Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.
Chuckie Robinson, C, Houston (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 22 Org Rank: HM Top 100: NR
Line: 1-for-2, HR, 2 BB
A 21st rounder out of Southern Miss, Robinson has big pull power and takes full-effort, uppercut swings. He’s homered in two consecutive games (his first two of the season) and is now up to .282/.346/.479 on the year. He’s significantly improved his conditioning since high school and improved his defensive mobility, though he’s still listed at 5-foot-11, 225 pounds. Robinson is now a passable receiver with above-average pure arm strength that plays down on throws to second base because he’s still a bit slow to exit his crouch. Some are apprehensive about the sustainability of Robinson’s Bunyanesque approach to hitting, but he’s got louder tools and a better chance to reach the majors than the typical 21st-round pick. He profiles as a third catcher.
Andrew Suarez, LHP, San Francisco (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 24 Org Rank: 5 Top 100: NR
Line: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 7 K, 1 ER
Suarez’s stuff is homely, his fastball a pedestrian 89-91 with late movement and his best secondary pitch a terse, mid-80s slider with short, late break. He commands both of them and keeps them down in the zone and usually away from hitters. He can also lob in his curveball for strikes. Richmond is a spacious place in which to pitch, but Suarez actually has favorable splits on the road, and he’s beginning to allay concerns about injury (he had labrum surgery in college and an oblique injury early in 2015 before his draft) after making 24 healthy starts last year. He hasn’t yet had a stint on the DL as a pro, either.
Andrew Knizer, C, St. Louis (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 22 Org Rank: NR Top 100: NR
Line: 3-for-7, 2B, HR
Knizner was part of talented, underperforming teams at North Carolina State from 2014 to 2016 and stood out among his talented teammates there for his big bat speed, raw power, and strong build. He’s hitting .313/.358/.539 in the Midwest League and Chris Mitchell’s KATOH pegged him as a deep sleeper heading into the year. Scouts are skeptical about Knizner’s ability to catch because he struggles to receive good velocity and is relatively immobile, but he’s only been catching since his sophomore year of college, so perhaps there’s yet room for growth.
Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP, Cincinnati (Profile)
Level: Hi-A Age: 21 Org Rank: 20 Top 100: NR
Line: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 3 ER, 7 K
Gutierrez was available on the open market, cleared by MLB and OFAC, for a long while before ultimately signing with a Reds club that had already committed itself to the current July 2nd period by signing Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez. Gutierrez was up to 97 in workouts but his stuff was inconsistent, his mechanics constantly in flux, and scouts had almost no idea about his command because Gutierrez wasn’t pitching entire games against live hitters. He’s been mostly 93-95 this year with a hammer curveball and is throwing a high ratio of strikes, walking just two hitters over his last five starts. A scout with whom I spoke still thinks there’s a chance he’s a reliever, not due to command or (as was the case with Raisel Iglesias) a delivery that’s very arm-dependent but because the changeup has a long way to go before it’s ready for the majors.
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.
St. Louis has a ton of intriguing catching prospects; they’ve got five guys on the deep sleeper list, and that doesn’t include one of the better catching prospects in the game, Carson Kelly. With Yadi locked up for a few more years and Kelly being next in line, teams looking for young catchers should look closely at St. Louis. If STL makes a medium or bigger upgrade at the trade deadline, I bet one (or more) of the aforementioned six catchers is included.
On Knizer: if he can’t stick at catcher, where do you think he ends up? And will the bat play there? Thanks!