Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.
Level: Low-A Age: 19 Top-15: 12th Top-100: N/A
Line: 26 IP, 23 H, 8 R, 17/6 K/BB, 1.04 ERA, 2.99 FIP
This 2013 2nd-rounder is a unique mix of skills and drawbacks.
Tyler Danish was selected 55th overall in the 2013 draft out of a Florida high school; since then, he’s breezed to a 1.12 ERA in 56 professional innings, including 30 Low-A frames with a 0.90 mark. It’s easy to buy into Danish as an excellent performance prospect, then, but should we?
Reports on Danish from high school listed his velocity as typically residing in the low 90s, touching 95. However, I saw him three times last year, all in scheduled two-inning relief stints, and he worked at just 86-90 mph in each, which was concerning. Further, he employed a delivery that was, well, nonstandard.
Yes, should Danish succeed with his current mechanics, White Sox fans can look forward a similar debate about his long-term durability as they’ve had about Chris Sale. I got my first 2014 look at him (and first as a starter) earlier this week, and he did have less stiffness and more athleticism in the motion, but the arm action remains quite strange.
Most attributed Danish’s 2013 velocity loss to the fatigue of working a high school season and a professional season, and the thought was that he would jump back into the low 90s this year. While he did work at 89-91 mph and touched 92 once in the first inning of my look on April 29, he promptly lost velocity thereafter and worked at 85-89 for the rest of the game, very occasionally reaching 90-91. It’s not out of the question that he regains more velocity at some point, but it may be that this is the range he settles into as a pro, which is well below the typical velocity range of well-regarded pitching prospects.
Fortunately, velocity isn’t central to Danish’s game, as he features hard vertical sink on his fastball thanks to the aforementioned strange arm action and low arm slot he employs. He pairs it with a 77-82 mph slider that flashes plus with big tilt at times, as well as a 77-82 mph changeup that’s workable and could develop into a third average pitch. You can get a good sense of the slider here:
In a perfect world, Danish could be a Derek Lowe sort of pitcher, piling up the grounders, avoiding walks, and getting just enough empty cuts at the slider to manage a reasonable strikeout rate. According to StatCorner, he boasts a 67.1% groundball rate this year, and he’s not walking many guys, essentially forcing the opposition to beat him by finding holes in the infield. On the other hand, his lack of velocity, low arm slot, the relative weakness of his changeup, and the concerns over his motion make it a lot easier to see him as an elite sinker-slider guy out of the bullpen.
Level: Low-A Age: 22 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 19 2/3 IP, 13 H, 6 R, 19/9 K/BB, 1.37 ERA, 4.16 FIP
Borden has gotten off to an excellent start in his first full season, but the lack of movement in his arsenal is problematic.
Borden’s 65-grade name (“Buddy” and alliteration? Winner!) grabs attention, as does a 1.37 ERA so far this year, and it’s not like that’s all smoke and mirrors, as he’s struck out 22.1% of opposing batters so far (and 35.1% last year in short-season ball). He was Danish’s opponent on Tuesday, and each righthander threw six scoreless frames. The similarities pretty much end there.
While Danish’s game is all centered around movement and deception from a low arm slot, the 6’3″ Borden releases the baseball from a height that nears Collmenterian proportions.
He works at 89-92 mph, and unlike Danish, he held that velocity comfortably throughout the outing; however, like many high-slot pitchers, his heater is quite straight. He throws a 73-77 mph curveball that doesn’t have big break but does have sharp late vertical action at times, allowing him to miss bats at the Low-A level when he gets it down in the zone. He also has a flat 80-83 mph changeup that he showed no feel for in the outing, usually trying to throw it to open plate appearances and steal strikes.
Here’s a look at Borden’s fastball/curve combo:
Borden’s easy low-90s heat, stamina, breaking ball, and decent feel make for a reasonable overall package, but the overall lack of movement in his game will likely make it difficult for him to consistently miss bats at higher levels, painting him as a solid organizational arm more than a prospect on the rise.
Level: Low-A Age: 21 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 52 PA, .273/.385/.364, 1 HR, 7 BB, 11 K
Araiza is an advanced defensive catcher who isn’t hopeless at the plate, marking him as someone to watch.
Much has been made in recent years of the Rays’ attention to catcher framing and defense, acquiring Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan despite their troubling offensive output. There’s another catcher in their organization who may offer excellent defensive value someday, though, but nobody seems to be talking about him.
In the Rookie-level Appalachian League, where Armando Araiza played last season, most position players look bad defensively. It’s not that there aren’t some potential quality defenders there, but most of those are too raw to reveal their gifts on anything close to a consistent basis. This clearly manifests itself in catcher defense, which features a whole lot of passed balls (Appy hurlers not exactly helping in the cause) and a lot of throws that bounce far short of second base or sail into center field, as well as noisy actions behind the dish.
Those symptoms applied to some extent to every catcher I saw in the circuit last year…except Araiza, who impressed me with his quiet actions, feel for the position, and arm strength. Last year, he allowed just five passed balls in 47 contests (a strong rate for a low-minors catcher) and gunned down 37% of opposing base thieves; in his full-season debut this year, he’s allowed just one ball by him in twelve contests caught while throwing out an even 50% of basestealers. Check out his athleticism and arm here:
As with Molina and Hanigan, then, any reasonable amount of offense should get Araiza to the majors as a backup backstop, and that’s a threshold he may be able to clear. He’s showed solid strike zone control his whole career, with K/BB ratios between 2/1 and 1/1, and he has enough sting in his bat to project for 6-12 homer power. He’s also a better athlete than most catchers and isn’t a baseclogger. Here’s a look at his swing–he employs a bat wrap, but has a nice level plane and some natural wrist/hand strength:
Araiza remains a deep sleeper, but with his defensive acumen and offensive competence, he could surprise a lot of people and have a solid career.
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