One of the most common questions I encounter on a semi-weekly basis is “Ralph, who’s this year’s Victor Robles/Francis Martes/Cody Bellinger”. It’s a question that’s difficult to answer, but especially difficult to answer during Spring Training or the week following. Why? Well, it’s easy, we don’t have anything to base it off. No real games, no real at bats, no real stats. Unfortunately I have a day job, and Grey is yet to hand me a six figure salary to jet-set around the country to scout amateur and minor league baseball. Instead I’m paid in Helluva Good Cheese coupons and asked to scout little league games on a black and white TV with broken bunny ears. No matter because between games at the Taunton West Little League complex I have time to watch a few AAA and AA games a week while scouring through loads of leaderboards of all minor league levels. So through this deep data collection, I’ve developed the below list of players that are flashing promise, while simultaneously boosting their prospect status. Below are 20 or so names that have caught my interest in the early going.
Now that the intro is out of the way I’d like to acknowledge a personal milestone here on the baseball side of things, my 100th baseball post……Yeah! Thanks for reading all this drivel.
Ian Happ, 2B/OF Cubs | Hi-A Myrtle Beach: Pretty sure he’s playing for the same team Kenny Powers plays for, but I could be mistaken. Happ is presently a man possessed, tearing up the Carolina league with a .313/.450/.547 slash line with 3 homers and 15 rbis. Was considered an advanced hitter coming out of Cincinnati, and has shown just that. Might be a big riser this season. Ranked 65th on my pre-season ranks.
Nellie Rodriguez, 1B Indians | AA Akron: Nellie hits cleanup most nights for the Rubber Ducks with two top 100 prospects hitting ahead of him in Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer. He posses huge power having already taken home run crowns across two levels of A ball. So far in the young season Rodriguez has slugged . 423 with 5 homers and 15 steaks in 17 games. There a lot of strikeouts in his game, and he’ll never hit for average. But he can take a walk (11.1% Bb% at Hi-A Lynchburg), and hit some bombs. That’s useful right?
Austin Pruitt, SP Rays | AAA Durham: Was the hot name of the last few weeks following three strong starts to begin the season. Then Monday happened…. he gave up 8 runs (5 earned) and two homers in a loss to Indianapolis. He’s going to be 27 in August and didn’t even make the Baseball America preseason handbook. They rank 30 deep in each system by the way. So he could just be a guy who slipped through the cracks or Crash Davis. His career ERA and WHIP are 3.15 and 1.16 across 379 career minor league innings. So how is he in AAA and no one knows him? I wouldn’t expect the next Corey Kluber, but he could be a 5th starter and those are valuable in 20+ team dynastys.
Edwin Diaz, SP Mariners | AA Jackson: Looks like Diaz could be the next in a long line of good Mariners pitching prospects. The 22 year old righty is sporting a 13.09 K/9 to go along with 2.45 ERA in the early going. I’d add him in any and all dynasty formats where 150 or so minor leaguers are owned.
Josh Hader, SP Brewers | AA Biloxi: Another jewel from the Carlos Gomez deal, Hader is a lefty with nasty stuff and big strikeout potential. He’s going to be all over top 50 lists soon enough. Through 17 innings and 4 starts Hader is sporting a 0.53 ERA and a 14.29 K/9. If he keeps up like this I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the bigs for a spot start or a few relief innings come September.
Ronald Acuna, OF Braves | Low A Rome: The 18 year old Venezuelan prospect is continuing to open eyes early in his second professional season. There are two things that Acuna does very well, get on base (.373 OBP) and steal bases (6 steals) His power at this point is raw but shows upside. Looks like a future leadoff hitter.
Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B Pirates | Low A West Virginia: Ke’Bryan is Swahili for on base machine. Slashing a ridiculous .393/.426/.536. The 19 year old 1st round pick from a year ago is a low minors corner bat with globs of talent and untapped power potential. For sure one to watch.
Dylan Cozens, OF Phillies | AA Reading: Cozens is a prospect that’s always intrigued me. A naturally gifted athlete at 6’6 235 pounds, Cozens posses power and speed. He entered pro ball a bit raw and has had contact issues, but he’s shown improvement at every level. So far in 2016 he’s slugging .471 with 4 homers and 4 steals. Unfortunately those contact issues are popping up again, as he’s hitting .229, but you’re not looking at Cozens as a future batting champ.
Ben Lively, SP Phillies | AA Reading: He’s a bit old and got absolutely demolished last year at Reading, but he’s been good so far in the early going, posting a 1.50 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and 10.13 K/9 through 4 starts. Had a monster year in the Reds system in 2014 before being dealt to the Phillies for Marlon Byrd, maybe he’s getting that swagger back.
James Kaprielian, SP Yankees | Hi-A Tampa: Last year’s first round pick has really justified the hype about him coming out of UCLA last spring. Through three starts he sits at 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA, 0.61 WHIP, and 11.00 K/9, looks like he should hit AA before the end of the first half.
Travis Demeritte, 2B Rangers | Hi-A High Desert: After losing some time to a drug suspension last season the power hitting middle infielder lost his way a bit a struggled. That’s not the case so far in 2016, as he’s slashed .279/.357/.705 with 6 homers, 16 runs, and 3 steals in 15 games.
Matt Chapman, 3B Athletics | AA Midland: After initially struggling following the A’s selecting him in the first round of the 2014 draft, Chapman has done nothing but hit since. So far this term at AA Midland the former Cal Fullerton standout has slashed .267/.413/.583 with 5 homers in the first 17 games. His defense is outstanding and should help him move along to the majors rather quickly, as long as he hits for power and gets on base. Wouldn’t be shocked to see him in Oakland once rosters expand. Should break through to the big leagues in 2017.
Chris Shaw, 1B Giants | Hi-A San Jose: Boston College product with a big power profile, projects to have a 30 homer ceiling. Flashes the ability to get on base and so far in pro ball has hit for average. Slashing .327/.377/.545 with 2 homers in 2016.
Trey Mancini, 1B Orioles | AAA Norfolk: After going ham through his first 17 games at AA Bowie, Mancini was promoted Monday to AAA. Now he’s just an injury away from the big leagues. Hell, the way he’s hitting I wouldn’t be shocked if he could out hit Pedro Alvarez right now.
Jacob Scavuzzo, OF Dodgers | AA Tulsa: Power hitting former 21st round pick out of high school, has taken nicely to his first taste of AA. Hasn’t hit for much power so far but has gotten on base and hit for a .302 average.
Harrison Bader, 3B Cardinals | AA Springfield: Everytime I look at Bader’s pro stats I wonder how he fell to the third round in last year’s draft. He’s not only already ascended to AA he’s holding his own with a .303 average and a .370 OBP. If you’re in where 150 minor leaguers are owned and he’s available, grab him.
Daniel Palka, OF Twins | AA Chattanooga: It’s rare that a player puts up the type of numbers that Palka did in 2015 to such little fanfare. But following a 29 homer, 24 steal season he showed up on very few top 30 lists. Now in the Twins system Palka is once again hitting and looks like he could be a good off the radar lottery ticket in the high minors.