Prospect Limbo: The Best of the Post-Prospects

Prospects “graduate” from prospect lists when they exceed the playing time/roster days necessary to retain rookie eligibility. But of course, that doesn’t mean they’re all in the big leagues for good. Several are up for a while but end up getting bounced back and forth from Triple-A for an extended period of time. Others get hurt at an inopportune moment and virtually disappear for years.

Nobody really covers these players in a meaningful way; they slip through the cracks, and exist in a limbo between prospectdom and any kind of relevant big-league sample. Adalberto Mondesi, Jurickson Profar, A.J. Reed, and Tyler Glasnow are recent examples of this. To address this blind spot in coverage, I’ve cherry-picked some of the more interesting players who fall under this umbrella who we didn’t see much of last year, but who we may in 2019.

Clint Frazier, CF, New York Yankees
Acquired from Cleveland in Andrew Miller trade
Age 24 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R PV 50
Tool Grades
Hit Raw Power Game Power Speed Defense Arm
40 60 55 60 45 55
Frazier suffered a vestibular concussion early during 2018 spring training and dealt with symptoms throughout that season, limiting him to 69 total games. So stubborn were Frazier’s issues that doctors felt compelled to get creative with his treatment, prescribing noise and other high-intensity activities, the antithesis of his initial treatment.

When he was healthy enough to be on the field before his symptoms returned, scouts saw tools befitting an everyday outfielder. Frazier still has electric bat speed and power, and he’s a plus runner once he reaches top speed. That speed makes him passable in center field (where I have him graded above) and above-average in a corner (where he may play this year). Reports on the hit tool vary, but that could be because Frazier’s symptoms, when resurgent, most impacted that aspect of his skillset. There’s some hit tool and, possibly, risk that these concussion symptoms are chronic, but I still have him projected as an everyday left fielder.

Raimel Tapia, CF, Colorado Rockies
Lost rookie status in 2017, spent most of 2018 at Triple-A
Age 25 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L PV 50
Tool Grades
Hit Raw Power Game Power Speed Defense Arm
60 45 40 60 50 55
Tapia’s tools remain much as they were when he was a prospect and ranked near the back of our 2017 Top 100 prospects list. He has superb feel for contact and is one of the more distinctive swingers in pro baseball, even though he has ditched the trademark crouch he once employed with two strikes and now remains upright for the entirety of his at-bats. His combination of below-average plate discipline and power makes him a risk to post on base percentages below those that would create everyday value, and the Rockies’ insistence on regularly fitting Ian Desmond into the lineup will probably make it difficult for Tapia to produce annual WAR values that vindicate my continuously bullish assessment of his bat.

Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Acquired from Toronto in Troy Tulowitzki trade
Age 26 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R PV 40+
Tool Grades
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60? 50 60 45 45 90-95 / 99

Hoffman only threw 8.2 innings in the big leagues last year and looked like a shell of his former self when he did. His fastball velocity was down nearly two full ticks and he heavily borrowed from his curveball usage to instead work more with his slider, which was harder but had considerably less spin than it did the year before. It was No. 5 starter stuff.

This offseason, Hoffman received a mechanical consultation at Driveline and reportedly tweaked the way he used his lower half, and is now throwing harder. Much, much harder. Harder than he was in college when Kiley and I thought he was a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick before he blew out his UCL. Of everyone discussed here, Hoffman is the most volatile. There’s no way of knowing how different he looks until we see him this spring, but it appears as though it may be drastically so.

David Paulino, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Acquired from Houston in Roberto Osuna trade
Age 25 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 222 Bat / Thr R / R PV 40
Tool Grades
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50 50 55 50 45 90-95 / 96

Paulino graduated off of prospect lists in 2017 and spent extended time on the Injured List twice last year, in part due to shoulder soreness. In the past, he’s also had a team-imposed suspension for a rules violation, surgery to clean up bone spurs, and a PED suspension, so he has been tough to see for various reasons over the last three years. He got a brief September look with Toronto late last season after the Jays acquired him in the Roberto Osuna deal, and his stuff was intact.

He’ll likely be a reliever moving forward, just as a way of keeping him healthy by limiting his innings, but he has a starter’s four-pitch mix led by a very pretty 12-6 curveball that doesn’t play as well as its spin would suggest (it averages over 3,000 rpm) because it’s fairly easy to identify out of his hand. Instead, we may see more changeups from him than anything else. The repertoire depth may enable him to play a multi-inning role, but I have just a 40 on Paulino at this point.

Lucas Sims, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Acquired from Atlanta in Adam Duvall trade
Age 24 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R PV 40
Tool Grades
Fastball Cutter Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50 50 60 50 40 90-94 / 96

After years of posting high strikeout rates as a Braves prospect, Sims’ 2017 big league debut was kind of a mess. He went from striking out 28% of hitters at Triple-A to just 17% in the big leagues, and he was quite wild. The Braves shuttled him back and forth between Gwinnett and Atlanta a few times, then traded him to Cincinnati in the 2018 Adam Duvall deal. Though Sims’ big league numbers weren’t good last year, he did make some encouraging mechanical alterations. His stride was a little longer, his arm swing started earlier, and it wasn’t racing to catch up to the rest of his delivery, which had caused pitches to sail on him in 2017. His release point is much more consistent than it had been, too, and his cutter and curveball usage have inverted.

Here are Sims’ 2017 release points:

And here they are in 2018:

It’s unclear if these changes will make a positive impact, but they are changes. He’ll likely get a chance to play a relief role on an all-hands-on-deck Reds pitching staff.

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 Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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5 years ago

I love this. Graduated prospects who have injury issues/ playing time issues are one of the biggest blind spots in baseball coverage…. It would be great for this to be a weekly column.. just off the top of my head there are so many guys that fall into this category Daniel Norris, Bradley Zimmer, Dustin Fowler, etc etc.