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Prospect Stock Watch: Houck, Peterson, Logue

Welcome to the first Prospect Stock Watch of 2019. This is a little feature I’ve been doing since 2012. It provides thoughts and observations about a handful of prospects each time out. Today, we have a chance to review prospects from the Red Sox, Mets, and Blue Jays.

Tanner Houck, RHP, Red Sox (AA):

It’s been a frustrating season for the Red Sox so far so any good news out of the barren minor league season would be very welcomed. Houck’s first Double-A start will not be included in the “good news” category. The former first-round pick, and top college hurler, struggled mightily in the low-50s F weather. He threw a number of deep counts early and was around (but not consistently in) the strike zone with his collection of offerings.

Houck’s slider had its moments in the game and he showed the ability to throw it for strikes or as a chase offering. The biggest issue Houck has was that his fastball command was just not strong good enough for a starting pitcher with only two pitches. It’s too easy for hitters to sit on one offering and fight off (or lay off) everything else. The heater was mostly 91-93 mph.

It’s early but this look at Houck underscores the concerns over his overall ceiling. He looked more like a No. 4 starter than a top-of-the-rotation arm, which was the hope early on in his college career. His stuff would probably play up out of the bullpen.

Bonus: On a side note, Bobby Dalbec showed some solid athleticism at third base. In one particular instance, he charged a slow roller and threw on the run to catch a solid runner. He showed a strong arm on a number of occasions. I really like the defensive side of his game but, despite the power, the question marks remain on the offensive side. Dalbec is off to a slow start with the bat as he returns to Double-A but he does have three walks in the first three games.

David Peterson, LHP, Mets vs Zach Logue, LHP, Jays (AA)

I wanted to get my eyes on this game because of the interesting contrast in starting pitchers. Both are southpaws but Peterson was the more highly regarded college hurler as a first-round selection in the 2017 draft. Logue, meanwhile, is a fast-riser in the Jays system. He was selected in the ninth round of that same draft and, like Peterson, was making his first Double-A appearance.

Peterson showed a nice, easy arm action that made the fastball look faster than it was. He utilized his height well and kept the ball down. He also showed the ability to hit the strike zone with all of his offerings. As with any pitcher who lacks a blazing fastball, Peterson is at his best working down in the zone but he did a nice job changing hitters’ eye levels when necessary and kept the ball out of the meat of the zone when he pitched up.

Logue showed a solid curveball and worked exceptionally well at the knees with his 91-93 mph fastball. He showed the ability to get ahead of hitters with his fastball. He showed a sweeping breaking ball for strikes and would then create more depth on the offering to turn it into a chase pitch with two strikes. Logue was not afraid to throw inside to left-handed hitters. He has an easy delivery, which helped him create above-average control and command. I didn’t see much of his changeup.

Despite the significant gap in draft range with these two hurlers, their ceilings appear to be similar as future No. 4 hurlers that can come in, throw strikes, keep the ball down and provide you five or six innings of work. I give a slight edge to Peterson because he has a deeper repertoire.

Bonus: I’m quickly becoming a fan of Jays catcher Alberto Mineo. Signed out of Italy by the Cubs, he’s been a long-term project and came to the Jays last year after six years in Chicago’s system. But he’s still just 24 and coming off of a solid offensive season. Double-A will be the real test but I liked what I saw from a defensive standpoint. He created an excellent target for the pitcher and had a very quiet set-up behind the plate. Mineo has also maintained his athletic build despite the time behind the dish. In his first at-bat of the night, the left-handed hitter took the ball the other way against the southpaw for a well-stung single. If the offensive showing from 2018 (which actually began in ’17) continues, there might actually be a big league back-up here.


A Minor Review of 2018: Houston Astros

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 and wraps up with the 30th and final piece with the 2019 baseball season now upon us.

If you were perusing this series in late 2017 you would have read:

The Sleeper: Myles Straw, OF: I’m a sucker for hitters like Straw. He’s one of those speedy guys that understands he just needs to get on base to be valuable and sacrifices the power to make contact. He also uses what the pitchers give him and will constantly pepper the opposite field. He’s no threat to hit even five homers in a season but he still has pop in his bat; he produced a 22.5% line drive rate in 2017 and was at 26% in Low-A ball in ’16. Straw is a threat to hit .270-.300 as a big leaguer with the ability to steal 20+ bases as a full-time player but he’s probably best suited for a fourth-outfielder role. And he has a chance to be a very good one.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Josh James, RHP: A former 34th round pick, James saw his fastball velocity trend upward over the past year and so did his fortunes. He can now overpower hitters to make up for his modest command, and he’s also shown improvements in his secondary offerings. He may end up with three average-or-better offerings. James still has some detractors because of his iffy command/control but another strong season in 2019 will quiet talk of him ending up in the bullpen. He’s been mostly durable as a pro and could provide at least 150-160 innings during the coming season — much of which should come from the Astros rotation.

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A Minor Review of 2018: Toronto Blue Jays

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: Danny Jansen, C: Jansen couldn’t have been more under-the-radar as a 16th round draft pick out of an obscure Wisconsin high school. But he showed promise with the bat pretty much right away, although he battled through inconsistencies, which eventually led to glasses and to a breakout season in 2017. Jansen has become a threat on both sides of the ball and has shown solid make-up and drive. He may still be scratching the surface on what he’s capable of, especially at the plate, as he’s shown a solid eye, good bat-to-ball skill, and promising gap pop.

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A Minor Review of 2018: New York Yankees

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 at the end of 2017, you would have read:

The Sleeper: Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP: Signed way back in 2012 (by the Giants), injuries have decimated Loasiga’s career to date with just 35 innings thrown in the last four years. However, he has outstanding control and a mid-90s fastball with two secondary offerings that project as better than average down the line. I can’t see him being a starter long-term given the injury history and his slight frame but he could make an excellent (and quick-moving) reliever for the Yankees.

Now on to the new stuff:

First Taste of The Show: Gleyber Torres, 2B: Torres needed less than 70 games above A-ball to prove to the Yankees that he was MLB ready. He wasn’t the best rookie hitter on the club (that goes to Miguel Andujar) but the former Cubs prospect was younger and also showed a better all-around game. With that said, there is still room for growth as he struck out 25% of the time while hitting for more power than expected (11 home runs was his previous high). Even if the swing-and-miss tendencies continue (I don’t think they will), Torres has produced 10-12% walk rates in the minors so he’ll like increase his on-base rate as he settles in at the big league level. Defensively, he’s a fine second baseman who can play shortstop when needed.

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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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