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.

  •  You should all be following my good friend Jason Woodell on twitter @Jasonatthegame. He’s been an early advocate for the Yankees Deivi Garcia, and the talented righty is squarely in my wheelhouse. A diminutive righthander with big stuff, and an athletic delivery, Deivi pushed his way to AA Trenton in 2018. Making his debut at the level Sunday night, the 19 year old Dominican went five hitless innings, walking two, and striking out seven. I watched some of the start Monday morning while I was preparing this post, and the movement of the fastball, and spin on his breaker really stood out. This is right in line with what our buddy Jason said about a week ago. Here’s Jason’s quick assessment; “Small frame but strong. Athletic delivery, repeats. Min eff.. Hides ball. FB gets on hitters quick. 93-94. CB is a hard breaker with some slurvy feel to it. High spin 77-78. CH is progressing. Flashes some fade. Good arm speed. Poised. Strike thrower.

  • I was happy when I heard the news that the Padres had called up catching prospect Francisco Mejia. The return in the Brad Hand deal has been on a tear of late. Homering in Saturday’s game, his third in the last four, and fifth in the last ten. It seems the power and production comes in bunches with Mejia, and he’s worth riding now that he’s called up while in the middle of an en fuego stretch. For next year, I’ll show guarded enthusiasm for him in both re-draft and dynasty.  For dynasty: His value has clearly declined over the last year and a half, despite perhaps having a clearer opportunity for playing time. On the other hand, the Padres will still have to get creative to get him 600 at bats with Austin Hedges in the mix, and no clear secondary position for Mejia to play.

  • After finishing the Bukauskas start I tuned into the Fresno vs. Salt Lake game featuring righthander Griffin Canning going for the Bees (Angels AAA). It’s been an up and down run through the PCL for Canning, but not all bad, and his peripherals point to some poor luck over poor pitching. His FIP/xFIP are nearly a run and a half lower than his ERA, his K%-Bb% of 16% is above league average, and his strikeout numbers are supported by a 12.3% swinging strike rate. He mixes a well controlled fastball, with two breaking balls, and a changeup that flashes plus. His arsenal plays up due to his sequencing and deception in his somewhat awkward mechanics.

  • The Blue Jays first rounder Jordan Groshans has picked a great time to breakout of his slump with Bluefield of the Appy league. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to keep the Jays playoff hopes alive, as Princeton and Wander Franco took the deciding game with two runs in the 8th. Groshans was 7-for-12 with a homer, and four RBI in the three game series, showing a little bit of clutch in his DNA. One of the top power bats in the 2018 draft class, Groshans remains a top 15 talent in first year player drafts, and still sits right on the outside of my top ten. He’s still raw, which shouldn’t be a surprise given his age, and he’s struggled with lefthanders in his young pro-career.

  • I’ve neglected to touch on Indians breakout lefty Sam Hentges at all this season, but he’s the genuine article. Hentges didn’t make my Top 500, but he should have. At 6’6, 245 LBS Hentges has the body type of a rotation workhorse with big stuff to match his frame. A 4th rounder out of the Minnesota Prep Ranks in 2014, it’s taking a few years for Hentges to round into form. He had Tommy John following the 2016 season, following a jump in velocity. He returned late in 2017, pitching well across Rookie ball and short season, Hentges entered 2018 with a full off-season, and the work he put in showed. Mixing an above average low-mid 90’s fastball, a high-70’s curveball with 2-7 movement, that generates lots of swings and misses, and eats up lefties. His changeup is a work in progress, flashing decent fade, and a nice velocity separation from his fastball. At the moment Hentges is squarely in my top 300.
  • A large part of doing well in off-season dynasty first year player drafts is not only knowing the recent draft and international classes, but also researching the wavier wire and identifying what late season breakouts are available. In recent years this practice has netted me Jesus Sanchez, Fernando Tatis Jr., Tirso Ornelas, and others. There’s lots of rookie ball and short season breakouts to chase, and one I’m really chasing is the Indians Brayan Rocchio. Is it me or did the Indians system take a major jump in the second half following the draft? Anyway, Rocchio is a player that has come highly recommended from fellow Prospector Chris Welsh from In This League. Chris is out in Arizona and gets lots of AZL and backfield looks, he’s been all over Rocchio, to the point that this week’s podcast had comments from personal favorite George Valera, who was praising Rocchio’s ability on both sides of the ball. After dominating in the Dominican Summer League, Rocchio was assigned to the AZL Indians 2 squad where he hit .343/.389/.448 with a homer and swiping 14 bases on 22 attempts. Rocchio spent a majority of his time at shortstop, but did get extended looks at both 2nd and 3rd.

  • Few players have ever had a month like the Dodgers slugger Carlos Rincon just had in August. Over 25 games Rincon connected for 14 homers, drove in 30 runs, scored 30, and slashed .304/.416/.848. There’s a running narrative that Rincon is a no approach swing at everything type. While there are some hit tool questions, he’s willing to take a walk, and other than recently, has shown a well balanced line drive stroke. He tends to get overly aggressive in games, over swinging on pitches he can hit, looking to ambush mistakes. It takes time to develop the patience to make the most of those swings. The raw power is obviously there, and he’s getting to in games as a 20 year old in High-A. Granted it’s the Cal League, so we should take some of the power numbers in context, but there’s something here. The body will need some maintenance, but he might have enough athleticism to stick at third, particularly with an arm that strong.

 

Follow me on Twitter @ProspectJesus and my new project @ProspectsLive, site coming Fall 2018

  1. Larry says:
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    Any news on Hunter Greene? Is the plan for him to come back next season then tear his UCL in his first outing and only get TJ then?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Larry: Yeah, I mean he wouldn’t be the first to come back without TJ, but who knows. I trust team doctors, they know a lot more than I do.

  2. Anodyne says:
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    In dynasties, which of the following would you drop if you could only keep two of the three?
    Yonder Alonso
    Alemdys Diaz
    Josh Naylor

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Anodyne: Alonso

  3. Russ says:
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    Do you like Oakland prospect Greg Deichmann? I grabbed him in a 1st year draft last off-season but his performance this year wasn’t great, and I noticed he missed your top 500

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Russ: Nah, I’d love onto to someone else. Really stalled in A ball.

  4. goodfold2 says:
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    good title

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      I Googled Bukkakes and found some weird stuff, please advise

      • goodfold2 says:
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        @Grey: don’t slip on that film set, that’s the advice, his title refers to the charles bukowski book tales of ordinary madness.

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Haha

      • Ralph Lifshitz

        Ralph Lifshitz says:
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        @Grey: I’m dead! I actually wanted to name it “Bukauskas Party! “ but my better judgement got a hold of me.

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Haha

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @goodfold2: Thanks!

      • goodfold2 says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: oh no, while the party idea would’ve been good too, going with the probably first ever bukowski reference around here is pretty pretty pretttttie nice.

  5. Scott says:
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    Ralph I listened to your recent podcast with gray. Brandon Lowe seems to be very underrated on all prospect lists. It looks like he has found / grown into his power. The walk rate is impressive too. Are you buying what he is doing in mlb and what he did at aaa? Is he starting next year as a 2b or lf in Tampa? Do you expect him to play every day rest of this year? Thanks

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Scott: Oh yeah, I’m all in. Not so sure about PT, his D isn’t great. I wonder if he forces his way into 500+ at bats, but I’d be shocked if it’s less than 350.

  6. M says:
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    TB’s Wander Franco is not in Yahoo’s player universe…whatya doin Yahoo…lol

    • goodfold2 says:
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      @M: one of them is. HAHAHAHAHA. i went going to hoard him a bit back (forgetting of course that i had looked other times certainly) in a 20 teamer with 10 NA slots like 5 days ago and found him, but WAIT, he’s a 3B on SF? yeah looked up who that one is. nope.

      out of any respectable top 200 list yahoo is missing around 50-60 at any given time, and a few years ago it was worse than that. but for SOME REASON they added mize and about 2 other somewhat high (bart) guys about 6 weeks ago. it’s a huge mess in dynasty leagues where nobody should’ve been able to just add those. in other news i now have mize in 3/4 of my deep yahoo dynasties.

      • M says:
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        @goodfold2: yeah I noticed that too. Yahoo is weird, last year at this time they didn’t have Bo Bichette in their universe but they had Hunter Greene who was just picked #1 or 2 overall in the draft

  7. thorbs says:
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    Ralph, great stuff as always!

    Would you take a flyer on a guy like JB over another high-floor prospect like Christin Stewart? He’s available in my dynasty league and I’ve got Stewart currently on my roster.

    FWIW my OF is Trout, Betts, Yelich, Ozuna, Bryant so I’ve got OF for days.

  8. Hugman says:
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    Would never have pegged you as a Bukowski guy. Propers.

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