Has summer officially begun? When’s the official cut off date of spring? Did you come to Razzball this morning with the intent of discussing the seasons? What about the weather? Could I write a more boring intro? Yes, but only if I discussed common core math, and the best method for folding a t-shirt. Actually that sounds a lot like a TED talk. Is it a TED talk? Probably, anyway this is the point in the foreword where I transition to baseball. Okay, go! This Sunday instead of doing another minor league update, I’m going to try something different. Let’s take a look at ten minor leaguers that are making some noise. These are players that should be on your radar, particularly in leagues of 16 teams or above with 10+ minor spots. We’ll give you a quick introduction to who they are and why you should care. Then let you do some digging on your own, and figure out if these players are owned or not, and if they fit into your team’s long term plans. Not to worry we have the comment section if you’re feeling anxiety. None of this is exactly earth shattering shizz, but a tidy package nonetheless, like my man parts after a Brazilian.
Brett Phillips, OF Brewers: Through 149 plate appearances, the owner of one of the world’s great laughs has been solid, but frustrating at AA Biloxi. He’s shown the ability to hit for power, while mixing a little bit of speed. He’s also shown the ability to take a walk. Problem is he’s striking out too much, like WAY too much. The (un)proud owner of a 32.2% k rate, is a whole lot too high. He’s still young, he turns 22 tomorrow, and has a nice track record of power and speed. It’s not the end of the world for Phillips, but it does put a bit of tarnish of his shine.
Alex Verdugo, OF Dodgers: Someone asked about him in the comments last week, and I thought it would be good to check in with an update. If you’re not familiar, Verdugo is arguably the Dodgers best hitting prospect. He’s presently slashing .284/.339/.456, with 7 homers, 2 steals, 19 runs, and 26 rbi’s at AA Tulsa. The best part of Verdugo’s game is his ability to avoid strikeouts but still keep his walks at an above average rate (7.2%) . He’s still young at a newly minted 20 for AA, and could be on the fast track should injuries decimate the Dodgers outfield. More than likely Verdugo should see his first big league action in September or next spring.
Chad Kuhl, RHP Pirates: For all the discussion of Glasnow and Taillon in the Indians rotation, Kuhl is the forgotten man. Funny enough he leads AAA in ERA, with a mark of 1.03. Kuhl is one of those guys that gets forgotten on prospects lists due to his lack of overwhelming stuff. But he knows how to pitch, and he’s done nothing but produce results since he turned pro. In fact prior to the 9 starts this season, his career ERA was 2.84, with a 1.15 WHIP. Unfortunately he looks like a ratio play, as his K rates are atrocious (5.8 career k/9). He’s probably a prospect you’ll only target if you’re in a deep dynasty of 18 or more teams that have 20+ minors spots.
Willson Contreras, C Cubs: After a strong 2015 at AA Tennessee, Contreras has been raking at AAA Iowa. Over the past two seasons he’s developed into a contact hitter with superior on base skills. He’s never going to be a big power hitter, but he does have some pop, and hits a fair share of doubles. Over his last 750 minor league at bats he’s posted a plus .300 average, a strikeout rate below 15%, and a walk rate above 10%. Could be a major contributor in OBP leagues eventually. A converted third baseman, despite his gaudy offensive stats the Cubs are stashing the backstop while he develops his catching skills. I suspect he’ll be up later this summer (Late July or August), though an injury to a catcher could force their hand.
Mitch Keller, RHP Pirates: One of the season’s biggest gainers has been Keller. After making some adjustments in the offseason, he’s cut down on his walks significantly while maintaining an elite K rate. And when I say cut down the walks, I mean went from a 7.32 Bb/9 in 2015 to a 0.71 Bb/9 this year, and he’s done it in more than twice the innings. His K/Bb is an off the charts 17.3. He just turned 20 and has been doing his dirt in A ball, so temper expectations a bit. That doesn’t mean he’s not a worthy trade target in leagues where 120 or so prospects are owned.
Edwin Diaz, RHP Mariners: Seattle’s top pitching prospect was moved to the pen, and so far the results have been good. He’s struck out 44% of the batters he faced as a reliever, and is yet to walk one. He presently leads the minors in K-Bb% at 30.3%, and looks like he could be an elite pen option as soon as next year. He’s a stash if you’re looking for a potential future closer.
Daniel Mengden, RHP Athletics: Coming into the season Mengden was toward the back of the top 30 prospects for the A’s organization, with little to no expectations outside a potential BORP. He now owns the distinction of possibly being the luckiest pitcher in the minors. With an insane 94.4% left on base between AA and AAA so far this season. That coupled with a very low Babip is an explanation for the 0.72 ERA. That’s not to say he hasn’t pitched well, because he has. A 9.2 K/9 makes him intriguing even if his luck starts to turn. Another player worth grabbing in leagues where 250+ prospects are owned.
Joe Musgrove, RHP Astros: The Astros righty has drawn a great deal of interest from commenters in the recent weeks, and with one look at his 2016 stats it’s easy to see why. Seriously check out this line between AA and AAA so far, 1.02 ERA, .90 WHIP, K/9 of 9.99, and a Bb/9 of 1.00. The control has always been impeccable with Musgrove but the K’s have started to creep up the last few seasons. I don’t see any reason why Musgrove shouldn’t see the H-town rotation at some point this summer. The minute a starter goes down in Houston expect Musgrove to get the call.
Zach Eflin, RHP Phillies: A 22 year old righty, the Phillies prospect presently owns the best WHIP in the International League and the 4th best in the minors. He’s thoroughly out pitched more highly touted names Jake Thompson and Mark Appel for the Iron Pigs. The biggest jump in Eflin’s game from 2015 to this season has been his nearly doubling of his k/9. He went from a 4.7 in 2015 to a 7.7 so far here in 2016. I wouldn’t be shocked if he got the call before either Thompson or Appel.
Anthony Alford, OF Blue Jays: After initially struggling at high class A Dunedin to begin the season, Alford has been riding an 11 game hit streak. So far the toolshed has only connected for one homer this year, and swiped just 3 bases, but it should be noted he’s recovering from an early season knee injury. He’s still one of the more intriguing raw athletes in the minors.
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