Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.
Note from Eric: we were recently alerted that another baseball website, the reputable Sox Prospects, runs a daily post entitled “Cup of Coffee” (the former name of this series of daily posts). The present column didn’t run yesterday as Carson Cistulli and I attempted to produce a new title that was clever, appropriate, and algorithmically effective. We did not succeed. Please continue to enjoy these as if they were perfectly titled. End of note.
Jimmy Herget, RHP, Cincinnati (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 23 Org Rank: 23 Top 100: NR
Line: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 6 K
Herget has thrown six innings this year and allowed just two baserunners while striking out 13. He works in the low to mid-90s, is deceptive, and throws catroonish sliders like the one below. Pitchers with an arm slot like this elicit platoon-related concerns from scouts, and Herget did allow an OBP to lefties that was .050 higher than he did against righties last year, but most observers think Herget has enough command to mitigate the issues and think he could, one day, close.
Juan Soto, RF, Washington (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 18 Org Rank: 2 Top 100: 95
Line: 0-for-4, 1 BB, 1 K
The thing to note here is the strikeout, just Soto’s third one of the season over 49 plate appearances. He’s slashing .400/.450/.578 over the first 10 games of full-season ball. (Small-sample-size caveats apply until mid-summer, but you’re a FanGraphs reader and know that already.) He doesn’t turn 19 until October.
Daniel Palka, OF/1B (Profile)
Level: Triple-A Age: 25 Org Rank: 11 Top 100: NR
Line: 5-for-8, 2 HR, 2B (double header)
Palka’s breakout in 2015 was met with some skepticism, as he was a 23-year-old college hitter who mashed in the Cal League. But he posted a higher ISO at Double-A in 2016 and a nearly identical one late last year in a brief stint at Triple-A. His swing is awfully noisy (he’s got a 27% career strikeout rate), but he has good strike-zone recognition and should carve out a bench bat or three-true-outcomes platoon bat
Notes from the back fields
Rangers righty Mike Matuella was 93-97 in an extended spring training appearance on Friday. A scout in attendance said he was impressed by the changeup but noted Matuella threw few breaking balls. Scouts think he has front-of-the-rotation potential if he could stay healthy for an extended period of time.
Anthony Alford, OF, Toronto (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 22 Org Rank: 2 Top 100: 79
Line: 3-for-4, 2B, SB
Alford is white hot, up to .500/.590/.656 in the early going. He’s driving the ball the other way with authority and has walked more than he’s struck out so far, a significant development if it continues as Alford has had swing-and-miss issues as a pro. He has star-level tools — plus raw power and plus-plus speed — and if the bat-to-ball piece of the profile is starting to come now that he’s been focusing on just baseball for a third consecutive year, he could become an offensive force. New Hampshire has played Binghamton, Hartford, Reading, and Trenton thus far and will see all of those teams again in the coming weeks, when the batteries who have faced Alford will have an opportunity to adjust and try to solve him.
Lachlan Wells, LHP, Minnesota (Profile)
Level: Hi-A Age: 20 Org Rank: 24 Top 100: NR
Line: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 8 K
Wells has walked just a single hitter over 14 innings and struck out 17. He’s closer to an even 6-feet tall than his listed 5-foot-8 but still a bit undersized, working with a fastball in the 89-93 range, a good curveball, and deception.
Blake Perkins, CF, Washington (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 20 Org Rank: 16 Top 100: NR
Line: 2-for-6, 1 K
Drafted in the second round primarily because of his defensive instincts in center field, Perkins is hitting .356 so far this season and has multi-hit outings in four of his last five games. He’s also hitting .425 versus right-handed pitching. Perkins, a natural righty, only began switch-hitting after he entered pro ball and hit .203 from the left side last year.
Jake Cronenworth, SS, Tampa Bay (Profile)
Level: Hi-A Age: 23 Org Rank: HM Top 100: NR
Line: 3-for-5, 3B
Cronenworth looked over matched in his limited big-league action during spring training but has started the season off with more walks than strikeouts and a .532 OBP. Scouts aren’t sure if he stays at short and doubt the power will play anywhere else, but the batted-ball data renaissance might allow for it.
Notes from the sun-soaked fields of Southern California
I’m in southern California this week scouting amateur players — starting in Irvine with UC Irvine DH Keston Hiura, whom I saw Monday. Hiura hit .330 as a freshman, .358 as a sophomore, is mashing .414 this year, and is one of the draft’s more polished and successful college hitters. He showed above-average raw power during batting practice and has lightning-quick hands that get the bat head into the hitting zone quickly and with ferocity. My in-game looks were limited, as Hiura singled, then walked once and was hit by two pitches before he reached on a flare single to right that could have been a double (Hiura runs quite well) if not for baserunning blunders ahead of him. He squared neither hit and didn’t show much bat control during the evening, but it was obviously a limited look.
Hiura has an elbow injury that has prevented him from playing a defensive position this year. He took ground balls at second base during batting practice, and his footwork and actions look fine there, but he lobbed the balls he fielded, underhand, to teammates for disposal. Hiura’s bat profiles at second base (he’s a better offensive prospect) and he appears to have the athleticism to play there as long as his arm gets healthy. He had a plasma-rich platelet injection before the year to aid healing and UCI hopes he’s able to play the field before the draft. I consider him a superior offensive prospect to Phillies 2B Scott Kingery, whom I thought merited first-round consideration in 2015. At the very least, Hiura is the type of player analytically inclined teams like to take early, at a discount.
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.