Let’s talk. In what’s been titled “The Surgical Summer” by the longest running trapper of the year, we stand on the edge of one of the greatest times to be a fantasy baseballer (everyone’s mom’s term, sorry Grey). It’s just about to be summer callup season. Chop the tops off the coupes! Through this confusing period of hyped up small samples and overreactions to adjustments emerges a shiny SAGNOF. One with a name out of a nursery rhyme. A man known as Myles Straw. A former 2015 12th round pick out of St. Johns River Community College, world renowned as the best Juco program on the St. Johns River. So far in 2018 Straw has left Texas League base-paths ablaze. Through 50 games Straw is 31 for 37 on the bases while he slashes .371/.466/.441. Yes, the slugging is lower than the on base percentage. Yes, there’s no over the fence power. BUT if you have the kind of speed and base running instincts Straw has in spades, your speed, contact, and on base ability can translate to fantasy success. At 23 he’s a touch on the older side, and in an organization with loads of outfielders, so he might need a trade. However, over the last few seasons we’ve seen Houston outfield standouts star for other organizations. Teoscar Hernandez comes to mind in particular, but Jason Martin (who we will discuss late) has also been tremendous.

 

  • Speaking of Houston Astros outfield prospects, Kyle Tucker has been a topic of conversation of late as some opportunity has opened up in the Houston outfield. Aggressively assigned to AAA, the numbers haven’t stood out as much as many expected. On the year Tucker is hitting .279/.358/.467 with 7 homers, two of which came in last night’s game at the mercy of old friend Brett Oberholtzer (who BTW has a nasty port-wine stain. How did I never notice this?). Over his last 10 games the power has started to show itself for Tucker as he’s connected for 4 over the last few weeks. The big selling point on Tucker isn’t just his power. It’s his ability to excel in all facets of the game and provide multi-category contributions, helping you everywhere, while hurting you nowhere. An unorthodox swing, but one that hearkens back to the golden age of baseball, getting Ted Williams comps, Tucker is a favorite of this old prospector.
  • Through a little more than two weeks, the Rockies Garrett Hampson has been pretty blah at the plate. He is however running, with 4 steals already. I’d like to say Hampson’s speed, defensive flexibility, and gap power will get him a shot in Colorado this summer, but we both know the Rockies like their MLB players older than Bartolo.
  • One of my favorite prospects is the Orioles Ryan Mountcastle. Despite the organizations best efforts, they are yet to completely ruin the young infielder. Returning from a hand injury earlier this month “Mountie” has slashed .278/.325/.444 with 3 homers in 19 games. I love this kid’s swing, as well as his combination of hitting ability and power. Yes, I will continue to pressure my readers to own him. So far this year he’s improved in all the right places, sporting the highest walk rate of his career, while lowering his AA K% to a clean 20%. I expect big things from Mountcastle this summer as he pushes his way toward Camden.
  • I caught some flack after I ranked Sixto Sanchez well within my top 20, but he heard that and “Said I got you Papi!”. Yes prospects use terms of respect for yours truly, I done earned my stripes like a Tiger Skin! After a couple of rough starts in the first month, Sixto has been fire emoji over his last three. Allowing just 2 runs, 13 hits, and 2 walks over his last 18.2 innings, while striking out 24 in the process. With a legit triple digit fastball that garners deserving 70 grades, a plus changeup, and two above-average/average breaking balls Sixto is a beast in the making. Keep in mind he’s younger than every college arm in Monday’s draft, and barely older than the high school ones. Let this be a lesson in patience. Prospecting is one part mining, one part appraisal, and one part zen master.

  • Speaking of the draft, Lance and I will be releasing our top 10 FYPD rankings on this Saturday’s prospect podcast. We’ve covered the draft’s top hitters and pitchers the last two weeks.
  • We are on the cusp of Bieber Fever in Cleveland, and I’ve never been so sure of someone’s success. Except for maybe Dan O’Brien in the 1992 Olympics. Wait, that joke is dated, don’t look that up millennials. The former 4th rounder out of UC Santa Barbara has done nothing but throw strikes since he came into pro-ball. Literally, all he’s done. Through 262.1 professional innings, Bieber has just 15 walks. Oh it gets better. Not only has he walked less than Paul Perdone, he also suppresses hard contact, only allowing 11 homers over that period. Many will sell Bieber as a control/command over stuff guy, and while certainly he is a control/command guy, his arsenal and advanced understanding of pitching can not be undersold. After working in the 89-91 range during his time at Santa Barbara, over the last year Bieber’s stuff has taken a step forward, as the fastball has ticked up to 92-94, popping 96 when he’s feeling saucy. His best secondary is an above average curveball that flashes plus. The rest of his toolbelt is rounded out by two average offerings in his slider and changeup. So to recap we have an elite control arm, with a mid-90’s fastball, four pitches, one of which is an above average breaking ball. Not bad right? What if I told you he also led the minors in innings pitched in 2017. Yeah, he’s one of the few sub-power guys you should be adding.
  • Something is up with the Pirates Mitch Keller this year. After getting tons of rave reviews following last Fall’s AFL, he hasn’t quite been the same guy. While Keller hasn’t been awful by any stretch of the imagination, a high 3s ERA, and near 10% walk rate isn’t what we pictured he’d be at AA. We’ve always viewed Keller as a safe option, one that should maintain control, limit scoring, and give your fantasy staff a calming influence of consistency. More than likely this is just growing pains, as few players match great mechanics, strike-throwing ability, and easy high-90’s velo like Keller. He’s definitely a hold in all dynasty formats.
  • Fresh from the fields of Low-A comes a switch-hitting brother named Drew Waters. A classic Braves hitting prospect, he’s a son of the state of Georgia, combining hitting ability with raw power. Based on reports from John Calvagno of Sally Notes, he got 111 MPH exit velo readings off the bat. John also noted that Waters from the leftside is ahead of his righthanded swing. That’s obviously common for a young switch-hitter in the lower minors, if not most switch-hitters in general. Based on the early season production (.282/.338/.557 6 homers), pedigree, and good organization, I’d add Waters in most dynasty leagues where 100-150 prospects are owned.

  • Another hitter you should look into adding is former Dodgers J2 signee, and Pirates farmhand ONeil Cruz. A 6’6 monster of a man-child, at 19 Cruz is having his breakout season. Through 194 plate appearances for Low-A West Virginia Cruz is slashing .271/.345/.483 with 7 homers and 3 steals. Part of the Buccos return for Tony Watson, Cruz is a player to watch. Due to his size he has some obviously exploitable holes, but he makes up for it with raw power, bat speed, and brute strength.
  • Random update of the day! The White Sox top 2016 J2 signee Luis Robert has emerged in Extended Spring and is just days/hours/minutes away from an assignment.
  • I feel as though I write about Royce Lewis almost weekly. Then again he does something impressive almost daily, so maybe it makes sense. Last night Lewis went 2-for-5 with three runs and 2 steals, this on the heels of a two homer game on Sunday. The top pick from last June’s draft is slashing .312/.359/.422 with 3 homers and 15 steals.

  • Lost in the shuffle of the legendary exploits of Vladimir Guerrero Jr, is former top minor league slugger Eloy Jimenez. What has Eloy done since returning from the DL on April 19? How about slashed .333/.376/.613 with 9 bombs. At this point we’re just waiting on the service time junk to fade away. While they could hold Eloy down in the high minors (I assume a AAA promotion is coming soon), until September, it wouldn’t be a massive shock if he’s promoted within the next month and a half.
  • Looks like the Pirates Jason Martin is backing some of the “sleeper prospect” hype he got following the Gerrit Cole trade. The athletic outfielder is slashing .327/.384/.547 with 6 homers and 2 steals in 42 games. At 22 for the entirety of the 2018 season Martin is gaining some steam as a potential big leaguer. I envision a second division regular with 18-22 homer pop, and a handful of steals. Offensively I’m struggling for a comp, but Jackie Bradley Jr. sort of sticks in my mind. He has an easy compact swing from the leftside, and decent bat speed. Similar type of hitter to Bradley, similar build, but different setups at the plate. Martin has a ton of hand motion pre-swing that Bradley lacks. He also is no where near Bradley’s defensive chops. So it’s not a perfect comp, but are they ever? All this to say, I see Martin rising above the 4th outfielder tag, and finding a spot in a major league outfield some time in the next few seasons.

BTW: Get your Prospect Jesus and Grey Albright Tout Wars Champ shirts here!

Find all of the 30 Minor League Previews, and Offseason Rankings on the Minor League Index
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  1. Slammin Sammy says:
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    Ralph,

    Great content as always… where would you rank Jonathan Hernandez right now?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Slammin Sammy: I’d rank him somewhere in the 150-175 range with a bullet. Need to see this at a higher level from him. Really exciting arm though.

      • Slammin Sammy says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: Thanks Ralph, would love to see you put together a list based on ceiling alone, not taking into account ETA or floor at all. Think it would be great content for us guys in deep deep dynasty leagues!

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @Slammin Sammy: Interesting Idea. I’ll see if I can make that happen.

  2. LenFuego says:
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    FYPD?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @LenFuego: First Year Player Drafts.

  3. sport says:
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    My favorite Razzball read!

    You think Mountcastle sticks at SS?

    Seems like I read your comments on Seuly Matias but I can’t seem to find them. Where would he rank right now on your big board?

    You still see Sixto’s ETA at 2020 with him being so young? Mid summer 2020?

  4. JP says:
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    Ralph can you please rank these guys on pure upside. I m not worried about arrival time. 6×6 roto dynasty. Wander Franco, Kevin Smith, Isaac Parades, Bubbs Thompson, Yunior Severino, or Estanli Castillo? I have referred to your top 150mseveral times but I am not sure if you have any updates based on early season production. Thank you as always.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @JP: Franco, Thompson, Parades, Severino, Smith, and I don’t know much on Castillo outside of videos from camps over the last year +. If he’s the kind of guy I think he is, he’s 2 or 3.

  5. sport says:
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    @Ralph Lifshitz:
    I thought you had something from the last couple of weeks. You were right though in your January write up, he has exploded early this spring. I thought maybe he was moving up in your rankings.

    There isn’t a lot of depth but MJ Melendez, Pratto, Matias, and Lee all seem to be looking like a nice core to build around. I wish there were more pitching depth for sure. I wonder if that’s what the Royals will do with there many picks they have coming up.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @sport: Biggest bonus pool, and 4 picks in the top 58. They’re trending up. We talked Royals in the Baseball Show a few weeks ago. I’ll see if I can find it.

  6. jose H. says:
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    Ralph,
    I want to CRY.
    Reyes is out indefinitely, with a lat strain near the shoulder. The GM said he is out for more than a few stars.

    Feel Sorry for the kid, all that hard work and now he has to start all over again.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @jose H.: I’m about to go into a dark room and scream….

  7. HH says:
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    When do anticipate Christian Stewart coming up? What current player in the bigs does he most remind you of? Thanks!!

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @HH: Khris Davis kind of. He’s made huge strides with his approach and hasn’t lost any of his on base ability. I called him the AAA MVP last night on the Baseball Show.

      My guess is late June to mid-July. Emily Waldon is a friend and she covers the Tigers for the Athletic. That seems to be where her head is at.

  8. Drew says:
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    Thanks for this Ralph. Always appreciate your write-ups. Was offered Andujar for Folty in a 16-team OPS keeper. I don’t really have a slot for Andujar on my regular roster but he could slot in to my MiLB ROS or till I need him.

    Flaherty could slot into Folty’s spot. Do I do this? I’ve seen mixed analyses of Andujar—some saying he tops out at decent BA and 30 HRs, others who say he’s a 30 HR stud.

    Thoughts??

  9. Dave Wittenauer says:
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    Another great report – thanks!

    What do you think about Cavan biggio? I know he completely revamped his swing and lost the weird hand position, but is his power legitimate and lasting? He has more rbi’s Than vlad jr at this point in the season. Is he now a top prospect?

  10. Mikey_rumbles says:
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    I’m looking for a dynasty catcher I have space to hold him this year as long as he gets playing time next year. I really like Sean Murphy but haven’t heard much on him lately. What are your thoughts? Who are you watching.?

  11. Silent Heat says:
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    Regarding Straw, Houston’s OF looks like their weakness sans Springer. That is one of the things that attracts me to Straw. You see it differently?

  12. Greg Davis says:
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    Hey Ralph, I have Marco Gonzales in a points league. A guy has offered me Kevin Gausman for him. Seattle obviously is playing better ball than Baltimore so wins may come cheaper, but am I overthinking this? I value your opinion.

  13. Greg D says:
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    Hey Ralph,
    I have Marco Gonzales in a points league. A guy has offered me Kevin Gausman for him. Seattle obviously has a better team than Baltimore this year, so am I overthinking this? I value your opinion.

  14. jose H. says:
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    Ralph,
    With Jimenez and Tatis Jr hitting their 10th HR tonight, now I have four prospects with ten or more HRs. Alonso (14), Riley (10), combined. 6 in AA and 4 in AAA , Jimenez (10) and Tatis Jr (10). The next too ONLY have 6 HRs (Kibert Ruiz & Taylor Trammell)

    Trammell is putting a beautiful slash line (299/413/487/900), but after stealing 41 bases last year is only five for ten this year. Tatis Jr also stole 32 bases last year and is only five for seven. I guess it is difficult to steal against the more experienced catchers.

  15. Jason says:
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    Great write up per usual!
    I have 15 minor spots total in a 12 team league and just traded away what amounted to Estevan Florial, Austin Riley, Jalen Beeks, and Taylor Trammell for Whit Merrifield, Zach Britton, and a pick.
    I still have Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Fernando Tatis, Bo Bichette, Willy Adames, Juan Soto, Luis Robert, Scott Kingery, Lewis Brinson, Jesus Sanchez, Jo Adell, and Yordan Alvarez in my minors currently.
    I’m calling up Soto soon, more than likely, so I’ll have 5 spots to fill. Can you pick 5 of these guys by who has the most potential/upside?
    Wander Javier, Christian Pache, Wander Franco, Colton Welker, Austin Beck, Clint Frazier, Starling Heredia, Estuery Ruiz, Cavan Biggio, Nick Pratto, Pavin Smith, Bobby Bradley, MJ Melendez, Shed Long, Nolan Jones, Yusniel Diaz
    Thanks a lot!!

  16. The Flayed man says:
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    Hello Ralph,
    10 team yahoo 6×6 (OPS & QS)
    in a 9 player keeper league with 3 n/a slots

    I was offered my Springer for his Soto.

    I am in 9th place and way out of contetion.

    Thanks.

  17. Yr Never Too Old for Balloons says:
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    16 team roto dynasty with 7 man max prospect lists. we can call up anybody on the list at any time (till 130/50), we can ONLY send down somebody who either started year on active roster OR on prospect list (so nobody added to our NA slots can be sent down to protected list). we can of course trade for prospects who could be sent to prospect list. extra stats: OPS, total bases, steals %, hits, OBP over AVG, slugging, holds, K/9, K/BB, net saves, QS.
    C zunino
    1B fatt adams (LF)
    2B jose ram (3B)
    3B longo
    SS munoz (streamer while semien is off giving semen or living the effects thereof)
    MI solarte party (2B/SS/3B)
    CI yolmer (2B/3B)
    LF mancini (1B)
    CF meadows (could be sent down if he is in real life)
    RF mookie
    OF jd mart (RF/LF)
    OF brocktune (RF/LF, at least i have his handcuff)
    util mcmahon (1B, soon to have 2B, which is awesome)
    util bader (CF/RF, cannot be sent down, but i need CF guys)
    BN hanram (has NA, i’d assume somebody picks him up at some point, some shitty AL team to DH)
    DL swiggy, r-zimm, kiermaier
    NA (4 slots): rooker (1B/LF), marsh (RF)
    SP (1750 innings cap):, stripling, wood, carrasco, yarbrough, morton, hamels
    RP (6 max slots): morrow, kimbrel, yates, rivero, green, neris
    DL reyes, cueto
    NA paddack (everybody must’ve read something about him doing well, i’ve seen him added in MANY leagues, even shallower than here lately), m.white

    prospect list: c.stewart, kieboom, w.javier, m.baez, k.lewis, trammell (one spot left open when mcmahon was called up)

    1. who’s my drop for NA stashing hanram?

    • Yr Never Too Old for Balloons says:
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      @Yr Never Too Old for Balloons: oops, mcmahon IS back down now with lemehieu back. montas added (streamer pitcher), and swiggy has somebody to be dropped for his newly found existence. had to fix after the copy/paste

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