It only took a little over 24 hours for the Luis Robert sweepstakes to come to a close. As news broke yesterday afternoon that the Chicago White Sox had struck a deal in the $25 million to $30 million dollar range with the 19 year old Cuban phenom. This is a significant development on a few fronts; for real life baseball, this will be the last deal signed under the old rules, where teams weren’t capped on international free agents under the age of 23. It’s also significant because, the White Sox, might just have in their possession, 2 to 3 of the top ceiling prospects in the minors at the moment. Those of course being Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, and now Luis Robert. The other element to this story is Moncada and Robert will forever be linked to each other, not just by nationally, or organization, but also by dollars and the expectations attached to those presidential flashcards. As for Luis Robert the player, much like Moncada, he’s as high end in terms of talent as they come. Many have graded Robert’s hit tool a touch below Moncada’s at a 55, with some concern about his swing and miss. Where Robert edges out Moncada is in his 70 grade speed mark, and 60 grade fielding. Some scouts see Robert’s power ceiling being higher, but even those scouts mark it as a splitting hairs difference. So we’re talking about a true 5 tool talent, with some additional polish to his fielding. Though it tends to be overlooked in fantasy it’s actually a major positive for his owners, as it might accelerate his ETA two years from now. There’s little doubt in my mind he’s the clearcut top overall choice in 2017-18 First Year Player Drafts, and it’s really not close at the moment. Here’s who else is making noise in the MiLB…
- Our theme on Thursday was the Phillies, the week before that it was the Braves, and this Sunday it’s the White Sox. Flamethrowing righty Michael Kopech continued his assault on AA yesterday, as he struck out 8 over 7 in his longest outing of the year. The walks are still high, but at this point he’s just unhittable. I think he could get outs against major league hitters now, but I hope the White Sox do the right thing and let him work on his secondaries in AA and AAA this season.
- The Phillies Scott Kingery is getting a lot of love on Razzball lately. After being discussed in Thursday’s Minor League Update, and Saturday’s prospect podcast, he homered twice on Friday to earn the mention here. With his new found launch angle/flyball approach and Reading’s friendly confines he’s a dark horse to lead the minors in homers this season. Worth an add in all formats.
- The list of qualified starters at the top three levels of the minors (AAA, AA, A+) with SwStr% north of 10% and GB% north of 50% are limited to Steven Brault and Clay Holmes in AAA, Connor Sadzeck and Michael Kingham in AA, Seranthony Dominguez, Domingo Acevedo, Wirkin Estevez, Trevor Richards, Matt Hall, Ryan Borucki, Jesus Reyes, Spencer Turnbull, and Luiz Gohara in High A. Just missing the list by a tenth of a point on the SwStr% is Mitch Keller the Pirates top pitching prospect.
- You know who’s back and better than ever? How about my #5 overall prospect in the pre-season ranks Eloy Jimenez. Since returning from a DL stint early in the season the outfielder is slashing .320/.433/.560 with 2 homers in his first 7 contests.
- Padres prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. Homered for the 5th time in the last 9 games yesterday. The shortstop ranked in at #89 on my pre-season ranks, and as an 18 year old in full season ball he looks excellent. So far he’s not only hitting for power, but stealing bases too. Long term he projects more as a power bat, than a base-stealer, but his combination of instincts and athleticism may lead to some steals when he finally reaches the majors. Is currently a shortstop, but many scouts believe he’ll eventually move to third.
- Tatis’ teammate, and one of the top international signings of the 2016 J2 period, Jorge Ona is back from the DL and looks like he’s finally shaking the rust off. In 102 at bats he’s slashing .314/.363/.461 and 3 homers. Boba Fett jerseys aside the Fort Wayne Tincaps are one of the more exciting teams in the minors to follow.
- Another two homer game for the Red Sox Michael Chavis last night and he’s on an absolute tear so far in 2017. In just 32 games he has 10 homers and is slashing .347/.432/.719, I would suspect he’s gets the promotion to AA Portland by mid-June. More than likely that bump would coincide with a promotion to AAA Pawtucket for Rafael Devers.
- Quite possibly the top catching prospect in the minors Francisco Mejia, returned from the disabled list yesterday, and immediately continued to do what’s he’s done the last year plus. Hit! Mejia went 2 for 4, with a homer, a double, and two runs driven in. I’m often asked what I see the ETA for Mejia, and if there’s a shot he sees some MLB action this year. I maintain that his true ETA is next summer, but it wouldn’t be a complete shock if he saw some reps in Cleveland once rosters expand in September.
- Yankees pitching prospect Domingo Acevedo made his AA debut on Friday, and it went well. The flame-throwing righty went 6 1/3rd scoreless, while striking out 5, walking 2, and allowing 4 hits. Once considered a top 5 player in the Bombers system, with added depth he’s become a bit of a forgotten man these days. Though this is his second mention in today’s post, as he was included in the previous blurb about the 10%/50% club.
- I’m going to beat this one into the ground I’m sure, but Edwin Rios is one of the underrated players in the minors. He won the Branch Rickey award in 2016, as the Dodgers top minor league player, and he’s picked up right where he left off in AA slashing .344/.365/.576 with 8 homers. He’s among the leaders in almost all offensive categories in the Texas league, and should see at least AAA this season, if not a late season callup to the Dodgers. Though, his lack of a position outside first might call into question the latter. Definitely not a bad add in all dynasty formats, as hitters with good contact sills ans power are rare.
- The Twins top lefty pitching prospect Stephen Gonsalves returned from the DL to make his debut yesterday, going 4 innings, allowing 2 runs, on 2 hits, and a walk, striking out 3 in the process.
- Best start of the season for Jacob Faria last night, as he went 6 1/3rd scoreless, taking a no hitter into the 6th. It’s a Jacob Faria start so you know there were tons of Ks, 9 to be exact. The issue with Faria at the next level is his inefficiency with his pitch count, but damn are those K’s exciting. His 13% SwStr% leads all of AAA this season.
- Speaking of swinging strike rate the leader in the minors this season is Phillies prospect Seranthony Dominguez, who I actually watched pitch earlier this season. He has a nasty upper 90’s sinking heater, a tight slider, and a better than graded change. There’s some pen risk here, where his combination of whiffs and groundballs will play. He’s been featured in Carson Cistulli’s fringe five already this season, so I’m not alone in my intrigue. He’s an off the radar name that I’d be paying attention to.
- The July 2nd season is quickly creeping up on us and this year’s class is particularly light on pitching. The one exception is Brazilian righty Eric Pardinho. He’s got a fastball that touches 95 and he’s just 16 years old. He’s shown the ability to throw a tight curve, and developing change. For a player his age his command and control are both advanced, and he’s even logged some time in the WBC with Team Brazil. He’s a small righty at 5’10 and 155 lbs, but he’s 16, so there’s time for him to grow still.
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