In researching for this week’s article, I kept seeing flies in the ointment, so to speak. I’ve lost track of the ground. MLB’s new pre-tacked balls fresh from a humidor seem to have created more fade on change-ups, more run on 2-seamers, more cut on wake-shifters, more dive on sliders and less distance off the bat. The general hysteria has finally trickled into my thinking about how to evaluate minor league baseball players. My local Cedar Rapids Kernals are not using a humidor. I couldn’t verify the same for every team, but I’m willing to guess that less than one percent of minor league parks are using a humidor. Which baseball they’re using . . . you’d probably have to be a veteran big league pitcher to tell the difference on a given night.
So how does this affect my eyes when watching MiLB.tv? I’ve been protected from it a little because the video feeds are rarely so crystal clear I can see the ball off the bat with my outfielder eyes and predict with some degree of accuracy where it will land in an instant.
This invitational, predictive aspect of a long fly ball is a big part of what makes watching baseball fun. “Is that a home run!?” asks the excited fan’s mind. “Oh farts, it landed on the track,” the game responds, over and over and over again to the extent that you start to get a little frustrated. Years of built in baseball-watching from this camera angle have trained us all to play along in this regard, so we’re all experts in our minds to the extent that our self-confidence allows.
My eyes haven’t been deceived on the warning track much in the minors this year. I don’t know how to react to the idea that a prospect might need significantly more power and better plate skills than he shows in the minors to thrive in the majors. For now, I’m planning to slow-play it rather than overreact.
Colorado 3B Elehuris Montero landed 15th on Volume 1 of the 2022 Prospect Stash List last week. He’s something of an odd fit as a Kris Bryant replacement because Bryant hasn’t played third base at all this season, and it’s rarely smart money to go chasing rookies on the Rockies, but Montero has plus plate skills with plus power and would be a must-add if we felt confident he was going to play. He’s slashing .288/.356/.450 with an 18.7 percent strikeout rate, which is pretty close to what he did during his one month in AAA last year. Might not have much more to prove there; might be sent down the second this goes to press.
San Francisco 1B/3B Sean Roby is the kind of dude I’d have to pay closer attention to if the fooly balls remain in play during MLB games. I’m looking now anyway thanks to his .702 slugging percentage, 14.5 percent walk rate, and eight home runs in 17 games at AA, but the 37.7 percent strikeout rate might pretty much disqualify a 23-year-old at that level from making the Sunday article. Roby is 6’2” 215 lbs and hits the ball hard enough that he can leave any park with just about any baseball.
Arizona OF Stone Garrett (AAA) will be pretty high on the next stash list, assuming he doesn’t get the call before then. The club’s AAA numbers are always inflated, but Garrett’s plus power and .375/.430/.764 slash line look good enough to mix in with that lineup, at least. Like Roby, Garrett’s a guy with big raw who gains a little value in an environment where it’s harder to clear the fence. Unlike Roby, he’s looking at near-term playing time and has enough speed to help us in roto leagues if he gets the time.
Washington 2B Luis Garcia (AAA) is lighting it up in AAA, posting his best statistical stretch to date: .366/.422/.646 with five home runs, eight walks, and 13 strikeouts (14.4%) in 19 games. The club seems to see him as a 2B-only type of player. Or maybe they just really love Alcides Escobar and his .180 slugging percentage, which is worse than some of the worst hitting pitchers. Maybe they just really miss seeing non-batters hit every nine guys. Garcia brings me baseball worries in the ragball sense. Is he a warning-track guy now? I know I said I wouldn’t overreact, but here’s a situation where it’s really going to matter which balls are in play while Garcia is.
Atlanta has become an organization to explore for pitching values. RHP Royber Salinas has struck out 43 batters in 18.2 innings. He’s also walked eleven, so there’s a way to go here for a 21-year-old power pitcher in Low A, but the early returns couldn’t be much more encouraging.
Could give a similar report for 6’5” 210 lb RHP Andrew Hoffmann, who has a 28.2 K-BB% in High-A as a 21-year-old. Even more encouraging, Hoffman is looking like the kind of horse every team would love to have, pitching deeper into each of his first four starts. He lasted four innings in his season opener, then went five, then six, and threw seven innings of two-run ball his last time out. If their organizational track record is any indication, neither guy will remain at his current level for long.
San Francisco 3B Jason Vosler has home runs in back-to-back games, which wouldn’t normally mean a whole lot to me, but I’ve been pretty into Vosler since 2019, and his second homer went all the way to the water beyond right field. The Cubs had Vosler for about six hours this winter unless I fever-dreamed that. I remember being excited to see if he could unseat Wisdom at third base, but that’s in the past now. The Giants are being infected by the coronavirus this week, and Vosler is making the most of his extra opportunities, working good counts, fouling off tough pitches and recently being rewarded with loud outcomes.
Detroit SS Wenceel Perez has been hot in repeating High-A as a 22-year-old. In his last ten games, the switch hitter is slashing .297/.422/.703 with eight walks, nine strikeouts, four home runs, and two stolen bases. He played 90 games at the level last season and should be bumped up to AA next time the org evaluates his situation.
Baltimore 3B Tyler Nevin hit a warning track shot against Nathan Eovaldi Saturday night. He seemed to think it was gone. Eovaldi thought it was gone. Announcer said it was April. Then after the break, he told us it traveled 396 feet. Color guy said it would clear the wall two weeks from now. Play-by-play guy starts talking about the humidor. This is baseball in 2022. Nevin is playing third base. I’ve been poking a little here and there at Kelvin Gutierrez being their everyday guy. This spot is wide open and Nevin has been playing well in AAA.
Thanks for reading!
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