Archive for Royals

FanGraphs Audio Presents: The Untitled McDongenhagen Project, Ep. 5

UMP: The Untitled McDongenhagen Project, Episode 5
This is the fifth episode of a weekly program co-hosted by Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel about player evaluation in all its forms. The show, which is available through the normal FanGraphs Audio feed, has a working name but barely. The show is not all prospect stuff, but there is plenty of that, as the hosts are Prospect Men. Below are some timestamps to make listening and navigation easier.

0:23 – What games Eric and Kiley have seen lately: Arizona Fall League and the Diamond Club showcase for Florida high school prospects, featuring a Tyler Callihan update.

2:19 – TOPIC ONE: Yahoo’s Jeff Passan joins us to talk about the Astros cheating scandal and its many facets.

7:15 – Eric reviews the Chinese phone the Astros were using, which should be called the fruit calorie counting machine.

14:50 – Jeff inquires about the status of Kiley’s backyard and dog while Eric reveals how revealing he currently is.

23:08 – We lose Jeff due to technology, and he returns via a time jump, feat. flight attendant announcements.

24:30 – Jeff reveals who is more petty than him, but only by a small margin.

25:23 – Jeff’s antisocial plane tips.

26:54 – A mini topic about Manny Machado’s playoff behavior affecting his free agent market.

29:00 – A mini topic about the Luke Heimlich/Dayton Moore connection living on.

32:48 – TOPIC TWO: How we would put together a scouting department in today’s baseball.

33:56 – Options for structuring the pro scouting department.

34:50 – The biggest factor we don’t have access to: minor league TrackMan.

36:25 – Pros and cons of the different pro scouting department structures.

38:12 – How Eric would structure his pro department.

38:58 – Something to keep in mind in terms of allocating scout days on the amateur side.

40:15 – Kiley jumps in to ask about DSL coverage.

41:39 – Introducing the concept of dynamic pro coverage.

44:00 – Kiley jumps in again to clarify the pyramid of scout experience/assignments.

46:05 – What sorts of scouts can beat the TrackMan data at projecting prospects in the upper levels?

49:10 – When are the robots coming for us?

52:20 – The structural question the guys aren’t sure about

55:46 – TOPIC THREE: The saga of Barbecue Yee with Jake Mintz of Cespedes Family BBQ

56:16 – Jake makes the worst pun in the history of the podcast.

1:00:53 – Jake and Kiley laugh uncontrollably for the first time.

1:03:40 – Is varsity baseball a constitutionally protected right? You heard me right.

1:07:50 – Jake’s first great free idea for the Yee family.

1:16:26 – Jake’s second great free idea for the Yee family.

1:20:09 – The best outtakes portion we’ve ever had.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @kileymcd or @longenhagen on Twitter or at

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 1 hr 22 min play time.)

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The Greatest Hope in Kansas City

Between 2016 and 2017, the worst hitter in the major leagues was Adalberto Mondesi. Yes, Mondesi was young. Yes, this requires you set a plate-appearance minimum of 200. Yes, it’s tight, and within a certain margin of error. But over the two years, Mondesi posted a big-league wRC+ of 29. Luke Maile wound up at 30. Adam Engel wound up at 38. Whenever you examine the extremes of any leaderboard, it’s important to understand that luck almost always plays some kind of role, but Mondesi was responsible for the very worst results. He didn’t make it any easier for the team to move on from Alcides Escobar.

Now, chances are, for many of you, you haven’t paid attention to the Royals for a while. By and large, they’ve been a terrible baseball team in a terrible baseball division. And easily the weirdest thing happening right now for the Royals is Ryan O’Hearn, who’s sitting on a 167 wRC+ after having slugged just .391 in Triple-A. O’Hearn is deserving of his own examination, but as the Royals have drifted ever further from any relevance, Adalberto Mondesi has stepped it up. Used to be, he was a good prospect with bad results. These days, he’s putting it together, with a power and speed package the Royals hope to build around when they’re once again ready to compete.

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Sunday Notes: Bobby Wilson is a Soldier Who Has Seen Pitching Evolve

Bobby Wilson has caught for 16 seasons — nine of them at the big league level — so he knows pitching like the back of his hand. Particularly on the defensive side of the ball. With a .577 OPS in exactly 1,000 MLB plate appearances, the 35-year-old hasn’t exactly been an offensive juggernaut. But his stick isn’t why the Chicago Cubs acquired him from the Minnesota Twins this past Thursday. They picked him up for his receiving skills and his ability to work with a staff.

The quality and style of pitching he’s seeing today aren’t the same as what they were when he inked his first professional contract in 2002.

“The game is ever evolving, ever changing,” Wilson told me a few weeks ago. “I’ve seen it go from more sinker-slider to elevated fastballs with a curveball off of that. But what really stands out is the spike in velocity. There’s almost no one in this league right now who is a comfortable at bat.”

In his opinion, increased octane has made a marked impact on how hitters are being attacked.

“If you have velocity, you can miss spots a little more frequently, whereas before you had to pitch,” opined Wilson. “You can’t miss spots throwing 88-90. If you’re 95-100 , you can miss your location and still have a chance of missing a barrel. Even without a lot of movement. Because of that, a lot of guys are going to four-seam, straight fastballs that are elevated, instead of a ball that’s sinking.”

But as the veteran catcher said, the game is ever evolving. He’s now starting to see more high heat in the nether regions of the zone, as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Prospect Notes Finale: Arizona Fall League Roster Edition

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

Note from Eric: Hey you, this is the last one of these for the year, as the minor-league regular season comes to a close. Thanks for reading. I’ll be taking some time off next week, charging the batteries for the offseason duties that lie ahead for Kiley and me.

D.J. Peters, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Level: Double-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 7   FV: 45+
Line: 4-for-7, 2 HR, 2B (double header)

A comparison of DJ Peters’ 2017 season in the Cal League and his 2018 season at Double-A gives us a good idea of what happens to on-paper production when a hitter is facing better pitching and defenses in a more stable offensive environment.

D.J. Peters’ Production
2017 .276 .372 .514 32.2% 10.9% .385 137
2018 .228 .314 .451 34.0% 8.1% .305 107

Reports of Peters’ physical abilities haven’t changed, nor is his batted-ball profile different in such a way that one would expect a downtick in production. The 2018 line is, I think, a more accurate distillation of Peters’ abilities. He belongs in a talent bucket with swing-and-miss outfielders like Franchy Cordero, Randal Grichuk, Michael A. Taylor, Bradley Zimmer, etc. These are slugging center fielders whose contact skills aren’t particularly great. Players like this are historically volatile from one season to the next but dominant if/when things click. They’re often ~1.5 WAR players who have some years in the three-win range. Sometimes they also turn into George Springer.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 8/29/2018

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

Cal Stevenson, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Level: Advanced Rookie   Age: 21   Org Rank: NR   FV: 35
Line: 3-for-4, 2B, 4 SB

College seniors are expected to dominate short-season leagues after signing but what Cal Stevenson has done merits some discussion, in part because he played through a hand injury this spring that may have clouded his actual skill. Stevenson has a .513 OBP at Bluefield because he has walked nearly three times more often than he’s struck out. He’s also stolen 21 bags in 22 attempts since signing. These numbers corroborate scouting reports which compliment Stevenson’s plus speed and bat-to-ball skills before noting his likely corner-outfield defensive projection and lack of characteristic power for the position. But let’s keep an eye on this guy because Toronto has a track record of making swing adjustments to bat-first college players that have helped those players become more viable prospects.

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Elegy for ’18 – Kansas City Royals

The return of Alcides Escobar to the roster didn’t bode well for the Royals’ postseason chances.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

The Baltimore Orioles now have some friends on the other side: the Kansas City Royals recently shuffled off the mortal coil of contention and have now joined the Orioles among those clubs mathematically eliminated from the postseason. While the competition for the No. 1 pick rolls on, Kansas City’s season is otherwise dead. Today, they’re the topic in our series of post-mortems on 2018 clubs.

The Setup

The 2018 season was always going to be a dreadful one for the Kansas City Royals, no matter the objections lodged by the franchise to the contrary. The 2017 campaign was the final one before free agency for most of Kansas City’s core contributors, with Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Minor, Mike Moustakas, and Jason Vargas all departing — a group, incidentally, that combined for 14.2 WAR in their final season together. That’s not to say the Royals should have attempted to retain most of those players — after pitching like Greg “Mad Dog” Maddux in the first half, for example, Jason Vargas more resembled Chris “Mad Dog” Russo” in the second — but the departure of 14 wins was a real loss for a team that only won 80 total (72 in terms of Pythagoras).

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Daily Prospect Notes: 8/16/2018

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

Bryse Wilson, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Level: Triple-A   Age: 20   Org Rank: 12   FV: 45+
Line: 8 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 13 K

Bryse Wilson touched 97 several times last night and sat 93-95 late in the outing. He pounded the zone with his fastball (72 of 98 pitches were for strikes) and blew it past several hitters up above the strike zone. His slider (mostly 83-85, though he lollipops some slower ones into the zone for first-pitch strikes) flashes plus but is mostly average and is only capable of missing bats when it’s out of the zone. Wilson’s changeup is fringey and firm, without much bat-missing movement, but the velocity separation off of the fastball is enough to keep hitters from squaring it up, and it’s going to be an effective pitch. The entire package (Wilson’s physicality and stuff) looks very similar to Michael Fulmer and Wilson’s delivery is much more graceful and fluid than it was when he was in high school, when scouts thought it would impact his ability to command the fastball and possibly move him to the bullpen.

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Mike Moustakas, Travis Shaw, and the Brewers’ Second-Base Experiment

Last year, the Brewers resurfaced after a rebuilding period that saw them purge basically all the top players from their last good season. With a strong pitching staff and a maturing crop of prospects, Milwaukee surged, presenting a threat to Chicago’s North Side club for the division crown. On this day a year ago, the Brewers were a half-game back of the Cubs. While they inevitably came up short, the Brewers started to see returns from a top-10 farm system they had spent years assembling.

During the offseason, they sought to address their weaknesses in the outfield, consolidating prospect gains for the inimitable Christian Yelich. They also signed Lorenzo Cain to an affordable long-term contract, providing them with greater protection from variance and much improved production. While those two acquisitions haven’t been the only factors to have propelled the Brew Crew to contention, such additions have led the organization to find themselves 1.5 games back of the Cubs for the division this season, holding the first Wild Card spot. FanGraphs’ own playoff odds give them (read: Milwaukee) a 60.2% chance to make the playoffs. Last night, David Stearns inched that figure a bit higher.

Late Friday evening, the Milwaukee Brewers moved to augment their roster for a postseason push, acquiring Mike Moustakas from the Kansas City Royals.

As reported first by a self-described Wisconsin sports fan, here’s the trade in its entirety:

Brewers get:

Royals get:

For the Royals, it’s a pretty bittersweet move featuring one of their longest-tenured players. Kansas City drafted Moustakas with the second overall pick all the way back in 2007. He’s spent his entire adult life with the organization, ascending the minor-league ladder, enduring growing pains, making a World Series, and then winning a World Series. Or, as Royals manager Ned Yost puts it:

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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,, 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 within Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update — and the updates published by Jeffrey Paternostro of Baseball Prospectus and John Sickels at Minor League Ball — 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.


Tony Gonsolin, RHP, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
This represents Gonsolin’s third consecutive appearance in this weekly exercise, and it’s possibly his most deserving. Since last Friday’s edition of the Five, the right-hander has made two starts. In 13.0 innings between them, Gonsolin recorded a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 18:3 against 50 batters.

Gonsolin’s profile isn’t the most common sort for a future major-league starter. He was a two-way player in college, not drafted till the ninth round, and features some traits on the mound (pronounced over-the-top delivery, effort) that are atypical for starters. He’s made it work thus far, however. He’s also continued to exhibit a strategies for contending with left-handed hitters, six of whom he faced in his second-to-last start (box).

Here’s a 92 mph slider to a lefty from that game for a called third strike:

And a curveball at the back foot for a swinging strike:

And a change with splitter-type action, also for a swinging strike:

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Sunday Notes: Ross Stripling is a Nerd and Jesse Chavez Couldn’t Get High in LA

When I approached Ross Stripling at the All-Star Game media session, I knew that he was in the midst of a breakthrough season. The 28-year-old Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander went into the midsummer classic with a record of 8-2, a 2.08 ERA, and a 10.2 K-rate in 95-and-a-third innings.

I didn’t know that he was a nerd.

“Are you taking about things like spin rate and spin efficiency? I’m a believer in that for sure,” was Stripling’s response when I asked if he ever talks pitching analytics with anyone in the organization. “When I got called up in 2016, I thought that what made me good was my high arm angle leading to good downward angle on my fastball, so I should pitch down in the zone. But I tried that, and I was getting walloped.”

Then came a conversation that jumpstarted his career. Optioned to the minors in midseason to help limit his workload — “I was basically down there sitting on innings” — Stripling picked up a ringing cell phone and was soon standing at rapt attention. The voice on the other end belonged to Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. Read the rest of this entry »

Five Players Who Ought to Be Traded (But Probably Won’t Be)

A Michael Fulmer deal could help the Tigers rebuild their system.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

While the result isn’t always a poor one, the decision to wait for an exact perfect trade is a dangerous game for a rebuilding/retooling team. Greed can sometimes be good, yes, but a player’s trade value can also dissipate with a simple twinge in the forearm.

For every Rich Hill who lands at a new home in exchange for an impressive haul, there’s a Zach Britton or Zack Cozart or Todd Frazier or Tyson Ross whose value declines dramatically — sometimes so dramatically that they become effectively untradable. Even when waiting doesn’t lead to disaster, such as with Sonny Gray and Jose Quintana, teams frequently don’t do that much better by waiting for the most beautiful opportunity for baseball-related extortion. Regression to the mean is real. For a player at the top of his game, there’s a lot more room for bad news than good; chaos may be a ladder, but it’s not a bell curve.

With that in mind, I’ve identified five players who might be most valuable to their clubs right now as a trade piece. None of them are likely to be dealt before the deadline. Nevertheless, their respective clubs might also never have a better opportunity to secure a return on these particular assets.

Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (Profile)

There seems to be a sense almost that, if the Orioles are able to trade Manny Machado for a great package, get an interesting deal for Zach Britton, and procure some token return for Adam Jones, then it’ll be time to fly the ol’ Mission Accomplished banner. In reality, though, that would simply mark the beginning of the Orioles’ chance to build a consistent winner. After D-Day, the allies didn’t call it wrap, shake some hands, and head home to work on the hot rod. (Confession: I don’t actually know what 18-year-olds did for fun in 1944.)

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Getting the Orioles and Royals to 120 Losses

Great teams may dream of winning 116 games in a season, but for losers, whether of the lovable or non-lovable stripe, 120 is the number at which they gaze, gimlet-eyed. The 1962 Mets, with their inaugural band of cast-offs, left behind a legacy of being great at being not-so-great, losing 120 games and planting their flag in the Mt. Everest of Terrible.

Yes, 120 losses isn’t actually the MLB record, that feat being accomplished by the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who lost 134 of their 154 depressing games. But it took a bit of chicanery to reach that sum. Frank and Stanley Robison owned both the Cleveland Spiders and St. Louis Perfectos and transferred most of the good 1898 Spiders over to St. Louis in an attempt to build one superteam and one comedy legend. Cleveland was doomed by design, though the Perfectos failed to be a superteam.

Incidentally, the Brooklyn Superbas pulled this off more successfully, looting the Baltimore Orioles to put together a 101-win roster (though I’d have penalized them a few wins for the confusing team name, which was swiped from an acrobatic act of the time and awkwardly made into a plural noun).

The 1962 Mets earned their infamy on the square and now serve as the gold standard for seasonal ineptitude. But as we head towards the trade deadline, we have two teams trying to make it interesting, the 25-66 Baltimore Orioles and the 25-65 Kansas City Royals.

Both teams stand slightly behind the Mets’ fierce pace, with winning percentages that round to 45-117, tantalizingly close to bleak greatness, but not quite there. Like when a batter tries to hit .400 over the course of the season, you want to have a cushion over the mark, since the natural course of regression will stamp down on the extremes.

But there’s at least a chance, which is really all that matters. What fun is a record if it’s likely to be surmounted? And it gives an additional layer of excitement to losing seasons when you need a break from wondering in what wacky way the Baltimore Orioles will mess up a Manny Machado trade or being astounded that the Royals actually advertise that it took them years to spare the roster from even a single game of Alcides Escobar’s services.

Powering up the ZiPS SuperComputer (it’s really just a regular computer), I cranked up the old simulations to get the latest probabilities that either the Royals or Orioles pull off the 120-loss feat.

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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

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

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

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

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.

The Royals Should Trade Whit Merrifield

What does Whit Merrifield see in the gauzy mists of his future?
(Photo: Minda Haas Kuhlmann)

Whit Merrifield is a pretty good baseball player. Despite not debuting in the majors until his age-27 campaign and recording 1,700 roughly average plate appearances in Double-A and Triple-A before that, Merrifield has now produced two seasons’ worth of above-average offense at the major-league level. His 5.3 WAR ranks seventh among all second baseman since the start of last season. The 120 wRC+ he’s recorded this year is surpassed only by the marks produced by Jose Altuve and Jed Lowrie among AL second baseman. And while that’s his primary position, he has also played first base, center field, and right field this year and does have some experience at third base and left field, as well.

That combination of offensive skill and defensive flexibility makes Merrifield the sort of player who can fit on a number of clubs. It’s also what makes him appealing as a possible trade-deadline target for contenders. The Royals have a piece from which other clubs should benefit. They should make every effort to find a deal that makes sense.

Merrifield’s appeal isn’t limited to his performance. Because of his late start as a major leaguer, he won’t even be eligible for arbitration until 2020 and won’t be a free agent until after the 2022 season. Those extra years typically add considerable weight to trade value, allowing clubs to avoid wading out into the expensive free-agent waters.

Also due to Merrifield’s late start, however, the prospect of his cost-controlled years is a bit different than for other, similarly experienced (or inexperienced) players. While his league-minimum salaries for this year and next are appealing, Merrifield is likely to have entered his decline phase for the last three of his cost-controlled seasons. Cost-controlled seasons can be a great benefit to a team, but most of that theoretical benefit is based on a player still in his prime and potentially even improving. Players can get better in their early 30s — Jeff Kent and Daniel Murphy come to mind as prominent examples of second basemen alone — but age-related decline is the rule not the exception.

To get a sense of how Merrifield might age, I looked for second baseman since 1995 at 28 and 29 years old with a WAR between 5.0 and 8.0 and age-29 WAR between 2.5 and 5.0. Note that this analysis doesn’t account for the fact that Merrifield was a mostly mediocre minor leaguer, but instead focuses on his good run over the last two years.

At age 30, the 12 players who fit the above criteria averaged a solid 107 wRC+ and 2.8 WAR. At age 31, they experienced a typical move downward, to a 103 wRC+ and 2.2 WAR. By age 32, only half the players recorded more than 2.0 WAR and, at age 33, the only players to surpassed the 1.5 WAR threshold were Kent, Ray Durham, and Eric Young.

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Daily Prospect Notes: 7/5

Monday through Wednesday notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.


Brewer Hicklen, OF, Kansas City Royals (Profile)
Level: Low-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: HM   FV: 35+
Line: 4-for-6, 2B, HR

Hicklen has some statistical red flags if you’re unaware of the context with which you should be viewing his performance. He’s a 22-year-old college hitter with a 30% strikeout rate at Low-A. But Hicklen hasn’t been committed to playing baseball for very long, as he sought, late in high school and throughout college, to have a football career. He went to UAB as a baseball walk-on and eventually earned a football scholarship as the school’s defunct program was to be reborn. But Hicklen’s physical tools stood out as he continued to play baseball (plus speed and raw power), so he was drafted and compelled to sign. He hasn’t been focusing on baseball, alone, for very long and has a .300/.350/.525 line in his first full pro season. He’s a toolsy long shot, but so far so good.

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We Can’t Not Talk About the Royals

The Royals lost on Monday, 9-3. No big deal — the Royals lose a lot, plus, the opposing starter was Corey Kluber. You’re going to lose most of the time to Corey Kluber. Earlier, the Royals lost on Sunday, 1-0. Also no big deal — they’re still the Royals, plus, the opposing starter was James Paxton. You’re going to lose most of the time to James Paxton. As the calendar has flipped from June to July, the Royals have been given an impossible task, and there’s little shame in defeat. You could forgive the Royals for what they’ve most recently done.

But there’s recent-recent, and then there’s just regular-recent. “Recent” is a subjective word, absent any cutoff. As far as early July is concerned, with the Royals, there’s nothing to talk about. It’s when you fold in June that the situation starts to look embarrassing. Over the past several weeks, at the plate in particular, the Royals have been historically bad. I’m not using “historically” to get your attention. I’m using it because the Royals’ struggles have been historic.

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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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Royals Hastily Trade Kelvin Herrera to Nationals

For the past week or so, I’ve been kicking around the idea of writing about Justin Miller. Miller is a 31-year-old reliever, and, by the way, he’s pitching for the Nationals. Though he’s allowed runs in each of his last two appearances, he’s faced 43 batters so far, and he’s struck out 22 of them, without one single walk. Miller, last year, was bad in Triple-A for the Angels. Now he looks like he could be one of the more dominant relievers around. It’s too early to go quite that far, but, well, you know how relievers are. They can emerge or decline in the blink of an eye.

It’s possible that, in Miller, the Nationals have found something. He might turn out to be one of the keys to their season. But Mike Rizzo is also no stranger to making midseason bullpen upgrades, and you don’t want to end up counting on Miller to keep up the miracle. And so, Monday, Rizzo has moved to beef up the depth in front of Sean Doolittle. In the current era of baseball, it’s almost impossible to have too many good relievers. The Nationals got a new one from the Royals.

Nationals get:

Royals get:

I’m not sure there’s anything stunning here. Herrera was very obviously going to be available, as a contract-year closer on a terrible team. The Nationals are in the hunt, and the bullpen in front of Doolittle has sometimes been shaky. The prospect package seems to be light, but rentals generally don’t fetch a blockbuster. Herrera’s strikeout rate is only 23%. What surprises me more than anything is that this happened on June 18. It doesn’t surprise me that the Nationals would want Herrera for five or six extra weeks. It surprises me that, on so early a date, the Royals would settle.

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Sunday Notes: Jeimer Candelario is Palm Up, Gap-to-Gap, a Talented Tiger

Jeimer Candelario is establishing himself as one of the best young players on a young Detroit Tigers team. Playing in his first full big-league season, the 24-year-old third baseman is slashing a solid .251/.346/.476 with 10 home runs. His 2.0 WAR leads all Tigers.

Acquired along with Isaac Paredes in the deal that sent Alex Avila and Justin Wilson to the Cubs at last summer’s trade deadline, “Candy” is a switch-hitter with pop. His M.O. is gap-to-gap, and the orientation of his top hand is a focal point of his swing.

“I want to hit the ball with palm up,” explained Candelario. “If you’re palm up and you hit the ball, you finish up. I try to be connected. My back side, my hands, my hips, and my legs come in the same moment. That way, when I hit the ball I hit the ball with power, with palm up.”

Candelario credits Cubs assistant hitting coach Andy Haines — at the time the club’s hitting coordinator — for helping him develop his stroke. Now that he’s in Motown, he’s heeding the advice of Lloyd McClendon, who is emphasizing “How to load and then follow through, which helps me have some doubles and homers. If I just concentrate on hitting line drives, the ball will carry.”

McClendon is bullish on the young infielder’s future. Ditto his here and now. Read the rest of this entry »