs from the Padres. They’re both giant and throw hard and pitched at Loyola Marymount, while Tylor later ended up at Arizona. Tylor has made notable improvements in pro ball to his breaking ball after going in the eighth round as a senior sign in 2018. One source described Tylor as a potential Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo due to his high-octane stuff, spin rates, and multi-inning potential. Given his age, he could get to the big leagues in 2020 with continued refinement.
There are some elements of Suarez’s delivery that need to be ironed out if he’s going to locate consistently enough to start, but he’s strong of build, has a loose arm, and can spin a two-plane slider from his current three-quarters arm slot. He’s an interesting developmental follow for now.
Just a body/arm strength lottery ticket for now, Otanez should continue starting for a bit in order to refine his breaking ball. If that comes along, he’ll be a middle reliever.
Younger Developmental Types
Stanley Consuegra, RF
Blaine McIntosh, CF
Sebastian Espino, SS
Federico Polanco, 2B
Robert Colina, RHP
Benito Garcia, RHP
Consuegra would be above Valdez on the main list on tools and long-term physical projection but he missed all of 2019 with a torn ACL. McIntosh was a multi-sport high schooler committed to Vanderbilt who the Mets got done on Day Three of the 2019 draft. He’s toolsy, but raw. Espino is a contact-oriented shortstop who lacks bat control when he takes big hacks, and bat speed when he’s under control. Polanco was a DSL All-Star; he’s a little more compact but twitchy. Both will need to have contact-driven offensive profiles since they lack power projection. Colina is a loose teenage arm up to 93 with positive spin axis traits. Garcia is the oldest player in this cluster at 19.8 (McIntosh and Espino are the youngest at 18.6) and sits 90-93 with above-average spin.
Depth Arms and Luis Carpio
Reyson Santos, RHP
Dedniel Nunez, RHP
Tony Dibrell, RHP
Christian James, RHP
Santos, 21, has been up to 96 but the breaking ball is still a work in progress. He’s a relief-only sort. Nunez is older (23) but also up to 96 with nearly pure backspin. He had a 15% swinging strike rate on his heater last year, but it was at lower levels. Dibrell and James are spot starter types.
This group is a bit thinner at the top because of Pete Alonso’s graduation and the Marcus Stroman trade (and, of course, there’s no Jarred Kelenic or Justin Dunn), but a tier of teenagers (mostly arms) in the lower levels of the system have emerged to make it deeper.
Both recent agents-turned-GM, the Mets’ Brodie Van Wagenen and ex-Diamondback Dave Stewart, were a little cavalier with dealing away prospects early during their tenures. If you care about surplus value, then the Robinson Canó deal was instant highway robbery for Seattle. If you don’t, it’s probably starting to look that way. But the Keon Broxton trade, in which the Mets surrendered three prospects for a player who was DFA’d by Baltimore less than a year later, was another, almost immediate example.
Decision-makers deserve time to adjust the same way players do. The Mets beefed up the analytics department last year. We’re still waiting to see if they start scouting the lowest levels of the minors, but if their goal is to compete right now, then they’re not likely to acquire that type of player anyway. How the international department sustains its recent level of excellence in the absence of departed Chris Becerra will be a key to continuing to stock a system that looks better than we anticipated when we began sourcing.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Houston Astros. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) 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.
Editor’s Note: Brandon Bailey has been added to this list at No. 30 following his return from the Baltimore Orioles subsequent to the Rule 5 Draft. Cal Stevenson has been removed following a trade to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Two consecutive tumultuous seasons — a 2018 stimulant suspension, lat and oblique issues, then 2019 shoulder fatigue, control problems, and what looked like a conditioning regression — have us a little down on Whitley, but not too much, because his stuff is still quite good. He wields one of the deepest repertoires in all of the minors and, though the elite-looking changeup he showed during the 2018 Fall League was not present in 2019, all of his stuff is still above-average or better, both visually and on paper.
The strike-throwing hiccup isn’t great, but Whitley clearly knows where his stuff plays best (fastballs up, the cutter and slider to his glove side, and the curveball beneath the zone — a well-designed mix nearly ubiquitous in this system) and he works in those locations pretty loosely. Inefficiency might limit Whitley’s inning totals, but it’s unlikely to prevent him from starting. Ideally, Whitley shows up to camp in better shape than he appeared to be in during the Fall League; he underwent a much more drastic athletic metamorphosis in high school (which coincided with his pre-draft velo spike), so it seems very possible. The top of a rotation ceiling that seemed possible a year ago would now require a bit of a bounce back in stuff and a quantum control/command leap. That seems unlikely, but a mid-rotation/All-Star ceiling still exists.
Urquidy made last year’s Astros list as an Other of Note, projecting as a spot starter because of his plus changeup and command. He sat 89-93 in 2018, then found a few more ticks of velo and a second breaking ball in 2019, all while retaining the command and change. Both breaking balls will play because of where Urquidy locates them (the slider, especially, needs to miss away from hitters), and his changeup action works against both handed hitters, so he’s a promising rotation piece who we project as a 2.5 WAR-ish starter.
It’s rare for evaluations of a player as seasoned as Toro to be as divisive as his are, all the way down to the bones of his tool grades. Running is simple to evaluate using home to first times, but there’s even disagreement over Toro in this area. But let’s start with the most important stuff: the offense. Toro is short-levered and tightly-wound, not the loose, rotational athlete most scouts like. But he muscles balls into both gaps and has solid barrel control, enough to spoil tough pitches and grind out tough at-bats. It’s a pretty well-rounded contact/doubles power/OBP profile even though Toro presents an atypical look.
The same is true of Toro’s defense. When he has the time to really step into a throw, he uncorks rockets, but he’s not the kind of athlete who can make strong throws in tough situations. He’s okay at third base, but there are teams and individual scouts who prefer him at either first or in the outfield corners, and some are really intrigued by the latter possibility because of Toro’s long speed. He’s not a graceful runner, but he can really move once he gets going and his swing has a natural jailbreak, so he’s fast to first. A diverse defensive role seems logical considering how crowded Houston’s 1B/3B situation is, unless Toro gets traded. He has a shot to be an average everyday player if he gets an opportunity, but otherwise should play a valuable, switch-hitting corner role.
There are several higher-probability prospects in this system (most of them pitchers) but Nova remains one of the few with everyday upside (or better) because of his bat speed. He takes questionable at-bats, but the frame/power projection and likelihood that Nova stay on the dirt, probably on the left side of the infield, give him a shot to be an impact regular. Despite an Epicurean approach, Nova has a three-year track record of statistical success, including a nearly average line as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League last year, which featured 25 extra-base hits in just 75 games.
Because he has premium arm strength and both of his breaking balls are nasty benders from hell — they’re roughly the same velocity but have clearly different shapes — Abreu has elite reliever ceiling. His complete lack of fastball control forces him to work with those breaking balls early in counts, which impacts hitters’ willingness to offer at them later in at-bats as they’ve already seen a couple. Because he has options left, a wild spring from Abreu might mean he spends 2020 up and down from Round Rock, but he might also be Houston’s closer by the end of the summer.
It’s odd to consider someone with such lowly control a “pitchability” arm, but Javier is exactly that. He manipulates the shape of his breaking balls, pitches backward, and will double and triple up on his changeup when he’s behind in the count, all in an attempt to get to two strikes so he can try to sneak his fastball past hitters. And he does. Javier has fringe velocity but his fastball garners swings and misses more than 17% of the time. Even though he struggles with walks, his career WHIP is just a shade over 1.00 because hitters can’t touch his stuff. It may be in a 90 or 100 inning bullpen role, but Javier projects to be a core piece of Houston’s staff.
Bielak’s 2019 ERA was inflated by a bad three-start stretch in June, including a nine-run spanking in Vegas, where that kind of thing is fairly common. He had some rashes of wildness early in the year, but over the final two months of the summer, Bielak was his characteristic, strike-throwing self. He can pitch backwards and consistently locates both of his breaking balls to his glove side; Bielak often sets up one with the other. There’s a starter’s repertoire depth and pitch quality here, along with a starter’s command and good raw spin, and he performed against Triple-A hitters late in the season. He’s a high-probability No. 4/5 starter.
A stocky, athletic catcher with a good arm and surprising bat speed and power, Lee hit .320/.420/.626 as a junior at Cal and emerged as a Day 1 talent. Teams with draft models that more evenly weight multiple seasons weren’t on Lee as much before the draft because he didn’t perform like that as an underclassman. Lee didn’t catch much pro-quality stuff at Cal, so that part of his skillset remains somewhat unclear, but we think he’s athletic enough to improve if it’s an issue initially. He looked ground down last summer after he signed, and was less balanced at the plate. He has everyday tools, but catchers are high risk and this one has a relatively short track record of performance.
Brown was a late-rising arm for Division-II Wayne State in Michigan, with high level scouts running in for looks after a breakout outing at a Florida tournament in early March. He had buzz as high as the second round, but ended up slipping to the fifth on draft day, with some buzz that a rookie agent (since fired) vetoed what would’ve been a higher bonus in the third. Early returns are very positive on Brown in pro ball: up to 97, mixing in an above average slider and a usable changeup, with a workhorse frame with starter traits.
Solis had Tommy John late in the summer of 2018, meaning he didn’t pitch at all last year, so his FV and scouting report are the same as they were in 2019. Among the non-Top 100 types of arms in this system, he not only has one of the better chances of remaining a starter but also has the best stuff among those who do, led by a plus-flashing curveball that he has great feel for locating. Solis also has a great arm for a 19-year-old, and may still throw harder as he matures, with his fastball already sitting in the viable low-to-mid 90s. There’s some changeup feel here, too, and teams think Solis has mid-rotation ceiling so long as his command continues to progress.
The Astros will need to make a Rule 5 protection 40-man decision on him after the 2020 season, a decision that will be made easier if Solis hits the ground running after rehab.
We tabbed Pena as a potential breakout candidate last season (he had added about 20 pounds of muscle during the winter) and he did have a pretty good 2019 split between Low- and Hi-A, levels too low for us to really buy in based on stats alone. We think he’ll continue to hit for doubles power while playing a terrific shortstop. Some clubs have him evaluated as a low-end regular, others as a utility player (he’s played some second and third), which we think is more likely.
Perhaps the loosest, most fluid on-mound athlete in the system, Rivera struck out just shy of 30% of opposing hitters for the second straight year in 2019. He began the season in Extended before joining Low-A Quad Cities in a piggyback role, usually working three or four innings per outing, mostly with his monster fastball and power breaking ball, from which he adds and subtracts when he’s trying to get back into counts. The longer arm action, mostly two-pitch mix, fringe control and age/level/40-man timeline funnel Rivera toward the bullpen, and he might be very scary if his heater has another gear in single innings.
Any of the several, hard-throwing relievers you’re about to read about could end up pitching at the back of a bullpen one day, and Paredes might have the best shot. He is arguably the best athlete in this system, and it’s incredible that he’s able to stay balanced over his landing leg despite taking a gargantuan, max-effort stride toward home. So deep is the bend in Paredes’ landing leg, so low to the ground is he at release, that his fastballs approach hitters at a very flat angle that they seem to struggle with. He throws really hard, up to 99 with explosive life, and mixes in several semi-consistent secondary offerings of varying shape and quality. He’s worked as a starter or in three-inning jaunts out of the bullpen, and the pitch mix supports continued usage of this sort.
Ivey’s violent head whack, some minor injury stuff, and the lack of innings foundation — caused partially by a 2019 suspension, the official reason for which was undisclosed, though it came out after he was caught using a foreign substance — push him toward the bullpen, but he has starter’s stuff. His fastball plays well at the top of the zone. Even last year, when he wasn’t throwing quite as hard as the year before, Ivey’s fastball hummed past upper-level hitters. His curveball is the headliner, though. It’s a gorgeous, old-school, 12-to-6 yakker that freezes hitters. He also has a cutter/slider and a changeup, the latter of which shows flashes of bat-missing movement. Unless the mid-90s heat comes back, we prefer Ivey in a multi-inning relief role, but he’ll probably be given at least one more year of starts just to see what happens since he doesn’t have to be on the 40 until next winter.
He’s not as lanky and projectable as most teenage arms, but Macuare has very advanced feel for pitching (toss out his two, walk-happy starts before Houston shut him down for a few weeks) and his fastball has monster vertical movement. He’ll flash a plus curveball, which he can dot on the corners, but the changeup feel is a little behind. It looks like a potential backend starter on the surface but the fastball might play way better than that, enabling Macuare to be closer to a true No. 4.
In the 2019 draft, Brewer was an outfielder for College World Series finalist Michigan and arguably had the best raw tools in the draft. But he lasted until the back of the third round due to his rawness at the plate, underlined by his 56 strikeouts to 24 walks. He was draft eligible in 2018 at Lincoln Trail JC in Illinois and went undrafted, but emerged in his season at Michigan due to his huge tools: solid average raw power, plus-plus speed, plus arm strength and good instincts on the bases.
At the plate, Brewer’s pitch selection is below average and his swing can get long, so the prototypical profile of the below average contact platoon center fielder, like a Jake Marisnick, is the reasonable upside since Brewer is already 22.
The late-rising NorCal prep center fielder grew on us (and, it seems, teams) as the draft approached. Barber has plus speed, so he should stay in center, and we think he has the athleticism to project his hitting ability to progress. He’s a high-effort player, somewhat stiff, but his bat is quick, and the swing is compact. There are some tweener bench outfield traits, but a good contact/up-the-middle foundation.
Kessinger is the next in a line of prep shortstops who are raw enough at the plate to get to college, but who have the instincts to potentially turn into everyday big leaguers if the right offensive adjustments are made in their early 20s. Brandon Crawford and Dansby Swanson are some of the more notable successes, Jordy Mercer is a middle tier outcome, and Connor Kaiser (Pirates) along with Connor Walsh (Ole Miss) are two in-progress candidates along with Kessinger. Kessinger also has big league bloodlines: his grandfather (Don) played 16 seasons in the big leagues in the 1960s and 70s, his father (Kevin) played a summer of pro ball in 1992, and his uncle (Keith) got a big league cup of coffee in 1993.
Grae stood out on the summer showcase circuit in high school as a glove-first athlete with the tools to succeed offensively but middling performance against top pitching; that mostly held through his three years at Ole Miss, though he made solid progress. Kessinger’s approach steadily improved and he got to more of his power, leading to a pro debut at age 21 spent mostly in Low-A, where he performed almost as well as he did in college. His swing complexity and effort were reduced in college to make more contact, and he’s a swing change candidate in pro ball, as this type of hitter can benefit from mechanics that free up his athleticism. Kessinger was an above average defender in high school but bulked up a bit in college and lost a bit of quickness. Any kind of step forward offensively would give him a big league role of some consequence.
This guy is built like a tank, he has an ample and enviable lower half and electric arm that generates mid-90s velo (one source saw Garcia crest 100 but we can’t find another who’s seen over 98), and a plus slurve. We’d like to see a third pitch before bumping Garcia into a late-inning relief FV tier.
Santana had a fine year in the Penn League as a 20-year-old, and we still really like his feel for contact, but for a thick, projectionless guy his exit velos are concerningly low. He needs to be a 60 or 70 bat to profile as a second baseman because he’s unlikely to hit for power or be a very good defensive player.
Torres signed with Milwaukee back in 2015 but his deal was voided due to identity falsification. He re-emerged in 2018 with Houston and had a breakout 2019. While he has one of the harder fastballs in this entire system, Torres throws his slider about 60% of the time because he can put it in the zone more consistently than his heater. His command will limit him to a bullpen role, and he has an outside shot to pitch in high-leverage innings.
We still have some sources who think Sanabria can start, but he’s been wild two of the last three years and his body has backed up a bit. His arm strength has not. Sanabria was up to 99 last year, sitting 94-96 much of the time. He has a four-pitch mix (the slider is 84-87, the curveball is in the low-80s) that he doesn’t control, so we have him in relief.
The Astros stuck Perez in the bullpen after he returned from a six-week IL stint brought on by a forearm issue. This, combined with his regressed strike throwing, makes it likely he just ends up in Houston’s bullpen long-term, even though they arguably have some rotation spots up for grabs. While his starter pedigree makes Perez more likely to assume a multi-inning role than some similarly talented arms a little further down the list, we saw a more scant repertoire from him in his 2019 big league outings, which perhaps means that kind of role has become less likely.
Dawson had a disappointing 2019 if you look at his surface-level stats, but a putrid-looking .212/.320/.403 line was actually good for a 105 wRC+ in the Texas League. Dawson’s arm strength limits him to left and center (where he’s willed himself into becoming a passable defender) but he has sizable raw thump, he walks at an above-average clip, he lifts the ball, has good makeup and is an above-average athlete. He looks like a viable fourth outfielder or platoon option.
Switch-hitting middle infielders are hard to come by, and Lorenzo is short to the ball and his swing has lift, which is also rare. He’s somewhat projectable and his arm might push him to second base, but the bat may carry him.
Ramirez was so wild early in the year that the Astros had to send him back to Extended Spring Training to be re-deployed at a short season affiliate later in the summer. He still ended up walking more than a batter per inning, and he’s likely a bullpen piece long-term, but his velo and breaking ball give him considerable ceiling. He’s arguably the riskiest player on this list.
Armenteros struck out a batter per inning at Triple-A last year but his stuff was actually down, the fastball living in the 87-91 range more so than the 91-94 we’d grown accustomed to. If his fastball bounces back, we like him as a No. 4/5 starter thanks to his command and plus changeup. If it doesn’t, he might struggle to stay on the roster.
Added to the Houston 40-man this offseason, Rodriguez doesn’t have the kind of arm strength found throughout most of the rest of this system, but his fastball has traits that help it play (spin axis, vertical movement) and he’s a more reliable strike-thrower than his upper-level peers with sexier stuff. He’s going to work in on the hands of lefties with his stuff, even the breaking ball, which he has above-average command of.
Stubbs finally began to see time at other positions in 2019 (the outfield and some second base) and he projects in an interesting 26th man role, which may help keep him healthy and more productive at the plate than he would be if asked to catch everyday.
One of the earlier pitch design guinea pigs, Bailey’s arsenal is robust for a reliever. Houston traded Ramon Laureano to Oakland for Bailey, then lost him to Baltimore for nothing in the 2019 Rule 5 draft. Now, he’s very likely to stick on the Orioles’ 25-man next year. Like most pitchers who’ve been touched by Astros player development, Bailey’s fastball plays at the top of the strike zone, and it helps set up an above-average, 12-to-6 curveball. His changeup will flash plus and he can vary his breaking ball shape to look like a slider or cutter to give hitters different looks. All of these components allow Bailey to strike out lots of batters without big velocity (91-94, touch 96), but his approach to pitching is not conducive to efficient strike-throwing, so he’s likely a multi-inning relief piece or swing man.
McCormick is a potential small school late bloomer. The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s all-time hits leader has tweaked his swing over the course of two full seasons (his stance and stride direction have changed), and he now only hits the ball on the ground about a third of the time, instead of half. He’s now performed statistically up through Triple-A amid some pretty aggressive promotions. Scouts have some trepidation about it working at the big league level, but McCormick has at least become an intriguing, tradable prospect.
Taylor is a vertical arm slot, fastball/curveball reliever. Houston acquired him as part of the Jake Marisnick deal with the Mets.
Dubin enjoyed a velo spike in 2019 and dominated low-level competition with mid-90s heat and a good slider. He’s a wispy 155 pounds, which has caused some consternation among scouts about his ability to hold the velo spike over multiple seasons (one source put a Mike Stutes comp on him), but it’s middle relief stuff now.
Solomon missed almost all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery. He projects as a multi-pitch reliever.
Lopez has a long, somewhat violent arm action and he’s small, but he’s a plus athlete with a really quick arm and advanced pitchability for his age. He has a shot to be a No. 4/5 starter and has a realistic bullpen fallback due to the arm strength.
Conine spent 2019 carving up low-level hitters with a well-located breaking ball and a sneaky, low-90s heater. His could pitch his way into a backend rotation role, but he’s more likely a spot start, up and down type.
A pitchability lefty with more physical projection than most pitchers this age, Lopez has backend starter ceiling.
Another potential backend starter, Robaina has the vertical arm slot and accompanying spin axis, but he’s less projetable than Lopez even though he’s two years younger.
We think De La Cruz has a shot to be in someone’s outfield mix eventually, just probably not Houston’s. He mashes lefties and plays an above-average corner, but he could use a swing change to get to more of his average raw power.
Taveras is an arm strength lottery ticket who walked more than a batter per inning in the AZL last year.
Younger, Higher Variance Types
Enmanuel Valdez, 2B
Roilan Machandy, CF
Nathan Perry, C
Deury Carrasco, SS
Yohander Martinez, 3B
Alfredi Jimenez, RHP
Luis Vega, RHP
Valdez, 21, is a stocky, slower twitch infielder with limited range. He has good hands and actions and some feel to hit. He performed with the bat until a mid-year promotion to Hi-A. He could be a bat-first infield role player. Machandy, 18, is a speedy DSL center fielder from Cuba who needs a long-term look because of his tools. Perry is a 20-year-old, well-built catcher with an athletic lefty swing, and his defense is improving. The exit velos are in the 40/45-grade area right now, but he’s still pretty young. Carrasco barely played in 2019 and was bad when he did, but he only turned 20 in September. We liked him as a speed/glove/versatility bench piece last year. Yohander Martinez was a DSL All-Star. He’s well-built and has a plus arm; his swing has some length but it also has lift. Jimenez is a 20-year-old lower slot guy up to 95. Vega is an 18-year-old pitchability righty with a bunch of average pitches.
Older, Potential Role Players
Matthew Barefoot, OF
Ralph Garza, RHP
Leovanny Rodriguez, RHP
Alex McKenna, OF
Tommy DeJuneas, RHP
Ross Adolph, OF
Osvaldo Duarte, INF
Ronel Blanco, RHP
Barefoot is a swing change candidate with present speed and defense. He hit really well with wood on Cape Cod but flopped in a short Penn-League run last summer. He’ll be 22 all next year. Leovanny Rodriguez, 23, is a three-quarters slot righty who sits 91-95 in relief. He has good numbers up through Hi-A. McKenna, Adolph, and Barefoot are all tier two or three college center fielders who performed as amateurs. They have tweener traits and had down statistical seasons in 2019. De Juneas is up to 97, Blanco up to 96. They’re both well into their mid-20s and have control problems. Duarte has bench utility ceiling.
Taylor Jones, 1B
Joe Perez, 3B
J.J. Matijevic, 1B
Rainier Rivas, 1B
This is pretty self-explanatory. Jones, 26, is on the 40-man, he averaged 91 mph off the bat last year, and hit 48% of his balls in play 95 mph or above. He might be a corner bench piece because of the power. Perez has big raw power and also has huge arm strength, so we wonder if he might be moved to the mound if he doesn’t hit again in 2020. Rivas was acquired from the Angels for Max Stassi. He is only 18 but still averaged exit velos above 92 mph last year. He’s wholly unprojectable and positionless, but there’s real power. Matijevic whiffs too much to be a 40 FV first base fit.
Willy Collado, RHP
Kent Emanuel, LHP
Kit Scheetz, LHP
Brayan De Paula, LHP
Dean Deetz, RHP
Collado was close to being on the list even though he only touches 92 on occasion. He’s a side arm sinker/slider relief prospect with bat-missing tail on an upper-80s fastball. He’s 21 and has reached Double-A. Emanuel is 27, he’s now on the 40-man, and has been maximized for sink. Scheetz was undrafted out of Virginia Tech and is now 25, but he doesn’t have to be on the 40-man until next winter. He’s a funky, junk-balling lefty who has performed up through Triple-A. He’s great bullpen injury insurance for 2020. De Paula is 20, he’s pretty projectable, and has real arm strength (up to 95) but poor control. We’ve written about Deetz the last few seasons, but his control regressed last year.
As always, this system is loaded with homegrown pitching, some of which has come out of nowhere during the last 12 months. This list is a Rule 5 draft and a Greinke trade away from being a half dozen names longer, and while part of Houston’s draft strategy as it pertains to hitters (targeting measurable power) has seemed cookie cutter-ish, they’ve either been able to flip some of those types in deals or turn them into viable pieces.
Some of this may be caused by the vacuum created in the upper minors by Houston’s lack of minor league free agent signings. While GM Jeff Lunhow was in St. Louis, the Cardinals began de-emphasizing the signing of minor league free agents, and in Houston, that’s been taken to an extreme. The upper-level players other teams bring in are replaced by overachieving recent draftees who the org pushes up the ladder quickly as a way of stress-testing their skills; once in a while, you end up with Josh Rojas because of this. And rival teams who use a model-heavy approach to pro scouting can be misled by this strategy. Player promotion rate is almost certainly a variable in some models, and if not, is a way to flag players for re-evaluation. Houston promotes an artificially high number of their prospects to fill spots unoccupied by the minor league free agents they don’t sign, so this can be more noise than signal at times.
And depending on how MLB decides to discipline the org, fallout from the big league club’s trash can whacking might impact next year’s draft pick situation in a class that looks a little deeper than usual.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Miami Marlins. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) 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.
Editor’s Note: Diowill Burgos was added to this list following his acquisition from the St. Louis Cardinals for Austin Dean. Angeudis Santos was added after his acquisition from the Boston Red Sox for Austin Brice.
The Marlins seem to have a taste for divisive, polarizing prospects who much of the industry perceives as risky, such as Lewis Brinson, Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, and many more of the names currently on this list. That includes Jazz, who was acquired in exchange for Zac Gallen before the trade deadline. The swap meant Miami gave up six years of what looks like a mid-rotation starter for six-ish years of Chisholm, who might be a superstar or strikeout too much to be anything at all.
Chisholm has whiffed in 30% of his career plate appearances, partially a product of a sophomoric approach to hitting and otherwise due to him arguably being too explosive for his own good. But that twitch, the violence, Jazz’s awesome ability to uncoil his body from the ground up and rotate with incredible speed, the natural lift in his swing — many of the things that make him whiff-prone also make him exciting, and give him a chance to be an impact offensive player who also plays a premium defensive position. His skillset is somewhere on the Chris Taylor/Javier Báez continuum of strikeout/power offensive profiles at a premium defensive position. We want to see another year of plus walk rates (Chisholm walked 11% of the time in 2019, up from a career 8%) before we declare that to be a true part of the skillset, but the power is real (a 91.4 mph average exit velo would put him in the top 40 of the majors, while 48% of his balls in play being over 95 mph would be in the top 30), the lift is there (he has a career groundball rate in the low 30% range and a 17 degree average launch angle according to a source), and we think he has a chance to be an above-average defensive shortstop, though for the first time we had one dissenting source on the glove. He also performed statistically as a 21-year-old at Double-A. One of several radionuclides in this system, Chisholm has its highest ceiling.
Miami had Sixto throw in Extended Spring Training (he threw bullpens until mid-April, then got into games) to control his season-long workload coming off an injury-plagued 2018 (he had visible discomfort in his neck and shoulder early in the year, elbow soreness later on, and skipped Fall League due to collarbone soreness) before sending him to Double-A for the bulk of the summer. There is a gap between how many bats his fastball misses (he has 8% swinging strike rate on the heater, where the big league average on all pitches is 11%) and what you might expect at this velocity (Sixto averages 97, touches 101) because it has sinking/tailing movement rather than ride. Whether Miami player dev can adjust that without compromising Sanchez’s control and health remains to be seen.
His changeup, which is one of the better ones in the minors, will be his primary out pitch unless or until that happens. The cambio has bat-missing, screwball action, so much that it dips beneath the barrel of right-handed hitters as well as away from lefties. Sanchez can also run it back over the corner of the glove side of the plate, freezing perplexed hitters. Though his slider has plus spin, it’s horizontal wipe means it needs to be located off the plate to work, but Sixto, especially considering how little he’s pitched in his life and how far backwards his build has gone on him to this point, commands it pretty well. The same arm slot/hand position change that might add more ride to the fastball could add more depth to the breaking ball, but you could argue that such a change is an unnecessary risk considering Sixto’s injury history and how well everything already works.
Knowledge of the fastball efficacy gap combined with the injury history has us down on Sixto a little bit. He still has top-of-the rotation upside, there’s just more developmental work to do to get there than we thought there was a year ago.
Part of Bleday’s 2019 breakout at Vanderbilt — he hit four homers as a sophomore and slugged .511, then hit 26 as a junior and slugged .717 — was because his 2018 power was hindered by a severe oblique injury that caused him to miss half of the season. Healthy Bleday was not only one of the more polished hitters in his draft class but one of the most physically gifted as well. In addition to having a superlative feel for the strike zone, Bleday is also short to the ball but still creates lift. He murders offspeed stuff, has all-fields ability, and can mishit balls with power — he’s a complete offensive package. He’s also pretty fast, and his instincts in the outfield could make him a plus corner defender. We expect him to move pretty quickly and be an above-average everyday player.
Every year there are a few dozen teenage righties who look like Cabrera did two years ago: big, prototypical frame, mid-90s heat, an occasionally good breaking ball, and command you can dream on if you like the delivery/athleticism. Every once in a while, everything comes together and we end up with a top 100 prospect, and that is exactly what is happening with Cabrera. A slight velo bump and an arm slot change enabled a 2019 ascension (he had strikeout rates around 20% in ’17 and ’18, and roughly 30% in ’19) as Cabrera’s breaking ball now has more downward action. There are clubs who have Cabrera ahead of Sixto on their Marlins org pref list because they prefer Cabrera’s breaking ball and the movement profile on his fastball. His stuff, build, and likely No. 4 starter profile compare pretty closely to the college pitchers who typically go in the top 10 picks of any given draft, and Cabrera has now shown he’s capable of making relevant adjustments without experiencing hiccups in performance, which portends success in future trials.
Two of the trades Tampa Bay made last summer — swapping Nick Solak for Peter Fairbanks and Jesus Sanchez for Nick Anderson — made us wonder if we were undervaluing long-tethered, potential late-inning relievers, or at least underestimating their value to immediate contenders or perhaps the impact of 40-man crunch on trade leverage.
It also made us worry we were too high on Sanchez himself. We, and much of the industry, are scared of corner-only prospects who clearly lack plate discipline, and Sanchez is one of these (6.5% career walk rate). That, plus Sanchez’s swing still not being fully actualized for power (a seven degree launch angle in 2019, a groundball rate around 50%), means he’s fighting an uphill battle to get to his huge raw power in games, since he’s either swinging at pitches he can’t do anything with or failing to lift a lot of the ones he can. However, Sanchez has some of the most thrilling bat speed in the minors and despite his issues, his talent has enabled him to perform statistically so far. He hits balls very hard (50% of his 2019 balls in play were hit 95 mph or above) and has feel for contact, just not for contact in the air. We think it’ll be enough for Sanchez to be an average everyday hitter, and the Marlins have two option years to try to tinker with the swing and coax out more power if they want to. There’s All-Star ceiling here if they can do it.
Harrison reduced some of the movement in his swing following his move to the Marlins org as part of the Christian Yelich deal, seemingly as a way to find the barrel more often, since good things happen when he does. In his first full season with more of a contact-oriented approach, he cut his strikeout rate from 37% to 30% amid a move to Triple-A, and posted an average statline for the PCL. He hits the baseball very hard — a 93.4 mph average exit velo, per a source, with 52% of his balls in play at or above 95 mph — but not often in the air. We expect what comes from this newfound approach to contact, as well as Harrison’s defensive ability, to result in an average everyday player in aggregate, but the swing-and-miss tendencies, as well as the possibility that Harrison has some huge seasons if he ever hits for power, mean he’s a high-variance player.
The Twins asked Diaz to shed some weight heading into the 2018 season and he lost so much that the following year, much of the strength that had made him an interesting prospect in the first place had been sapped away. Over time, he was able to add muscle and not only recapture the power he had early in his pro career — resulting in a 2019 offensive renaissance — but to do so while retaining the slick defensive ability he flashed as an amateur before he got big.
Diaz is a plus athlete, which is incredible for someone his size, and his infield feet, hands, and actions are all plus. He has a low hand load and a bat path geared for hitting pitches down, so we wonder if big league arms will be able to get him out at the top of the strike zone, but Diaz generally has good feel to hit, he can adjust to breaking balls mid-flight, and he impacts the ball in the air to all-fields. We think he’s a .340 xwOBA guy who also plays plus defense at first, and while ideally he’d be a little more selective, we still think he ends up as a good everyday first baseman.
We were slow to correct our low pre-draft position on Rogers (he turned 20 the fall after he signed and we were skeptical about his breaking ball) as he enjoyed a 2019 breakout at Hi-A, with a 27% K%, 5% BB%, and a promotion to Double-A for his final five starts. The low-80s slurve is still not great and has been usurped by a mid-80s cutter/slider that, considering how quickly Rogers’ fastball/changeup control have developed, should enable him to induce weak contact as he hones it. The lack of a traditional breaking ball will likely be a barrier to true mid-rotation performance, and it’s more likely that, if Rogers is ever to be a No. 3/4 starter, he does so via continued improvement of a hopefully elite changeup or command, rather than the unlikely addition of a viable breaking ball.
Scott has now responded to two pretty bold promotions. The first was during his first pro summer, when Miami promoted him and other recent prep draftees to Low-A for the end of the season. Scott was bad there at the end of 2018, but made adjustments and posted a league-average statline as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League the following year. Scott kept his head above water at Hi-A late in 2019, too, though he did swing and miss much more there. Scott shares some swing components with fellow Plant High School alum Kyle Tucker; he has a similar low-ball proclivity and has shown glimpses of all-fields power. Scott’s frame is broad in the shoulders but otherwise narrow throughout, so he may never grow into big strength, which just makes him more likely to retain his plus speed. Unless unforeseen feel for lift develops, Scott profiles as a table-setting center fielder.
Back after missing 2018 while rehabbing from Tommy John, Garrett cruised through 18 starts (111 punch outs in 95 innings) before he sputtered to a finish in August, a month that included prolonged rest between a couple of starts. At his best, Garrett was living in the low-90s and locating his quality breaking ball to his glove side, which gave him two weapons against right-handed hitters (the changeup is also good) and a finisher versus lefties. His arm action is still short and efficient, same as it was before the surgery, and his pre-injury velocity is back. This isn’t an impact fastball profile, but the quality of the secondaries and Garrett’s command should enable him to pitch toward the back of a rotation.
He struggled to throw strikes during the summer after returning from early-season knee tendinitis, but Neidert looked more like himself during a five-start spin in the Fall League, when he walked just two in 22 innings. Otherwise evocative of a backend starter, Neidert’s out-pitch changeup and location-reliant breaking balls all work and are aided by some of his cross body deception. He doesn’t throw very hard, but the other components should enable him to be more of a No. 4/5.
Misner entered his draft spring in the same position of eventual Giants first rounder Hunter Bishop. Both were tooled up outfielders who hadn’t performed to expectations after their first two seasons because their swings were bad, though some of why Misner struggled was also because of a foot injury. He struggled more than was hoped during his draft year, too, especially against SEC pitching (.222/.353/.315), but the raw power/straightline speed combo enticed Miami at pick 35 anyway. He’s a high-risk college bat who needs a swing tweak.
Jerar projects to be a player similar to Hunter Renfroe or other corner outfield power bats with less plate discipline than is ideal. Built like an NFL tight end, Encarnacion starts with a closed stance and opens his front side up toward the third base line as he strides. How far he opens depends upon pitch location, which can leave him lunging at breaking balls that he thinks are center cut and end up swirling away from him, but Encarnacion has the power to hit balls out the opposite way, even if he’s fooled, if the pitch catches enough of the plate. He’s sometimes a bit of an adventure in the outfield, but even among polished peers in the Fall League, Encarnacion’s strength and physicality was a cut above, and he should mash his way into a modest big league role within the next couple of years.
Perhaps no prospect from the 2019 draft buoyed industry opinion during the summer as much as Burdick, who leveled the Midwest League after he signed. His forearms are as thick as support beams and help him generate huge pull power. Even though Burdick is a thicker guy, he takes a pretty athletic swing that demands a lot of his balance through contact, but he never appears out of control, even when he’s swinging his hardest. We tend not to buy heavily into college hitters’ stats at lower levels, but we know more about Burdick’s measurable power now that he’s generated data in pro ball, and it indicates that he might be a four or five-hole masher.
Nunez’s pre-game infield is appointment viewing and he had the most athletic footwork and actions in the 2019 draft. It takes a lot of visible effort for him to make throws from the hole, and because of this, there are some clubs who had him evaluated as an elite second baseman before the draft, but we think it’ll work at short.
There’s a big gap between Nunez’s present physicality and how strong he’ll need to be to make hard big league contact (his left-handed swing is behind the right), but his move forward is athletic, he rotates, there’s barrel accuracy from the right side already, and enough footspeed to make balls in play a bit of a problem. We don’t anticipate Nunez will become an impact bat, but he projects as a low-end regular because of the glove.
Guzman continues to start and he certainly has the stuff for it — in addition to throwing very hard, his changeup and power curveball both flash plus — but his inability to throw strikes (except for an outlier 2017, his walk rate has always been well over 10%) still causes relief projection. He may end up scrapping the changeup in relief since he spikes many of them into the dirt, but the combo of elite velocity and breaking ball depth gives Guzman a shot to pitch high-leverage innings.
Surgery to repair a tibial stress fracture in his elbow meant that Johnson, one of the younger players in the 2018 draft, missed his entire first full pro season rehabbing. He played during instructional league and had the same rotational explosion that made teams interested in him in high school despite how raw he was in all facets. We speculated he’d move to the outfield before the draft but our sources who saw him in the fall think it’s more likely he ends up at third base.
We still know next to nothing about Johnson’s approach or feel for the strike zone because he hasn’t played much pro ball, and that’s going to be more important if he indeed ends up at a corner, but there’s a chance for big offensive impact here because of the bat speed and Johnson’s ability to rotate. He’s arguably the prospect with the highest variance in a system full of players like that.
The first year of pro ball for the Mesa brothers is an excellent microcosm of the pitfalls of showcase-heavy international scouting. Victor Victor got a big bonus for having workout-friendly tools, while Victor Jr. didn’t blow anyone away before the two signed. But in games, it’s the younger Mesa who scouts liked more after a full year of looks. Victor Jr. has plus instincts and feel to hit, giving him a chance to profile as a glove/contact-oriented center fielder. There’s enough of a frame and leverage in the swing to project for some in-game power down the line, which is what separates this Mesa from the similarly-skilled, 40 FV Jorge Barrosas of the world.
The sweet-swinging Burgos has a left-handed cut that looks like Robinson Canó‘s, and George Valera’s. He has a softer, top-heavy frame with bulky shoulders, and probably won’t grow into substantially more power, but he’s already got quite a bit. We’re being a little more aggressive in ranking what is a relatively projectionless, corner-only bat in this situation because we have increased confidence that Burgos will continue to hit for power because of his hitting hands’ talent. Realistically he projects as an average everyday player.
He doesn’t throw all that hard right now, but Encarnacion is pretty projectable and his fastball has abnormal spin for a heater with fringe velocity, so if he does throw harder, it has a chance to miss a lot of bats. You can project on the rest of Encarnacion’s stuff with varying levels of zeal, since his arm action is very clean and his curveball has pleasing shape. He’s the best teenage arm in this system and has a chance to be a league average starter in time.
Vesia seems poised to be the first major league player drafted out of Division-II Cal State East Bay (Joe Morgan attended before transferring to Merritt College) after he reached Double-A during his first pro season. Vesia’s fastball works in the low-90s but it approaches hitters at a very flat angle, and his delivery is tough to time. That, plus his changeup, should enable him to play a valuable bullpen role quite soon.
Holloway came off of TJ rehab late in 2018 and was setting instructs ablaze with his upper-90s fastball. We thought there was a chance he’d explode in 2019, his first full season since surgery, and emerge as a late-inning relief prospect or maybe even a No. 4 starter, but he walked 66 hitters in 95 innings during his first year on the big league 40-man. Because Holloway holds his velo deep into games and could use the reps, it makes sense for Miami to continue developing him as a starter, even if it means he deals with growing pains as a big leaguer late in the summer of 2020. But ultimately, we think the delivery (stiff and upright with a shorter stride) pushes him to the bullpen.
Banfield continues to track like an Austin Hedges-type of big leaguer: great defense, and pull power he might sufficiently tap into during games to profile as a low-end regular. More likely, he’s a glove-first backup.
Roberson had Tommy John not long before the 2017 draft, which played a large role in pushing him to Day Three. He returned for 2018 instructs and then pitched out of the Low-A rotation in 2019, battling injury early before settling into a normal workload in late July. He’ll flash a very nasty, two-plane breaking ball and might throw harder (and stay healthy) in a bullpen role. He needs to be added to the 40-man next offseason, which probably increases the bullpen likelihood.
Fitterer was often the first player mentioned by our sources who saw the Marlins GCL/instructs group, as he has a traditional fastball/overhand curveball suite and the sort of pitchability you’d expect of an older SoCal high schooler. How much you’re willing to project on his frame and fastball will vary depending on how you balance the traditional-looking frame and Fitterer’s age. We’re on the lower end, but feel pretty confident he’ll have a third good pitch and starter’s command.
Salas signed for big money ($2.8 million) last July. He’s already filled out and was more of a hands/actions infielder without big arm strength or range to begin with, so we think he probably ends up as a bat-first second baseman, but he could have an impact stick.
Devers fits in a sort of heuristic bucket that historically has been underrated by old school scouting: the small, contact-oriented, up-the-middle prospect. We had Devers on our 2019 Picks to Click list and hoped he’d be on the overall top 100 this offseason. Even though the Marlins have pushed him pretty aggressively (he was sent to Hi-A as a 19-year-old, then the Fall League) and he’s hit a career .278 on his way there, we’re diluting our expectations based on his lack of power and power projection. He can really run and play both middle infield spots well, and there’s lots of visual and statistical evidence in support of the bat-to-ball ability, but the quality of contact is limited, and Devers is so narrowly built that we’re skeptical he’ll grow into any sort of power. We now consider him a lefty utility bench piece.
Into the middle of the summer, leading up to the trade deadline after he’d thrown some at Triple-A, our sources who’d seen Dugger had his fastball sitting 90-93. A month later he was in the big leagues and his fastball averaged 90 mph toward the season’s end. We’re hopeful the early-season Dugger, who was up to 95, is what we see next spring. He’ll be a ready-made fifth starter who has a standard, four-pitch mix and plus slider command.
He was a tad old for the draft class, but there are other reasons to dream on Mokma’s stuff. He has a projectable, shooting guard build, he’s from a cold weather state, and his delivery is fluid and repeatable. It sounds like the curveball Mokma used in high school has already been shelved in favor of a new slider, but the fastball/changeup combo is what might end up missing bats, and the ceiling on the command seems high based on his athleticism.
Miami’s Rule 5 pick, Sharp is currently a sinker/changeup backend starter or swingman type whose breaking ball effectiveness depends on a combination of command and Sharp’s unique delivery. His frame, athleticism, and nomadic, small-school pedigree give him an outside shot to become a No. 4/5 starter if he can somehow find more velo or a better breaking ball.
Now 24, it’s pretty clear that Miller isn’t going to end up with the kind of power necessary for him to profile in an everyday capacity, and he may not even be a good enough center field defender to be a low-end regular or fourth outfielder. We do love his feel for contact as a lefty bench bat who can play center and left, so we consider him a high-probability fifth outfield prospect.
When Victor Victor signed, and occupied about $5 million of the Marlins $6 million outlay for both Mesa brothers, the industry viewed him as a likely fourth outfielder or low-end regular in center field, comparable to Albert Almora Jr. Part of why he was valued was because of his big league proximity relative to most players on the July 2 market, and while the industry acknowledged the volatility in the Cuban player market due to sporadic reps against live pitching, Mesa was considered a relatively stable prospect.
He went to Hi-A and had a putrid season, slashing .252/.295/.283 (not a typo) before an unwarranted promotion to Double-A; Mesa was also poor in the Fall League. The length of his swing prevents him from getting on plane with the baseball and hitting for any power, though he does have pretty good feel for the barrel. He’s a good center field defender with a laser arm, and he appears to be a plus runner out there, though Mesa is already notoriously difficult to get max-effort run times out of. We still think there’s a chance for Victor Victor to be a fourth outfielder, but something with the swing needs to change to enable more in-game power or there will just be better bench outfield candidates hanging around.
Quick as lightning, Lewis is a frame/athleticism projection infielder who is currently weak with the bat. Depending on how his swing and power develop as he matures, he could be a well-rounded second baseman with elite speed.
Acquired as part of the J.T. Realmuto return, Stewart’s velo tanked last year, and he topped out at just 91 mph after he sat 88-92 the year before. His groundball rate dropped from 62% to 51%, and he gave up more homers in 2019 than he had in his entire career. He’s a bounce-back candidate who projects as a No. 5 starter if his sinker velo comes back.
Mejia turns 23 in March and he’s only thrown 23 innings above Low-A, but he has a riding fastball with plus-plus vertical movement and a viable curveball, so the Marlins added him to their 40-man. He needs to locate his fastball at the top of the zone more often and should be a fine middle reliever if that — and a velo boost out of the bullpen — occurs.
Scouts who saw Rodriguez during instructs really like his long-term physical projection and consider him one of the toolsier low-level hitting prospects in this system, but he did strike out a concerning amount in the DSL.
Rosario’s swing cuts some mechanical corners because he lacks present strength, but he has a great frame and can play several positions, including the middle infield and center, so he should be monitored closely. Miami pushed him to the Penn League as a teenager, so his poor 2019 statline doesn’t carry much concern.
His triple slash line doesn’t look great, but Jones actually put together an above-average offensive season for the Midwest League (111 wRC+), his first in full-season ball. He remains a low-probability, long-term physical projection prospect (same as when he was drafted) and it’s growing more important for Jones to develop impact power because he’s started to see more time in a corner.
Palacios’ early-career numbers are incredible — in his last two seasons, he’s struck out 104 hitters and walked just six in 104 innings — but we can’t find scouts who love him because his stuff is just okay and he’s not all that projectable. He is fairly deceptive and obviously throws a lot of strikes, but we’re skeptical of the stuff playing at the upper levels unless Palacios grows into more heat than we expect.
An athletic, catch-and-throw guy with above-average feel for the barrel, Fortes likely has backup ceiling.
Pompey entered his junior year at Kentucky as a potential first round pick, a good-framed switch-hitter with plus raw power. He started slow and several teams were off him for preceived makeup stuff, so he fell to the third round. In pro ball he has had problems with injuries (two IL stints in 2019, one for a fractured foot), strikeouts, and hitting the ball in the air. He needs to perform in 2020 to stay on the list, but he’s too talented to come off of after one bad pro season, especially because injury stuff likely contributed to the poor performance.
Eury Perez, RHP
Delvis Alegre, RHP
Mairo Doble, RHP
Maycold Leon, LHP
You can order these four in a lot of ways depending on your preference. Perez is 6-foot-5 and 155 pounds, and doesn’t turn 17 until early April. His fastball was way up last summer, touching 95 after he was just a projectable 83-86 when he was scouted. Alegre, 18, is the most polished of the bunch and arguably the most athletic. He has a four-pitch mix and is up to 95. Doble (up to 92) is more projectable but less athletic. Leon is 17 and only semi-projectable, but he’s a plus athlete with an overhand delivery that creates ride on his fastball (he currently sits in the upper-80s) and depth on his breaking ball.
Sean Reynolds, 1B
James Nelson, 3B
Joe Dunand, 3B
Lazaro Alonso, 1B
Evan Edwards, 1B
Lorenzo Hampton, RF
Reynolds is kinda freaky. He arguably has 80 raw and his average exit velos are near the top of the scale, but his levers are so long they need an intermission, and it’s unlikely he makes enough contact to get to first base-worthy power. Nelson is the most athletic of this group and has a body built for longevity but he hasn’t performed at all since his odd breakout, which we’re now several seasons removed from. Dunand is a strikeout-prone right/right corner infielder; Alonso has more playable power right now but is first base only. Edwards and Hampton are good-bodied 2019 draftees with big raw.
Possible 40-Man Arms
George Soriano, RHP
Julio Frias, LHP
Colton Hock, RHP
MD Johnson, RHP
Zach Wolf, RHP
Soriano hasn’t taken the step forward we hoped he would; he still has three average pitches and a frame that may portend more velocity. Frias is a low-slot lefty who touches 97 with a lot of running movement, but his command is very poor and it affects his secondary quality. Hock and Johnson touch the 94-96 range and live just beneath it with elite fastball spin. Both might be middle relievers. Zach Wolf has a data-friendly fastball because he’s 5-foot-8 and it comes in very flat. It might work in relief.
Angeudis Santos, SS
Santos is a lanky, very projectable switch-hitting infielder with advanced ball/strike recognition. He’s an interesting developmental project.
At a time when many teams are trending toward seeking concrete, measurable traits, shorter developmental timelines, and prospects who have lower outcome variance, the Marlins have targeted toolsy, high-risk prospects who might struggle because of unstable contact profiles, but otherwise have premium physical ability. This type of player runs through the farm system like a very wide river, which began flowing as soon as the current regime arrived and started the rebuild. Lewis Brinson, Sandy Alcantara, and Magneuris Sierra were the first round of high-profile names we saw acquired and they’re all still simmering, at best.
This type of prospect also pretty clearly runs through the hitters more frequently than the arms. Zac Gallen (later flipped), Nick Neidert, Jordan Yamamoto, and Robert Dugger don’t really fit this description.
While Miami has acquired this sort of player at an abnormal rate, they’ve also skimmed off the top of the Quad-A tier fairly well. Harold Ramirez has real raw power and a shot to make a swing change, Jon Berti is a versatile, 70 runner, and any of Garrett Cooper, Jesús Aguilar, or Jonathan Villar might end up tradable or on an ascendant Marlins team. You can see how, so long as some of these prospect really hit, at least some of supporting pieces are being conjured on the undercard.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the world champion Washington Nationals. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) 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.
If you’ve enjoyed watching Keston Hiura hit for the last year or so, you’ll enjoy Kieboom, whose hands work similarly in the box. The efficient loop they create as they accelerate through the hitting zone enables Kieboom to hook and lift stuff on the inner half, including breaking balls, and he’s especially adept at driving stuff away from him out to right. This is a special hitting talent who has performed up through Triple-A as a college-aged shortstop, and Anthony Rendon‘s departure opens the door for at-bats right away.
We don’t really like Kieboom at shortstop. He’s a little heavy-footed and his hands are below average. He’s arguably better-suited for second or third base, but one could argue he’s at least as good as Trea Turner is there right now (Kieboom has worse range but can make more throws), so the short- and long-term fit here may be different. Regardless of the defensive home, Kieboom projects as a middle of the order bat with All-Star talent.
Garcia didn’t have a great statistical 2019, but he was a teenager at Double-A so we’re not weighing that heavily. We care most about Garcia’s ability to hit, and that remains strong. His swing and feel for contact are both very similar to Juan Soto‘s, though of course Garcia lacks that kind of raw thump or plate discipline. Garcia’s a proactive swinger but so far his advanced feel for the barrel has allowed it to work. Most of his extra-base damage is going to come via doubles slashed down the left field line and to the opposite field gap, but there’s a 20 home run ceiling here if he learns to attack the right pitches.
A little thicker and slower than most shortstops, Garcia’s hands and actions are good and he’s probably a better fit at second base. We have him projected as an average everyday player there.
After an up-and-down freshman year at Arkansas, Rutledge transferred to Houston-area junior college powerhouse San Jacinto and immediately looked like a first-round pick, even before the season started. He had trouble getting on the mound in Fayetteville in part due to his command, which still isn’t great, but he has more than enough feel to throw his high-octane stuff over the plate and most lower level hitters can’t handle it. Rutledge is a physical monster at 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds, and has an arm swing familiar to those who saw Lucas Giolito‘s arm action adjustment, typically en vogue with the weighted ball community.
Rutledge has some of the best stuff on Earth, working 96–100 in most outings and mixing in a 65- or 70-grade slider with a curveball a notch below that. His changeup flashes average but is clearly a fourth option, and his command flashes average at times, but should always be somewhat of an issue given his size. Refining the command to be good enough to let his stuff work over long outings is the main development issue here, but it’s worth noting that some clubs were scared off of Rutledge’s medical in the draft, which most notably included surgery on both hips. This could go down the “no one can throw that hard, be that big, and be a healthy 200-inning starter” road, and see Rutledge become a potential closer, or the “how did anyone pass on this offensive lineman with Syndergaard’s stuff” path, and get immediate whoopsies from the industry, much like Nate Pearson has so far. Regardless, he’ll be fun to watch.
There are some long-term health questions with Crowe — his market was diluted by knee and elbow concerns coming out of high school, he’s a bigger-bodied guy, and he blew out about halfway through his sophomore year at South Carolina — but he’s ready for a big league rotation right now. Crowe has above-average stuff, his fastball and pair of breaking balls are all capable of missing bats, and we’ve seen good changeups from him, too. He has imprecise control of everything, and instead just tries to bully hitters with a pretty even mix of the repertoire in competitive locations. He resembles Tanner Roark in many ways and projects to be a starter of similar quality, probably beginning at some point next year.
Denaburg had a loud spring as a high school senior, when he went pitch-for-pitch with Carter Stewart in two showdowns and both became first-round picks. Each has had his troubles since then. Denaburg’s pro debut didn’t happen after signing last summer, as the biceps tendonitis that dinged his draft stock flared up again after signing. In 2019, it looked like he would get to Low-A at some point, but his velocity ticked down and the Nationals held him back in extended ball. Once he built back up (92-94, touching 95 mph) he was set to go to short-season and then Low-A to finish the year. But then he felt something in his shoulder, which led to him being shut down again and never leaving Florida.
At his best, Denaburg would sit 93-95, hit 98 mph, mix in a consistently 60- or 65-grade curveball and an emerging 55-grade changeup with the size and athleticism scouts can project near the front of a rotation. After two years of inconsistent health, expectations are lower, but between Denaburg, Rutledge, and Romero, there is some pretty goofy stuff bouncing around this system; it’ll be exciting if one of them puts it together fully in 2020.
Lara is a bigger, mature-framed pitcher with present velocity. He already sits 92-94, so it’s less of a problem that he lacks traditional physical projection. However, it’s also feasible that Lara becomes more fluid and athletic as he matures, so maybe he’ll back into more velocity that way. Many other traits typical of top high school pitchers — arm action, glove side fastball/slider command, and the slider quality — are also promising here, just without obvious physical projection.
Yean has stuff typical of most late first or early second round high school arms. He has a fairly projectable frame, his heater reaches the mid-90s, there’s precocious changeup and slider feel, and Yean goes right at hitters. He was targeted by sellers at the deadline and has mid-rotation upside.
Cronin has Greg Holland’s build (scaled up a little bit) and arm slot, creating big time carry on his heater, which touches 97. He also has a power, overhand curveball that’s already consistently plus. While at Arkansas, one of Cronin’s teammates would smack him across the face before he entered games. We don’t know if that tradition has continued in pro ball, but as long as he throws strikes and the stuff stays the same, Cronin is a potential high-leverage reliever.
Cate has long been compared to Tim Collins as a smallish power lefty with mid-90s heat in short stints and a knockout breaking ball. Cate was first seen by most scouts in relief for two summers for College Team USA but was always a starter for UConn. His 92-95 mph heater in relief was more 88-92 mph in the rotation and he had forearm tightness early in his draft spring, along with a Tommy John surgery in high school. We mention that amateur background because it’s still the conversation around Cate. The Nats hope he’s still a league-average starter and think some added weight may increase his stamina. But plenty of evaluators just want to see Cate in the role where he’s stood out most (and arguably the role where his arm injuries suggest he belongs), working an inning or two at a time in relief.
The beginning of any story with Romero starts with his background, which includes a litany of off-field issues that pushed a top-10 overall talent to the end of the first round and, most recently, Tommy John surgery. Nationals officials are cautiously optimistic in their accounts of how Romero has been lately, saying his on- and off-field behavior is improving and his physical condition (not always the best) is in a good spot. He returned from surgery to pitch in the instructional league and sat 93-95 mph, throwing strikes. His changeup had moved ahead of his slider just before he blew out and sliders often are the last pitch to come back after surgery, so a fastball-changeup combo will be the main weapons for Romero as he returns on a pitch and innings count.
Due to the innings limitation as he builds back up, there’s a shot that Romero could be fast-tracked in the bullpen if he stays healthy, out of trouble, and in line with his considerable talent. There are some similarities between Romero and Red Sox left-hander Jay Groome: While they’ve both been dogged by makeup issues and TJ surgery, everything seems to be trending the right direction now. Both are 40 FVs at the moment but could be 50s by the end of the year if everything comes together.
Mendoza had some No. 1 overall pick buzz early in his high school senior spring, but ultimately faded a bit down the stretch and his big price tag (plus Scott Boras) led to him enrolling at Florida State, where those concerns played out for three years. Mendoza has massive raw power and a borderline passive late-count approach, which leads to a healthy heaping of true three outcomes. Along with the patient approach, scouts either complain or simply point out Mendoza’s on-field demeanor, which runs from “low blood pressure” to “disinterested.” He looked less like a third baseman over time at Florida State, and the Nationals plan to play Mendoza at first base most of the time going forward. There’s still some projection left: Mendoza could have 70 raw power with a high on-base percentage when he gets to the big leagues, but the margin for error is low and could lead to a platoon role.
Tommy John and some nagging lower body issues limited Antuna to three GCL games and instructs in the DR. He looked a little thicker during instructs, and it’s more likely that he ends up at third base now, but the rest of the profile is the same: He’s still a switch-hitting middle infielder with a pretty, low-ball swing and a frame that might yield considerable raw power. He’s age-appropriate for the Penn League (and starting him in Extended seems smart) but he might skip ahead to full-season ball next spring.
De La Rosa popped up quickly after signing for $300,000 last summer (normally below our radar on signing day) and standing out in stateside instructs. He had a solid pro debut this summer in the GCL as a 17-year-old, and the tools are still present as well: solid average speed, an improved arm that shows average, a chance to play in center field, and average raw power that could improve in the coming years. For those wondering who the next elite international position player prospect will be in this system, he and Roimar Quintana are the new young bats to watch.
A physical young catcher with some pull power, Pineda has been pushed through the minors quickly so far. He went straight to the GCL at age 17, then to a Penn League packed with 21-year-olds at age 18, then to full-season ball in 2019, all for someone who won’t turn 20 until April. He took an offensive dip at least in part because he was playing through a broken finger all year. We still think he’s a bat-first backup, but he has a puncher’s chance to be a regular.
Washington moved Adon into the rotation after he had spent his first two pro seasons in the bullpen, and his velocity dipped a bit during the second half of the year. He has a graceful delivery that he struggles to repeat, which impacts his breaking ball quality and command enough for us to project him in relief. In the bullpen he might sit 94-plus with serious movement, which, even with relatively tepid offspeed projection, puts him in a valuable relief role.
Quintana signed for $820,000 in the Nats’ 2019 July 2nd class as one of three high-dollar signings, behind Lara and left-hander Pablo Aldonis. Quintana made a solid first impression domestically in the instructional league. He’s an average runner with an average arm and above average raw power. He has a well-developed 6-foot, 205 pound frame that reminds some of Marcell Ozuna or a number of Cuban outfielders, but Washington thinks Quintana can play center field for awhile, maybe even long enough to be an everyday player there in the big leagues. With no organized games to go off of, we’re projecting a lot on the bat, but his swing path is direct, there’s raw strength, and he’s already showing opposite field BP power.
Many BYU prospects have an uphill battle to climb against draft models because their Mormon mission takes them away from baseball for a year, and makes them much older than their peers when they’re finally draft eligible. We weren’t really on Cluff pre-draft, but he performed during the summer and his eclectic collection of tools, feel to hit, lefty stick, and the likelihood that he stays on the dirt have him looking like a high-floor bench infielder already, and he’s trending up.
The brawny Read has a long track record of hitting — he’s hit .270 with some pop over the course of several upper-minors seasons — mired somewhat by a 2018 PED suspension. He struggles with righty breaking balls away from him but mashes lefties. His receiving has improved enough that he can catch pitchers who don’t live in the dirt, which makes him a potential third catcher/26th man type who clubs lefties off the bench and starts at first base once in a while.
Bourque and his beat-walking cop mustache ascended through the minor league ranks after he moved to the bullpen and shelved his changeup back in 2018. The Nationals forced him to work only with his fastball during 2018 instructs, and liked enough of what they saw that they put him on the 40-man. He’s a stiff, upright, arm strength relief prospect.
Dyson’s career has been a rollercoaster: lower-profile Gator recruit, breakout freshman, pegged as a potential 1-1 before his sophomore year, then two years and a Cape summer of inconsistent stuff, command, and performance without a major injury. His velo trended back up into the mid-90’s before the draft and the Nationals popped him in the fifth round; he then had a solid pro debut. He’s a sleeper in that he’s showed Top 100 ability — which makes some who see him think there’s a breakout coming — but it’s appeared inconsistently enough that we think he’ll likely wind up in middle relief.
Schaller would have been a draft-eligible sophomore at Vanderbilt, but he lost his true freshman season to Tommy John, so he was a rare draft-eligible redshirt freshman instead. Pitching out of the bullpen in college, Schaller was 94-97. He’s been more 91-94 as a starter in pro ball, but we have him projected as a two-pitch reliever and think the heater will have an extra gear in single-inning outings.
Younger Potential Helium Types
Pablo Aldonis, LHP
Viandel Pena, 2B
Junior Martina, SS
Yoander Rivero, SS
Daniel Marte, CF
Todd Peterson, RHP
Justin Connell, RF
Leandro Miliani, RF
Mirton Blanco, RHP
We’ll try to plow through these pretty quickly as this system has more of this tier of prospect than most clubs. Aldonis turns 18 in March. He’s a medium-framed, 6-foot-1, 55 athlete with a smooth delivery and advanced feel for three pitches. He’s a long-term physical projection sleeper. Pena is a stocky switch-hitter with bat-to-ball skills and he hit .360 in the GCL last year. He’s a 50 runner and infield defender who’s about 5-foot-7. It’s softer contact right now, but the barrel feel is there. Martina is a native of Curaçao and a 19th rounder out of Western Oklahoma St who crushed the GCL after the draft. He takes big hacks and could be a power-over-hit middle infield utility type. Rivero is an 18-year-old, glove-first shortstop. Peterson pitched in relief at LSU and would sit 92-94 with a 55 cutter/slider and curveball at times. Washington tried him in a rotation last summer. Connell and Miliani are bat-to-ball 1B/LF sorts; they have promising contact skills but probably need to end up with premium hit tools to profile. Blanco is a 17-year-old who has been up to 98 but he’s very wild.
Major League Ready Depth
Kyle Finnegan, RHP
Ben Braymer, LHP
Yadiel Hernandez, 1B/OF
Jordan Mills, LHP
Steven Fuentes, RHP
Andrew Lee, RHP
Nick Raquet, LHP
Tres Barrera, C
Nick Banks, OF
Jacob Condra-Bogan, RHP
Finnegan was a high-priority minor league free agent whose stuff was up late in the year, and has been strong in the Dominican Winter League. He’s in the mid-90s with an average slider and split. Braymer is also on the 40-man and looks like a lefty pitchability swingman with a 55 breaking ball. Hernandez is a weird one. He signed out of Mexico at age 29 and is now 32, but he rakes (it’s hit over power due to lack of launch, but the contact is very hard) and because of when he signed, he acts as upper-level depth without occupying a 40-man spot this year, so he has sneaky trade value. Jordan Mills sits upper-80s with sink, his changeup is plus, and his slider above average. Fuentes has reached Double-A and has a tailing low-90s fastball and above average changeup. Lee and Raquet are overhand four-seam, curveball relief types. Barrera is on the 40-man right now and is a well-rounded third catcher. Banks has several above average tools (speed underway, raw power, arm strength) but the bat is below. Condra-Bogan is significant because he’s the only player on this whole list who arrived by trade (he came back from Kansas City in the Brian Goodwin deal), as everyone else was drafted or signed by Washington. JCB touches 100; he’s still working on a breaking ball.
A Complete Mess of Other Guys
Jake Irvin, RHP
Fausto Segura, RHP
Jakson Reetz, C
Orlando Ribalta, RHP
J.T. Arruda, SS
Jhonatan German, LHP
Gage Canning, CF
Alex Troop, LHP
Felix Taveras, RHP
Several of these guys signed late out of Latin America, around age 21. Segura (23, NYPL) has a chuck-it-past-you fastball up to 98, German (24, Double-A) has a mid-90s sinker, and Taveras (24, GCL) has been hurt for most of the past three years but was up to 97 with 2500 rpm on the heater. Irvin was up last spring, down last summer, then up again during instructs, where he pitched in relief. He’s 6-foot-6 and sits 93-96 when things are right with an average curveball. Reetz is another athletic, late-bloomer type who makes consistent hard contact; he’s probably a depth catcher. Ribalta is a big-bodied fastball/curveball relief prospect who was up to at least 96 at Miami Dade College the summer after the draft. Arruda was a sophomore-eligible 11th rounder. He’s a lefty-bat infielder with good feel to hit. Troop is a lanky, over-the-top lefty whose fastball has carry.
This system is not very good for very good reasons. Prospects have either been traded away (Elvis Alvarado, Jesus Luzardo, Yohanse Morel, Kelvin Gutierrez, Daniel Johnson, Taylor Hearn, Sheldon Neuse, Dane Dunning) or they’ve graduated (Juan Soto, Victor Robles), and several draft picks have been lost as compensation for free agents because the Nats have been busy winning. And so the list above includes just one player who wasn’t originally signed or drafted by Washington; they haven’t been in prospect acquisition mode for a long time.
Once Carter Kieboom graduates off the list, would you rather have this entire system or the Vanderbilt Commodores? It’s probably pretty close.
Sources indicate to FanGraphs that major league teams have voted to institute new amateur data sharing rules that will, among other things, discontinue the practice of clubs enjoying proprietary amateur player data generated from games played at club facilities and some junior colleges; we’re told the vote was 29-to-1 in favor of data sharing. The vote came after the matter was initially discussed at last Monday’s annual scouting directors summit at the Winter Meetings.
While some distribution rules regarding data collected at NCAA games were already in place, there had previously been no such rules for the data collected at junior colleges, nor for various other methods of collection or for other settings for collection, including internationally. It’s unclear when mandatory data sharing will begin, and many team personnel still think there’s a grey area regarding what kind of data needs to be shared. In addition to TrackMan and other radar-based tech or optical tracking systems that capture the Statcast-ish data readers are likely familiar with, teams also use various other forms of technology to learn about players, such as Rapsodo in bullpens, KinaTrax, Blast Motion, and more. Given the wide range of technologies currently available, it seems likely some will exist outside the scope and definition put forth in this initial policy, creating loopholes for teams similar to the one some had used to install TrackMan units at junior colleges in order to have sole data access; the previous data sharing rules only covered NCAA baseball. The current, agreed-upon language described to FanGraphs mandates that teams share “data collected normally,” but our sources aren’t sure how “normally” will be defined.
As Eric wrote in February, teams have been purchasing TrackMan units for junior colleges in order to enjoy exclusive access to the data collected by those units, a clear competitive advantage. The Yankees and Cubs were the most proactive in securing partnerships with junior colleges, paying for the installation (at a cost of about $30,000) and upkeep of TrackMan units (another five figure amount per unit annually) at top JuCos in exchange for exclusive access to the data. The junior colleges could use the unit for their own purposes in non-game settings and also got to keep the game data. This practice also gave clubs another site in a different part of the country to hold private pre-draft workouts and collect the data from draft prospects for themselves.
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Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Minnesota Twins. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) 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.
Editor’s Notes: Brusdar Graterol, previously ranked fifth on this list, and Luke Raley, ranked 35th, were traded to the Dodgers as part of the Kenta Maeda deal.
Catcher Jair Camargo was added to the list; he was received from Los Angeles in the same deal.
One of the top-billed high schoolers during a superlative year for talent in Southern California, Lewis began garnering Derek Jeter comparisons while he was still an amateur. To a degree, those remain reasonable, though they’re no longer applicable across nearly as much as Lewis’ skillset as they once were. Initially, those comps came from Lewis’ penchant for on-field leadership, some elements of his swing and frame, and, less positively, his future as a defensive shortstop. The Twins took him first overall and cut a below slot deal, as Lewis was seen as one of five options in a tightly-packed top tier of talent.
Throughout his first 18 months as a pro, Lewis had statistical success while being promoted aggressively before a developmental hiccup in 2019. His overall production has slowly come down at each subsequent level, and during a 2019 season split 3-to-1 at Hi- and Double-A, he had a .290 OBP. Don’t let the robust .353/.411/.565 Arizona Fall League line (he went to pick up reps after an oblique strain during the year) and MVP award fool you — Lewis still clearly had issues. His swing is cacophonous — the big leg kick, the messy, excessive movement in his hands — and it negatively impacts Lewis’ timing. He needs to start several elements of the swing early just to catch fastballs, and he’s often late anyway. This also causes him to lunge at breaking balls, which Lewis doesn’t seem to recognize very well, and after the advanced hit tool was a huge driver of his amateur profile, Lewis now looks like a guess hitter. His mannerisms — Nomar-level batting glove tinkering, deep, heavy, deliberate breaths between pitches, constant uniform adjustment — are manic, and they seem to pull focus away from the task at hand rather than grounding him in a ritualistic way, and the game often seems too fast for him.
So why are we still so high on him? We’re betting big on Lewis’ makeup and physical talent. His BP’s were the best in the entire Fall League. He is an exceptional teammate, leader, and worker, who did more early infield work than anyone else Eric saw in the AFL, willing himself to become a viable left side infield defender even though he lacks the traditional grace and fluidity for those positions. We don’t think the swing works as currently constituted — it’s a mechanical departure from when Lewis was successful in high school — but we think it’ll get dialed in eventually because of his athleticism and work habits. Even if some of the pitch recognition stuff proves to be a long-term issue, we still think Lewis will be a versatile defender who plays several premium positions (we have him listed in center field because if we had to pick one spot where we think he’ll eventually be best, that’s it) and hits for considerable power. There may be an adjustment period similar to the one Javier Báez experienced early in his career because of the approach issues, but the star-level talent will eventually shine through.
Larnach hit several balls in excess of 110 mph during Oregon State’s opening weekend of his draft season, and he ended up slugging .652 that year while falling to the back of the first round amid concerns about his defensive ability. Larnach remains a sluggish, diffident outfielder, but he’s very likely to get to much of his titanic raw power in games thanks to the ease with which he generates the pop — Larnach doesn’t swing with violence or effort; it’s just there — and a refined approach. We think he’s a 30-plus homer, high-OBP corner outfielder.
Kirilloff’s numbers weren’t as nutty as they were two seasons ago — .283/.342/.413 down from .348/.392/.578 — but that’s partly because he was on the IL twice with wrist issues. His power output was way down for the first few weeks after he returned from both, which is typical of wrist injuries, but that the issue recurred is somewhat concerning on its own. Healthy Kirilloff is going to hit and hit for power. He can turn on balls most hitters are jammed by because of the way he strides open and clears his hips, but he still has the plate coverage and swing path to lift contact the other way when pitchers work away from him. A thickening build has slowed Kirilloff down, and he’s now begun seeing a lot of time at first base. This, combined with a pretty aggressive approach, makes him somewhat risky from some teams’ perspectives, who see a first baseman with below-average plate discipline, but we think he’s a safe bet to be a .340 to .360 wOBA guy even with how swing-happy he can be.
Duran seemingly drew lots of trade interest while with Arizona. Loose, lean, and wielding premium stuff, his name was rumored to be on some PTBNL lists before he was ultimately traded to Minnesota as part of the Eduardo Escobar deal in 2018. During his first few pro seasons, Duran’s velocity yo-yo’d a bit; at times, he was in the upper-90s, while he was more 91-95 at others. He was also demoted from the Northwest League back to the AZL in 2017 for reasons apparently unrelated to performance. The following spring, not only was Duran’s velocity more stable — in the 93-96 range — but he was throwing strikes and had more consistent secondary stuff.
Duran continued to fill out into 2019 and his velocity kept climbing, settling in the upper-90s and cresting 100. He worked with better angle after the Twins acquired him last summer, a change that improved the playability of his breaking ball without detracting from his changeup’s movement, though that pitch has been de-emphasized based on our sources’ looks. He’s tracking like a mid-rotation starter.
After a breakout 2018, Balazovic spent most of 2019 dominating the Florida State League as a 20-year-old. Perhaps the most important takeaway was that he retained his stuff amid an innings increase, and while he hasn’t yet worked a major league starter’s regimen, he’ll be on pace to do so if he can add 20-30 frames over each of the next two years.
He throws strikes with four pitches, several of which either project to miss bats or do so right now. Chief among them is his fastball, which is tough for hitters to pick up out of Balazovic’s hand as they’re misdirected by his limbs flying all over the place during the delivery. Even with a somewhat lower arm slot, Balazovic’s heater plays at the top of the zone. He can vary the shape of his breaking balls — the slider is the out pitch, the curveball gets dropped in for strikes — and both play up against righties because of the mechanics. And while Balazovic’s glove-side slider command should be enough for him to deal with lefties eventually anyway, his change improved in 2019. He throws an unusually high number of strikes for such a young, lanky, cold-weather arm with a somewhat violent delivery, and he’s had no health or control issues thus far. He pretty firmly projects as a No. 4 starter right now.
Jeffers has answered some of the defensive questions he faced in college, when it was unclear if he’d catch or end up at first base. Eyeball evaluations of his receiving are still mixed but according to our sources (and not just ones with Minnesota), the framing metrics are pretty good. The Twins, along with a growing number of other orgs, have their catchers set up on one knee (some have their receivers ditch it with two strikes, others don’t), which seems to affect how many called strikes they steal, at least in the minors.
Jeffers spent most of his first full pro season at Hi-A Fort Myers (120 wRC+) and had a strong final month at Double-A Pensacola. He has average bat-to-balls skills, above-average thump, and the ability to hit the ball in the air consistently. The athleticism, breaking ball recognition, and, perhaps most importantly, plate coverage are all a tick below average. We’re still a tad concerned Jeffers may have to play first base sometime soon, which is the only thing keeping him from the 50 FV tier.
Thorpe is now pretty far removed from the severe injury issues that plagued him early in his pro career, and he’ll likely be in the Twins rotation all of next year. The flat-planed nature of his fastball enables the pitch to miss bats despite mediocre velocity, but it also makes Thorpe fly ball prone. Of his three secondary pitches, his curveball has the most visually pleasing movement but it’s much slower than his other pitches and might be best if used less than his sweeping slider.
He’s a high probability No. 4/5 starter for us, though there are industry folks who have him in the No. 3/4 area because of the quality of the secondaries.
A growth spurt buoyed Cavaco’s tools and draft stock, and he was last year’s most prominent pop-up high school prospect. He may have had the best frame in the entire draft but had already grown into considerable power as a senior, which he got to in games despite an awkwardly-timed stride. At times clumsy on defense, Cavaco may still be growing into his new body. He was also catching early in high school, and had to move all over the infield during his upperclass days because talented young shortstop Marcelo Mayer went to the same high school. He may end up at second or third base, or get a try in center field if his hands and actions don’t improve. He’s one of the 2019 draft’s higher risk, higher reward prospects.
We were pretty surprised when we sourced Celestino’s exit velos and learned the ball leaves his bat at 90 mph on average, which is above the big league average. We don’t think that means Celestino is going to hit for power, or even that it means he has more raw than we thought, just that he hits the ball hard with consistency, a pervasive trait in this system.
At a compact 6-foot or so, he’s unlikely to grow into much thump. Instead, Celestino is a potential everyday player because of his bat-to-ball skills and his center field defense. Celestino was more of an instincts/feel defender as an amateur, but he’s sped up as he’s grown into his modest frame and projects as a plus glove now. His athleticism is evident not only on defense, but in the batter’s box, too, where Celestino stays well balanced during a long, slow leg kick. The lack of power projection caps his ceiling, but we like the defense and bat enough to consider Celestino a potential regular, and a low-variance sort of prospect.
Urbina was one of the more advanced hitters in his July 2 signing class from both a bat control and physical development perspective. He was also one of the youngest. Currently an above-average runner, there’s a fair chance he ends up in left field due to a lack of top-end speed, though it might depend on how his body develops.
Urbina’s power projection is somewhat limited by his size, which may be an issue if he does eventually move to a corner. He’s an explosive rotator though, and this guy’s power doesn’t just come from size and strength, but rather a an upper body that unwinds kind of like Yuli Gurriel’s does. Urbina also has many promising bat-to-ball traits — timing, hand-eye coordination, all-fields feel — at a young age. He’s one of the high priority Florida minor league/extended spring prospects to see, and we currently have him FV’d just a shade behind the top prep outfielders in the 2020 class.
He didn’t post a strong 2019 statline (about .250/.300/.360 in the Florida State League) but we’re still on Miranda because of his ability to move the barrel all over the zone, and because he generates consistent doubles power despite being very short to the ball. It makes Miranda tough to beat within the strike zone. Instead, the way to deal with him is to hope he chases stuff out of the zone (and even then he often finds ways to make contact). There are some holes in the swing in the sense that Miranda can’t do damage with pitches all over the zone, but he rarely swings and misses. We’ve shaded his FV down from last year’s 45 because we now think he ends up playing more third base than second in the long run, but we still really like Miranda’s bat control and quality of contact.
There are instances when knowing less about a prospect actually improves the industry’s view of them. There’s space to dream and fill in the gaps in the profile with optimism, as we may not know that relevant underlying issues lurk beneath the surface. Such was the case with Javier, who signed for a IFA franchise record $4 million back in 2015 and basically missed two of his four pro seasons due to quad and hamstring injuries, along with labrum surgery.
Finally (mostly) healthy in 2019, Javier went to full-season ball, struck out a ton, and hit .177. His bat-to-ball ability and pitch recognition are not great, but part of that is surely because he hasn’t seen a lot of pro pitching due to the injuries. We’re not moving off of Javier entirely — he’s just too talented. He still has a frame typical of power-hitting SS/3B types, he’s athletic enough to play either of those spots, and he already has notable raw power for his age. But in the last year we’ve gone from not knowing much about his contact/approach to knowing it’s either not good or lags way behind because of the lack of reps.
Canterino regularly showed a plus fastball/breaker combo (a big, mid-90s two-plane breaker) as a sophomore and the summer before his draft spring, but there was some effort and violence to the delivery, and thus perceived relief risk. At that point, some teams saw enough strike-throwing to project him as a starter and look past the delivery. In his draft spring, his stuff was down a bit as Canterino appeared to be dialing things down to aim for more strikes and go deeper into games. When uncorked, we expect him to bump 96 with big life, and incorporate a mix of two breaking balls rather than rely heavily on the slider and barely use his curve. If he can throw strikes with his breaking stuff, he has a chance to start and miss bats with three pitches. If he can’t, he might be a high-leverage reliever.
Wallner hit for power all three years of college, even while pitching part-time as a freshman and sophomore, but an arm injury kept him off the mound in his junior year, where some clubs thought he had real pro potential. He had some of the most explosive raw thump in the 2019 draft class, drawing 70 or 80 grades from scouts, and will hit balls 10 rows into the bleachers even when he doesn’t get fully extended. He has some moderate swing-and-miss issues characteristic of hitters who have power-driven approaches, which were made more evident after Wallner signed. But he’s also willing to take a walk, so the power and OBP give him a shot to be a regular in right field.
Sands’ stuff is nasty enough that were it not for his long history of injuries, he’d be in the 40+ or 45 FV tier on this list. His fastball will creep into the mid-90s with big time tail, the kind that can run off the hip of left-handed hitters and back over the plate. He also has a wiping, two-plane breaking ball that’s consistently plus. He was on the 60-day IL in 2018 and made three IL trips in 2019, though one was for a blister and another for a calf strain, not arm stuff. A potential No. 4 starter (more likely No. 4/5), Sands turns 23 next year and should reach Double-A.
A stocky, hard-throwing starter with upper-90s heat, Colina’s fastball doesn’t play as an elite pitch despite his velocity — it has middling movement and he’s an extreme short strider who loses two ticks of perceived velo — but it’s tough to square up because of how hard it is. Similarly, Colina’s short, cuttery slider is effective because of how firm it is, and because he has excellent glove-side command of it. He also has a firm changeup that may be shelved, or at least de-emphasized since Colina moved to the bullpen late in 2019. His strike-throwing ability (there’s pretty precise slider command but bully-you in the zone fastball control) might enable him to go multiple innings, in which case you could argue he’s a 40+ FV.
Things are coming into focus a little more for Rooker, who remains one of the more interesting and prominent “pop-up senior or redshirt junior” prospects (like Kody Hoese in 2019), who the industry often struggles to contextualize. The background here is odd. As a draft-eligible redshirt sophomore, Rooker hit .324/.376/.528 with 11 homers at Mississippi State, and the Twins drafted him in the 38th round. He didn’t sign, returned to school, hit .287/.496/.810, with 23 homers and 18 steals, and was drafted 35th overall. Nobody was totally sure what to make of such remarkable improvement, and Rooker lives in the dreaded right/right 1B/DH bucket for most evaluators, but he had among the best raw power and exit velos in his draft class and emphatically torched the best conference in college baseball.
Rooker has moved quickly since entering pro ball (he needed to, as he’s already 25) and played his entire second full season at Triple-A, where he mashed (.280/.398/.535), but his inability to deal with breaking balls is worrisome. We think he’s more of a platoon 1B/DH/LF type, maybe a low-end regular at one of those.
Enlow has developed a pretty strong four-pitch mix in pro ball. His fastball sits in the mid-90s early in starts before settling in around 93. It’s more of a sinker/velo-centric fastball than one with bat-missing life, and the same goes for Enlow’s power, upper-80s changeup. The bat-misser in the arsenal is a cutter/slider in the upper-80s that has serious length when Enlow locates it to his glove side. He has a slower, two-planed slurve he can throw for strikes, but it isn’t an impact pitch. Right now he looks like a No. 4/5 starter, but there’s a No. 4 ceiling if the command beats our projections, which seems possible given Enlow’s age.
We have Severino projected as a three-true-outcomes middle infielder à la Rickie Weeks, or peak Mark Bellhorn and Dan Uggla. He’s a bulky (especially for 20) switch-hitter who takes giant, uppercut rips. He missed much of 2019 due to a thumb fracture (he suffered torn ligaments, as well), so he may start 2020 back at Cedar Rapids and need to perform to be promoted. The power/middle infield combo gives him ceiling, while the strikeouts and rapidly maturing frame also make him quite risky.
Part of Minnesota’s return from New York for Lance Lynn, Rijo is a hyper-efficient strike thrower whose curveball moves like a Wiffle ball, seemingly floating as it approaches the plate before it begins to bend and dive away from right-handed hitters. Because it’s a slower, loopy pitch, it may not miss bats against upper-level hitters, but it’s hard to square up because of how much depth it has, and Rijo locates it well.
So, too, can he spot his low-90s fastball where his catcher asks for it, working up at the letters and to both corners of the plate at will. His ceiling will likely be limited by stuff quality — though only 20, Rijo is physically mature and unlikely to grow into much more velocity — but the command makes him a high-probability backend starter and one who could move quickly.
Mechanical funk, glove-side breaking ball command, and a viable changeup all enable Smeltzer to induce weak contact despite meager velocity. He worked in a multi-inning capacity at the big league level last year and projects to do so going forward.
Now that he’s a solid defender (he was not in high school), Rortvedt’s ball/strike recognition and strength-driven raw power give him a chance to play a prominent big league role if the two can work together. He can hit for power on pitches up and away from him (which he takes the other way), and, when he can catch up to them, on pitches down-and-in, which he golfs out to his pull side. Right now he looks more like a backup, but Rortvedt has tweaked his swing a bit since high school and perhaps more can be done so he’s not driving so much into the ground.
Winder has some interesting rotation piece elements — a broad, square-shouldered, 6-foot-5 frame, a repeatable delivery, an arm slot that enables the fastball to compete in the zone — and the development of his secondaries will determine if he gets there or ends up in a lesser role. He was old for the Midwest League in 2019, but he was also a late Day Two pick out of a very small school, so we’re not discounting his numbers too much. He could be a four-pitch backend starter.
He’s had some injury stuff and isn’t very mobile, but Blankenhorn now has a track record of hitting up through Double-A. He makes consistent, hard contact but without a lot of lift. You want to hide this guy at second base or left field and let him mash.
Steer is a slightly stiff, hit-over-power, muscular infielder from Oregon who the Twins took in the third round last summer. He projects into the late-career Asdrúbal Cabrera role, a bat-driven, multi-positional infielder.
Baddoo has some promising physical ingredients — speed, raw power — seasoned by high walk rates. He missed most of 2019 because he needed Tommy John in mid-May. He lacks deft barrel accuracy, but Baddoo has run well above-average walk rates to this point and he may be able to get to most of his power by hunting the right pitches, even if his swing’s a little grooved. He’s tracking like a power/OBP fourth outfielder or platoon guy.
Wade intrigues as the larger half of a corner outfield platoon. He’s not exactly tooled up, but he walks a lot — more than he strikes out against right-handed pitchers, in fact — and he’ll make up for some of what he lacks in power with rangy, corner outfield defense. It’s not spectacular, but there’s a clear role here.
Stashak spent two years at Cumberland County College before heading to St. John’s, where he had one statistically middling season for the Red Storm. He got $100,00 on Day Three of the 2015 draft and reached Hi-A as a starter before two injuries forced a late-season move to the bullpen in 2017. Stashak’s fastball/breaking ball combo was very effective during that initial run out of the ‘pen, and the Twins left him there. He’s since had two dominant relief seasons, including very low walk rates for a reliever, while reaching Triple-A. The fastball plays in large part due to it’s vertical movement, and his breaking ball shape varies enough that it may be two different pitches, but for now he projects as a two-pitch reliever with a modern approach: fastballs up, breaking balls down.
Holland is the classic toolsy college player who hasn’t even put things together yet and performed. One scout called him a “bull in a china shop” defensively because while he has the physical ability to play all three up-the-middle positions, he lacks feel and instincts. Holland had lots of trouble hitting during his draft spring due in large part to tinkering with his mechanics, but he was a fringe first rounder before that, so he was a nice buy-low lottery ticket in the fifth round.
As had long been prophesied, Alcala began transitioning to a relief role in the middle of 2019 and ended his season with a September sip of espresso in Minnesota’s bullpen. As you might expect, the move corresponded with a small jump in velo, as Alcala was 91-96 as a starter last year, then 94-97 out of the bullpen. He has set-up man stuff — the heater and a vertically-breaking power slider — but poor pitch execution will likely limit him to middle relief.
Minnesota’s top 2019 signee is very short to the ball, has great hand-eye coordination, a swing that has lift out front, and hit in games when seen as an amateur. Rodriguez has a tweener build and speed, so the bat may need to max out as plus or better for there to be a role here, but that seems plausible based on the amateur looks.
It was an eventful, strange 2019 for Julien, who was coming off a very promising freshman year at Auburn during which he hit 17 dingers and slashed .278/.398/.556. He was ruled eligible as a sophomore not because of his age but because he had attended a year of secondary school in Canada before heading to college, which made him three years removed from high school. He was suddenly a young-for-the-class college bat who might have gone very high if he’d hit like he did the year before and got better at second base. He did neither. Julien’s stock fell early during the season before he got hot during a tumultuous postseason run by Auburn. The Twins drafted him on Day Three. Julien tweeted he was coming back to school, went to the Cape, where had a great two weeks, and the Twins offer rose to just shy of $500,000, inspiring him to sign. Then he had Tommy John in August.
We currently view his as a positionless, bat-first college prospect who has a chance to have enough in-game power to have some kind of big league role.
Signed just before the clock struck midnight on the 2018 July 2 period, Cano got a $750,000 bonus from the Twins, using the international bonus money acquired from the Rangers in the Zack Granite trade. In late March, Cano touched 95 while throwing for teams in Miami but he topped out at at least 97 in the past while pitching on the Cuban National Team and for Ciego de Avila. You could argue he should have been developed as a starter because of his repertoire depth and the way the pitch mix, which lacks a swing and miss offering, plays, but the Twins put him in the bullpen immediately.
It’s a sinker/slider/splitter look that generates groundballs more than it does strikeouts. He’s nearly 26 and should move quickly as a relief piece.
Moran has a dominant out-pitch changeup, though the rest of his profile is pretty vanilla. His body and control backed up in 2019, but he remains a likely relief piece.
Eyeball evaluations of Gordon don’t match his 2019 statline. He’s more of a bench/depth type now than potential low-end regular at second or shortstop.
A twitchy, good-framed athlete with explosive hands, Garry’s a toolsy lower-level prospect with swing and miss volatility. He was a $225,000 sign out of high school, has a pretty exciting skillset, and performed in the Appy League until a putrid August tanked his statline for the summer. He has concerning underlying stats but is tooled-up enough to monitor closely in the Midwest League next year.
Camargo is a very physical 20-year-old catcher who is currently an average receiver and going to an org that has shown an ability to improve how catchers frame. His bat head drags into the zone, which causes him to be late, but he’s so strong that he can still make impact contact the other way. His exit velos are huge for a 20-year-old: 91 mph on average with a hard hit rate of 47%, which is a 65 on the scale. It’s going to be interested to see what happens with the body and how that impacts his ability to catch, and his approach is enough of an issue that it will likely detract from the power production.
A fifth rounder from a small, D-II school in Pennsylvania, Vallimont was traded to help balance the Sergio Romo deal with Miami. He has a fastball with traits teams covet with increasing frequency. He only sits 89-93 and tops at 95, but his arm angle and ability to really backspin the fastball creates big life on the pitch, enabling him to beat hitters at the top of the zone. He’s struck out a lot of guys (29% on the year) and was promoted to Hi-A before the trade, which is fine for a 22-year-old but impressive for someone who came out of such a small program just last year.
Gray had a breakout junior year at Wright State, growing into raw and game power while also doubling his walk total. He has a good frame, and good hands and baseball athleticism, but is a hit-over-power, late-count, fringe passive/patient type who likely won’t show much in terms of batting average.
There’s very little precedent for someone with Ober’s velocity having big league success, but it’s clear why his mid-80s fastball has been dominant to this point. His size and deceptive, overhand release point create tough angle on his stuff, and he misses bats at the top of the zone. Ober also has a plus changeup. It might work in a relief role.
Hamilton was a great defensive third baseman in college who took to catching in pro ball. He’s an interesting 26th-man candidate as a third catcher and defensive replacement at various positions.
Stocky and physical, Mack is converting to catcher after spending his first two pro seasons as an infielder. He has some strength-driven power that should at least enable him to profile as a backup if the conversion works out.
Dakota Chalmers, RHP
Moises Gomez, RHP
Zach Neff, LHP
Cody Laweryson, RHP
Erik Cha, LHP
Chalmers had Tommy John in April of 2018, then was acquired from Oakland in exchange for Fernando Rodney in August of that year. He has 40+ FV stuff, he’ll flash three plus pitches (94-97, power mid-80s changeup, low-80s curveball), and he had some dominant starts during the summer after he returned, but he’s very wild, and was erratic in the Fall League. He’s on the 40-man and should debut this year. Gomez touches 98 but his slider quality is very inconsistent. Neff and Cha are low-slot relievers with tailing fastballs and sweeping breakers, classic specialist types who need something else to profile under the new three-batter minimum rule. Laweryson relies on deception and a good breaking ball. He struck out 63 over 46 innings in the Appy League while topping out at 92.
Tyler Wells, RHP
Griffin Jax, RHP
Charlie Barnes, LHP
Landon Leach, RHP
Sean Mooney, RHP
Wells missed 2019 because of Tommy John. His pitches have tough angle because of his size (he’s 6-foot-8) and arm slot. Pre-surgery, his secondaries were average and his heater was above. Jax is 90-94 with a 50 slider and change and above-average command; that’s at least a spot starter. Charlie Barnes has a plus changeup and his fastball has enough sink to offset it’s lack of velo (87-90) and keep him from getting too hurt. Leach was a 40 FV developmental No. 4/5 starter type until he missed all of 2019 with a shoulder issue. Mooney had TJ before the 2019 draft and fell to Day Three. He’s 88-91 with a cutter, curveball, and change, another likely depth arm who may have another gear coming off of rehab.
Position Player Pu Pu Platter
Jeferson Morales, C
Carlos Aguiar, OF
Gabriel Maciel, CF
DaShawn Keirsey, CF
Malfrin Sosa, OF
Morales, age 20, is a very muscular 5-foot-8; he’s got some twitch, average raw, and more walks than strikeouts so far. He has a good body but it has no projection. He has plus raw arm strength but he’s mechanically inconsistent exiting his crouch so his pop times vary. That inconsistency extends to the defense. Aguiar missed 2019 with an elbow injury. He’s a physical projection/visually pleasing swing corner outfield prospect who signed for $1 million back in 2017. He was young for the class so he’ll still be 18 all of next year. Maciel is a 70 runner but we don’t see an offensive impact enabling anything more than a fifth outfielder there. Keirsey could maybe be a 60 run and center field glove with doubles power, but he had hip issues again in 2019 after suffering a pretty severe hip injury while in college. Sosa is also a young-for-the-class power projection bat.
The Twins still have a very deep system, but their position as buyers was leveraged pretty well by sellers ahead of the trade deadline. The players traded to San Francisco for Sam Dyson (Jaylin Davis, Prelander Berroa, and Kai-Wei Teng are on the Giants list) were all pretty good, and Dyson absolutely tanked after the deal, amid some controversy related to the condition of his shoulder. Arguable top 100 prospect Lewin Diaz was sent to Miami for a few months of Sergio Romo.
Much of the pitching in this system will have an opportunity to impact the big league club at some point next season due to the departures from the 2019 rotation. Thorpe will likely be in the rotation at some point, Graterol may be there or in the back of the bullpen, the Twins might hit the gas on Jhoan Duran’s development if they think he’s one of the best five arms in the org at some point later in the summer, and many of the 40 FV arms will likely come up in 2020 as well. Just eyeballing the list, we’d guess about seven pitchers are poised to graduate next year, which, if we assume the Twins will take on a buyer’s posture again next summer, means this system seems likely to take a dip over the next 12 months. But of course, that means there are a bunch of good, young players who’ve grabbed hold of big league roles.