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A SBNation Community about Minor League Baseball, Rookies, and Prospects



Updated: 2017-02-19T09:03:02-05:00

 



MLB Draft prospects: Garrett Cave opening eyes with Tampa

2017-02-19T09:03:02-05:00

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Division II baseball goes a bit under the radar, but has produced some nice pitching prospects over the past few seasons. Is Tampa's Garrett Cave the next big one?

Division II has produced some quality draft picks over the past few seasons. Most of them come on the mound.

As I continue my coverage of DII baseball from Opening Day to the championships in Grand Prairie, Texas for NCAA.com, I'll share with Minor League Ball some of the under-the-radar potential draft picks I uncover.

Tampa's Garrett Cave isn't so much under-the-radar anymore. He had a huge summer out in the Cape Cod League. He was both a starter and reliever for Florida International and transferred to Tampa to enter the starting rotation full time.

It has proven to be the right choice early on. The Spartans improved to 6-1 yesterday, with Cave picking up his third win in as many chances. He is now 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA striking out 24 and walking eight over 15 innings. He has gone four, five and six innings in each of his three starts, so he is seemingly now in "game shape".

Cave described his arsenal to me earlier this week:

"I throw a four-seam and two-seam fastball, a curveball, change-up, and a cutter. The pitch I really have all of my confidence and heart in is my fastball. It has been a pitch that has always worked for me, especially since God has blessed me with the ability to throw hard. I have great confidence in my off speed as well but when I know I can put away a batter with a well placed fastball, thats what I love to do. The pitch that I need to keep working on is the cutter only because I started throwing it this summer. It has shown a lot of potential and Im excited to start utilizing it."

You can get the full scoop on Cave and the Tampa Spartans quest for their eighth national championship by reading the full feature at NCAA.com.

DII baseball: Tampa Spartans' experience has them ready for another title run




The Houston Astros Ramon Laureano’s breakout 2016

2017-02-18T09:03:01-05:00

The Houston Astros have a bevy of young and talented outfielders. Is under-the-radar Ramon Laureano the best of the bunch? Ramon Laureano could do no wrong in 2016. Now as a non-roster invite for the Houston Astros, he has a chance to open some eyes at the big league level. Laureano is native of the Dominican Republic, but played his college ball at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. He put himself on the draft board with a big final season in JUCO. Laureano earned All-Region honors behind a .439 batting average with 19 doubles and 13 home runs. He displayed his best asset — his 60-grade speed — by scoring 55 runs and snagging 22 stolen bases. He and his teammate — Jake Jewell, now in the Los Angeles Angels organization — were both drafted in the ensuing 2014 draft. The Astros selected him in the 16th round, signing him to a $25,000 bonus. He’s proving to be quite a bargain. Laureano didn’t light up the stat sheets in his first season-and-a-half. He proved that his speed could play in professional ball. He had eight triples and was 18-for-21 in stolen bases for Quad Cities in his second season. Last year, he took off and hasn’t stopped. His 2016 began in the California League. As one could expect, Laureano tapped into his power at the home run-happy level. He drilled 19 doubles and 10 home runs in 80 games, but that wasn’t even the most impressive part. Laureano showed a newfound plate discipline, a patience that suggests he could succeed at any level. He struck out 86 times, but walked 50, posting a Cal League best .426 on base percentage. It earned him a promotion to Corpus Christi. Once settled in, Laureano kept hitting. And walking. In fact, Laureano topped the minors in on base percentage in 2016, finishing at a .428 mark. His final numbers across two levels were impressive, slashing .319/.428/.528 behind a .955 OPS. He hit 28 doubles, seven triples and 15 home runs while successfully swiping 43 of 57 stolen base attempts. The Astros sent Laureano to the desert and he continued his hot season. He took home the first Arizona Fall League Player of the Week honors going 8-for-14 with two doubles, two triples, scoring eight runs. Laureano seemingly mastered three different levels of ball in 2016, and showed the same improve plate discipline and contact at every one of them. frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WIUxYt-cMQY?ecver=1" height="315" width="560"> (Arizona Fall League action courtesy of FanGraphs. Nice swing!) Laureano isn’t a big guy, standing at just five-foot-eleven and 185 pounds. To expect anymore of a power surge from the righty may be a bit unfair. He was a bit lucky in 2016, with a BABIP over .400 at both levels during the regular season, but his speed also plays to that number as well. There is no denying his 155 wRC+ in the California League and 184 wRC+ in Double-A. Laureano was simply atop his game in 2016. His speed plays well in the outfield. Primarily a centerfielder, Laureano has played all three positions well, which may help fast track him to the bigs. The fact that he seems to use the whole field as a hitter, combined with his patience at the plate, suggests he could be a useful hitter at the next level. MLBFarm.com Laureano spray chart. The Astros have a ton of youth in the outfield with names like Kyle Tucker, Preston Tucker, George Springer, Derek Fisher, Teoscar Hernandez and Daz Cameron on the pipeline and big league level. Still, John Sickels was impressed enough by Laureano’s 2016 breakout, that he ranked him higher than some of the aforementioned names: ASTROS TOP 20 | TOP 200 Laureano has his work cut out for him. He has to prove 2016 was no fluke with a big year in Triple-A come 2017. Should he continue to hit and walk at the same rates he did last season, an early big league arrival isn’t out of the question. [...]



Minor League Ball daily discussion, February 17, 2017

2017-02-17T13:19:17-05:00

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Today’s discussion: closers!

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the Minor League Ball daily discussion for Friday, February 17th. On the agenda for today:

So far I’ve posted National League Western Division and American League Western Division prospect sleepers. NL Central will be next, followed by AL Central, NL East, then AL East. The plan is to have all of these done by the middle of next week. We will still be looking at other sleepers as spring training progresses. Pivoting to MLB draft coverage will happen soon, and we will also be working up Farm System ranking lists.

Here’s a discussion question for today. Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker discussed his search for a closer this spring, discounting the idea of a closer-by-committee while also noting that “the days of Rollie Fingers going three innings and Dave Righetti going 3 13, those days are gone, they’re not conditioned to do that.” Baker wants to name a specific closer for psychological reasons, so that pitchers know ahead of time when they are most likely to be called upon.

Two questions come to mind:

A) Do you agree with Dusty that closer-by-committee doesn’t work as well as having a single closer?

B) If you were Dusty Baker and you had to pull someone out of the minor leagues to be your closer for 2017, who would it be?

Two Caveats:

***it cannot be someone with any experience above Double-A, and
***it cannot be someone who is currently used mainly as a reliever in the minors.

In other words, if you had to take a minor league starting pitcher (Double-A or lower) and use him as your closer, who would it be?




American League Western Division sleepers

2017-02-17T12:19:16-05:00

More sleeper prospects to consider Let’s take a shot at pegging some prospect sleepers ahead of the curve. I’m going to divide this by division, with two sleepers per team, one pitcher and one hitter. None of them have a current grade higher than C+ on our prospect lists entering 2017, but all (in my opinion) have a chance to be very good or even excellent values relative to their current ranking. AMERICAN LEAGUE WESTHouston Astros: Yordan Alvarez, 1B: Age 19, Cuban, signed by Dodgers last summer for $2,000,000 then traded to Astros a few days later for Josh Fields; big left-handed hitter (6-5, 200) with power potential; hit .341/.474/.500 with 12 walks and seven strikeouts in 44 at-bats in Dominican Summer League; scouting reports point to excellent strike zone judgment, which is backed up by the early numbers; need to see a higher levels but quite intriguing. Jose Hernandez, RHP: 21 years old, from Mexico, excellent season between Low-A and High-A with combined 2.94 ERA, 127/24 K/BB in 125 innings; complete arsenal with low-90s fastball, slider, curveball, change-up; throws strikes, Midwest League observers impressed with maturity and ability to mix pitches and change speeds, could surprise as control artist inning-eater. Los Angeles Angels: Troy Montgomery, OF: Age 22, eighth round pick in 2016 from The Ohio State University; hit .291/.384/.461 in 230 at-bats between Pioneer and Midwest Leagues; also stole 13 bases; lefty hitter with above-average speed and power potential, also a good defensive outfielder; didn’t quite live up to expectations in college but pro career off to good start Chris Rodriguez, RHP: Age 18, fourth round pick in 2016 from high school in Miami; 1.59 ERA in 11.1 innings in rookie ball with 17/3 K/BB, small sample but a strong debut; fastball 91-94 with peaks at 95-96, mixes in slider and change-up and showed better-than-expected command in debut; obviously we need more data but it is possible that he could leap up the pitching prospect lists in '17; keep a close eye on him. Here’s some cool Fangraphs video of Rodriguez. src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/y2Mjz0xvO8o?wmode=transparent&rel=0&autohide=1&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=1" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" style="top: 0px; left: 0px; width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;"> Oakland AthleticsJaycob Brugman, OF: Age 24, 17th round pick in 2013 out of BYU; hit .285/.347/.438 between Double-A and Triple-A with 12 homers, 33 doubles, 52 walks, 121 strikeouts in 543 at-bats; interesting to watch in person, no weak tools, everything is at least average including speed, raw power, arm strength; defense is ahead of hitting, can handle all three outfield positions with little trouble; will flash power and patience but performance record is erratic; older prospect but should be tracked for signs of more consistency; watch for a performance surge in the next year or two.James Naile, RHP: Age 24, 20th round pick in 2015 from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, posted 3.39 ERA in 157 innings between Low-A, High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A with 125/38 K/BB; throws strikes with 90 MPH fastball and an 11-6 breaking ball, stuff is heavy and generates grounders; back end rotation potential. Seattle Mariners:Donnie Walton, INF: Age 22, fifth round pick in 2016 from Oklahoma State University; hit .281/.361/.421 with 22 walks, 24 whiffs in 178 at-bats in Northwest League; switch-hitter with average speed and below average power but has good zone judgment, excellent instincts for the game, and usually plays above his tools; utility projection but similar players have surprised before. Pablo Lopez, RHP: Age 20, signed out of Venezuela in 2012, had Tommy John surgery in 2014 but has come back; posted 2.13 ERA in 84 innings in Low-A with 56/9 K/BB in 84 innings; throws strikes with fastball in low-90s and an excellent change-up; breaking ball needs more work (reflected in the strikeouts) but has a good basis for developme[...]



Minor League Ball daily discussion, February 16, 2017

2017-02-16T15:42:00-05:00

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With Alex Reyes on the shelf, who is the top pitching prospect in baseball?

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the Minor League Ball daily discussion thread for Thursday, February 16th. Today I posted Sleeper Prospects for the National League Western division and working up that project is the main goal for the next few days.

For today’s discussion, consider this. As we talked about yesterday, the injury to Cardinals prospect Alex Reyes will knock him off the spot at the top pitching prospect in baseball when we revise the Top 200 MLB Prospects list at the end of spring training. With Reyes moving down, the competitors to replace him include Pirates right-hander Tyler Glasnow and Rays right-hander Jose De Leon, with Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech of the White Sox also in the competition if you go by the current pre-spring training grades.

There isn’t really a consensus on that however. If you look at MLB.com’s list, the next two candidates would be Glasnow and Giolito, with De Leon well down their top 100 list at 33 behind Kopech, Francis Martes, Anderson Espinosa, and Brent Honeywell. Baseball America would go with Martes, with Espinosa and Mitch Keller in the picture but Giolito and Glasnow lagging behind, followed by De Leon. Giolito, Glasnow, and Robert Gsellman of the Mets would be the top candidates according to Baseball Prospectus.

Let’s discuss this. I’m comfortable being the high guy on De Leon as spring training begins, but what do you think of Glasnow and Giolito? Does BA have the right idea with Martes? What if Gsellman is lights-out all spring but the other guys struggle or get hurt?




National League Western Division sleepers

2017-02-16T14:54:36-05:00

Here are some sleeper prospects to watch out for. Let’s take a shot at pegging some prospect sleepers ahead of the curve. I’m going to divide this by division, with two sleepers per team, one pitcher and one hitter. None of them have a current grade higher than C+ on our prospect lists entering 2017, but all (in my opinion) have a chance to be very good or even excellent values relative to their current ranking. NATIONAL LEAGUE WESTArizona DiamondbacksJack Reinheimer, INF: Age 24, third round pick in 2013 from East Carolina by the Mariners, traded to Diamondbacks in Mark Trumbo deal; hit .288/.353/.384 in Triple-A with 20 steals; lacks power but has good strike zone judgment; solid defender at shortstop, range is average but very reliable; has been very good in limited looks at second base; utility projection due to valuable defense and speed; fits historical profile of polished infielder who may show unexpected offensive development in late 20s. Curtis Taylor, RHP: Age 21, fourth round pick in 2016 from University of British Columbia; big right-hander at 6-6, 215, throws strikes (23/5 K/BB in 16 innings in debut), can hit 94-96 from deceptive arm angle, secondary pitches show enough promise that he will be developed as a starter. Colorado Rockies: Parker French, RHP: Age 23, fifth round pick in 2015 from University of Texas; posted 2.63 ERA in 178 innings between Low-A and High-A with 122/29 K/BB, 2.01 GO/AO; heavy sinker along with very good control of workable curveball and change-up give him a chance as a back-end efficiency starter. Garrett Hampson, SS: Age 22, third round pick in 2016 out of Long Beach State, hit .301/.404/.441 in the Northwest League with 36 steals in 40 attempts and 48 walks against 56 strikeouts in 256 at-bats; good strike zone judgement, 60-grade speed, and enough range and reliability to remain at shortstop; main question will be power development. Los Angeles Dodgers: Leo Crawford, LHP: Age 20, signed out of Nicaragua for $47,500 in 2014; posted 2.42 ERA in 67 innings between rookie ball and Low-A with 63/16 K/BB; Midwest League observers report a surprisingly polished approach with a low-90s fastball, up from 86-88 when he signed.Isbandel Isabel, 1B: Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013 for just $80,000; hit .317/.396/.579 with 12 homers, 24 walks, 77 strikeouts in 202 at-bats between Pioneer and Midwest Leagues; genuine power and a mechanically-sound swing, impressive offensive potential if he can tighten up the strike zone a bit more; lacks speed and range but catches what he gets to at first base. San Diego Padres: Walker Lockett, RHP: Age 22, fourth round pick in 2012 from high school in Florida; posted 2.96 ERA between Low-A, High-A, Double-A, Triple-A with 123/24 K/BB in 164 innings, 1.66 GO/AO; another sinker/slider type, took step forward as durable inning-eater in ‘16 due to improved command, fourth starter possibilities.Tre Carter, OF: Age 19, 11th round pick in 2016 from high school in Tennessee; hit .298/.411/.383 in rookie ball with nine walks, 10 strikeouts, three steals in 47 at-bats; left-handed hitter with 60-grade speed, was expected to be very raw but showed some ability to control strike zone in rookie ball; years away and high risk of failure but has the tools to be interesting. San Francisco Giants:Sandro Cabrera, LHP: Age 21, signed by Giants out of Dominican Republic in 2014 for $125,000; older prospect at age 19 when he signed but the Giants have a good feel for that category; posted 2.74 ERA in 43 innings between rookie ball and Low-A with 41/14 K/BB, 34 hits; low-90s fastball with solid curve, change-up, efficient with good control. Fangraphs has some video: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ll6DTtxESwI?wmode=transparent&rel=0&autohide=1&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=1&start=92" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" style="top: 0px; left: 0px; width: 100%; height: 100%; position: [...]



Minor League Ball daily discussion, February 15, 2017

2017-02-15T15:57:21-05:00

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Invest in pitching at your own peril

Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to the daily discussion thread for February 15th, 2017. Spring training began yesterday, with the baseball news dominated by the elbow injury to St. Louis Cardinals top prospect Alex Reyes. As you know he’ll miss all of the 2017 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. More on Reyes on a moment for our daily discussion.

With the completion of the Top 200 and the posting of the Shadow Twins list this morning, my next main project is a report on sleepers. My goal is to have a separate article for each of the six divisions, beginning with the National League West, hopefully starting tomorrow.

Today’s Discussion Question: how much should an injury impact a prospect’s placement on a list? I had Reyes ranked as the Number One pitching prospect and the Number Four prospect overall.

When I work up the next version of the list at the end of spring training, how much should Reyes be discounted? Historically I have cut an elite pitching prospect who gets hurt by a significant amount until we get at least some information about how their recovery is going, but for Reyes that will be at least a year from now.

How much is too much to cut him? How much is too little? Would a B+ be appropriate now? A flat B? Keep in mind that while Tommy John surgery is common, it should not be considered an automatic recovery in my opinion.

What do you think?




Shadow Twins top prospects for 2017

2017-02-15T11:25:58-05:00

A journey to an alternate universe. . . As long time readers know, I have been building my own farm system called the Shadow Twins since 1996, making my own picks in the amateur draft, while keeping to a realistic budget and drafting at whatever spot the real Twins are at that year. Starting in July 2012 this includes my own international signings as well. Before 2012 the Shadow Twins signed whoever the real Twins did internationally. Sometimes the Shadow Twins are stronger than the Real Twins, and sometimes the Real Twins are stronger than the Shadow version. Here is the report from 2016. Here is how things look entering 2017. I am pleased with the condition of the Shadow System at present, though I am overloaded with outfielders and in need of more high-ceiling arms. You can compare it to the Real Twins here. Notable Real Twins players I do not have in my system include Stephen Gonsalves, Tyler Jay, Alex Kirilloff, Lewin Diaz, Kohl Stewart, and Wander Javier. In the comments section I will post all of the Shadow Draft lists from 2008 through 2016 as well as the international signings so you can see how things have gone. As long-time readers know, the Shadow Draft is conducted at the same time as the real draft, while the international signings are done before any of the players involved have played in real games and in keeping with MLB budget rules. 1) Andrew Benintendi, OF, Grade A: Age 22, first round pick in 2015 by Boston Red Sox from University of Arkansas; drafted instead of Tyler Jay. 2) Clint Frazier, OF, Grade B+: Age 22, first round pick in 2013 instead of Kohl Stewart. 3) Nick Gordon, SS, Grade B+: Age 21, first round pick in 2014, real Twins pick that I stayed with. 4) Jharel Cotton, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 24, 20th round pick by the Dodgers in 2012 from East Carolina University; Shadow Twins drafted him in 19th round that year instead of outfielder Jon Murphy. 5) Fernando Romero, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic by Real Twins in February 2012; I did not start doing my own international signings until July 2012. Up until then I just signed however the Real Twins signed on the international market. 6) Franklin Perez, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 19; signed by Astros out of Venezuela in 2014 for $1,000,000; Shadow Twins signed him in 2014 for $1,100,000. 7) Juan Soto, OF, Grade B: Age 18, signed by Nationals out of Dominican Republic in 2015 for $1,500,000; Shadow Twins got him for $1,650,000. 8) Jacob Nix, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 21, third round pick by Padres in 2015 from IMG Academy; Shadow Twins drafted him with compensation pick instead of Kyle Cody who did not sign with Real Twins. 9) Eric Lauer, LHP, Grade B/B-: Age 21, first round pick out by Padres of Kent State in 2016, selected instead of Alex Kirilloff. 10) Chih-Wei Hu, RHP, Grade B-/B: Age 23, signed by Twins out of Taiwan in 2013; international signing that I stayed with. I did not trade him to the Rays. 11) Jesus Sanchez, OF, Grade B-: Age 19, signed by Rays out of Dominican Republic in 2014 for $400,000; I signed him for $440,000. 12) Eric Skoglund, LHP, Grade B-: Age 24, third round pick by Royals in 2014 from University of Central Florida; Shadow Twins drafted him in third round instead of Michael Cederoth. 13) Austin Gomber, LHP, Grade B-: Age 23, fourth round pick by Cardinals in 2014 from Florida Atlantic University; drafted by Shadow Twins in fourth round instead of Sam Clay. 14) Ben Lively, RHP, Grade B-: Age 24, fourth round pick by Reds in 2013 from Central Florida, drafted by Shadow Twins in fourth round instead of Steven Gonsalves. 15) Nick Burdi, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, Second round pick from University of Louisville by Real Twins, this was a pick I stayed with for the Shadow team. 16) Duane Underwood, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 22, second round pick by Cubs in 2012 from high school in [...]