Salutations my loyal Razzscalians, and welcome to the latest installment of The Minor League update. I’m your Prospector and Chief Ralph Lifshitz and today I’d like to discuss a mighty slugger from The Great White North. A man with the forearms of a spinach swigging Popeye. A hitter with a swing so strong, that balls explode off his bat head like forgotten land mines in former war zones. The thunderous prospect I speak of is none other than the Mariners Tyler O’neill. The outfielder was a player that popped into many managers favorite prospects lists over the past few months, including yours truly. I mean what’s not to like about Tyler O’Neill “Prospect Power King of the North.”
At present O’neill sits atop the leaderboard in the AA Southern league in batting average, homers, and RBI’s; and looks poised to take home the triple crown before the end of the regular season. If O’neill could finish the year strong not only will he capture the Southern League triple crown, but he could also cap his second consecutive 30+ home run season. The long flies are nothing new to O’neill’s game though. What is new is his double digit walk rate, and K rate under 30. Swings and misses, and general haphazard approach held O’neill back from reaching the upper echelons of prospectdom. Well that’s a problem no more; as discussed on this week’s episode of the Razzball Prospect Podcast, yours truly and Imaginarybrickwall.com’s Michael Halpern go through where we see O’neill ranking on our top 100 lists come late Winter 2017. Brrrrrrrr Canada, late winter, I’m getting cold just thinking about this. Regardless, we both agree that he’s going to be within the top 15 come February, and I could even see ranking him higher. Kudos to my colleague Michael who was one of the first on the O’Neill bandwagon, penning this sleeper post back in February.
O’neill’s batted ball profile is right in line with what I’d like to see from a power hitter; he hits as many, if not more, flies than he does grounders. His line drive rate is a little low at 17.9%, but with the amount of hard hit flyballs that’s not unusual. His home run to fly ball ratio looks high but sustainable at 18.8%, particulary when you examine his upper cut swing. He’s certainly a player I’d be after in dynasty leagues.
Jose De Leon, RHP Dodgers: For the love of all that’s holy when are you going to bring up De Leon? How many more pitchers must die to force his promotion? How many more times must he dominate teams at AAA? On Wednesday he messed around and opened up his start with an immaculate inning. He then went 7 strong, allowing 2 runs, and striking out 10. I can’t believe on August 21st we’re still waiting on de Leon’s promotion. How can the Doyers even justify this? Injury? Service clock? None of those work. If I was to pick nits, I’d say the one flaw in JDL’s game is giving up the longball. Instead I’ll leave the nits where they lie, and just hope that it’s PCL inflated.
Lucas Giolito, RHP Nationals: Up and down is the best way to describe Giolito’s season. On Wednesday against Toledo, Giolito was up. He tossed 7 innings of 1 run ball striking out 10 in the process. This is the second consecutive strong start for the righty, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him pitch some innings for Washington, post September roster expansion.
Yohander Mendez, LHP Rangers: Through his first 19.1 AAA innings Mendez didn’t allow an earned run. That ended last night as he let up a couple of runs to Colorado Springs in 5 innings of work. So far in AAA he’s struggling with control issues, walking 14 batters over 24.1 frames. I suspect this is just an outlier during his adjustment to a new level. Walks have never been an issue before so I suspect it should stabilize. On the bright side, Mendez continues to induce a lot of groundballs and weak contact. Since hitting the upper levels of the minors the K/9 hasn’t been elite, but it’s still above average at 8+.
Yandy Diaz, 3B Indians: There’s an excellent chance Diaz joins the Tribe sometime in the next few weeks, and could contribute in all five categories. His greatest asset is his average and on base percentage, but he’s got some power and speed upside. Over a full season you’re probably looking at 10-12 homers and 8-10 steals. Since July 1st Diaz is slashing .348/.422/.452 at AAA, and looks ready to see some starts at the hot corner in the bigs. Once he’s promoted he’ll be valuable in 16+ team setups down the stretch, but I don’t see him as much more than a streamer in 12 team mixed. You could call him a Cleveland Streamer.
Matt Chapman, 3B Athletics: The third baseman was promoted to AAA Nashville on Wednesday, after leading the Texas league in homers with 29. Chapman’s a flyball hitter that makes a lot of solid contact (22% LD rate), but gets into trouble with strikeouts and more popups than you’d like to see. So far in AAA he’s just 1/15, but that won’t last long. He’s an excellent defender at 3rd, and should fit the profile of a low average, power hitting corner infielder.
Tyler Beede, RHP Giants: The 2014 first round pick continued to cruise through 2016 on Wednesday night, as he went 6 strong, allowing 1 run on 3 hits and 3 walks, and striking out 9 in the process. Beede’s K rate is up significantly this year, which plants him back on the fantasy radar, after a couple of underwhelming seasons in the minors. Since May 28th Beede’s K/9 is 8.78, this is a great compliment to his extreme groundball profile.
Clint Coulter, OF Brewers: We talk about Coulter a little bit on the podcast this week, and truthfully I don’t say much about him. He disappeared from my radar about a year ago, but after a promotion and conversion to the outfield, C-squared is back on my lips. Since a promotion to AA Biloxi two weeks ago, the former catcher has been raking. Slashing .432/.523/.649 across 13 games with a couple of homers.
Dominic Smith, 1B Mets: Despite solid results throughout his pro career Smith has his detractors. Being amongst the youngest players in the Eastern League he’s shown well with a .296/.359/.450 slashline, and 13 homers. He still gets knocked for not having as much power as you’d like to see from a corner infielder. Then again according to his batted ball he’s exactly what you’d like in a hitter, roping line drives at a high clip (24%), and rarely making bad contact (4.1% popup rate). His advanced approach and keen eye keep his floor higher than your average young hitting prospect.
D.J. Stewart, OF Orioles: The 2015 first rounder has had a good couple of weeks slashing .333/.393/.510 over his last 15 games. He posses an elite eye for the strike zone, that keeps his walk rate north of 10%. He’s also shown the ability to hit for average and steal bases, but a groundball rate of 52% coupled with a line drive rate of 17% will limit his power and overall offensive impact.
Aristides Aquino, OF Reds: The double A battery has been displaying his power stroke all year long in the notoriously pitching friendly Florida State league. He’s had 4 homers in the last week, and is only 1 homer behind league leader Christian Stewart, who was recently promoted to AA. With a 45% groundball rate, and a lower than desired line drive rate, Aquino more than likely won’t keep up the power explosion. He looks to me like a potential 15 homer guy once he reaches the big league level.
Kyle Tucker, OF Astros: The Astros wonderkin was promoted on Wednesday to hi-A Lancaster of the California League. One of the top offensive prep players of the past few years, Tucker has displayed a varied offensive skill set so far in his pro career, slashing .276/.348/.402 with 31 steals and 6 homers. The power is developing, but the other tools are already flashing plus. Should be fun to watch one of the better offensive prospects of the lower minors hitting in one of the minors better offensive parks.
Michael Kopech, RHP Red Sox: Mr. 105 MPH has been tremendous in his 44 innings at hi-A Salem. Not only is he striking out batters at an elite rate of 14.5 per 9, he’s also inducing groundballs at a 43% rate. Pair that with an insanely low 20.5% flyball rate, and an insanely high popup rate of 14.77%, and you have an ideal prototype for future success. In other words he strikes out batters at an elite rate, while rarely allowing hard contact. In fact he’s yet to allow a homer in 2016. There have been some maturity issues in the past, but the hope is he’s past that now.
Brendan Rodgers, 2B/SS Rockies: We may look back on the 2015 draft as one of the greatest in terms of fantasy impact with many of the top picks already reaching the major league level. With that said, the player that may turn out to be the biggest star is still years away. That’s hasn’t stop Rockies middle infielder Brendan Rodgers from making big noise with his bat in the lower minors. He’s slashed .285/.350/.486 with 18 homers, 70 runs, 69 RBIs and 5 steals. The righty slugger rarely makes bad contact (3.1% popup rate), and makes lots of hard contact (22% LD). I’d like to see him raise his 30% flyball rate at the expense of his 44% Gb rate, but he’s just 20 years old and has a few more years of curing in the minors before he’s ready for Coors. Seriously he can’t legally buy a silver bullet to toast one of his many stellar performances, including 10 3-hit games this season.
Corey Ray, OF Brewers: After this week’s podcast theme, I’m a bit Brewers heavy, forgive me but my research takes me places, and who’s to say that a certain percentage of my readership isn’t hard of hearing and can’t listen to the podcast. That’s neither here nor there, Ray’s aggressive assignment upon signing has left many scratching their collective heads. Over his last 11 games he’s shown improvement slashing .265/.333/.490 with a couple of homers and a steal. JB made a great point on the podcast about Brevard County’s less than ideal hitting conditions. So I wouldn’t let the slow start drop him too much in my first year player draft rankings. The 5 category contributor skill set is still there.
Tyler Hill, OF Red Sox: With Benintendi in the big leagues, I’m looking for a new homer prospect to pound into your heads. Hill might just be the guy. A 19th round pick back in 2014, the outfielder spent the better part of his first year and a half of pro ball in the rookie leagues. Starting 2016 in the short season New York-Penn league, Hill has been the talk of the NYPL slashing .337/.408/.483 and ranking within the top 5 in AVG, OBP, SLG, wRC+, and wOBA. At just 20 he’s an up and comer with a plus hit tool and athleticism.
Isan Diaz, 2B Brewers: Hey it’s another Brewer we talk about on the podcast! A middle infielder with power and wheels, Diaz is a future fantasy star in the making. The lefty slugger sprays homers all over the field, showing an even distribution in his power. He’s an extreme fly ball hitter (39%) with an average LD rate of 19%. His numbers since July 1st have been legendary as he’s slashed .329/.434/.647 with 11 homers and 5 steals.
Roniel Raudes, RHP Red Sox: Since Anderson Espinoza was sent packing in the Drew Pomeranz trade, Raudes has become the top teenage arm in the Red Sox system. Apologies to Jason Groome, but he doesn’t make his debut until Monday in the GCL. All Raudes has done in his last 5 starts is go 3-2 with a 1.57 ERA and a .210 BAA. His k rate over that time has been lower than his season average of 8.37, but his sterling control has guided his success. With elite control and good stuff, Raudes has a bright future.
Carter Kieboom, SS Nationals: It’s been a great month of August for the 2016 first round pick, as he’s slashed .313/.358/.646 with 4 homers. It’s only appropriate that a player named Kieboom swing a big stick. Then again his older brother Spencer is a catcher in the Nationals system and he does not swing a big stick. He’s one to keep an eye on in deeper dynasty leagues, but of course he is, he’s a middle infielder with power.