Jorge Soler | OF, Cubs | Born: 2/25/1992
On Monday, the Cubs finalized terms with Cuban outfield prospect Jorge Soler. The $30 million contract will span nine years, and on the front-end, it appears to be a fantastic deal for the Cubs. The long term nature of the signing puts zero pressure on Chicago to rush the 20-year-old to the bigs. They’ll be able to develop him gradually, to ease him into stateside baseball. After this signing, plus a nice take at last week’s draft, and then assuming the pieces they’ll fetch in trades for Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster, the rebuilding efforts of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are clearer than ever. Were I a Cubs fan, I’d be giddy about the future. I’m not. No, I’m a Cardinals fan and I loathe the damn Cubs, so this all frightens me a bit. Nonetheless, here’s a little of what to expect from the Northsiders’ newest prospect:
Standing 6-3, 225, Soler profiles as a big, athletic corner outfielder. Plus arm strength makes right field his most likely destination, but he’ll spend time at all three outfield posts on his way through the minors. The real attraction here is the bat. Soler’s ability to hit for average is the most debated tool in his arsenal. Some think he’ll fare ok in that regard, and some think the whiffs will pile up and he’ll struggle. No one, however, denies his power potential. Soler possesses raw power, which many liken to that of Giancarlo Stanton. That sort of pop will play big in the fantasy game. The Cubs will be patient with him, though. They’ll keep him in Arizona for instructional ball for a good month before they send him to A-ball (probably Low-A Peoria). If everything goes as planned, Soler arrives at Wrigley sometime in 2014. Please, blog, may I have some more?
In last week’s Minor Accomplishments, I highlighted Mike Olt, his .304/.404/.576 slash line, and his 12 homers. Well, in only a week’s time Olt’s already-impressive numbers have became drastically more impressive. After blasting six more homers, he’s raised his SLG to .624 and his RBI total now sits at 48. He’s hotter than any hitter in the minors right now and he’s surely forcing the Rangers to consider their options regarding his future. We’ve discussed this plenty, but with Beltre locked up for the long term, Olt’s path to the majors as a 3B is thoroughly blocked. Frisco has been giving him some time at 1B, and given Mitch Moreland’s struggles, Texas could absolutely consider using him there. All along, however, I’ve looked at Olt as a valuable chip to be used in a potential trade. Recent uncertainties in the Rangers’ rotation have me thinking they’ll most certainly dangle Olt as trade bait in the coming months. Please, blog, may I have some more?
This post concludes my little venture into draft prospecting. It was fun while it lasted, and if you’d like to take a look at either Part 1 or Part 2, go ahead and click those links. Today, I have three more first-rounders to discuss, but first, a quick recap of where everyone ended up from Parts 1 & 2:
Marcus Stroman (22nd pick – Blue Jays); Richie Schaffer (25th pick – Rays); Kyle Zimmer (5th pick – Royals); Mark Appel (8th pick – Pirates); Mike Zunino (3rd pick – Mariners); Andrew Heaney (9th pick – Marlins)
Now, these three:
Chris Stratton | RHP, Giants
Over the past decade, the Giants have been pretty successful in turning first-round arms into fantasy baseball gold. Matt Cain (2002), Tim Lincecum (2006), and Madison Bumgarner (2007) were each drafted within the first 25 picks, and each developed into a big league pitcher relatively quickly. Lincecum, the lone college arm in the group, was helping fantasy owners a little more than a year after signing. On Monday, San Francisco used the 20th overall pick to select Chris Stratton out of Mississippi State. Should things go as planned, he’ll be in the bigs as early as 2013. Stratton lacks a true plus offering, but his secondary stuff is advanced and it compliments his low-90′s fastball nicely. His well-rounded repertoire should allow him to push through the system quickly. I don’t see the same upside here that Cain, Lincecum, or MadBum were drafted with, but I do think Stratton will make for a nice #3-type starter in the bigs. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Billy Hamilton is the fastest player in the game. There’s really no disputing it, at this point. In his first 51 games at High-A, Hamilton has 60 steals. Over his last ten games, he’s been on a bit of a rampage, swiping 20 bags (!!!) and putting himself in position to surpass 100 steals before July. Now that’s just plain silly. Hamilton tallied 103 in a full season at Low-A Dayton in 2011, and people thought that was ridiculous. And while there’s no denying the truly remarkable nature of what he’s accomplishing this year, it’s important to keep in mind the other end of this equation: the opposing defenses. I absolutely believe that Hamilton is the fastest dude in baseball, at any level. That speed, however, is only being tested by A-Ball defenses. Pitchers are slower to the plate, catchers misfire to second, infielders are sloppy with tags. Watch any highlight reel of his, and you’ll see what I mean. Not to suggest that his wheels won’t translate as he climbs the ladder — he’ll be stealing plenty of bags when he arrives in the bigs with the Reds. But, don’t expect this kind of absurdity on the basepaths. Please, blog, may I have some more?
With the draft less than a week away, we’re continuing our discussion of some of the more advanced amateur prospects — guys who’ll be popping up on your fantasy radars within the next year or two. Last week we went over Marcus Stroman, Richie Shaffer, and Kyle Zimmer. You can read that post here. Today, three more draft prospects:
Mark Appel | RHP, Stanford
At 6-5, 215, Appel sure looks like a future frontline starter. A combination of size and athleticism allows him to generate mid-90′s velocity with a seemingly effortless delivery. His fastball typically sits 92-95, and he counters with a hard slider and a work-in-progress change. The consensus on Appel is that, given his outstanding athleticism, the secondary stuff will develop nicely (and quickly) in the minors, allowing his plus fastball to play as an even deadlier weapon — he’s been knocked around at times during his collegiate career when facing more advanced lineups who sit on the straight four-seamer. Even so, Appel looks like the safest option among the elite college arms, and there’s a very good chance that Jeff Luhnow and the Astros will take him at #1. Please, blog, may I have some more?
We’ve recently devoted a bit of time to the discussion college ballers, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to lead with this absurdly awesome catch from Derrick Salberg of Lower Columbia College. The context of the moment makes the grab even more unbelievable: two outs, bottom of the ninth, one runner on, LCC leading 4-2. If Salberg is available in your NWAACC (Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges) leagues, I probably wouldn’t grab him (.262 AVG, 4 XBH in 120 PA). But if you haven’t yet seen the catch, please check out that link — it’s truly one of the more amazing plays you’ll ever see in baseball. Now, some real prospects:
Anthony Gose | OF, Blue Jays — Colby Rasmus has been pretty much worthless. Please, blog, may I have some more?
We’re two weeks away from Major League Baseball’s First-Year Players Draft, during which droves of high school and college baseball players will be chosen by MLB organizations to fill their farm systems. Most all the draftees will never make it further than the low minors. A handful of the college guys, however, are already too advanced for short-season or instructional ball. Mind you, this group is merely a tiny fraction of the overall draft class — there aren’t many guys worth noting for fantasy baseball purposes just yet. But there are some. And for the next couple weeks I’m going to highlight a few of my favorites in this weekly feature, which is typically reserved for already-pros. Anyway. We start with a Dukie:
Marcus Stroman | RHP, Duke
Gifted pitchers tend to arrive in the majors a bit more quickly than the hitters. 2011 first-rounders like Trevor Bauer and Danny Hultzen are already on the cusp of breaking through in the bigs, and they’ll be making impacts in fantasy ball this year. Marcus Stroman, a starting pitcher out of Duke, could find himself in a similar position a year from now. At 5-9, 180, Stroman isn’t your prototype pitching prospect, but he’s strong and athletic and can bring it at 98 with his fastball. He counters with a plus changeup and a filthy slider, giving him a three-pitch repertoire that’s not far from big league-ready. His ceiling as a starter is that of a #2, but many think he’d make an outstanding high-leverage reliever. Either way, Stroman will go in the first round and he’s well suited to climb the ladder quickly. Please, blog, may I have some more?
A week ago, I updated Jurickson Profar with news that his hitting streak had reached 21 games. Well, Profar’s streak has now swelled to 29, the longest in pro ball this year. With the graduations of Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Matt Moore, Profar takes over as the game’s top prospect and it’s not too soon to start considering how and when he fits in with the Rangers. With Ian Kinsler signed through 2018, and Adrian Beltre through 2016, it seems Profar won’t have a clear path to Arlington ’til Elvis Andrus hits free agency after the 2014 season. I have to assume he’ll be ready before then, however, which leads me to speculate about a transition to outfield or a trade, perhaps. I suppose this is a good problem to have from the Rangers’ vantage point. It’ll be interesting to watch how the situation plays out. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Kolten Wong | 2B, Cardinals | Born: 10/10/1990
Tyler Greene was the 30th overall selection in the 2005 draft. It was the Cardinals second pick that year; they took Colby Rasmus two spots earlier. At this point, both players appear to be busts, really. I suppose St. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Perhaps Bryan LaHair isn’t quite the slob I thought he was. Through 110 PA, LaHair is batting .359/.455/.717 with eight homers and it no longer looks as if he’ll be simply stepping aside to make room for top prospect Anthony Rizzo. If Rizzo is to arrive this season, the Cubs are going to have to find a way to build a lineup that accommodates both players. LaHair made 14 appearances at OF last year, one so far this year, and slotting him permanently at a corner OF post would appear to be the move. With other players (Soriano) complicating the matter, though, it might take another trade from the Cubbies to make space available. Meanwhile, Rizzo’s OPS at Triple-A Iowa sits at 1.077 and with every game that passes, it becomes clearer that he’s too advanced for minor league ball. Please, blog, may I have some more?