I figured what better for a weekend double shot than a dual Luis Garcia post. Why you ask am I so enamored with the name Luis Garcia? Particularly when this unholy example of Garcia walks amongst us. This version of the Phillies Luis Garcia is a toolsy shortstop who made his stateside debut this summer in the GCL. Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $2.5 million during the July 2017 signing period. A top ten player in the class, he was, much like the Nationals Luis Garcia, a player heavily praised for his defensive prowess with a split camp on the quality of his hitting. We got some looks at Luis Garcia this summer in Florida. While it’s nowhere near enough information to determine his future value, it was a glimpse of an exciting player to come. Let’s dig in a little deeper…

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Certain organizations just have a knack for success in certain areas. Might be the draft, trade market, free agency, or player development. The Washington Nationals however are equipped with a particular set of skills, skills acquired over a very long time. Skills that make them a nightmare for the competition on the International Amateur Market. If you develop Juan Soto and Victor Robles, that won’t be the end of it. If you know how to hit the stuffing out of a baseball they will pursue you, and they will sign you. The next Nationals stud international you should look for, find, and add is shortstop/third-baseman Luis Garcia. No, not that Luis Garcia, or that Luis Garcia either! Not even that one. So many Luis Garcia’s, how will our hero standout? This Luis Garcia. A versatile infielder, with a contact first approach, some power projection, speed, and athleticism. A player that ranked 128th on my mid-season Top 500, and one that will likely be moving into the Top 100 in my next update. Today we’ll take a look at why this Luis Garcia is the one to add. No disrespect to the next Luis Garcia of the Phillies. More on him tomorrow…

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Despite the minor league season coming to an end for the most part, there’s still quite a bit taking place.  Playoff games, instructional ball, Arizona Fall League, and callups to discuss. There’s so much baseball taking place year round, and you don’t necessarily realize it. For example, the Dominican Winter League otherwise known as LIDOM just held their draft. You can read more about that here. So despite a lack of games there is plenty to write, talk, and discuss. Maybe I’m just telling myself that to reassure myself that the next however many words won’t be in vain. Below we’ll talk about Myles Straw, and Justus Sheffield’s callups, while briefly touching on a handful of games that took place last night. Mainly the PCL championship. Congratulations Redbirds on back-to-back titles. As for everything else you’ll have to look below.

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It’s pretty well documented that pitching prospects are my Achilles heal. The funny thing is, I like pitching, it’s the most interesting position in all of sports in my opinion. Why? Because, there’s so much that goes into pitching development. Which is why the likelihood of development stalling, or going off the rails, is so high. Pitching is both physical and mental, and almost to an extreme. Not only does your body need to be in sync, constantly moving your momentum thru the pitch, bending and shaping your arm, torso, and lower half in ways it’s not meant to bend. You also need to think about what you’re throwing and then trying to fit that pitch into a space of about 6 square inches. The margin for error is so much smaller. Think about it, if a pitcher is successful 70% of the time, he’s not good. On the flip-side a hitter with the same success rate is a superstar. So, when we evaluate pitching we need to keep in mind that these kids are not only mastering the spin on their off-speed stuff, but also figuring out when to use it. All this to say that the learning curve is much greater with pitching prospects. This is why, when they flash poise and advanced understanding of pitching it’s something to take notice of. Below is a list of arms that broke-out in Low-A, Short-Season, and Rookie Ball.

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As your dynasty league seasons come to a close in the coming weeks, much of the real work of the off-season begins. One of the biggest components of success in fantasy is based on the research you put in, particularly in the off-season. This is only magnified in the dynasty when much of the player movement likely takes place. Whether it be via trades, first year player drafts, or some form of free agency, now is when you build the foundation of your squad for the year to come. One of the best exercises in this preparation process for me historically has been digging in on short season and rookie ball performers. It’s good to know the landscape, and identify, through research of first hand scouting reports and video, which strong stat-lines are skills based versus statistical mirages. The next wave of buzz-worthy Top 100 types usually comes from these ranks with some mentioned below already there (See Franco, Wander; Rays). This is typically a great source of talent to focus on when building out your minor leagues, as many of these investments could return serious dividends on next year’s trade market come deadline time. Below we’ll touch on some of the names you should be targeting. Obviously depending upon your league rules and depth some suggestions might be more helpful than others. None of the players discussed will be 2018 draftees, they will be covered in a followup post.

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Late in the minor league season is a trip. It constantly has the ability to skew everything you’ve come to know over the course of an entire season. That can be good, and bad. On one hand, you might be guilty of reacting to smaller sample sizes. That’s obviously never great, but to act as if we’re not all going to fall victim to it, is naive. However, on the rare occasion a true breakthrough has taken place, we have to be agile, and prepared enough to adjust to that new information. While there’s numerous examples of the former late this season, there might be no better example of the latter than the Astros 2017 first rounder JB Bukauskas. The right-hander from UNC made his AA debut on Sunday with the Corpus Christi Hooks. Facing a San Antonio lineup featuring Josh Naylor, Austin Allen, Hudson Potts, and Buddy Reed, Bukauskas made quick work of the Missions. Going six scoreless frames, he allowed three base-runners, two via the walk, and a single hit (that came in his final inning of work). While striking out 8, throwing 94 pitches, 60 of them for strikes. I watched the entire game Sunday night, with extra attention on Bukauskas, and the verdict is he looked legit. Mixing the, as advertised, plus slider, with two plane break, and sharp downward movement, with (what looked like) a pair of fastballs, a plus mid-90’s sinking two-seamer with nasty downhill angle, and a four-seamer he wasn’t scared to elevate. He mixed in an inconsistent, but promising changeup, that looked nasty with fade and drop, to lefties, while at other times showed no shape at all. His Two-seamer + slider combo is a serious weapon, tunneling together and making it difficult to differentiate until late in the zone. The downward movement on his sinker is so sharp, he buried it a few times a s a wipeout pitch inside to lefties for ugly hacks. I came away from the start thoroughly impressed. He 100% looked like a starter to me, which has always been one of the biggest knocks on Bukauskas’ profile. I’d say take a flier if you’re looking for a high floor arm with some strikeout upside.

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With the minor league season winding down here in the waning weeks of the summer. I headed out to Pawtucket, RI on Wednesday in order to get some first hand looks at a pair of pitchers with the potential to be called-up when rosters expand in the coming days. The first was Phillies AAA ace Enyel De Los Santos, the right-hander with the mid-90’s fastball was the Phillies return for Freddy Galvis this winter, and has been very solid during his time in the Phillies organization. He debuted in the majors earlier this summer, making two starts in mid-July, before heading back to Lehigh Valley. He was back up for a relief appearance earlier this month, but has spent the majority of his season in the International League. The other arm was the Red Sox Mike Shawaryn, another arm I’ve discussed a little in my articles and on the podcast over the last few months. This was my second look at Shawaryn this season, and first in AAA. Both the Phillies and Red Sox are in the playoff push, and each of these arms could fill a variety of roles this season, and going forward. Let’s discuss what I witnessed.

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It’s Tucking K-way!!! The announcers at Fresno Grizzles games should just yell that out every time Kyle Tucker hits the batters box. Seriously, there is no one hotter on the planet right now than Kyle Tucker. Now gentlemen and three ladies, I know what you’re all thinking, “Real nice Ralphie, but where was this in the bigs kid?” BTW all of you have a Southie accent, and at least one Celtic cross tattoo. I just wanted to be clear about that. Oh, what’s that? The sound of a walkoff three run dong off the bat of Tucker? He finished up Saturday night 2-for-4 with 3 RBI, a run, a stolen base, and a walk. Tucker is hitting .478/.510/.1.087 with 9 homers, 18 runs, 20 RBI, and 6 steals over his last ten games. That’s some hero-ball type of stuff. Despite the struggles in his limited MLB looks I still foresee a future all-star, with 25-30 homer power, 15 steal speed, and a .270-.280 batting average. His setup, and swing are somewhat unique/unorthodox, whatever. With his uppercut bat-path, and upper body heavy swing, sometimes it almost looks like Tucker is throwing the bat, but he manages to get a lot of the barrel in the strike-zone, leading to a ton of good contact. All this to say, don’t sell on Tucker. 2018 might not be his year to contribute, but I’d be in on 2019 in all formats. The lingering question is playing time, but Tucker is good enough that he’ll force his way. It’s easy to forget he’s just 21, and will be 22 for the entirety of 2019. So there’s plenty of time to get things to click at the big league level. I do think there will be some swing and miss struggles early, but those should stabilize with experience. Tucker is an obvious candidate for a September promotion, and could provide some spark with the right amount of playing time.

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Prospects are funny, when things are going well all is expected of them. The sky’s the limit, the loftiest of comparisons are strewn about, and the helium pumps. Then the player struggles. Whether it be a command bout for a live arm, or a hitter stalling a little in his development. We all quickly jump off the boat. When often times, that player bounces back the following year, or late in the season, only to leave egg on our faces. Development takes time, and it’s just that, developing skills that lead to success at the major league level. Once such case of struggle, and recent revival is Yankees outfield prospect Estevan Florial. After an unproductive and injury plagued first half, the Haitian talent has returned with a vengeance. He’s looking more comfortable at the plate, and his swing and miss issues are trending the right way. If Florial can get his hit tool to a 45-50 level, his combination of speed and power could turn him into an impact player at the major league level. For now there’s still hit tool concerns, but you scout the athlete, and there’s few more impressive than Florial. I won’t back down from Florial as a top 25-50 prospect, and he’ll be around there in my update.

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Piece by piece, pick by pick, signing by signing the Tampa Bay Rays have quietly built the best farm system in baseball. Stocked at all levels with players of all types. This balanced blend of pitching and hitting, power and speed, big stuff guys and pitchability types. There’s no shortage of prospects to discuss on the Rays farm. While much of the recent discussion and helium has followed wunderkind Wander Franco and his assault on the Appy League. He’s not the hottest player in the Tampa system at the moment. That honor belongs to recently promoted second baseman Vidal Brujan. The 20 year old switch-hitter is a contact machine, showing an uncanny ability to get his bat on balls in all quadrants of the zone. With a mature approach at the plate, it’s apparent right away that Brujan has a plan. His ability to recognize and make in swing adjustments is rare. When I caught the spark-plug (coded short person language) in the New York-Penn League last year with Hudson Valley, he stuck out like a green hat with an orange bill. Rarely do you see a player this athletic in short season ball, that seemingly has the foundations figured out. But there was Brujan. He’s never going to be an impactful power hitter, but his swing does have loft, and he has the ability to drive balls to the gaps. Quick hands generate his plus bat speed, but it’s his laid back approach, and ability to make split second reads on spin that really set him apart. That’s before we even talk about his speed and base-running ability. He’s quick, getting clocked at 4.26 on the turn by Jason Woodell just weeks ago. He uses that speed too, wrecking havoc this season between the Midwest League and Florida State League, stealing 49 bases on 67 attempts. I envision a top of the order table setter with 25+ steals, a high batting average and 12-15 homers, but 30+ doubles. If I was in a dynasty that used points scoring, I’d make it a priority to add Brujan. Through 12 games in High-A he’s slashing .409/.519/.614 with a homer and 6 steals. Go add Brujan da 5’9 (that’s his listed height) before he goes BOOM!

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