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Los Angeles Dodgers Top 10 Prospects Updated

The Dodgers are said to be big players for Baltimore’s Manny Machado but this system isn’t as deep as it used to be due to promotions, trades, etc. A couple of so-so drafts in a row have not helped, either.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. Alex Verdugo | OF | AAA —> With most organizations, Verdugo would be a starting outfielder — and would have been since the beginning of the year. With the Dodgers, though, he’s a handy player to have at triple-A to fill in for injuries. He’s an extremely advanced hitter for his age, as witnessed by his .352 average, and he rarely gives away an at-bat. The biggest knock on him is the modest power output (which is more a result of his all-fields approach than a lack of strength).

2. Keibert Ruiz | C | AA —> I’ve been leading the bandwagon on Ruiz for a couple of years now but, as he finally starts to get the attention he deserves, he’s having a down year with the bat. Now to be fair, he’s 19 and playing in double-A. Even with being a little overmatched he’s only struck out 20 times in 251 at-bats. Like Verdugo above, this switch-hitter has an uncanny knack for making contact, which can sometimes work against him if he doesn’t wait for a good pitch to hit (as he’s learning right now). Defensively, he needs some polish but should be able to stick behind the plate.

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Houston Astros Top 10 Prospects Updated

When I wrote the system up in the winter, it felt like it was starting to thin out after last year’s trades and recent MLB promotions. That’s not the case, though. The Astros have some of the best pitching depth in baseball, with a few potential everyday hitters sprinkled in.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. Kyle Tucker | RF | AAA —> The Astros have recently promoted this 21-year-old outfielder after he produced excellent triple-A numbers. With Marwin Gonzalez under-producing in his walk year, this move will give the Astros a spark while also auditioning Tucker for a full-time gig in 2019. There will be some growing pains in ’18 if he sticks around but he has 20-20 (HR-SB) upside.

2. Forrest Whitley | RHP | AA —> Between a suspension and injuries, 2018 has mostly been a lost year for the Astros’ top pitching prospect. When he’s pitched, though, he’s continued to look like a potential top-of-the-rotation arm.

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Seattle Mariners Top 10 Prospects Updated

The Mariners system is pretty thin on potential impact players but, nonetheless, have some interesting names littered throughout the system. I’m a big fan of the team’s 2018 first round pick.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. Evan White | 1B | A+ —> White entered pro ball — after being selected in the first round of the 2017 draft — with the reputation for being a good hitter with a modest power output for a first baseman. That continues to be the case for the young hitter, even while spending most of the year in the California League, which tends to boost offensive numbers. He has the athleticism to play the outfield but the Mariners have kept him firmly entrenched at first base; White hasn’t played even one inning at another position in pro ball. Right now, he looks like a future average big league hitter with above-average defence.

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Texas Rangers Top 10 Prospects Updated

Amateur player identification and development has long been a strength of the Rangers organization but trades and promotions have thinned out the system badly. And an inexplicable onslaught of injuries has made matters much worse.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. Willie Calhoun | DH/LF | AAA —> The book on Calhoun remains the same: He could be an everyday hitter in the big leagues right now but he can’t play defence. He should be up this summer if Texas can find a place to play him — perhaps after the trade deadline.

2. Leody Taveras | CF | A+ —> Just 19, Taveras is already in high-A ball, although I’m not really a fan of how quickly the Rangers have been moving him. He has yet to dominate at any minor league level. The raw tools are there, though, and he should be a plus center-fielder with above-average speed and at least line-drive pop. He could grow into 15-20 homer pop.

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Oakland Athletics Top 10 Prospects Updated

Oakland’s minor league system is pretty thin in terms of potential impact players but there are some interesting names nonetheless.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. A.J. Puk | SP | INJ —> It looked like 2018 was going to be Puk’s coming out party at the big league level but, instead, he’s rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

2. Franklin Barreto | SS | MLB —> Barreto has struggled with the bat this year but he has a good opportunity to solidify a big league job if he stops trying to hit a home run in each at-bat. If he gets back to using the whole field, he can be an impact hitter with the ability to hit for a solid average, get on base and generate extra-base pop.

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Los Angeles Angels Top 10 Prospects Updated

The system has much improved depth and the club added a couple of very exciting athletes with the first two selections in the 2018 draft in Jordyn Adams and Jeremiah Jackson.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. Jo Adell | CF | A+ —> He’s tapped into his raw power a little quicker than expected but his BB-K rate of 17-60 shows a need for improvement. Still, there is a multi-tooled star in the making here.

2. Jahmai Jones | 2B | A+ —> A position switch from the outfield to second base may have caused his offensive to sputter (hopefully temporarily). I still think he has the ability to be a better-than-average hitter in the Majors and the ability to play both the infield and the outfield only increases his value.

3. Brandon Marsh | CF | A+ —> Marsh continues to struggle to hit for power and has just six extra base hits in 30 games since moving up to high-A ball. He can hit the ball hard so it’s just a matter of giving the young, raw athlete a chance to gain experience, improve his approach and find consistency/comfort with his swing.

4. Griffin Canning | RHP | AAA —> One of the biggest surprises so far in 2018, Canning has overcome injury concerns from his college days to zoom through the minors and reach AAA in his first pro season. He’s not the biggest guy and the stuff is more solid than electric so his ceiling falls more into the mid-rotation-starter category.

5. Kevin Maitan | SS | R —> Considered the top hitter in the 2016 international free agent market, Maitan struggled as a 17 year old when he was rushed to advanced rookie ball by Atlanta. The Angels wisely slammed on the breaks and returned him to the same level in ’18 and Maitan is looking like the promising prospect of old. He’s likely a longer-term project.

6. Jordyn Adams | OF | R —> Adams reminds me a bit of Jo Adell, so it’s clear why the Angels pounced on him. With that said, he’s a little more raw and the organization will need to be patient with him. He has exciting speed, with plays well on both the base paths and in the field.

7. Jesus Castillo | RHP | AA —> Castillo has the potential to be a solid back-of-the-rotation starter who should be able to provide lots of innings. His success will hinge on his ability to miss barrels and consistently generate ground-ball outs.

8. Taylor Ward | 3B | AAA —> A move out from behind the plate has kickstarted Ward’s bat. The trade-off, though, is a loss in defensive value, although it’s possible that the young hitter could still serve as a third-strong catcher in The Show.

9. Michael Hermosillo | OF | MLB —> Hermosillo doesn’t have a huge ceiling but fourth outfielders that provide solid defence and aren’t hopeless at the plate have value.

10. Jose Soriano | RHP | R —> Soriano has a promising fastball-curveball combination and projects to add additional velo as he matures (He currently works mostly in the low-90s). He’s another project for the system to develop.

Just Missed:

Matt Thaiss | 1B | AAA —> Thaiss could be higher because he’s had success at the triple-A level but the lack of proven power and limited defensive value (as well as athleticism) hurt his overall value.

Leonardo Rivas | IF | A —> Well all is said and done, Rivas is probably a utility player at the MLB level but he just might carve out a career as an everyday middle infielder. He reminds me of Cesar Izturis.

Jeremiah Jackson | SS | R —> One of my favorite athletes in the 2018 draft, Jackson should move quicker than the Angels’ first pick, Jordyn Adams, as the former is a more natural hitter.


Prospect Stock Watch: Solak, Duran, Romero

Today at the Prospect Stock Watch, we take a look at a hitter from the Rays’ system, and pitchers from both the Diamondbacks’ and the Phillies’ systems.

Nick Solak, 2B/LF, Rays: Tampa Bay is starting to build up some impressive middle infield depth. Joey Wendle has been a decent stopgap at second base but he’s not really an everyday guy and is better suited to being a back-up on a playoff calibre team (which the Rays are not). Solak, who has spent parts of the last two seasons in double-A, is probably ready for the test of triple-A and should be considered the Rays’ second baseman of the future — unless he’s their left-fielder-of-the-future. The former Yankees’ prospect has shown the ability to get on base at an excellent rate (He currently has a .402 on-base average), he can hit for average and he’s showing increased pop. He currently has 10 home runs through 64 games after going deep just 12 times in 130 contests. Solak’s versatility is even more impressive, although he’s not the most gifted fielder at second base (but he has yet to make an error there this year in 32 appearances). He should be ready for full-time MLB duty in 2019.

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Prospect Stock Watch: Avelino, Hiura, Mitchell, Quantrill

Today at the Prospect Stock Watch, we take a look at some interesting players in both A-ball and double-A for the Yankees, Brewers, Pirates and Padres.

Abiatal Avelino, SS, Yankees: Avelino flew onto prospect watchers’ and hardcore Yankees fans’ radars way back in 2013 when he hit .303 with more walks than hits and 28 steals in 32 attempts as an 18-year-old. His outputs over the next four years were pretty ho-hum, though, but the Yankees continues to move up the ladder and challenge him. He has played parts of the last three years in double-A. The 23-year-old infielder spent some time in triple-A this year and held his own (.714 OPS) but was moved back down due to the organizational depth in the system. The biggest knocks on Avelino are A) His on-base rate is strongly dependent on his ability to hit for average; and B) He doesn’t possess much pop in his swing. However, he makes a lot of contact and doesn’t strike out much. And he also runs well, and smartly so, which leads to a healthy number of steals. In another organization, Avelino would probably receive more opportunity and he’ll be eligible for minor league free agency at the end of the year with age on his side, versatility and some intriguing tools. He’s hitting the ball harder over the last two years so I could see him spending some time as a second baseman in the majors or, at the very least, a decent back-up.

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Selecting the 2018 Draft’s First Round

I actually broke into baseball writing on the internet by focusing on the draft at the now-defunct “The Baseball Analysts” site… with some pretty talented guys that moved on to work for MLB clubs like Sky Andrecheck, Joe Sheehan, Jeremy Greenhouse, and Jeff Albert. The site’s genius/creator, Rich Lederer, led the charge to have Bert Blyleven inducted into the hall of fame, which has a great story it.

But in those early days we focused on previewing, reviewing, scouting, and live coverage of the drafts — which was a lot of fun. I also interviewed impending draft picks like Brett Lawrie, Matt LaPorta, and Phillippe Aumont. I didn’t get paid for any of the work but I got to learn from some really smart baseball minds and it led to my gig at FanGraphs, which began more than 10 years ago. This is a great approach to take for any of you hoping to one day make a little money writing about baseball (my journalism degree also helped) or working in baseball.

I’m not nearly as heavily invested in the draft now — we have some much smarter minds in charge of that on the FanGraphs side — but it’s still a lot of fun to follow.

Here is an exercise that I still do to this day and I thought I’d go on record doing it this year: Suggesting who I’d pick for each team in the first round of the draft. Here is an example of what I did for the 2008 draft. I didn’t do so well in the example provided from ’08 but in other years I’ve heavily advocated for first overall picks like Madison Bumgarner, Carlos Correa, and Kris Bryant.

Here is how I’d play out the 2018 first round if I was the Scouting Director (and/or General Manager) at each slot, based on a healthy mix of video, statistics, and scouting reports.

1. Tigers: Casey Mize, RHP, college
2. Giants: Brady Singer, RHP, college
3. Phillies: Joey Bart, C, college
4. White Sox: Alec Bohm, 3B, college
5. Reds: Carter Stewart, RHP, prep
6. Mets: Jonathan India, 3B, college
7. Padres: Nick Madrigal, 2B, college
8. Braves: Jackson Kowar, RHP, college
9. Athletics: Travis Swaggerty, OF, college
10. Pirates: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, prep
11. Orioles: Mason Denaburg, RHP, prep
12. Blue Jays: Logan Gilbert, RHP, college
13. Marlins: Jordyn Adams, OF, prep
14. Mariners: Jarred Kelenic, OF, prep
15. Rangers: Nolan Gorman, 3B, prep
16. Rays: Shane McClanahan, LHP, college
17. Angels: Noah Naylor, C, prep
18. Royals: Matthew Liberatore, LHP, prep
19. Cardinals: Cole Wilcox, RHP, prep
20. Twins: Steele Walker, OF, college
21. Brewers: Jeremiah Jackson, SS, prep
22. Rockies: Lineras Torres Jr., RHP, prep
23. Yankees: Greyson Jenista, OF, college
24. Cubs: Blaine Knight, RHP, college
25. Diamondbacks: J.T. Ginn, RHP, prep
26. Red Sox: Adam Kloffenstein, RHP, prep
27. Nationals: Alek Thomas, OF, prep
28. Astros: Ryan Rolison, LHP, college
29. Indians: Seth Beer, 1B, college
30. Dodgers: Nander De Sedas, SS, prep

Great Supplemental and Second Round Options: Cole Winn, Ryan Weathers, Trevor Larnach, Triston Casas, Brice Turang, Jeremy Eierman, Connor Scott (pitcher, not outfielder), Griffin Conine, Tyler Frank, Jordan Groshans, Matt Mercer, Anthony Seigler, Ethan Hankins, Gunnar Hoglund, Kumar Rocker, Nico Hoerner

OK, so that was fun. And now you have some names to consider for your dynasty teams and Ottoneu leagues. And you can judge me in about five to six years time.


Prospect Stock Watch: Melendez, Wong, Campusano, Adams

On Friday — in honor of the upcoming amateur draft — I checked in on some of the players selected in the second round of the 2017 draft. Today, I’m going to review some of the catchers selected in the first five rounds of the same draft.

More specifically, let’s look at four of the top hitting catchers so far in 2018 — because we all know how hard it can be to find offence from a backstop. For this exercise, I’m going to omit Arizona’s Dalton Varsho because I recently wrote about him.

M.J. Melendez, C, Royals: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this might be one of the biggest steals of the 2017 draft… and Melendez could be the perfect player to eventually take away the on-field leadership mantle from Salvador Perez. Just 19, this second-year player is showing solid offensive skills in low-A ball despite 44 strikeouts in 34 games (30% K-rate). Melendez hits the ball hard and 22 of his 36 hits have gone for extra bases — including eight homers in a league that doesn’t see a ton of power. His walk rate of 8% is not bad given his age. His caught stealing rate of 26% is respectable but not outstanding. He’s made a whopping eight errors in 22 games behind the plate and is definitely still working on the finer aspects of fielding the position despite his above-average athleticism and canon of an arm. I believe he’ll eventually show enough skill behind the plate to stick there if he keeps hitting like he has recently. Overall, there is work to be done but it’s hard to find a teenaged catching prospect showing this kind of offence in full season ball.

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