Every year a player shows up in April and makes you regret your ranking. The honor of “that guy” in 2018, at leats so far, goes to Juan Soto. Ranked 25th on my Top 100 Prospects coming into the season, if I re-ranked today, I’d move Soto up as many as 10 spots. Upon receiving an assignment to low-A Hagerstown, it was obvious from the jump his competition in the Sally was overmatched. Soto slashed .373/.486/.814 with 5 homers and 24 RBI in 15 games, and was quickly promoted to high-A Potomac of the Carolina League. So far through 5 contests he’s hitting .318/.400/.591 with a double, triple, and homer. Here’s a look at the homer he hit on Wednesday versus Wilmington. The swing is a thing of beauty, with a super quick and simple motion, strong wrists, and fast hands. It’s all evident in the video below.
— NatsGM (@NatsGMdotcom) April 26, 2018
Soto is already looking like he belongs in high-A, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he spent a good chunk of the summer in AA Harrisburg. He’s moving toward a near certain Top 10 rank come mid-season, and a potential Top 5 come pre-season 2019. However, we won’t see Soto at the major league level until later on in 2019. To encapsulate, Soto is a year away, but an elite talent, one that needs to be owned in every dynasty league. He pairs the ability to hit for both power, and average, and shows advanced understanding of hitting. Working counts, making adjustments with two strikes, and avoiding strikeouts. He has a real shot to be the best rightfielder in the game in his prime years.
- So Far, so good for the White Sox Michael Kopech. The Young Gas God has been working with his best stuff early on in AAA. Mixing his high velocity fastball, with his slider, and changeup, racking up 27 punchouts in 21 innings. Below my homie, and excellent twitter follow @Prospectgifs condensed all of Kopech’s 8 punchouts from Wednesday into the below video. Nice mix of picking his spots, blowing it by guys, and baffling breakers. Kopech should likely be up mid-July.
— Prospect Gifs (@prospectgifs) April 25, 2018
- Lance and I went on another romantic scouting date on Friday night, schlepping up to Manchester, New Hampshire to take in the Fishercats showdown with Trenton. Decent pitching matchup as well, as Dillon Tate took on Sean Reid-Foley. Lance took some great video of Foley’s slowed down mechanics, and they’re really unique. He gets great extension with his front-leg, rocking back to get more momentum. From the stretch the hitch in his lower half becomes far more pronounced and his command tends to slip as a result. That said, I liked what I saw from Foley. He sat 93-94, touching 95 a couple times with decent sink, two breaking balls, and a changeup. The slider was his best pitch that night getting a solid amount of swinging strikes from the Trenton bats. He finished the start with 5 shutout innings of 2 hit ball, walking 3, and striking out 8, on a cold and rainy night. In fact he had a great deal of trouble getting his footing, and even slipped once. I like Foley, but see him as more a number three or four starter.
— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBrozdow) April 28, 2018
- Speaking of the New Hampshire trip, got another good look at the legacy trio of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and the emerging Cavan Biggio. Unfortunately he had a tough night at the dish, going 0-for-4, with 2 Ks. He’s been playing second just like pops, and has found another gear this season, hitting not only for a far higher average, but also a ton more power. From what I’ve seen in about a half dozen looks in person and on screen, is a player with an elite pitch recognition skill. He lays off bad breaking balls, and shows the ability to process a pitcher’s arsenal in-at-bat, and make adjustments. Of course I have a gif to show you all of this.
— Prospect Gifs (@prospectgifs) April 26, 2018
- Looks like the Marlins Joe Dunand is making the jump from “A-Rod’s cousin” to legit prospect. So far he’s slashing .324/.398/.541 for Jupiter of the Florida State League with a Bb% of 11.4%, and a K% of 14.8% good enough for a wRC+ of 156. He homered on Wednesday night and has hits in 5 of his last 6. He’s played all of his games at short so far, but has the ability to play a solid third base, not too far off from his uncle. He came into his own his final year at NC State, and was a somewhat divisive prospect on draft day. Thus far, he’s looking like a steal for the Marlins at 51st overall.
- Seven of the top eleven prospects in my Braves Top Prospects list were pitchers, and while we’ll discuss Mike Soroka, as well as my first hand looks at Luiz Gohara, later on. I want to take this time to shine the spotlight on Bryse Wilson’s performance so far. Through 4 starts he’s 2-0 with a 0.45 ERA, 19 strikeouts to 5 walks in 20 innings. Former guest of the podcast Jason Woodell was at Wilson’s start on Thursday and had such nuggets as, “Bryse Wilson is done after 6.2 IP. 3 H 2 BB 4 K. Ran the FB into RH, broke 4 bats. Very efficient. Effortless easy 95. Good arm speed with his offspeed. I ranked him my top 100 at end of 2017. Easily a top 50 guy rn.” He described the arsenal as fastball, slider, and the occasional changeup. Here’s some video courtesy of Jason.
— Jason Woodell (@JasonAtTheGame) April 27, 2018
- Peter Alonso came up during the “5×5” section of the Prospect Podcast this week. Why? Because he’s been absolutely mashing Eastern League pitching. At the moment, he stands at or near the top of several leaderboards across the AA level. Ranking 5th in batting average at .388, 4th in OBP at .494, 1st in slugging at .746, and 5th in homers at 6. He’s blocked at the AAA level with Dominic Smith playing mediocre ball at the moment, and Adrian Gonzalez holding down the MLB job for whatever reason. There’s a real chance Alonso is the best of the trio with power to go along with on base ability, something Smith has struggled to pair consistently.
- There’s a pair of catching Muphys making noise in the minors, one being old friend Tom Murphy of the Rockies AAA affiliate Albuquerque, and the other Sean Murphy of the Athletics AA affiliate Midland. Tom is slashing .312/.379/.571, with 4 homers and 13 RBI. Whether he finally gets a shot at everyday at bats at 27 is still up in the air. Much of it comes down to Tom’s catching ability. Sean on the other hand has a bright future ahead of him as a catcher in the majors. One of the better defensive backstops in the minors, Sean’s hitting has really come around. He’s hitting .351/.390/.623, with 3 homers, and 15 RBI, and looks to be picking up where he left off in the Arizona Fall League.
- The Orioles Zac Lowther made his fourth start of the season last night. He went 6 strong, conceding 2 runs, while allowing five to reach on 4 hits, and a walk. But the real discussion with Lowther is his ability to miss bats. He’s up to 39 strikeouts in 22 innings! That’s a 15.9 K/9 on the year!!! A pretty great story, but I’m not totally buying in as of yet. He works mostly 88-91 on his fastball with an average changeup in the 81-83 range, and slurvy breaking ball. What he does exceptionally well is hide the ball from his low three quarters arm slot. He’s a deceptive lefty in the mold of Joey Lucchesi. He doesn’t have Lucchesi’s breaking ball however. In formats where 250 or so prospects are owned I would give him a flier, but I’m not rushing out to get him in most dynasty leagues. He was excellent during his time at Xavier, and it’s carried through to the professional ranks. I think there’s a big league starter here, but it might be as a fifth starter.
- I’m still absolutely smitten with the Astros Yordan Alvarez. At just 20 years old he’s tearing up the Texas League, hitting .286/.378/.506, with 4 homers, and 19 RBI. He’s only striking out at an 18.6% clip, with a 14% Bb%, a 29.8% LD%, and a 35.6% Oppo%. That’s tons of hard contact all over the field, excellent on base skills, and the combination of power, and an under-control strikeout rate. Here’s some more great work from @Prospectgifs.
— Prospect Gifs (@prospectgifs) April 26, 2018
- With Ronald Acuna in the majors it’s a two way battle between Cristian Pache and Austin Riley for the best positional prospect in the Braves system. So far Austin is winning out, though the comparison is entirely unfair and said in jest. Chill Pache truthers. Riley is slashing .310/.363/.619 with 4 homers, and 15 RBI, through 23 games with AA Mississippi. Riley just turned 21 a few weeks ago, but looks likely to see some MLB time come September. He’s the 3rd baseman of the future, and isn’t all that far away. His combination of power and hitting ability have set him apart from the pack. A 180 wRC+ from Riley ranks as 8th in the Southern League, but he’s the youngest player in the top 10 by three years. Here’s some easy power from Riley.
— Prospect Gifs (@prospectgifs) April 26, 2018
- As for Pache. He hit his first homer of his professional career on Thursday night and is hitting .301/.309/.419 through 23 games. He has yet to steal a base and has been caught three times, which isn’t what you want from a speed first guy. The aforementioned Jason Woodell loves Pahce, and has talked about the different sound off his bat this year and developing power. Go to Jason’s twitter page and watch some of his Pache footage.
- Shed Long is back to his old self in 2018. The second baseman is yet to connect for a homer, but he’s hitting .365/.434/.486 with a 10.7% Bb%, 3 steals, and 16 runs in 20 games. He was removed from Friday night’s game with an undisclosed injury, my latest update is he’s day to day, but he was held out of Saturday’s game. He’s been hitting a top the Blue Wahoos lineup and seems to be settling in nicely to the role.
- The Padres Michel Baez returned from the disabled list to throw 5 shutout innings for high-A Lake Elsinore earlier this past week. It’s reported he wasn’t missing his typical amount of bats, only tallying two strikeouts on the night. First game back, no cause for concern.
- Another injured starter making his return to the mound this week was the Twins Brusdar Graterol. He went 3 2/3rds allowing one earned, on 3 hits, striking out 7, and not allowing a walk. He threw 61 pitches in the outing, 40 of them for strikes.
- Finally, I got a great look at Luiz Gohara last Sunday, in a game I bought tickets to with the intention of seeing Mike Soroka pitch. I wasn’t disappointed when the news broke Gohara would be the starter. Armed with my phone behind home plate I went live on Twitter for all four innings. His fastball has nasty run in on righthanders, sitting 93-95, mixing in his devastating slider at 81-85, and occasional fringe changeup. Check out the 4th inning of the start here, he gets some serious whiffs.