These are notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.
Seuly Matias, RF, Kansas City Royals
Level: Hi-A Age: 20 Org Rank: 1 FV: 45+
Line: 3-for-4, 2B, 3B
Matias’ 34% career strikeout rate is a sizable red flag that ultimately is what kept him off our overall prospect rankings. With a few exceptions, even the most whiff-prone big leaguers struck out less than that when they were in the minors. But so gifted and physically dominant is Matias that we think he’ll be effective, even if it’s in a streaky, inconsistent way like Domingo Santana or Carlos Gomez. As a teen, he was already posting exit velocities on par with burly, Quad-A type hitters. We hope he learns to take a walk, but “Randal Grichuk with more raw power” is a good player, so we’re cautiously optimistic that the Royals at least have a good big leaguer here, and a potential superstar if there’s contact/approach refinement, which is admittedly easier said than done.
Nolan Gorman, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
Level: Low-A Age: 18 Org Rank: 3 FV: 50
Line: 2-for-5, 2 HR
The Cardinals gave Gorman some reps with the big league team during spring training, and a scout told me they thought it would make Low-A, where Gorman struck out 37% of the time for a month of 2018, appear slower and easier by comparison. He has reached base in each of his 2019 games, and six of his 10 hits have gone for extra bases. We considered Gorman one of the more advanced high school bats in last year’s class (he and Jarred Kelenic were the only two in that top tier) and thought he might move quickly if the strikeout issues that popped up during his senior spring could be remedied. It looks like Gorman is just going to strike out a little more than is ideal, but he also appears poised for a quick move to the upper levels of the minors. When is the right time for promotion? I’d give opposing pitchers the chance to make adjustments to Gorman, and vice versa, which means waiting until mid-May when he sees Beloit, Quad Cities, Wisconsin, and Cedar Rapids for the second time. If he hits until then, and those clubs can’t find a way to get him out the second time they see him, perhaps we see Gorman in Hi-A just after he turns 19.
Joey Bart, C, San Francisco Giants
Level: Hi-A Age: 22 Org Rank: 1 FV: 55
Line: 2-for-5, HR, 2B, BB
Nothing to see here as Bart should be expected to hit for power in the Cal League both because of its offensive environment and because last year he teed off on ACC competition, which is second only to the SEC, in my opinion. It’s ironic that the top two picks in last year’s drafts seem likely to be ready for the majors well before their parent club is likely to be competitive, but perhaps it will behoove the Giants to move Bart to Double-A semi-early this summer if for no other reason than to get him working with that pitching staff, which I think has more future big league teammates on it than the group in San Jose does.
Josh Naylor, DH, San Diego Padres
Level: Triple-A Age: 21 Org Rank: 11 FV: 50
Line: 3-for-6, 2 2B
Naylor should be monitored closely because he’s the type of hitter who could explode if he makes a relevant approach change. He has both huge raw power and excellent bat control, but his willingness to offer at pitches he can’t drive had limited his power output until 2018, when he homered 17 times at Double-A. If he learns to attack the right pitches, he’ll hit so much that it won’t matter that he doesn’t really have a defensive home. As Naylor is just 21, we’re cautiously optimistic that he will. It’s too early to draw conclusions from his stats but his pull% is currently much higher than is usual.
Trying New Things
I noticed two odd things while combing box scores last night. First, Astros prospect Myles Straw (17th on the Astros list) has been playing shortstop. A quick perusal of the interwebs unearthed this article in the Houston Chronicle, which reports that the Astros will give this a try for a few weeks and see if Straw can actually play there. Their upper levels have been so crowded with outfielders that many of those players have been traded, and seeing as Straw’s best tool (his defense) is made redundant by Jake Marisnick, it makes sense to explore his defensive versatility.
Similarly, the Rangers are trying 1B/LF/3B Andretty Cordero at second base. Unlikely to do enough damage to profile at first (where he’s seen the most time), Cordero’s bat was still notable enough to include him in the Others of Note section of the Rangers list. Should he prove passable at second base, he’ll be much more relevant.
Former shortstop Javy Guerra of the Padres has moved to the mound, and I’ve been told he’s sitting in the upper-90s with natural cut. He’s on the San Diego 40-man.
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.