Wednesday Prospect Notes: 4/13/2022

© Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

This season, Eric and Tess Taruskin will each have a minor league roundup post run during the week, with the earlier post recapping some of the weekend’s action. Those posts will typically run Monday or Tuesday (since Monday is widely an off day for the minors), though they will occasionally be featured later in the week, as Eric’s notes are here.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Level & Affiliate: High-A Cedar Rapids Age: 22 Org Rank: HM FV: 35
10-for-14, 3 HR, 2 2B, 1 SB, 15 RBI (!)

Wow! Encarnacion-Strand ended up at the bottom of our Twins list because we think he’s destined for first base and has more swing-and-miss going on than we’re comfortable with at that position. After transferring from Yavapai to Oklahoma State, he only struck out in about 19% of the plate appearances during his lone Division-I season, which is less than I’d have guessed based on my in-person notes on his contact ability. He certainly has big power, though. The universal DH helps Encarnacion-Strand’s cause since there are more 1B/DH jobs in the majors now, and teams are more open to platooning there and/or carrying a positionless bopper on their bench.

Has there been a swing change here that might help reinforce confidence that Encarnacion-Strand is meaningfully different? Well, his stance is a little more open than it was last year while he was in college, but that’s about all I see in a cursory video review of my footage from 2021 Regionals compared to the recent video from Cedar Rapids. A middle-of-the-order prospect from a Power Five conference should be clubbing in A-ball, and I’m not ready to move him onto the list after one great weekend. But if he keeps his K’s under control over the course of the next month or so, then either something here will have changed or my initial evaluation was wrong, and Encarnacion-Strand will move right into the 40 FV tier.

Shawn Dubin, RP, Houston Astros
Level & Affiliate: Triple-A Sugar Land Age: 26 Org Rank: TBD FV: 40
1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K

After years of projecting Dubin in a single-inning relief role, he seems to have finally moved into one and is very likely to pitch out of the Astros bullpen this year. Dubin had been piggybacking for two to five innings at a time, either as the starter or a long reliever. He sat 96 mph in this type of role last year. Over the weekend, deployed for a single inning, he sat 96-98 with a hard cutter/slider spinning close to 3,000 rpm. His slider, one of Dubin’s two breaking balls, doesn’t always have great finish despite all that spin, which is why he’s not a slam dunk late-inning guy and is more likely to work the middle frames.

Victor Juarez, SP, Colorado Rockies
Level & Affiliate: Low-A Fresno Age: 26 Org Rank: 24 FV: 40
4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 5 K

The typical trajectory for a teenage pitcher like Juarez would be to spend his first pro season in the DSL, then come stateside for extended spring training and play on the complex during his second. Juarez, who looked great during minor league spring training, skipped right over the Rockies’ Arizona complex level and was sent to Low-A Fresno at age 18. He can really pitch, and has had a velo spike early on this year. After sitting 91 mph last year, he’s been 92-95 with advanced command of an upper-70s curveball and a mid-80s changeup. Multiple scouts who have seen Juarez (including one who saw him as an amateur) are big believers in his command and his feel to pitch, and think he at least projects toward the back of a rotation. He has been added to the Rockies prospect list.

Ryan Noda, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Level & Affiliate: Triple-A Oklahoma City Age: 26 Org Rank: TBD FV:40
6-for-15, 2 HR, 6 BB, 4 K

The Dodgers have a couple of older corner defender/DH types who have been superlative performers in the upper levels of the minors, and who both were acquired from other teams. You have Justin Yurchak, who came over from the White Sox a few years ago in exchange for Manny Bañuelos, and Noda, who was a PTBNL from Toronto for Ross Stripling, and who has one of the more selective approaches in pro baseball. Not only does Noda know how to take a walk (he’s walked at a 17% clip) but he tends to swing at pitches in a specific part of the strike zone, typically offering at strikes up and away from him. While he’s not toolsy or explosive in any way, Noda has enough power to be dangerous, enabled partly by his keen notion of which pitches to hunt. Average at first base (his hands are pretty good over there, his range is not) and below average in both outfield corners, Noda could play a lefty-hitting corner role for a contender or be a low-end everyday first baseman for a needy club.

Francisco Perez, RP, Washington Nationals
Level & Affiliate: Triple-A Rochester Age: 24 Org Rank: TBD FV:35+
2.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K

A shrewd waiver claim from Cleveland, Perez is poised to play a near-term relief role in Washington. Perez had a pretty good 2018 as a starter, then was hurt for much of ’19 and only topped out around 92 mph during the lone rehab outing of his that I saw in Arizona. He moved to the bullpen in 2021 and punched out about 40% of the hitters he faced, way above his career norms as a starter, sitting 92-94 all year. In addition to the little spike in velocity, Perez is very deceptive and hides the ball for a long time, his fastball has a tough-to-hit line, and he has a late-breaking slider and a fair changeup. The Nationals have just one lefty on their big league roster and three others (including Perez) on their 40-man roster in the minors, so that also helps his cause.

Just a couple quick tweaks on The Board to tell you about here. Cubs center field prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong moves from the 45 FV tier to the 45+ FV tier just as an indication that he might break out. I think the changes he has made to his swing give him a better chance of getting on top of pitches in the zone’s upper third. Already a warlock in center, PCA had profiled as a glove-first center fielder akin to the Almora/Bradley/Pillar types, but if he can actually hit, he’ll have a bigger impact than that group.

Teenage outfielder Kevin Guerrero has been added to the Orioles list. He came over from Miami as part of last week’s trade for Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser. Guerrero is a physical corner outfield prospect with above-average bat speed and encouraging early-career contact indicators. The cement on his frame isn’t totally dry, but he is already very physical, which is part of what’s driving the corner projection. He might get some short-term run in center field, though. He joins the Orioles list stacked beneath the other toolsy, high-variance youngsters toward the bottom of the minor league ladder. Lefty Antonio Velez also came over in that trade. He’s the sort of player who’d be in the Honorable Mention section of the list, a pitchability lefty with a good changeup and otherwise below-average stuff and athleticism. I view him as a potential depth starter.

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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1 year ago

guy to maybe monitor: Kohl Simas, apparently the son of former reliever Bill Simas, struck out 13 (!!) vs 2 BB in just 5IP in his first start in A-ball. He’s 22 and was a undrafted free agent signing outta SDSU, used as a reliever last year but now starting apparently. Old for the level but I presume there’s some big stuff behind 13 Ks outta just 15 outs

Last edited 1 year ago by MRDXol