Doesn’t it seem like every summer the national press needs a narrative to link onto and dubs it the “year of the something or other”? Think about it for a second, in recent seasons we’ve had “The year of the rookie”, “The other year of the rookie”, “The year of the homer”, “The year of the juiced ball”, so on and so forth. You get the point, sports writers are boring and unoriginal the whole lot. Well, I for one would like to follow in the grand tradition of sport writers, and apply this lazy, tired, haphazard, and cliche approach to my minor league baseball coverage. Therefore, I am dubbing 2017 MiLB “The Year of the 19 year old”. Why? Because between Ronald Acuna, Bo Bichette, Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, and now the Astros Forrest Whitley, the biggest news-makers have been 19 years of age.
Speaking of Whitley, recently promoted to AA Corpus Christi, the righty went 6 scoreless Thursday, allowing two hits, and striking out a career high 11 batters. Not too shabby for a kid facing high school competition 15 months ago. I ranked Whitley 75th overall in my top 100 back on July 2nd. Which was right about the point that his season took off. It was a high rank on a fantasy focused list for a teenage starter in A ball. I can recall really not being able to explain why I liked Whitley 25 spots higher than Ian Anderson when asked by Halp on the Prospect Podcast. I just fell in love with the idea of a 6’7 240 lbs monster with a arsenal of offerings. Since that date Whitley has rewarded my faith, dominating the Carolina League in a way no teenager should. Going 3-1 over his next 6 starts, while racking up 50 k’s to 9 walks in 31.1 innings.
The most remarkable stat over this stretch might be the fact that he was able to maintain a 3.16 ERA and 1.18 WHIP despite a .394 BABIP. That’s how good Whitley has been, he was insanely unlucky and still managed to keep his ERA in the low-3’s against far older competition. I’m going to get all hyperbolic wit’ it, and say he’s the Ronald Acuna of pitching. Obviously I’m just looking for anyway to discuss Acuna (.347/.411/.612, 2 for 4 with a run yesterday after homering in three straight), is that so wrong? As for Whitley if he proves to be up for the task of AA from here till the end of the season, he could see some time in Houston late next summer. My guess is he’s assigned to Corpus Christi out of camp next year, hangs around for a month and a half before seeing promotion to AAA Fresno. From there it’s all up to performance and need at the major league level. There might be some innings concerns to deal with in 2018, as he’s only at 83.2 IP this season, but the idea that Whitley could make his debut in 2018 isn’t out of the question. Here’s one of his swinging strikes from Thursday below.
- A somewhat under appreciated minor league arm in the Cubs system, Jen-Ho Tseng, has been strong this year between the AA and AAA levels. He’s only 22, and was signed for $1.6 million out of Korea back in 2013. What I’m saying is there’s some pedigree here. He throws lots of strikes, limits walks, and hard contact, can miss some bats, and has pitchability and feel for his three pitch mix. He’s more of a name to know for 16+ team leagues and those with quality starts worked into the scoring. Looks mostly like a back end starter but one with some ratio upside.
- An under the radar arm I have a fondness for is Cardinals lefty Jacob Schlesener. His name is fun to say, and he combines swinging strikes (17.2% SwStr), with an extreme groundball rate (67.1%), and a 20%+ IFFB. He throws a low to mid 90’s fastball, a curve, and a change. A 2015 pick out of the Missouri prep ranks, he’s a local product, and still a bit of project. Despite the great numbers he’s had trouble limiting walks. He will need to sharpen his control in order to find success at the upper reaches of the minors, and beyond. See below for a first hand view.
- Another under appreciated lefty I have been following is the Red Sox Darwinzon Hernandez. He’s also long struggled with control, but had been making great strides in the right direction of late. He’s only allowed 1 run over his last 16.1 innings, striking out 18 over that time. The 20 year old has a 13.2% SwStr, through 88.1 innings in the Sally. Due to deception in his delivery, and nice movement on his fastball and curveball he promises to miss bats as he progresses. Hernandez has the type of lefty delivery I fall in love with, 3/4 arm slot, third base side of the rubber, hides the ball well. If he can develop his change and limit his walks, Hernandez could jump into dynasty league relevance next season.
- I dropped Zack Collins down to 93rd overall in my mid-season rankings. Up to the time of the list’s release, Collins had really struggled at the plate, despite making strides behind it. In an obvious attempt to make me eat my words, the backstop has slashed .264/.379/.564 with 8 homers since July 2nd. His promotion to AA Birmingham coincided with Eloy Jimenez’s, and therefore got lost in the sauce. If Collins has in fact turned a corner on both sides of the ball we could see him mid-summer 2018. One of the few catching prospects not named Mejia to follow. Or consider owning for that matter.
- Who doesn’t love owning a name like Raudy Read in a super deep dynasty amirite? He’s an off the radar sleeper catcher in the Nationals system, you know if you’re into that type of thing. He’s slashed .270/.317/.459 with 15 homers and a 19% K% in AA. His glove is good enough to keep him behind the plate, and his 2017 numbers have proved some of his detractors wrong.
- After homering in his first game with class A Charleston, the Yankees Dermis Garcia struggled going 4 for 29 over his next 8. Since then Garcia has been one of the hottest bats in the minors the last week, hitting .333/.385/.792 with 3 homers, 5 runs, and 7 RBI in 6 games. He still strikes out a ton, but man that raw power is tempting at just 19.
- Marlins 3rd baseman Brian Anderson is often overlooked in fantasy circles. After a monster first month at AAA (.354/.418/.625, 7 homers, 22 RBI), perhaps it’s time to stop overlooking him. He’s still a pull heavy high groundball contact hitter with a swing more geared toward line drives. But those numbers tho…
- The Twins other first round pick Brent Rooker has started to get hot in high A. This is of course following an aggressive promotion proceeded by an assault on rookie ball. Entering yesterday’s game Rooker had been slashing .333/.455/.722 with 3 homers and 8 strikeouts to 6 walks over his last 11 games. He didn’t disappoint on Saturday, going 2 for 5 with another homer, his 8th in just 31 high A games. Defiantly a top 15 FYPD option in the off season.
- 18 year old minor league superstar Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered for the third straight day yesterday, going 2 for 4, and raising his average to .328 through 31 high A games. The degree of difficulty for a player who just turned 18 in March is remarkable. Strong case for top 3 over Victor Robles.
- Speaking of the Blue Jays, so far their 2017 Draft is looking strong with Logan Warmoth (.328/.383/.477), Nate Perason (0.00 ERA, 16/1 K/Bb in 13 IP), and 15th rounder Ryan Noda (.384/.518/.610) all off to great starts. Paired at the top of their team ranks are Bo Bichette, and Anthony Alford along with Vlad Jr. The Jays are quietly building a nice young core.
- On Friday the White Sox promoted blossoming future ace Michael Kopech to AAA Charlotte. This is most likely the last stop in 2017 for the flamethrower, who’s really turned a corner with his command and control in the second half. Of all the righthanded starters in the minors at the moment Kopech has the highest upside in my opinion. Over his last last 10 he’s 4-4 with a 2.83 ERA, and 72 K’s to 20 Bb’s. He’ll make his AAA debut tomorrow against Norfolk.
- The Phillies Scott Kingery, a potential September call-up, extended his hit streak to 17 games yesterday as he hit an inside the park homer. Through 47 AAA games the second baseman is hitting .307/.336/.482 with 7 homers and 8 steals. Between AA and AAA he slashing .310./.362/.556 with 25 homers and 27 steals, for one of the better statistical campaigns in all of baseball. In fact he’s one of four players in the minors with 20 homers and 20 steals, Ronald Acuna, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Monte Harrison being the other three. Kingery was the first to achieve that feat in 2017.
- Speaking of hitting streaks, the Angels Jahmai Jones ran his up to 22 games yesterday connecting for a homer, his 4th in the Cal League, and 13th on the season. One of the more unheralded high upside outfielders in the minors Jones should be owned in all dynasty formats where 75-100+ prospects are owned.
- It was a rough evening for Ralph Favorite Michel Baez, as he allowed 5 earned runs on 4 hits, 3 walks, and a pair of homers. He did strikeout 11, let’s hope he can get control of his homer prone ways.
- The Rays Ryan Yarbrough, is often the forgot man amongst Tampa’s upper-minors arms. As a 25 year old he may not offer as much upside as say a Brent Honeywell, Blake Snell, or Jacob Faria. But with an inning eaters body, and excellent production in AAA this year (24 starts, 13-6, 3.25 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 147 K’s to 36 Bb’s in 146.1 IP) he’s tough to dismiss. He mixes an above average fastball, with an above average change, average curveball, and plus control.
- The Phillies Darick Hall a 16th round pick out of Dallas Baptist in the 2016 draft leads the Sally League in homers with 24 through 104 games. He’s a first base only type without a ton of approach, but he mashes, and that’s always worth your attention.
- The Royals Khalil Lee has had a strange year at the dish. On one hand he’s struck out 158 times in 402 at bats and is hitting .244. On the other hand he has a .793 OPS, with 16 homers and 19 steals. Over his last 10 games Lee has been a machine slashing .410/.500/.821 with 3 homers, and 11 RBI. Huge upside on Lee if he can learn to protect the plate a little more, and avoid strikeouts.
**Going to a minor league game? Get in on our crowdsourced scouting video project! Use your phone to shoot at bats, pitches, etc of some of the top prospects, and email them to me at [email protected]**