During the winter I made a somewhat bold statement, that I’m not sure many agreed with it at the time. I stated that, I’d rather have Rhys Hoskins long term than Tommy Joseph. There was a great deal of skepticism regarding Hoskins 2016, mostly because it took place in the comfy confines of FirstEnergy (not a typo) Stadium. And really, who can blame them? The ballpark is so bananas, it tricked people into thinking Darin Ruf, and Dylan Cozens were actually good. That said, there was a lot to like about Hoskins profile,  FirstEnergy (not a typo) Stadium not withstanding. Throughout his professional career he’s hit for power (.233 ISO), average (.291), gotten on base (.375), and walked at a high rate (10.4%). He’s also done all this while striking out at a sub-20% clip. Tell me that doesn’t scream MLB worthy? In the offseason I was by far the high man on Hoskins, ranking him 57th in my top 100. Fast forward two and half months, and Hoskins is the new danger, hitting a robust .350/.447/.675 with 8 homers, and 15 RBIs in just 24 games. Meanwhile Tommy J struggles in Philly, and the calls for Hoskins in Philly get louder. Sure he’s a righthanded throwing first baseman, but Paul Goldschmidt scoffs at you scoffs at your concerns. I put my money where my mouth is on Hoskins, and dealt Nick Gordon, and T.J. Friedl in the Basbeall Prospectus expert league, The Devil Rejects, back in November, and am quite happy with how my gamble looks to paying off. This prospector’s word of advice, go get Hoskins. Anyway, here’s what else I saw this week in the minors.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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Pitching prospects are funny. Sometimes the best major league starters seemingly come out of nowhere. A mechanical tweak, or improved grip on a breaking pitch can sky rocket a prospect’s status to new heights. Sometimes, a high floor prospect that wasn’t getting too many prospect hounds or dynasty managers excited, progresses to the point of at least real mid-rotation upside. The later seems to be the case of the Reds AA righthander Tyler Mahle. On the heels of a perfect game just about a week ago. One in which, he made quick work of the 27 batters, throwing just 88 pitches. He produced another strong showing Friday, going 6 scoreless innings, striking out 6, and allowing 5 to reach. Mahle’s displayed pinpoint control throughout his time in the minors, and the results have been good outside a blip during his first go-at AA last season. A four pitch arsenal includes an average low 90’s fastball, a plus changeup, and a slurvy breaking ball. He’s not someone I foresee breaking a K per inning rate, but so far the swing and miss has been there, with 34 K’s in 32.1 innings. If Injuries to Reds starters begin to pile up, we might see Mahle in the big leagues by mid-July. As always Great America Ballpark is a horrible landing spot for any young starter, but I’m more inclined to believe in one with control and tendencies to induce weak contact (14.8%) and ground balls (44.4% GB).

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With roughly two months worth of baseball activity behind us, it’s time to re-rank some stuff. Sure, that’s an awful reason to rank things, and what’s baseball activity anyway? But Keith Law gets to update his after a couple of months, so why can’t cha boy Ralphie L? Some things have changed, for sure, some top prospects have either graduated, or are on the cusp of graduating. Most notably Andrew Benintendi, Dansby Swanson, Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot, Aaron Judge, and Tyler Glasnow. I figure if you’re in the majors, I ain’t gonna rank ya no more. There’s been a few jumps, the most significant of which is Chicago Cubs prospect Ian Happ. For those of you who don’t follow minor league box scores, he’s pretty much the Eric Thames of the minors leagues. Only minus the beard or the Popeye muscles. My excitement over Lewis Brinson and Cody Bellinger should be easily identified, they slot second and third respectively. As for the rest of the list you’re going to have to see for yourself. No, I won’t be sliding Tyler Mahle into my Top 25, after the perfect game last night. I had to get it in somewhere, right?

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On Monday night, my top scout (aka my daughter) and I, loaded up our rented scouting station (mini-van), and headed out to LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida to check out some Florida State League action. LECOM Park is actually the corporate name of McKechnie Field, often called the Fenway Park of Spring Training. Funny, I didn’t feel like my seat was designed for a garden gnome, but hey, everything is bigger in Florida right? Wait, that doesn’t sound right. Any the Arsenio Hall, my daughter and I headed out to go scout, and I use that term loosely, some of Bradenton and Clearwater’s top players. Bradenton is the Pirates Class Advanced A affiliate, and Clearwater is the Phillies. While my daughter and I munched on pretzels, hot dogs, and other assorted ballpark foods, I was reminded of why I love the minor leagues. Where else can you see potential future stars mere feet away, chat with coaches about breaking balls, and shoot some sweet scouting video without an usher booting you out of the stadium? Where am I going with all this? Be patient and I’ll tell you. Why are you so hasty bro? Well, I had an idea while shooting some scouting videos of Will Craig, and Cornelius Randolph. What if we had an army of amateur scouts throughout the country sharing their first hand video accounts?

Why not have my readers, and listeners, shoot scouting videos at the minor league games they attend throughout the year? From there, we’ll take your raw footage, edit it, and post it on Razzball’s YouTube channel. It’s crowdsourced scouting, and with smart phones more common than smart people what could be easier. So if you’re taking in a minor league game at anytime this season, whip out your phone and shoot some videos of top prospects you see. Once you do shoot them over to me via email at [email protected]

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   

Every year, after finishing my Top 100 post, I have a player or two I immediately regret not ranking higher. This year those prospects were Zack Collins, and Kyle Tucker. The funny thing is, Tucker wasn’t ranked that low at 32. Granted my prospecting brother from another mother Halp ranked him 21st, and based on last night it looks like Halp’s right. What happened last night? Welp, Tucker: Man and My Dreams, went 4 for 5 with a homer, 2 doubles, and 7 RBIs. He’s now hitting .343 in the Carolina League, can you imagine what he would have done with a full season in Lancaster? BTW Lancaster is one of the most homer and hitter friendly environments in minors, and was the class A advanced affiliate of the Astros up until this season. As for Tucker, he’s a 5×5 player’s dream, with hit tool, speed, developing power, and massive upside. Seems only appropriate that I would open this week’s Minor League Update with a native son of Tampa, while I’m on vacation here. How meta.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   

Coming off a start in which he whiffed a career high 12 batters, Brent Honeywell continued his scorching hot start last night. The righty went 7 innings, allowing 1 run, 1 hit, and striking out 8 in the process. Now at AA Montgomery, Honeywell looks to ride his varied arsenal, including his infamous screwball, to the show by the end of the year. The only real question with Honeywell at the moment is, just how aggressive the Rays get moving him along? His control has always been elite, leading to walk rates in the 4-6% range. And while the ability to generate swings and misses has always been there, it’s noticeably ticked up this season. The time to buy Honeywell might be now as he continues his assault on the AA Southern League. I’m never one to invest much in a pitching prospect, particularly one in the AL East, but Honeywell is the rare exception.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   

Growing up, some of the best players in baseball were legacies. Juniors, so to speak. Think Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken Jr., so on and so forth. Well, the Toronto Blue Jays have taken it upon themselves to bring the Jr.’s back to the game. It started unsuccessfully with Dwight Smith Jr., but has taken a turn for the better with the latest crop of Juniors. On yesterday’s podcast we briefly discussed Vlad Guerrero Jr. and his Lansing Lugnuts debut. Mostly because it was going on while we were recording, and I for one, love a good distraction. What I’m getting at is, we might have done you a disservice not listing this team as one to watch. With an exciting combination of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette (son of Dante), they’re definitely the best set of juniors out there. In fact the pair showed their oodles of upside Friday night, as each homered in the game. On Saturday they continued their assault on A ball, combining to go 3 for 8 with a run and an RBI. Some solid start for the duo, huh? Scouts rank Vlad Jr. amongst the top power prospects in the minors, and Bichette is viewed as a high upside middle infield prospect with 20+ homer upside. For our first Minor League Update of the season, it’s only right we go back to the future. Here’s what else is going on during opening weekend of Minor League Baseball.

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On June 12th of this year, 400 people, myself included, will tune into the MLB Draft to witness where this year’s crop of fresh meat will land. Is it a bit insensitive to refer to these talented ballplayers as fresh meat? Sure, but I’m an inappropriate prospector, and I really enjoy upping the creep ante on my readers. After all, we’re talking about high school and college kids. Wait till I get to my 16 year old internationals! Any da hootie-hoo, over the last few seasons we’ve come to expect a few things from the draft. First at least 2-3 advanced college hitters ready for pro-ball nearly immediately, think Schwarber, Benintendi, Bregman, and Swanson. And secondly, super talented prep players with huge ceilings, but long ETA’s. This is not a ranking, I repeat this is not a ranking. Just in case you missed it I’m going to use all caps, THIS IS NOT A RANKING. I’m simply using this as an opportunity, to write about something besides the same 15 potential rookie of the year candidates, but also to introduce some of the players to follow over the coming college season.  On the latest episode of The Prospect Podcast Mr. Michael Halpern Esq. of Imaginarybrickwall.com, and I discuss many of the names covered below. So listen to that while reading this, it syncs up like Darkside of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz. Seriously check it out…. Over the next two months, players are bound to rise, and to fall, though let them never be subjected to the trade offers I’ve received from fellow Razzball writers in the Perts and Writer’s RCLs over the last 48 hours. Pssst I don’t want the pitchers you shouldn’t have drafted. Meh, let’s get into some exciting 2017 MLB Draft Prospects.

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It’s the official opening day of baseball. This means a few things, A. We made it through the winter. Congratulations on not being eaten by a bear, or frozen out in the cold. Now that we’ve established that you’re in fact alive, let’s move on to the really exciting part of today, and errr tomorrow. Baseball! While minor league games don’t kick off until Thursday, we have some players with prospect eligibility breaking camp with their respective big clubs. In fantasy baseball there are no little clubs. We’re all about feelings. With every prospect making the club, there’s three being assigned to a minor league affiliate, we’ll talk a few of them too. It’s a roll call of sorts. While we’re all here you don’t mind if i go a little off topic do you?  I actually don’t care about your input, I’m doing it any way. Can I tell you what team has me super excited to watch them this year? The Padres! Seriously the crappy old, future last place Padres. If only because the friars on the list are of real interest to me as they’re breaking camp with top prospects Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe, as well as three Rule 5 draft picks from A.J. Preller’s Rule 5 coup. Yes, a Rule 5 Coup d’etat, it’s a real thing. How effective a Rule 5 Coup can be, remains to be seen. We also have the emergence of Aaron Judge with a job. If you’re anything like me you’re screaming, FINALLY!!!

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   

Okay, so it’s not really new, that’s a lie. Really it’s a re-brand of a league that existed last year that you probably know as REL2. That’s right, Razz30 is the bastard son of JB’s REL, with a Macy’s makeover, from those dolled up chubby former homecoming queens that work the makeup counter. BTW, I can hear your inner-monologue because I have telepathic powers, and I know you’re asking “why did you rebrand a fantasy league?”. Well to put it bluntly last year was akin to pooping yourself while simultaneously driving head on into a tractor trailer truck, surviving only to find out your wife is now sleeping with your high school bully, and he doesn’t have a job, so he’s going to sleep in your spot in the bed going forward. Now you’re covered in poop, laid up in the hospital with more broken bones than Evil Kenevil, and you’re emasculated as well. Seem dramatic? Maybe, maybe not. Just talk to the guys that lost their best players from forced real life trades. I could go on and on, but why look back? We’re moving forward with a new and improved format, and I’m proud to announce we’re embarking on the first 30 team league in Razzball history. When this job was bestowed upon me, by my predecessor the Notorious M.I.K.E, I promised him I would take Razzball to places they’ve never been before. That place is a 30 team league where people are spending half their FAAB adding Raul Alcantara. It’s real out here!

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   
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