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

Updated: 2018-03-19T08:00:02-04:00


Checking in on the 2016 Dillon Tate trade


Yankees received 2015 fourth overall pick for Carlos Beltran At the 2016 MLB trade deadline, the Texas Rangers were very busy. Going all-in as the contenders they were, they made two big trades to fortify their batting lineup. The Jonathan Lucroy trade, as I wrote about here and here, has become a big whammy for Texas. Not only did it cost them top prospect Lewis Brinson (since traded to his hometown Miami Marlins for Christian Yelich), they also dealt their best pitching prospect Luis Ortiz and the player to be named later, Ryan Cordell, is no slouch himself. Cordell is now part of the loaded Chicago White Sox system, flipped for pitcher Anthony Swarzak a year later. Ortiz, the 30th overall pick in 2014, has middle-of-the-rotation potential. A substantial price to get Lucroy, pretty much squeezing the remainder of the Rangers farm system that had been depleted a season before in the trade for Cole Hamels, was made a far worse situation when the former all-star went from an elite catcher to a below average platooner. The other trade the Rangers made was lower profile in comparison but did involve the highest draft pick of any players sent or received. Not even two years ago, when the Yankees were rebuilding for all of eight New York minutes, they dealt twilight veteran and mostly full-time designated hitter Carlos Beltran to Texas for three pitching prospects. Along with top 50 system prospects Nick Green and Erik Swanson, the Yankees bought very low on righty Dillon Tate. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Tate, as you all know, was the fourth overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. An enigmatic and risky pick from the outset —whether he would ever be a starter at such a premium draft slot was always in doubt— Tate battled forecasted issues of health, mechanics and expectations the minute he turned pro. His debut short-season work in 2015 was actually very good, but once he hit full-season competition the following year, cryptic fears started to come true. Still only 23, his reputational value, the organization’s sudden lack of minor league depth and their assumed disillusion with the pitcher led to him headlining the trade for Beltran. A fresh start has been, as it often is with young players, just what the doctor ordered. Usually for prospects of this stature, that change of scenery (if it ever comes/is even needed) is years down the line, not less than 12 months. For Tate, his numbers at Low-A before the trade were a 5.12 ERA, 1.62 WHIP and 55 strikeouts in 65 innings. After the trade and at the same level, he had a 3.12 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 17.1 innings. The success continued in the 2016 Arizona Fall League, Tate throwing 9.1 innings of encouraging baseball, walking just one batter. Prior to the 2017 season, Beltran left the Rangers after appearing in 55 games, three in the postseason. In 52 regular season games, the veteran became one of Texas’ best offensive weapons but struggled in the ALDS sweep against Toronto. A clubhouse gem and a perfect addition alongside personalities such as Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus, a better opportunity —and eventually his very first World Series championship— awaited Beltran with the Houston Astros. Lucroy lasted just a little bit longer, traded to Colorado at the 2017 trade deadline for a player to be named later, eventually labeled as outfielder Pedro Gonzalez. Lucroy met an historically tough open market and signed a one-year deal with Oakland earlier this month. After Beltran departed and before Lucroy left Texas, Tate had his best season yet. Still deployed as a starter, he went 7-2 but the injury-prone hurler only made 13 starts. However, he advanced to High-A and finished the year exceptionally well at Double-A. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports For High-A Tampa, Tate won six and lost none in nine starts, sporting a shiny 2.62 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, his best in full-season competition. Promoted to Double-A Trenton, he made four starts with a 3.24 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. A non-roster invite to Spring Training this year, he[...]

Minor League Ball Gameday: Sunday, March 18, 2018



Your daily outpost for baseball rookies and prospect discussion. . .

Good day everyone and welcome to the Minor League Ball Gameday discussion thread for Sunday, March 18th, 2018. Let’s talk some baseball.

****Texas Rangers rookie right-hander Yohander Mendez threw three solid innings against the Kansas City Royals yesterday, giving up one run on three hits and a walk while fanning four. I caught a couple of innings on MLB.TV and it looked to me like Mendez has significantly improved his breaking ball and command of his entire arsenal.

He’s thrown well this spring (12 innings, 3.00 ERA, 12/1 K/BB). It seems like he’s been around forever but Mendez is only 23 and may be a victim of some prospect fatigue when young pitchers are discussed.

****Much prospect news from St. Louis Cardinals camp has focused on the strong spring of Yairo Munoz, but the performance of right-hander Mike Mayers should not be overlooked: nine shutout innings, 10 strikeouts, zero walks.

Originally a decent-stuff potential fourth starter, Mayers has been clocked as high as 99 MPH since moving to the bullpen without any loss of command. Keep him in mind as pitching reinforcement.

****During our recent discussion of the Minor League Ball top 175 prospects for 2018 list, a reader mentioned San Diego Padres outfielder Franchy Cordero as a player who didn’t make the list who deserved close watching. Cordero is certainly having a fine spring, hitting .343/.465/.714 with seven walks and 13 strikeouts in 35 at-bats.

Cordero’s power/speed tools have never been in doubt but contact and plate discipline issues bit him when he reached the majors last year. While the perils of spring training competition and sample size apply, the numbers we have so far are consistent with those of a player making progress with his hitting approach.


My next main projects are organization rankings, due later this week, and sleeper prospects, also coming later this week. I will also be posting all of my Shadow Twins draft lists, beginning with 1996 through 2001 posted yesterday.

Watch out for these Cubs young guns in 2018


The Cubs farm system is not what it used to be, but there are some arms to watch for in 2018. It was not long ago that the Chicago Cubs farm system was the envy of every team in the league. A few years later, it’s hardly recognizable. There are still a few pieces that have yet to graduate or have not been traded away. It seems like we have been waiting forever for names like Duane Underwood and, more recently, Oscar De La Cruz to show us something. Now there is a changing of the guard. The Cubs farm system was never short on firepower at the plate. Now, though not elite, they enter 2018 with some young guns on the mound that are worth following this season. Adbert Alzolay, RHP Alzolay had his best season in 2017, reaching Double-A for the first time in his career. In fact, he hurled five innings of shutout ball in his Tennessee debut, striking out 10 and walking one. He didn’t allow more than three earned runs in any start after a four-run outing on May 16, the most he allowed all season. Now 23, the right-hander’s best pitch is his fastball. He moves quickly and aggressively, pounding the strike zone and going after hitters. Views on his curveball are mixed, some believing its inconsistencies make it average, while others see it as a plus pitch. There are no questions about his changeup, and if he cannot harness it, a career in the bullpen may be his fate. Alzolay went 7-4 over two levels last season, posting a respectable 2.99 ERA (his FIP just a tad higher) and 1.10 WHIP. He won’t strike out a ton, just 108 in 114.1 innings, but doesn’t walk much either. He could benefit by missing more bats because he’s been much more of a fly ball pitcher throughout his career. In a game of increased launch angles, that could prove dangerous. John Sickels ranked him the top prospect in the Cubs system. He’s certainly one to watch in 2018. Jose Albertos, RHP Albertos was signed in 2015 but has been eased into things with concerns around continued forearm struggles. Last season he pitched more regularly than ever, and he was impressive. The 19-year-old reached the Northwest League and was successful thanks primarily to a plus-fastball-changeup combo. His fastball moves, consistently hitting in the mid-90s with reports of it touching the upper 90s. Most feel his changeup is his best offering right now, which is impressive for a teenager. His slider is inconsistent and its development will be key in reaching his ceiling, which could be a No. 2 starter. There haven’t been any concerns about his delivery, which seems easy and advanced in most reports. There are concerns about his durability, and 2018 will be the year to see if he can put together a full, consistent season. Alex Lange, RHP The LSU product’s debut wasn’t fantastic, but his stuff is nonetheless intriguing. Coming off a bit of a longer season, pitching all the way to the finals of the College World Series, Lange was able to hurl nine innings in his pro debut. While he was a bit hittable, he proved he could miss bats at the next level, striking out 13 in his first four career starts. He also only walked three. It was hardly enough to pass judgment, but his strong season with LSU in the SEC and CWS (10-5, 2.97 ERA in 19 starts, striking out 150 in 124 innings) leaves much in which to be excited. There are some concerns with Lange. His delivery has always been questioned, sometimes seeming forced and causing him to overthrow. Nearly every report shows a significant drop in velocity last season as well, hitting more in the lower 90s than usual. That said, Lange’s fastball-curveball combo is ready to climb the ladder. His curve was arguably the best in his draft class, and when his fastball is on, he strikes out batters with ease. Lange didn’t have to use his changeup much in college, but if he wants to remain in the rotation, he’ll have to harness it. The more it develops, the better it could make his fastball. There are already some saying that Lange is destined for the bullpen and th[...]

Shadow Twins complete draft list, 1996 through 2001


Twenty years of imagination, Part One Here’s the complete Minnesota Twins Shadow Draft list dating back to 1996, starting with 96 through ‘01. Players in bold made the major leagues. In the early years most of the later round picks were just whoever the real Twins went with but that has evolved over time as the two universes continue to diverge. One thing that has happened a few times: I draft some guy who the Twins don’t really draft but ends up with them anyway in a few years due to trade or free agency. I am also fortunate that my Midwest bias led me to stay with Joe Mauer when they drafted him rather than go with Mark Prior. I’m going to break this into four different articles to avoid unwieldiness. The rest will be posted in the coming days. 1996 (A good start with successful college guys at the top). 1) Braden Looper, RHP, Wichita State University 2) Jacque Jones, OF, University of Southern California 3) Eddie Yarnall, LHP, Louisiana State University 4) Ken Vining, LHP, Clemson University 5) John Bale, LHP, University of Southern Mississippi 6) Tommy LaRosa, RHP, University of Nevada-Las Vegas 7) Wylie Campbell, 2B, University of Texas 8) Corey Spiers, LHP, University of Alabama 9) Josh Klimek, SS, University of Illinois 10) Evan Thomas, RHP, Florida International University 11) Garrick Haltiwanger, OF, The Citadel 12) Ryan Lynch, LHP, UCLA 13) Mike Lincoln, RHP, University of Tennessee 14) David Hooten, RHP, Mississippi State University 15) Steve Huls, SS, University of Minnesota 16) Eric Brosam, 1B, Redwood Valley HS, Redwood Falls, Minn. 18) Chris Garza, LHP, University of Nevada 20) Courtney Duncan, RHP, Grambling State University 21) Charles Jacobs, RHP, Pine Forest HS, Pensacola, FL 22) Mike Bauder, LHP, University of Nevada-Las Vegas 23) Richie Nye, RHP, University of Arkansas 24) *Brett Laxton, RHP, Louisiana State University 25) Phil Haigler, RHP, Vanderbilt University 26) Charlie Gillian, RHP, Virginia Tech 28) Brian Kennedy, OF, Harrison HS, Lafayette, Ind. 29) Toby Dollar, RHP, Texas Christian University 32) C. J. Thieleke, 2B, University of Iowa 33) Richard Loonam, RHP, Regis (Colo.) University 34) Anthony Felston, OF, University of Mississippi 38) Tom Buchman, C, University of Missouri 42) Antonio Gholar, RHP, William Carey (Miss.) College 44) Rick Moss, 3B, Lewis (Ill.) University 53) Mario Oripari, RHP, University of Kansas 55) John Mundine, RHP, Luling (TX) HS 1997 (I stayed with real Twins Cuddyer and Restovich. They eventually traded for Sears. Can’t take credit for Romero, a real pick, but I did pick up David Eckstein) 1) Michael Cuddyer, SS, Great Bridge HS, Cheasapeake VA 2) Mike Restovich, OF, Mayo HS, Rochester, Minn. 3) Todd Sears, 1B, University of Nebraska 4) Heath Schesser, SS, Kansas State University 5) Peter Blake, LHP, Indianola HS, Indianola, IA 6) Jeremy Morris, OF, Florida State University 7) Matt Carnes, RHP, University of Arkansas 8) Ben Thomas, LHP, Wichita State University 9) Jon Schaeffer, C, Stanford University 10) Josh Gandy, LHP, University of Georgia 11) Matt Jurgena, RHP, Hastings (Neb.) College 12) Lateef Vaughn, SS, Long Beach State University 13) Marquis Southward, OF, Pasco HS, Dade City, Fl 14) Justin Pederson, RHP, University of Minnesota 15) Casey Child, OF, University of Utah 16) Rusty McNamara, OF, Oklahoma State University 17) Rhodney Donaldson, OF, Troy State University 18) Ray Underhill, RHP, DeLand (Fla) HS 19) David Eckstein, 2B, University of Florida 20) Keith Maxwell, C, Florida A & M 21) J.C. Romero, LHP, University of Mobile 22) Richard Dishman, RHP, Duke University 23) Tim Sturdy, RHP, LaCueva HS, Albuquerque 26) J.D. Arteaga, LHP, University of Miami 27) Kevin Shipp, RHP, Louisiana State University 28) Jon Oisseth, LHP, Kansas State University[...]

Shadow Twins top prospects for 2018


Going through an ion storm to an alternate universe. . . Shadow Twins Top Prospects for 2018 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 in more-or-less real time, 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, finalized on April 15th each year of the relevant signing period. 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. 2017 was a cool year, the Shadows graduating Andrew Benintendi, Jharel Cotton, Clint Frazier, Ben Lively, and Stuart Turner to the majors. Here’s a look at how things stand entering 2018. Right now I am flush with outfielders and left-handed pitchers. I have some high ceiling right-handers but could use more, and am short of middle infielders as well as catchers. The international classes of 2014 and 2015 look strong with blind squirrel/acorn hits on Tatis, Perez, Soto, and Sanchez, but 2017 will be interesting because I busted my budget in ’16 to sign Randy Arozarena and Ronald Bolanos, meaning I am limited to just $300,000 per player for the next two years, just like a real team. 1) Fernando Tatis, Jr, SS, Padres, Grade A: Age 19, signed by White Sox out of Dominican Republic in 2015 for $700,000, son of Fernando Tatis; signed by Shadow Twins for $770,000 (the Shadow Twins have to exceed the Real Life bonus by 10% to simulate bidding for a player) and I certainly did not trade him to the Padres; Breakout season with .278/.379/.498 between Low-A and Double-A at age 18, 22 homers, 32 steals, elite prospect. 2) Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds, Grade A-: Age 18, first round pick in 2017 by the Cincinnati Reds, second overall, from high school in Sherman Oaks, California; Shadow Twins picked him first-overall instead of Royce Lewis; threw 4.1 innings in Pioneer League with 12.46 ERA, 6/1 K/BB, 8 hits allowed; small sample with spotty results but it did confirm velocity reports from high school with a 95-102 MPH fastball, and that velocity comes easy; 3) Franklin Perez, RHP, Tigers, Grade B+: Age 20; signed by Astros out of Venezuela in 2014 for $1,000,000; Shadow Twins signed him in 2014 for $1,100,000, traded to Detroit Tigers in Justin Verlander trade in real life; I didn’t do that either. 4) Juan Soto, OF, Nationals, Grade B+: Age 19, signed by Nationals out of Dominican Republic in 2015 for $1,500,000; Shadow Twins got him for $1,650,000. missed much of season with injuries but excellent when healthy, hit .351/.415/.505 between Low-A and rookie ball rehab, 111 at-bats. 5) Jesus Sanchez, OF, Rays, Grade B+: Age 20, signed by Rays out of Dominican Republic in 2014 for $400,000; I signed him for $440,000, hit .305/.378/.478 in Low-A, excellent season. 6) Nick Gordon, SS-2B, Twins, Grade B+: Age 22, first round pick in 2014, real Twins pick that I stayed with, hit 270/.341/.408. 7) Brent Rooker, OF-1B, Twins, Grade B/B+: Age 22, compensation pick, 35th overall, in 2017 from Mississippi State, real Twins pick I stayed with; outstanding senior season in college and kept hitting in pro ball, .281/.364/.566 with 18 homers in 228 at-bats between Appalachian and Florida State Leagues. 8) Fernando Romero, RHP, Twins, Grade B: Age 22, 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, 3.53 ERA in 125 innings in Double-A, 120/45 K/BB, good year but finished on DL with shoulder problems. 9) Randy Arozarena, OF, Cardinals, Grade B: Age 23, Cuban, signed by Cardinals for $1,250,000, my first foray into Cuban talent, signed by Shadow Twins for $1,500[...]

Yankees trade Jake Cave to Twins for minor league pitcher



RHP Luis Gil goes from Minnesota to New York to finish transaction

On Friday, March 16th, the New York Yankees traded outfielder Jake Cave to the Minnesota Twins for right-handed pitcher Luis Gil. Let’s take a quick look at this prospect-for-prospect deal.

Jake Cave, OF: The Yankees drafted Cave in the sixth round in 2011 from high school in Hampton, Virginia. A Rule 5 pick by the Cincinnati Reds in December 2016, he didn’t stick on their roster and went back to the Yankees system last spring. His 2017 regular season was quite good: .305/.351/.542 with 20 homers between Double-A and Triple-A, albeit with an unattractive 28/115 BB/K ratio in 406 at-bats.

Cave is a 6-0, 200 pounder, a left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, born December 4th, 1992. Swing changes have boosted his power output but he’s lost some of the speed he showed early in his career. However, his defensive instincts are sound, capable at all three positions. He has little left to prove in the minors and should be a viable fourth outfielder with some pop provided he keeps control of the strike zone.

Luis Gil, RHP: Gil was signed by the Twins out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. He spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons in the Dominican Summer League, posting a composite 3.32 ERA in 65 innings with a 73/46 K/BB.

Gil is listed at 6-3, 175, born June 3rd, 1998. Scouting information on him is sparse and there is no public video but he did show a substantial improvement in his control between 2016 and 2017, cutting his walk rate in half without loss of strikeouts.

ASSESSMENT: The Yankees have no room for Cave and designated him for assignment earlier this month. The Twins had to designate Kennys Vargas for assignment to fit Cave on their own roster. Cave may be able to put up similar slash numbers to Vargas, has more defensive value, and is younger. Gil is a lottery ticket for the Yankees, a young arm that may or may not pay off years down the road in exchange for a blocked outfielder. Overall it makes sense for both clubs.

Minor League Ball Gameday: Saturday, March 17, 2018



Baseball is almost here

Good morning everyone and welcome to the Minor League Ball Gameday discussion thread for March 17, 2018.

With the Top 175 Prospects list completed and the organization lists updated, it is time to turn towards regular season mode with the restoration of Gameday. It is a short gameday today and tomorrow but on Monday we’ll start having daily prospect notes and performance summaries from spring training, similar to what we do during the regular season.

Other items in the works:

****Articles about prospects who did not reach the Top 175 but who I particularly like for one reason or another. This will include sleepers and breakout candidates for each team. This will certainly be a multi-article project and the main focus for the remainder of spring camp.

****Farm system rankings.

****I haven’t written about or even studied the 2018 MLB draft at all yet. That will change.

****An “organization report” on the state of the Shadow Twins farm system.

****Contributions from Wayne Cavadi, Asher Feltman, Clinton Riddle, Shaun Kernahan, Jacob Markle, and Chris Mitchell. We had hoped to have Emily Waldon on board as well but she chose to pursue an opportunity at The Athletic. We wish her all success in her endeavors.

****What other kinds of articles are you guys interested in?

Debating the Minor League Baseball Extra Inning Rule Change


Early Wednesday morning, Minor League Baseball announced their pace of play regulations for the 2018 season, and one rule sparked plenty of debate. Pulling straight from the release, it stated: At all levels of Minor League Baseball, extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. The runner at second base will be the player in the batting order position previous to the leadoff batter of the inning (or a substitute for that player). By way of example, if the number five hitter in the batting order is due to lead off the 10th inning, the number four player in the batting order (or a pinch-runner for such player) shall begin the inning on second base. Any runner or batter removed from the game for a substitute shall be ineligible to return to the game, as is the case in all circumstances under the Official Baseball Rules. Yes, many screamed (and my initial reaction was) “this isn’t baseball, you can’t just throw someone out on second base and call it the same game.” While I still agree the rule is not going to be a success, I do understand the concerns about pitchers and affiliate promotions and demotions needed surrounding a long extra inning game. Which is also addressed in the release: The procedures, created in partnership with Major League Baseball, aim to reduce the number of pitchers used in extra innings and the issues created by extra innings games, including, but not limited to, shortages of pitchers in the days to follow, the use of position players as pitchers and the transferring of players between affiliates due to pitching shortages caused by extra innings games. Here is the problem, Minor League Baseball is a developmental system and, while there should not be long extra inning games threatening the health of players, this rule change does not help the development of players...much. This rule is very similar to international baseball, but was also tried out in the AFL and complex leagues this past season. I happen to be one of the few people who stuck around for a complex league extra inning game (not a pat on the back, just honesty, come extra innings in an Arizona summer, there is nobody around at those games unless you have good reason to be there) and the results were terrible. Runner is placed on second base, leadoff batter tries to bunt him to third (a dying skill), the next batter is intentionally walked, and then the goal becomes double play or take the lead. What is worse than this horribly repetitive back and forth, is the mood change you can actually feel when this begins. Players suddenly just want to see how quickly the game can end rather than truly battling to get the victory, the coaches almost give the defeated nod of “you know what we need to do, so go do your part”, the game ends and everyone just slowly walks to the bus or clubhouse. I was not at any AFL games that went to this rule this past season, so I couldn’t speak to the reaction of a reasonable size crowd, but I have been at many AFL games that ended in that god-forsaken concept around baseball, a tie. That said, not even the AFL calls it a tie, it is a “suspended” game and falls under the “Robinson Rule” which reads as: No game will exceed 11 innings – the “Robinson Rule.” Games tied after 11 innings will be considered suspended. They will not be made up but the statistics will count. Now, the standings show these games as ties, and at the end of a game that has been “suspended” due to the Robinson Rule, the mood is similar to the end or a typical game, only both teams act more like they just lost. This is how Minor League Baseball should treat extra-innings moving forward, not by adding a runner to second base. This will prevent the extended games that open up players to wear and tear and expose them to extra risk of injury, but it also brings a sense of drama to the game. Teams and fa[...]