These are notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.
Off to hot start, Robert has multi-hit efforts in each of his first four games and has already stolen three bases and homered three times. After watching LouBob a lot last year (first while he rehabbed multiple injuries, then in the Fall League), I grew concerned about how his bat path might limit the quality of his contact (he sometimes struggled to pull pitches he should have) or his rate of contact, which we don’t have a large-enough sample to properly assess because of his injuries. So far, the pull-side stuff hasn’t been founded, as all but two of Robert’s balls in play so far this year have been to the right side of the field, and those were both pop-ups to the second baseman. He’s one of the more physically-gifted players in pro baseball.
We do not think Hernandez is a long-term starter and instead think he’ll be an elite bullpen arm. His fastball often sits in the upper-90s when he’s starting so it should at least stay there if he’s moved to relief and, though his feel for it comes and goes, his curveball can be untouchable at times. Maybe the strong early-season performances of Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, and Ryan Brasier has stifled some of the disquiet about the Red Sox bullpen, but in the event that they need an impact arm, I think it’s more likely to be Hernandez than a piece outside the org. Some of this is due to the quality of the farm system, but Hernandez might also just be better than a lot of the options that will eventually be on the trade market.
Helsey’s line is not notable but his stuff is. We weren’t sure what it might look like this year as he came off of a shoulder injury that effectively ended his season last July. He was down for several weeks, had one rehab outing, then was shut down again for the year. Last night his fastball sat 96-98 and touched 100, so it appears he’s healthy and should now be considered a likely big league contributor this year.
We’ve been all over the place on Hill because for a time, we thought he had made relevant swing changes that might enable him to hit for enough power to profile every day. After last year, that 2017 blip of production seemed like noise, and we again considered Hill a glove-first bench outfield prospect. If his first three games — 8-for-15, three extra-base hits — are a sign of things to come in 2019 then we’ll have to reconsider once again. We think the appropriate time to do this is about 50 balls in, or after about a month’s worth of games. Hill has clearly been passed by Daz Cameron in the eyes of the org (Daz is younger and at Triple-A), so even if he legitimately improves, it may be hard for him to find playing time with Detroit.
I think we’ll see Palumbo in the big leagues at some point this year but it’s unclear in what role. He’s not very pitch-efficient and, coming off Tommy John, he only threw 45 innings last year, so he might be on a 2019 innings limit that forces a move to the bullpen later in the summer. He sat 93-96 early in the starts I saw from him last year and would likely do that in single-inning relief outings. It might become important to separate Palumbo’s stuff and results as a reliever from his stuff and results as a starter if this comes to fruition. His curveball and changeup are both good so, long term, I think he starts. He could wind up on next year’s Top 100.
Yankees 26-year-old first baseman Mike Ford and Padres 27-year-old second baseman Esteban Quiroz both had big games last night. Ford homered three times against Buffalo, twice off of Clay Buchholz, while Quiroz had three hits, including a double, and walked three times. They’re each the type of player who gets penalized for their age in our prospect rankings because we’re looking at six-year windows of production and players like this will be in their decline phases for some of that span while 21-year-olds are less likely to be. But they might play relevant short term roles in the big leagues, and maybe on your fantasy team.
Both Ford and Quiroz have taken circuitous routes to get here. Ford was a two-way player at Princeton, and Ivy League Player of the Year but went undrafted. He focused on hitting as a pro and put up strong numbers through the upper minors. He was a catch-and-release Rule 5 selection by Seattle and now appears to be org depth for a very injured Yankees team with a glass canon first baseman in Greg Bird.
2018 was Quiroz’s first year in affiliated ball as he had spent seven years in the Mexican League. Injuries made him hard to evaluate until he had an impressive Fall League and was traded from Boston to San Diego for Colten Brewer. He’s a stocky 5-foot-7, has great feel for the strike zone, and could end up playing a role similar to the one Greg Garcia currently occupies for the Padres, but maybe with a better stick. There’s no pressure to add him to the 40-man yet, but I think we’ll see him this year either because he’s a better offensive option than Garcia or because the Padres will want to see what they have.
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.