Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.
Raul Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals (Profile)
Level: High-A Age: 18 Top-15: 3rd Top-100: 46th
Line: 89 PA, .304/.382/.430, 1 HR, 9 BB, 23 K
One of the game’s top shortstop prospect is holding his own against much older players.
The above statline says it all: shortstop (and, I’ll note, a legitimate one), eighteen years old, in High-A (in a pitcher’s haven home park, too!), hitting .304/.382/.430. What’s not to love?
A look deeper reveals one thing not to love: Mondesi’s performance against left-handed pitchers. I spotlighted the switch-hitter’s righthanded stroke as problematic in an article last season, and he has struggled mightily with it this year, hitting .214/.313/.214 and striking out 13 times in 32 plate appearances against southpaws. It’s a minor blemish for a player this young and skilled, but it bears watching going forward. In a viewing earlier this year, his stroke from the right side still appeared fairly stiff without optimal lower body use:
Of course, given his overall statline, this means that Mondesi’s lefty stroke is all that more impressive, and indeed, he’s ripping the ball at a .351/.421/.549 clip against righthanders, striking out just ten times in 57 PAs. I didn’t happen to see anything particularly impressive in my viewing–he went 0-for-5 with 3 Ks–but he did display good bat speed and a sound lefthanded setup and swing as well as clear athleticism. He doesn’t project as a significant source of over-the-fence power to me, but he should amass plenty of singles and doubles with a reasonable amount of walks. As for his defense, enjoy this gem of a play:
There aren’t many 18-year-olds who can do that. Mondesi’s fast-twitch athleticism makes him a significant presence on the bases (he’s 5-for-5 this year) and in the field, meaning his bat only needs to be passable for him to be a valuable contributor. All indications are that it can meet that threshold.
Mondesi needs to improve from the right side and could stand to add strength, but even if he doesn’t improve in those areas as much as one would like, given where he is at his age (with plenty of projection left, too), it would be a big surprise to see him fail to become a sound starting shortstop in the majors. He could be one of the best prospects in the game soon.
Rangel Ravelo, 1B, Chicago White Sox (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 22 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 81 PA, .371/.506/.629, 2 HR, 15 BB, 11 K
Nobody’s hotter at the plate. Formerly an interesting sleeper, Ravelo is now undoubtedly a prospect.
I spotlighted Rangel Ravelo in the offseason in this writeup as a player to keep an eye on despite the fact that he was a first baseman who boasted only seven homers in four professional seasons. I had a few reasons (read the article for more depth on them) for this belief. First, I’d seen him display plus power (see here and here). Second, his natural strength and max-effort swing seemed conducive to more power than his numbers showed. Third, despite the aforementioned swing, Ravelo’s natural hand-eye coordination had consistently allowed him to barrel the ball, strike out at low-teens rates, and hit for a high average (.312 in High-A last year). Finally, I felt the former third baseman had enough athleticism to give it a go at his previous position, thus easing his offensive requirements.
The White Sox organization doesn’t seem to agree with me on that last count, playing Ravelo exclusively at first base for the second straight year, but he certainly seems to be coming through in proving my other assertions correct. He’s off to a blistering .371/.506/.629 start, numbers that speak for themselves. Most notably, after jumping from typically-poor walk rates to an excellent 12.3% last year, he’s up to 18.5% so far in Double-A, while maintaining his typically strong 13.6% K-rate. Clearly, he’s maintaining his gains in batting eye against advanced pitching–even with the small-sample caveats, his days of 4-6% walk rates seem unlikely to return.
Over his last ten contests, Ravelo’s hitting an unthinkably-hot .536/.690/1.000 with two homers, seven doubles, three strikeouts, and eleven walks. That’s utter dominance, and it may signify that he’ll be moved up to Triple-A at (or even before) midseason, putting him in striking range of the big league club at age 22. It remains to be seen what the White Sox want to do with him positionally, with Jose Abreu entrenched at first and Matt Davidson and Marcus Semien as young third base options, but Ravelo’s bat may be major-league relevant sooner than even I would have expected. Ravelo won’t maintain these numbers, but his overall success is less a fluke than it is the reflection of a very talented hitter who’s maturing quickly. It’s time to get him squarely on the radar.
Shae Simmons, RHP, Atlanta Braves (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 23 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 12 1/3 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 18/3 K/BB, 1.46 ERA, 1.03 FIP
Simmons’ fastball-slider combination makes him one of the best relief prospects in the game.
I’ve seen Shae Simmons throw exactly 1/3 of an inning live, last June 15. You can watch it for yourself here:
I don’t know about you, but that’s all I needed to sign off on Simmons as a legitimate future closer candidate. That might seem a rush to judgment, but when a guy touches 97, throws that slider, and has nothing in his track record or delivery that would suggest a below-average command profile, it’s quite easy to see him dominating in short stints.
Simmons’ statistical track record clearly reflects the quality of his stuff–in 90 1/3 career innings, he’s struck out 136 men, walked 41, and allowed just sixteen earned runs, for a 1.59 career ERA, 36.4% career strikeout rate, and 11% career walk rate, the last of which is inflated by his numbers in his debut season. He’s dominated Double-A so far in just his second professional season and doesn’t need much more time in the minors before he can be an effective middle reliever at the least. He won’t be the next Craig Kimbrel, but he’s one of the best bets among minor league relievers to have a significant big league impact. His development from 22nd-round pick to this level in such a short timeframe is certainly a nice boost to (and positive reflection on) the Braves organization.
Nathaniel Stoltz is a prospect writer for FanGraphs. A resident of Bowie, MD and University of Maryland graduate student, he frequently views prospects in the Carolina and South Atlantic Leagues. He can be followed on Twitter at @stoltz_baseball.