These are notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.
It’s important that we look at Triple-A statistical performances (especially in the PCL) in a different light given what is transpiring with the baseball itself, but we can still appreciate Alvarez’s blistering start with that in mind. After a little over two weeks, he’s slugging .870; nine of his 17 hits have been home runs, and he has one more walk than strikeout thus far. He’s played eight games in left field, five at DH, two at first base, and one in right field. Most all of Houston’s big league hitters are mashing right now (Tyler White is hitting lefties, at least), so there’s not an obvious short-term path to big league playing time here. If anyone goes down though, perhaps Alvarez will get the call instead of a struggling Kyle Tucker.
Is this the start of a breakout the industry hoped was possible given Lowe’s raw physical tools? Or is this some small sample blip? Lowe already has four homers this year, just two shy of his mark from the entire 2018 season. Nothing about his batted ball profile has changed compared to last year, from either a groundball/fly ball stand point, or his pull/opposite field spray. Barring significant physical development during the offseason (a source who has seen Lowe this year says he’s not noticeably different than last season), it’s possible this is some combination of a) a small statistical sample and b) a new offensive environment, one that is more hitter-friendly than the Florida State League. Lowe does have big raw power and he hits the ball in the air. He has an all-fields approach to contact that might knock his game power down beneath his raw because he’s not just pulling and lifting everything, but he might be a simple tweak away from stardom.
Minor leaguers still have too few balls in play to trust batted ball profile changes and seek out information regarding possible swing alterations, but Waters is trending like someone we’ll need to ask about or see. His early-season statistics indicate he may be making a concerted effort to trade contact for power. He’s striking out more (30%, which would be concerning if he weren’t so young for the level) and hitting the ball in the air more often (33% groundball rate compared to almost 50% last year), differences that are strong enough already to wonder if there’s been a swing change. We already like Waters; this is just about accurately reporting the tools. We have him as a plus bat with average game power right now, but if this new contact profile is real, it’ll be closer to the inverse of that.
This was Keller’s best start of the young season; his year so far had been marred by inconsistent strike-throwing. Sinker/curveball guys don’t typically strike out many hitters, so perhaps Keller’s command regression is due to some combination of a focus on changeup development or mixing in a four seamer that pairs better with his curveball. It’s too early to dilute the 60 we have projected on Keller’s command given this context, but it has been a while since he’s had walk rates in the 4-6% range like he did early in his career.
I’ll be seeing amateurs in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic this week, which may impact the length, frequency, or shape of my Daily Prospect Notes through Friday. My schedule is variable due to things like weather and changing pitching probables, so these posts might be also as my driving schedule fluctuates.
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.