These are notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.
In our recently-published Royals list, we openly wondered if we should be heavier on Lopez largely because A) he plays shortstop and B) his peripherals are excellent. Shortly after publication, an executive reached out to us and they agreed we should be more enthused about Lopez, who we currently have evaluated as a second-division regular. He’s struck out just once so far this year. We don’t expect Lopez to hit for much power (he’s little and hits the ball on the ground a lot), but he may do enough to be part of Kansas City’s rebuilding efforts.
After two semi-wild starts during which his stuff was still too good for opposing hitters to do anything with, Graterol was slightly more efficient and utterly dominant last night. He’s holding upper-90s heat late into games, and while his slider is more horizontally oriented than is ideal (vertical breaking balls are typically better at missing bats), Graterol’s has enough length to be a real problem for hitters anyway. He’s only 20 and carving up Double-A. If there’s a scenario in which Graterol sees the big leagues this year, it almost certainly involves a tight AL Central race and a start like the one he’s off to.
After a rough first week, Kelenic has heated up and is hitting like one would hope the most advanced high school bat would hit during their first full pro season. Both he and Nolan Gorman are performing and seem on the fast track. Kelenic has also looked comfortable in center field. Big and muscular aleady at 19, there’s some thought Kelenic may eventually move to a corner, but if he races through the minors, he’ll get to the bigs before he slows down.
Perhaps the epitome of the high-risk hitting prospect, Gonzalez continues to hit for power despite employing one of the most swing-happy approaches in pro ball. He still hasn’t walked this year and has just three free passes dating back to last June. The realistic ceiling for a player like this is a Hunter Renfroe-y sort of player.
Dispatch from Chula Vista
I’m in Southern California to see Eastlake High School infielder Keoni Cavaco, perhaps the most signifiant pop-up prospect in this year’s draft. Though his swing is a little unorthodox and handsy, Cavaco has big raw power and speed (he homered to dead center yesterday, turned what would typically be a gap single into a double, stole a base) and maybe the best body in the draft. He mishandled a ball at third base (where he moved, from second, late in the game) and saw little defensive action beside that.
We have Cavaco at the back of the 45-FV tier in this year’s class. There can only be so much confidence in his bat because he wasn’t part of last summer’s big showcases, where he would have faced better pitching than he’s seeing now. On tools, and based on what teams had extra heat in to see him (Seattle, Cleveland, Arizona), we’ll likely slide him up a few spots on The Board. I may head back to see more of him today.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.