I’m on a mission to finish these minor league previews if it kills me. The off-season ran short, I got caught up with family and work, and here I am in mid-May scrambling to get caught up. Poor planning, my apologies to all of you. That said, y’all didn’t think I’d let you head into the weekend without a minor league update to step to did you? Oh hell naw! In no way, shape, or form would I ever leave you, my readers, my people, my children. Especially on a glorious Thursday! This week no one man ruled the roost more than the Washington Nationals’ Juan Soto. (Okay, Vlad, but how much can I write?) The 19 year old rightfielder with the sweet lefthanded swing, Soto saw promotion to AA Harrisburg last week. His Eastern League debut was the center of the prospect world, if only for that night, as it just so happened to come against the visiting Vladimir Guerrero Jr.. Soto did not disappoint, going 2-for-4, with a homer, a double, and 4 RBI. That was his AA debut, and we now have a week worth of games to dig into. While the .286/.400/.476 is pretty impressive, his walk rate of 16%, coupled with a downright OCD K rate of 16% is equally as impressive. To summarize, Soto is 19 in AA, hits for contact, hits for power, and has both elite walk and k rates for a player so young. Lance and I discussed Soto on Saturday’s new Prospect Podcast, and I ranked him at #2, when I teased an updated Top 25 on Twitter this past weekend. At this point it’s tough for me not to view him as the second best bat in the minors. Here’s why, Soto has never lacked production, he’s really only lacked health, with a couple of unfortunate injuries cutting his 2017 short. Otherwise, we might have seen him ranked inside the Top 10 entering the season. So far Soto has jumped three levels, walked more than he’s struck out, and has homered 13 times through 37 games in low-A, high-A, and AA. That’s Smut!
Juan Soto’s 1st HR in AA (5/10/18)
Oppo taco ? pic.twitter.com/CMs6CXareH
— Prospect Gifs (@prospectgifs) May 11, 2018
- Just when you think it’s safe to make a gross overreaction about a prospect, they go and hit everything they see. The most recent player to get back in his groove is Soto’s former teammate Carter Kieboom. After slashing .189/.308/.347 in April, he’s back with a vengeance in May hitting .417/.525/.646 with 7 extra base hits (including 2 homers) and 3 steals. I ranked Kieboom 61st in my most recent Top 100, and he’s staying strong in that range for now, though a few more graduations and continued production could move Kieboom into the top 50.
- All the comments and tweets I’ve been getting the last few days have been heavily focused on the Padres righthander Chris Paddack. Stolen from the Marlins in a deal for Fernando Rodney in 2016, he dominated in three starts at Fort Wayne before tearing his UCL and going under the knife for Tommy John. Back and dealing once again, Paddack works 92-95 on his fastball, and mixes it with a plus plus changeup, that gets whiffs in bunches. After Saturday night’s 6 inning 10 K performance, Paddack has now rung up a string of 16 consecutive scoreless frames to begin the season. Over those 16 scoreless innings Paddack has struck out 26 batters, while only allowing 8 hits, and just a single walk. At this point it’s pretty obvious he’s too advanced for high-A, a promotion to AA San Antonio should not be too far down the road. Get him while you can in all formats.
- Is the Brewers Corey Ray back from the dead? Just when we all thought it was safe to discard him into the pile with other dead prospects like Mark Appel or Tyler Kolek (is he dead?), he comes roaring back to totally redeem himself! Perhaps, he isn’t fully redeemed, it’s not like he bought a sweet mo-ped. BUT, and that’s a huge butt (holler Alexis Texas), he’s now hitting .269/.349/.481 with 5 homers, and a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts. Tuesday night was the culmination of this resurgence from the former 5th overall pick, as he went 4-for-5, with 2 homers, 3 RBI, and 3 runs. The walks really never left Ray’s game as he’s maintained Bb% around 10% throughout his time, but the dramatic dip in strikeouts, and returning power have me excited to own Ray again.
Corey Ray’s 6th homer of the year (5/16/18)
Slashing .267/.344/.491 with 7 steals in AA pic.twitter.com/o0Dqtb7ZCc
— Prospect Gifs (@prospectgifs) May 17, 2018
- You know who else slugged a couple of dongs on Tuesday? Oh, you know, our boy Peter Alonso! At this point the Mets need to leapfrog Dom Smith, push A-Gon out to sea on a luxury iceberg and see what they have. Not since Michael Conforto have the Mets had a prospect with such offensive promise, and he provides a combination of power and on base ability that is sorely needed. He’s now up to 11 homers, and an insane slashline of .367/.478/.695, even his teammate Tim Tebow is starting to wonder if Alonso is actually a deity.
- I got tipped off the other day regarding Rays pitching prospect Colin Poche. He’s a pen arm, but being used as a multi-inning guy. Sources close to the team said that the organization was impressed by his deception and the extension he gets. Acquired as the last piece in the Steven Souza swap, Poche’s 10.25 K/Bb and .099 BAA are just silly. Also two metrics indicative of dominance in a relief role. He’s big and lefthanded, hides the ball well behind his front leg during his delivery. This deceptive mechanical quirk plays up his fastball, and makes it incredibly difficult to time despite velocity in the 91-93 range. He mixes in a slider as well.
- My 80th ranked prospect coming into the season Christin Stewart has taken well to AAA, in the form of a .288/.364/.614 slashline with 11 bombs. He’s certainly a player to keep on your radar when the callup comes. It’s not so much a question of if, but when. Unfortunately, it’s likely going to be later on in the summer. There’s no real hurry to push him, and the Tigers have always been slow to promote Stewart over the years. The most promising development in Stewart’s game is the sub-20% K-rate. If he can control the swing and miss issues that have plagued him, he’s got a real chance to be a legitimate middle of the order bat. There’s 30 homer power, and the ability to grind out at bats, and get on base.
Christin Stewart HR #7 ? (5/7/18)
Slashing .314/.390/.608 in AAA pic.twitter.com/4cP2wx7jFJ
— Prospect Gifs (@prospectgifs) May 8, 2018
- I love me some Austin Riley, and this past Sunday he went off! Riley connected for three homers, including a grand slam, driving in 8 in the process. Waiting at AAA, and with the Braves competing earlier than expected, Riley might be yet another young impact bat with value in 12 team mixed leagues. He’s striking out a little more at AAA, including a trio last night, but he’s walking more and still slashing .333/.400/.611 in 9 games. We’re likely looking late June at the earliest for Riley, but be on the look out if he’s called up before that.
- The Yankees Chance Adams went toe to toe with the Phillies Enyel De Los Santos, for their respective AAA affiliates. Enyel allowed 3 earned runs over 6, striking out 5, while allowing 6 baserunners to reach, including two homers. Adams on the other hand was dealing, going 7 scoreless, striking out 10, walking 2, and allowing just a single hit. This was a role reversal for the two in terms of early season results. I’d have my money on Enyel seeing the majors first. Both should see some time this season. Adams is a tough buy, due to Yankee Stadium, and the fearsome AL East.
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) May 17, 2018
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went 4-for-5 with a homer, and two doubles yesterday, running his season average up to .415. I honestly think Vladito is the best hitter on the Blue Jays right now. He can just not be challenged by anyone in the minors at the moment. This player is special, very special. Stash if you can.
- After dealing with a thumb injury, that kept him out for most of the Spring, the Reds’ Jose Siri returned late last week, and is picking up where he left off with low-A Dayton. Through his first 6 games Siri is 8-for-25, with a homer, a steal, and 9 Ks to zero walks. That’s the package with Siri, a great combination of speed and power, but he’ll rarely take a walk, will strikeout a ton, and his game is predicated on putting the ball in play. If you can get over the lack of approach, and the strikeout totals Siri offers one of the more exciting speed/power upsides in the minors.
- Speaking of speedsters, checking in on Jorge Mateo, the Athletics. Quick synopsis: It ain’t good. Mateo has struggled mightily at the AAA level hitting just .206/.243/.331 over the course of the first 35 games, and has just 2 homers, and 8 steals to show for it. The usually tough to catch Mateo is converting stolen base attempts at just a 66% rate, and is striking out over 30% of the time, while only walking at a 4.8% clip. This is an awful combination for the talented speedster in his first taste of AAA. I’m not jumping off the Mateo train as of yet, but there are obviously some adjustments that need to be made.
- I got a text from fellow prospect hound and Razz writer Paul “the” Martin the other day, it read: “Is Jose Rojas the new Jose Martinez?”. After repeating the AA level something is up. Entering the season Rojas was a career 5.8% walk rate guy through 182 professional games, but just 20 games into 2018, and Rojas is walking at a 17.3% clip in AA, while slashing .388/.494/.597 with 3 homers and 5 steals. He’s a former 36th round pick out of NAIA school Vanguard University, where he went .329/.387/.565 during his lone season on campus. He had a successful full season debut at Inland last year slashing .319/.355/.479 making the California League All-Star game, and finishing as the runner-up in the home run derby. So, despite a somewhat unconventional path to success, Rojas is making the most of it. He hit for the cycle on Friday, going 4-for-6 driving in 7 in the process. A local product that grew up miles from Angel Stadium, it will be interesting to see if Rojas develops into a legit sleeper prospect or just another hot streak from a 25 year old in double A. I’m rooting for the former, and when you break down Rojas swing mechanics it’s easy to see he gets the bat around quick with an uppercut bat path, and a pronounced front-foot-heavy weight transfer.
- For those of you prone to over-reacting, Nick Senzel is in fact back on the field following his latest bout with vertigo, and he is participating in baseball activities.
- The Astros called up Tony Kemp from AAA Fresno, and demoted the struggling Jake Marisnick. Kemp is interesting for those of you in deep formats or those looking for some sweet, sweet SAGNOF in RCL style formats. Kemp’s presence gives the Astros another diminutive (he’s 5’6) speed and contact style hitter with the ability to get on base. I’ve always liked Kemp’s skillset, but he’s been a tough hold in dynasty leagues as a 26 year old with no path to playing time. Perhaps this is his shot.
- He’s not going to be relevant to most dynasty leagues, but Victor Mesa, known as “Victor Victor” in Cuban scouting circles, was declared a free agent. He’s described as the top talent to leave the island since Yoan Moncada, getting the nod over recent defectors like Luis Robert and Julio Pablo Martinez. He was comped to Victor Robles by Baseball America, saying the two players at times are difficult to tell apart. This is our first really interesting International signing this spring and it sounds like he’ll be in the running for top pick in First Year Player drafts over the next 6-8 months. For now I’ll reserve judgement on ranking until I see a little more. These Cuban kids are by far the hardest ranks sight unseen. There’s so much risk, so much upside, and so much uncertainty.
- Another player I’d never heard of that I was tipped off to by Paul Martin was the Phillies lefty Bailey Falter. A 5th rounder out of Chino Hills in California back in 2015, Falter was a thin projectable kid with a mid-80’s fastball when he was drafted. Over the last few seasons, his velocity has ticked up to upper-80’s to low 90’s on his fastball, and his curveball has steadily improved. His changeup is a work in progress, doesn’t give much separation in terms of speed, but features some two-seam style run, giving hope it can develop into something.
- A player my partner Lance and I constantly bicker about is the Orioles Ryan Mountcastle. I love his combination of power and contact, Lance wishes the O’s didn’t jack up his swing. FYI The Broz is a big fan of Mountcastle’s high school swing. Swing and feelings aside, Mountcastle was activated from the DL on Friday, and has gone 10-for-25, with 2 walks and no strikeouts through his first 7 games. He’s yet to connect for a homer, but those will come. It’s nice to see he’s looking to walk and avoiding strikeouts, two major concerns that have surrounded Mountcastle for some time. It’s very early but the returns are promising. With the early struggles of teammate Austin Hays at AA I’m quickly moving toward ranking Mountcastle first in the system.
- I have a special place in my heart for Reds prospects, particularly the last few drafts. The player from 2017’s class I’m most excited about is not number two overall pick Hunter Greene, but first round supplemental pick Jeter Downs. The Florida high school product has been very strong through his first run at full-season ball. So far the middle infielder is slashing .288/.358/.466 with 5 homers, and 13 steals on 15 attempts. The combination of athleticism and baseball skills has always been a selling point on Downs, as well as a refined approach, and a great combo of power and speed. He’s still outside the top 100 prospects, but is pushing closer and closer to that elite company. Taylor Trammell blew up huge last year, don’t be shocked if young Jeets does the same.
- Just because I can’t go a week without feeding you yet another exciting Padres prospect. On Wednesday 18 year old righthander Luis Patino made his full-season debut. He’s a small righty listed at 6 feet, 150 LBS, features a funky double leg raise prior to his motion toward home, and mixes a mid-90’s heater, with a curveball that flashes plus, an above average slider, and an average fringe changeup. He went 5 innings, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, and three walks, while striking out 8. The reports said he was sitting 94-96 MPH on the fastball, mixing in a curveball with sharp bite, that one evaluator preferred to his slider. Many were impressed with his plus athleticism, even getting comped to Fort Wayne teammate MacKenzie Gore. With the recent track record of the Padres on the international market, this is a name I would file away.
— The Welsh (@IsItTheWelsh) April 27, 2018
- Speaking of Padres pitching prospects, my Personal Giant Michel Baez, has been up and down since returning from the DL back in late April. He’s been limited to 5 innings and under, and has seen a huge uptick in the walks. Hopefully he’s just rounding back in to form and this is nothing to be concerned with. It is however something to monitor.
- One of the top up and coming catching prospects in the minors is MJ Melendez of the Royals. He’s been solid as a 19 year old in his full-season debut slashing .253/.321/.568 with five homers while playing elite defense. Here’s Melendez going yard on Monday.
MJ Melendez 4th homer of the year (5/14/18) pic.twitter.com/KQedCvvLok
— Prospect Gifs (@prospectgifs) May 15, 2018
- Brusdar Graterol is amazing, and back from the DL. Shutup about his mechanics and watch this.
— Prospect Gifs (@prospectgifs) May 15, 2018