Tuesday Prospect Notes: 5/10/22 by Eric Longenhagen May 10, 2022 © D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports This season, Eric and Tess Taruskin will each have a minor league roundup post that runs during the week, with the earlier post recapping some of the weekend’s action. You can read previous installments of our prospect notes here. Darius Vines, RHP, Atlanta Braves Level & Affiliate: Double-A Mississippi Age: 24 Org Rank: TBD FV: 35+ Weekend Line: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 11 K Notes Even though Vines had K’d a batter per inning leading up to it, his trademark changeup hadn’t been consistently plus this year until Sunday’s outing. It’s actually been Vines’ fastball, which has lift and carry through the strike zone, that has induced most of his swings and misses this year, even though he hasn’t had any kind of velo spike and is still sitting in the 89-92 mph range and topping out close to 94. A fringy, low-80s slurve rounds out a solid if unspectacular pitch mix that has been weaponized by Vines’ command. Fastball playability, a good changeup, and plenty of strikes drive spot starter projection here. Vines will likely enter the offseason on Atlanta’s 40-man bubble. Juan Yepez, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals Level & Affiliate: MLB Age: 24 Org Rank: TBD FV: 40 Weekend Line: 5-for-13, HR Notes Yepez has long shown big raw power in BP, enough that he was once acquired via trade (from Atlanta, for Matt Adams) and was on prospect lists before the power output really began showing up in games. He struggled to stay healthy early in his career and didn’t slug over .400 at any level until 2019, when he broke camp in the Midwest League for the third straight year. The home runs finally began to pile up in 2021, when Yepez suddenly hit 27 combined between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis, mostly at the latter. He then went to the Arizona Fall League, where he faced pitchers who were worse on the average than those he had seen throughout the regular season. He homered seven more times in just 23 games in Arizona and created some perhaps overzealous buzz. While Yepez has plus power, the track record for 1B/DH-only types who strike out as much as he does, especially for the swing-happy reasons he has tended to, isn’t great. Yepez had walked at a 5-6% rate in the low-to-mid minors but showed a year-over-year increase in 2019 (9% in a 72-game sample) and ’21 (12% in 134 games, including the AFL), and has presented some visual evidence that he’s refined his approach (he’s ditching his leg kick with two strikes). Yepez still tended to expand the zone during my Fall League looks, and it seemed like opposing pitchers could limit his game by working him with outer-third breaking balls, which he tends to roll over. So far in 2022, his chase rates (36% per Synergy) are similar to lots of comparable players whose careers can help to calibrate our expectations for Yepez. The power here is real, and in the event that injuries press him into regular duty at first base, Yepez could hit 25-plus homers in a single season. But at the 1B/DH end of the defensive spectrum, even amid a big peak year or two, players like this tend to perform just shy of the 1 annual WAR range as part-time corner role players or low-end options at their position, like Christian Walker, Ryon Healy, and Michael Chavis. Average-or-better 1B-only types don’t often have one-dimensional offensive skill sets like this. He’s dangerous enough to play a power-hitting, part-time role, but don’t expect Yepez to be a middle-of-the-order anchor for an extended stretch. Andrew Nardi, LHP, Miami Marlins Level & Affiliate: MLB Age: 23 Org Rank: TBD FV: 35+ Season Line: 16 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 4 BB, 26 K Notes Marlins fans old enough to remember the 2003 squad have watched their team run the gamut of health fortune and misfortune over the last 20 years. The starting pitchers on that 2003 title team were unusually healthy that season (Carl Pavano, Brad Penny, Mark Redman, Dontrelle Willis and Josh Beckett each made at least 23 starts, with only A.J. Burnett dinged for a long stretch), while the half-decade that encompassed the era of players like Josh Johnson, Aníbal Sánchez, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad, and pre-bullpen Andrew Miller was decidedly less fortunate from a health and prospect actualization standpoint. The 2022 Marlins are now experiencing something close to normal attrition as the team tries to assert itself in the crowded NL East. While young pitching is the core of the current club, several of those arms have either been injured (Sixto Sánchez, Edward Cabrera), less effective than anticipated (Braxton Garrett, Nick Neidert) or less consistent than hoped (Jesús Luzardo, Trevor Rogers). As we learn every year, it takes lots of pitching depth to withstand the attrition teams typically experience, and the Marlins feel especially vulnerable due to their young starters’ track records and their bullpen’s age (fourth-oldest in the majors). Especially as they’ve made efforts to acquire core position players via free agency and trade, it’s important for the Marlins to draft and develop role players for their pitching staff so they don’t have to constantly use prospect pieces to acquire guys like Dylan Floro and Tanner Scott. That brings us to Nardi. He isn’t going to be a dominant late-inning reliever or anything, but he was a relatively innocuous Day Three draft pick who knifed through the low minors and has put himself in position to claim a 40-man spot after this season. He sits 92-93 mph, will top out in the 95-96 range, and has an average low-80s slider and a playable mid-80s changeup that relies on location more than action. He also has experience working four-to-six outs at a time. He’s in position to work as an optionable long man next year. It’s imperative for Miami to keep guys like this coming as support for the aging/oft-injured group likely to comprise their bullpen for the next several years. Yosy Galan, RF, Texas Rangers Level & Affiliate: Low-A Down East Age: 21 Org Rank: TBD FV: 40 Season Line: 6-for-12, HR, 2B Notes Galan, who signed in October of 2020 as a 19-year-old, several years later than is typical for an international hitting prospect, now has 15 home runs in 70 career games. He is, as one scout put it to me recently, a “low probability prospect” because his timing at the plate and feel to hit are so crude that it seems likely Galan will begin to experience what Seuly Matias or Hunter Bishop did as they traversed the upper minors, and it may become obvious that he won’t get to his incredible raw power in games. But to this point, despite striking out at a 33% clip (which is actually better than Galan’s 2021 line on the complex), he is getting to that thump and has been on a 34-homer full-season pace as a pro. If we use Joey Gallo as an example of a guy with a 20-grade hit tool who has still managed to be quite impactful, we can see he’s been exceptional in other areas besides just the raw strength. He’s walked a ton and hits the ball in the air with extreme frequency. While Galan has a chance to approach Gallo’s level of raw power, those secondary skills feel less realistic. Still, this guy signed late and has all of 2022-24 to polish that stuff up before the Rangers have to make a 40-man decision on him. He likely won’t develop the ball/strike recognition that allowed Gallo to have several 3-plus WAR seasons, but could develop enough of it to be an exciting if volatile big league slugger. Alex Ramirez, RF, New York Mets Level & Affiliate: Low-A St. Lucie Age: 19 Org Rank: TBD FV: 45+ Season Line: 8-for-13, HR, 2B, 2 3B Notes It might be time for a promotion here. Ramirez spent all of 2021 at Low-A as an 18-year-old and slashed .258/.326/.384, which was slightly below the league-average line in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. It was exciting that the lanky and projectable Ramirez hit that well as a teenager in full-season ball, though his minuscule walk rate (6.9%), especially during a year when automated balls and strikes seemed to inflate FSL walk rates, was at least a yellow flag. Back in Port St. Lucie to start 2022, Ramirez has been hot for the first month of the season, slashing a whopping .385/.423/.606 while cutting his strikeout rate by about 30% (from 31% to 18% as of publication), though his walk rate has dipped by about the same amount. Ramirez has plus bat speed and will show you big pull-side power already. His wispy, 6-foot-3 frame has room for another 30 pounds at least, and with that weight and strength could come huge raw power. Ramirez has to cut some mechanical corners to swing as hard as he does right now, but that might be ironed out as he gets stronger, and the bat speed and explosiveness he shows are very exciting. Purely on tools, Ramirez is among the top five teenage outfielders in the minors and you can make a cogent argument to take him over Jasson Dominguez (who he’s easily outperforming in the same league) and Kevin Alcantara (who has better plate discipline and subtly better body projection, but who hasn’t hit for as much power). So while acknowledging that the plate discipline piece here is troubling and creates bust risk, the ceiling merits inclusion in the Top 100; Ramirez has been added.