Back in 2012 a 26 year old Phillies first base prospect by the name of Darin Ruf hit 38 homers while playing for AA affiliate Reading. Ruf never approached a season like that before or since, and quickly washed out as he reached AAA and the majors. Over the seasons that have followed any Reading player with a power surge is looked at with skeptical looks and side eye. Dylan Cozens is the latest in a long line of Phillie farmhands to bear this cross. Over the past week Cozens has accelerated the home run pace of his magical 2016, hitting 6 homers and slashing .360/.429/.1.240. As of Saturday night Cozens’ home run total for the season sits at 32 in just 106 games. I’ve written about Cozens a few times over the past few months, and quite honestly the gaudy offensive numbers are tough to ignore. Prior to the 2016 breakout, Cozens was an intriguing prospect. Built like an NFL tight end, and blessed with raw power and base running ability. Cozens presents raw potential that would entice any dynasty owner to take a second look, but the red flags are there and shouldn’t be ignored. First and foremost, though Cozens has always produced raw power it never materialized until he reached Reading. To say that Cozens success is Reading aided is an understatement. Of his 32 homers he’s only connected for 6 away from FirstEnergy Stadium. The home and away slugging % splits are staggering, as he boast a Bondsian .801 SLG% at home, but a .415 on the road. That’s an absurd difference of .386! Or he’s a full Dee Gordon different at home. Next on the red flag rundown is Cozens long lefthanded swing. While it’s picturesque when it connects for a long fly, it’s down right ugly when he misses, particularly on balls to the outside part of the plate. Look no further than his nearly 30% k rate for evidence. The last, and in some ways, the most alarming of the red flags is Cozens splits vs southpaws. A .307/.391/.677 hitter vs righties, he morphs into Freddy Galvis when a lefty is on the mound, slashing .204/286/.387. Cozens has certainly made improvements this season, but he does come with risk; and even if he’s only a 15/15 threat with some split issues, he’s worth a spot in your minors in dynasties where 100-150 prospects are owned.
Bradley Zimmer, OF Columbus Clippers (Indians AAA): After an uneven first three months Zimmer has been locked in since July 1st; slashing .336/.432/.469 with 3 homers and 8 steals. The most impressive part of his current run is how he’s taken to AAA pitching upon promotion to Columbus. Zimmer is slashing .357/.449/.476. through his first 50 AAA plate appearances, and looks like he could be a callup in the final two months, particularly if this continues. Abraham Almonte can’t hold B-Rad Zim-Zim.
Lewis Brinson, OF Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Brewers AAA): The Milwaukee farm system is stacked to the brim with intriguing prospects for fantasy. Following the Lucroy trade Brinson may now be chief among them. Following a shoulder injury in mid-June, Brinson was on the DL until July 1st. Since returning he’s been on a tear slashing .301/.329/.497 with 5 homers and 8 steals. Over that stretch he’s moved from AA to AAA, and been traded away from the only organization he’s ever known. Doesn’t seem to be affecting Brinson, as he’s taken nicely to his new generous home in Colorado Springs. Looks like the buy low window is slamming shut.
Thomas Szapucki, LHP Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets lo-A): The 2015 5th round pick out of William T. Dwyer HS in West Palm Beach Florida, has been absolutely filthy. After throwing just 2.1 innings in 2015, he made his 8th start of the season last night for lo-A Brooklyn and struck out 11 batters in 5.1 innings. He’s now averaging a K/9 of 14.6, and keeping batters off balance with a deceptive lefty 3/4 delivery. He offers a plus fastball that can touch 95, and mixes it with a curveball he commands well in and out of the zone, and a developing change. Take a peek at Szapucki right here. My Podcast co-host Michael Halpern is a big fan, and even mentioned him in his rundown over on ImaginaryBrickWall.com last Monday.
Max Wotell, LHP Billings Mustangs (Reds hi-A): The other player going the Reds way in the Jay Bruce trade, Wotell is yet another lefty arm from the Mets system. Now that the formalities are out of the way let’s discuss what makes Wotell unique. His moonwalk delivery. Seriously that’s a really odd sidestep. It’s cause for a great deal of inconsistency when it comes to repeating his delivery, and it’s manifested in high walk rates. After working exclusively as a reliever last season Wotell has made the jump to the rotation this year. His best pitch is his slider which grades anywhere from above average to plus, he also features an average low-90’s fastball, and a change. We talk about him on the debut of the Prospect Podcast in fact.
Anthony Alford, Dunedin Blue Jays (Blue Jays hi-A): After really dropping off of many mid-season top 100 lists, the super athletic Alford looks to be rounding into form. An early season knee injury delayed the beginning of his season, and bad results followed upon his return. After showing signs of life in July (.255/.366/.457 with 3 homers and 8 steals), the former college football player has been on fire in August. Over the last two weeks Alford is slashing .362/.464/.702 with 14 runs, 2 homers, and 2 steals. The ceiling has always been enticing, and he knows how to take a walk, but he comes with a great deal of risk. He strikes out too much, and doesn’t make enough hard contact. While his hot streak is nice he’s a player that needs to make a push for a promotion to AA New Hampshire by the end of this season.
Francis Martes, RHP Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros AA): Another great start on Tuesday from the Astros top pitching prospect as he went 6.1 innings striking out 11 against the Padres AA affiliate San Antonio. After a rough first month of the season Martes has been everything he was billed to be. In fact if you remove April, his stat line looks like this; 14 starts 82 innings, 9.88 K/9, 3.29 Bb/9, .33 HR/9, 1.18 WHIP, and a .217 BAA. That’s all with a .301 BABIP, and 73.1% left on base rate.
Tyler Beede, RHP Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants AA): Young Beedah!!! I wonder if J.B. asks me about him again when he stops by the Prospect Podcast this week. BTW now that Benintendi is in the majors I’m going to just plug the pod at an alarming rate. Following the trade of Phil Bickford, Beede returns to his place as the Giants top pitching prospect. Over the last few months the former Vanderbilt star has regained his mid 90’s fastball and his swing and miss stuff. He had an up and down month in July, but the numbers over his last 10 starts are excellent 2.69 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 3.5 Bb/9, and .231 BAA. He’s sacrificed some control to add the velocity and strikeout part of his game back but it seems like a fair trade off.
Francisco Mejia, C Lynchburg Hillcats (Indians hi-A): The 20 year old catcher that was the centerpiece of deal that nearly netted the Indians Jonathan Lucroy. I’ll keep this one short and sweet because I’ve talked about him a lot lately, he extended his hitting streak to 47 games on Friday night. This kid is something special, and definitely someone to target in dynasty.
T.J. Friedl, OF Reds: Signed for $735,000 shattering the previous signing bonus for an undrafted college player. He’s had quite a unique rise from walk on player at Nevada to leadoff hitter and starting leftfielder for the US national team. He’s more of a great story than a future fantasy star, but I like to bring those to your attention too. He projects as a low power small ball player with bast stealing and bunting ability. So Billy Burns type I guess.