Archive for Daily Prospect Notes

Daily Prospect Notes Finale: Arizona Fall League Roster Edition

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Note from Eric: Hey you, this is the last one of these for the year, as the minor-league regular season comes to a close. Thanks for reading. I’ll be taking some time off next week, charging the batteries for the offseason duties that lie ahead for Kiley and me.

D.J. Peters, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Level: Double-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 7   FV: 45+
Line: 4-for-7, 2 HR, 2B (double header)

A comparison of DJ Peters‘ 2017 season in the Cal League and his 2018 season at Double-A gives us a good idea of what happens to on-paper production when a hitter is facing better pitching and defenses in a more stable offensive environment.

D.J. Peters’ Production
2017 .276 .372 .514 32.2% 10.9% .385 137
2018 .228 .314 .451 34.0% 8.1% .305 107

Reports of Peters’ physical abilities haven’t changed, nor is his batted-ball profile different in such a way that one would expect a downtick in production. The 2018 line is, I think, a more accurate distillation of Peters’ abilities. He belongs in a talent bucket with swing-and-miss outfielders like Franchy Cordero, Randal Grichuk, Michael A. Taylor, Bradley Zimmer, etc. These are slugging center fielders whose contact skills aren’t particularly great. Players like this are historically volatile from one season to the next but dominant if/when things click. They’re often ~1.5 WAR players who have some years in the three-win range. Sometimes they also turn into George Springer.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 8/29/2018

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Cal Stevenson, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Level: Advanced Rookie   Age: 21   Org Rank: NR   FV: 35
Line: 3-for-4, 2B, 4 SB

College seniors are expected to dominate short-season leagues after signing but what Cal Stevenson has done merits some discussion, in part because he played through a hand injury this spring that may have clouded his actual skill. Stevenson has a .513 OBP at Bluefield because he has walked nearly three times more often than he’s struck out. He’s also stolen 21 bags in 22 attempts since signing. These numbers corroborate scouting reports which compliment Stevenson’s plus speed and bat-to-ball skills before noting his likely corner-outfield defensive projection and lack of characteristic power for the position. But let’s keep an eye on this guy because Toronto has a track record of making swing adjustments to bat-first college players that have helped those players become more viable prospects.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 8/28/2018

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Performances from 8/26

Evan White, 1B, Seattle Mariners
Level: High-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 2   FV: 45
Line: 3-for-4, 2B, 3Bho

We now have a full season of data to help us figure out whether Evan White’s weird profile is going to play. A plus-running backwards guy (bats right, throws left, a generally unfavorable combination due to the defensive limitations and platoon issues caused by both) who plays plus defense at first base, White was slugging .391 at the start of August, which is rather uninspiring for a college hitter in the Cal League. In August, however, White has 30 hits in 90 plate appearances and is slugging .763. He has made subtle changes to his lower half, drawing his front knee back toward his rear hip more than he did at Kentucky, and taking a longer stride back toward the pitcher. White is more often finishing with a flexed front leg, which has helped him go down and lift balls in the bottom part of the strike zone by adjusting his lower half instead of his hands. It’s a more athletic swing that was implemented before White’s explosive August, though he may just be getting comfortable with it now. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Prospect Notes: 8/22/2018

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Bubba Thompson, CF, Texas Rangers
Level: Low-A   Age: 20   Org Rank: 5   FV: 45
Line: 4-for-6, HR

Were Bubba Thompson wrapping up his season with poor numbers, I’d be excusing it based on context. A multi-sport high-school athlete who had focused solely on baseball for just one year, Thompson also had his reps limited, after he signed last summer, due to nagging lower-body issues. I expected him to hang back in extended spring training and then head to Spokane in June. Instead, after a month in extended, Thompson was pushed by Texas to a full-season affiliate as a 19-year-old. He’s hitting .295/.350/.460 with 28 extra-base hits in 323 PAz and 28 steals in 35 attempts. He’s projects as a center fielder with power.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 8/21/2018

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Johan Quezada, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Level: Low-A   Age: Turns 24 on Saturday   Org Rank: 46   FV: 35+
Line: 3.1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 6 K

This was Johan Quezada’s first career appearance in full-season ball. An imposing mound presence at a towering 6-foot-6, he has recovered from the shoulder surgery that cost him all of 2017, and his velocity has returned. He sits 94-97 with extreme downhill plane created by his height, and he’ll show you an average slider every once in a while. Quezada’s breaking-ball quality and command need to develop as they’re understandably behind due to his limited pro workload. He’s a older-than-usual arm-strength/size lottery ticket. On the surface, he seems like a candidate for extra reps in the Arizona Fall League.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 8/20/2018

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Mark Vientos, 3B, New York Mets
Level: Appy   Age: 18   Org Rank: 7   FV: 45+
Line: 3-for-3, 2B, BB

The Mets have made effectual changes to Mark Vientos’s swing since he signed. His stance has opened up and his hands set up in a way that has enabled him to lift the ball better than he did in high school, especially pitches on the inner half. His hands are more alive and powerful than they were a year ago, and Vientos has launched balls out the other way even when he doesn’t fully square them up. His size/build might eventually cause a tumble down the defensive spectrum (he’s been projected off of shortstop to, at least, third base since he was a high-school underclassman), which would mean power alone won’t be enough to enable him to profile. His early-career contact rates are positive, especially considering Vientos doesn’t turn 19 until December.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 8/16/2018

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Bryse Wilson, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Level: Triple-A   Age: 20   Org Rank: 12   FV: 45+
Line: 8 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 13 K

Bryse Wilson touched 97 several times last night and sat 93-95 late in the outing. He pounded the zone with his fastball (72 of 98 pitches were for strikes) and blew it past several hitters up above the strike zone. His slider (mostly 83-85, though he lollipops some slower ones into the zone for first-pitch strikes) flashes plus but is mostly average and is only capable of missing bats when it’s out of the zone. Wilson’s changeup is fringey and firm, without much bat-missing movement, but the velocity separation off of the fastball is enough to keep hitters from squaring it up, and it’s going to be an effective pitch. The entire package (Wilson’s physicality and stuff) looks very similar to Michael Fulmer and Wilson’s delivery is much more graceful and fluid than it was when he was in high school, when scouts thought it would impact his ability to command the fastball and possibly move him to the bullpen.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 8/15/18

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Tanner Houck, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Level: Hi-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 4   FV: 45
Line: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 1 R, 7 K

The Red Sox have been tinkering with Tanner Houck’s arm slot and pitch grips throughout the year in effort to find the best combination of pitch types for him. Earlier in the year that involved raising his arm slot and incorporating more four seamers into his mix, but now Houck’s fastball and arm slot look more like they did in college. His results have been better of late as he’s walked six and allowed nine runs combined over his last six starts. His low slot makes it easier for lefties to see the ball out of his hand and Houck will still need to find a way to counteract this issues to profile as a starter.

Mickey Moniak, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Level: Hi-A   Age: 20   Org Rank: 14   FV: 40+
Line: 2-for-4, 2B, 3B

While his overall line is still disappointing, Mickey Moniak is slashing .298/.341/.465 since May 22. He’s made a subtle swing change that has him taking a using bigger leg kick with his knee driving back toward his rear hip (similar to the one Adam Haseley adopted while in Clearwater this year) and he’s also striding closed which has helped Moniak deal with stuff on the outer half, which had been a problem for him as a pro. I’ve asked teams for updated reports on Moniak and the pro side of the industry think he has tweener outfielder tools but acknowledges it appears he’s been playing a level ahead of his ability so far. The industry considers him a big leaguer but thinks it’s going to take some time.

Bryan Abreu, RHP, Houston Astros
Level: Low-A   Age: 21   Org Rank: 28   FV: 35+
Line: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 10 K

Bryan Abreu has generated varying reports throughout the year, at times 92-94 with a 50 breaking ball and 40 control (which is barely a prospect) and others when he’s been up to 97, sitting 94-95 with big vertical action on one of two his breaking balls. He’s accrued double-digit strikeouts in two of his last three starts and has a 69:13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42.4 innings this season. The Astros are great at installing coherent pitching approaches into their prospects, most of whom are high-spin fastball/breaking ball guys who work up in the zone with their heaters, an approach which leads to more strikeouts. This, combined with Houston’s piggyback approach (where hitters don’t often see the same pitcher three or more times), leads to lots of strikeouts. I think the fastball (which is pretty straight) plays better out of the bullpen and I’m skeptical of Abreu’s short-term walk rate improvement because I’ve still got scouts questioning his command and it’s been an issue for Abreu in the past. I have him projected in relief and have added him to Houston’s team page on The Board.

Meandering Thoughts

Kiley wrote today about how he thinks the Rays have identified pitching subtypes that have skills to fit somewhere on the value spectrum between the perhaps unnecessary extremes of typical six or seven-inning starters and single-inning relievers. I’d like to talk about a few other oddball skillsets that might have a place on a 25-man roster as they help perform traditional and necessary on-field tasks but come in atypical packages. I’ve given them names that that the Cespedes Family BBQ kids will improve upon.

This role, in which a player acts as relief specialist who can also play the outfield, has actually been utilized in the recent past and has been explored by other clubs in the minors even more recently. Outfielders with superlative arm strength or pitchers with plus athleticism could put an extra late-inning hitter or two at platoon disadvantage. The Astros have done this with Tony Sipp, bringing him in to face a lefty before sending him to the outfield while someone else gets righties out, and then returning Sipp to the mound to face another lefty. It seemed Houston might have hoped Rule 5 selection Anthony Gose would have been able to do something similar, but he didn’t make the team out of spring training and was returned to Texas.

Texas also has several candidates for this type of role in Gose (who is also a 70 runner and good defensive center fielder), James Jones (plus runner, plus outfield defense, low-90s with loopy breaking ball on the mound) and Jairo Beras (right-handed, mid-90s fastball, plus-plus raw power) who have all converted to the mound but have one or two other useful skills that could enable them to be deployed in the right situation.

James Jones, LHP, Texas Rangers from Eric Longenhagen on Vimeo.

Former big league OF Jordan Schafer would seem to have fit this archetype as well and he was used in various ways by different clubs (Atlanta played him in the outfield, the Dodgers tried to make him a base-stealing specialist for the 2016 stretch run and St. Louis tried him on the mound) but never in several different roles at once.

Rick Ankiel, who is attempting a big league comeback, is perfect for this kind of role, too. He could shuttle back and forth from the outfield to the mound a few times, while also pinch hitting when it makes sense to have a power-before-hit bat at the plate and pinch-running on occasion.

If someone like this already exists in the Rays system it’s RHP/OF Tanner Dodson, who the Rays wanted announced as a two-way player when he was drafted out of Cal in June. Dodson sits in the mid-90s on the mound and is also a plus runner who hit near the top of Cal’s lineup last year. He’s not polished in center and has a slap/slash approach at the plate, but there’s premium arm strength and speed here.

Pull-Side Infielder
There are certain hitters who don’t pull the ball enough to merit a shift but still pull the ball on the ground more often than hit it the other way and, perhaps, that means your rangiest infield defender should just play on the hitter’s pull side, even if that means swapping your 2B and SS, hitter-by-hitter. I think this idea is half-baked but I’d argue the Brewers are candidates for something like this right now as they’re playing Travis Shaw out of position at second base to shoehorn better hitters into their lineup. In my opinion, they should be swapping Jonathan Schoop and Shaw, hitter by hitter, something to maximize Schoop’s defensive touches and minimize Shaw’s. Perhaps my name for this type of thing is too narrow but the concept interests me. Tampa Bay has a slew of bat-first 2B-types who are either athletically viable all over the field in a dynamic defensive equation like this (Vidal Brujan, Nick Solak, Lucius Fox) or benefit from being hidden by it (Brandon Lowe, Taylor Walls, Jake Cronenworth)

Daily Prospect Notes: 8/7/18

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

These daily notes are going to be different/sporadic this week, as I’ll be in Southern California for the Area Code Games in Long Beach and then PG All American in San Diego over the weekend. In today’s edition, I’ve got notes on some of the players I saw in Arizona over the weekend, and a reflection on a few specific aspects of our process as it relates to pitcher injuries.

First, a look at Dodgers lefty Julio Urias, who is rehabbing from surgery to repair a tear of his left shoulder’s anterior caspule. Urias threw 1.2 innings against the White Sox’ AZL team on Saturday in his second rehab appearance of the summer. He allowed just one hit and struck out four. His fastball sat 88-91 and topped out at 92, well below the velocity band he has displayed throughout his career, which was typically in the 92-95 range. A scout who was in attendance at Urias’s first rehab outing earlier in the week told me they also had Urias topping out at 92, which conflicts with what was reported just after that outing. Urias’s fastball command was much better in this brief look than it was in his often frustrating big-league appearances, and it has flat, bat-missing plane up in the zone. Overall. though, it’s a 45 fastball right now.

Urias’s secondaries were a bit less crisp than pre-surgery. I saw one slider and several curveballs (flashed plus, mostly average) which were also thrown with less velocity (71-74 mph) than Urias exhibited before injury (75-80). The pitch has good depth and tight snap when it’s down, perhaps not playing within the strike zone quite as well. Urias threw a few average changeups (including a first pitch cambio that Luis Robert foul-tipped) in the 80-83 mph range, but he lacked feel for keeping the pitch down and hung several of them in the top of the strike zone or above it.

Obviously, Urias is returning from a serious shoulder injury, and it’s possible his stuff will tick up with continued work. The Dodgers expect him to contribute to the bullpen in September and he need only wield a competent breaking ball remain left-handed for the next eight weeks to do that. Long term, it’s hard to say what’s going to happen here. Urias was once 6 fastball, 6 breaking ball, above-average changeup, plus command projection. Right now he’s a bunch of 45s and 50s.

Some Thoughts on Process

Before I start discussing some process-oriented stuff on our end, I want to give newer readers a crash course on how we assign FV grades to players and what they mean. A more detailed explanation can be found here.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 7/26/18

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Gabriel Maciel, CF, Arizona Diamondbacks (Profile)
Level: Low-A   Age: 19   Org Rank: 18   FV: 40
Line: 2-for-4, 2B

The 19-year-old Brazilian has hit in every July game in which he’s played and is riding an 18-game streak, including multi-hit games in eight of his past 10. Maciel was hitting .249/.336/.305 on July 1 and is now at .291/.367/.338. He’s a plus-plus running center fielder with very limited physicality, but he understands what his offensive approach has to be to reach base and he has played well-executed small-ball throughout his pro career. There’s risk that this style of hitting won’t play against better defenses and that Maciel winds up as a bench outfielder.

Dylan Cease, RHP, Chicago White Sox (Profile)
Level: Double-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 9   FV: 45+
Line: 7 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 12 K

This was the best start of Cease’s career. He has posted a 10% walk rate since being acquired by the White Sox, while big-league average is about 8%. Cease is a pretty strong candidate for late-blooming fastball command. He missed a year of development due to a surgery and will receive every opportunity to work with different coaches and orgs throughout his career as long as he throws as hard as he does. It might click at any time. But for now it’s realistic to assume that when Cease debuts in the next year or so he’ll probably be pitching with 40 control. Is there precedence for success among starting pitchers with a plus fastball, plus curveball, and a fringey collection of other stuff? Charlie Morton and German Marquez are two very encouraging examples, Sal Romano less so. Sean Newcomb looked like he’d have to be that guy but his changeup came along. It will take a pretty specific approach to pitching, but Cease should be fine with what he’s already working with.

Touki Toussaint, RHP, Atlanta Braves (Profile)
Level: Triple-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 7   FV: 50
Line: 8 IP, 2 H, 4 BB, 0 R, 8 K

You could apply much of what I just said regarding Cease to Touki, but we’re higher on Touki than Cease, ranking-wise, because his curveball is better, he hasn’t had a surgery, and he is a level ahead of Cease at the same age.

Hans Crouse, RHP, Texas Rangers (Profile)
Level: Short-Season   Age: 19   Org Rank: 8   FV: 45
Line: 7 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 12 K

Crouse’s delivery looks weird and causes his fastball to play down a bit because he doesn’t get down the mound. While he had below-average fastball control when I saw him in the spring, he has just four walks combined in his past five starts for Spokane. Yet another plus fastball/breaking ball prospect with stuff nasty enough to overcome other issues.