Every single time I spend weeks sweating over my rankings a player emerges as under-ranked by yours truly almost immediately. The current thorn in my recently released rankings side is one Wander Franco. Ranked 82nd on my most recent Top 500, an uber-talented middle infielder with a highly touted bat. I figured being 20 spots or so into the Top 100 on a 17 year old was a pretty big statement. I was wrong. Since the final look over of my list, Franco has gone bonkers, 15-for-33, with 3 homers, 2 doubles, a triple, and 14 runs driven in. Oh, and by the way, over that period he’s struck out once. “Yeah, yeah Ralph that’s great, but it’s rookie ball!” Sure, but it’s advanced rookie ball and he’s the second youngest player in the league, and one of two 17 year olds (the Yankees Everson Pereira is the other). After last night’s game he’s sitting on a 24 game hit streak, and has nearly as many homers (6) as he does strikeouts (8), all this while he hits .384/.418/.652.
— Adam McInturff (@2080adam) July 15, 2018
So who is Franco? He was universally considered the top player in the 2017 July 2nd class, and someone my colleague Ben Badler of Baseball America has raved about to me on multiple occasions. He’s a strong bodied switch-hitter with an innate ability to make contact, spit on junk off the plate, and natural raw power that’s easy to spot with the way the ball jumps off his bat. That’s not batting practice power either, it’s legit game power at 17. If there’s anything to pick nits with I suppose it’s the walk rate, but that’s stat-line scouting to the upteenth degree. My understanding, and this is common of players hitting this well, he’s just seeing everything thrown to him. That’s more indicative of someone who is too good for the level than anything else. Watch this swing below, it’s quick compact and powerful. That’s a 17 year old kid! Yeah, if he’s not owned in your dynasty leagues, he should be. So that leads us to the million dollar question. “Ralph, knowing what you know now, would you move him up in your ranks?” Yes, I’d bump him ahead of George Valera (swoon), and firmly into the 40-55 range. That’s with a bullet too, he’s already starting to show up in some prospector’s Top 25, and I can’t fault them. That boy good! Here’s what else I’ve seen in the MiLB…
- Now for the meat in this meal! I took in yesterday’s Binghamton Rumble Ponies vs Trenton Thunder game. Otherwise known as the “Baby Subway Series” (no one calls it that). The pitching matchup was relatively marquee, pairing the Mets Justin Dunn vs. the Yankees Trevor Stephan. Both are righthanders with velocity, and primarily a three pitch mix consisting of mid-90s fastballs, changeups, and sliders. Dunn is a more traditional windeup, with an over the top delivery, and an uncanny ability to repeat his mechanics due to plus athleticism. The first inning was a funky one for Dunn, as he started off allowing a pair of singles to the second and third batters of the inning. What ensued in the next at bat was pure madness. Dunn hung a slider high in the zone to the Thunder’s Ryan McBroom, who in turn drove the ball to leftfield for a hard hit single. What followed was a play at the plate where the runner was out by a solid 5 feet, the Binghamton catcher Tomas Nido then spotted McBroom dashing to second, and proceeded to rush a throw that bounced into center, allowing the two runners to score. You can watch the play below.
Dunn hangs a slider, a play at the plate, a throwing error at second, and 2 runs. Just your average play… pic.twitter.com/dMEQ9j5qi5
— Ralph Lifshitz (@ProspectJesus) July 21, 2018
Dunn walked the next batter, before settling in over the next 5 innings making quick work of the Trenton lineup. His fastball sat 93-95 with some run, he was very effective with it low in the zone generating a bunch of groundball outs including two easily turned double plays. His slider sat 84-82, got some swings and misses, but wasn’t great in the first two innings, before he found his feel for it from the third on. He mixed in his changeup with as much frequency as he did his slider, a great development, and likely the driving force behind his resurgence in 2018. The most interesting tidbit was the splitter he dropped on a pair of lefties in the 4th. Pitch sat at 89, and some nice movement. The scouts I was sitting next to (Royals, Yankees, and Mets) were all thoroughly impressed, with the Royals scout stating he’s seen his last three starts, and he’s looked better and better with each turn. Conclusion Justin Dunn is a dude, and you should add him in any dynasty format where rostering pitching prospects makes sense.
- Now for Yankees righthander Trevor Stephan, a third rounder in 2017 out of Arkansas, the righty has made quick work of the lower levels reaching AA by late May of his first full professional season. Stephan has funky arm action, throwing from a low three quarters arm-slot, his fastball sits 94-95, popping 96 on occasion. His changeup was pretty pedestrian, sitting 82-85 with some late life. His slider however stuck out to me, dropping down to 75-78 with some nice break. The slider kept hitters off balance every time he used it, and he was really effective to the back foot vs righthanded batters. The drop in velocity between his fastball and slider was dramatic, but unfortunately the Binghamton hitters were seeing the fastball well out of his hand and teed of on it repeatedly. At the end of the day, Stephan has a starters build, and if he can improve his changeup there might be a path to a big league rotation spot. As currently constituted he looks like a really strong middle relief arm.
- The Angels Luis Rengifo is on absolute fire this season, and it’s continued at AAA thus far. BTW that’s Rengifo’s third level of the minors, and across all three levels his numbers look like this; .321/.425/.488 with a 13.2% walk rate, and a 11.2% K rate, not a ton of power as he’s only connected for 5 homers, but man can he run. Through 89 games he’s 37-for-47 on the bases. If you’ve read me long enough then you know I’m fond of high contact hitters, with plus speed, and on base ability. The fact that he’s a switch-hitter, a passable defensive shortstop, and a true threat to get on base and run. Add up to Rengifo profiling as a prototype leadoff guy. I ranked Rengifo just outside my Top 100, but make no mistake he’s in the conversation, and if you had him as high as 75-80 for fantasy I would see nothing wrong with it. Now where does he fit in in Anaheim is a different story?
- The White Sox Eloy Jimenez has been absolutely tremendous in AAA this year. Following his 3-for-4 game last night he raised his AAA slashline to .342/.392/.616, with just 7 strikeouts in 79 plate appearances. He’s ready for the show, but we might not see him till later this season. Worth a stash in re-draft if you have a chance to hold.
- I’m sure most of you know this but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is back! He returned to New Hampshire on Thursday, going 3-for-8 in his first two games upon his return. I expect to see him in Buffalo sometime following his father’s Hall of Fame induction a week from today.
- Since we last updated you, 2017 first overall pick Royce Lewis was promoted to High-A Fort Myers, joining Alex Kirilloff. Across 8 games at the level Lewis is slashing .313/.371/.469 with a homer, as seen below. The combination of hit, speed, defense, power, and strike zone awareness make Lewis a future stud in the making. I ranked him as high as I did (10th overall) for a reason.
— Teejbaseball (@teejbaseball) July 21, 2018
- Speaking of Alex Kirilloff, he went 3-for-4 yesterday to raise his average to .339 through 27 High-A games. Over his last ten he’s slashing .429/.442/.690 with 8 extra base hits. Keep in mind this is the Florida State League, and this is Kirilloff’s first full season of professional baseball after missing all of 2017. Those power numbers are ungodly.
- One of the true standouts amongst pitching prospects in rookie ball is the Cleveland Indians righty Luis Oviedo. The teenager has a projectable starter’s build at 6’4, 170, though some reports note that his frame is strong, and less projectable than the tale of the tape reads. His fastball sits low-mid 90s, hitting 97 on the gun. He mixes the heat with a changeup that projects as plus, as well as an above-average slider, and an average curveball. His most recent start came on Friday for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the Indians short-season New York-Penn League team. He went 5 innings, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, and a walk while striking out 7. He’s now 3-1 through 7 starts with a 0.92 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, and 50 strikeouts to 8 walks in 39 innings. A player that is an immediate add in any deep dynasty where he is unowned.
- Here’s some great stuff on Padres righty Luis Patino from the Athletic’s Emily Waldon. If you’re not following Emily do it, she’s a friend and one of the best prospectors out there.
Told today that #Padres Patino hit 98 MPH last week, reportedly his highest reading since arriving in Fort Wayne. Weighed in near 160 pounds a year ago and has since bulked up in added muscle to 192.
Spoke briefly to Patino today and was highly impressed. Just a great kid. https://t.co/WGU7J8UEjt
— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) July 22, 2018
- I’ve fallen in love with the Royals Kyle Isbel, to the point I had a 10 minute conversation with a Royals scout yesterday about just how good this draft class might be for the KC nine. Isbel was a third round pick this year out of UNLV, and he matches a nice combination of power and contact. After demolishing rookie ball, slashing .381/.454/.610 with 4 homers and 12 steals, he was promoted to Low-A Lexington, home of Seuly Matias, MJ Melendez, and Nick Pratto. In his first three games in full season ball Isbel is 3-for-8 with 4 walks, no strikeouts, 4 runs, 2 steals, and this homer in his first Lexington at bat. Look how sweet this lefty stroke is, Benintendi my heart be still!
- Because we can’t have nice things both Fernando Tatis Jr., and recent Cubs first rounder Nico Hoerner were injured this week, and are out for the season. It’s not all sunshine in the Minor League Update.
- I’ll be back later this week with some more updates, and some live looks from Cape Cod and the New York-Penn League, where I hope to get eyes on the Tigers Wenceel Perez. An 18 year old shortstop that hit .383/.462/.543 in rookie ball before getting the call to Connecticut. Now I’m going to bed, I have a trip to the Hall of Fame first thing in the morning, before trekking back to Massachusetts to catch the Cape Cod League All-Star game.