I don’t know where you’re from, by where I’m at everyone is getting High-A. I have no idea why I find this funny, it’s not. Then again they don’t pay me to be funny, actually they don’t pay me for anything. If I was paid for anything though it would probably be this, writing about prospects. Particularly those in the low minors and a few years away. Today, we’ll take a long look at the breakout players in two of the three High-A level leagues, the California League and the Florida State League. Though they share the distinction of being even in terms of level, the two circuits couldn’t boast more divergent offensive profiles. As the California League is known for its hitting and power friendly environment, the Florida State League is known for the opposite; low scoring games, and pitching friendly statistics. On Sunday we’ll dig into the numerous breakouts and players of note in the third High-A syndicate, the Carolina league. We’ll also touch on some of the top performers in the A level Midwest League. If there’s anyone else you feel I neglected to include that’s on your radar in the Cali or FSL, post it, I’d love to discuss them. You know what the old timers say, Prospecting takes a village.
Luis Urias, 2B Padres: It seems like every year a Padres middle infielder is breaking out somewhere in the lower minors. Last year it was Ruddy Giron, this year it was Urias. The latter has a few things going for him, first he makes a lot of contact and second doesn’t strikeout. This means he’ll always hit for a high average. Now comes the less exciting part; at best his power is still developing, and he doesn’t run a ton. Not that exciting right?So he’s someone to take note of, and is worth a roster spot in a deep league, but is hardly a top target.
Jason Martin, OF Astros: I spoke about Martin a little bit in the last episode of the podcast, regarding potential breakouts for next year. Before we go any further, here’s the obligatory statement regarding any Lancaster player and his statistics **He played in Lancaster, one of the minors best hitting environments**. Okay, now that we’ve gotten the obligatory qualifier out of the way, Martin presents a true 20/20 skill set. I won’t deny that the home run spike was Cal League aided, but when someone slashes .270/.357/.533 with 23 knocks and 20 steals, I take notice. If he’s able to carry even 75% of that power with him to AA next year, we’ll be talking about a Derek Fisher like riser up prospect lists.
Johan Mieses, OF Dodgers: Another player I listed last podcast amongst potential breakouts for next season, Mieses is a raw athletic power hitting outfielder. You wouldn’t have to look any further than his power numbers and strikeout totals to deduct that. Then again if you knew how to read why would you be here?…. Okay, that makes no sense. Either way, Mieses is yet another intriguing Dodgers prospect for fantasy purposes. The power is real, the question remains will he make enough contact at the upper levels.
Jairo Beras, OF Rangers: Speaking of all or nothing hitters, next up is the mighty Beras. At 6’5 180, he’s still filling out. Which is a daunting proposition when you consider he slugged his way to a total of 22 homers and an ISO of .249 at High Desert. If you’re quick to disqualify High Desert power numbers, you’d earn a cookie, but also not be wrong. Regardless, Beras took advantage and slugged his way to a notable year. The 27% strikeout rate is a red flag, but the overall player is intriguing for fantasy purposes.
Tommy Bergjens, RHP Dodgers: This has to be the unluckiest pitcher of 2016. Not only does Bergjens pitch his entire season in the California League, he managed to complete an unfortunate statistical feat. He’s 2nd in the league in K/9 (9.21), boasts the third lowest Bb/9 (2.01), is first in K/Bb, and has the second best FIP (3.68). Yet he finished the season 3-13 with a 4.98 ERA, thanks mostly to an insane high BABIP of .332, and an insane low LOB% of 50.4%. My guess is Bergjens’ numbers should stabilize when he heads to AA next year.
Florida State League
Christin Stewart, OF Tigers: The best prospect pound for pound included in this post. Though I’m not sure what the current price per pound on prospects is. Before an early August promotion to AA, Stewart was on a power tear of which the Florida State League is rarely known for. If Stewart isn’t owned in your league, and 50 prospects are owned, add him.
Aristides Aquino, OF Reds: A true breakout prospect with a titillating power and speed profile. Aquino is a player that’s taken some time to marinate. The power certainly spiked this year, and in the Florida State League of all places. If there’s ever been a guy who needs a pronounceable nickname it’s this guy. Will sit on the fringes of many top 100 lists this winter.
Richard Urena, SS Blue Jays: After a power breakout last year at Lansing of the Midwest League, as expected, Urena’s power numbers were down this year upon promotion to the FSL. Despite this, there were positive developments in the shortstop’s game, with the drop in power came major strides forward in approach. Urena cut his strikeouts by 6%, while nearly doubling his walk rate. The switch-hitting middle infidel hits more groundballs than I like to see, particularly from someone that doesn’t possess elite speed. Still, even with the obvious red flags in batted ball profile, Urena should continue to hit for a high average due to the low strikeout rate, and impressively low popup rate (3.17%). Eventually he should develop into a prototypical number 2 hitter, one with mid-teen power. Saw around 150 plate appearances with AA New Hampshire at the end of the 2016 season. I’d expect he heads back to the Granite State to start the 2017 term.
Luis Castillo, RHP Marlins: At nearly 24 Castillo is an older hi-A prospect, but pitchers often take longer to develop. So the age should really not be a huge deterrent. Prior to a promotion to AA, Castillo produced the lowest FIP in the whole Florida State League, and justified his 2.07 ERA. Castillo lacks the ideal strikeout stuff we look for in fantasy, but he’s a great potential ratio play in deeper 18-30 team dynasty leagues.
Josh Rodgers, LHP Yankees: A lefty Yankees pitching prospect with decent swing and miss stuff and excellent control. So how on earth do we not know all about this guy? After pitching behind the much ballyhooed Kyle Funkhouser in the Louisville rotation, Rodgers slid to the Yankees in the 11th round of the 2015 draft. It was anticipated that Funkhouser would more than likely sign a pro contract, and that Rodgers would return to Louisville to assume the role of Friday night starter. Because of this, many teams passed on Rodgers, despite the talent to go rounds earlier. When Funkhouser decided to scorn the Dodgers advances to return to Louisville for the 2016 season, Rodgers’ plan were thrown into flux. Which ultimately led him to sign with the Yankees. His 13 2015 innings were solid if not unspectacular. However in his first full pro-season Rodgers showed mid-rotation upside. Making 24 starts between class A Charleston, and hi-A Tampa Rodgers produced an impressive line of 12-6, 2.38 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, and 1.5 Bb/9. He possess excellent command and control of his three pitches. His best pitch is his fastball that sits in the low 90’s, and is complemented by an average slider, and change. He doesn’t possess nasty stuff, but he knows how to pitch.