These are notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.
From games on June 8
Luis Campusano, C, San Diego Padres
Level & Affiliate: Triple-A El Paso Age: 22 Org Rank: 3 FV: 55
Line: 3-for-4, HR, 2B, BB
Recall that Campusano was thrust straight into the big leagues from High-A during the bizarre 2020 season, then found himself unexpectedly in the big leagues again early this year when Austin Nola was hurt. Even Campusano’s struggles during his first few weeks settling into Triple-A (remember, this is a 22-year-old whose last full season was in A-ball) are, you know, just a couple of weeks and he’s hitting .296/.387/.556 since the calendar flipped over to June. I’m not inclined to move off of him at all based on a couple of weeks of poor surface-level performance, especially when dry periods of surface performance are common for catchers because of the physical beating they take behind the plate. This is one of the more talented hitting catchers in all of pro baseball, a well-rounded offensive player at a position that might be the thinnest in all the big leagues. If you’re a dynasty fantasy baseball player who plays in a league with people who overreact to small samples or who struggle to put performance in proper context, you should pursue Campusano. Read the rest of this entry »
These are notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here. Today’s notes feature thoughts on three college hitters who played in the NCAA Regionals, as well as three pitching prospects currently in the big leagues.
Reed Trimble, CF, Southern Miss
Draft Class: 2021 Age: 21
Regional Line: 14-for-25, 4 HR
When I named Trimble one of Conference USA’s top prospects in a tournament preview post from a couple weeks ago, I made a mistake with respect to his draft eligibility. He’s indeed a (COVID) freshman, but his 21st birthday was Sunday, so he’s a draft-eligible freshman. Trimble hit .345/.414/.638 this year, and the Southern Miss schedule was no cakewalk even though they’re a mid-major. It included 12 games against eventual regional host and top-16 team Louisiana Tech, as well as games against Mississippi State, Alabama, Florida State and Ole Miss, and four against South Alabama, who made a deep regional run. Read the rest of this entry »
Ethan Small, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Level & Affiliate: Double-A Biloxi Age: 24 Org Rank: TBD FV: 45
Line: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 0 R, 8 K
Small had a sketchy spring with the big club and has walked an uncharacteristically high number of hitters early on this year, but his last couple of starts have been more in line with expectations as he blows his low-90s fastball (which has big time carry) past opposing hitters. Small’s best secondary pitch remains his changeup and there were doubts about him ever finding a competent breaking ball when he was drafted. So far, his slider and curveball remain below average but that there are now two distinct breakers here is meaningful. He still projects as a No. 4/5 starter with a shot to make the back of the Top 100 as a 50 FV if the command and/or breaking balls tighten up. Read the rest of this entry »
Santiago Florez, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Level & Affiliate: Low-A Bradenton Age: 21 Org Rank: 36 FV: 40
Line: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K
We’re starting to enter an uncharted evaluation context for young pitchers. Big league fastbll usage has been trending down over the last several years but breaker-heavy approaches to pitching haven’t been as pervasive in the minors during prospect development. Especially for pitchers like Florez, who are at best on the starter/reliever line, teams generally make an effort to try to develop fastball command that will give the prospect a chance to start. Per Savant, Florez got 20 swings and misses last night, most of them on his curveball, which he threw a ton. Of his 84 pitches, only 27 were fastballs. He threw about a dozen changeups, while the rest (nearly half his total pitches) were curveballs. I have conflicting thoughts around increased breaking ball usage — how much of the improved results generated by more breakers is coming from what is essentially per-pitch stuff quality, how much is from increased unpredictability as we exit the era of “establishing the fastball,” and is there a point where so many breaking balls are being thrown that the unpredictability piece regresses? — but seeing it on a Low-A arm forces me to view his performance in an unfamiliar context as the Pirates have a 21-year-old lean into what he’s already good at rather than try to improve what he’s not. Now, for Florez specifically, taking this approach at this point in his developmental track makes sense because even though he’s only 21, he’s Rule 5 eligible this offseason and a year from now all he and the Pirates may care about is how he gets outs coming out of a big league bullpen, which will feature him throwing a ton of his breaking ball. Read the rest of this entry »
Adrian Hernandez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Level & Affiliate: Low-A Dunedin Age: 21 Org Rank: NR FV: 35
Line: 3 IP (relief), 1 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 7 K
The 21-year-old Mexican righty induced 14 swings and misses last night, per BaseballSavant, by far the most in the game and an especially high number for someone who only pitched three innings. Of the 52 pitches Hernandez threw last night, a whopping 24 of them were changeups, which is how he garnered most of those whiffs. Interestingly, Hernandez’s changeup is of the high-spin variety and tends to finish to his glove side, which at first glance made me wonder if it was being labeled correctly by Savant, but this is indeed Hernandez’s changeup and it has been very effective. His strike-throwing has been a bit of an issue this season and there’s little body projection here, but Hernandez is a young-ish arm with an out pitch and viable arm strength, so he’s worth monitoring. Read the rest of this entry »
Because there are so few minor league baseball games on Mondays this year, you’ll see me play with the format of the Tuesday Daily Prospect Notes. For today, I’ve made a change to the Seasonal tab over on The Board. Now there is a page where those of you who are watching the Americas Qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics can see which young prospects are rostered for the event. Day One of the Qualifier was yesterday when the site was dark for Memorial Day. You can find recaps of yesterday’s action on the WBSC website along with each country’s full roster.
This qualifier was originally supposed to take place in Arizona during March of 2020 but the pandemic reached our shores and it was postponed. It’s now being played on the east coast of Florida, in St. Lucie and Palm Beach. Two four-team pods (Group A is the US, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic; Group B is Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba, and Canada) play a round robin tournament, with the two top seeds from each pod advancing to face the top two seeds in the other. The country with the best record at the end advances to the Olympics while the second and third place teams face each other for the final qualifying spot.
In addition to the prospects I’ve added to the Seasonal tab, there are several recent big leaguers (David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Robinson Chirinos, etc.) playing in the Qualifier who most readers will know, along with lots of draft picks and signees from years ago who are no longer “prospects” but will be familiar to those long-immersed in prospect stuff (Jesmuel Valentín, Ryan Kellogg, Noel Cuevas, etc.). Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez is the top prospect in the entire tournament; there are four more Top 100 prospects and another half-dozen who project as good big league role players. I also have brief scouting reports on several of the Cuban players, mostly pitchers who have had good careers in Japan and who might factor in big league free agency over the next couple of years as they age out of the bonus limitations put forth by MLB.
With the college baseball postseason underway, today’s notes will be a mix of observations from conference tournament play and the minor leagues. We’ll begin…
In the SEC…
Top-10 nationally ranked teams Tennessee and Mississippi State both lost their opening round games; the two will square off in an elimination game today. Alabama’s win over Tennessee moves them closer to an at-large bid, though their chances of doing damage in June are hurt by the absence of lefty Connor Prielipp who will have Tommy John surgery today, as Kendall Rogers reported yesterday. Prielipp is a top 10 talent. The recovery time from TJ puts his 2022 college season in jeopardy, and the date of next year’s draft becomes significant for him as he has a better chance to throw in front of teams if it’s again in July. Read the rest of this entry »
If you missed yesterday’s post, I’m spending a few days this week focusing on the college postseason, which began yesterday. For those who missed yesterday’s action, this YouTube channel and many like it post “highlights” consisting of the end of each plate appearance. You get a good feel for the flow of the whole game in about 15 minutes. They’re a great resource if you want to follow college baseball and softball but don’t have ESPN+. Below I have brief previews for the tournaments that begin today. This is done with a focus on the groupings with prospects, and the ones people can watch on streaming services (again, mostly on ESPN+). I’ll also be citing work from D1Baseball and Baseball America a lot. They are both indispensable resources for college coverage.
The best reason to watch the Big 12 tournament is to see Jace Jung hit. The COVID freshman posted a .366/.496/.766 line this year, was tied for fifth in the country with 20 homers, and had 46 walks against 35 strikeouts. He’s built a lot like his brother, Josh, the top Rangers prospect, except he’s left-handed, has better feel for turning on pitches than Josh did at the same stage, and plays second base rather than third. Plus, the younger Jung’s style of hitting is cool, and totally his own. Tech catcher Braxton Fulford has rare power for the position, as does COVID freshman shortstop Cal Conley, who is college baseball’s version of Brad Miller. All three Red Raider home run leaders play up the middle positions. Righty Brandon Birdsell muscles up and sits 95-plus pretty consistently, too. Tech is fun and talented. Read the rest of this entry »
There are very few Monday games on the minor league baseball schedule this year, so when the opportunity presents itself, I plan on mixing it up for the Tuesday editions of Daily Prospect Notes. Today begins conference tournament play for a large portion of Division I baseball. Much of the week’s action can be seen if you have an ESPN+ subscription, which is $6 a month. Absent a cable subscription, I don’t think that gets you the SEC or ACC games until the last few make their way onto the main ESPN channels, but between what you will see of the conference tourneys plus the entirety of the College World Series, I think you’d get your money’s worth if you ponied up for the next two months, and I’m not paid to say that.
This is also a convenient time to direct your attention to college baseball. The regular-season narratives are now tied up in neat little packages that will be presented on the broadcasts throughout the week, so you’ll be brought up to speed and know what the stakes are pretty quickly. The conference tournaments will help shape the eventual field of 64 teams in national postseason play, and they’re also heavily-scouted events due to the high concentration of talent. The way players perform here and during the College World Series carries a little extra weight in the draft room because it’s the last time they’re seen before the draft, though that may be less true this year since the later draft dates leave room for more private workouts than in a typical year.
Below I have brief previews for the tournaments that begin today. I’ll have another edition tomorrow for the other conferences, with a focus on the groupings with prospects and the ones people can watch. I’ll also be citing work from D1Baseball and Baseball America a lot. They are both indispensable resources for college coverage. Read the rest of this entry »
Packy Naughton, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
Level & Affiliate: Triple-A Salt Lake Age: 25 Org Rank: TBD FV: 40
Line: 7.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K
After he was sitting in the mid-80s in the time surrounding the 2020 shutdown, Naughton’s velocity has rebounded and he’s once again living in the 90-92 range with his tailing fastball. He’s another lefty of the east/west variety, relying on some mechanical funk, working his tailing fastball to both corners, and mixing in three secondary pitches. While Naughton locates his slider to his glove side very consistently, the same way a lot of over-achieving, soft-tossing lefties do, many of them have been a little too far away from the zone to be competitive and the pitch is average on its own. The same is true of his changeup. Naughton’s changeup execution is less consistent than is typical for pitchers who throw this hard but still end up as successful back-of-the-rotation types. He’s looking more like a depth starter than a true No. 5 at this point, but it’s good to see that his velocity has bounced back and that he’s pounding the strike zone like usual. Read the rest of this entry »