Since being promoted for the September stretch run, Oakland Athletics rookie Jharel Cotton has made four starts and pitched well every time. Through 25 innings he has a 1.44 ERA and a 16/3 K/BB. We profiled Cotton back in early September when he was first promoted, and as noted at the time he's been on my sleeper radar for a few years. He's certainly not a sleeper right now; he's been excellent in the early going and his reputation is growing.
A reader recently asked me if Cotton could end up on the Top 100 list as we move into spring training. A couple of months ago I would have said no, despite my long-standing interest in him as a prospect, but right now I'm not so sure about that.
Since the trade he has been one of the top pitchers in the upper ranks of professional baseball; granted that's just 10 starts between Nashville and Oakland, but the 52/10 K/BB in that stretch is awfully purty and even during his inconsistent tenure in the Dodgers system he collected plenty of whiffs. His change-up is genuinely excellent, his command has improved, and his fastball velocity has stabilized in the low-90s after oscillating between the upper-80s and mid-90s earlier in his career.
Cotton is at least a Grade B- at this point and you can make a case for a Grade B, which would put him in Top 100 consideration. The perils of sample size can't be ignored of course, but sometimes you just believe in a guy. Jharel Cotton is one of those guys for me.
What say you?
Per reader request, we are going to spend some time over the next couple of weeks reviewing players who have graduated off the prospect lists in 2016 and see where they stand going forward. We'll call it the "What Happens Next" series. I don't want to spend a huge amount of time on obvious successes like Corey Seager, but will focus instead on some of the more obscure players. We hit Tommy Joseph, Andrew Toles, and Robert Gsellman earlier this week. Here's another National Leaguer to look at: Cincinnati Reds outfielder Scott Schebler.
Through Thursday night Schebler has hit .269/.332/.439 for the Reds with nine homers, 19 walks, and 59 strikeouts in 80 games, 253 at-bats, splitting the season between Cincinnati and Triple-A Louisville. We last looked at Schebler back in April, at the time concluding
Looking at all the numbers, but adding in my personal observations of Schebler over the years and his scouting reports of broad tools and some ability to adjust at the plate, my guess is that his true level of ability over the long haul is on the order of .260/.340/.450. Add in double-digit steals and the ability to handle all three outfield positions and you have a fine player.
Between this years and last fall's debut for the Dodgers, Schebler is now hitting .266/.331/.446 in 289 major league at-bats. That's extremely close to my pre-season estimate of .260/.340/.450. He hasn't shown the ability to steal bases in the majors, but otherwise he's lived up to expectations.
At age 25, Schebler is entering his prime seasons and his skills may not improve much beyond what they currently are. Combine the hitting with his defense and you come up with 1.1 fWAR in 317 plate appearances, which would make him about a 2.1 fWAR over a full season. He's not a star but he's a viable role player. If the strike zone doesn't get away from him, he could have a couple of very nice seasons (say .280/.350/.475) in his late 20s.
2016-09-30T12:29:24-04:00Back by popular demand: the Minor League Ball Crystal Ball, beginning with Minnesota Twins outfielder Max Kepler. The Crystal Ball is NOT a PREDICTION in the sense of me saying "this is how the guy will turn out.". The idea is to generate discussion about a player by presenting one possible outcome for his career, based on what we currently know about him. It is not just thrown together; I try to make them logical, based on the outcomes of players who were similar at the same stage of their career. Sometimes a CB represents a maximal outcome, sometimes it is more of a middle ground. What do you think of this one? Can you spot the free agent signings, the injuries, and the trades? Max Kepler Year Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K BA OBP SLG Age 2015 Twins 3 7 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 0.143 0.143 0.143 22 2016 Twins 111 389 51 91 19 2 17 63 42 92 0.234 0.309 0.424 23 2017 Twins 142 438 69 119 26 3 18 72 47 119 0.272 0.342 0.468 24 2018 Twins 159 597 83 144 29 4 22 86 70 129 0.241 0.321 0.414 25 2019 Twins 152 586 99 179 36 5 19 99 68 118 0.305 0.378 0.481 26 2020 Twins 137 445 75 132 33 4 20 88 59 95 0.297 0.379 0.524 27 2021 Twins 153 574 87 152 30 3 28 102 71 118 0.265 0.346 0.474 28 2022 Twins 149 529 90 155 31 2 25 96 68 121 0.293 0.374 0.501 29 2023 Twins 155 584 100 172 28 2 31 109 72 109 0.295 0.372 0.509 30 2024 Yankees 147 533 80 159 30 1 32 110 68 99 0.298 0.378 0.538 31 2025 Yankees 155 586 78 130 25 2 22 85 80 131 0.222 0.315 0.384 32 2026 Yankees 137 456 73 128 26 1 22 91 70 109 0.281 0.376 0.487 33 2027 Yankees 78 299 33 96 19 3 9 42 33 41 0.321 0.389 0.495 34 Dodgers 71 244 35 60 11 1 10 38 27 61 0.246 0.321 0.422 34 2028 Dodgers 9 31 3 8 1 0 1 5 2 5 0.258 0.303 0.387 35 2029 Dodgers 102 238 23 52 8 0 8 20 26 38 0.218 0.295 0.353 36 2030 Orioles 129 326 51 89 15 1 11 33 27 59 0.273 0.329 0.426 37 2031 Twins 103 333 48 84 11 0 6 28 34 62 0.252 0.322 0.339 38 2092 7195 1078 1951 378 34 301 1167 864 1506 0.271 0.349 0.459 Poll Please rate this Crystal Ball This CB is very optimistic This CB is mildy optimistic This CB is just right This CB is mildly pessimistic This CB is very pessimistic 51 votes | Results [...]
2016-09-29T19:24:04-04:00"The Bosco Nation Blog" w/ Chris Mitchell A Look Back At The 2016 Mets and What Happens Next? There is hatred and ignorance in the air and it couldn't have been better illustrated than in Monday nights Political debate and the social media insanity that streamed live and followed after. But, back to baseball where judgement and criticism, insults and "debate" often devolve into mudslinging and derogatory characterizations as well. That's called social interaction, especially in this day of social media. A microcosm of that has happened to me this season in regards to one of my bolder 2016 predictions; that the New York Mets would miss the playoffs and to be honest, I like it. I don't care for vulgarity or ignorant insults, but I thrive on dispute and disagreement so the backlash from Mets fans about my projections is a welcome part of any given day. Its an enjoyable topic for discussion. That being said, my analysis has been right, but my prediction that they would miss the playoffs is still undecided and I wanted to look at it 159 games later to see how its held up. I said from Day One that the Mets would miss the 2016 playoffs because their staff was too good and their offense was too weak, their 2015 division was too shameful in and without a herculean miracle from Yoenis Cespedes they don't get in anyway. If they didn't void the Carlos Gomez trade they don't even make the playoffs, never mind the World Series. With that backdrop, lets look at 2016 and the train of thought behind my caustic prediction. The foundation for my prediction was multi-layered, which made it that much easier to defend and to feel confident in its validity. 1. The Division In 2015 the Philadelphia Phillies lost 99 games, the Atlanta Braves 95 and the Miami Marlins 91, while the Washington Nationals only won 83 games in a season many predicted 95-100. The Nationals had to be better in 2016 and while I did not predict that either of the three cellar dwellers would be playoff teams, improvement was a safe bet. The Braves (63-92) are on pace to match their 2015 record while the Phillies (70-86), Marlins (78-78), and Nationals (91-65) will all win eight to 10 more games this season. If three teams within your own division win 30 or more games this year than last it is going to be difficult for you to win the same amount or more. Some of those 30 are going to come out of the Mets hide and then there was their record outside the NL East. The Mets (90-72) were 47-29, against their National League East division rivals while they were a combined 6-20 against the Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs and Giants, a few of the better teams on their 2015 schedule. They played .500 baseball outside the NL East and were 18 games above it inside it. They won their division because they dominated it and entering 2016 it was pretty clear to me that that was not going to be the case. If they struggled against the better teams on their schedule outside the division and the NL East was going to be a more difficult division to navigate in 2016 then wheat was the alternative path to 90 wins? 2. 2015-2016 Mets Off Season Lets start with how their off season impacted this season. In 2015, the Mets ranked fourth in the National League in team ERA (3.43) and seventh in runs scored (683). In order for the Mets to match that record they had to find places where they could improve and the most room for improvement was on offense. What did they do? They re-signed Yoenis Cespedes and signed Asdrubal Cabrera, traded for Neil Walker and possibly the biggest non-move, they let their second best offensive player (Daniel Murphy) leave via free agency. They didn't add a meaningful piece to their bullpen or trade pitching depth for offensive or defensive upgrades or depth. I suspect they tried and we heard rumors that Dillon Gee and Jon Niese were both very much available, but they didn't succeed in an area that they had to. Entering 2016 with Cespedes scheduled for 7[...]
Simple question for you today:
Should I revive the Crystal Ball feature?
During our Top 100 end-of-season prospect discussion over the weekend, readers asked for an updated take and grade on New York Mets rookie right-hander Robert Gsellman. Since coming up to the majors in late August, Gsellman has made six starts and one relief appearance and has been excellent, posting a 2.56 ERA with a 35/14 K/BB in 39 innings. He will retain rookie status for 2017 and you can make a good case to put him on a Top 100 list.
When he arrived in the majors we posted this profile, noting his strong 2016 minor league performance. The most important point was a reported velocity increase: he was at 89-92 MPH in 2016 but was reportedly throwing 91-94 with peaks at 98 this summer. In the majors he's topped out at 96. He's added a cutter. Sabermetrically a key takeaway has been a notable increase in his strikeout rate over the last 12 months, attributable to both the fastball velocity increase and the improvement in his secondaries, without loss of control.
I had Gsellman as a Grade C pre-season and moved that up to C+/B- when he was promoted. After getting a better look at him in the majors I think a Grade B is appropriate, which would put him into contention for the next edition of the Top 100 (which should come out in February).
2016-09-29T09:03:02-04:00Tommy Joseph of the Philadelphia Phillies has been one of the surprise rookies of 2016. Through 103 games he's hit .259/.311/.511 with 21 homers, 22 walks and 74 strikeouts in 309 at-bats, including .400 with two homers in his last 10 games. What can we expect from Joseph going forward? We first wrote him up back on May 14th when he was first promoted. Here's what I wrote at the time, followed by my current thinking: Joseph was originally drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round in 2009 from high school in Scottsdale, Arizona. He emerged as a power-hitting catcher, batting .236/.290/.401 with 16 homers in Low-A in 2010 then .270/.317/.471 with 22 homers in High-A in 2011. In July 2012 he was one of the key prospects in the trade that sent Hunter Pence west to the Bay Area from Philadelphia.And then the bad times started for Joseph. His 2013 season was ruined by a severe concussion that limited him to 36 games. His 2014 season was ruined by another significant concussion, plus a wrist injury, limiting him to 27 games. He suffered another serious concussion in May of 2015, at which point the Phillies pulled the plug on Joseph as a catcher and moved him to first base. His hitting suffered amidst all the injuries and position switching and he hit just .193/.220/.301 last year in Triple-A. Joseph entered 2016 needing to rebuild his career. Finally healthy and freed from the rigors of catching, his bat came to life this spring in Triple-A, with a .347/.370/.611 line with six homers. It is a small sample, of course, just 27 games and 95 at-bats, but it is certainly good to see given his struggles in recent years. His swing mechanics were reputedly a mess last year but are said to look much better now; he also appears to be in better physical condition in general. Joseph has legitimate strength and power in his bat, but his minor league track record shows consistently weak BB/K/PA ratios, which match reports of an aggressive hitting approach. He may never be much of an OBP threat but he is dangerous if you make a mistake, particularly against left-handed pitching. He is still learning the nuances of first base defense but should be decent there in time. Overall, Joseph projects as a solid role player with power the main draw. Injuries ruined his chance to be a regular catcher but he should still have a career. ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY So far that holds up, particularly his ability to crush left-handed pitching; he's hitting .281/.350/.562 against lefties.He has proven to be an aggressive hitter but so far it hasn't hurt him much and his progress overall has been impressive given the amount of rust he's had to work off. As for the future, I think what we see is what we get for the next year or two. In his late 20s I could see him taking another step forward, something along Mark Trumbo lines if Joseph maxes out. What do you think of that comp? [...]
Outfielder Andrew Toles of the Los Angeles Dodgers has had an excellent major league debut. In 99 at-bats over 45 games he's hit .313/.367/.515 with three homers, eight walks, and 25 strikeouts. Despite spending much of 2016 in the majors it looks like he will still count as an eligible rookie entering 2017. Figuring out where to place him on prospect lists will be an interesting exercise.
We wrote a report about Toles last month, but readers have asked for an updated take.
As we noted in August, Toles was a highly-regarded prospect until his career was derailed by personal issues. He was completely out of baseball last year so his surge this season caught a lot of folks (including me) by surprise, however what he's done for the Dodgers is in line (if at the higher end) with what scouts expected from him when he was an amateur.
While seeing a larger sample size would be nice, I really don't think this is a fluke in the big picture. I think he's a legitimate .280+ hitter with at least moderate power. If he stays healthy and avoids further off-field troubles, Toles will have some seasons where he hits over .300. Hell, it wouldn't surprise me if he won a batting championship in the year 2020.
Of course, a lot of things have to go right for that to happen: health, opportunity, luck. But if you're looking for a speculative play with upside, consider Toles.
As far as prospect grades go, what would you guys think about a Grade B?