Archive for Prospects

Eric Longenhagen Chat: 7/12/18

2:02
Eric A Longenhagen: Mornin’ from Tempe. Only link to plug today is this: https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/early-2019-21-draft-rankings/

2:03
Beni and the Betts: Where would Clint Frazier rank on prospect lists if he were still eligible?

2:04
Eric A Longenhagen: A timely question as, while sourcing on NYY players for team list updates, I’ve asked on Frazier, who scouts still think is a 50.

2:04
Eric A Longenhagen: So, he’d be a 50 FV on the lists.

2:04
Chuck: For guys in the DSL and AZL, even GCL, at what point can you tell someone is a legit prospect? Obviously not everyone can see them in person, so much of it is stat line scouting or reading elsewhere.

2:06
Eric A Longenhagen: I see players myself and talk to scouts and front office people who have seen them or have info on them. No statline stuff, no reading elsewhere, all about evaluating the physical tools.

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Early 2019-21 Draft Rankings

The 2018 MLB Draft’s signing deadline passed last week, and more teams failed to sign their early picks than is typical. Ultimately, four of the top 36 selections opted not to enter professional ball, all from the prep ranks. Those players are as follows: RHP Carter Stewart (Atlanta’s pick at No. 8), SS Matt McLain (Arizona at No. 25), RHP J.T. Ginn (Dodgers at No. 30), and Gunnar Hoglund (Pirates at No. 36). Scouting details on those individuals can be found on THE BOARD.

This has left those teams with one fewer prospect in their system than anticipated (all four teams get a compensation pick in next year’s draft), but more significantly, it moves a handful of premium talent into future draft classes. This year’s crop of unsigned high schoolers now serves as a preview of the college talent pool for the 2021 draft, but there are also a few 2020 prospects who are eligible early because they’re old for their class. There’s also a possibility that some could find their way into the 2019 draft class if they opt to attend junior college. We’ll reclassify players on THE BOARD as they change.

With that in mind, we thought it reasonable to present snapshots of each of the next three draft classes based on how we have the players graded right now. The industry’s evaluation of the 2019 class is already underway in earnest (Team USA, Cape Cod, and prep showcases are all occurring as we speak), and we’ve lined up a short list of the class’s top names thus far over on THE BOARD. Our 2020 list is mostly composed of the players we regarded as the best college freshmen this year, though we know of a few high schoolers who look like early first-round talents, too. The 2021 list is just a ranking of the high schoolers who didn’t sign in this year’s draft, exactly as they appeared on our 2018 draft board. We’re skeptical of prep players who have popped up this early because it’s often the result of physical maturity, but we don’t think that’s the case for Pennsylvania high school RHP Kevin Bitsko, whom we have evaluated similarly to the lean projection arms who are 40 FVs on the July 2 list.

Click here to see the 2019-21 draft prospects at THE BOARD.

We’re still too early in the process to make conclusive statements about the talent level of the 2019 draft class as a whole, much less the 2020 or 2021 varieties, so all this could change. As it stands now, however, the 2019 class collectively appears to lack the depth of the 2018 crop. By this time last year, we had a rough idea of how deep the high-school pitching was and knew that the Southeast had an overwhelming volume of talent. College hitting is the strength of next year’s draft class, and there’s lots of depth to the college crop in general, but the prep class lacks the quantity of players who are regarded as in-a-vacuum first rounders that one customarily sees at this point. Moreover, the college pitching class lacks a guy who looks like a top-five or -10 selection right now, though Casey Mize didn’t fit that criteria last summer and then ended up going first overall to Detroit in June.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 7/11

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Andres Gimenez, SS, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: Hi-A   Age: 19   Org Rank: 3   FV: 50
Line: 3-for-5, 2B, 3B

Notes
Gimenez is a 19-year-old shortstop slashing .280/.350/.430 in the Florida State League. That’s good for a 107 wRC+ in the FSL. Big-league shortstops with similar wRC+ marks are Trea Turner (a more explosive player and rangier defender than Gimenez) and Jurickson Profar, who have both been two-win players or better this year ahead of the break. Also of note in the Mets system last night was Ronny Mauricio, who extended his career-opening hitting streak to 19 games.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 7/10

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Maverik Buffo, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Profile)
Level: Hi-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: NR   FV: 30
Line: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 5 K

Notes
Buffo, who has a tailing upper-80s fastball and average slider, is probably an upper-level depth arm. He throws strikes and has great makeup, so he’s nice to have in an organization. Sometimes those guys shove and make the Daily Notes, and sometimes they’re also named Maverik Buffo.

Carlos Hernandez, RHP, Kansas City Royals (Profile)
Level: Low-A   Age: 21   Org Rank: 24   FV: 40
Line: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 1 R, 12 K

Notes
Hernandez has a golden arm that produces plus-plus velocity and riding life, but he also has several traits that will likely push him to the bullpen. His secondaries are inconsistent, as is his fastball command, and Hernandez is a relatively stiff short-strider. It’s possible that some of these things improve, just probably not enough for Hernandez to be an efficient starter. Not much has to improve for him to be a bullpen piece, though — and potentially a very good one.

Victor Santos, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (Profile)
Level: Complex (GCL)   Age: 17   Org Rank: NR   FV: 35+
Line: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 9 K

Notes
Santos is a strong-bodied teenage righty with a bit of a longer arm action and presently average stuff for which he has advanced feel. He sits 90-93 with arm-side run and he locates it to his glove side, often running it back onto that corner of the plate. Santos doesn’t have much room on his frame, but at just 17, he’s still likely to get stronger as he matures, and there may be more stuff in here anyway.

Tristen Lutz, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (Profile)
Level: Low-A   Age: 19   Org Rank: 3   FV: 50
Line: 2-for-3, 2B, HR, 3 BB

Notes
Lutz had a putrid April that he followed with two months of pedestrian .250/.320/.420 ball, but he’s been hot of late and has been a .280/.350/.500 hitter since mid-May. Lutz is striking out more than is ideal and has a maxed-out frame, but he already possesses all the power he needs to play every day as long as a viable on-base/contact combination develops.

Notes from the Field
AZL games were rained out last night, so nothing today.


Futures Game Scouting Reports on THE BOARD

Major League Baseball announced the rosters for its Futures Game last week, the annual “prospect All-Star Game” which takes place the Sunday before the All-Star Game itself. We’ve made a page on THE BOARD specifically for the Futures Game representatives. It has tool grades, scouting reports, video, and other stuff with which you can play around.

Click here to see Futures Games participants on THE BOARD.

There may be some discrepancies between the player evaluations on this page and those that appear elsewhere on THE BOARD. The grades on the Futures Game section of THE BOARD represent our most current evaluations of these players. The evaluations on the team lists, meanwhile, will be updated altogether shortly in the future. Kiley and I will be in Washington D.C. a week from now to see these guys in person. The Futures Game is Sunday, July 15 in Washington D.C.

Click here to see Futures Games participants on THE BOARD.


Daily Prospect Notes: 7/9

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Victor Robles, CF, Washington Nationals (Profile)
Level: Rehab   Age: 21   Org Rank: 1   FV: 65
Line: 0-for-1, BB

Notes
Robles has begun to make rehab appearances on his way back from a hyperextended left elbow that he suffered in early April. He’s gotten two plate appearances in the GCL each of the last two days. The Nationals’ big-league outfield situation should enable Robles to have a slow, careful rehab process that takes a few weeks. He is one of baseball’s best prospects.

Adam Haseley, CF, Philadelphia Phillies (Profile)
Level: Hi-A Age: 22   Org Rank: 7   FV: 45
Line: 2-for-5, HR

Notes
The homer was Haseley’s fifth of the year and his slash line now stands at .301/.344/.417. He’s undergone several swing tweaks this year, starting with a vanilla, up-and-down leg kick last year; a closed, Giancarlo Stanton-like stance early this season; and now an open stance with more pronounced leg kick that loads more toward his rear hip. All that would seem to be part of an effort to get Haseley hitting for more power, his skillset’s most glaring weakness. But Haseley’s swing plane is so flat that such a change may not, alone, be meaningful as far as home-run production is concerned, though perhaps there will be more extra-base hits.

The way Haseley’s peripherals have trended since college gives us a glimpse of how a relative lack of power alters those variables in pro ball. His strikeout and walk rates at UVA were 11% and 12% respectively, an incredible 7% and 16% as a junior. In pro ball, they’ve inverted, and have been 15% and 5% in about 600 pro PAs.

Akil Baddoo, OF, Minnesota Twins (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 19   Org Rank: 12   FV: 45
Line: 3-for-5, 2B, SB

Notes
Baddoo is scorching, on an 11-game hit streak during which he has amassed 20 hits, nine for extra-bases. He crushes fastballs and can identify balls and strikes, but Baddoo’s strikeout rate has doubled this year as he’s seen more decent breaking balls, with which he has struggled. Considering how raw Baddoo was coming out of high school, however, his performance, especially as far as the plate discipline is concerned, has been encouraging. He’s a potential everyday player with power and speed.

Jesus Tinoco, RHP, Colorado Rockies (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 23   Org Rank: NR   FV: 40
Line: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 1 R, 7 K

Notes
Tinoco didn’t make the Rockies’ offseason list, as I thought he had an outside shot to be a reliever but little more. His strikeout rate is way up. He still projects in the bullpen, sitting 93-95 with extreme fastball plane that also adds artificial depth to an otherwise fringe curveball. He’ll probably throw harder than that in the Futures Game.

Travis MacGregor, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 20   Org Rank: 21   FV: 40
Line: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 2 R, 6 K

Notes
MacGregor is a projection arm who is performing thanks to his ability to throw his fastball for strikes, though not always where he wants. His delivery has a bit of a crossfire action but is otherwise on the default setting and well composed, with only the release point varying. It’s pretty good, considering many pitchers with MacGregor’s size are still reigning in control of their extremities. MacGregor’s secondaries don’t always have great movement but should be at least average at peak. He projects toward the back of a rotation.

Austin Cox, LHP, Kansas City Royals (Profile)
Level: Short Season Age: 21   Org Rank: HM   FV: 35
Line: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 1 R, 10 K

Notes
Cox, Kansas City’s fourth-rounder out of Mercer, has a 23:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11.2 pro innings. He put up goofy strikeout numbers at Mercer, too, but struggles with fastball command. He’s a high-slot lefty who creates tough angle on a low-90s fastball, and his curveball has powerful, vertical shape. It’s likely Cox will be limited to relief work due to fastball command, but he could be very good there, especially if the fastball ticks up in shorter outings.

Notes from the Field
Just some pitcher notes from the weekend here. I saw Rangers RHP Kyle Cody rehabbing in Scottsdale. He was 94-96 for two innings and flashed a plus curveball. Joe Palumbo rehabbed again in the AZL and looked the same as he did last week.

Cleveland has another arm of note in the AZL, 6-foot-1, 18-year-old Dominican righty Ignacio Feliz. He’s one of the best on-mound athletes I’ve seen in the AZL and his arm works well. He sits only 88-92 but that should tick up as he matures physically. His fastball has natural cut, and at times, he throws what looks like a true cutter in the 84-87 range. He also has a 12-to-6 curveball that flashes plus.

Feliz could develop in a number of different ways. Cleveland could make a concerted effort to alter his release so Feliz is more behind the ball, which would probably play better with his curveballs. Alternatively, they might nurture his natural proclivity for cut and see what happens. Either way, this is an exciting athlete with workable stuff who doesn’t turn 19 until the end of October.

Between 15 and 18 scouts were on hand for Saturday night’s Dodgers and Diamondbacks AZL game. That’s much more than is typical for an AZL game, even at this time of year, and is hard to explain away by saying these scouts were on usual coverage. D-backs OF Kristian Robinson (whom we have ranked No. 2 in the system) was a late, precautionary scratch after being hit with a ball the day before, so he probably wasn’t their collective target. Instead, I suspect it was Dodgers 19-year-old Mexican righty Gerardo Carrillo, who was 91-96 with a plus curveball. I saw Carrillo pitch in relief of Yadier Alvarez on the AZL’s opening night, during which he was 94-97. He’s small, and my knee-jerk reaction was to bucket him as a reliever, but there’s enough athleticism to try things out in a rotation and see if it sticks.


The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced a few years ago by the present author, wherein that same author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own fallible intuition to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Jake Hager, SS, Milwaukee (Profile)
Last week, the author of this post included Hager among the Fringe Five for the first time. Just this morning, meanwhile, Travis Sawchik dedicated some internet words to Minnesota infielder/outfielder/little potato Willians Astudillo. The relevance of those two events? Like Astudillo, Hager appears to be experimenting with a zero-true-outcomes approach. Since last Friday, the Brewers prospect and brief resident of the independent American Association, has compiled 19 plate appearances without recording a walk or strikeout or home run. With a couple doubles and a triple, though, he still managed to produce an isolated-power mark above .200. At a very basic level, players are most successful when they are making meaningful contact. Hager, who continued to make the vast majority of his defensive starts at shortstop, has done that.

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Eric Longenhagen Chat: 7/5/18

2:03
Eric A Longenhagen: Hi from Tempe. Links…

2:03
Eric A Longenhagen: Wrote up the new Reds prospects from the Floro deal…https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/instagraphs/scouting-the-reds-return-f…

2:04
Eric A Longenhagen: Today’s Daily Prospect Notes: https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/daily-prospect-notes-7-5/

2:04
Eric A Longenhagen: Look for Futures Game roster reaction tomorrow, as well as something on ESPN Insider on July 2 guys

2:04
Eric A Longenhagen: Probably gonna stick to a tight 60 min today, so let’s boogie

2:06
Robert: With the new J2 class, anyone that jumps off the charts outside of the top 5 or so? I’ve read good things on Alcantara and Pie

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Scouting the Reds’ Return for Dylan Floro

On Wednesday, the Reds sent righties Dylan Floro and Zach Neal, as well as international pool space, to the Dodgers for RHPs James Marinan and Aneurys Zabala. Marinan, Los Angeles’s fourth-round pick in 2017 out of Park Vista High School in Florida, made three starts in the AZL before the trade. Zabala, whom the Dodgers originally acquired from Seattle for Chase De Jong, was pitching in the Low-A Great Lakes bullpen.

Both pitchers have size and big-league arm strength. Marinan is 6-foot-5, 220, while Zabala (though listed at 175) is closer to 250. Zabala was throwing 96-100 while he was with Seattle, but his conditioning wavered after the trade and the fastball was in the low 90s when I saw him last year. He also had, and still has, issues repeating his delivery, which leads to scattershot fastball command. His velocity is back up into the upper 90s this year, and he can spin a breaking ball. He has above-average relief stuff, but is a high-risk prospect because of how far the command needs to come — and because the stuff has roller coastered over the last two years.

Marinan is a bit more stable. He has a four-pitch mix glued together by a low-90s sinker and average change that flashes above. He can throw an average curveball for strikes, and the slider can miss bats away from righties when located. He could end up with a bunch of 50s, maybe a 55 changeup and command, and become a solid No. 4/5 starter. Both players are likely three years away from the majors, at least, though Zabala will essentially be ready as soon as his fastball command improves, if it does.


Daily Prospect Notes: 7/2

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Today is July 2, the first day of the new international signing period. Both our rankings and scouting reports on the top players signing today are available by means of this ominous portal.

Brailyn Marquez, LHP, Chicago Cubs (Profile)
Level: Short Season   Age: 19   Org Rank: 14  FV: 40
Line: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 R, 8 K

Notes
Marquez has a 20:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio at Eugene. I saw him up to 96 last year, but he was 88-93 in extended spring training, and his body had matured and gotten somewhat soft pretty quickly. It didn’t affect his advanced fastball command, though, or his arm-side command of his breaking ball, which comprise a large chunk of Marquez’s current plan on the mound. He projects as a No. 4/5 starter with several average pitches and above-average control.

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2018 International Prospect Board

We present the July 2, 2018 Board. It features scouting reports on players we have evaluated as a 40 FV prospect or better at the current moment (and we might add more reports over the weekend) as well as tool grades and some video. Specifics on the players in the class are reserved for the board itself, so head there if that’s all you’re looking for.

This is the second year of international amateur free agency under the current CBA, the rules of which were discussed here after they were first implemented. In short, teams now have a finite amount of money to spend on players. Here is each club’s cap for the period. The total pool space across baseball is about $159,000,000, or roughly $6 million above last year’s total.

Click here to see THE BOARD.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced a few years ago by the present author, wherein that same author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own fallible intuition to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Jake Hager, SS, Milwaukee (Profile)
Despite having been selected out of high school in the first round of a relatively recent draft — or, as recent as one is prepared to consider 2011 — Hager isn’t really a prospect. After contending with a knee injury that forced him to miss all of the 2015 season and then stumbling through his 2016 and -17 campaigns, Hager was not only granted minor-league free agency this past winter but was sufficiently pessimistic about his chances of finding work in affiliated baseball that he signed with the St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association.

Eventually, though, the 25-year-old received a minor-league deal with the Brewers. The results thus far have been very promising: in roughly 250 plate appearances with Biloxi, he produced the equivalent of the second-best WAR in the Southern League. His performance over the past month, in particular, has been exceptional: since May 30th, he’s produced a .310 isolated-power mark but just 13.1% strikeout rate in 99 plate appearances — and has also, meanwhile, recorded every defensive start this season at shortstop, where the defensive numbers suggest he’s been totally fine. Hager was promoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs last week. He’s on the old side, certainly, but could have some value in the majors if he’s able to translate any of his Double-A success to higher levels.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 6/27

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Jabari Blash, OF, Los Angeles Angels (Profile)
Level: Triple-A   Age: 28   Org Rank: NR  FV: 35
Line: 3-for-3, 3 HR, BB

Notes
Blash is no longer rookie-eligible, so while he’s a fun player to watch hit bombs and had a hell of a game last night, he’s on here today as a conduit to discuss what’s going on with some of the Angels hitters in the lowest levels of the minors. This is Trent Deveaux last fall, when he first arrived in the states. His swing was largely the same early this spring, albeit with a stronger, more involved top hand, which helped him drive the ball with more authority. This is what he looks like right now, which bears quite a bit of resemblance to Blash. No offense to Blash, who has had a long pro career and will probably play for another half-decade or so, but I’m not sure I’d proactively alter an ultra-talented 18-year-old’s swing to mimic that of a notoriously frustrating replacement-level player. Deveaux isn’t the only low-level Angels hitting prospect whose swing now looks like this.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 6/26

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Taylor Hearn, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Profile)
Level: Double-A   Age: 23   Org Rank:FV: 45
Line: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 R

Notes
Hearn’s peripherals (27.5% K, 9.3% BB) are exactly the same as they were last year when he was in High-A. He’s a little old for Double-A, but that matters less for pitchers and Hearn’s early-career injuries set back his development pretty significantly. He’ll flash a 55 slider and average changeup, and he throws enough strikes to start, though he’s not overly efficient. He was up to 97 last night and projects as a fourth starter or late-inning reliever. Here are his swinging strikes from yesterday…

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Daily Prospect Notes: 6/24 and 6/25

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Joe Palumbo, LHP, Texas Rangers (Profile)
Level: Rehabbing   Age: 23   Org Rank: 18  FV: 40
Line: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 3 K, 0 R

Notes
Sunday was Palumbo’s first start back from Tommy John surgery. He was into the mid-90s with a plus curveball before the injury, which caused him to miss all of 2017. Yerry Rodriguez (more detail here) had a second strong outing in relief of Palumbo, striking out seven in six innings of four-hit, one-run ball. Video of Rodriguez appears below.

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Scouting the Royals Return for Kelvin Herrera

On Monday, Washington sent a three-player package of middling talents back to Kansas City in exchange for reliever Kelvin Herrera. Those prospects are 3B Kelvin Gutierrez, CF Blake Perkins and RHP Yohanse Morel.

Perkins and Gutierrez were each on our Nationals team write-up as 40 FVs. Gutierrez has a strong contact/defense profile. (He was bad at third base in my extended look at him last Fall and received some playing time at first in anticipation of Ryan Zimmerman’s continued health problems.) He lacks corner-worthy power, however. Perkins is a glove-first center-field prospect with premium strike-zone awareness (he has a 12% career walk rate) and very little power.

We have each of them evaluated as big-league role players. Gutierrez is probably a low-end regular or bench/platoon option at third base and, down the line, a couple other positions. If he alters his approach in a way that coaxes out more of his average raw power in games, he could be more than that. Perkins has a bit more variability because he hasn’t been switch-hitting for very long (he only started in 2016) and might yet grow into some competency as a left-handed hitter, but his lack of in-game power might also undercut his walk rate at upper levels of the minors — and in the big leagues, too — because pitchers are going to attack him without fear that he’ll do any real damage on his own. He also might become such a great defensive center fielder that he plays every day despite providing little offensive value.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 6/19

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros (Profile)
Level: Double-A   Age: 20   Org Rank:FV: 60
Line: 4 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 R

Notes
This is the best pitching prospect in baseball, wielding ungodly stuff that spiked when he dropped about 60 pounds throughout his senior year of high school. He’s also on Driveline’s weighted-ball program. He’ll show your four plus or better pitches over the course of an outing. Whitley has yet to allow a run since returning from suspension. The suspension might be a blessing in disguise for Houston, who could now conceivably weave him into their playoff plans without fear of overworking Whitley’s innings count.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced a few years ago by the present author, wherein that same author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own fallible intuition to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Josh James, RHP, Houston (Profile)
Every time James produces a strong start — an event that has occurred with considerable frequency this season — FanGraphs contributor and traveler within the world of ideas Travis Sawchik sends a note to the present author that reads, “His name is JOSH JAMES.” While I can’t argue with the literal sense of Sawchik’s message — namely, that this right-hander’s given name literally is Josh James — I suspect that my colleague is attempting to communicate something more profound than a single datum from James’s biography. Have I pursued the topic? No. Not because I’m afraid to, either — but rather because I am infested by indifference.

James made one start this week, recording an 11:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 23 batters while facing Houston’s affiliate in Fresno (box).

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Eric Longenhagen Prospects Chat: 6/14

2:02
Eric A Longenhagen: Hey, everyone. Good morning from Tempe.

2:02
Eric A Longenhagen: Here’s our recently updated top overall prospects list: https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-updated-top-131-prospect-rankings/

2:03
Eric A Longenhagen: Not much else to link to as everything had been building up to the draft and that update, so now we have more irons in the fire than we do stuff to plug.

2:04
Eric A Longenhagen: I’m gonna chat longer than usual this week because I bailed on last week’s chat, so without further adieu..

2:04
Joe: Thoughts on the Brewers draft haul?

2:07
Eric A Longenhagen: I liked it. I’m not the biggest Joe Gray fan because I saw him swing and miss against good pitching a lot throughout his amateur career, but he’s been a known guy for a long time and you could argue we nitpitcked him to death. At worst he has a traditional power/projection right field profile, which is a fine thing to draft in the second round, and Gray has a better chance to stay in CF than most prospects like that because his feel out there is good and might enable him to stay there even if he slows down.

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Post-Draft Odds and Ends

Since it’s always draft-evaluation season, I thought it might make sense to start this post-draft notes column with some names for future draft classes. It’s too early to really rank these guys with any depth since we (and scouts) will be seeing all these players over the next couple months, so they will shuffle themselves a good bit this summer, but we definitely have a sense of who the top tier of talent is in the amateur ranks. These names are all in order of preference within the group in which they are identified.

2019 MLB Draft

For the 2019 class, there is a top tier of five prep standouts, while the college side is very deep in hitters. College pitching is very shallow at this early juncture, however. On the prep side, we have SS C.J. Abrams (Georgia), SS Bobby Witt, Jr. (Texas), LHP Hunter Barco (Florida), 3B Rece Hinds (Florida), and RHP Brennan Malone (North Carolina).

Atop the very deep college hitter class, we have SS Bryson Stott (UNLV), C Adley Rutschman (Oregon State), SS Logan Davidson (Clemson), C Shea Langliers (Baylor), SS Greg Jones (UNC Wilmington), RF Michael Toglia (UCLA), 3B Josh Jung (Texas Tech), RF Michael Busch (North Carolina), RF Matt Wallner (Southern Miss), and SS Braden Shewmake (Texas A&M).

As for that second tier of college bats, we have 3B Drew Mendoza (Florida State), 1B Andrew Vaughn (Cal), SS Will Holland (Auburn), CF Kam Misner (Missouri), 2B Chase Strumpf (UCLA), CF Wil Dalton (Florida), SS Will Wilson (North Carolina State), 1B Spencer Brickhouse (East Carolina), and 2B Nick Quintana (Arizona). All of those college hitters have top-two-round type profiles and the depth of the class means Team USA and the Cape will be deep with bats to watch this summer. There isn’t a clear top college pitcher, and none project for the top 15 picks at this point.

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