Author Archive

A Minor Review of 2018: Cincinnati Reds

Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.

If you were perusing this series back in 2016 you would have read:

The Lottery Ticket: Taylor Trammell (OF): I’m going back to the 2016 draft to find my Reds lottery ticket. Trammell is by no means a true sleeper. He was drafted 35th overall in ’16 but he’s still quite raw despite his successful pro debut. The 19-year-old outfielder strikes out a lot for a player whose game should be focused on putting the ball in play and running like the wind (57 Ks in 228 at-bats). He’s extremely athletic and his quickness allowed him to nab 24 bases in his first 61 games – despite his rough edges. Trammell is also learning the nuances of playing center field in pro ball but has the raw ability to develop into a plus fielder.

Now on to the new stuff:

Top Rookie of 2018: Jesse Winker, OF: I wasn’t a huge fan on Winker early in his pro career but I’ve warmed to him since seeing him adjust to the Majors so quickly. He doesn’t have much defensive or base running value — nor does he produce much power. But the hit tool and his ability to get on base like Joey Votto has immense value. He probably won’t ever be a big power guy but it would be nice to see him drive balls into the gap and pile up the doubles on a more consistent bases as he matures.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Milwaukee Brewers

Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.

If you were perusing this series back in 2015 you would have read this:

The Tumbler: Taylor Williams, RHP: Williams, not 24, has pitched just 174.2 innings in his three-year professional career, thanks to injuries. He missed all of 2015 due to an elbow injury and the concern is that he may eventually require Tommy John surgery, thus costing him even more development time. With a strong focus on obtaining pitching through the draft and via trade, Williams has slide down the Brewers’ pitching depth chart. The right-hander has good stuff — and with the durability concerns — he may be better suited for the ‘pen.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Corbin Burnes, RHP: The Brewers received some key innings from a number of young arms in 2018. Freddy Peralta pitched the most innings but Burnes arguably has the higher ceiling. The latter pitcher worked his way through the minors as a starter but pitched 30 games out of the bullpen for the Brewers in 2018. He has an excellent fastball-slider combo and does a nice job inducing ground-ball outs. His stuff may not be quite as crisp if he moves back to the starting rotation and he’ll have to continue to work on the changeup, which was mostly forgotten while he worked out of the ‘pen. If he sticks as a reliever, he has high-leverage potential.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Baltimore Orioles

Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.

If you were perusing the series last year you would have read this:

The Riser: Ryan Mountcastle (SS): Selected 36th overall in the 2015 draft, Mountcastle has done nothing but hit in pro ball. He batted more than .300 in rookie ball during his debut and then followed that up with a respectable performance as a teenager in full-season ball this past season. The big question is around how much patience he’ll show at the plate after walking just 5.1% of the time (25-95 BB-K) as a sophomore. If he can continue to make adjustments then Mountcastle has a chance to be a better-than-average hitter — although his defensive home is also up in the air. He’s currently playing shortstop but could end up at a slightly less demanding position due to modest range. He has a chance to reach double-A at some point in 2017.

And now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Cedric Mullins, OF: Mullins wasn’t a heralded prospect early on in his career but he took some big steps forward in late 2017 and into 2018, which earned him a big league promotion. He reminds me a bit of Rajai Davis, as a player who has speed and athleticism to spare but is a little behind the eight ball in terms of baseball instinct. His ceiling is limited not only by that (which could improve) but he has issues with same-handed pitching. Mullins also isn’t the biggest guy and really struggled to drive the ball with authority against big league pitching. He’s probably a solid-but-unspectacular platoon player who has a small chance to bust that projection and be an everyday guy.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Chicago Cubs

Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.

If you were perusing this series back in 2015:

The Riser: Willson Contreras, C: Our very own Carson Cistulli was all over Contreras like a fat kid on a Smartie this past season. The catcher came out of nowhere to become one of the Cubs’ more intriguing prospects. He significantly improved his plate discipline while moving up from A-ball to Double-A for the first time in his career. Contreras, 23, averaged a strikeout rate of about 20% between 2012-14 but saw it drop to just 12% in 2015. Not only that, he showed more pop and took more walks. With Kyle Schwarber likely relocated to the outfield from catcher for good, Contreras is the catcher-of-the-future in Chicago.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Duane Underwood Jr., RHP: Underwood Jr. is a bit of an enigma. He was a highly coveted pitcher coming out of high school but he’s battled injury, seen his stuff take a step back and questions have been raised around his effort/maturity. Still, he made it to The Show in 2018, albeit for one game. He’s athletic but he has a stiff delivery and could stand to use his legs more but that might also lessen his command/control. As with most pitchers, he’s at his best when he’s down in the zone and avoids the middle of the plate. His stuff is good but it’s not overpowering. Underwood Jr. might be better suited to relieving where he can focus on his fastball and breaking ball while perhaps adding back some velo on his heater.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Arizona Diamondbacks

Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.

The Arizona Diamondbacks

If you were perusing this series back in 2013 you would have read this:

The Sleeper: Jake Lamb, 3B: I really wanted to include Lamb on the Diamondbacks’ 2013 pre-season Top 15 prospects list but he ultimately fell just short and landed in the sleeper category. Arizona third basemen enjoyed a solid season and two prospects — Lamb and Brandon Drury (considered for The Riser section) — saw their values rise significantly. Injuries held the Washington native to just 69 games on the season so he’s currently getting extra work in during the Arizona Fall League.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Yoshihisa Hirano, RHP: One thing the organization doesn’t do overly well is supplement its roster with homegrown players (other than in the bullpen). Yes, it’s happened in the past — with the case of a Jake Lamb or Paul Goldschmidt — but not nearly often enough for a team that is constantly fighting a battle with the budget.Those first four to six years of a player’s availability are so valuable to teams now; the club didn’t get back as much as I would have liked for Goldschmidt in terms of impact talent but they were desperate for “controllable talent.” Now on to Hirano, another new player but one that was not developed in house and cost the Diamondbacks more than they should have payed for an unproven commodity. Now, things worked out OK and Hirano had a nice year. He showed good command of both his fastball and plus splitter while inducing a healthy number of walks. The club will hope that Hirano, soon to be 35, will be effective for the final year of his two-year contract, while serving as insurance for first-year closer Archie Bradley.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Miami Marlins

Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.

If you were perusing this series last year you would have read this:

First Taste of The Show: Brian Anderson, 3B: I’ve been a fan of Anderson since he turned pro in 2014. The former third-round selection likely won’t be a star but he should develop into a steady, everyday player for The Fish. And, after appearing in 25 big league games in 2017, he could back-up both second and third base in ’18 — or take over a starting gig if the cost-conscious Marlins get rid of Starlin Castro or Martin Prado. He has a chance to be a very good defender — especially at third base — and projects to be an average hitter with average power, although he should produce good on-base rates with his history of walking at a healthy clip.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Trevor Richards, RHP: An unheralded pitching prospect, Richards couldn’t even get drafted and ended up playing independent baseball for two years before signing with the Marlins as a free agent. His rise is far more successful than his stuff. He has a fastball that scrapes 90 miles per hour and lacks a consistent breaking ball. Even so, Richards struck out more than a batter per inning. He succeeds with fastball command, a very good changeup and above-average control. To continue having success, Richards is going to need to work down in the zone more consistently after seeing his ground-ball rate drop more than 10% over his minor league career average to a well-below-average 35.8%.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Boston Red Sox

Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.

If you were perusing the series in 2016 you would have read this:

The Tumbler: Trey Ball (LHP): Selected seventh overall in the 2013 draft, Ball has yet to break out despite four years of pro experience — including three in A-ball. His lack of development with his secondary stuff is especially worrisome — as is the continued regression with his control (Walk rates over last 3 years: 3.51 to 4.18 to 5.22 BB/9). Ball, 22, has a decent fastball for a southpaw so perhaps a move to the bullpen would benefit him; it would allow him to scrap the breaking ball and focus on his changeup. As very good two-way player in high school, the young athlete may also want to think about sharpening his skills in batter’s box.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Bobby Poyner, LHP: The Red Sox didn’t get a lot of help from its minor league system in 2018 with Poyner getting his first call-up. The 26-year-old hurler struck out almost 10 batters per inning despite having a fastball that sits right around 90 mph. A solid changeup and above-average control helped him survive the dangerous American League East. He’ll want to focus on keeping the ball down and inducing more ground balls going forward after posting a ground-ball rate of just 30% in his first taste of The Show. .

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A Minor Review of 2018: Tampa Bay Rays

Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.

The Tampa Bay Rays

If you were perusing the series in 2015 you would have read this:

The Graduate: Blake Snell (LHP): Control has been Snell’s nemesis throughout his career — save for 2015 — and it came back to haunt him during his MLB debut in 2016. His 3.54 ERA was impressive — and speaks to his raw potential — when you consider his walk rate of more than five batters per nine innings. He’ll also need to better leverage his 6-4 frame to generate more ground balls after being an extreme-fly-ball pitcher in the AL East. Still, Snell succeeds by missing a lot of bats and his struck out almost 10 batters per nine innings in his freshman season. With improved command of his low-to-mis-90s fastball and slider, the young hurler could eventually develop four average or better offerings (He also has a curveball and changeup).

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Willy Adames, SS: The young shortstop made his highly-anticipated debut in 2018 and performed well — especially given he was just 22. With that said, there is room for improvement after he struck out at a 29% clip. Swing-and-miss has always been a part of his game but he has raw power to tap into and offsets the Ks, to a degree, with a healthy dose of walks, which inflates his on-base numbers. There is 20-homer potential here but he’ll need to get more consistent loft after hitting 52% of his balls on the ground during his debut. Defensively, Adames is expected to move off shortstop and his debut did nothing to quiet the concerns about his fielding.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Philadelphia Phillies

Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.

The Philadelphia Phillies

If you were perusing this series back in 2009, you would have read this:

The Graduate: J.A. Happ, LHP: Happ did not garner a lot of attention while rising through the minors, but the left-hander had a solid rookie season for the Phillies. He did a nice job of keeping runners off base with just 149 hits allowed and a walk rate of 3.04 BB/9 in 166.0 innings. Happ’s strikeout rate dipped from his minor-league average, but it was still reasonable at 6.45 K/9. If he can utilize his curveball more often, it might help him with his strikeout rate, because it will change the hitters’ eye levels. One of the biggest ugly marks on his stats line is the 38.4% ground-ball rate.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Seranthony Dominguez, RHP: A mostly unheralded minor league hurler, Dominguez burst onto the scene and overpowered big league hitters with an excellent fastball-slider mix. He also induced a strong number of ground-ball outs and even tossed in an occasional effective changeup. Dominguez’s control wavered at times but most of that occurred in the second half when he might have been getting tired (He walked 16 batters in 24.1 second-half innings, but just 22 overall for the year). The Phillies will look to be contenders in 2019 and this young, hard-throwing hurler has earned the right to open the year as the team’s closer — but veteran reliever David Robertson will be waiting in the wings.

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A Minor Review of 2018: San Diego Padres

Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.

The San Diego PadresIf you were perusing this series back in 2013, you would have read this:

The Sleeper: Matt Andriese, RHP Andriese has been one of my favorite sleepers for a couple years now and he continues to fly under the radar in part because he doesn’t have the electric stuff that gets scouts’ hearts palpitating. His fastball has at least average velocity but it’s the heavy sink that makes it stand out. Andriese, 24, is very close to big-league ready and he could settle in to the role of back-end, innings-eating starter.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Joey Lucchesi, LHP: What a year for Lucchesi, a former fourth round pick who needed just over one full year of baseball to reach The Show. He benefited from advanced control while incorporating basically a two-pitch attack with his fastball and changeup. Lucchesi may need to rely on a breaking ball more often in his sophomore season in the Majors now that the scouting report is out on him. He was hurt by the home run ball in 2018 and oddly gave up more homers at home. He’ll need an added weapon against right-handed hitters with almost half the hits against him going for extra bases.

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