Author Archive

A Minor Review of 2018: Atlanta Braves

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 had been perusing this series back in 2015 you would have read:

The ’15 Draft Pick: Austin Riley, 3B: The Braves went the prep route with their first four picks of the 2015 draft all coming before the third round, and scored some impressive talents. Riley, 18, showed excellent power for his age and slugged seven homers in just 30 rookie league games, which earned him a promotion to advanced rookie ball. All combined, he hit more than .300 and had a total of 12 long balls in 60 games. He had his fair share of strikeouts but that’s to be expected for a young slugger and he offset them, to a degree, with a walk rate of almost 10%. If he can trim his swings-and-misses, Riley could be a Top-100 talent within a year.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Kyle Wright, RHP: A top college hurler, Wright was selected fifth overall in 2017. He reached The Show in late 2018 and may never return to the minor leagues. Despite having just six innings of experience in the majors, injuries to other promising, young pitchers like Luiz Gohara and Mike Soroka have opened the door for Wright to slide into a starting gig. He has a four-pitch mix, good velocity on his heater, and solid control/command. Wright is also coming off of a strong spring that, to date, has seen him post a K-BB ratio of 16-2 in 12 innings.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Chicago White 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 this series back in 2017 you would have read:

The ’16 Draft Pick: Zack Collins (C): The Sox currently appear ready to open 2017 with Kevan Smith and Omar Narvaez behind the plate — with a combined 41 games of big league experience between them. So, yeah, catching depth in the system isn’t great… and could be why the Sox targeted Collins – a solid college catcher – with the 10th overall selection in the 2016 draft. The jury is still out on his ability to stick behind the plate but he can hit. In his debut, he walked 33 times (next to 39 Ks) in 36 games and went deep six times. The bar for catchers’ offence is very low and Collins could exceed average. He should split 2017 between high-A and double-A, although his defensive work could slow down his ascent to The Show.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Daniel Palka, 1B: This new era of baseball is turning quad-A sluggers and Japanese exports into big leaguers. Case in point: Palka. He has 30 home run potential but it also comes with a 30-35% strikeout rate. Palka walked just 6.7% of the time but consistently showed 10-12% rates in the minors so there is hope here that he can offset the putrid batting average with a mildly respectable on-base rate with some more walks as an MLB sophomore in 2019. With the signing of Yonder Alonso and the presence of Jose Abreu, Palka’s only real path to playing time is probably in left field, which isn’t ideal.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Washington Nationals

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 had been perusing this series back in 2016 you would have read:

The Lottery Ticket: Juan Soto (OF): The recent addition of Soto to the system adds yet another impressive athlete to the Nationals glut of outfield talent, which also includes Victor Robles (see above), Rafael Bautista and Andrew Stevenson. Just 17 during the regular season in ’16, Soto posted a .973 OPS in short-season ball. His advanced approach for his age was evident in his ability to hit .368 with just 29 strikeouts in 51 games. Soto also possesses above-average raw power but he has yet to fully tap into that in game situations. Once he does, he could become a true threat from the left side of the plate and projects to develop into a middle-of-the-order threat and corner outfielder.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Juan Soto, OF: Well, what more can be said about Soto? He absolutely rocketed through the minors in 2018 and took the Majors by storm. He has an exciting tool set and should be the next star outfielder for the Nationals for many years. The 20-year-old has an approach at the plate that belies his age and experience, and the make-up is also strong.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Los Angeles Dodgers

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: Keibert Ruiz (C): The Dodgers have had a knack for developing offensive-minded catchers and Ruiz could be the next one in line. Signed for less than $150,000, he’s another player that shows Los Angeles can really scout and develop young players. Ruiz, 18, played in a good hitter’s league in 2016 but the .354 average, 22 extra base hits and 23 strikeouts in 189 at-bats were impressive nonetheless. He shows enough skill behind the plate to stick there as long as he can improve his throwing. The switch-hitter could open up 2017 in full-season ball as a teenager if he has a strong spring.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Alex Verdugo, OF: Even with their off-season purge of a number of outfielders, the Dodgers have strong outfield depth which means Verdugo — who is 110% ready for the Majors — will be stuck in triple-A yet again. The young outfielder can hit .300 falling out of bed with his outstanding all-field approach, great eye and bat control. The biggest knock on him is that he doesn’t hit for a ton of power but it’s by choice and he possesses lots of raw pop — he’s just more of a throw-back player and that’s OK. Baseball needs players like Verdugo. The only other concern I have (which perhaps has played into the Dodgers reluctance to commit to him) is that he has some questionable makeup/maturity although I haven’t heard of anything specific for quite some time. A trade might be the best thing for Verdugo but the club also knows how valuable he is so the price is very, very high.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Minnesota Twins

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: Luis Arraez (2B): This young Venezuelan has done nothing but rake as a pro. Over three seasons, he sports a career batting average of .338. He also has a BB-K rate of 66-70 and it was 35-19 is his first two seasons at the rookie ball level. In 114 games in 2016, Arraez hit .347 and produced 165 hits — with just 51 strikeouts. Now the bad news: He doesn’t walk much, so his ability to get on base is very dependent on making good contact. As well, he doesn’t run much and — despite having some gap pop — he’s never going to be a power hitter. Still, he might eventually make a solid No. 2 hitter at the big league level if he can continue to develop. Arraez will move up to high-A ball in 2017 and could eventually be the successor to Brian Dozier — a very, very different type of second baseman — in Minnesota.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Mitch Garver, C: Veteran catcher Jason Castro missed most of 2018 due to injury which opened up an opportunity for Garver to show what he’s capable of and he produced a strong freshman offering. He may not receive the bulk of playing time in 2019 but should have at least worked his way into a platoon situation. Garver is a strong offensive catcher who has shown improvements on the defensive side of the ball. If Castro battles injuries again in 2019, the club should be comfortable giving significant playing time to the sophomore catcher.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Seattle Mariners

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:

The Riser: Dan Altavilla, RHP: Altavilla, 23, doesn’t have a huge ceiling but he had a very promising year and the organization didn’t see that much in terms of huge prospect value spikes in 2015. The under-sized righty can touch 96-97 mph with a promising slider and showed a propensity for the strikeout while playing in a tough league for pitchers (The California League). The consensus seems to be that Altavilla is bound for the bullpen but Toronto’s Marcus Stroman has shown that size really doesn’t matter — but the Mariners prospect will need to create better plane on his offerings to mimic the Blue Jays’ breakout star.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Matthew Festa, RHP: The Mariners didn’t rely heavily on the minor league system in 2018 so the rookie contributions were pretty thin. The most intriguing player for future value is Festa. He has a nice fastball-slider combo with a couple of other offerings he can sprinkle in for fun. His ceiling is probably seventh-inning guy but he could be a solid-but-unspectacular contributor to the ‘pen if continues to throw strikes and keep the ball down.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Colorado Rockies

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:

The Riser: Garrett Hampson, MIF: As outlined above, the Rockies organization is flush with infield prospects and Hampson deserves to be included in that group even if you probably haven’t heard of him. A third round pick out of Long Beach State in 2016 (the same place the Rockies found Troy Tulowitzki), this young infielder has shown a wide range of skills as a pro. After a strong debut in 2016, he’s had nearly identical success in ’17 at high-A ball. He’s hitting .323 with an .838 OPS and 51 steals in 65 attempts. Hampson, 22, doesn’t display a ton of pop but he sprays the ball all over the field and understands his strengths and weaknesses. He should develop into an impact baserunner and table-setter for the Rockies’ young power hitters.

Now on to the new stuff:

The Draft Pick: Grant Lavigne, 1B: Advanced for a cold-weather prep prospect, Lavigne dominated in his first taste of pro debut. But that strong debut comes with some caveats. He benefited from a .410 BABIP and a ground-ball heavy output. As a hulking first base prospect, he’s not going to sustain that kind of average on balls in play, nor should he be hitting the ball on the ground. The good news is that he has a great eye (45-40 BB-K rate) and doesn’t strike out much for a power hitter. I’m curious to see how Lavigne handles his first taste of full-season ball but I’m cautiously optimistic.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Kansas City Royals

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.

*I’m going to do a little something different with the Royals and look at their fascinating approach for the 2018 draft, which focused on advanced college arms in an effort to infuse some quick value back into a floundering farm system. After all, their focus on drafting prep pitchers was pretty much an unmitigated disaster.

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

The Sleeper: Emmanuel Rivera, 3B: Rivera could eventually turn out to be a steal as a former 19th round pick. He has a chance to be a special player on defence at the hot corner and he could develop just enough offensive skill to be an everyday player. He needs to become a little more patient at the plate which could help him hit for a better average and find more balls to drive with authority. The 21-year-old prospect will receive a bigger test as he moves up to high-A ball in 2018.

Now on to the new stuff:

The Draft Pick: Brady Singer, RHP: Singer was a highly-respected amateur and a sure fire 2018 first rounder (not to mention a second rounder out of high school). He didn’t pitch after signing with the Royals but got into game action after the season ended in the fall instructional league. Singer struggles with his fastball command but does a nice job working down in the zone and should generate a healthy number of ground-ball outs. He showed a promising breaking ball in instructs (It’s said to be a slider but I’ve seen some that look more like tight curves) but he needs a reliable third offering. I see more of a mid-rotation starter here than a top guy because hitters look pretty comfortable against him.

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A Minor Review of 2018: New York Mets

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:

The Draft Pick: Mark Vientos, SS/3B: One of the youngest hitters in the 2017 draft, Vientos doesn’t turn 18 until next week. Despite that, he already has 50 games of professional baseball experience under his belt — and he held his own in Rookie Ball. The infielder is already 6-4 and projects to add more strength to his frame, which would eventually help him hit 20+ homers. He’s still raw at the plate with an inconsistent swing but he has the potential to be an average-or-better hitter. A shortstop, he’s expected to eventually move over to third base as he fills out and slows down a bit.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Jeff McNeil, 2B: McNeil was a pretty fascinating rookie. He pretty much came out of nowhere at the age of 26 to play an important part on the 2018 Mets. He success came from creating a ton of contact (9.7% strikeout rate), an all-fields approach and some athletic plays at second base. McNeil is successful at the plate because he doesn’t try and be someone he’s not; he rarely gives away at-bats. He also has a quick, short path to the ball. It’s easy to see why the club didn’t want to part with him in last winter’s deal with Seattle. It sounds like he’ll spend time backing up second base, third base and left field in 2019.

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A Minor Review of 2018: San Francisco Giants

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 had been perusing this series last year you would have read:

The Draft Pick: Heliot Ramos, OF: On the surface, Ramos’ numbers look pretty frickin’ fantastic. Dig a little deeper, though, there are signs of issues to come. The good: impressive power for a 17-year-old with a .297 ISO. The bad: a 32% strikeout rate and… an almost unheard of BABIP of .500 in 151 plate appearances. He’s likely going to be a long-term project despite what the surface numbers say but the ceiling — power, speed, defence — is exciting. Look for Ramos to need some more time in extended spring training in 2018 before heading back to short-season ball. The system is loaded with outfield prospects so there is no need to rush Ramos.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Andrew Suarez, LHP: The Giants relied heavily on young arms in 2018 and received significant innings from the pair of Dereck Rodriguez and Suarez, a former second round pick. The latter pitcher showed the ability to induce a high number of ground-ball outs while filling up the strike zone with his four-pitch mix. His stuff plays up a bit because he keeps his arm hidden behind his back during his delivery. He doesn’t have a huge margin for error and is prone to the home run when the ball is hit into the air. I’d like to see him polish his changeup as he needs another reliable weapon against right-handed hitters.

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