Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Chicago Cubs. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here.
When Hoerner was at Stanford, it seemed reasonable to hope that he could pass as a shortstop by simply making all the routine plays, plus a few based on his level of effort. It also seemed reasonable to project him in center field because of his plus-plus speed. The Cubs have decided to have it both ways; beginning in July of last year, after he returned from a wrist fracture, they began playing him at all three up-the-middle positions. Barring a rep-based leap in center field, he projects to be a 45 defender at all three spots, but the versatility is valuable on its own.
This wasn’t the first developmental alteration the Cubs made. Hoerner’s swing changed not long after he was drafted. He was making lots of hard, low-lying contact at Stanford, but since signing he has added a subtle little bat wrap that has made a substantial difference in how he impacts the ball. He hit for much more power than was anticipated after he signed and may not have repeated the SLG in 2019 because of the wrist injury. He’s a lock regular for me and has some hidden value because of the defensive flexibility he provides, assuming he proves capable of handling both short and center.
Davis made an incredible leap throughout his first year in pro ball. Some area scouts thought he was so raw as a hitter, and that his stock had fallen enough due to a pre-draft hamstring issue, that he might be better off going to school. The Cubs took him in the second round, tweaked his swing, and skipped him over a level; he responded by hitting .305/.381/.525 at South Bend, and he may just be scratching the surface.
Davis was his conference’s Defensive POY on a 2016 state championship basketball team and didn’t fully commit to baseball until his senior year of high school. He has a big, projectable frame that he’s already added a lot of muscle to over the last year and a half, and amateur scouts raved about Davis’ maturity as a student and a worker (often citing the odd hours he keeps taking care of a goat and the llamas at his family home), and all thought he’d be able to cope with likely early-career contact struggles and would work to improve his ability to hit. Watch out for the injuries here. In addition to the hamstring issue in high school, Davis was on the IL twice last year for hand ailments. We only have a 50-game sample of stats, but it’s just evidence supporting the athletic/makeup foundation and reinforcing that the swing change worked. This is a risk/reward power/speed outfield prospect.
Amaya continues to track as a good everyday catcher. He remains a polished defender with leadership qualities befitting an everyday backstop, and his body is built to withstand the rigors of the dog days. Like most catchers, Amaya’s offensive tools play down a bit in games because the position wreaks havoc on the body. For two years now he’s caught about 90 games, reached base at a .350 clip, and hit a dozen dingers. He’s now on the 40-man and was on pace to play at Double-A this year before the shutdown, though his big league timeline might accelerate if Willson Contreras is traded.
Marquez is tied with Blake Snell for the title of Hardest-Throwing Lefty Starter on the Planet right now, as both averaged 95.6 mph on their heaters last year. He walked 13% of Low-A hitters over 17 starts but was promoted to Hi-A anyway because he was just bullying hitters with heat and not really refining anything. Marquez does unleash the occasionally nasty slider, his changeup sometimes has bat-missing tail and location, and, though it’s unclear if it’s purposeful or not, his throws what looks like a cutter. The consistency of his command, the quality of his secondary stuff, and the way his body developed before he has even turned 21 are all signs pointing toward a high-leverage relief role.
Alzolay has had health and durability issues for three consecutive years. He was given extended rest and had his pitch counts limited late in the summer of 2017 before he was shut down in August, then he had a PRP injection in 2018 after he was diagnosed with a lat strain, and had biceps inflammation in 2019. It’s the lone reason he’s not on the top 100. He has this system’s best two-pitch mix, a fastball/power curveball combo that would pretty cleanly profile in the back of the bullpen if the Cubs want to move him there for health reasons. He threw his changeup much more during his 2019 big league time than I would have guessed. He has feel for creating movement on it but not for locating it competitively. He has mid-rotation upside assuming good health and a little more changeup refinement, which is reasonable to hope for because he’s lost reps to all these injuries.
As a high school underclassman, Roederer looked like a hit-first tweener outfielder. He added a bunch of good weight and strength and had significantly more raw power when he arrived in the AZL after signing, and had already begun trading a little bit of contact for significantly more game power. He skipped the Northwest League, went right to full season ball, and didn’t perform statistically, but I’m not moving off of him at all. Roederer creates a lot of power in a short amount of space and I’m still bullish about him hitting for a mix of contact and power. If he can stay in center field, he’ll be an everyday player, but I think he’s more likely to end up in left. Even if that’s the case, I think he’ll be the larger half of a platoon pretty easily, and I also think he has a shot to outhit my projection and just profile everyday in left, too.
Strumpf has pretty average tools, but he had several years of strong statistical performance in a big conference and plays a premium position. The compact nature of his swing increases the likelihood that he’s going to hit, and he also has sneaky strength in his hands that should help him produce at least doubles power. His median outcome is probably that of a second division regular or utility man; if he’s better than that it’ll be because he hit more than anticipated.
Jensen had one of the best arms in the 2019 Draft. Strong and athletic despite being quite small, he holds 94-97 deep into games and has touched 100. He can make his fastball ride or tail, and he uses it very frequently. His secondaries are not as nasty, but they’re workable and flash average right now. There’s a lot pointing to a relief role here because of the size, delivery (Jensen’s arm action is very long), and the reality that two pitches need to develop for him to start, but the fastball gives him a chance to be a high-leverage or multi-inning reliever.
Franklin was only throwing in the low-80s as a high school junior, but his velocity spiked later in the year and he threw much harder the following season. He now sits in the low-90s and was up to 95 last year while working with an above-average changeup. His breaking ball has good raw spin but, visually, is average. He’s a bulldog who goes right at hitters, has good on-mound makeup, and is among the likelier rotation pieces in this system.
Abbott was a draft spring popup guy. He struck out 100 more hitters as a junior than he did as a sophomore in just 28 more innings. His scouting reports still lead with affection for his command rather than his improved stuff, but there was thought that the stuff might continue to blossom in pro ball. Instead it has plateaued, and Abbott now projects as a low-variance fifth starter. His fastball plays best when it’s moving most, which for him is when he’s locating it just off the plate to his arm side; it is hittable everywhere else, including up above the zone. He can locate there, but Abbott is limited in where he can attack with the heater, which also makes it harder for him to set up his breaking balls, the best of which is an above-average curveball. I have him in as a fifth starter but he might work efficiently enough and accrue enough innings volume to outpace the 1-1.5 annual WAR I associate with that role.
Morel has visible on-field leadership qualities and is one of the better athletes in this system. He’s wiry and projectable but already strong, and he has present pull power that projects to plus. He also has plenty of arm for the left side of the infield and has already moved from shortstop to third as he’s filled out, but there’s a non-zero chance he ends up in the outfield, where he’s taken some flies in practice and looked rather comfortable. Morel has some pitch recognition issues that lead to strikeouts. Those create uncertainty about his profile, but they’ll be more acceptable if he can stay on the dirt. He could be an athletic, power-hitting corner bat in the big leagues so long as he hits a little bit.
There’s been a seven-figure Venezuelan catcher near the top of every international class dating back through 2016, and Quintero was last year’s model. He’s a little less polished on defense than most of his predecessors but has a plus arm and mature, strength-driven power. He has everyday offensive ability if he can remain lithe and mobile enough to catch.
Made is a familiar type, the pure projection shortstop with actions and contact skills that you can dream on. During workouts in Arizona he showed average bat speed and his swing was geared for line drives, and he has a very lean, angular build with underlying musculature that suggests he’s going to get much stronger into his mid-20s. He also showed a very rotational, whippy swing with natural, pull-side loft, so he might hit for power without any sort of swing alteration. At this point, though, we just have no idea how he’ll look against live, pro-quality pitching because the Cubs didn’t do a traditional instructs that would have enabled him to show us.
Thompson had great stuff while at Louisville but only threw about 50 career innings and he struggled to throw strikes during that time. He not only made control/command strides in 2019, but also developed a better changeup. His fastball/curveball combination (both have vertically-oriented shape) make him a likely bullpen piece even if there’s a strike-throwing regression. If not, he’ll be a 45 FV on next year’s list.
Hearn is a strong, athletic catcher who has a chance to be an above-average defender with a plus arm (he needs to be more accurate, though) and above average raw power, but he needs a reworked swing and may never be more than a 40 bat.
McAvene’s velo popped late during his draft year and was up to 100 during Louisville’s regionals, and he flashed a tight, mid-80s slider. If that holds, he could be a set-up type. If not, it’s more middle relief.
Bigge looks like a 2019 12th round steal. He was sitting in the upper-80s and low-90s at Harvard, then spiked into the 92-95 range out of the bullpen after the draft. By the fall, he was touching at least 97 and I have one source who had him up to 99. He now looks like a quick-moving bullpen weapon, but obviously it’d be better to see him do it for a whole season.
A small-ish infielder with above-average bat speed, Pertuz has good pull-side pop for his age. His swing is geared for contact at the top of the strike zone, which is where more and more pitchers are starting to work. He’s a bit over-aggressive and needs to get stronger as he ages, but there are power-hitting components here if he can, as well as a good shot to stay on the infield at either second or third base.
Pinango has pretty electric bat speed and runs well enough to stay in center field. He made a high-end rate of contact and walked more than he struck out in the DSL last year but hit for almost no power despite his bat speed. Pinango takes some pretty erratic swings and often loses his balance through contact because of how hard he’s rotating, but it didn’t hurt his ability to make contact last year and lots of guys, Cody Belligner most notably, have successfully dialed down their swings without compromising their power output. Pinango isn’t that kind of athlete (who is?) nor is his frame all that projectable. He’s pretty curvaceous for an 18-year-old, so I’m a little bearish on his ultimate power projection and think there’s some risk he moves to a corner despite his present speed. If you feel better about him staying in center then he belongs up between Made and Hearn.
Short struck out at an alarming rate last year, much more than he ever has before (32% last year, 21% career). Some of that may have been due to a smaller sample of at-bats, as he missed much of 2019 with a hand injury. He has good ball/strike recognition, hits the ball in the air consistently, and is a capable defender all over the infield, including at short. He’s now on the Cubs 40-man and I think he’s a big league ready utility man.
Much like Short, I have Giambrone projected as a versatile bench bat (I don’t like him at shortstop, but 2B/3B/OF are fits) who strikes out a lot but hits for power when he makes contact. His athletic, contemporary, full-body swing makes efficient use of his little frame, and he’s able to tap into in-game pull power because of it.
Of all the 18-, 19- and 20-year-old hitters in this system, Martinez is the one in whose bat-to-ball skills scouts have the most confidence. Where he fits on defense is far less certain. He’s already physically maxed out and has fairly limited range at second base, and his lateral agility might be a problem if he keeps getting bigger and slows down. For now, I think his hands and actions are good enough to continue projecting him as a shift-aided second baseman. If so, then he at least projects as a role player similar to Short and Giambrone, albeit one with a little less defensive versatility. Martinez can contact pitches at the top of the zone and go down and lift balls at the bottom. His righty swing is a little more linear and line drive-y than the left. He needs to be a little more selective and target pitches he can drive, but he has promising offensive ability for a teenager.
Verdugo signed for $1 million out of Mexico in 2017. He can really pick it at shortstop and could be plus there at maturity. His hands, range, actions, footwork, and athleticism are all superlative, especially considering his age. He added a lot of muscle during his first 18 months in pro ball and now has average pull power, but I think his swing’s length will make him whiff-prone at the upper levels. He only struck out 17% of the time last year, but he was repeating the AZL. The glove and suddenly relevant power are real carrying tools, and even if Verdugo maxes out as a 4 bat, he probably plays some kind of big league role.
Thompson is a very stable fifth starter/swingman piece. He throws a lot of strikes with an average four-pitch mix, and misses in places where he can’t get hurt when he’s not locating exactly. He’s going to have to pitch off of his two breaking balls very heavily because of his lack of velocity, but Thompson makes diverse use of his slider and curveball, both of which he can spot for strikes early in counts or use as a chase pitch. His ceiling is limited, but he is arguably ready to take a big league mound right now if the Cubs need a competent starter.
I struggled to decide what to do with Ademan. I, like many others, was smitten with his defensive acumen and precocious doubles power during his early days on the complex, but over the last couple seasons, he’s gotten heavier and slower without adding any power. He was still young for Hi-A, but he didn’t improve in his second year there, and he’s in danger of just falling off the radar entirely if he doesn’t start performing soon.
Still a very young, lanky, good-framed prospect whose velocity has slowly climbed as he’s physically matured, Rodriguez has gone from sitting 88-92 to living in the 90-94 range over the last two seasons. His breaking ball, which had promising shape early on, has added more power and become more slider-y during that time. He’s athletic enough to project on his command and changeup to the point that he has a realistic chance of fitting in a rotation eventually.
Gallardo signed for an even $1 million in July and was, in our opinion, the most well-rounded pitcher in his IFA class. He’s really loose, flexible, and athletic, and has some physical projection. He sat 89-93 at the time and he’s plateaued there. Scouts consider him a better bet to start than a lot of the other arms in this system, but don’t think he has much of a ceiling.
Cruz is a sinker/changeup prospect in a world where four seam/breaking ball prospects are increasingly desired, but he’s already sitting 92-96 and the change projects to plus. He lacks any modicum of physical projection and his control backed up badly last year amid some injury issues, but I think his stuff will play in relief even if that stuff doesn’t improve.
He’s not quite as explosive as his brother, but this Morel is faster and his slightly smaller frame gives him a better chance of staying at shortstop long-term. It also means he has limited, frame-based power projection and that a path toward regular playing time runs solely through the hit tool, but Morel’s feel for contact is pretty advanced and he has a non-zero chance to profile. I think it’s more likely he ends up in a utility role.
Miller’s crafty application of pretty average stuff enabled him to strike out a batter per inning at Hi-A Myrtle Beach last season, albeit as a prospect of relatively advanced age. He can manipulate the shape of his fastball — it can cut, sink, or ride — which, in Miller’s best starts, he has pinpoint control of. Both of his secondaries are viable big league offerings when they’re located, but Miller gets in trouble, especially with his changeup, when he misses within the strike zone. He sat 89-95 as a starter last year and I think he’ll live in the top end of that range out of the bullpen.
Estrada has only thrown 16 pro innings due to injury and he likely won’t throw again until later in 2021 because he had Tommy John late last summer. At peak, he’s been up to 96 and works consistently with a plus changeup. Lots of scouts considered him a likely reliever even before the TJ, but now it’s almost a foregone conclusion.
At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Rivas would look out of place in a team photo of big league first basemen, full of big-bodied mashers and explosive rotational athletes. He lacks prototypical first base pop but there’s a non-zero chance he makes enough contact to sufficiently balance the offensive scales to profile as a platoon 1B/LF or low-end regular.
We at FanGraphs have been on Rucker for a little while because his deceptive delivery (he hides the ball well) helps enable an otherwise fringy fastball to play. He pitched his way into the Double-A rotation in 2018 but went back to the bullpen last year and his velocity jumped. Rucker’s now 92-95, touching 97, and his curveball and changeup are both average, while the curve flashes above.
Rodriguez was up to 99 last year and was added to the Cubs 40-man during the offseason. He strained his biceps in early March, but assuming he comes back from that, he has a middle relief velo/breaking ball combo.
Mekkes has an impact fastball, he’ll show you an above-average slider and changeup, and his mound presence can be felt from the scouting section. But his control likely limits him to up/down relief rather than a foundational middle relief role.
I’m staying on Garcia despite his lost 2019, during which he barely played due to injury and looked out of sync when he did. His 2018 season, when he took some of the toughest at-bats in the AZL as a 17-year-old, was not dissimilar from that of players like Tucupita Marcano and Brayan Rocchio, who have both progressed well. Garcia is likely landlocked at second base and it’s tough to see him playing a multi-positional bench role if he can’t play every day, which means he needs to hit a ton to profile.
Velazquez has big power, and there’s ceiling here if he can hit, though he’ll need to be more selective if he’s going to and I’m skeptical despite his 2019 numbers. He’ll also have to develop on defense.
Schlaffer has a lanky, projectable frame and great arm speed, though his delivery is pretty violent. His velo was up into the mid-90s late in the spring of 2019, just weeks before the draft, which might have been more meaningful because he’s pretty young for the class. He was 93-95 when I saw him last summer, but he only threw one inning.
Burgmann sits in the low-90s but has been up to 97. He has a diverse, four-pitch mix and a vertical arm slot. After two years in the bullpen, he had a strong junior year in Washington’s rotation. He has No. 5/6 starter stuff but has fewer developmental reps than is typical of a college arm.
Perez is a big-bodied, arm strength relief type whose fastball ticked up from the 90-95 area into the 92-97 range last year. It has considerable life and ride. Perez also has a curveball and changeup, both of which are more 45s or 50s on the scouting scale. He projects as a fastball-heavy reliever, but like Mekkes and Rodriguez ahead of him on this list, he’s at risk of falling short from a strike-throwing perspective.
Albertos still throws hard and works with plus secondary stuff befitting a mid-rotation starter, but he has walked more hitters than he has thrown innings for the last couple of years, and needs to show dramatic strike-throwing improvement soon to stay on the radar.
Other Prospects of Note
Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.
Younger High-Variance Types
Yonathan Perlaza, INF
Danis Correa, RHP
Francisco Fermin, RHP
Davidjohn Herz, LHP
Josue Huma, INF
Flemin Bautista, INF
Except for Perlaza, all of these players are under 21. Perlaza is a gamer with some feel for contact but no power. He might hit enough to be a valuable utility man. I’ve seen Correa up to 97 but he didn’t pitch last year and has been hurt a lot. Fermin sits 88-91 but he has a prototypical frame and his curveball has good shape. He’s a 45 athlete. Herz is a slinging lefty who looked relief-only last summer. Huma and Bautista are low-level performers without a lot of physical projection.
Older Depth Players
Justin Steele, LHP
CD Pelham, LHP
Robel Garcia, 2B
Craig Brooks, RHP
Brendon Little, LHP
Steele was in the main section of this list at the onset because he’s a lefty with a good breaking ball, but his combination of injuries and the reports coming out of this spring made me want to slide him down here. Pelham was an upper-90s/slider relief prospect at peak but had an erratic and injury-marred 2019 and also got hit around in February. Garcia has power and plays an okay second base but I have a 30 on his bat. Brooks’ fastball — 92-96 with plus spin — garnered an 18% swinging strike rate last year. Little was 90-93 rehabbing in the AZL last year.
Recent College Draftees
Chris Clarke, RHP
Adam Laskey, LHP
Brad Deppermann, RHP
John Pomeroy, RHP
Ethan Roberts, RHP
Clarke has a plus curveball and was up to 95 last summer. Laskey is a four-pitch lefty with average stuff who was hurt all of 2019. Deppermann was up to 97 after last year’s draft. He’s 23 and 2020 was going to be a big developmental year for him. Pomeroy has been throwing hard since college, up to 98, but has 30 control. Roberts sits 91 but has elite fastball and curveball spin.
D.J. Artis, OF
Andy Weber, 2B
Edmond Americaan, CF
Delvin Zinn, SS
Artis could be a contact-oriented fourth outfielder. Weber is a viable defensive middle infielder with a 45 bat and power. Americaan is 23 and behind the developmental curve, but he has plus speed and is really physical. Zinn is an above-average athlete with a bunch of 40 and 50 tools; his development has been slowed by the presence of other infielders in the system.
The Cubs’ recent track record of drafting and developing pitching is bad and the org has made a concerted effort to build new facilities and bring in new personnel to address that fact. Brailyn Marquez’s delivery was sequenced better last year, the earliest and loudest sign that things might be improving on the dev side. Hoerner and Davis made significant and impactful swing changes after signing, evidence the hitting side of the dev group is also driving positive change.
After a run of monochromatic drafts full of college pitching, Chicago has used mid-round picks on projectable high schoolers, and both Roederer (who I was probably low on before his draft) and Davis’ stocks are up since they were acquired.
We haven’t seen what the pro department’s tendencies are because the club has been in buy mode for a while now, but we might soon learn a lot if the team seeks to rebuild.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Oakland Athletics. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
The summer before his senior year of high school, Luzardo looked like a relatively unprojectable pitchability lefty, albeit an advanced one. His fastball was only in the 88-92 range at Area Codes, though his changeup and curveball were each above-average. He did not throw during the fall and instead devoted more time to working out. The following spring, with a new physique, Luzardo’s stuff was way up across the board, his fastball now sitting comfortably in the mid-90s, and touching 97. Four starts into his senior season, Luzardo tore his UCL and needed Tommy John.
After most of the first three rounds of the 2016 draft had come and gone, it seemed as though Luzardo might end up at the University of Miami. Four outings (including the one during which he broke) wasn’t enough for many teams to have high-level decision makers get in to see him and want to take him early, but the Nationals (who have a history of drafting pitchers who have fallen due to injury) called his name and signed him for $1.4 million, a bonus equivalent to an early second rounder. Luzardo rehabbed as a National and when he returned the following summer, his stuff had completely returned. He made just three starts for the GCL Nats before he was traded to Oakland as part of the Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson deal.
After a dominant first full year in Oakland’s system, Luzardo appeared poised to seize a rotation spot early in 2019, when suddenly, the very contagious injury bug that has bedeviled Oakland pitching prospects for the last several years infected his shoulder and, later during rehab, his lat. He was confined to early-morning sim games on the Mesa backfields until June, when he was sent to rehab at Hi-A Stockton and then to Triple-A Nashville, where Luzardo’s pitch count climbed back to typical starter norms. Oakland ‘penned him for September, a multi-inning weapon for the stretch and playoff run. He was sitting 94-96 and touched 99 as a starter in the minors, the same as he was out of the big league bullpen. It’s a sinker, but it has barrel-shattering tail and pairs nicely with both of Luzardo’s secondaries, which live at the bottom of the zone and beneath it. He’ll add and subtract from his breaking ball to give it a curveball shape that bends into the zone for strikes, or add power to it and coax hitters into waiving at pitches that finish well out of the zone. His changeup is firm but has late bottom and should also miss bats. The violence in Luzardo’s delivery combined with his injury history is slightly worrisome, but he was clearly operating at full speed late last year and has top-of-the-rotation stuff and pitchability, so his 60 FV has that risk baked in.
Puk looked like he had leveled up during 2018 Spring Training. His delivery was more balanced and repeatable, and he rebooted his old high school curveball, which he hadn’t used in college, and quickly reclaimed the feel for locating it; his changeup was also plus at times, much better than it was when he was an amateur. Then he tore his UCL and needed Tommy John, which kept him out for all of 2018 and most of 2019. Throughout the spring of 2019, you could just show up to Fitch Park in Mesa and run into one of Luzardo, Puk, James Kaprielian, or any of several other high-profile A’s rehabbers. Puk got into game action in April and May, throwing as many as four innings in an outing (that I’m aware of, anyway) before he was finally sent to an affiliate in June, but only in a two-inning start or bullpen capacity. He never threw more than 47 pitches in an outing and was limited to 20 or 30 bullets when the A’s finally called him up in September. He threw fewer curveballs in that role than he theoretically will as a starter, making that pitch tough to evaluate when he returned, but all the other weapons are intact, and Puk should contribute to Oakland’s rotation in 2020 assuming there’s a season. He projects as an above-average big league starter.
Murphy’s surgeries are starting to pile up. He’s had them for broken hamates in both hands, then was cut again in October because of his meniscus. Purely on tools, he’s a 55 FV prospect and it’s amazing that he’s gone from a walk-on at Wright State to one of the more well-rounded catching prospects in the minors. But the injuries, Murphy’s age (some of the sixish years I’m projecting here include his early 30s now), and the fact that some of his skills (he’s become a good receiver) may soon be less important caused me to round down.
Now if he starts hitting for more power in games, that’s a horse of a different color. He has plus raw power, though he hasn’t typically hit for it in games for various reasons. In college, his first broken hamate likely masked his thump and was part of the reason he fell to the 2016 draft’s third round. He had the second hamate break in pro ball and his swing is also very compact, relying on Murphy’s raw strength rather than efficient biomechanical movement to deliver extra-bases. He could be an above-average regular early on but I think there will be a little attrition over time, so I slid him back behind some players who I think have a higher long-term ceiling.
A physically projectable switch-hitter with infield actions, Puason is very similar to Mets shortstop Ronny Mauricio when the latter was an amateur, but Puason has shown better feel for airborne contact during workouts than Mauricio did at the same age. He has a chance to have plus tools across the board, but there’s some industry sentiment that in-game aptitude might cause those tools to play down. Specifically, there’s worry about his approach at the plate, which will be more problematic if Puason outgrows shortstop. He had already arrived in Mesa before the shutdown and had clearly been in the weight room during the offseason, which was especially evident in his shoulders.
Teams had seven-figure valuations on Davidson coming out of high school but he opted to go to Clemson, where he hit and hit for power for three consecutive years before getting $2.5 million as Oakland’s first rounder in 2019. He’s a big, switch-hitting 6-foot-3 shortstop (likely to stay there) with above-average power from both sides of the plate. He hasn’t hit for that sort of power with wood bats (he slugged just .266 both years on the Cape, .332 last summer) but that may be a stamina issue rather than a wood vs. composite one. There’s some hit tool risk here, and if Davidson ends up as a 30 or 35 bat in pro ball, he’ll probably end up as a utility guy, but if he’s making close to an even average amount of contact, he’s probably playing every day.
Jefferies walked off the mound with a trainer during his February 24 start and was later diagnosed with a biceps strain, the latest in a long line of injuries that limited him to just 20 pro innings before he finally had something resembling a full season in 2019. His injury history impacts his value pretty severely. Purely on talent, Jefferies is arguably a top 100 prospect (and was a 2020 Pick to Click before the latest hiccup) thanks largely to his plus, upper-80s changeup and plus command. Jefferies terse, upper-80s slider is effective because of his ability to locate it, and the rest of his repertoire, with precision. If healthy, he’ll likely contribute to the big club this year, but that’s a significant “if.”
One of the best high school shortstop defenders many scouts have ever seen, Allen’s size, or lack there of, is why he fell to the draft’s third round, as there was concern he would not have the requisite physicality to hit big league pitching. After a few years of pro ball, Allen’s wrists and forearms have become strong enough to put viable contact in play (and he makes plenty of it), though probably not with enough force to truly profile as an everyday shortstop.
He’s quite similar to fellow punchless leatherwizard José Iglesias, and could be a 1.5-ish WAR everyday player like Iglesias has been, but Allen started seeing time at second base and (in the Fall League) third base for the first time as a pro, and could also be an elite defensive utility infielder.
Buelvas doesn’t have monster tools right now. Instead, he’s got an advanced, well-rounded game and hit .300/.392/.506 in the AZL last year despite being two and a half years younger than the average player in that league. Yes, two and a half years younger than the average AZL player. Buelvas turns 18 today. His skillset is going to be augmented by how he physically matures. This isn’t a player with overt, striking physical projection like Kristian Robinson or any other 6-foot-3 prospect. Buelvas is an angular 5-foot-11, certainly likely to get bigger and stronger but probably not grow into huge power. He might hit 15 to 20 homers via consistent, quality contact, though. He’s fast and instinctive enough to stay in center field, so that would be all the power he needs to develop to play every day. His report reads a lot like contact/instincts high schoolers available in the 2020 draft — Pete Crow-Armstrong, Robert Hassell, Petey Halpin — and I have him valued in that range.
Neuse was Washington’s 2016 second rounder, then was traded the following summer as part of the Luzardo/Doolittle/Madson deal. He had a rough 2018, his first at Triple-A, then went bonkers in Vegas last year, slashing .317/.389/.550 with 60 extra-base hits in 126 games. He struggled during a brief big league stint (lion’s share of the reps there came at second base after playing mostly third in Triple-A) but didn’t get consistent at-bats outside of the first week of September. While I think the dramatic strikeout rate dip last year will probably regress to the mean, he’s going to be a valuable, multi-positional player (2B/3B with maybe some left, and shortstop in a pinch) with power.
What scouts think of Beck depends on how willing they are to view his struggles in the context of his pedigree. Remember, Beck had almost zero experience against elite high school pitching (he missed his showcase summer with a torn ACL) and was purely drafted based on the tools he showed during his senior spring. He’s only had two season’s worth of at-bats against pro-quality pitching, and (hopefully) he’s still adjusting. To that end, his ability to identify balls and strikes remains undercooked and it has undermined his performance in spite of blaring physical gifts. He still has power and arm strength but he’s swing-happy in the box, his swing is not yet geared for in-game power, and Beck is sometimes visibly frustrated, which appears to cause some of his approach issues to snowball. Again, Beck is only 21 and if you consider not only his relative inexperience but also his age (he was a 20-year-old at Hi-A in 2019 and was still nearly a league-average offensive player), there are reasons to be optimistic for late growth.
Kap finally threw his first innings at an A’s affiliate last year, making about 20 starts of three to five innings apiece, during which he threw plenty of strikes. His velocity was in the 88-91 range during Extended and then the 90-94 range during the summer. This spring, he was sitting 92-95, and while that’s not where Kap’s heater was at peak, it’s an encouraging sign for someone whose injury track record is as long as anyone’s in baseball. He missed nearly all of 2016 due to a flexor-tendon strain, blew out his UCL during 2017 spring training and needed Tommy John, then was shut back down with shoulder soreness in 2018 during rehab, and finally had more shoulder soreness early last year. So long as he has his spring velo if and when baseball returns, I think he’ll be a core member of Oakland’s staff in short order, possibly in multi-inning relief based on his 2019 usage.
Allen, who was acquired in exchange for non-tender candidate Jurickson Profar during the offseason, is a big, immobile defender with power. Some of his issues might be rendered moot by the eventual use of an electronic strike zone, but for now Allen’s reps need to be limited the way Evan Gattis’ were when he was seeing regular playing time, pairing him with pitchers who work in such a way that Allen’s problems are masked. With 26-man rosters coming, his presence as a third catcher, a late-inning lefty bench bat, a late-inning catcher when the A’s trail, or an occasional DH sub for Khris Davis against righties all make him immediately rosterable. He profiles as a bit player who does that sort of thing rather than an everyday catcher or first baseman.
Heim has been around for a while now and he’s always been notable because he’s a good receiver despite his size, and has an unusually low strikeout rate for a switch-hitter with such long levers. The quality of his at-bats has improved over the last couple of years and he’s pretty likely to play a big league role this year since Sean Murphy has had some issues staying on the field and Austin Allen isn’t a good defender. He might be more valuable than a 40 FV in the short-term because he’s a good framer, but if balls and strikes are soon called by tech, he’s probably more of a third catcher.
I’ve spoken with folks who think that even though he was one dinger away from going 20/20 and had perhaps the best surface-level stats of his career, Mateo’s approach actually regressed last year as he leaned into selling out for power in a hitting environment where it was more viable. That’s not to say that Mateo’s stats are a caricature of his physical abilities. He’s still an 80-grade runner with some power and arm strength, but at age 25, he remains somewhat inconsistent as an infield defender and is swing-happy at the plate. He hasn’t played center field since he was with the Yankees and it might be too late to revisit that. I think he’ll carve out a bench role somewhere based on his physical ability.
Wire-to-wire shoulder issues kept Holmes off the field for nearly all of the 2018 regular season and he was handled with care in 2019, working three to five innings at a time, same as Kaprielian. Also like Kaprielian, Holmes was 90-94 last year and came into 2020 spring training with more juice, sitting 92-95 before the shut down, with his typical slider and what looked like a new cutter. Based on the health and command track record, I have Holmes projected in middle relief.
For most of his college career, Baum’s stuff was not as electric as it was during his high school peak, but it ticked back up toward the end of his junior year at UNC. He was up to 96 after the draft. Baum’s arm slot wanders a little bit and some times his fastball has more run than at others. His changeup has fairly consistent fading action that mirrors the best of those fastballs, but his upper-70s, two-plane curveball is the headline pitch, and flashes plus. He’s on the starter/reliever line depending on how you feel about the delivery.
I’m not sweating Dunshee’s 5.38 Triple-A ERA. The Pacific Coast League is not a favorable environment for pitchers in general, and especially not for pitchers who take an approach like Dunshee’s (which results in lots of fly balls); the Las Vegas elevation is particularly punishing. Dunshee started nibbling and gave up way more homers in Vegas than he has for his entire career. I still view him as a deceptive, strike-throwing fifth starter or swingman.
Howard was a $40,000 senior sign in the eighth round of the 2017 draft and spent half of 2018 pitching well at Double-A. His stuff is pretty generic — 89-93 with an average cutter and curveball — but Howard’s size (he’s 6-foot-9) creates a unique angle on his pitches that hitters clearly aren’t comfortable with. He also has remarkable control for a pitcher of this size. It’s fifth or sixth starter stuff, which would already be a great outcome for a high-priority senior sign, and I’m inclined to round to the top of that range based on the weirdness created by Howard’s height and his purported competitiveness.
Bolt is somewhat injury-prone, but is otherwise a high-probability bench outfielder with some pop and speed. He’s a much better hitter from the left side than the right.
Selected from the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft, Machin walked more than he struck out at Double-A (he was 25 all last summer) and hit .294/.386/.403 there. He can play all four infield spots passably, and has favorable handedness. That’s a rosterable utility guy.
Romero experienced an unexpected velocity spike as a 24-year-old, his heater creeping into the 93-97 range after it was 92-94 the year before. He also drastically improved his slider, which he lacked feel for just after signing, and he now looks like a standard fastball/slider middle relief prospect in most outings, though remember that Romero also throws a knuckle changeup — coined “The Critter” by Mat Latos, the only other guy I know of who throws it — which he has de-emphasized as the slider has emerged.
The stocky Diaz took his advanced bat-to-ball skills to Vermont and performed pretty well, slashing .264/.307/.430 while only striking out 15% of the time. There’s a moderate chance he eventually has to move to first base, and he likely lacks the power for that, but if he can stay at third Diaz could end up a plus bat who makes enough contact to be a low-end regular despite modest power.
Eierman’s older brother Johnny was a third round pick of the Rays in 2011 and his father, John, played A-ball for the Red Sox in the mid-90s. Jeremy was a solid prep prospect, but not the type who gets a big bonus and signs out of high school, so he ended up at Missouri State, where he had a breakout sophomore year. He was often seen by high-level decision makers during that breakout because he was playing alongside first round third baseman Jake Burger, and he had 2018 first round buzz by the end of the college postseason because scouts thought he could be a passable shortstop with all-fields power, and analytics folks liked his huge season and higher-than-you’d-expect exit velos. Then Eierman had an inconsistent summer with Team USA and his draft spring was a bit of a letdown. He plateaued, arguably had a worse statistical season, and suddenly there were doubts about his approach and ultimate defensive home. He fell to 70th overall. He made his full-season debut at Hi-A and struck out so much that he only slugged .357 even though 40% of his hits were for extra bases. He’s trending down but still has power and a chance to stay on the dirt.
Already Paulino’s size suggests he’s not a long-term fit at shortstop, but he does have infield actions and arm strength and could be quite good at third, or perhaps even shoehorned at second. He won’t turn 19 until later this week, and will be one of the more interesting prospects on Oakland’s AZL team. For now, he simply has an intriguing combination of power and defensive profile, with very little actually in focus. His approach is immature so I consider him a high-risk prospect, but he has enough power projection to profile as a low-end regular if he can be more selective and attack pitches he can drive.
Pro scouts considering McCann’s post-draft, sub-Mendoza line flailing at Vermont think the lack of contact he made there is an early career red flag. I’ve held his pre-draft evaluation here. His head does have a tendency to fly out and he’ll swing through stuff in the zone, but my goodness McCann has big power. He caught at Georgia Tech and split time behind the plate and at first base after signing. The pre-draft consensus was that he’d eventually move to first.
Smith has a promising contact/speed offensive profile enabled by his uncommon feel for all-fields, line drive contact. This is a classic tweener teenage outfield profile that’s shaded a bit differently because, unlike most others, Smith is actually kinda stocky and physical-looking, which perhaps means he’s less projectable. His lower half is very upright throughout his swing and he struggles to get underneath some pitches because of it. There’s a path to an everyday role here, one spearheaded by contact and good center field defense, but Smith has to clear some strength/power checkpoints.
Millas is a good catch-and-throw backstop who had a really strong sophomore year with the bat before regressing a little bit as a junior. He has above-average bat speed when he’s swinging at stuff down the middle but has to sacrifice whip for contact to get to pitches in most parts of the strike zone.
Reed was a lightly-scouted multi-sport high school athlete in Maryland who also played hockey before he arrived at the University of Florida. Soon after he stepped on campus, scouts saw and become enamored with his enormous athletic potential. He has 70 speed and defensive ability in center field, along with a 60 arm and average raw power. As a 6-foot-4, 210 pound athletic specimen, he’ll probably play forever as a fourth outfielder in the Jake Marisnick mold.
Catch Charles on the right night and he’ll show you three 55 or better pitches. Other nights, though, he’ll walk three or four guys just trying to get through an inning or two of work. I have him in up/down relief right now because the control is too erratic to trust Charles as a core part of your bullpen day in and day out, but if he ever starts throwing strikes (and finds a more consistent release for his splitter), he’ll be an absolute monster.
Deichmann hit nearly as many home runs during his six week Fall League stint as he did during all of 2019 at Double-A Midland, where his statline may have been compromised by an injured shoulder. It was the latest of several weird injuries that have limited Deichmann’s playing time each of the last three years. He was hit in the face by a pitch in 2017 and required surgery, then broke a hamate in 2018. While his performance may have been impacted by this, we’re still talking about a 25-year-old corner outfielder who has struck out in excess of 30% of the time at his last couple stops, and that scares me.
Pantuso looked like a 31st round steal last summer. He’s a leviathan small-school senior sign who was up to 98 in the AZL, and flashes a plus slider in the 83-86 range that has more length than most sliders that firm. He’ll move as fast as his fastball control allows and has strong relief stuff.
Mariñez was a notable infield prospect early in his career due to his hands, actions, arm strength and frame, but he never developed even viable upper-level feel for hitting, so he was moved to the mound late in 2018. He barely threw at an affiliate, and so was most widely seen during instructional league, where he was a fluid and easy 93-97, with good nascent secondary stuff. He had a strong 2019 in the mid-minors and I thought he deserved Rule 5 consideration, but he went unselected.
There are scouts and front office personnel who see Lazarito’s strikeout issues (he punched out 42% of the time last year) as entirely disqualifying, and clearly his ability to make contact needs to improve dramatically if he’s going to be any kind of big leaguer. He still has a rare power/speed blend, though, and I think his issues have more to do with swing path than anything else, which is more fixable than, say, issues caused by pitch recognition. His cut is fairly similar to what Luis Robert’s was before Robert and the White Sox made relevant adjustments to his mechanics, so I’m holding onto some optimism for Armenteros, though it has largely dwindled throughout the industry.
Barrera slugged over .500 during an injury-shortened 2019 (right shoulder surgery) at Double-A Midland, but his approach and swing path aren’t really conducive to him hitting for power going forward. I have him projected as a bench outfielder, albeit an uncommonly toolsy one because of his impact speed and throwing arm.
Mora was sent back to Vermont for a second consecutive year and was moved to the bullpen, where he struck out 47 hitters in 27 innings after experiencing a little velo bump. He has a well-balanced lower half but he lacks tactile feel for release, which impacts his command. His upper body rotates in unison like a tilt-a-whirl, and his low 3/4s arm slot generates mediocre angle on his fastball but nasty, two-plane movement on his slider.
Like Pantuso, Varland became known to FanGraphs after he was drafted. Thick and physical throughout the torso and thighs, Varland has a lightning-quick arm that generates mid-90s velocity at peak. His fastball has bat-missing life, and both his breaking balls have sufficient bite to avoid barrels as well, especially when they’re well-located. He had Tommy John last August and will miss all of 2020.
Dustin Harris, 1B
Cobie Vance, 3B
Alexander Campos, 2B
Marcos Brito, 2B
Sahid Valenzuela, SS
Pretty self-explanatory group here. Harris, a 20-year-old JUCO pickup in last year’s 11th round, has a shot to be a four corners role player. Vance and Campos are thick-bodied infielders who are tough to strike out. I was all in on Brito’s hit tool for the last couple of years, and though he’s been young for each level, he hasn’t performed at all. Valenzuela is more of a glove-first, switch-hitting utility infield type, but I wanted to cheat him on here somewhere because I liked him while he was at Fullerton. He had TJ last year and was a shrewd 13th round pickup.
Dalton Sawyer, LHP
Colin Peluse, RHP
Sawyer was a 40 FV backend starter prospect who has now missed the last two and a half seasons due to TJ and the pandemic. His delivery, fastball command, and ability to dump his curveball in for strikes should be enough for him to deal with lefties and Swayer’s best pitch, a late-sinking, bat-missing changeup, could be enough to keep righties at bay. He’s now 26 and hasn’t pitched at the upper levels because of circumstances out of his control. Peluse had TJ toward the end of high school and began his Wake Forest career in the bullpen before transitioning into a weekend starter role as a sophomore. He’s a pitchability righty with fringe stuff that plays up because Peluse’s delivery screws with hitters’ timing. He lulls hitters to sleep at the onset of his motion, then suddenly speeds up half way through his delivery, which catches hitters off guard.
Jalen Greer, 2B
Jose Dicochea, RHP
Lawrence Butler, 1B
Lester Madden, LF
T.J. Schofield-Sam, 3B
Three of these players were 2019 high school draftees. Greer was Oakland’s fifth rounder last year and really struggled in the AZL but he’s a cold weather high schooler from the Chicago area, so that’s not immediately disqualifying. Dicochea was their eighth rounder, a high school righty from Tucson who has been up to 96, sitting low-90s. His delivery needs some love. Schofield-Sam has quick hitter’s hands but his hand load was way too high and deep when I saw him as an amateur. He’s from Ontario so, like Greer, it’s probably going to be a slow burn. The same is true for Butler, though he’s first base-only. Madden signed out of Cuba for $300,000 and 2019 was his first pro season. He looked good during the spring and got off to a strong start at Beloit before floundering from June onward.
Older Dudes with Arm Strength
Aiden McIntyre, RHP
Jaimito Lebron, RHP
Robin Vazquez, RHP
Nathan Patterson, RHP
McIntyre pitched as a starter last year and, even at 89-93, his fastball was dominant because it has plus-plus vertical movement. His control is bad and he needs to move to the bullpen, where a velo bump could make his fastball really dominant. Lebron, 23, was a minor league Rule 5 pick from San Diego who sat 93-96 and touched 97 last year; he has a 45 cutter and 30 command. Vazquez, 22, was old for the AZL last year but he’s up to 95 with a fastball that spins at 2500 rpm. You probably know about Patterson’s story. He sits in the low-90s in games and has 40/45 secondary stuff.
Assuming baseball is played this year and Puk, Murphy, and Luzardo have the opportunity to graduate, this is likely to become the worst farm system in baseball by the winter. That’s not an indictment on the org’s ability to find players. The reason Oakland remains competitive is because the amateur department drafted Matts Chapman and Olson (both of whom I was low on as prospects), while the pro department is responsible for Marcus Semien, Khris Davis, Ramón Laureano, etc.
Injuries are often a superficial reason farm systems look worse, but in this case they’re arguably helpful. All three top 100 types, as well as Kaprielian, Jefferies, and Holmes all probably would have graduated by now had they not been hurt for most of the last couple years.
Oakland is getting very little from its International program. Brito and Lazarito are barely hanging on, and Yerdel Vargas, Kevin Richards, Norge Ruiz, and little George Bell (injury) aren’t on here. I was high on several of those guys, too, but that group isn’t working out, which feels worse in light of the opportunity cost of that class. It kept Oakland in the bonus penalty box for the 2017 and 2018 signing periods, and then they dropped essentially their entire 2019 pool on Puason. This is a big reason this system is so shallow right now.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Los Angeles Angels. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
The baseball-loving world held its collective breath last year when Adell went down with two freak leg injuries on the same spring training play (while going from first to third, he strained his left hamstring, then sprained his right ankle trying to stop himself when he felt the pull) and was shelved for a couple of months. While his gait appeared compromised during Extended spring rehab outings, Adell was asymptomatic throughout the summer and during the Arizona Fall League. After a brief jaunt in the Cal League, the Angels sent him to Double-A Mobile, where he’d had a strikeout-laden cup of coffee the year before. He adjusted, cut the strikeout rate down to a very livable 22%, and hit .308/.390/.553 over two months before he was sent to Triple-A in August. Again, Adell struck out a lot when he was challenged, and there are people in baseball who worry about how often he K’s, but he was just 20 years old and has had success amid many swing changes since he signed, a common theme among Angels prospects.
Adell’s leg kick has been altered; he now raises it even with his waist at apex, and the height at which his hands load (as well as the angle of his bat when they do) was quite nomadic throughout last year. By the time Adell was done with Fall League and had joined Team USA’s Premier12 Olympic qualifying efforts, he had a Gary Sheffield-style bat wrap. Adell is one of the best athletes in the minors (there’s video of him box jumping 66 inches online) and the fact that’s he’s been able to manifest these adjustments on the field at will is incredible. Even if something mechanical isn’t working in the future, chances are he’ll be able to fix it. I’ve settled on projecting Adell in left field. The arm strength he showed as an amateur, when he was into the mid-90s as a pitcher, never totally returned after it mysteriously evaporated during his senior year of high school. He has a 40 arm and is such a hulking dude that he’s just going to be a corner defender at maturity. Strikeouts may limit Adell’s productivity when he’s initially brought up, but I think eventually he’ll be a middle-of-the-order force who hits 35-plus homers.
It’s possible the wait is over and that Marsh’s swing is now in a place that will enable him to hit for power more in line with the thump he shows in batting practice, but his in-season slugging performance (.428 in 2019, up from .385 the year before) is not the evidence. Marsh still hit the ball on the ground a lot during the regular season and only averaged about five degrees of launch angle, but by his Fall League stint things clearly looked different. Like Jo Adell showed late in the fall, Marsh’s hands loaded a little farther out away from his body and he had what some scouts called a “wrap” or “power tip,” where the bat head angled toward the mound a bit, setting up more of a loop than a direct path to the ball. I thought he lifted the ball better during that six week stretch and did so without compromising his strong feel for contact. Marsh is a better outfield defender that Adell and projects as a clean fit in center field, which, so long as this development holds, should enable him to be an above-average everday player.
Adams was seen as a football-first prospect until late March of 2018. He played at a couple of showcase events in the summer of 2017 and had some raw tools, but wasn’t yet under consideration for the top few rounds of the baseball draft. He was, however, a top 100 football recruit, set to head to North Carolina to play wide receiver, where his father was on the coaching staff. Then in March, Adams had a coming out party at the heavily-scouted NHSI tournament near his high school. Multiple scouts from all 30 teams watched him against strong competition for a few days, and he looked very, very good, much more comfortable than expected given his level of experience. Scouts were hesitant at first, worried they might be overreacting, but eventually they came to think that Adams’ only athletic peer in recent draft history was Byron Buxton. Teams assessed his signability and the Angels were comfortable using their first rounder on him.
He didn’t play much during that first pro summer, but the Angels surprisingly skipped him over the Pioneer League and sent him right to full-season ball, even though he’d only been solely focused on baseball for a year. Adams had a slightly above-average statline there, which is incredible for someone who only just picked up a bat. He is built like you probably expect a D-I wide receiver recruit to be built, he’s an 80 runner, and while the swing foundation isn’t great, the Angels are one of the most proactive, swing-changing orgs. Adams’ rare physical gifts make him a potential star, though more advanced pitching will probably be a real challenge for him this year.
When he was drafted, Paris was closer in age to many international free agent prospects than he was to some of the older high schoolers in his class, and he’s still younger than a bunch of the high schoolers slated to go in the 2020 draft. Paris’ pre-draft profile existed at the intersection of traits a lot of models seem to prioritize (chiefly, his age) and old school scouting (this was one of the 2019 draft’s best athletes with one of its most projectable builds). Paris is really fast, might be capable of staying at shortstop (and should stay on the middle of the diamond if he can’t), and his feel to hit was much better during his draft spring than it was the summer before. Some teams thought it was just a product of him facing weaker pitching, while others thought he was truly emerging and cited his age as evidence that the late improvement was legitimate. A broken hamate limited Paris to just three games after last year’s draft. He arrived to camp this spring looking absolutely yoked, and he has a chance to hit for some power sooner than I anticipated a year ago. I still consider him a slow-burning prospect with a high ceiling (a leadoff hitting middle infield or center fielder) but it’s possible things will come together sooner than I initially anticipated based on how physical Paris worked to become during the offseason.
It’s hard to find prospects who have an infielder’s grace and athleticism as well as a big, projectable frame. He’s currently skinny as a rail, but Vera is one of these prospects and has a chance to mature in the Goldilocks Zone, where he stays lithe and athletic enough to remain at short but also grows into impact power. He took some good cuts in the Fall during intrasquads, but if Vera worked deep into counts and swung several times during the same at-bat, his later swings weren’t as controlled and strong. He needs to get stronger. I’m a bit less confident in Vera filling out than I was with Ronny Mauricio at the same age just because Vera’s physical composition is a little narrower and more slender, but if he does, his swing is already in a better spot to hit for power than Mauricio.
I’m taking Sandoval’s 2019 big league walk issues with a big grain of salt because the Angels altered his release point during last season (which you can see in the graph section of his player page), lowering it slightly. It created a bit more tail on his changeup, which Sandoval has surprisingly good arm-side command of despite his vertically-oriented slot. Assuming his strike-throwing regresses to career norms, I have Sandoval evaluated as a big league ready No. 4/5 starter.
Jackson’s swing has already been tailored for extreme lift and power. He only hit 29% of his balls in play on the ground last year (down from 42% the year before) and averaged a 20 degree launch angle (second highest in the org behind Trent Deveaux), which would put him among the 10 steepest swingers among qualified big leaguers last year. He hit 23 homers in 65 games, and while that number was inflated by the league’s hitting environment, to the naked eye, he clearly has explosive hands and big power. Scouts who saw him last summer were all scared of this swing, with one going so far as to say it’s “jacked up.” They worry the lack of contact (33% strikeout rate last year) won’t enable him to get to that power against upper-level pitching, and that as Jackson slides down the defensive spectrum (he’s likely to move to third base), it might make it tough for him to profile.
That he has a chance to stay at short, or on the infield at all, and hit for big game power means Jackson’s got an airplane hangar’s ceiling, but he’s a prospect of extreme risk. I’m optimistic that, because he’s already been able to make adjustments, he’ll continue to do so.
Yan is like a mirror image of Freddy Peralta. Like Peralta, he’s best-suited to attack hitters with a lot of fastballs. Several aspects of Yan’s delivery enable his heater to dominate even though he only averaged 92 mph last year. He’s a long-armed side-armer with a cross-bodied delivery, which means he is releasing the ball way behind the backs of left-handed hitters, and his fastball has weird angle in on the hands of righties. The rest of the repertoire isn’t great. Yan’s slider lives almost entirely off of his arm slot and really only works against left-handed hitters, and he doesn’t throw his changeup with conviction yet. I think he’ll move to the bullpen where I believe he’ll experience a velo bump and work with a 70-grade heater. He’ll still need to develop a way to deal with righties to pitch in high-leverage spots. If he does, he’ll be a high-leverage arm.
A stress reaction in his back cost Rodriguez all of 2018 and 2019 (he made three starts in April before he was shut down again and had surgery) but when healthy, he has the best stuff in this system, a pitch mix befitting a top 100 prospect. Prior to Rodriguez’s shutdown in 2018, he had experienced a velo spike (93-97, up from 91-94 the year before) and lowered his arm slot. Both of his breaking balls were excellent, but his changeup had regressed a bit compared to his first year (or at least, he lacked feel for it the last time I saw him). The injury adds fuel to the speculative fire that Rodriguez’s violent delivery will eventually limit him to the bullpen. It didn’t prohibit him from having starter control, but scouts were concerned about injury. Now, there’s been one. If health eventually moves Rodriguez to the bullpen, he has high-leverage stuff. If not, and his changeup returns, he could be a No. 3 or 4 starter.
So young is Ramirez that he had to wait almost two months after the July 2 signing day to turn 16 and become eligible to put pen to paper on his pro contract, which included a $1 million bonus. At the time, he was a typical, frame-based power projection outfield prospect at a lean, high-waisted, broad-shouldered 6-foot-2. But Ramirez has grown into serious power more quickly than anticipated. In fact, his 95 mph average exit velo was the highest in the entire DSL last year. He also struck out a lot, and corner bats who punch out at this rate at any level, let alone against bad DSL pitching, are inherently volatile. I saw Ramirez in the fall and I don’t think he’s 6-foot-2 anymore; to me, he looked closer to 6-foot-4 and didn’t look maxed out physically. I think he still has a ton of room on his frame and a chance to grow into elite raw power, but of course the feel to hit really hasn’t been tested yet, and it’s a necessary component for corner players.
Jones had the worst offensive season of his career in 2019 and arrived in the Arizona Fall League having made yet another swing change. He ran an unusually low BABIP last year, his underlying TrackMan data was still favorable (39% of balls in play hit 95 mph or above), and he was a college-aged player who spent all of last year at Double-A. I’m still betting on Jones’ makeup and athleticism, and think he’ll find a way to be a 1.5 to 2 WAR role player who sees time at second base and in left field.
Knowles has electric tools — a plus arm, plus-plus speed, sneaky power for a guy his size — and is the same age as several players who the Angels left back in the AZL. He didn’t hit especially well — .240/.310/.387 — but was 2.5 years younger than the average player in that league. That’s not to say Knowles’ bat doesn’t need polish. His left-handed swing (this system has a lot of switch-hitters) is pretty grooved, and I think he’s likely to be strikeout prone from that side for good. From the right side, he might be able to do real damage. Knowles needs more reps in center as his reads on balls are mixed. Again, Knowles is a 19-year-old switch hitter and it’s possible that his feel to hit from the left side still develops. If it doesn’t, he easily projects as a fourth outfielder who could be the short half of a platoon at any outfield spot.
Many teams considered Holmes to be one of the, if not the, best on-mound athletes among high schoolers in the 2018 draft, but many of them also thought he was sushi raw as both a hurler and an outfielder, and that he would end up at the University of Tennessee. A $700,000 bonus brought him to Tempe for a summer free of pitching in games, an approach the Angels have taken with several recent draftees. He’s begun to emerge as a pitching prospect, showing refined command of three viable pitches late last summer. He’s a No. 4/5 starter if he can continue to do that consistently, and perhaps as he continues to focus on pitching, there might be late-blooming raw stuff quality, too.
Soriano had Tommy John in February. It was already pretty clear that his future would be in the bullpen, but the surgery, and what it does to his developmental timeline, make it even more likely. He experienced another velo bump last year (not as huge as the jump from 2017 to ’18) and was touching 99 as a starter at Low-A Burlington.
I wrote last year that I thought Deveaux’s horrendous 2018 season was largely caused by the constant mechanical changes he was asked to make. His 2019 swing was still noisier than a Dinosaur Jr. concert in a giant aluminum dome, but he seemed to get a better feel for syncing it up and timing fastballs late last summer before the club promoted him to Orem for the last week of the season. He remains a high-risk prospect whose hit tool might be disqualifying, but if he finds a swing that works for him and is allowed to keep it, he has a shot to be a power-hitting center fielder.
Kochanowicz is a physical beast from a cold weather locale. He has surprisingly advanced feel for locating his curveball, and for a changeup that I think has a chance to be his best pitch at maturity. He was 90-94 during his pre-draft spring and didn’t pitch after he signed.
Franco’s velocity spiked last year — 90-94 in 2018, 93-96 and touching 97 in 2019 — and he’ll flash a plus breaking ball. He’s small but athletic, an indication he can hold the velo and also refine his command. I think it’s more likely he ends up a power reliever, living off of velo and that two-planed power curveball.
It took a $100,000 bonus to sign Hermosillo away from a football scholarship to Illinois. What with two-sports and a cold-weather background, he was understandably raw when he entered pro ball, and it took Hermosillo three years of adjustments before he finally experienced a statistical breakout in 2016. Since then, he has continued to make mechanical tweaks to reshape his skillset, and was rewarded with brief major league stints in 2018 and 2019. He likely would have graduated last year had he not missed a big chunk of the season recovering from hernia surgery and post-op issues with scar tissue. He’s likely to be Brian Goodwin’s platoon partner this year.
Placencia’s left-handed swing is the sweetest-looking cut in this system, and his righty swing is the second. He has feel for lengthening his path to create good angle on pitches at the bottom of the zone, but he can also keep things short and direct to catch pitches near the top of the zone. This kind of bat control is rare for anyone, let alone a switch-hitter this age. He’s a smaller-framed kid who may not grow into much power (though I’m cautiously optimistic about him developing enough pop to keep pitchers honest), and ends up painted into a bit of a corner at second base.
It’s very possible that Rivas’ elite feel for the strike zone won’t translate to upper-level play. He owns a 16% career walk rate, but Rivas and his childlike, Lilliputian frame lack even a modicum of over-the-fence power, and advanced pitching may choose to attack him rather than nibble and let the speedy infielder reach without putting the ball in play. Even if his walk rate comes down, Rivas does enough other stuff to contribute to a big league roster. He won’t hit homers, but he stings high-quality line drive contact to all-fields and can slash doubles down the third base line. He has sufficient speed and range for the middle infield, and has experience at every position but first base and catcher, though he hasn’t played the outfield since 2015. Rivas’ most realistic path to everyday production involves him retaining something close to his current walk rate, but he’s more likely to become a valuable utility man who can play all over the field, and is a fairly high-probability prospect in that regard.
Signed out of Cuba at 19, Martinez has hit .280/.337/.433 in two pro seasons, though the bulk of that has been in the Pioneer and Cal Leagues. He has a balanced and well-timed cut, above-average bat control (though he sometimes sacrifices contact quality), and average raw power. The physical tools are modest, short of a corner regular, but Marintez could play a well-rounded platoon role.
Hernandez has good secondary stuff but his control is raw for a 23-year-old, and he hasn’t been able to make up the reps he missed in college (he made just 19 starts in three years) due to a 2019 injury and, ya know, the pandemic. He probably also needs a bit of a velo boost, since he averaged about 92 last year, which I think he has a shot to find in one-inning bursts.
A growing number of teams shut down their newly-drafted pitchers during their first pro summer, which is what the Angels did with Stallings (it’s why he doesn’t have a player page yet), who threw a career-high 103 innings at Tennessee during the spring. In 251 career collegiate frames, Stallings walked just 37 hitters, and he didn’t issue a single free pass during his summer on Cape Cod. You’d think an extreme strike-thrower like this would have the most vanilla, stock footage delivery, but Stallings’ is actually kind of funky, and helps his stuff (which is very vanilla) play up a little bit. He’s a low variance fifth starter prospect.
The Angels are one of what is now a majority of teams that don’t have a traditional instructional league and instead play brief intrasquad scrimmages in the fall. It was there that Tapia popped, showing the group’s most polished feel for pitching even though he was the youngest guy on the roster. Tapia has a semi-projectable frame, so hopefully his fastball, which currently sits 88-91, has an extra gear as he develops in his late teens and early 20s. If it doesn’t, his advanced command may enable it to play anyway. Most impressively, Tapia’s changeup is already plus pretty often and he shows mature usage of it, working it down-and-in to righties for whiffs, and running it back onto the outside corner against them for looking strikes. His 73-77 mph curveball is loose and blunt right now, but has good shape. He has a shot to be a rotation piece.
Walsh may pitch in mop-up duty, but his primary role will be as a lefty bench bat with power. He had among the highest average exit velocities in the minors last year at just under 96 mph.
Pina pitched out of the bullpen in 2018, then moved to the Low-A rotation last year and struck out 146 hitters in 108 innings despite pitching with diminished velocity in the starting role. He has a prototypical 6-foot-4 frame and generates nearly seven and a half feet of extension down the mound, which helps that fastball get in hitters’ kitchens. He has both breaking ball consistency issues (though it flashes plus) and mechanical consistency concerns, so I have him projected in relief, where I think the fastball will live in the mid-90s.
Ortega had a breakout 2019, striking out 121 hitters in 94 innings at Hi-A Inland Empire before finishing his year with five rough starts at Double-A. Most of those strikeouts were accrued via Ortega’s mid-90s fastball, which lives in the top of the strike zone, and a low-80s, vertical curveball. Ortega doesn’t repeat his delivery consistently and I have him projected in up/down relief.
Scouts like Soto because of how hard he plays, and some analysts like him because of how hard he is to strike out (he had a measley 7% swinging strike rate last year), but I don’t think he has big league physicality. At the same time, he does have speed, defensive versatility, advantageous handedness, and is only 20, so if he gets stronger, he could be a good bench piece.
Bonilla has a mature build (which is why I’ve got him projected at third rather than short, where he mostly played last year) and approach, as well as a plus arm. He’s not likely to grow into huge power and instead has a shot to profile with a balanced combination of contact, on-base ability, and modest pop.
Aquino missed 2018 due to TJ and his velocity wasn’t quite back last year, living in the 90-94 range rather than at 92-96. His fastball has relevant backspin but because Aquino doesn’t get down the mound very well, it has hittable, downhill angle. He’s still a good-framed 21-year-old, and I wonder where the fastball would live in relief.
Higgins’ stuff was up and down in college, peaking in the upper-90s during his underclass stint in the Alaskan Summer League. Arizona State didn’t have a pitching coach (seriously) for part of his college tenure and Higgins might only now be thriving in a more stable developmental environment. He’s a vertical slot lefty relief prospect.
Adrian De Horta, RHP
Zach Linginfelter, RHP
Matt Ball, RHP
Luke Lind, RHP
Davis Daniel, RHP
Adrian Almeida, LHP
De Horta and Ball were spring NRIs. De Horta, 25, sat 92-96 last year and has an average curveball. Linginfelter was the club’s ninth rounder last year and, at his best, would be in the mid-90s with an above-average slider, but not consistently. Lind and Ball are both 25 and live off of fastball deception. Daniel, the club’s seventh rounder last year, was up to 96 at Auburn and had a very pretty 12-to-6 curveball, but he blew out early during his draft spring and needed TJ. Almeida was a Minor League Rule 5 pick a few years ago. He’s one of the hardest lefty throwers on the planet (93-97, touch 99), but he has 20 command.
Erik Rivera, LHP/OF
Jose Reyes, CF
Edwin Yon, RF
Kevin Maitan, 3B
Rivera, 19, is being developed like Holmes, where he’s still doing a mix of hitting and pitching. I like him better on the mound. He’s an above-average athlete with some breaking ball feel, and he was up to 94 in the bullpen this spring after sitting at about 87-88 as an amateur. Reyes is another well-built lefty stick with good secondary tools, but the bat looked light to me last year. He’s only 19. Yon was a Minor League Rule 5 pick last year. He’s about 6-foot-6 and has huge power. His lever length is a problem but he missed a lot of time with a gruesome leg injury and I think he’s got a puncher’s chance to break late. Maitan is still only 20, but I can’t find anyone who’s still in on him.
This system has the two big fish at the very top, a third who is tracking like one (Adams), and then a bunch of young, toolsy, risky sorts with big ceilings. There is not a lot of depth in the system, which has lost Luis Rengifo, Griffin Canning, Jose Suarez, and Matt Thaiss to graduation in the last year. The Angels have also traded some prospects, though not always for the right reasons. They sent a host of interesting college-aged arms to Baltimore for Dylan Bundy (they’d all have been toward the bottom of the list), and last year’s first rounder, Will Wilson, was sent to the Giants as part of a Winter Meetings salary dump that in retrospect was a tip that Arte Moreno was starting to cry about the ops budget.
All of baseball thinks Moreno’s mandate to furlough scouts was distasteful and cheap, and especially demoralizing given the timing, since the affected area scouts would have all been paid just once more before the draft. People in baseball seem less inclined to want to work for the Angels going forward.
Other org tendencies? Age and athleticism seem to be drivers in the draft room. The pro side hasn’t had many opportunities to act like buyers in recent years, but in the cases when they have (Sandoval), they’ve often hit. The Angels have also made a habit of signing post-hype players who have been released, like Adrian Rondon, Michael Santos, Gareth Morgan, and several other past prospects of note.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Milwaukee Brewers. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
Turang has two profile-carrying attributes in his ball/strike recognition and defense, while the rest of the profile struggles because he doesn’t square balls up very well. He has a chance to be a plus defender who reaches base a lot, which is basically what J.P. Crawford‘s skill base was, even when he was struggling. It’s possible that upper-level pitching challenges Turang with impunity and his walk rates tank, at which point I’ll move off him. If his frame, which is broad-shouldered and quite projectable, fills out and suddenly there’s relevant pop, he’s an everday player.
Feliciano hit .273/.324/.477 with 19 homers as a 20-year-old in the Carolina League, a level he was semi-repeating, as he’d spent about a month there in 2018 but missed much of the rest of that year due to injury. He is one of the more talented offensive catching prospects in the minors thanks to a potent combination of power and barrel feel. When Feliciano puts balls in play, they’re very often scorched — just under 50% of the balls he hit last year entered play at 95 mph or above, which is a 65 on the 20-80 scale if you curve out big leaguers’ hard hit rates. All of that seems likely to be hampered by Feliciano’s hedonistic approach. The dude likes to swing, and has only walked at a 6% clip as a pro.
Scouts also have tepid opinions about his defense, but let’s remember that he’s essentially a JUCO-aged player who missed a year of development due to injury. I anticipate some defensive improvement, and think we’ll have a electronic strike zone a year or two after Feliciano hits the 40-man, which will help him stay back there. His approach is kind of scary and there’s a chance his contact profile bottoms out against big league pitchers who prey on his swing-happy nature, but I have Feliciano evaluated as an everyday catcher based on how much power I think he’ll hit for, even if he’s running OBPs close to .310.
For the second straight year, Lutz got off to a slow start before righting the ship and hitting .271/.354/.446 from May onward. His skillset remains the same: big power, some stiffness and limited bat control, and an ability to crush lefties. Lutz’s overall performance in two full pro seasons has been just shy of what I’m comfortable with 50 FV’ing but he’s been very young for his level and only took three at-bats off of pitchers who were younger than him last year. He has a good shot to be an everyday corner outfielder who hits 25 homers annually.
Small is a mechanical doppelgänger for Clayton Kershaw and, like late-career Kershaw, he’s blowing fastballs with mediocre velocity past opposing hitters because he hides the ball well and creates pure backspin, helping it carry at the top of the strike zone. Small has a bat-missing changeup but needs to find a better breaking ball to really max out as a prospect. He could be a 50 FV, league-average starter if he does, but otherwise is likely to slot toward the back of a rotation.
Ashby has nasty, left-handed stuff and reliever’s control. He was up to 94 during his first pro jaunt in 2018, then was up to 96 last year as a starter, velo I think will climb in the bullpen. His two breaking balls need better demarcation, but they each flash plus and Ashby will even show you an average changeup on occasion. Since he has viable starter’s stuff, it’s logical for the Brewers to continue developing him in that role just in case he develops starter’s control later than is typical, and also to refine that secondary stuff with more reps than he’d get in the bullpen. Coming off his age-21 season, Ashby was on pace to reach Double-A during the back half of this year before the world turned upside down. He has a shot to debut in 2021, especially if Milwaukee ‘pens him.
Unsigned by the Padres after the 2018 draft, Kelly’s velocity spiked into the mid-90s in 2019. He’ll bump 98 and has a big, athletic frame and fluid delivery, but Milwaukee will need to develop the rest. Fastball location seemed to be the developmental focus for Kelly after the draft. In both my look and those of several scouts, he featured something like 80% fastballs. Teams have disparate opinions of Kelly. Some are intrigued by the canvas he presents, while others think painting it will be a chore. He need only develop one pitch to be a power reliever, which I think is pretty realistic.
Lazar sits just 86-89 but his deceptive, funky, over-the-top delivery combined with the extreme length of his stride down the mound (nearly 7.4 feet of extension, among the top 50 in all the minors) make him an uncomfortable at-bat for opposing hitters. If there’s an Oliver Drake delivery comp in the minors, it’s Lazar (though he gets much lower to the ground), and like Drake, he can somehow turn over a changeup from this arm slot. We’ve seen fastballs thrive despite mediocre velocity before. Often it’s from someone who has an extremely vertical arm slot, like Drake or Josh Collmenter, or huge extension and a flat approach angle, like Yusmeiro Petit, guys who can successfully remove the table cloth without disturbing the place settings. Lazar has both of these, and has a bat-missing changeup, too. I’m not as confident in the breaking stuff, which often finishes high in the zone — it’s that aspect of the skillset I’m scared will be exposed by upper-level hitting. Even if they don’t develop further, Lazar has two legit weapons that would work fine in relief, and he throws strikes at such a high rate that he could be a multi-inning piece. Based on how Milwaukee deployed him last year — 10 starts, nine relief outings, highly variable pitch counts — it appears he’s being groomed for a non-traditional role of some kind.
Garcia broke his ankle and didn’t play in games at all last year, so other than that, my report on him remains the same. Garcia had an eye-opening 2018 instructional league. His range, hands, actions and arm are all easy fits at shortstop, and he could be a plus glove there at peak. His entire offensive profile depends on his frame filling out. Garcia’s lack of strength is evident with the bat in his hands, but you can go kind of nuts projecting on much of his skillset, including the speed and arm strength, because he so clearly has lots of physical growth on the horizon and is an above-average athlete. He’s so young that he wasn’t even eligible to sign immediately on July 2nd because he was still 15. Were he a domestic high schooler, he wouldn’t have been draft eligible until 2020, and he’s still just shy of 18. His development may initially be slow, but he has significant literal and figurative growth potential and a non-zero shot to be a well-rounded everyday shortstop at peak.
Ray has pretty severe strikeout issues that, at nearly age 26, are ridiculous to expect him to remedy. Instead I think what lies ahead for him is a career similar to Brian Goodwin’s, a whiff-prone lefty power stick with a good approach.
Perez is a physical, lefty-hitting outfielder with a swing that is compact but still has some lift, especially to his pull side. He runs well, has advanced feel to hit, and is generating more power on contact than is typical for a hitter his age. He doesn’t have big, frame-based power projection but might hit enough that it doesn’t matter. He’s likely four or five years out, but has the tools of an everyday corner guy if, in fact, the bat is as advanced as it appeared after he signed.
Rasmassen became famous for some dominant starts in college but had medical issues that led to a failed physical after the 2017 draft and two subsequent Tommy John surgeries. His velocity is back after the second of those, comfortably in the upper-90s during what have primarily been 40 to 50-pitch outings, mostly as a starter. He was 96-99 out of the bullpen this spring. He’s a 40+ FV relief prospect on talent, the second or third best guy in a good bullpen (a set-up type for the traditionalists), but I’ve got to account for his injury history, perhaps more so than for all but a handful of pitchers in the minors, and so he’s shaded down a little bit.
Brown was Milwaukee’s 2018 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, then had such a rough 2019 that he was passed over in the Rule 5 Draft. It’s worth noting that while Brown had no velo decrease from the year before, his fastball spin rate dropped from 2300 rpm on average to 2000 rpm. Drops in spin rate seem to occur as part of injury-related stuff regression, but that’s often paired with a downtick in velo, and there wasn’t one here, nor was there an IL stint. Instead, it’s possible a change was made to intentionally reduce Brown’s fastball spin, since his arm slot and fastball spin axis are more conducive of sinker movement. The point is, there was a change amid Brown’s struggles, something that may be undone or further adjusted. It’s why I’m staying on him despite the age and the offseason indication (via the Rule 5) that a big chunk of the industry is not. I have Brown projected in middle relief.
I was skeptical of Gray’s hit tool when he was an amateur but because he’s missed so much time and dealt with the physical aftermath of pneumonia (2018) and a severe hamstring strain (2019), it’s premature to declare his hit tool specious. Gray has big present power, power projection, and the instincts to stay in center field despite not being a real burner. He’s a high variance prospect but still has everyday talent.
A senior sign reliever coming out of Virginia, Bettinger experienced a velo bump in his second pro season and also developed better movement separation between his curveball and slider, which has enabled both of them to play better. He still only sits 89-92 but he gets way, way down the mound and generates about seven feet of extension, causing his heater the jump on hitters and create flatter approach angle. His fastball is also spin-efficient and has plus vertical movement. He’s gone from elder org-filler to back of the rotation prospect in half a season.
Andrews is a plus on-mound athlete with a plus changeup and breaking ball. In 2019, the Brewers let him return to playing some center field and take a few dozen at-bats (he played two ways in college and barely ever struck out), which actually went pretty well (.333/.391/.381 in 70 plate appearances). He’s a great athlete and has surprisingly good instincts in the outfield, though he’s not likely to play a real role as a position player. Instead Andrews projects as a middle reliever, but his unique blend of secondary skills may enable the Brewers to use him creatively. The new three-batter minimum rules make that harder.
Rodriguez is a plus-plus-running center field prospect with a slash-and-dash approach at the plate and outstanding feel for contact. He is currently unable to turn on pitches and do any real offensive damage, but his defensive profile, speed, and hand-eye coordination give him a chance to be an everyday player if those skills are all plus at maturity. Barring a swing and approach change that better enables him to turn on pitches, I think a fourth outfielder role is more likely, but that’s what I thought about Luis Arraez, and Rodriguez is a better defensive player.
File throws strikes at will and has already reached Double-A because of it. He hides the ball really well and it helps his otherwise pedestrian fastball sneak past hitters at the top of the zone for the occasional swing and miss, while his two-plane curveball also garners the occasional swing and miss. He’s a high-probability fifth starter who might generate more WAR than is typical of someone with this level of stuff because File works so efficiently.
Henry’s groundball rates have now fallen for two consecutive years, reinforcing optimism that he’ll get to enough of his considerable raw power in games to play some sort of big league role. A bat-first high school catcher who was considered a long shot to stay behind the plate, Henry has made sufficient developmental progress as a defender and now projects to stay back there, especially since most of the industry thinks arm strength is likely to drive catchers’ defensive profiles once we have robozones. Henry’s peripherals are scary — about 30% strikeouts, 7% walks, and he was hit by pitches nearly as much as he walked last year — but as long as he continues to actualize that raw power in games, I think the total package fits in a backup role.
The owner of one of the most entertaining hacks on the planet, Dilly takes big, uncompromising swings from both sides of the plate. He hit .286/.419/.505 at Ole Miss while walking at an 18% clip. Though he caught some in college, Dillard played mostly left field and first base, and projects to do the same in pro ball. Because he’s so committed to hitting nothing but tanks (Dillard’s footwork is actually pretty conservative as a left-handed hitter, he just has big time uppercut), he’s probably going to swing and miss in pro ball more often than he did in college, but he’ll likely reach base and hit for enough power to play some kind of corner role.
Williams has been hurt a lot and is now 25 and still walking lots of batters, but his heater touched 100 last year and his breaking stuff fits in a relief role. He’s big league ready.
In high school (he and Lutz were on the same Area Codes team), Hamilton was a terrific defensive shortstop with some feel to hit, but some teams didn’t think his narrow frame would fill out in a way that generated relevant power, so he ended up matriculating to Texas. He had a rough freshman year, then rebounded as a sophomore and was in the third to fifth round mix following his summer on the Cape. Then Hamilton tore his Achilles tendon and missed not only his junior year at Texas, but the entire summer as well. His first pro at-bats came during 2020 big league spring training. He looked considerably stronger coming out of rehab and I think he has a shot to have a breakout 2020 if given the opportunity to play.
Castaneda pitched in relief during the summer and was stretched out as a four-to-five inning starter during the Fall League, where he continued to have success. His forkball is an obvious out pitch and he held his average velo in the longer Fall League outings, but the get-me-over curveball only works situationally (often to garner strike one) because it’s easy to identify out of his hand. As such, I think Castaneda profiles as a reliever, long-term.
Kahle is a thick-bodied catcher with limited tools, but he is great at diagnosing balls and strikes (he had twice as many walks as strikeouts as a junior at Washington) and his approach should allow him to hit for enough pull power to make a 40-man.
A 2018 seventh round senior sign, Fry’s combination of power and a chance to play several positions (including catcher) makes him an interesting potential bench piece. He seemed to be undergoing a swing and approach change late last year, as he was a dead pull hitter for all of 2019, and struggled to turn on pitches in the fall, instead peppering the opposite field gap.
Supak is a strike-throwing backend starter who has now had success up through Double-A. His velocity was down a bit last year but his fastball has a lot of spin for how slow it is, as well as other traits that bolster it. He’s a bigger-bodied guy whose athletic longevity is a question.
Bello signed for an under slot $550,000 as a second rounder. He’s a polished, contact-oriented center field prospect without typical big league physicality. He has several tweener traits, and might end up as a bench or platoon outfielder. A path toward everyday reps involves Bello developing a plus bat or glove, which are both in the realm of possibility as he has great breaking ball recognition and bat control, and good instincts in center field. He is one of several Hawaiian players drafted by Milwaukee since 2014 (Kodi Medeiros, Jordan Yamamoto, KJ Harrison, Kekai Rios).
Howell was a pleasant, toolsy, post-draft surprise whose combination of speed and crude bat control was too much for AZL defenses to deal with. He went to Low-A for his first full season and had less offensive impact, but still projects as a speedy, up-the-middle bench player.
Taylor made a relevant swing change in 2018 and probably would have exhausted his rookie eligibility last year had he not dealt with injuries, which have been pervasive throughout his career. He has bench outfield tools and is big league ready.
Perdomo was in Toronto’s system for seven seasons, then left for Milwaukee on a minor league deal after 2018. He had posted gaudy strikeout rates before then, but never in the 34-35% range for an extended stretch. He struck out 14.33 per nine at Triple-A, doing most of the damage with his fastball (a 17% swinging strike rate), which sits at about 93 and touches 97. He’s on Milwaukee’s 40-man and likely to play a role this year. I have him in as an up/down reliever.
Milwaukee’s 2019 sixth rounder is a four-pitch lefty with a funky, noisy delivery and a breaking ball-heavy approach to pitching. His slider has length, his curveball has depth, and Bennett sits 90-93 with the heater. It’s a backend starter mix with a delivery that likely pushes Bennett to the bullpen.
Long a notable amateur prospect due to his projectable, wide receiverish frame, Ward has made mechanical progress and is already much more of a refined baseball player than he was as a senior in high school. He’s still mostly a lottery ticket frame you’re hoping grows into big power, and even if he does, there are still swing plane issues the Brewers need to address, but Ward’s underlying skills have started to develop.
Ramirez is a super loose and fluid (but also inconsistent) righty with big arm strength and some breaking ball feel. He projects in the bullpen, where there may be even more velo.
Abreu has an interesting power/speed combination, which the Brewers sent him to the Fall League to stress test last year after he missed most of 2019 due to injury. He didn’t look great, and has strikeout and swing efficacy issues undercutting his power. Barring a significant improvement in his bat-to-ball performance, he’s unlikely to be added to the 40-man or Rule 5’d this offseason, but he is a 20-year-old with relevant tools and a chance to play a premium defensive position, so he’s still in this tier for now.
Webb was a rare draft-eligible freshman because he had Tommy John as a senior in high school, then missed all of what would have been his freshman year at South Carolina while he recovered; he was a 21-year-old redshirt freshman when he was drafted in 2016. His measurables don’t properly capture his size; his broad shoulders mimic the shape and proportions of a generic minor league batter’s eye. He has a mid-90s fastball and upper-70s curveball that pair well together, as the latter has sharp, vertical action and bat-missing depth when he’s healthy. In 2019, he wasn’t. After a rocky start and demotion to A-ball, he was shelved for two months and returned as a reliever, rehabbing in rookie ball late in the year. Milwaukee has stubbornly continued to develop him as a starter but I think he fits as an up/down reliever.
Robinson works in the low-90s with a flat-planed fastball that plays at the top of the zone, and a snap dragon, 12-to-6 curveball. He’s not that projectable, but he’s athletically built and has a good arm action. He needs to refine his strike-throwing pretty badly and it would be nice if he ended up throwing harder, but the repertoire works well together, and I think he has a good shot to be a big league bullpen piece.
The Last Two Cuts
Bowden Francis, RHP
Reese Olsen, RHP
Both of these guys have a shot to be 40-man arms relatively soon. Francis is up to 95 from a funky, lower slot that also helps him create effective two-plane movement on a breaking ball. He missed a lot of upper-level bats last year but in my opinion has relief-only control, and doesn’t have no-doubt big league bullpen stuff. Olsen’s stride is longer now than it was when he was in high school and it’s helped him throws strikes. He’s up to 96 and his breaking ball has power and finish beneath the zone. He’s another Brewers pitcher with a value-adding delivery.
Recent International Signees
Eduarqui Fernandez, OF
Luis Medina, OF
Jesus Parra, 3B
Jeferson Quero, C
A $1.1 million signee, Fernandez is a R/R corner outfield projection bat with present feel to hit. He’s already quite a bit more physical now than he was as an amateur, so I’m not sure how much more power is coming. Medina has an interesting swing: he takes a big leg kick but lands very upright, whereas most kickers have very flexible front sides. While he has fairly advanced feel for contact, most international scouts thought he was a tweener. Those who think he’s more projectable than the average evaluator see a chance for him to be a regular. Parra is a stocky infielder with an advanced bat. Quero is a glove and contact-oriented teenage catcher with modest body projection and athleticism.
Young Sleeper Arms
Lun Zhao, RHP
Brayan Salaya, RHP
Pablo Garabitos, RHP/OF
Harold Chirino, RHP
Kelvin Bender, LHP
Zhao is a few months shy of 19 but probably won’t pitch again until he’s 20 as he’s rehabbing from a late 2019 TJ. He was up to 93 and flashed a plus curveball (he averages 3,000 rpm) in 2018. Salaya has a good frame and was up to 95 as a 19-year-old last year. Garabitos, 19, played both ways last season but his best shot at making it is as a lefty reliever. Chirino missed all of 2018 with injury, then came back last year throwing really hard, 92-95, up to 97. He’s 22. Bender is an athletic, small high school lefty who shows good touch and feel in the bullpen but struggles to throw strikes in games. He’ an interesting athletic projection follow with a good changeup.
Potential Utility Types
Yeison Coca, SS
Antonio Pinero, SS
Felix Valerio, 2B
Daniel Castillo, 2B
Of this group, Coca is the most well-rounded, Pinero is the best defender, Valerio has the best bat-to-ball skills, and Castillo has the most physical projection.
High School Projection Drafts Three Years Removed
Chad McClanahan, 1B
Caden Lemons, RHP
McClanahan has a high offensive bar to clear and he has the power to do it, but he hasn’t really performed. Lemons’ velo has been all over the place in pro ball, and he didn’t pitch last year. Both of these guys are the big-framed types who sometimes develop late.
Justin Topa, RHP
Lucas Erceg, 3B
Bobby Wahl, RHP
Cooper Hummel, LF
Luis Contreras, RHP
C.J. Hinojosa, 2B
You’ve probably seen a lot of these names before. Topa is pushing 30 and was working in mop-up duty with a nameless jersey this spring, but he’s an Indy ball signee who I saw touch 99, so he’s a great story waiting to happen. Wahl is also an older relief contributor. Erceg might be a candidate for conversion at this point. Hummel is a corner bat with some pop and experience as a catcher. Hinojosa have a shot to be bench role players. Contreras, 24, signed with the Cubs in 2015 but never threw a pitch for them, and didn’t pitch in pro ball until last year. He pitched pretty well in the Low-A bullpen, touching 95 with plus spin and an effectual axis.
The Brewers have contended for the last two years, which means they’ve traded prospects and other assets for big leaguers, weakening the system pretty significantly. They’ve also pretty meaningfully reconfigured the structure of their scouting during that time (they have just two people listed as pro scouts on this year’s org roster) and this, combined with it having been a while since they last traded for a bunch of prospects, makes it tough to nail down the org’s tendencies on the pro side.
On the amateur side, pitch data clearly seems important. Last year I mentioned that this org appears to desire mechanical uniqueness moreso than other clubs, which I still think is true. The Brewers also have more junior college and Venezuelan prospects than the average org.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Cincinnati Reds. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
Stephenson puts on quite a show during batting practice but has a more contact-oriented approach in games. Per a source, he has one of the better in-zone contact rates in the minors, which is quite the opposite of how most of the amateur side of the industry thought he would develop as a pro. He’s still a fringy receiver with a big arm, but that may become less of a problem soon. Barring a tweak that brings more of his raw power to the party, Stephenson looks like a solid everyday catcher and he’d be one of the few prep catching draftees to actually pan out.
Greene is a generational on-mound athlete whose 2018 season ended with an elbow sprain that eventually led to Tommy John. A strong two-month run of starts in the early summer culminated in a seven-inning shutout (2 H, 0 BB, 10 K, and all in just 69 pitches) on July 2 at Lake County, and a Futures Game appearance. Eleven days later, Greene’s season was over. He had a PRP injection and rehabbed the sprained UCL in Arizona with broad plans to start throwing during the winter, but he ended up having surgery and did not pitch in 2019. His pre-injury report was heavy on velo and secondary projection, and it was (and is) especially important for him to find a better breaking ball, which he seemed to be doing before the injury.
Between his lack of reps during the ’16-’17 Series Nacional in Cuba and the arduous process of defecting, followed by slowly working out for teams, then waiting for the 2018 season to start, Garcia played very little baseball for the several months leading up to last season and it showed when he finally put on a uniform. Then he had a breakout 2019 in the Florida State League (.280/.343/.436) and was watched closely by the whole industry throughout an Arizona Fall League assignment. If Garcia’s tools were installed in a 21-year-old college shortstop, he’d be very famous. Power, speed, arm strength, and flashy defense are all here, and Garcia has a chance to be a star if his approach isn’t his undoing.
Drafted and unsigned by the Pirates as a 2016 first rounder, Lodolo took a bit of a circuitous route to the top of the 2019 class. He had iffy freshman and sophomore years but flashed a tantalizing blend of stuff and feel at times, keeping him in the first round mix despite inconsistent performance. Everything clicked for him during an early-season college tournament in Houston, where Lodolo worked in the mid-90s with a plus breaking ball and changeup.
He’s more apt to throw his curveball for strikes than bury it in the dirt for swings and misses, but he showed better grasp of the latter late in the year. While Lodolo will sometimes go entire outings without throwing that many changeups, there have been stretches where it’s his best pitch. His frame is ideal, his delivery elegant and repeatable. The stuff isn’t dominant, but some teams are still projecting on it because of how big and lean Lodolo’s frame is, which makes them think it might be eventually.
India was hit by two pitches last April — one struck his wrist, the other got him in the back — and the Reds claim that though he didn’t miss any time during the season, his wrist bothered him all year and could have been to blame for his lackluster 2019 power output. He looked aloof and sluggish in the Fall League, where he started 2-for-35 and was eventually shut down due to continued wrist issues. He has generally shown a well-rounded skillset that includes good feel for contact and defense.
How teams value India varies depending on how they contextualize the wrist injury. It could be viewed as a short-term issue that obscured his physical talent in 2019, but some teams are scared by it being described as “nagging” and having ended his season, while others just think India’s junior year at Florida (the only time he’s ever hit for real power), is the anomaly, and don’t have him projected as an everyday player either way. I think that, primarily via the contact skills, India profiles as a second-division regular (45 FV) at third, but if the wrist is truly why the power hasn’t played, or should he eventually prove capable of playing second base (which is what the Fall League assignment was for), he has a great chance to be a 50.
Perhaps no high school pitching prospect from the 2018 draft has moved toward the “low variance” end of the spectrum quite as quickly as Richardson, which is especially surprising considering he was a two-way prospect for quite a while. Once he started touching 96 and 97 early in his senior season, he moved into the second round picture as a pitcher. His stuff dipped a bit before the draft and, later in the summer, the Reds shut him down due to elbow soreness. He pitched at 89-93 all last year and made a Midwest League-leading 26 starts without incident.
Richardson found ways to get outs with diluted stuff last year and then arrived to 2020 camp throwing really hard, back into the mid-90s. He’s athletic, new to pitching, competitive, often emotional and demonstrative on the mound and responded to adversity in his first season, a potential 2021 Top 100 arm.
Siani is fast and his defensive instincts are excellent, so he has a chance to be one of the better defensive center fielders in baseball at peak. On offense, Siani creates a lot of infield action (oppo liner pokes and slaps, high infield chops, some bunts) but probably won’t grow into relevant power. I have him projected as a low-end regular in center field based on the quality of his defense, but I think he’ll end up hitting toward the bottom of a lineup.
He’ll likely wind up at first base eventually, but in the interim the industry is still searching for where on the defensive spectrum it might be able to shoehorn Callihan in an effort to make him as valuable a prospect as possible. He’s mostly played third base, but there were some pre-draft calls for him to catch, and the Reds gave him post-draft reps at second. The bat is the carrying tool, of course. Callihan was one of the most polished (and oldest) high school hitters in the 2019 class, and performed against his elite peers on the showcase circuit. To get to all of the raw power, he probably needs to improve his feel for lifting the ball, either naturally via reps or with an explicit swing change. That’s especially true should he need to move to first sooner than later. It’s a scary defensive profile and Callihan’s age takes away from some of my confidence in the bat, but I still think it’s a high-probability hit tool with an outside shot of standing at second base.
Santillan’s strike-throwing regressed to his career norms in 2019 and his velocity is now squarely in the low-90s. He was also put on the IL twice with shoulder and triceps injuries. It’s possible a bullpen move will cause Santillan’s high school and early pro velo to resurface and he could pitch in leveraged relief, but if he continues to start, he’s looking more like a backend guy than a potential mid-rotation piece.
Hinds is a massive third baseman who had the most raw power in the 2019 draft’s high school class, but there are significant concerns about his hit tool. Players this size typically move to the outfield, and considering how slow Hinds’ development might be paced due to the contact issues, he might be out there before he reaches the bigs. He has star-level talent, but is a very risky type of prospect.
Fairchild’s swing has a little more going on now than it did while he was in college, but it’s still pretty simplistic relative to a lot of other hitters’. Once extremely stationary, he now has a baby leg kick and is actually loading his hands. His groundball rate has dropped from 50% during his first pro season, to 40% during the first half of 2018, to the 30%-37% range in the three half-seasons since then, and somehow his strikeout rate dropped all the way to 12% during his six-week stint at Double-A Chattanooga. I don’t think that’s a sustainable rate but I do think it makes sense that Fairchild would become more comfortable with the swing over time. He doesn’t have overt everyday physical ability but he is a plus athlete who has been able to make mechanical adjustments, so he might yet get better.
Antone’s stuff has been steadily improving since he returned from Tommy John, and he was up to 96 as a starter last year. He goes at hitters with the kitchen sink. His flight of fastballs sits in the 89-93 range, he’ll cut it and sink it. He also has a slider in the 82-84mph range that has really odd angle running away from right-handed hitters, who struggle to pick up Antone. He’ll also drop in an occasional curveball, the changeup lives in the 82-85 range and is viable. He gets ground balls with the fastballs and misses bats with the slider. I think he fits in a multi-inning relief role, maybe the back of a rotation.
Kuhnel wasn’t a top draft prospect coming out of Texas-Arlington; he had a maxed-out, bulky frame, inconsistent command, and just average stuff for a right-handed reliever. In 2018, he took a big step forward. His fastball jumped 3-4 ticks and hit 101, and his slider improved into an above-average pitch, though he really struggled to get it to his glove side last year. He’s a major league-ready power relief prospect.
The Reds skipped Cerda over the AZL and made the Appy League his first domestic assignment. There he struck out a bunch (34% in 165 PA) but also hit for power and walked. Compared to the other young power hitters in this system, Cerda’s approach is by far the most coherent, and he also has the group’s best feel for airborne contact. He’s a three true outcomes right field prospect.
Johnson didn’t play much, or all that well, as a freshman at Georgia and transferred to Chipola for his sophomore season, where he hit .400/.520/.620. Explosive and physical, Johnson has plus bat and foot speed, but limited feel to hit. He’s raw, but that’s to be expected for a switch-hitter this age who barely got at-bats during his age 19 season.
Once an out-of-control prep prospect up to 98 mph, Ashcraft went to Mississippi State, had a pair of hip surgeries, then transferred to UAB. He had a pedestrian 2019 season with the Blazers but lo, Ashcraft has TrackMan-friendly spin rates on his fastball and breaker. His fastball has natural cut at times, but Driveline Baseball has had success getting pitchers like this to pronate better on release and create carry rather than cut, which seems fair to project will happen with Ashcraft now that Driveline’s founder is the team’s pitching coordinator. He could have a breakout 2020 (if he gets the opportunity) and profiles in a power relief role.
The circumstances surrounding his signing bear repeating: Friedl slipped through the cracks as a 2016 draft-eligible player, then blew up as a member of Team USA that summer, and signed with the Reds for $700,000 worth of leftover bonus pool money. From a tools and performance standpoint, Friedl is a low-variance bench outfield prospect.
Even amid a substantial innings increase in 2019, Solomon held mid-90s velo for the entire season. He’s a 50 athlete with a 70 body and can just kind of muscle fastballs and cutters near the zone. Those two pitches might be enough in relief if Solomon’s velo jumps in single-inning outings, but his curveball is serviceable, so there’s a third pitch, and Solomon is a Northeast JUCO arm just a year and a half into his pro career, so some of the pitchability traits might come late. He’s got 40-man quality stuff with some late-bloomer possibility.
Davis had a big pre-draft summer on Cape Cod but blew out just a few starts into his junior year at Santa Barbara. The Reds drafted him and finished his TJ rehab in 2019, then sent him to Billings. Most of his pre-surgery velocity returned and Davis was sitting 91-94 in his first few appearances before touching some 95s later in the summer. More importantly, he returned with two quality breaking balls (he was slider/changeup as an amateur) that have fairly significant projection since one of them is new, and Davis missed a huge chunk of time rehabbing from the TJ.
Pitchers whose best attributes are their command and a changeup often outperform industry expectations, and even though Naughton’s fastball only averaged 89 mph last year, I think he’ll do the same. He’s funky and deceptive, hides the ball well, creates tough angle in on righties’ hands, and then drops that changeup on them. Naughton’s curveball isn’t great, but he can throw it for strikes. I like him in a multi-inning relief role a la Ryan Yarbrough.
Gutierrez is a plus athlete with a four-pitch mix, and after sitting 90-93 last year, he was suddenly sitting 94-96 in one- and two-inning outings this spring prior to the shutdown. He has a drop and drive delivery that creates a really flat approach angle on his fastball, especially at the top of the strike zone, but Gutierrez’s heater currently has other attributes (its spin rate and axis are indicative of sink/tailing action) that don’t suit this style of pitching, and he’s been homer prone throughout his career. There are several potential solutions. He might be able to just bully the extra velocity past hitters in a relief role, or he may eventually lean into the sink/tail aspects of the fastball and work off a two-seamer (Julio Teheran is actually a pretty clean athlete/delivery comp for Gutierrez), or the new dev regime might tweak something — perhaps his hand position or stride direction — to try to shape how the fastball moves.
My high speed video from the spring shows a four-seam grip with pretty lousy seam uniformity and an axis like the one the 2019 data indicates, and Gutierrez was still doing towel drills this spring, so I assume the new dev group hasn’t really touched him yet. Based on his athleticism, arm strength, and the quality of his secondary stuff, I still think Gutierrez has a chance to be an relevant big league arm, but it is kind of scary that he still needs some kind of rebuild at nearly age 25 and his most likely outcome is in relief.
Acquired last summer for Tanner Roark, Hannah is a contact/speed outfield prospect who will have to make more contact than I have projected in order to play an everyday role. He hit .340 in college and has hit .280 in pro ball, his extra-base hit production consisting almost entirely of doubles. I have him as an average center field defender but think he could be plus in left, a diet Brett Gardner profile lacking the elite plate discipline. It’s a bench outfield look.
Medrano was acquired from Texas in exchange for international slot money during the Rangers’ pursuit of Shohei Ohtani. He spent the following two years simmering in advanced rookie ball (first the Appy, then the Pioneer League) as a pretty advanced righty with a good changeup. There’s a chance Medrano ends up with a plus changeup and command, which would make it pretty likely that he pitches in a rotation. If only one of those comes to fruition, then he’s more of a fringe 40-man guy since he probably needs the change to be an out pitch and the command to make the fastball playable.
Hendrix has been the same prospect for a while now: relief only, 93-96, plus breaking ball. The fastball has not played like the velo would indicate it should (only a 5% swinging strike rate on the heater in 2019) and he’s also had some elbow trouble. He’s now on the 40-man and will probably be an up/down taxi squad reliever this year.
Salvador has the potential to wield power lefty bullpen stuff — a riding fastball and hammer curveball — if he can throw harder. He’s only 20 and skinny as a rail, so it’s reasonable to project that he will.
Yang had more walks than strikeouts at UC Santa Barbara and saw a big uptick in power production in his draft year, though he does lack impact raw. He projects as a contact-oriented back up.
Heatherly has had trouble throwing strikes in affiliated ball and he missed almost all of 2019 with a shoulder injury. Catch him on the right day on the back fields and he’s filling the zone with a sinker in the 92-94 range and flashing two above-average secondaries. It’s No. 4/5 starter stuff, but Heatherly has had lots of hiccups and speed bumps since his excellent pre-draft summer.
I think the loose and lanky Peguero has late-budding velocity projection (both his fastball and slider velocity climbed throughout last year). He projects as a slider-slinging reliever with plus command.
Bautista had a rough 2019. He hit .233/.303/.332 in the Midwest League (an 87 wRC+, by far the lowest of his career) and missed nearly a month due to a shoulder injury. He also seemed to regress athletically, and the odd swing he seemed to be succeeding with in the low minors looked more out of place in full-season ball. He was passed over in the Rule 5. I’m still on Bautista to some degree because of his raw power, straightline speed, and previously-evident bat-to-ball skills, but this won’t work unless Bautista becomes much more selective, or undergoes some kind of swing change, or both.
He has experience at third base and might be tried there early on, but I have Triana projected to first base (and relatively soon) based on his immense size and general stiffness. He has gargantuan power, enough to profile at first if he hits, but he’s been seen either in a showcase environment or against much younger competition, so I have skepticism regarding the hit tool that won’t be remedied unless this kid moves through the low minors quickly.
Prior to the shutdown, the Reds had planned to start De Leon in the Triple-A rotation. He was 90-93 as a starter last year (93-96 at his prospect peak) but up to 95 out of the bullpen late in the summer. He’s a spot starter in his final option year.
Zabala has been traded a couple of times (Seattle to Los Angeles for Chase De Jong, then to the Reds for Dylan Floro) and he still throws really hard, but hasn’t missed as many bats as one would think given that velocity.
Santana is a right/right corner power bat with a plus arm. He’s a 40 athlete who may need to move to right field, but regardless of where he ends up on the defensive spectrum, Santana needs to be more selective and lift the ball more consistently if he’s going to tap into all that raw power and play some kind of corner role.
Lantigua’s approach was unhinged last year — 3.4% walk rate, 47% strikeout rate — but he’s got freaky power for a switch-hitter. The only other switch-hitter under 21 to hit a ball 108 mph last year was Wander Franco.
Mey already throws pretty hard for his age and has a great frame, but he has very little feel for his secondaries right now.
Contreras looks great in the uniform, has some pop, and he’s a shot to stay on the left side of the infield based on his arm strength and athleticism, but he is sushi raw as a hitter and was the most mistake-prone defender I saw in the AZL last year. It’s rare to find someone with the athletic capability to play short and a chance to have relevant power, but there’s a big developmental gap to try to close here.
Sleeper Arms I Like
Reiver Sanmartin, LHP
Jhon De Jesus, RHP
James Marinan, RHP
Sanmartin has been traded a few times (Texas to New York to Cincinnati). He’s a little low-slot lefty whose tailing fastball and sweeping slider dovetail from one another in an effective way. He has a shot to end up with plus command and make a roster. De Jesus is a stallion with arm strength — 91-96, touch 98 — and 30 control/feel. Marinan has pedigree as a sinker/slider starter prospect. He was up to 95 in some starts and 88-92 in others.
College-Aged Outfielders with a Carrying Tool
Quin Cotton, LF
Fidel Castro, RF
TJ Hopkins, CF
Michael Beltre, LF
Lorenzo Cedrola, CF
Andy Sugilio, CF
Cotton was in the third round mix for some clubs coming into his junior spring at Grand Canyon. Scouts hoped a swing change might unlock dormant raw power, and as Cotton tried to make one, he came undone and had a bad year. Now he’s in an org that has lately had some success making swing changes. He has 55 pull power. Castro’s frame is still really projectable for a 21-year-old and he has natural low-ball lift. He’s got a shot to grow into power yet. Hopkins is a senior sign who hit .295/.371/.463 at South Carolina. Beltre is 25, so assume he’s getting his doctorate. He’s physical and fast and plays really hard, but his swing just doesn’t work. Cedrola and Sugilio are speedsters without viable strength.
Miguel Hernandez, SS
Hendrik Clementina, C
Jose Tello, C
James Free, C
Hernandez can still pick it and make an average amount of contact, but hasn’t filled out like I thought he might when he was 19. The other three are big-bodied catchers with power. Free signed for $125,000 as an undrafted free agent.
Braylin Minier, SS
Esmil Torres, SS
Junior Tamares, CF
Jose Acosta, 3B
This is an especially relevant group because for over a decade, Cincinnati’s most prominent international talent acquisitions have typically come from Cuba. It’s been the Reds’ M.O. to avoid the teenage demographic and instead sign older Cuban players when they hit the market later in the process. Most of the 2019 17-year-old class had verbal deals long before new International Scouting Director Trey Hendricks arrived, as he told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale last July. It makes sense then that they ended up with Triana, who hit the market at age 19, and Minier, who popped so late that any info on him is hard to come by since clubs had most of their money committed and had stopped scouting 2019’s. Baseball America has noted that Minier was trained by Patrick Guerrero, who used to work under Reds International Crosschecker Bob Engle in Los Angeles and Seattle.
Torres was in the DSL last year. He has a medium frame, good defensive footwork, and downward-cutting swing from both sides of the plate. Tamares is a plus runner with some feel to hit. He needs to get stronger. Acosta has a good frame and crude bat control.
This system looks rough in large part due to a combination of graduations (Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino) and trades (Taylor Trammell, Josiah Gray) made with an eye toward competing for a playoff spot in a strong division.
The international program seems inclined to re-engage with a significant portion of the market it had previously avoided. The Reds also seem more inclined than other clubs to draft older high schoolers, and an unusually high number of their slugging corner bats have among the most reckless approaches in all of baseball. The current pillars of the org’s scouting and player development haven’t been in place for very long and 2020 is a key year for understanding the org’s new tendencies as they reveal them. It was hard not to write this list with the org’s new pitching development processes in mind, as Pitching Coordinator Kyle Boddy’s body of research and thinking is basically available online.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Cleveland Indians. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
Jones has light tower power and has kept his sizable frame in check enough to have retained at least short-term projection at third base. His surface-level stats are strong, especially the OBP (he boasts a career .409 mark) because Jones walks at a career 17% clip. His splits against lefties are very troubling, such that some of my sources thought it would limit Jones’ role enough to move him toward the back of the overall top 100 list. I think the plate discipline will offset that enough that he’s a corner infield regular with among the highest three true outcomes percentages in the big leagues.
Born and raised to the brink of adolescence in New York, Valera’s family moved to the Dominican Republic when he was 13. Injuries sustained in a car accident necessitated that metal rods be inserted in Valera’s father’s limbs, and the move was a way of providing him physical comfort in a warmer climate. It also meant Valera became an international prospect rather than an American high school draftee, and when he was eligible, he signed with Cleveland for $1.3 million.
As they’ve done with their advanced complex-level hitters in recent years, the Indians sent Valera to the Penn League, which is full of college pitching. He thrived for a month and then started to strike out a lot, whiffing in 28% of plate appearances overall. He has a sweet lefty swing with natural lift and he has considerable present power, but most of the industry sees him as a corner guy who has had strikeout issues the little he’s played away from Goodyear. I like his instincts in center field and think he has a shot to stay there, but teenagers built like this typically do not.
A young, polished, but relatively unexplosive high schooler, Freeman was a bit of a surprise second rounder in 2017 but has quickly became more interesting as he started generating pro statistics. One trait that runs thick in Cleveland’s system is high-end bat-to-ball skills and Freeman has perhaps the best of all of them. He had the 16th-lowest swinging strike rate in the minors last year, one of four Cleveland hitters hovering around the 4% mark. The rest of the profile is very vanilla, but elite contact on a middle infielder has been enough to profile before.
Rocchio’s 2019 triple slash line at Mahoning Valley (.250/.310/.373) is not all that impressive at first glance, but it was enough for a 107 wRC+ at the level, and Rocchio was just 18. The physical development that might lead to a real breakout (and his ascension up the top 100) has not yet materialized, and because Rocchio is a smaller-framed young man, it may never come. But even if it doesn’t, switch-hitting shortstops with bat-to-ball chops have a shot to profile everyday as long as the bat isn’t getting knocked out of their hands.
Karinchak is a plug-and-play impact reliever right now, and he’s the sort of backend bullpen arm some teams are willing to pay a premium for. His fastball — 96-98 with plenty of spin, and a near perfect backspinning axis that creates elite vertical movement — generated a nearly 27% swinging strike rate in the minors last year.
There are baseball executives who have comfortable everyday grades on Johnson, who has one of the more impressive collections of tools in the minors. The loudest of those are his elite arm strength, premium speed, and, to a lesser extent, above-average raw power that manifests as doubles in games because Johnson’s swing really only enables home run power to his pull side.
At one point, Johnson was so raw that some scouts wanted to see him on the mound, but he’s performed consistently all the way through Triple-A, slashing .284/.344/.460 as a pro. That’s close to the league-average line for outfielders, so why not include Johnson on the top 100? His relative lack of defensive instincts make him more of a fit in right field than in center and I think big league arms will be able to pitch to him in a way that limits his power output below the corner outfield average. His line may be elevated by Cleveland’s propensity for platooning, which would limit his role/output from a volume standpoint. I have Johnson as a second-division outfield regular or favorable platoon piece — almost always a 45 FV — and I’m rounding up a bit on his grade because his tools are so electric.
Aside from some person-to-person variation on how to contextualize Espino’s prodigious arm strength, he is universally lauded by scouts. But their enthusiasm is almost always tempered by fear of the profile: a teenager with elite arm strength, a long-ish arm action, and a big, hulking upper body similar to Brady Quinn’s. If Espino continues on his current track, he’ll be an All-Star. In limited post-draft innings — one or two frames per outing for his first several pro appearances, then three to four for his final few — Espino sat 94-97 and touched 99 with two plus breaking balls and starter’s command. Whether he retains that level of heat over an entire season’s worth of innings on regular rest (he was 92-97 in longer starts before the draft) we simply don’t know, but there’s no reason to think Espino is any more of an injury risk than other teenage pitchers unless you twist your brain into knots and conclude that his velocity is somehow a negative. Even if he loses some gas with a pro innings load, Espino could still have three plus pitches at maturity and pitch near the top of a competitive rotation.
He had plenty of high-level amateur experience against good high school (and even some pro) pitching, but it’s still remarkable that the Indians felt comfortable sending 19-year-old Naylor, about nine months removed from catching Canadian high schoolers, to a full-season affiliate in 2019. More impressive still, though perhaps not surprising, was that Naylor responded and performed, slashing .243/.313/.421 (good for a 110 wRC+) while dealing with the physical toll of catching 80 games.
Not only has Naylor kept his body in check as a pro (Bo’s older brother, Josh, is a bigger guy who is limited on defense, and the amateur side of the industry was somewhat worried Bo might develop in a similar fashion), he’s actually more sculpted and athletic now than he was in high school, and he’s likely to catch, if unspectacularly, long-term. So long as that remains true, Naylor has a good chance to be an everyday player. His swing’s a little grooved, but it is electric and produces big power for anyone, let alone a catcher. If he gets to most of it in games, and he has so far (he had strong amateur statistical performance, as well), there’s plenty of room for him to profile even if he ends up as a 40 bat, which I think is possible considering the lack of barrel variability.
Torres checked a lot of amateur scouting boxes — the body, athleticism, stuff, and makeup were all lauded — and he was a model-friendly prospect due to his age, so while issues with fastball command caused some clubs to project him in relief, he was still a clear top two round talent. Perhaps Torres’ control is behind because, as a cold-weather amateur prospect, he hasn’t pitched all that much. He only threw around 40 innings during his senior spring, and bad suburban high school hitters in New York couldn’t catch his fastball. As a result, Torres had little cause to use his changeup during varsity play — some national evaluators would go whole starts without seeing it — but it flashed 55 or 60 during his showcase summer and was easy to dream on.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Torres’ post-draft performance was how regularly he located his slider down and to his glove side. He has mid-rotation components if you’re willing to dream based on his athleticism, age, and geographic background, even coming off of last year’s surgery – the date of this list’s publication is a year and a few days removed from the TJ.
McKenzie’s TrackMan data on The Board is from the 2018 season since he did not pitch in 2019 due to lat and pec strains. It was his second straight injury-riddled campaign, as he missed the spring of 2018 with upper back issues, and performed beneath career norms when he returned (33% K% from 2015-’17, 24% in ’18), though in fairness to him, he was a 19-year-old pitching at Double-A for the first time. There was pre-draft consternation regarding McKenzie’s frame, which, much like Kevin Durant’s coming out of Texas, was so lean that it existed somewhere between “projectable” and “concerningly thin,” causing some scouts/teams to worry about durability.
In the five years since he was drafted, McKenzie has added five pounds of reported weight (he was listed at 160 on draft day, and is now 165); his fastball, at peak, was 90-93, touching 95 (88-92 in high school) and was 90-94 in camp this spring before the shutdown. The way his delivery and fastball work — it’s deceptive, creates flat angle at the top of the zone, and really carries — makes me think it’ll play at that velocity, and the same is true of McKenzie’s curveball, which has good depth despite bad spin rates. He needs to find a third pitch, and hasn’t really had a chance to do that for two years because of the injuries. At this point, I think it’s more likely to be a slider/cutter than a changeup, which I think would be further along now if it were going to work.
If he can’t find a third pitch, I’m not sure what the role is. McKenzie throws a ton of strikes, so you want him to start, but without a viable third offering that’s pretty tough. High-leverage relief types typically have a better two-pitch mix than even a healthy McKenzie does, so a single-inning relief role doesn’t seem like a great option, and the bulk relief role is often occupied by lower slot changeup guys, not overhand curveball types. I’m willing to bet on the athleticism here to fill in the blank.
In about a year, Oviedo went from being asked about in several of Cleveland’s trade discussions to being passed on in the Rule 5; he’s the highest-ranked player on any prospect list who teams decided not to take in December. The reason? Oviedo’s velocity was all over the place in 2019. Depending on when scouts saw him last year, he was either up to 96 or sitting in the mid-80s, and was eventually shut down with lower back soreness. This spring, however, he was parked at 94 and up to 98. We’re not all that far removed from Oviedo striking out 61 and walking just 10 in 48 innings as a teenager in the New York-Penn League. At age 21, I have him valued where I have a bunch of the college power arms in the 2020 draft, which includes a bunch of guys with shorter or mixed track records. I had healthy Oviedo projected as a fourth starter. I’m in more of a wait-and-see mindset with the role, depending on how the velo and workload interact in the near future, but still think we’re looking at a valuable member of a pitching staff.
He had a disappointing 2019, his second full year since coming back from a 2017 Tommy John, but Hentges has all the characteristics of a prospect who needs a long developmental runway and I still have him projected as an impact piece, even if that’s in the bullpen. Now two inches taller than when he signed, Hentges is a huge-framed 6-foot-8, comes from a cold-weather location (he’s not even the most famous Sam Hentges from Minnesota, as another is a hockey prospect for the Wild), and lost a year to surgery. That he’s still raw at age 24 really isn’t all that surprising, nor do I find it particularly concerning, though admittedly some of that confidence comes from knowing how hard Hentges was throwing in his three big league outings this spring before the shutdown; in those brief outings, Hentges was living in the 96-99 range after sitting 92 (peaking at 96) last year. Cleveland did not baby his innings after he returned from TJ and perhaps 2019 was a bit of a stuff hangover year for him. If he holds this new velo, even if he only does so out of the bullpen, that kind of fastball and Hentges’ breaking ball are enough to make him a big relief piece. He has crude changeup feel and it seemed to be a focus for him during his spring outings. There’s still a chance that comes along (remember, this guy has all the late bloomer traits) and Hentges can start, but the (healthy) floor of a lefty reliever who throws as hard as he does is still exciting even if he can’t.
Hankins was the consensus top prep arm in the class during his pre-draft summer and was a dominant part of Team USA in the fall. At that point, he was commanding a lively 93-96 mph heater, a new, but already plus slider, and an at least average changeup that he didn’t need to use much. He looked a little rusty early during his senior spring, then walked off the mound with tightness in a shoulder muscle tied behind the joint. He returned over a month later and threw hard down the stretch, peaking at 97 mph in multiple open workouts for scouts after his school was eliminated from the playoffs. And that’s where Hankins’ velocity was in 2019. In 70-to-80 pitch outings, he sat 93-96, topping out at 97, albeit with worse control than he had as a high schooler. At various points as an amateur Hankins appeared to utilize either a slider or curveball, and now he uses both. They are better demarcated now then when he was an amateur and both flash plus when located. With Hankins’ arm slot, the secondary pitch that best mirrors his fastball (which has tailing action because of his slot) is actually the changeup.
Hankins has gotten a little soft-bodied since signing and I wonder if it has impacted his athleticism and control, but he was also working to tweak his lower half usage to help him get on top of his breaking ball, which might have affected his mechanical consistency last year. I’m not ready to explicitly project him in the bullpen but between the injury stuff and 2019 strike throwing, it’s objectively trending that way.
Allen had a rocky 2019 but still throws a ton of strikes, has been remarkably durable, is deceptively athletic, and has a plus changeup that mastheads a No. 4/5 starter’s four-pitch mix.
You probably already know about Clase, whose cutting fastball sit around 99 mph and touched 102.7 during a tongue-burning 23-inning big league cup of coffee last year. The Rangers pilfered him from San Diego, straight up, for Brett Nicholas. When Clase was announced as the PTBNL for Nicholas in May of ’18, he hadn’t yet pitched that year. By that fall he was sitting in the upper-90s with natural cut. His 40-man timeline and relative inexperience were likely part of why San Diego was willing to move him.
Cleveland acquired him as part of the Corey Kluber trade in the offseason. Since then, Clase hasn’t thrown a pitch but his evaluation has taken a hit. He was set to miss eight-to-12 months with a severely strained lat, then tested positive for the PED Boldenone, a chemical doppelgänger for testosterone. He’ll miss 80-games. I still have Clase projected in high-leverage relief but now he’s perhaps a whole extra year from the big leagues if the length of the season mimics that of his suspension.
Of the many exciting 18-year-old shortstops in this system, Martinez’s speed and twitch give him the group’s best chance to stay up the middle of the diamond — he played 2B/SS/3B last year and has the arm strength for any of those, though I think it’s possible a lack of bend/flexibility pushes him to center. What’s most exciting about Martinez, though, is how advanced and potent both of his swings are for a teenage switch-hitter. He’s a shorter-levered guy, so both cuts are relatively short, which helps aid Martinez’s bat-to-ball ability. The wrists drive what is currently doubles power (because of his speed, some triples too), both in raw pop and approach. He has a pull-oriented approach as a righty hitter, and while Martinez can lift balls down-and-in as a lefty, his swing is mostly geared for all-fields line drive contact from that side.
This hitting style and Martinez’s relatively modest physical projection (he’s already a pretty ripped 6-feet) make me think the ultimate home run totals will be low but that Martinez will still slug. He has catalytic qualities on offense and a chance to play a premium defensive position.
Cleveland has done a remarkable job of finding international prospects with both advanced bat-to-ball skills and interesting physicality. The stocky, 6-foot-1 Sanquintin is the latest. Scouts don’t typically project bodies like this to stay at short but Sanquintin’s explosive first step allays some of those concerns. His hands are fine, he has a strong arm, and I think he has a fair chance to stick at short. Sanquintin had one of the more advanced bats in his international class and has some present pop due to his physicality, with room for a little more. He has much better feel to hit from the right side of the plate but there’s enticing lift and whip from both sides. He has the tools of a switch-hitting shortstop with power assuming the left-handed bat control improves with time.
He was on this offseason’s Picks to Click list as someone who I think might blow up and be on next year’s top 100, though this is a prospect who might be adversely impacted by the long layoff since low-level players like Sanquintin probably won’t be playing until some kind of fall camp (if at all) and he’s a prospect whose build needs to be kept in check for him to stay at short.
It’s likely Bracho continues to develop as a second baseman to give him some chance of becoming a viable infielder, but I have him projected to left field based on the quality of his hands and actions. If there’s a reason to project on the defense it’s because Bracho just hasn’t had many pro reps at second base yet. Except for a little bit of Extended spring action, he missed all of 2018 with a broken arm and then lost a month of 2019 to an oblique injury. Based on what I’ve seen from Bracho, Shed Long Jr. and Nick Solak are two similarly-skilled potential precedents to watch to see how they’re deployed/hidden on defense in order to get their bats in the lineup.
Bracho can really hit. He’s patient and poised. He’ll take giant hacks in hitter’s counts and more measured ones when he’s adjusting to a breaking ball or just trying to put a ball in play. There’s not a lot of body projection here despite Bracho’s age. He’s got a square, 5-foot-11-ish frame and is already physically mature. The offensive profile is tied to the combination of approach and feel for contact, which should enable Bracho to hit for power in games even though he doesn’t project to have premium raw.
Rodriguez got very muscular very quickly and he was much more physical than almost the entire rest of the DSL, which is part of why Cleveland promoted him to the States for the final few weeks of the 2019 AZL season. There Rodriguez’s swing-happy approach was exposed and he struck out in about a third of his at-bats. With his added size and a new, early evaluation of his plate discipline, there’s a growing chance that Rodriguez is a low-OBP corner prospect, which is a difficult box to mash your way out of. But for now, he also has a non-zero chance to stay at short and hit for a ton of power. His bat speed and physicality are both impressive for a such a young player. There’s big ceiling here, but also extreme risk.
Vargas sat 93-97 as a starter last year but only generated a 7% swinging strike rate with the heater because it has tailing/sinker shape more adept at inducing weak contact than swings and misses. If he moves to the bullpen (which I think is very probable considering how violent and difficult to repeat his delivery is) and experiences a velo bump, then I think the velo will carry that pitch even with lackluster movement. If that’s the case, then he has a good shot at profiling in high-leverage relief. He’s a Fall of ’20 40-man add, so a move to relief may be accelerated by that consideration.
Tena would be in the 40+ FV tier were he not so aggressive at the plate, but early indicators are that he suffers from Vitters’ Affliction, swinging so often because, for now, his excellent feel for contact is enabling an approach that’s less likely to be tenable at the upper levels. That feel for contact comes despite a sometimes noisy, wild swing that has Tena’s wheels spinning as he’s trying to run out of the batter’s box. That he has such strong, top-to-bottom plate coverage, even when he’s swinging out of his ass, makes him exciting from a contact/power potential combo standpoint. Might as well turn him loose and let him swing like that since it doesn’t seem to impact his quality of contact as much as what he decides to swing at does. The skillset and build evoke Rougie Odor.
Moss has a starter’s repertoire but throws strikes at a reliever-y rate, which makes him a strong candidate for multi-inning relief. He lost two college seasons to Tommy John and its subsequent rehab, so some in the industry remain inclined to project on his command, but I have Moss graded as a 4 athlete and am less apt to do so.
Planez has big time pull-side lift in his swing, already has average raw power at age 18, and has a fairly projectable 6-foot-2 frame that portends more. He’ll reach down and barrel balls near his shoe tops and also crush center-cut mistakes. He’s too aggressive right now, his swing is somewhat grooved, and he probably has to move to a corner eventually, so my early assessment of the profile is that it’s very risky, enough that I think Planez needs to be a clear tier behind the Sanquintin/Rodriguez/Martinez group. But as far as teenage power projection bats go, this is a pretty good one.
Sandlin is one of the more interesting and entertaining pitchers in the minors, a four-pitch, slot-altering sidearm reliever with plus command. He sits 90-93 with thresher shark tail, and all of his secondaries play because of how readily Sandlin locates them. Last year, before he was shut down with a forearm fracture that required surgery, he was throwing as many as 30 pitches over two relief innings against Double- and Triple-A hitting. He has the command and repertoire depth to do that against big leaguers so long as his stuff is back coming off the injury.
Now 23, Palacios has still not had a full season of pro at-bats because he missed all of 2019 recovering from labrum surgery. According to a source with the org, he crushed his rehab and is a full go for if/when baseball resumes. Had he not gotten hurt, Palacios might have reached the upper levels last year. He was a polished college hitter who walked 52 times and struck out just 16 as a junior at Towson while also swiping an ultra-efficient 25 bases in 26 attempts, and he hit .360/.420/.538 against low-level pro pitching after he signed. He’s a nearly plus-plus runner and capable middle infield defender (probably at second) with premium hand-eye coordination and bat control. There was some concern that Palacios beat up on small conference pitching his entire career, and that he may not replicate that performance against pro pitching, a concern Palacios hasn’t yet had the opportunity to allay.
Fermin had the eighth-lowest swinging strike rate in the minors last year, a measly 4%. He has a minimalistic swing and excellent hand-eye coordination, which have enabled him to run about an 8.5% strikeout rate the last two seasons. He’s also a capable defensive shortstop. Players like this often outperform eyeball-only evaluations and, heuristically, a hitter like this with almost elite bat-to-ball skills who also plays a premium position typically ends up in a higher FV tier than this. But in Fermin’s case, I think he lacks the power on contact to be an everyday player. I realize those can be famous last words when it comes to a profile like this one, but in this case I think the power is limiting and I have a low-variance bench infield grade on Fermin.
Bradley is a three true outcomes DH prospect who I think will have a front-loaded career in terms of production based on his build and athleticism. There’s a non-zero chance the strikeouts cause the power production to bottom out against big league pitching, in which case Bradley could take the Roberto Ramos 라모스 라모스 route to Asia.
Morgan’s velocity bounced back from 2018’s career low and now, back in the 88-90 range and aided by some deception, his fastball is a viable big league offering. The impact pitch is Morgan’s changeup, which has disorienting angle and fade. I think he’ll live off of his strike-throwing (he has good breaking ball utility even though it’s not a nasty pitch) and changeup enough to be a fifth starter.
Nelson hides the ball really well, goes right at hitters, his fastball has very high spin for a pitch at this velocity, and he has a nasty, downward-breaking slider. He traversed three levels in 2019 and is a big league-ready relief piece.
An acrobatic shortstop, Valdes was among the better infield defenders available in the 2019 draft. He was also one of its youngest prospects, and has shown above-average bat speed from both sides of the plate. He has underdeveloped feel to hit, but that’s typical of switch-hitters this young. Valdes is a well-built 5-foot-10 and so young that he’s very likely to get stronger as he matures. He has everyday tools, but needs significant offensive development.
Morris was a power-armed prep righty in Maryland who was ushered toward college by a Tommy John, which he rehabbed during a redshirt first year at South Carolina. He performed well both seasons in Columbia, his inning total doubling from 2017 to 2018. Cleveland shut him down after the 2018 draft, then asked him to make 20 starts (a little over four innings per start) in 2019. Morris’ innings count is important because he was throwing really hard, especially early in the year, before wavering late. If he can hold that velo for a 120 innings, he’s a No. 4/5 starter, but until he proves it, I have Morris projected in a three-pitch middle relief role.
Cleveland sent Benson back to the Midwest League to start 2019 and while his line looks much different, other than a BABIP regression and uptick in his pull%, his peripherals and batted ball profile were pretty much the same. He’s a three true outcomes prospect of note because he has an elite build and arm strength, but the contact issues are a ruby red flag.
Gaddis’ delivery features a scary head whack, but his arm angle creates tough angle on his stuff, especially his slider, which has nasty two-plane action. He can also pronate around a side-spinning changeup that flashes plus, bat-missing tail. He was up to 95 after the draft and has No. 4/5 starter stuff.
Mejia was injured for all but 33 innings of 2019, his first on the 40-man roster. It means that he’ll be on some kind of innings limit in 2020, likely compressing his short-term role to middle relief, though I think he could eventually find his way into the back of someone’s rotation.
Chang’s batted ball profile took a weird turn in 2019, his worst offensive season as a pro. Typically a fly ball hitter, his groundball rate increased 10% points from 32% in 2018 to 42% last season. He’s become pretty stiff and upright in the batter’s box, which makes it hard for him to get underneath pitches and lift them. I still like the way his hands work, but he can only do damage in a limited slice of the zone with the swing he currently has. If his stride looks a little longer and more flexible this year, maybe he bounces back.
Scott was a 2018 fourth round senior sign, then spent most of his first pro season all the way up at Double-A. He was in the 88-92 range that year but his stuff ticked up in 2019, sitting 90-94 and touching 95 with the fastball while locating his wipeout slider to his glove side. He’s tracking like a quick-moving reliever, at least.
Yet another prospect with premium bat-to-ball skills, Clement has struck out just 81 total times in parts of three pro seasons, and he has a 6% career strikeout rate since way back when he arrived in Charlottesville (7% if you just look at pro ball). While in college, a large swath of the industry thought Clement would play center field as a pro because his hands were not very good. Cleveland has developed him as an infielder and he remains below average there. I’d still like to see him in center but it’s getting late for that. He projects as a bench player (balls in play, sub for speed).
Melendez was acquired during the offseason from Milwaukee for second baseman Mark Mathias. He is a very twitchy, athletic catcher with great defensive mobility. He also has advanced feel for contact and his relatively mature strength lets him hit for gap power. He’s not very projectable so it’s unlikely much power will be part of his profile at peak, but Melendez has a pretty realistic backup catcher outcome, and he has a puncher’s chance to be a low-end regular if he makes a ton of contact, which appears to be in play.
Hill’s stuff is nasty — his heater has huge carry, the breaking ball has big depth, and Hill even has a viable changeup — but his control puts him in the up/down relief bucket during his option years.
A traditional velo/breaking ball reliever, Robinson’s secondary pitch of choice is his upper-80s slider, which he has refined his feel for locating in his mid-20s. He sits 92-96 with the fastball and also has a show-me curve. He could provide bullpen help this year.
I won’t call Lavastida a good receiver but it is amazing how inoffensive he is for someone who only began catching in 2018, in the month leading up to Cleveland drafting him. His hitting hands are pretty powerful, working in a lift-friendly circle (Lavastida inside-outs some balls he could pull but he’s strong enough to do damage anyway), and Lavastida struck out 12% of the time against Penn League pitching, which is a clear cut above the junior college arms he saw in 2018. He’s an interesting developmental sleeper.
Mikolajchak bounced back and forth between the Sam Houston bullpen and rotation during his final two years there, looking best in relief and projecting there in a big league role. He was 90-95 with an above-average curveball after signing.
Kwan had the third-lowest swinging strike rate among qualified minor league hitters in 2019. He’s not especially toolsy (other than the contact skills) and relies entirely on instincts in center field, where he’s actually pretty good. He doesn’t have the power to play an everyday role, but he might find a niche one.
He’s played about 20% of his pro games over at third base but he’s a long-term athletic fit at first. It’s a tough bar to clear, but Noel’s power is prodigious for his age, enough that I like him a little more than the teenage bats in the Others of Note section.
Victor Nova is a powerfully-built 5-foot-9, has feel to hit, a somewhat advanced idea of the strike zone, and well-regarded makeup. He plays multiple positions — 2B/3B/OF — but not all that well. He’s an interesting bat-first flier who was taken on from San Diego in the three-team Trevor Bauer deal.
Rodriguez was one of the youngest players in the 2017 draft and didn’t turn 18 until several months after he was selected. He was also, unsurprisingly, one of the rawest, and spent two summers on the complex in Arizona before finally kicking out to an affiliate in 2019. There Rodriguez hit pretty well (.247/.318/.424) for a 19-year-old in the Penn League. He’s stopped switch-hitting but is still a very young corner outfield prospect with considerable frame-based power projection and a chance to develop late as a hitter because of his age and previous dalliance with switch-hitting.
Anthony Gose, LHP
Gose lost rookie eligibility back in 2012 as an outfielder, so he’s not eligible for this list, but he deserves to be mentioned because of the likelihood he impacts Cleveland’s bullpen this year. He was a two-way prospect who Philadelphia drafted in the 2008 second round, and Gose quickly reached Hi-A as a power/speed/arm center field prospect. He was traded to Toronto as part of the Roy Halladay deal in 2010. Some strikeout-related statistical yellow flags emerged once he reached the upper levels of the minors and his bat stalled out against big league pitching. Toronto traded him to Detroit for Devon Travis and things spiraled from there, culminating in a dugout confrontation with Toledo manager Lloyd McClendon in the middle of 2016. The following year, Detroit moved him to the mound. Gose was throwing very hard almost immediately (he was up to 97 in high school) but only pitched in 11 games at Hi-A all year. He elected free agency after the season and has since bounced around, first to Texas on a minor league deal, then Rule 5’d and returned by Houston, and then to Cleveland in 2019. He was touching 100 this spring, he has a plus curveball, and he had struck out nine in 5.2 innings before the shutdown. He could have a huge impact on Cleveland’s bullpen.
Young Hit Tool Sleepers
Jose Pastrano, SS
Jonathan Lopez, 3B
Christian Cairo, 2B
Joe Naranjo, 1B
Luis Durango Jr., OF
The most common Cleveland prospect trope is the contact-oriented infielder; here are several more. Pastrano signed for $1.5 million last year. He’s 17.7 on date of publication, and like a lot of the players in this system, he’s a switch-hitting infielder with advanced feel for contact and a medium frame. I’m a little lower on Pastrano than others because I think he’s a 4 athlete. Lopez was sent to Mahoning Valley at 19 and dealt with some injuries last year. He has a sweet lefty swing and I think he has had some of his playing time crowded out by other talented youngsters in this system. Cairo is Miguel Cairo’s son. I think he has a utility ceiling based on the tools. Naranjo was a SoCal pop-up bat who needs to get there by way of an elite hit tool. He doesn’t have much power projection so the contact has to carry the whole profile, à la Jake Bauers‘ prospectdom. Durango has a tweener fourth outfielder vibe but could be a regular if he ends up with a plus bat. He signed for $500,000 last year.
40-man Depth Arms
Jerson Ramirez, RHP
Jordan Stephens, RHP
Kirk McCarty, LHP
Raymond Burgos, LHP
Ramirez is 21 and was the last cut from the main section of the list. He’s only up to 95 coming out of the bullpen and the body is pretty maxed out, but I love how his arm works and how athletic he is, and think he might yet throw harder. I’m staying on Stephens to some degree. He was a 40 FV swingman type, then had a bad 2019. McCarty is another lefty whose fastball has huge carry and misses bats even though it’s 88-92. His breaking ball has vertical action. Burgos, the youngest of this group at age 21, throws strikes, has an average breaking ball, and a chance for an above-average changeup. The velo is a little light for the main section of the list.
Toolsy, but Contact/Profile Concerns
Quentin Holmes, CF
Oscar Gonzalez, RF
Yainer Diaz, C
Will Bartlett, 1B
Holmes can fly but still has very limited feel for baseball at just shy of age 21. Gonzalez is a big-framed corner outfield prospect with huge power and one of the least-selective approaches in pro baseball. Diaz is a college-aged catcher who was far too physical for the AZL, where he did most of his 2019 statistical damage. He does have above-average power but is also quite swing-happy and has a hole on the outer half. Bartlett, 19, has 55 raw but is a low probability, right/right first base fit.
For a while there, it was clear Cleveland was willing to pay a talent premium for young big leaguers and near-ready prospects. Trading Tahnaj Thomas for Jordan Luplow and Jhon Torres for Oscar Mercado, among others, was at least partially motivated by the org’s competitive window with its 2017 core. Last year, the opposite started to occur. The Victor Nova and Andres Melendez acquisitions were motivated by 40-man space, but it was also the first time in a while that we got to see Cleveland’s pro department target low-level players.
The amateur arm of the org shows clear patterns of player acquisition, which I’ve gone on about ad nauseum for a while. They seem to end up with a lot of very young players (Jordan Brown, Raynel Delgado, Korey Holland), contact-oriented hitters (both domestic and international), pitchers with odd deliveries (there are several sidearmers in this system, and remember this org used a Rule 5 pick on Hoby Milner), and prospects who performed as underclassmen and regressed in their draft year.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
A highly entertaining example of the timeless “you can’t predict baseball” maxim, in three years Lux has tranformed from a glove-first high school shortstop (there’s a version of reality in which Lux, Bo Bichette, Hunter Bishop, and Spencer Torkelson are all on the same college team, though sadly, it’s not this one) into a superstar offensive talent. If you want a visual example of “twitch,” watch Lux swing. His feet work slowly, and his right knee draws back toward his left hip like the string of a bow (different than his high school swing’s footwork, which was more Sammy Sosa-ish, with ground contact in both directions) while he remains balanced and poised to strike. Then he strides forward, his hips clear, and his hands, which are looser and freer than they were as an amateur, ignite. Once Lux’s hands get going, everything is over very quickly. He’s tough to beat with even premium velocity but also identifies pitch types while they’re in flight and can punish secondary stuff that catches too much of the zone. The other swing changes aside, Lux’s bat path is relatively similar to what it was when he was a skinnier, gap-to-gap hitter with doubles power, except now he’s very strong and balls are leaving the yard. He has pole-to-pole power and is going to get to it in games even though he’s still a relatively low-launch angle hitter (nine degrees in the minors, 13 degrees in a small big league sample).
What happens with Lux defensively is somewhat immaterial. He’s publicly admitted to having the yips, which impacts the accuracy of his throws. Pure arm strength is not really an issue, but if he keeps one-hopping easy throws to first base, he might need to move off the infield. I have the arm graded as a 45 because of the accuracy issues and think there’s some risk Lux needs to move to the outfield, but even if that’s the case, I feel better about him hitting than all but one other prospect in all of the minors.
Once you’ve gotten a look at his stuff, May’s flamboyant ginger curls and Bronson Arroyo-esque leg kick might be the third and fourth most visually captivating aspects of his on-mound presence. His fastballs, both the two and four-seam variants, are parked in the 93-97 range and peak at 99 mph. His low-ish arm slot gives his heater sinker shape, which means it’s more likely to induce weak groundballs than it is to miss a lot of bats, though May occasionally uncorks two-seamers that run off the hips of left-handed hitters and back into the zone like vintage Bartolo Colon. Based on how he worked in the big leagues last year, May’s out-pitch is going to be his low-90s cutter, which he commands to his glove side (he has great east/west command of everything). This is despite the fact that his vertically-breaking slider (May calls it a slider, but it has curveball shape) has one of the better spin rates in the minors and enough vertical depth to miss bats against both left and right-handed hitters. He’s shown an ability to backdoor it to lefties and it was a finishing pitch for him in some of my minor league viewings, but it was de-emphasized in the big leagues, perhaps because it doesn’t pair well with his fastballs. After trying several different changeup grips in 2017, it seems like May is still searching for a good cambio, but his fastball and breaking ball command should suffice against lefties for now, though I’d like to see more backfoot breaking balls against them this year.
This is nit-picky, but May’s leg kick can make him slow to home and he can be vulnerable to stolen bases as a result, which forces him to vary his cadence home in an attempt to stymie runners. Regardless, he projects as an All-Star, mid-rotation starter.
Gray is an athletic, undersized conversion arm with big time arm-acceleration. His arm action is a little stiff, but it’s fast, and generates a fastball in the 92-96 mph range (mostly 3s and 4s) with riding life. Gray’s size and the drop and drive nature of his delivery combine to create flat plane that plays well up in the zone. He’ll miss bats at the letters with his heater. Thanks to his athleticism, Gray repeats, and throws more strikes than is typical for someone fairly new to pitching who has this kind of stuff, with a notable proclivity for locating his fastball to his arm side.
The slider can slurve out and even get kind of short and cuttery at times, but when it’s well-located and Gray is on top of the ball, it’s a plus pitch. His changeup, which he seldom uses at the moment, is easy to identify out of the hand due to arm deceleration, and is comfortably below average.
Because the strike throwing, fastball efficacy, and ability to spin the breaking ball give him a good shot to play a big league role, I’ve moved Gray up beyond where Kiley and I had him pre-draft. The athleticism, small school pedigree, and position player conversion aspect of the profile indicates there’s significant potential for growth as Gray gets on-mound experience. He projects as a No. 4 starter, with a chance to be more because of his late-bloomer qualities.
A two-way college player, Gonsolin was a ninth round senior sign whose velocity spiked in pro ball when he focused on pitching, moved to the bullpen (he has since moved back into the rotation, after he was yo-yo’d back and forth in college), and was touched by the Dodgers’ excellent player dev group. At times his fastball has been in the upper-90s, cresting 100, but last year he was 91-96 from a very deceptive vertical slot.
Gonsolin’s four-pitch mix looks like it was designed in a lab and considering the way his stuff works together, it may have been. He’s an extreme overhand, backspinning four-seam guy, and he works up at the letters with it. It’s complemented by a deep-diving, 12-6 curveball. He’ll also work an upper-80s slider to his glove side and it has shocking, horizontal length considering Gonsonlin’s arm slot. But the headline offering here is the changeup, a split-action cambio that bottoms out as it reaches the plate. Gonsolin uses it against both left- and right-handed hitters and it’s one of the best changeups in the minors. It’s a non-traditional style of pitching for a starter, so some eyeball scouts think he ends up in the bullpen. If so, it’s probably in a valuable multi-inning role.
This was one of the tougher calls on the Top 100. Ruiz is a skills-over-tools catcher, an acquired taste some scouts like and others don’t. The hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skills are very strong, but the contact quality is not. Reviews of his defense — in my looks he’s been a good receiver, the game appears slow and comfortable for him, and all of his throws have been right on the bag — have become more mixed over the last year. Catchers with any sort of offensive ability, especially high-end contact skills, are rare, but athletic longevity may be an issue because of Ruiz’s build.
Graterol signed for $150,000 in 2014 out of Venezuela and had Tommy John surgery within a year. He popped up on the radar a few seasons later when he was throwing upper-90s gas in Fort Myers during instructs, and only began making noise in full-season ball in 2018 when he pitched well as a teenager at Hi-A.
At that time, it appeared Brusdar had a frontline starter future. He was sitting 96-99, touching 100, his slider was already very good, and he had started to develop changeup feel. Graterol thickened considerably during this stretch and is now listed at 265 pounds after he signed at 170. This, combined with some release point variance and injury hiccups (three IL stints in the last year and a half, including some shoulder stuff), have led to relief risk in the eyes of some clubs. Indeed the Twins put Brusdar in the bullpen late in the year and had publicly declared their intent to put him there again this season before they traded him to the Dodgers (after initially sending him to the Red Sox) as part of the Mookie Betts musical chairs deal.
He de-emphasized the changeup during his 2019 relief stretch, but of course he may be subject to more tweaks with his new org. I think the slider command gives him a puncher’s chance to start even with a limited repertoire, but I think he winds up in high-leverage relief.
He’s not an advanced receiver, so a large slice of the confidence that Cartaya will stay behind the plate is derived from the assumption that we will soon have an automated strike zone, but his run-stopping arm strength and accuracy as well as his prodigious field general presence mean he’s likely to have a defensive impact. Cartaya is not afraid to backpick runners, which is rare for a catcher this age, especially when the infielders are typically not reliable recipients of such lasers. For such a large catcher, his exchange is very quick and remarkably consistent. He’s out of his crouch fast and, in one fell swoop, unfurls, releases, and then folds forward, bent at the waist, as the ball sizzles on a line to the base.
Cartaya is also a balanced, explosive hitter with feel for hitting the ball in the air. He expands the zone a bit too much right now, but he has the physical ability to hit and hit for power, which is rare for catchers and catching prospects. The rate of failure for teenage catchers is high but Cartaya has an All-Star ceiling.
There was support for Pages’ inclusion on my overall top 100 list, and he was to be part of the Joc Pederson/Ross Stripling deal with the Angels until, as Arte Moreno has stated publicly, the Angels owner nixed the deal. While his statline was definitely caricatured by the hitting environment in the Pioneer League, Pages does indeed have substantial power and based on his feel to hit the ball in the air, he’s likely to get to it in games. Pages’ average launch angle in 2019 was a whopping 25 degrees, which would be the highest among major league players (Rhys Hoskins‘ averaged an angle of 24 degrees last year) and was in the top five across all of pro baseball last year.
As you would probably expect for a hitter with such a steep swing, Pages strikes out quite a bit. His speed and defensive instincts give him a chance to stay in center field, though, which gives Pages a little more margin for error as a hitter. If he stays in center, he has a star-level ceiling. If not, then he has a whiff-prone, traditional right field profile. Even if the latter occurs, it’s very likely Pages not only gets to all of his raw power but that he might outhit it because of how often he’s able to lift the baseball. He’s a launch angle unicorn with the power to take advantage of it and a non-zero chance of staying at a premium defensive spot (though I don’t think it’s likely).
Every year, a college player who was draft-eligible the year before takes a sudden leap, performs at an elite level, and forces teams to consider whether there’s been a real uptick in his skill or if the player is just beating up on competition, in essence repeating a level. Hoese was the 2019 case. After putting up an .803 OPS in his draft-eligible sophomore year (he went in the 35th round and didn’t sign), he put up a 1.276 OPS in his junior year, with 23 homers and a 38:30 BB/K ratio. He was handled with care by the Dodgers after he signed, spending a lot of time in the AZL and DH’ing due to wrist and forearm tendinitis. He dealt with more wrist trouble this spring and had just been totally cleared and begun throwing to bases a week before the shutdown.
Hoese’s exit velo data was way down in pro ball, something I’m dismissing because of the injury and therefore excluding from The Board (his college avg/max was 88/104, pro was 84/100). He’s not tooled up and doesn’t have huge raw power or bat speed, even with a healthy wrist. Instead he’s a very athletic swinger whose swing is geared for airborne contact. That should help him get to power in games even though there’s not huge raw. Hoese’ll need to get to all of it to profile at third base, but the Dodgers have had internal conversations about trying him at shortstop, which is obviously an easier bar to clear.
The Dodgers plan to continue experimenting with Busch as a second baseman. He played the keystone for an extended stretch on the Cape in 2018 but spent his career at North Carolina playing mostly first base and some corner outfield. The Dodgers announced him as a second baseman — other teams considered doing the same thing, and it makes sense that the teams that think he can do it were also the ones who liked Busch most — and that’s all he played for 10 games during the summer before his hand was hit by a pitch, ending his season. He played mostly first in his brief Fall League jaunt and looked bad there, but it was after he had not seen in-game reps for a couple of months, and I think that context is important.
Los Angeles’ plan is to start Busch at second base most the time, but even if he proves passable there with time, he probably won’t play there exclusively as a big leaguer. He’s more likely to be a bat the Dodgers move around depending on matchups the way they do with Max Muncy. And if Busch can’t play second he may just hit enough to profile in an outfield corner or first base, as he’s patient, tracks pitches well, and has big, strength-driven power.
On last year’s Dodgers list, I wrote the following:
“So conservative was Vargas’ swing when he first arrived in the States that Dodgers coaches were trying to make adjustments to his lower-half use in the middle of games in the hopes that it would unlock power that was clearly dormant in his hands. He has good control of the strike zone and feel to hit for a teenager but despite playing some second and third, he may ultimately wind up at first base. If that’s the case, a change that enables the power is necessary.”
In an unsurprising development, the Dodgers did just that. Vargas has added a bit of a leg kick and begun hitting the ball in the air a little more often, with his average launch angle moving from 10 degrees to 14. After two and a half months of strong offensive performance at Low-A Great Lakes (where Vargas struggled during a cup of coffee the prior year), he was promoted to Rancho and kept raking. He has terrific hand-eye coordination and bat control, still deriving most of his in-game power from quality of contact rather than big pull and lift. He gets an occasional start at second base but projects to (maybe) play third, and a lot of first. From a raw and game power projection standpoint, I’m not ready to lump Vargas in with the 50 FV first base types at the back of my overall Top 100, but if the hit tool keeps distinguishing itself at Double-A, I will be forced to consider it.
A $250,000 11th rounder from a high school east of Los Angeles, Amaya is a diminutive infielder with excellent secondary skills. Though not especially rangy at shortstop, Amaya has plus hands and actions and enough arm strength to stay on the left side of the infield. On the surface, a lack of power and physical projection makes him appear like he’ll max out as a utility guy, but he makes up some offensive ground because his eye for the strike zone is so good. Instinctive and fundamentally sound, even if Amaya is only a utility type, his chances of getting there are high, and if his secondary skills hold water into the upper levels of the minors perhaps he’ll be more than that.
In my opinion, his posture, violent delivery, and the way it impacts his command make it likely that Carrillo’s destiny lies in high leverage relief. From a pure stuff standpoint, he’s comparable to many of the top college prospects slated to go in the top 20 of June’s draft. It’s a well-comprised four-pitch mix led by two demarcated breaking balls and a hellacious, sinking fastball that was up to 100 in the Fall League.
De Jesus signed for $500,000 as a slow-but-graceful big-framed infielder with feel for airborne contact. He became more agile and twitchy between when he signed and when he made his pro debut in the DSL. It was quickly evident that DeJesus was too advanced for the DSL and the Dodgers pushed him Stateside, where his swing decisions were poor. The physical tools and body projection (DeJesus body comps to Manny Machado) are exciting, though. DeJesus has seen early-career time at shortstop, when on the day he signed, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he’d only play third base. He may end up back at the hot corner eventually but has a fair chance to stay up the middle. If he does, and he grows into all the raw power I think he will, he could be a star. If he kicks to third base, then hopefully the swing and miss rates from the 2019 are only a result of him being 17 rather than a sign of things to come.
Like many of the prospects on this list, Jackson missed time as an amateur due to Tommy John and also entered pro ball under-developed because he played both ways at Utah. Over two pro seasons, Jackson and the Dodgers have moved his repertoire from two viable pitches to four, including a fastball that has been up to 98 and a hard cutter/slider that has quickly developed into Jackson’s best pitch. He projects as a No. 4/5 starter but I’ve rounded his FV down a tad due to his age, though you could argue there are fewer miles on Jackson’s arm and that his relative inexperience means he actually has a better chance of holding his stuff into his 30s than that adjustment assumes.
After dominating for most of March and April, Pepiot struggled closer to the draft and his stock, which had risen to that point, leveled off. If Pepiot was just gassed and, going forward, is what he was during the breakout, then he could have a pair of out pitches in his changeup and sweeping slider. If not, then he’s more of a fifth starter.
Rodriguez, who signed for $2.6 million last July, is a feel and instincts center field prospect with advanced feel to hit and a medium frame. Though it caps his power projection, Rodriguez’s modest size gives him a better chance of staying in center field. He has table-setting, leadoff man characteristics, but is probably four or five years away from the big leagues.
Had this list been done last fall, Ortiz would have been toward the middle of the 40 FV tier. Instead, he arrived to spring training with a leaner lower half and was touching 98 in the bullpen before the shutdown. His delivery has been tweaked, his stride direction altered to help him get over his front side and on top of his breaking ball. He appeared to be plateauing as a low-slot changeup guy with stagnant command development, but has a chance to break out now that his curveball has better action and Ortiz can more easily work east and west.
Grove was working 92-96 with a good slider when he blew out his elbow two months into his sophomore season at West Virginia. Aside from some pre-draft bullpens, he didn’t pitch as a junior, and spent the rest of the year finishing rehab and working on secondary stuff in the ‘pen.
In his first year back, the Dodgers sent him straight to Hi-A to work in abbreviated starts over the course of a whole season rather than pitch five-plus innings every start and be shut down mid-year. He was 90-93, touching 95 with the fastball and working with two different breaking balls, a low-80s curveball and an upper-80s slider. It’s not big velocity, but Grove creates weird angle on his fastball and it has near perfect backspin and carry at the top of the zone. At present it’s a fifth starter look, but Grove’s fastball is sneaky and he’s barely back from serious injury, so I think there might still be more in the tank.
Peters is another in a long line of strikeout-prone outfielders with game-changing power and speed. Drew Stubbs, Michael A. Taylor, Carlos Gómez… all are (or were) capable of spectacular plays and displays of power, sometimes for months at a time. Then there are the equally long (seemingly longer) stretches of whiffs and frustration. It’s this type of high-variance big leaguer that Peters projects to be. He has huge power, he hits for it in games, and he is a plus runner underway, which makes him capable in center field. On crowded rosters like the Dodgers’, players like this often end up spilling over to teams that are willing to take a chance that their tools actualize late, the way Toronto has with Derek Fisher-types.
Lewis is a classic Texas projection righty: broad-shouldered, sculptable 6-foot-6, with a low-90s fastball and feel for an above average slurve. It’s a report that reads an awful lot like Dustin May’s did when he was drafted, though Lewis’ situation is complicated by a labrum tear that cost him most of 2019.
Uceta is already a capable 40-man arm and projects as a No. 4/5 starter. He’s athletic, his delivery is well-balanced, he hides the ball well, commands his fastball to both corners, can both bury his breaking ball and throw it for strikes, and in his best outings, his changeup also has bat-missing fade. Uceta reached Double-A as a 21-year-old and is very likely to be added to the Dodgers 40-man this offseason.
Barely 22 years old, Estevez has already reached Double-A and posted a .268/.322/.405 career line, and he’s slugged better than that over the last two years. He has had some injuries, including a shoulder issue prior to baseball’s shutdown, and he’s already quite heavy-footed for his age. I have him as a 1-to-2 WAR, bat-first infielder.
Sborz is your typical middle relief prospect. He sits in the mid-90s and benefits from mechanical deception. His primary breaking ball, a mid-80s slider with bat-missing, glove-side action, doesn’t spin a lot but it’s spin-efficient and has depth even though it lived near the top of the zone in Sborz’s brief 2019 big league time. He’ll also occasionally flip a mid-70s curveball into the zone or a strike.
A two-sport athlete in college, Thomas has really only been playing baseball full-time since 2016, so while he’s advanced in age he isn’t in experience. With that in mind, Thomas’ 20 annual homers despite sky-high strikeout rates are pretty impressive. He has power, he runs well, and he throws well. It’s a traditional right field profile on its face, just one that is behind the developmental curve and of high risk because of the strikeouts. I’m higher on Thomas than is typical for a prospect who was passed over in the Rule 5. He has yet to fail on a baseball field and you could argue his profile is identical to DJ Peters’ and that Thomas’ handedness is more favorable. I like him as a platoon option.
Post-shoulder injury Santana is a bit of an oddity: a high-spin, low-slot sinkerballer who doesn’t throw all that hard but has great command of his secondary stuff. He was used in a bullpen capacity last year and projects to a middle relief role.
Gonzalez signed at the same time Julio Urías and, for a while, was valued similarly as a prospect until Urias’ stuff blew up and Gonzalez’s did not. He was sitting 88-92 coming out of Tommy John rehab and entered 2019 on the minor league roster bubble. His velocity rebounded, he added a curveball, and Gonzalez had a breakout season, traversing three levels all the way to Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he moved to the bullpen. He profiles as a multi-inning/swingman member of a staff.
He had a significant power production increase last year but McKinstry’s big league role is likely tied to his defensive versatility and excellence, especially at second base, where he’s a plus defender. As a multi-positional lefty stick, he’s a high-probability bench piece who likely doesn’t do enough damage to play every day.
At a hulking 6-foot-3, Rios body comps better to taller NFL running backs like Eddie George than your typical baseball player. He has arguably the most raw power in this system but has struggled to get to it in games because his swing is grooved and he’s a bit of a free swinger. He’ll be a powerful bench bat/corner depth option for the next half decade but likely won’t hit enough to be a regular.
At times he’ll show you three plus pitches, but White has had fluctuations in stuff and missed lots of time with injury, dating back to his underclass years of college when he had Tommy John. It’s been enough of an issue that it colors how I see his trade/prospect value. He’s a lightning-in-a-bottle sort who may come up and pitch really well for a stretch, but I’m scared of the stuff roller coaster and health track record enough to prefer other arms in the org with slightly inferior stuff.
Vivas has a strong heuristic profile: he’s a lefty-hitting infielder with advanced feel for contact. He’s also got a swing that is both short and compact (making him tougher to strike out) but also includes some natural lift, giving Vivas a chance to both hit and hit for whatever power he ends up growing into. At a small-framed 5-foot-10, it’s not likely to be much thump. Vivas may be a second base-only defender, which means his only path to a role would be to hit enough to play every day, but early indications are that he may do just that if he grows into more power than I have projected based on his size.
A teenage Leviathan, Duran has present arm strength (he’ll bump 96) and spins the occasional plus curveball. His arm slot creates sinking movement on his fastball, which should pair well with his change if that becomes more consistent. After he threw a ton of strikes in 2018, his control regressed last year, and his fastball shape doesn’t pair well with his curveball, so there’s more relief stink on the profile now than there was a year ago, but Duran still has rare size, arm strength, and breaking ball talent for a teenager.
Several of the next few hitters on this list are talented, if flawed, corner infield bats. Santana’s flaw is his approach, as he’s posting near bottom-of-the-scale walk rates of about 3%. There’s little to no recent precedent for a third baseman who is this aggressive having sustained success as a regular unless they have elite bat-to-ball skills, and while Santana has big time bat speed, he’s not a contact savant. He has shown some ability to make mechanical adjustments, though, much to the chagrin of those entertained by his former cut, which looked like a Vaudeville comedian miming a baseball swing. So hapless is Santana’s current approach that some scouts want to see him put on the mound. He’s a FV tier higher than I typically rank players this age with a flag as red as Santana’s approach because his tools are just so loud, and I’m intrigued by the idea of a conversion.
From a present pitch grade standpoint, Rosario is very similar to Hyun-il Choi, a few spots behind him on this list, but he’s two years younger and a superior athlete, which is why I have his fastball projected a little better than Choi’s. He has No. 4/5 starter upside barring a more significant breaking ball/velo uptick than I have projected.
I like-a de Geus, whose name is sadly not pronounced like “juice” but with a hard “g” and vowel sound like in “geist.” He moved to the bullpen last year and his velo spiked considerably, which, when paired with the work the Dodgers have done on his secondary stuff (cutter/slider and changeup to curveball and slider), now has de Geus profiling as an up/down reliever, one who might be ready for the big leagues in the next year.
Sheffield has real weapons and among the highest fastball and breaking ball spin rates in all of baseball, but he also has a pretty lengthy injury history (though his 2019 stuff was better than it was in an injury-impacted 2018) and 30-grade control, which led teams to avoid him in the Rule 5 Draft even though he was available.
Predictably, he had trouble adjusting to advanced rookie and full-season pitching late last summer, but the Dodgers have an interesting late-blooming prospect in Lewis, who has one of the more bizarre amateur career paths in pro baseball. At one point Lewis weighed 285 pounds and struggled to get big programs to even consider him. He reshaped his body and transferred from Pierce College in Los Angeles to UC-Irvine, where he had one very strong year prior to signing with the Dodgers. Though he had a limited statistical track record, Lewis was one of the younger draft-eligible college players in his class, which, combined with his relative inexperience (not only did Lewis not have much high-level experience, he also played two-ways for a while), lets you project more on skill growth than is typical for most college prospects. He’s an interesting third base dev projet for an org that excels at it.
Kasowski’s delivery, which resembles that of former big leaguer and current Auckland Tuatara righty Josh Collementer, is arguably the most deceptive in the minor leagues. The ball just suddenly appears from behind his head, Kasowski’s arm slot almost perfectly vertical, creating bat-missing fastball carry at the top of the zone and making it hard to identify his curveball out of the hand. Kasowski has had injury and strike-throwing issues amid a very strong 107 career innings (177 strikeouts, just 59 hits), otherwise he’d be in the 40 FV tier.
Mann’s swing was altered and he had an unexpected power breakout at Hi-A in 2019, hitting .280/.357/.500 before going down with a mid-July injury. His hands work well, but he’s otherwise a pretty stiff-legged athlete. If he can be an inoffensive defender at second and third, then perhaps Mann can play a Wilmer Flores type of role as a somewhat versatile part-time bat.
Kendall repeated Hi-A in 2019 and somehow struck out more often than he did the year before, whiffing 36% of the time. It’s unlikely that he ever hits enough to be the everyday player the industry once projected him as, but Kendall’s tools — his speed, what his speed enables him to do on defense, and his above-average raw power — can still have a situational impact on games, enough that he’s an interesting 26th man candidate.
Martinez fills the zone with three average pitches that lack bat-missing movement, and instead move late enough that hitters often make lousy contact against them, typically on the ground. All the strikes give Martinez a shot to pitch at the back of a rotation if one of his secondaries can become a true out pitch. I think the changeup has the best chance of getting there based on Martinez’s fastball shape. If it can’t, he’s more of a spot start 40-man arm.
Reks has taken a scenic route to the upper levels of the minors. He did not comport himself well as a freshman at Air Force, so he transferred and took two years away from baseball before walking on at Kentucky as a junior. He was the Dodgers’ 10th round senior sign in 2017 and was quickly assigned to Hi-A Rancho Cucamonga, the first of three consecutive, mettle-testing years to which Reks has responded. He hit 28 homers split between Double- and Triple-A in 2019, an uptick in power production that coincided with a multi-year shift in his batted-ball profile, throughout which Reks has more often hit the ball in the air. He really can’t play defense, but I think he has some current trade value as a lefty reserve bat.
Reks’ 40-man timeline makes him a potential churn trade target for teams that, like San Francisco last year, are cycling through older, upper-level performers to see if any are for real.
Raley is a plus runner underway despite his size, and has big raw power the Dodgers did well to tease out of him in games before trading him to Minnesota as part of the 2018 Brian Dozier deal, only to later reacquire him in the awko-taco Kenta Maeda trade. While explosive in some ways, Raley is stiff and unathletic, and at times an adventure on defense. He could end up as a bat-only bench outfielder, or low-end platoon option.
The mixture of Morillo’s velo, his fastball’s secondary traits, and his breaking ball give him a good shot to profile in a bullpen, but his 40-man timeline (he needs to be added in December) combined with the shutdown are going to make it hard for him to prove to the Dodgers or any other team that he merits an add.
Choi’s fastball velo and breaking ball are each below average, and I don’t consider him particularly projectable from either a frame or athletic standpoint, but he does have an out pitch in his nasty, late-biting splitter and he’s an advanced strike-thrower. Many of the pro scouts with AZL coverage thought he was one of the better starting pitching prospects in the league, but unless his curveball gets better I think it’s more likely Choi ends up in a bullpen role, where I think he could live off that splitter.
Outman is a pull-and-lift hitter whose best tool is his speed, which helped him swipe 20 bases last year and enables him to play a good center field. His contact issues (a 25.1% strikeout rate as a college-aged hitter in Low-A last year) mean he could bottom out, but he plays a premium position and the lift in his swing should enable him to hit for some power as long as he’s not striking out all the time.
Zuniga is a big-bodied power arm (his velo was actually down a little bit last year, but he still sat comfortably in the mid-90s) with a nasty breaking ball. He’s not athletic enough to project him to have starter command, and probably not enough for a good tertiary pitch, so I have the fastball projected up a half grade based on a move to the bullpen (which Zuniga has to this point been in and out of), where he can work with it and his hard, mid-80s slider.
Toolsy Lottery Tickets
Sauryn Lao, 3B
Luis Yanel Diaz, 3B
Carlos Rincon, RF
Yunior Garcia, RF
Leonel Valera, SS
Lao has clumsy-looking bat control similar to Todd Frazier’s, who has made quite a career out of somehow getting the barrel where it needs to be. Lao is a 35/40 at third and probably fits better in 1B/RF, which puts more pressure on his bat than I’m comfortable with to put him on the main section of the list, though I do dig him. Diaz is perhaps the most explosive rotator in the entire system, and he has among its highest exit velos (93 average, 100 max, both incredible for a teenager) but he has very little feel for the game and takes erratic at-bats despite having been in pro ball for a couple years now. Rincon and Garcia are right field power prospects. Rincon, now 22, has reached Double-A, where his approach has now been exposed. He posted a .282 OBP in over two months at Tulsa. Garcia is similar, a strong-bodied, 18-year-old powder keg with plus-plus bat speed and a totally unhinged approach. He walked just once all last year. Valera, 20, has a great build and significant power projection for a shortstop but — you guessed it — is a low-probability prospect because of his hit tool.
Hunter Feduccia, C
Eddys Leonard, 2B
Justin Yurchak, 1B
Drew Avans, OF/LHP
Sam McWilliams, 2B
Romer Cuadrado, 1B
There was some support for Feduccia, 22, to be on the main section of the list. He had a strong statistical 2019 but it was at Low-A, a level with pitching worse than what he saw at LSU. He projects as a third catcher for now. Leonard is a stocky, contact-oriented infielder with limited physical projection. He hit .285/.379/.425 in the AZL last year and projects as a bench infielder. Yurchak keeps hitting. He’s 23 and now has a .300/.400/.450 career line in the minors, though he lacks the physical tools typical of big league first basemen. Avans and McWilliams are small school gamers from the swampy southeast. Avans may end up pitching once in a while but mostly he’s a speed and contact outfielder who might play a bench spot. McWilliams is a sleeper second base prospect with lots of average tools. Cuadrado is a 30 athlete with huge power and a swing that the org hasn’t been able to dial in to produce power yet.
Jeff Belge, LHP
Jack Little, RHP
Mark Washington, RHP
Mitchell Tyranski, LHP
Zach Willeman, RHP
While he was an amateur Belge dealt with several freak incidents involving his eyes and also had issues throwing strikes at St. John’s, but he’s a lefty up to 96 with a good slider so he has a shot to pitch out of a bullpen. Little is a low slot righty reliever with starter’s command, but his pitches have diminishing utility over multiple looks. Washington, a Lehigh alum, and Tyranski are both backspinning fastball pitchers whose stuff sneaks past hitters. Both have an up/down relief shot. Willeman was a 35+ FV prospect last year, as he was throwing really hard in Arizona while rehabbing from TJ, which cost him much of 2017 and 2018. He was held back to start 2019 and his stuff was down a bit when he returned, more 89-94 than sitting in the mid-90s the way it was the year before.
Reinaldo De Paula, RHP
Jeisson Cabrera, RHP
Melvin Jimenez, RHP
Heisell Baro, RHP
Joan Valdez, RHP
Franklin De La Paz, LHP
De Paula, 21, is a relief-only prospect with a low slot delivery. He’s only up to 95 but his fastball spins at 2700 rpm and has monster tailing action. Cabrera is more of a typical three-pitch look — modest physical projection, up to 96, has a good changeup, fringe breaker. Jimenez has missed a ton of bats — 90 K in 50 IP last year — sitting 88-93 almost entirely because of deception that I think will loose its tooth at upper levels. Baro is an 18-year-old Cuban who sits 86-89 right now but he’s a plus-plus on-mound athlete who gets down the mound and whose arm works really well. He’s not a big-framed guy, I just love the delivery, athleticism, and feel for the breaking ball. Valdez and De La Paz are arm strength-only types up to 96.
I don’t have much to say about this system that I haven’t said in the past. The Dodgers draft a lot of pitchers who have fallen due to injury, as if they think all pitchers, presently injured or not, are of equal risk to be hurt in the future. It’s netted them Walker Buehler, Andre Jackson, Michael Grove, Jimmy Lewis, Mitch White, and Marshall Kasowski, as well as lots of players who aren’t on the list because they remain injury-prone, like Texas righty Morgan Cooper, who threw a bullpen for the first time since he signed only recently.
The org also scoops up lots of players with odd career paths, like two-way backgrounds or ones who converted to pitching (Gray, Gonsolin, Brandon Lewis, Jackson again) or who may have been under-scouted because they’re from smaller schools in parts of the country with an over-saturation of talent, like the Southeast and California. The Dodgers are one of the, if not the, teams hurt most by a shortened draft because of how well they’ve done on Day Three under the current regime.
Swing changes? Yup, still a core competency for the Dodgers. It’s a less prominent trait now than in past years, in part because several of the successful swing changers are on the big league roster, but Lux and Vargas are clear examples. Velocity development is also rampant, so much so that several upper-level arms whose fastballs live in the mid-to-upper-90s, like Stetson Allie, Joel Inoa, Yordy Cabrera, Chris Nunn, Nathan Witt, and a host of others were either left off the list due to a combination of age and poor command, or because they were jettisoned to other clubs during the offseason because this org is so flush with pitching at a time when it’s at a premium for everyone else. That’s part of why (at least I like to think) Caleb Ferguson and Ross Stripling kind of slipped through the prospect cracks to some degree; it’s much easier for someone to get lost in the shuffle in an org like this than in a thinner system.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Chicago White Sox. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
Not only was Robert finally healthy throughout 2019 (thumb and hamstring issues cost him most of 2018), but he and the White Sox made successful changes to his swing and his power production skyrocketed. The changes, based on my notes, are subtle. A narrower base, a little bit deeper load to the hands, and a front side that stays closed a little longer. These are relatively small tweaks to a swing that is comically simple, but the results — his 2018 groundball rate was between 44-50% depending on the level, while his 2019 rates were 26-32% — were astounding. It’s terrifying that Robert can generate the kind of power he does with such a conservative stride back toward the pitcher, and it juxtaposes with many of the movement-heavy swings that have been pervasive throughout baseball since Josh Donaldson and José Bautista broke out.
Robert does have plate discipline issues. He chases a lot of breaking balls out of the zone and it took a lot of convincing from industry folks to move him as high on my Top 100 as I did even though Robert has the surface-level traits that tend to make me irrationally excited. He has one of the best physiques in pro sports, he’s a plus-plus runner, and his instincts in center field are terrific. The power production and OBP may be somewhat limited by the approach, very similarly to how Starling Marte’s have been, but Marte is a 60, so here we are.
Just as Kopech seemed to be harnessing his hellacious stuff, he blew out. In the seven minor league starts before his big league debut, he walked just four batters, and was similarly efficient in his first few big league outings. But in his final start, the Tigers shelled him and his velocity was down; an MRI revealed he would need Tommy John. The timing was particularly cruel, not just because things had started to click, but also because late-season TJs usually cost the pitcher all of the following year, and indeed, Kopech didn’t throw in a game environment until the 2019 instructional league. His first fastball in the fall? Ninety-nine miles per hour, and he sat 94-99 on the Camelback Ranch backfields.
His stuff is great, headlined by a mid-90s fastball that often crests 100 mph. The command inroads Kopech made late in 2018 are especially important for his ability to deal with lefties, because his changeup feel is not very good. He’ll need to mix his two breaking balls together to deal with them, and his slider feel is way ahead of the curveball. So long as Kopech’s stuff returns, he has No. 3 starter ceiling if the command comes with it, and high-leverage relief ability if it does not.
So polished and consistent was Vaughn that even though he provides little defensive value and had a “down” junior year (yes, .374/.539/.704 was well below Vaughn’s .402/.531/.819 Golden Spikes sophomore campaign), the entire amateur side of the industry loved him. Vaughn started seeing a lot of breaking balls once conference play began — about 15% fewer fastballs to be more exact. He was pitched around and unable to make as much impact contact, but all the tools were still there. Vaughn has a very selective approach, letting strikes he can’t drive pass him by unless he has to put a ball in play, a skill I compared before the draft to Paul Konerko’s (I mentioned this to a Special Assistant who scoffed and said he thought Vaughn was way better). He has a very athletic swing despite being decidedly unathletic in every other way, enabling all fields power and high rates of contact.
There’s no margin for error for right-handed hitting first baseman, but if there’s one prospect to be confident in hitting as much as is necessary to profile at first, it’s someone with this combination of visual evaluation and statistical track record. Vaughn’s post-draft TrackMan data is also supportive, and suggests he could be a .300/.400/.500 hitter. How fast he comes up and where he plays when he arrives (it’s 1B/DH but José Abreu exists, Edwin Encarnación is on a one-year deal, Eloy Jiménez might have a DH body soon, Micker Adolfo already does, and Nomar Mazara was added this winter) will be dictated by those around him.
Madrigal had the lowest swinging strike rate in the minors last year at a miniscule 2.2% — only Luis Arraez (2.8%) came close to that in the big leagues. Short players have short swings and Madrigal is no exception. He pulled and lifted the ball more last season than he did the year before, but unless the big league baseball is particularly kind to about a dozen of Magic Man’s wall-scraping fly balls, he doesn’t project to hit for more than doubles power. That’s fine, though. Second base has the lowest league-wide wRC+ of all the non-catching positions right now and several punchless contact hitters have had good careers (Arraez was a 2 WAR player in 90 games, Joe Panik was a 50 FV, etc.), and most all of them are nowhere near the runner or defender that Madrigal is — he has some of the fastest hands I’ve seen around the bag, and he’s going to steal outs because of how quickly he turns feeds from Tim Anderson around to first base. He doesn’t have a high ceiling because of the lack of power but I consider Madrigal a low-variance, above-average regular at second.
Dunning was an intriguing projection arm in high school who flashed average stuff and had a good blend of size and athleticism. He took a big step forward during his freshman year at Florida, though the rest of the talent on that pitching staff pushed him to a bullpen/midweek/spot starting role for much of his career. The industry still valued him in the first round by the time he was a junior, and Washington selected him 29th overall in 2016, before trading him that winter for eventual title contributor Adam Eaton.
Dunning had a very strong 2017, when his prospect value hit its pinnacle; he was viewed as a near-ready No. 4 starter and a core part of Chicago’s rebuild. Then he missed the second half of 2018 with an elbow strain and tore his UCL during 2019 spring training, which required surgery. He was slated to be back midway through 2020 and in late February was throwing live BP, during which his fastball velo sat in the low-90s. He’s thrown side sessions since baseball’s shut down. It’ll have to involve backfield rehab outings during whatever weird, abbreviated season we’re about to have, but I think it’s likely Dunning plays some kind of role on the staff this year, even if it’s just as a spot starter. His long-term outlook is that of a no. 4/5 starter.
During 2019 spring training and the early part of the season, Stiever’s fastball sat in the 89-92 range. As the temperature climbed, so too did Stiever’s velocity, and he started pounding the zone with 92-95, peaking at 97. In a season split between Low- and Hi-A, Stiever struck out 154 hitters and walked just 27 in 145 innings and became one of the org’s better starting pitching prospects. The velocity (assuming it holds), Stiever’s plus curveball, and his strike-throwing ability all already fit a big league bullpen role, and potentially a significant one if one-inning, max-effort outings enable more velocity. For Stiever to profile as a league-average starter, his slider and/or changeup need to improve. Those two pitches were slated to be a developmental focus for the right-hander this season, but we didn’t get a look at them during the spring because Stiever was shut down with a forearm soreness.
He remains a frustrating defensive catcher who the team need only live with in a part-time capacity now that Yasmani Grandal is in Chicago, but Collins has some impact offensive ability. Both his elite approach (a 19% career walk rate since his freshman year at Miami) and power still exist and drive what should be a valuable part-time role as a first baseman, (bad) catcher, and DH. He and Yermin Mercedes are arguably redundant and project to play a similar role, with Collins’ lefty bat and the two year age difference between them driving me to order them like this.
I believe Mercedes will one day be a Chicago sports cult hero. He’s highly entertaining and talented enough to play a relevant big league role despite being a total defensive misfit. Stout and beefy, Mercedes is built such that he looks ripped and fat at the same time. He has a needlessly noisy, punk rock swing (until he has two strikes, which I’ll get to) with a big leg kick and all kinds of pre-swing bat waggling, but it always pauses with Mercedes balanced, his hands in good position, ready to unload on the baseball, which he often does. Mercedes ditches the leg kick with two strikes, but he’s so strong that he puts balls in play — hard — without it.
His route to the precipice of the big leagues has been scenic. After three years with Washington, Mercedes was cut and spent 2014 in Indy ball, including time in the Pecos League with the White Sands Pupfish. Baltimore signed him and had him for two years before losing him to Chicago in the 2017 minor league Rule 5 Draft.
Mercedes has now hit his way up the ladder (a .302/.366/.491 career line, including those mediocre years with Washington that brought about his release) and has big league offensive ability — he just cannot catch. While he presents strikes to umpires well on occasion, he’ll also just totally whiffs sometimes and is constantly running to the backstop. Craig Littleman, a former coworker of mine who played for White Sands with Mercedes in 2014, told me even that team was trying to hide him on defense. He also said Mercedes was by far the team’s smartest, most talented hitter. I’m not anticipating Mercedes will be able to catch every day once automated strike zones come about, but I do think it gives him a better chance to do so once in a while and that he’ll hit enough as a DH/1B to play a part-time role anyway. Plus, he has real value as a trade chip if the universal DH is ever instituted. He’s a good, relevant hitting prospect despite his age.
Similar to Orioles prospect Zach Pop and the Giants’ unkempt sidewinder Camilo Doval, Heuer presents hitters with an odd, low-slot look and also throws very hard for someone with that arm slot. His fastball has impact tailing movement — among the most lateral movement in the minors — and he also has a weird, high-spin changeup that could be plus. I think he has a shot to be a set-up type.
Adolfo has been around for so long that even though he’s missed a lot of time due to injury, we still have a pretty good idea of what he is. Here’s the rundown: Adolfo missed most of 2015 due to a gruesome leg fracture, broke his hamate a month into 2016, played through an elbow injury that required Tommy John in 2018, then missed most of 2019 due to arthroscopic surgery on that elbow. Amid these long stretches of inactivity, Adolfo got big and buff (he nows tips the scales at a listed 255 — as a comical aside, Eloy Jiménez is listed at 205) but also pretty stiff, and while the White Sox have maintained that they’d like him to play the outfield, he’s one of several heavy-footed DH types on the 40-man.
Adolfo has the raw power to clear that (or any) offensive bar, but he’s had strikeout issues throughout his career and except for the last few, injury-riddled seasons (small sample alert), he’s been a hedonistic free swinger. He’s run close to an 11% walk rate in his last 550 plate appearances, which is double the rate he posted from 2014 to 2017. It would give him a better chance of playing a consistent role if that increase in patience is real and sustains. The power gives Adolfo a chance to have some 2019 Jorge Soler type seasons while his whiffs make him a high variance hitter likely to have several replacement-level campaigns as well. He’s younger than Collins and Mercedes but I’m more confident that their headlining skills will play in big league games.
Thompson’s stuff didn’t take a step forward during his senior spring, but he was still sitting in the low-90s with average breaking stuff, and he has one of the most elegant deliveries in baseball. He’s a malleable, athletic developmental project with a realistic fourth starter outcome.
Dalquist has a semi-projectable frame and a graceful, repeatable delivery. He’s been up to at least 94, but mostly sits 89-92 and has good feel for a slower, 12-6 curveball. His arm action portends a better changeup. The key variable here is the velo. If it comes, Dalquist has No. 4 starter upside. Pro workloads tend to disallow that, but Dalquist’s feel to pitch gives him a shot to be an effective starter even if he only ever sits 90-93.
Burdi’s velo continues to yo-yo, most recently in the right direction. Sitting 97-101 before surgery, 90-92 after, Burdi was back in the 94-96 range in his four 2020 spring innings before the shutdown. His slider quality also enjoyed a bit of a bounce back, though not anywhere near the knifing 2700 rpm version from its peak. The elite relief projection is gone without the elite velo, but Burdi is back to looking like a good middle relief piece.
Mendick had a strong, BABIP-driven cup of coffee late last year despite pretty lousy at-bat quality during that stretch. It was anomalous for the shortstop, who has been a disciplined, contact-oriented hitter for his entire minor league career. He lacks the power typical of an everyday player, even on the middle infield, but is ready to play a versatile bench role right now.
Rutherford’s skillset is typical of a platoon corner outfielder, in his case the larger half of one thanks to his handedness. The Platonic ideal of this sort of player (45 FV) is Seth Smith, who I think has more raw power than Rutherford. Also, Rutherford’s swing is geared for low-ball contact, which is less useful in the game now than it was five or 10 years ago, as pitchers more often attack with velo at the top of the zone. For these reasons, I’ve rounded him down beneath the Smith archetype’s typical FV.
Gonzalez and Rutherford are stacked next to one another yet again, both lefty-hitting bench outfield types with different hitting styles. Gonzalez has the better bat-to-ball skills. He stands way off the dish, which creates some quality-of-contact limitations on pitches away from him in exchange for an ability to open up and turn on inside pitches with authority. It’s an approach that’s typically shiftable, but Gonzalez is also a good bunter and runs well to combat this.
Bailey’s stats in the DSL should pique curiosity and cause one to dig on his tools, but they are not, on their own, very meaningful. He is a huge-framed, corner outfield projection bat with pretty advanced feel for contact, though. He’s a below-average athlete at present but perhaps has not fully grown into his body, a square-shouldered 6-foot-4. There’s not a ton of power projection on the body since Bailey is already 215, but there is some, which, combined with the feel for contact, puts Bailey in a tier above the other interesting teenagers in the 35+ FV tier, who mostly have one-note offensive profiles.
Compact but punchy, Rodriguez has an interesting mix of playable power, speed, and defensive fit. His frame limits the power projection more than is typical for an 18-year-old, but he also has pretty advanced feel to hit. He has a shot to be a well-rounded regular.
Sanchez is an above-average runner, defender, and thrower, but scouts aren’t completely sold on him offensively, projecting him as a gap-to-gap hitter with modest power. Baltimore had the trump card to sign him last year and wouldn’t top the rumored $2 million price he was offered to wait for July 2, 2019 when he signed with the White Sox. Visa issues kept him in the DSL for the rest of the summer, making it hard to learn anything new about him. He has utility infield projection based on reports from the international arm of the industry.
Likely in need of a swing change to profile at first, Sheets’ cut too often slices down at the baseball, and he can only get to his considerable raw power in certain parts of the strike zone. He has good bat control and makes mid-flight adjustments to breaking balls, which he has the raw strength to punish even if the timing of his lower half has been compromised. He’s a good hitter, just one I’m skeptical will clear the offensive bar at first base without trading some contact for power, which hasn’t happened yet. He could be part of a first base platoon for a team that has great flexibility throughout the rest of the roster (Tampa Bay’s type) or someone’s pre-arb plug and play, especially because the White Sox have so many guys ahead of Sheets on the 1B/DH depth chart.
Pilkington missed an SEC bat per inning during his stay at Mississippi State, and seemed like a potentially quick-moving, low-variance backend starter prospect when the White Sox made him their third round pick in 2017. Physically mature and wielding vanilla stuff, Pilkington’s upside is limited, and most of his draft value was in perceived certainty. His stuff was sometimes down in the mid-80s during the 2019 spring, though. Ideally, he’ll move to the upper levels pretty quickly and at least function as viable depth before eventually taking a turn as the fifth starter.
Basabe shredded the Carolina League for the first two and a half months of 2018 — hitting .266/.370/.502 — then had one of the year’s most impressive feats of strength when he turned around a 102 mph Hunter Greene fastball at the Futures Game, and deposited it 10 rows deep to right-center field. His second half with Double-A Birmingham was less successful, and just as Basabe appeared to be adjusting to the better pitching in August, he would again struggle in the 2018 Arizona Fall League, then again throughout 2019. Basabe’s instincts in center field are not great, and he may be better suited for a corner despite his speed, which would make him the lesser half of a platoon since he’s better as a righty hitter than as a lefty.
Because Johnson was hurt for most of the pre-deadline part of the 2019 season he wasn’t widely seen until the Fall League, where he struggled to throw strikes. Thompson is athletically built but doesn’t have an athletic delivery. He has a very casual, very terse stride that cuts him off and forces him to throw across his body. It’s weird and disorienting the first few times you see it, which makes the 93-95 fastballs Johnson throws catch you off guard. He’ll flash a plus breaking ball, but that was also inconsistent in Fall. He’s a 40 FV from a stuff and deception perspective, though industry feedback (the AFL look was bad) mostly had him in the tier beneath this one.
Seby is going to strike out a lot, so much that it will be detrimental to his offensive output relative to the average big leaguer, but that’s true of a lot of backup catchers. Zavala is a viable defensive catcher with above-average raw power, and I think he’d run into as many as 10 homers as a full-season backup. Where he sits among a crowded catching situation in Chicago depends on how the org views Mercedes and Collins defensively. He’s likely the third catcher during his option years and someone’s backup once those expire.
Thick and tightly wound, Burger was already a tenuous bet to stay at third base for very long before he twice ruptured his Achilles tendon, once during a spring training game and again while rehabbing in late May. The 12 month timetable for return from Achilles tears was reset, and puts Burger on track to come back sometime in June.
While there are questions about his defense, Burger was one of the top college bats in the 2017 class. He has quick, explosive hands that generate big bat speed, and he has unusual bat control for someone who swings as hard as he does. He has sizable ceiling, especially if he can find a way to stay at third base, but we just won’t know what kind of toll the injuries have taken until Burger starts playing games again, a date that keeps getting pushed back because of stuff beyond anyone’s control.
This part of the system has a handful of interesting young hitters whose bonuses mostly fell in the mid-six figures. Several of them have an imposing physical presence, perhaps none more than Ramos. He is also the most reliable defensive infielder of this group and very likely to stay at third base, though the Sox also experimented with him at second during instructs after watching him operate around the bag during shift-related drills.
For his age, Ramos is already a sizable guy. Perhaps tricked by the way his fire engine red batting gloves stood out against Chicago’s black and grey instructional league threads, I thought he had the most explosive hands of the instructs group, and I like how bold his stride is, even though some of his swings are reckless. Ultimately, like the other hitters in this tier, he’s a risky corner prospect a long way from the big leagues.
Delgado is built like a top-heavy college linebacker, bigger and faster than a lot of same-aged college players in this year’s draft. His approach is a problem and it’s important that he learn to attack the right pitches because his bat control is also limited. He’s mostly played shortstop to this point but projects to third base long term. He’s a tools/body lottery ticket.
I like the way Sosa’s hands work in the box and think he has a good knack for finding the barrel even though he doesn’t have great bat speed. He’s not a very good second baseman and I wonder if he might end up adding a bunch of weight and power to counterbalance what he lacks in selectivity.
Hamilton has thrown very hard dating back to college and has maintained that kind of velo despite having one of the longer arm actions in baseball. His upper-80s slider is a gravity ball that spins at just 1600 rpm. It seems to work as long as Hamilton locates it, but his delivery is pretty hard to repeat. He profiles in fastball-heavy up/down relief.
As a hitter, Beard is more like a five o’clock shadow, one of the least-experienced hitters to appear on a team’s list this year. But of all the young hitters in this org, he has the greatest chance of staying up the middle because his speed almost guarantees he’ll stay in center field forever. He’s a half-decade dev project with the speed to be a leadoff pest.
Thompson had parts of two consecutive seasons, ’16-’17, when he struck out lots of hitters but still carried an ERA near 5.00. In 2018,that abated and he was dominant, quickly moving to Double-A. Last year, again, Thompson looked good from a stuff perspective but got hit around. His fastball/slider combination is 40 FV worthy but he just hasn’t performed like a slam dunk relief piece and the industry passed on him in the Rule 5.
Gladney presents an interesting case for splitting actual age away from other Traits of Maturity in draft models, since he was young for the class in age and reps (another possible Trait of Maturity), but not in body (a third). He’s a strong guy who strides way open as he tries to pull everything with power, an all-or-nothing approach. Like Bryce Bush before him, Gladney will be tried at third base for a while but may not stay there. He’s a high risk corner power prospect.
A late-round, cold-weather high school flier who signed for $290,000, Bush played in some of the big prep showcases during his final amateur summer, and was clearly overmatched against the better pitching. But he put on an absolute show during batting practice and has one of the best raw power projections among potential future Sox. He had a strong pro debut on paper and continued to look good with the bat during the spring of 2019, then struggled during the summer. The general scouting consensus is that Bush will not stay at his current third base and will have to move to an outfield corner or to first, which immediately makes his whiffs troublesome. He’s a high-risk, long-term developmental prospect with some of the louder offensive tools in the system.
What a roller coaster of a career it has already been for Hansen, who looked like a possible top three pick as a college sophomore, faltered as a junior, appeared reborn once free of seemingly poor college instruction, before collapsing again in 2018 when he was hurt for a time (forearm), and had more walks than innings pitched. It was more of the same in 2019 as Hansen, now in the bullpen, continued to struggle with walks and was eventually passed over in the Rule 5. That we’ve seen 94-97 with a plus breaking ball in the past means we may again, but the 2019 velo/command combo isn’t going to cut it.
Lambert’s strikeout rate exploded from 16% in 2017 to nearly 29% in 2018. The cause? A slight uptick in velocity paired with an arm slot change that has him coming straight over the top, creating more life on his heater. It also creates more vertical action on his breaking stuff. This delivery appears tough to maintain, as Lambert has to contort his body to get to that slot, but he hasn’t been wild since making the change. Lambert tore his UCL after 11 starts and needed Tommy John last June, which likely would have cost him all of 2020. He probably would have been close to Pilkington on the list without the injury and has similar role projection.
Laureano had a huge 2019 repeating the DSL. He has a sizable frame, he runs well enough under way to continue playing some center field, and he generates good power on contact, though much of it is currently on the ground.
Freeman only threw 16 innings during his junior year at Lubbock, and they weren’t very good (he walked 15 guys). After he signed, Freeman was excellent. He sat 92-95 and touched 97 in rookie ball and flashed a plus breaking ball.
I’m staying on Mieses to some extent because I think he has freaky bat-to-ball ability that has thus far been made moot by excessive swinging.
Catching Depth (and Remillard)
Carlos Perez, C
Gunnar Troutwine, C
Ricardo Aguilar, C
Zach Remillard, SS
Perez, 23, has good bat-to-ball skills and arm strength but little power. He might be a third catcher. Troutwine is a tough dude with great feel for the strike zone. Aguilar just signed. He’s a converted infielder with a compact frame and contact-oriented approach. Remillard is upper-level depth capable of playing almost every position on the field.
High Probability Depth Arms
Andrew Perez, LHP
Matthew Foster, RHP
Vince Arobio, RHP
Bernardo Flores, LHP
All of these pitchers are in their mid-20s. Perez needs to find a breaking ball, but he will touch 95 from the left side and his changeup is plus. So, too, is Foster’s; he is also up to 95 with a backspinning axis and relatively flat approach angle. Arobio has a high spin, backspinning fastball, too, but his angle is more downhill. He has the best breaking ball of this group. Flores is a four-pitch lefty with good breaking stuff and a 40 fastball.
Younger, Raw Pitching
Frander Veras, RHP
Davis Martin, RHP
Yoelvin Silven, RHP
McKinley Moore, RHP
Veras is 21 and spent 2019, his first pro season, in the DSL. He was up to 96 there and his changeup has late sinking action at times. Martin is another good Day Three pick out of Texas Tech. He sits 89-94 and has a plus slider. Silven was up to 95 as a 19-year-old in 2019 but his secondary stuff is in the 40/45 area right now. Moore is also arm strength-only right now but he’s a little older and bigger. He’s up to 98.
This system remains top-heavy, with much of its oomph packed into the first couple prospects on the list rather than spread throughout the system. I was critical of the org’s ability to develop pitching in last year’s writeup as many of their arms had gone backward throughout 2017 and 2018, but 2019 (best exemplified by Lucas Giolito on the big club and Stiever on the farm) was better. What becomes of Dalquist and Thompson will be a terrific litmus test for the org’s direction since both are really athletic and seem capable of making adjustments. The org seems good at killing spin, as several of their pitchers have offspeed weapons, either splits or changeups, with very low spin compared to those on a lot of other teams.
The White Sox have not yet begun to move any of the players who make up their, uh, glut of big-bodied 1B/DH types, or who threaten to occupy that defensive space at some point soon. Here’s the list of players I think make up that group: Yermin Mercedes, Zack Collins, newly extended José Abreu, newly signed Edwin Encarnación, Micker Adoldo, Andrew Vaughn, Eloy Jiménez, Gavin Sheets, and (fingers crossed for him) Jake Burger. There’s not enough room for all of these guys but they all have value, so it makes sense several will be traded. Gavin Sheets’ 40-man timeline could mean he’s pried from the org for very little since they clearly don’t have room for him but his Rule 5 eligibility is coming.
The White Sox are perhaps the team that would most benefit from an International draft as they seem to sign players who become eligible later in the process, which is why they end up with a lot of Cuban players and signees who commit to deals several months after the signing phase opens. A draft would give them access to a player pool they don’t seem inclined to deal with right now — essentially, all the players who agree to deals well in advance of actually signing them.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Texas Rangers. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
It is not without some injury-related terror and self-skepticism that I have Rodriguez atop this deep, messy, and surgery-scarred system, a conclusion I came to while working on the overall 100 and after comparing the totality of his profile across the entire baseball landscape, against which it stacks up quite favorably. Rodriguez checks all but two significant boxes. One is the “totally healthy” box, as he was shut down with an elbow issue in July. The other is the thoroughly modern “vertical slot/backspin” box typical of starters whose fastballs I’m more confident in. But this is not a vanilla, three-quarters slot. Rodriguez is well below that, and his upright, short-armed, slingy arm action presents almost a side arm look. It’s unique, and creates an awful lot of tail on his fastball. Sitting 92-95, up to 98, and weaponized by Rodriguez’s advanced east/west command, it’s a potential plus pitch. A split-action changeup is currently his best secondary, while his slow curveball lacks sharp-looking movement but has plus raw spin.
I think a fully-formed Rodriguez has a different breaking ball than this one, so in this instance I’m making an abstract projection based on Yerry’s talent for spinning the baseball. He needs something he can work inside on lefties, either a cutter or a more traditional breaking ball with better back foot angle. From a performance standpoint, Rodriguez has 167 K and 29 BB over the 136.2 innings he’s thrown the last two years. He has the best combination of stuff and pitchability in the system.
It’ll be interesting to see where in the field the Rangers end up deploying Solak given that they’re already rostering a few DH-types like Willie Calhoun and Shin-Soo Choo. Solak is a high-effort player but effort alone won’t solve his defensive issues, which have been apparent wherever he’s played. That’s mostly been second base with some left and center field, the last of which Texas revisited this spring. He can really hit, though, and the lowest single-season batting average he has posted since his freshman season at Louisville is .282. He’ll likely hit for pretty average power, but if Texas can hide him day-to-day wherever opponents are least likely to put balls in play, he’ll essentially be a multi-positional player with a plus stick.
Yes, future rule changes would make it more likely that Hernandez could one day catch in a part-time capacity, but he doesn’t have a great arm, either, and he has a chance to race to the big leagues if the Rangers just let him go hit while learning first base or an outfield corner. The on-paper stats, underlying TrackMan data, and my visual evaluation of Hernandez all indicate that this might be a very special hitter whose hit and power combination will clear the high offensive bar at those positions. His little T-Rex arms enable Heriberto to be short to the baseball, but he’s so strong and rotates with such ferocity that he still hits for power. I’ve seen him make mid-at-bat adjustments to quality offspeed stuff, swinging over a particularly good splitter only to recognize the next one, located in the same spot, and rope it into the corner for a double. He covers the whole plate (something that’s gotten better since my first looks in 2018) but is tough to beat on the inner half, and after watching him rake all last summer and fall, I’m all in on him despite not generally favoring corner guys several levels beneath the big leagues.
If he’s going to get to all of his considerable raw power, then Jung (pronounced ‘young’) is probably going to need a swing change that enables him to pull the ball more consistently. He inside-outs an awful lot of pitches and doesn’t even really get around the ball during batting practice, though his strength and feel to hit enables a high quality of contact despite this atypical style. He was a .346/.452/.562 career hitter at Tech and had more walks than strikeouts during his last two years with the Red Raiders. Originally thought to be a risk to move to first base, Jung not only allayed those concerns but also played a passable college shortstop last season. He comfortably projects to third base in pro ball and is a potential everyday player, but I need to see him pull pitches with power before I 50 FV him.
There are no changes to Tejeda’s report as he missed most of last year with a sublexed shoulder. He is rangy and athletic, and has good defensive footwork and plenty of arm for the infield’s left side. His hands are not as consistent and some scouts have wanted to see him tried in center field, which he has the speed to play, though Texas has largely kept him at short and he’s now one of two and a half shortstops (I’m counting Isiah Kiner-Falefa as a half) on the Rangers 40-man.
Tejeda has plus-plus bat speed and his hands work in a tight, lift-friendly circle, but he’s so explosive that at times he’s out of control (this is where the strikeouts come from). He managed to get to the power at Hi-A in 2018, when he homered 19 times, and if he can stay at shortstop and continue to mash like that in games, he’ll be a good everyday player. He’s in the same FV tier as high-variance shortstops with power, such as Greg Jones and Bryson Stott.
After a few years of mediocre statistical performance, the Rangers finally asked the 20-year-old Taveras to repeat a level, in this case Hi-A. He responded by posting a contact- and walk-driven 117 wRC+ in the first half, earning a promotion to Double-A Frisco for the second, where he proceeded to produce an unremarkable line that (here’s a familiar phrase) is reasonable to forgive considering his age. 2019 was Taveras’ best BABIP season in some time, notable because during the last few years scouts had sometimes described him as aloof or bored. His speed and center field defense are both excellent, which creates a floor of sorts, but scout opinions regarding how much Taveras will hit have varied and, more and more, are diverging from stat-based analysis when they’re favorable. I think Leody has above-average feel for contact as a left-handed hitter and that his right-handed swing is almost unusable. I also think the power display he put on at the 2018 Futures Game was a caricature created by the event’s baseballs, an opinion his TrackMan data supports. He’s a glove-first, second division regular based on how he’s tracking, but there’s a subset of the industry who still thinks the bat is coming and hasn’t shown up in the statline yet because of Leody’s age.
Because he had advanced command and application of a four-pitch mix, Winn was viewed as a polished cut above his high school pitching peers in the 2018 draft, arguably a prospect teams could run to for safety as if he were a college arm because of how advanced he was. He didn’t pitch the summer after he was drafted as a workload precaution, threw a little in the fall, then was uncharacteristically wild the following year, walking 39 hitters in 69 innings. Feel for his release point had evaporated and Winn spiked an awful lot of non-competitive secondary pitches in the dirt. His stuff is still good, and his repertoire is still quite robust and visually good-looking, but Winn’s stock is down due to this unexpected speed bump.
From a pitch data perspective — only spin and velo in this case — I actually have Palumbo’s stuff as down half a tick from the year before, but the way he missed bats at Double- and Triple-A (he struck out 33% of hitters) is an indication that it doesn’t really matter. He utilizes a power-pitcher’s approach, working at the letters with his fastball while mixing in lots of overhand curveballs, both of which are quite effective. Palumbo’s changeup also has nasty-looking sink and tail but he doesn’t really locate his fastball anywhere other than the top of the zone, which I think he’d have to be able to do to set up the change, so that pitch plays closer to average right now. Palumbo lacks traditional starter command and pitch utility, but he could work in a Lance McCullers Jr. sort of role or, because of repertoire depth, in effective, multi-inning relief.
Apostel was pilfered from Pittsburgh as the PTBNL in the 2018 Keone Kela trade. I had been hopeful that, despite his size, Apostel would be able to stay at third base for a good chunk of his big league career, but while I still think his arm will help him stay there for a little while, he’ll move to first base by his mid-20s, though there’s still enough going on offensively that I have him projected as a second division regular there. His feel for the strike zone and his timing are both impressive for his age, and he is adept at attacking early-count pitches he can drive, while taking tough strikes. It helps him run deep counts (part of where the strikeouts come from), and walk as well as hit for power. He’s performed on paper since first appearing on FanGraphs prospect lists in 2017 and at this point he’s a low-variance corner role player who should put up 2 WAR seasons for as long as he can play third base.
The mercurial Crouse pitched through a bone spur last year and still sat 92-95, about a tick below where he sat for me coming off biceps tendinitis in the spring (92-96, touch 99). It’s the recent injury history paired with the industry’s mechanical xenophobia that fuels the relief projection here, not Crouse’s command or repertoire depth. His changeup now comfortably projects to average, while his fastball/breaking ball combination has been excellent since he was a high school underclassman. And even amid his injuries Crouse has attacked hitters in games. He incorporates all kinds of crafty veteran wrinkles into his delivery’s cadence on occasion. An extra shoulder wiggle, a Travoltaian gyration of the hips, the occasional quick-pitch — all sorts of things designed to take hitters by surprise. Lefties get a good look at his fastball because of Crouse’s low slot, and the velo he would theoretically gain out of the bullpen (he was up to 102 out of the bullpen in a 2017 All-Star Game) would give him the margin for error he needs to not be crushed by them. I think he’s a late-inning bullpen arm, for which his personality seems well-suited.
Especially now that he’s part of the one-knee’d receivers fad, and that rule changes de-emphasizing framing seem imminent, the likelihood that Huff can catch is growing. Instead, the questions now surround his ability to make contact. Even during his torrid, 30-game stretch to start 2019, Huff was striking out about 30% of the time, his career rate. It’s a problem caused by the combination of his aggressiveness and middling barrel accuracy, and he looked overmatched against big league arms this spring, striking out in half his at-bats. But Huff has superlative power that plays when he does make contact and he can play not only a premium position, but the most barren offensive position in the game right now. I think his offensive production will look similar to Jorge Alfaro’s.
Acosta had an impressive instructs from a bat-to-ball standpoint and generated stronger reports among pro scouts who saw him there than the lukewarm ones amateur scouts filed from their workout looks. Acosta’s tools aren’t showcase-friendly. He has uncommon barrel control and his swing is not only suited for him to make contact at the top of the strike zone, it’s also where he does most of his damage. He’s vulnerable down and away, where he ends up cutting at balls on a decline and driving them into the ground, but lower-level pitching won’t be able to exploit that consistently. For a someone still shy of age 18, Acosta is pretty stocky and strong. If his build stays this way, it improves his chances of staying on the middle infield but also caps his raw power close to average. Regardless of which marginal side of average his power ends up settling on, the contact is what’s going to drive Acosta’s prospectdom, and based on fall looks that aspect could be special.
Lora is a traditional corner outfield power bat with big present raw power and a somewhat mature build. There are some long-term questions about that build because Lora is so huge for a prospect his age and reports about his conditioning while he was an amateur were mixed, but he looked svelte last fall and his relative physical maturity also gives him a better chance of moving quickly through the minors. He often has clumsy in-the-box footwork but deft hitting hands. Last fall, he took several ugly-looking, unbalanced swings but still found a way to get the barrel there, and even when he miss-hits balls they’re still put in play hard because of how strong Lora is. His future depends entirely on his hit tool as it’s pretty clear the power to hit in the middle of an order is going to develop.
There are always a few little toy cannon hurlers with light speed arm actions floating around, and Henriquez, who spent 2018 in the DSL and then skipped several levels and performed at Hickory, is the latest. Despite measuring maybe — maybe — 5-foot-10 (maybe), his arm generates mid-90s velocity he has relatively advanced command of. He’s not a touch and feel strike-thrower; he comes right after hitters at the letters. He also has great feel for locating a breaking ball (though it lacks impact movement), his split/change has natural tumble, and he’s so athletic and well-balanced throughout his delivery that you can kind of go nuts projecting on his command. If the breaking ball improves, he’ll be on next year’s top 100. If not, he’s likely a power reliever.
The Rangers have wasted no time in beginning to move Ornelas all over the field — shortstop, second base, third base, left field — cementing the notion that his future rests in a valuable super utility role. He hit pretty well despite skipping the Northwest League and heading right to full season ball as an 18-year-old, slashing .257/.333/.373 with a bunch of doubles. I’m still not entirely keen on Johnny O’s bat path, which I think will make it hard for him to hit for everyday power if left unaltered, but he’s an excellent rotational athlete who I think will find ways to hit the ball hard all over the field, while he plays several different positions.
Basabe is a fiery little shortstop who takes full-body swings, leading to surprisingly hard contact from someone so small and young. He’s not a discerning hitter yet, and he isn’t a viable shortstop defender right now. Most aspects of the profile are still hazy, but there’s feel for contact and some pop here, as well as a shot for this 60 runner to stay up the middle and play center field if he doesn’t improve as an infielder. The twitch and feel for contact are exciting, but you have to project on lots of technical components (defensive actions and hands, any amount of selectivity) to see a regular.
It’s odd for a player’s profile to do a 180 before he turns 20, but Moss has gone from a speedy, up-the-middle amateur with a Lilliputian build to a positionless, switch-hitting thumper in just two years. The gap power Moss currently generates from both sides of the plate is surprising considering how physically overmatched he was when he first came stateside for 2018 instructs. Perhaps more impressive is how deft his bat control is as a teenage switch-hitter. He pairs an athletic leg kick with very simple hitting hands that he simply guides toward the ball, turning his wrists over through contact and whacking low-lying contact to all fields. Moss can still run, but his infield hands are not good. Optimistic scouts have him eventually passing at second base, while I have him projected to the outfield.
Wendzel was a draft-eligible sophomore in 2018 and had a strong offensive season, but he wasn’t drafted high enough to sign (there were body and defense-related concerns he has since worked to remedy) and had to swim upstream against draft models as a junior as he was over 22 on draft day. He also dealt with a thumb injury late during his college career that shelved him for some of last summer. By the late summer and during instructs, Wendzel was not only fully healthy but clearly in peak physical condition, and he and his tawny Amish beard and mullet were instrumental in the Rangers AZL title run. Though he has a high maintenance build, Wendzel’s hands and actions might enable him to a play a passable shift-aided middle infield spot if he remains as agile as he looked late last year, which again is much different than just a few years ago when he was built more softly and playing some first base and left field. He doesn’t have the huge power typical of a corner spot but he has a chance to play some kind of everyday role as a well-rounded tryhard.
Evans has elite, late-inning stuff (a power curveball and a mid-90s fastball with bat-missing carry and angle) and one of the more imposing on-mound presences in pro baseball, almost as terrifying as his walk rates. He’s on the Texas 40-man now and could seize the closer role at some point, though chances are this guy is going to have Rangers fans clutching their chests and biting their nails frequently if he does.
Acquired from the White Sox for Nomar Mazara during Winter Meetings, Walker spent 2019 in A-ball as a 22- and 23-year-old and slashed .284/.361/.451 in his first full pro season against pitching that was a little bit better than what he saw in the Big 12. He’s a muscular, 5-foot-11 stick of dynamite with plus raw power he likely won’t get to fully in games (from a home run production standpoint, anyway) because of how the swing works. He can turn on balls in, but anything away from the short-levered Walker he tends to either punch somewhere or roll over the top of. He does hit the ball hard (43% of his balls in play last year were hit over 95 mph according to a source) but he can be pitched to in a way that limits the damage he does.
In many ways, Walker projects to be a player quite similar to the one Mazara has become. His platoon splits have been rather significant to this point and his in-game power production is likely to end up beneath his raw (albeit for reasons different than Mazara’s, which have to do with pitch selection more than swing plane issues), though Walker is a superior defender. He can play a passable center field, though whatever big league roster he ends up on will probably have a superior option who pushes him to a corner.
Phillips fills the zone with four pitches and projects as a groundball-getting fifth starter. He has a chance to outproduce this FV grade by eating whole sleeves of innings and generating WAR that way (he’s thrown 130 innings each of the last two years), but other than his changeup, Phillips doesn’t have a weapon that misses bats.
White still hasn’t thrown a pitch in an affiliated game because the Rangers shelved him after his draft (he threw during 2018 instructs and looked fantastic, sitting 93-95, locating a consistently above-average curveball, and displaying nascent feel for a mid-80s changeup). Somehow, he still needed Tommy John in May of last year, though. He has a big, projectable frame, is an above-average on-mound athlete, and his arm action is loose and mechanically efficient. He likely would not have begun to get into games until the middle of the summer anyway, so while the shutdown has impacted Texas’ oversight of his rehab, White’s big league timeline is less affected by the shutdown than most minor leaguers’. When healthy, he had several significant components already in place (velocity, fastball movement, breaking ball quality) and White’s other traits (changeup proclivity, athleticism, and feel for location) indicate he’s poised to grow and develop into a well-rounded arm. He’s a mid-rotation pitching prospect who is likely several years from the majors.
A lat strain (the right-hander had a PRP injection) limited Alexy to just 19.1 regular season innings before he picked up some reps in the fall, during which his stuff looked fine. He was sitting 94-98 in my looks with an above-average curveball and usable changeup. Alexy’s high-effort style of pitching fits in the bullpen, but repertoire depth might enable him to pitch multiple innings.
Vanasco was 90-92 during the 2018 fall instructional league, then leapt into the 92-96 range in 2019. His delivery is ultra-violent, but his fastball/curveball combo give him high-leverage bullpen potential. He’s very similar to Alexy, just several rungs below him on the ladder.
Hernandez has not, as of yet, corralled the velocity he suddenly found a few years ago. When he first arrived in the U.S., he was an interesting pitchability sleeper but, as if the baseball gods had made some kind of continuity error with his career, became a rough-around-the-edges flamethrower, and remains so as he enters his final option year. Some of the two-seamers he throws are unhittable because of their combination of velocity and tailing action, and Hernandez’s arm strength lets him get away with imprecise location in the zone, but the rest of his stuff is closer to average and I think he’s a fastball-heavy bullpen fit long-term.
Garcia went to the Northwest League as a teenager and hit .277/.351/.435 while only catching 38 games as the Rangers continue to handle the physically immature catcher with care. He was so frail early on that he struggled to handle pro-quality stuff on the backfields when he first arrived in the States, but Garcia has now thickened to the point that he appears better able to deal with the physical grind of catching. I’m not sure he’ll retain the viable power on contact he showed last year once he’s subject to a full-season beating behind the plate, and until that’s proven, I’m inclined to project Garcia as a backup who has a puncher’s chance to play everyday.
Cody had a rocky career at Kentucky, always tantalizing scouts with stuff but struggling with health and control. The Twins made him their 2015 second rounder, but he didn’t sign and fell to the sixth round as a 2016 senior. Texas simplified his delivery in 2017, which probably contributed to a breakout year. He seemed likely to spend most of 2018 at Double-A and perhaps reach the majors in 2019, but he had elbow issues during the spring and didn’t break camp with an affiliate. His Arizona rehab was successful enough for Cody to get on a mound in games for a bit, but he felt continued discomfort and needed Tommy John. The mid-summer timing of the surgery means he missed all of 2019 aside from some autumn bullpen sessions that weren’t widely known about, probably just in case Texas decided not to 40-man him and expose him to the Rule 5. He was 94-97 in the bullpen and added to the Rangers roster. If healthy, he’ll grab hold of a middle relief job.
Skilled and versatile, Hernandez is a likely big league role player whose abilities can impact a game in many situations. He’s tough to strike out and has reached base at a career .390 clip because he walks a lot and has an effective slash-and-dash offensive approach. He’s also an acrobatic multi-positional infielder. Hernandez will give a big league team a good at-bat off the bench and an upgrade on the bases, and he can competently spell or sub for any of your bat-first infielders later in games.
Slaten signed for about $200,000 under slot in the third round, then proceeded to light up radar guns in the Northwest League and look like a steal. He was sitting 92-97 there and flashed a plus, two-plane, sweeping breaking ball and tailing changeup. Like many other arms in this system, Slaten has a violent delivery that creates injury concern and relief risk.
Acuña is a small-framed infielder who takes big, whole-body swings that generate more power than you’d expect for someone his size. His size doesn’t allow for a lot of raw power projection but his style of swinging — which includes a bold move forward and a gorgeous hand path similar to his brother’s, though without that kind of explosion — might enable him to hit for some. Unless Acuña outgrows my raw power projection, it puts pressure on him to have a premium hit tool in order to be an impact regular. I think that’s possible but not something we’ll know until Acuña proves it.
Garcia has below average velocity that his TrackMan data indicates might play up because of spin axis. His secondary pitches are all average and Garcia has advanced command. He projects as a fifth starter.
Florentino is a sinewy, athletic, and arguably undersized catcher and first baseman who is likely to stay behind the plate. He has a keen eye for the strike zone and some bat control, but there’s some risk that his offensive tools won’t withstand a full-season grind due to a lack of physicality.
I came away from Thompson’s Fall League jaunt very skeptical about his bat. It’s possible the reps he’s lost due to injury are at least partially to blame for his struggles (Thompson lost chunks of time to a fractured hamate and recovering from a wall collision), but the gap between the average pitcher in the Fall League’s pitching and what Bubba seemed capable of handling was pretty vast. His ceiling is the same, I just think it’s less likely he gets there and sustains it because of the hit tool issues.
Gonzalez continues to have swing-and-miss issues related to his lever length, which the industry sees as enough of a problem that it passed him over during last year’s Rule 5 draft. He hit 23 homers and stole 14 bases while repeating Low-A in 2019, and I’m still betting on his tools and frame to some degree. Gonzalez’s talent might enable him to have a few years where he produces like an everyday player, but for most of the six-year window I consider at FanGraphs I think he’ll strike out a lot and be limited to a platoon and extra outfield role, à la Jake Marisnick but without the elite defense.
The hope that injuries had slowed Hearn’s development and that he’d develop starter traits late has now evaporated as he approaches age 26 without a swing-and-miss secondary. He now profiles as a fastball-heavy reliever.
It’s rare for a 40th rounder to have seemingly imminent big league relevance at all, let alone just about a year after they were drafted, but here’s Uvila, whose funky, three-pitch mix, headlined by a curveball with elite spin, should at least enable him to be a valuable reliever.
While he had a down 2019 with the bat, I still have White projected as a multi-positional bench piece. Where the Rangers end up sticking him is up in the air. Before they traded him to Texas, the Athletics had started to play White at second and third base, while the Rangers kept him at shortstop and center field in 2019, both of which I think are stretches for his ability.
Herget’s fastball averaged close to 90 mph as a college starter but it spiked into the mid-90s out of the pro bullpen, giving him uncommon velocity for a side-armer. He commands his cuttery slider to his glove side and has enough of a changeup to be viable against lefty batters and avoid any role issues caused by three batter minimums.
Gonzalez was acquired from Kansas City for international pool space. He’s a power bullpen arm with a mid-90s fastball and two quality secondaries that both have similar downward movement. He’s a likely winter Rule 5 add and long-term bullpen piece.
Speas is one of many prospects for whom the 2020 season was to be the fulcrum of their pro career. He’s Rule 5 eligible this winter, and Speas’ stuff was so good when he returned from Tommy John rehab last summer (he was 95-99 in his first outing back, then was up to 102 in the next one before being shut down because the Rangers thought he was throwing too hard) that it seemed plausible he’d mow through several levels of the minors this season and earn a 40-man spot. A short season, or perhaps no minor league season at all, makes it unlikely that Speas has the multi-month opportunity to do that, and teams would likely be hesitant to pop him in the Rule 5 considering how little he has pitched the last couple of years. He has late-inning relief potential because of the stuff, but I’m not sure Texas bridges the developmental gap caused by his misfortune and gets him there.
2020 was going to be a big year for Arias, who likely would have gone to Double-A and either earned a 40-man spot or not based on his offensive performance, which to this point in his career has been strong. I like him as a contact-oriented infield bench piece who plays all four spots.
Bannister is a sushi raw athletic marvel who needs as many reps as the Rangers can give him to polish his feel to hit. His route to pro ball was unique. Bannister was born in the Bahamas and grew up there, then moved to Maryland and played at West Nottingham High School until 2017 when he moved to the Dominican Republic to train, before going back to the Bahamas during the summer of 2018. I’ve only ever seen him swing right-handed, including against righty pitchers, so I think his roster status as a switch-hitter is now obsolete. He’s a physically gifted developmental project.
Burke had an odd 26-inning big league stint last year as he barely struck anyone out and worked primarily off his two- and four-seamers, which he commanded to his glove and arm side, respectively. He struggled to finish his breaking ball during his time in the majors; the pitch lacked relevant movement and just hung near the top of the zone. Then Burke had shoulder surgery this spring. His ultimate role will depend on what his stuff looks like coming out of rehab, but based on how it looked when he was last throwing, it’s much more likely that he’s a reliever than starter.
Seise remains interesting from a size and power projection standpoint, but his last two seasons have ended due to shoulder surgeries (right rotator cuff in ’18, left labrum in ’19) and he struck out 30% of the time before each injury. He needs to prove he’s healthy and will stop swinging at balls before he reclaims significant prospect value.
Ragans was 14 months removed from Tommy John when his elbow barked at him again and he needed a second. His surgery came at a time that threatened most of his 2020 season, too. When healthy, he looked like a No. 4 starter with a plus changeup.
Pozo has some off-field baggage because of a hazing incident he participated in early in his career, but on talent, he’s a backup catching prospect with a compact swing. His peripherals are Astudillo-esque.
Ovalles is a smaller-framed first base and corner outfield prospect whose build and limited raw power are the sorts normally found in the honorable mention section of this list. But I’ve seen him do some precocious defensive stuff at first base and I think he has a chance to be plus there while also making enough contact to offset his limited raw juice. He’s a long-shot, but I value him more than is typical because of the bat-to-ball and projected defense.
Barlow has a fastball/curveball combination worthy of a big league middle relief spot, but he’s had strike-throwing issues throughout his career. They briefly abated early in 2019 before returning in the second half, when Barlow walked more hitters than he pitched Triple-A innings. He was laboring again this spring while competing for a bullpen job. I have him as an up and down reliever.
A high-effort, switch-hitting grinder who puts balls in play, runs well, and can play all over the infield, Chavez projects to play a role off a big league bench.
The Rangers moved Mendez to the bullpen when he returned from his spring 2019 UCL sprain, one of several injuries that have kept him prospect eligible despite pitching in parts of four big league seasons so far. He projects as a fastball/changeup reliever.
Bueno (an 80-grade pitching name) was slated to be ASU’s Friday night starter as a junior when the injury bug bit; he’d eventually need TJ. His velo is way up since returning but a bird’s eye view of the profile is a wild, injury-riddled, 24-year-old reliever in A-ball.
Bradford has three average to slightly above pitches and good command but missed almost all of his draft spring at Baylor due to thoracic outlet syndrome.
First Base-Only Bashers
Tyreque Reed, 1B
Curtis Terry, 1B
Andretty Cordero, 1B
Blaine Crim, 1B
This one is self-explanatory. All of these guys have power and have performed fairly well throughout their pro careers to this point, but they have very high offensive bars to clear at first base. There are enough of these types in the system that one or two might be pre-arb band-aids.
Older Relief Types
John King, LHP
Nick Snyder, RHP
Jake Latz, RHP
Reid Anderson, RHP
Jacob Lemoine, RHP
Scott Engler, RHP
King has a plus changeup and sits 90-94 from the left side. He’s had a TJ. Snyder has the best arm action in the org and sits 93-96 but I didn’t see a consistent secondary offering in the fall and consider him a one-pitch guy; Anderson and Lemoine, too. Engler has also had a TJ and sits 93-94 with plus spin and a good axis. Latz was missing bats with his fastball even though it only sits 88-92, then his elbow started hurting and he was shut down.
Destin Dotson, LHP
Mason Englert, RHP
Kelvin Bautista, LHP
Dotson is a physical beast with a vertical arm slot whose velocity fluctuated a lot last year, peaking at 95 but sitting 86-90. Englert was an early draft pick who hasn’t thrown since TJ. He had relief projection before getting hurt. Bautista is a 20-year-old lefty up to 95.
Matt Whatley, C
Melvin Novoa, C
Josh Morgan, C
Whatley is a great defender with some pull power and a high-risk hit tool. Novoa has good feel for contact but is in the 40/45 range for everything else. Morgan’s bat speed looked gone to me in recent looks, though his defensive versatility remains interesting.
Julio Pablo Martinez, CF
Miguel Aparicio, CF
Cody Freeman, 2B
Derwin Barreto, UTIL
Keyber Rodriguez, SS
Most of these are contact-oriented hitters. JPM has performed okay while being quite old for his level. He and Aparicio, whose swing became wilder last season, have bench outfield ceilings. Freeman got $900,000 in last year’s draft and he does have advanced contact, but I just don’t see big league twitch. Barreto and Rodriguez are athletic 25th/26th man sorts.
Same as last year, this system has lots of high variance players who you can line up in lots of different ways depending on what you value and whose red flags you’re inclined to either ignore or argue around. While you can order these guys in several justifiable ways, there’s general agreement that the top half of the system is tightly packed, full of players just outside the overall 100 because of a scary trait or two, or because they have likely bullpen projection. It’s a deep system full of exciting, big-bodied athletes.
But the last two years have been unkind to its health. The number of injuries, many of which have required surgery, has been a nightmare and caused all kinds of questions about the development and medical staff. A full-body rash of injuries like this is so bizarre that it almost certainly just involves sheer bad luck, though the counterargument is that it’s so widespread that some of it has to be signal.
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the San Diego Padres. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
The blisters that disrupted Gore’s first full season in pro ball were not an issue in 2019, and he reached Double-A after 15 dominant starts in the hitter-friendly Cal League, during which he surrendered just nine measly runs. Gore pitches the same way a great horror movie villain lurks and ambushes from the shadows. The strange, balletic way he hoists his leading leg and hands as high as he can before he peddles home builds fear of the unknown, and dread anticipation the same way eerie music portends someone’s cinematic demise. Then Gore lunges home with a huge stride, one that takes him slightly down the first base line, and gets right on top of hitters, creating more discomfort. Then, suddenly, the jump scare. The ball explodes out from behind Gore’s head and blows past flailing hitters at the letters, banishing them to the dugout until their sequel at-bat a few innings later.
Gore generated a 16% swinging strike rate overall last year and a 15% swinging strike rate on his fastball, which is amazing for a heater that only averaged 93 mph. Several other traits — Gore generates nearly perfect backspin and seam uniformity on his fastballs, which you can see in the video that corresponds to this player capsule, and the flat approach angle of his stuff contributes, too — help the fastball play up, including Gore’s command which projects, at least, to plus. Spin efficiency also enables his curveball to be good even though it lacks big raw spin, he has glove-side command of his slider, and his changeups, though they’re of mixed quality, are typically well-located. You can go wild projecting on Gore’s secondary stuff, especially the changeup, and his command because he is such an exceptional athlete, and the fact that he can repeat and maintain such an odd and explosive delivery is clear evidence of that.
The 2018 blister problems created some short-term workload issues that San Diego’s dev group tried to solve by shutting Gore down for most of August. He threw side sessions for most of the month before returning for one last in-game outing before the Texas League playoffs, which he didn’t pitch in. He had a 40-inning increase from 2018 to 2019, when he threw 100 frames. It puts him on pace to throw 120-140 innings this year, though it only makes sense for San Diego to push him if they’re contending for the playoffs. Based on how they handled Paddack and Tatis last year, such an approach seems possible.
If not for Sam Huff‘s game-tying two-run shot in the bottom of the seventh inning, we would not have gotten to see Patiño chuck heaters past Royce Lewis and Jo Adell at the 2019 Futures Game. It was a coronation of sorts, an indication that the then-teenager would be ready for the bright lights of Petco Park when the Padres call on him, which might happen in 2020, even if it’s out of the bullpen at first. (There are some executives who think that will be Patiño’s ultimate role.) He’s smaller, and his changeup and command are not very good yet. But this is one of the best on-mound athletes in the minors, one who hasn’t been pitching all that long, and has had premium velocity for an even shorter span of time. It’d be unreasonable to expect a 20-year-old to be fully realized when he’s only been pitching for about four years. Patiño’s velocity came on in a huge way as he got on a pro strength program and he’s added 40 pounds of good weight and about 10 ticks of velo since he signed. He’s a charismatic autodidact who has taken a similarly proactive approach to learning a new language (he became fluent in English very quickly, totally of his own volition) as he has to incorporating little tricks and twists into his delivery (he’s borrowed from Mac Gore) to mess with hitters.
Were this a college prospect, he’d be in the conversation for the draft’s top pick, and I’m very comfortable projecting on the command and changeup because of the athleticism/makeup combination. I expect Patiño will reach the big leagues this year in a bullpen capacity and compete for a rotation spot in 2021.
The .401/.442/.662 line Abrams posted after signing isn’t sustainable, buoyed as it was by the interaction that players as fast as he is have with defenses at the lowest levels of the minors (he had a .425 BABIP), but Abrams can absolutely rake. He had no trouble with the leap from amateur to pro velocity, though some of the top high school pitching he saw the summer before his draft year was probably better than what he faced in the 2019 AZL. He has a knack for impacting the baseball in a way that creates hard contact even though his swing is currently pretty flat, and he can do this all over the strike zone. Of the trio of elite AZL prospects (Abrams, Bobby Witt, and Marco Luciano), Abrams has the most polished hit tool and the most room left on his frame. Even without a swing change, he’s going to grow into more power just through maturity, which is pretty scary considering his exit velos are already above big league average (though, again, AZL pitching wasn’t good last year).
I don’t think he’s a shortstop. When he has time to step and throw, Abrams has enough arm for the left side of the infield, but ask him to contort his body and make tough throws on balls he has to go get and the results are mixed. Most players with this issue end up in center field, where Abrams could be a plus defender because of his speed, assuming his instincts there aren’t terrible. He has top-of-the-order traits right now and is a virtual lock to play somewhere up the middle, even if it isn’t at short.
Campusano was a bad-bodied catcher on the summer showcase circuit, but then he completely remade his body for his senior spring. He showed above-average power, some bat control, and improved agility behind the plate, boosting his stock to the late first/early second round of the draft. He didn’t catch much velocity in high school and struggled receiving pro arms at first, but that has improved to a place of acceptability. More importantly, he’s continued to hit. Though his Hi-A statline was aided by the Cal League’s hitting environment, Campusano’s 11% strikeout rate was the second best rate among qualified, full-season backstops in 2019 (Yohel Pozo was first) and his exit velos (89 mph on average) are great for a 20-year-old. He is rumored to have been the centerpiece of San Digeo’s Mookie Betts negotiations with Boston and while young catching has a tendency to take a beating and fall short of expectations on offense because of it, right now Campusano looks like a potential star offensive catcher.
Trammell sees a lot of pitches, he has gap power, and he can really run, which helps him run down more balls than a lot of left fielders. He’s very competitive, and is similar in many ways to Brett Gardner. He was utilizing a narrower stance during the spring, which forced him to take more of a stride than he had been during his days with the Reds. This was probably done to see if Trammell would end up hitting for more power but the