I’d like to take this time on a Tuesday morning to formally apologize to one Austin Riley, Braves third baseman. I should have ranked you at least 6th in my third base rankings. I didn’t, I ranked you 10th. I tried to make up for it by slipping you into the Top 100, at 95th, but even that feels a little low. You’ve really made good in the Fall League slashing .302/.362/.698 with 6 homers, and 17 RBI. He’s been part of a dynamic Braves quartet that I profiled in my Arizona Fall League check-in, and my Braves 2018 Minor League Preview. Riley comes along at a perfect time in prospects lists, as there’s a definite shortage on dynamic talent in the corner infield. After a difficult stretch in the Florida State League for the first two-thirds of his season, Riley was promoted to AA Mississippi, and the power returned. In 48 games at AA, Riley hit .315/.389/.511, with 8 homers, and 27 RBI, slugging numbers much more in line with his career norms. Riley has credited his continued improvement to the Braves developmental programs, who have worked at shortening Riley’s swing, and improving his conditioning. Both areas where he’s made significant strides. He’s eased concerns regarding his defense, getting mostly average grades with his glove, but plus and double plus grades on his arm. Meaning it’s increasingly likely Riley sticks at the hot corner long term. It’s usually the wrong time to buy a player when he’s coming off a noisy Fall League, but Riley is the rare exception where he’s widely unowned in dynasty formats of 14 teams or less. Here’s some other Minor League news…
- Speaking of players mashing their way through the off-season, my 3rd overall prospect Eloy Jimenez is currently walloping the ball, to far less fanfare, in the Dominican Winter League. He currently leads the league in homers (4), RBI (20), and slugging (.698). The last number is the most staggering, as Jimenez is nearly 140 points higher than the second highest slugging percentage. BTW there’s tons of MLB players in the Dominicano, including Wilmer Difo, Socrates Brito, and the most thirsty man in Korea, Jung-Ho Kang.
- Fernando Tatis Jr. the 6th ranked prospect in my Top 100 is also down in the DR, and things have not gone as well. He’s slashing .246/.358/.386 with 1 homer and no steals. I wouldn’t worry, Tatis is just 18, and incredibly young for the league.
- Speaking of former MLB players down in the Dominican League, the Red Sox Blake Swihart is looking to work his way back into relevancy. In 9 games in the DR he’s slashing .407/.515/.481, while catching. Swihart is out of options, so he has a real shot at a gig coming out of camp. I’ve even read locally that he could be used as a super sub, catching, playing the outfield, third base, and even some second base while Dustin Pedroia recovers from knee surgery. At this point Swihart is really only a viable flier in deep leagues of 16+ or dynasty leagues, and even then you need to temper expectations. If he can hit for a decent average and provide at least some pop, he could be a useful option at catcher in early 2018.
- I’m not sure if I’m fooled by his Arizona Fall League debut, and good numbers in a small MLB sample, but I’m really looking to add Max Fried where I can. This is a real turn of events, change of heart, 180 degree turn, that-looks-like-a-360-degree-turn-because-I’ve-fallen-for-him-before. I’ve long loved his fastball-curveball combo, and he has real feel for his breaking ball adding velocity and break when needed.
- I threw his name out there on Twitter yesterday, so I figure I’ll mention him here as well. The Padres 18 year old righty relief prospect Andres Munoz is lighting up radar guns, and getting a lot of love. He has a nasty fastball that hits 100-102 reportedly, and an equally tough, hard breaking slider. Take a look. If his future lies in the pen, he might move quickly though the minors. Most of my dynasty leagues have holds or value high K/9 pen arms. A player like Munoz is definitely not a fit for every league, but he’s kind of intriguing as a live teenage arm facing advanced competition.
- Mitch Keller is the talk of the Fall League and is another player, much like the aforementioned Riley, that deserves an apology. I ranked him 52nd in my top 100 Prospects, and he probably should have been moved up at least 10 spots. There’s just a lot of new blood and I’m not a huge advocate of carrying tons of prospect arms. hardly an excuse, as I’ve ranked him 46th, and 28th. My B. Either way there’s been a lot of talk about his easy 96-97, (and maybe 100 MPH), plus breaking ball, and now flashing plus changeup.
- He’s not getting as much press as Fried, Keller, and the Braves hitters, but the Brewers Monte Harrison is having a great fall. He’s slashing .275/.310/.625, with 4 homers, and 4 steals in the AFL, and might have the best combo of power and speed, at least statistically, in the league. He has continued to be plagued by strikeouts, but it hasn’t hindered his results. He’ll probably never hit for average, but he has the bat speed, and raw power to hit 25+ homers, while being a weapon on the basepaths. Coming into 2017 Harrison had missed a majority of the previous two years to ankle and hamate injuries, but he played 122 games this year plus the fall league. With his development back on track, it will be interesting to see how he fits into an already crowded outfield picture in Milwaukee come 2019.
- Can I have a non-prospect related conversation? I’m in the midst of a Mock Draft with the Crab Army. Yes a baseball mock draft, because I’m a meaningless boring boob of a man. All this to say; I’ve been digging on pitchers. Why? Because this time, unlike in Justin Mason’s 2Early Mock, I drafted a starter inside the first 8 rounds. But I was looking at Masahiro Tanaka’s second half splits and it’s insane what he’s done since nearly scrapping his fastball.
Masahiro Tanaka’s 2nd half splits: 10.7 K/9, 1.65 Bb/9, 3.77 ERA, .229 BAA, 1.06 WHIP. Started using both his Slider (+4%) & Splitter (+3.9%) more than FB. Culminated in his playoff start vs Indians, 15 of his 92 pitches were FB.
— Ralph Lifshitz (@ProspectJesus) November 14, 2017