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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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A Minor Review of 2018: Oakland Athletics

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.

First Taste of The Show: Ramon Laureano, OF: The Astros have done an outstanding job developing players in recent years and used their prospect capital to acquire veteran players, parting ways with some solid outfield prospects in recent years such as Teoscar Hernandez and Laureano. The latter prospect looked like an athletic, defence-first center-fielder for the A’s but hit better than expected in his debut. Laureano hits a ton of line drives but also swings and misses a lot. He’s had success with the bat in his pro career with strong averages but they’ve consistently come from high BABIPs. He may be that rare breed that consistently produces higher-than-average BABIPs but even if it plummeted to earth and he hit for a modest average, Laureano offers power, speed and strong on-base rates.

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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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