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Scouting Tyler Glasnow and Monte Harrison

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been organizing my notes in preparation for our team-by-team 2015 Top 10 lists.  To give you a flavor, I’ve written up my notes on the Pittsburgh Pirates uber-prospect, Tyler Glasnow and the Milwaukee Brewer’s 2014 second round draft pick, Monte Harrison.  While Glasnow has become a house-hold name in prospect circles, Monte Harrison is relatively unknown.  Based on what I’ve seen and heard, that could change very quickly.

The Top 10’s will start in late September with the Chicago Cubs kicking off our coverage.  Warning…it might be a mini-novel.

Tyler Glasnow (Pit, RHP)

I’ve been staring at my screen for 20 minutes not knowing where to start with Tyler Glasnow. I’ve had a chance to scout him several times across both levels of A-Ball and have a good sense for the player and the areas of development he still needs. Quite frankly, the list is long on both sides of the equation but the end result could be very, very special.

When you first see Glasnow, it’s hard not to notice the body. It’s the definition of long and lanky. Not only are his limbs long, but so is his torso. In fact, it’s very common to see his jersey come un-tucked and flap in the wind as he completes his delivery. His jersey issues could be solved by finding a belt that actually works, but also contributing is the “all out” effort he puts into the delivery. He gets outstanding momentum on his stride and this combined with his long levers provide incredible torque and drive to the plate. The violence leads to significant balance issues and ultimately control issues. However, the delivery allows his plus stuff to play up even more and is one of the reasons batters don’t make great contact; when they are able to make contact.

As messy as the delivery is, it’s much improved from 2013. Glasnow is more in control with better balance and this should only improve as he learns to manage his 6-foot-7 frame. If and when these lines cross, Glasnow has the upside to be a dominating pitcher. The Pirates clearly want this to be in the starting rotation, but it could also be in relief.

The arsenal is special and begins with an explosive fastball that sits 94-96 MPH and can touch higher. The curveball is a true swing and miss pitch with tight spinning action that drops off the table. I’ve seen numerous hitters flail at the pitch. The change-up also has nice deception and with time, could be another above-average pitch. While he does pitch with downward plane, he’s not an extreme ground ball pitcher as his fastball is a true four-seamer that he elevates up in the zone. For Glasnow, it works, because the plane make it difficult to square, therefore most of the flyballs become weak outs.

Fantasy Impact: Glasnow has the raw stuff to be an ace but the control will be a problem unless he learns to control his body better. If he does, it could be special. Regardless, it’s going to take time and a level-a-year progression could be in the cards. This will put his arrival in Pittsburgh at 2017. I also used the word “relief” in the capsule and believe that’s a possible outcome for Glasnow. 6-foot-8 Dellin Betances of the New Yankees had a similar profile to Glasnow and was exposed once he moved to the upper-minors. He moved to the bullpen and has become a monster. As a fantasy owner, it’s a win-win situation.

Monte Harrison (Mil, OF) – Milwaukee Brewers emerging prospect

If Jacob Gatewood wasn’t toolsy enough, the Brewers drafted one of the few players with more raw ability than Gatewood in Monte Harrison. Simply go to youtube and type in his name and you’ll see an impressive array of basketball dunks and acrobatic catches on the football grid. The athleticism is extremely impressive.

Harrison has bat speed, raw power, crazy arm strength (rumors are that he hit 98 MPH from the bump in high-school), and 80-grade running speed. The missing/unknown skill is the ability to hit. While the reports I have received show a very raw hit-tool, he does appear to have an approach with a better than anticipated understanding of the strike zone. The stats seem to back that up with a 39K/21BB strikeout-to-walk ratio so far in rookie-ball.

While I don’t have specific criteria for our emerging prospect, one could argue that Harrison has the highest upside in the system and should be a Top five prospect for the Brewers. However, and maybe I’m cheating, Harrison has the talent to go from relative obscurity to one of the more talked about and hyped prospect in the minors. For me, that also defines an emerging prospect.

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2014 Futures Game Wrap-up

The annual Futures Game has become one of the biggest events of the prospect world. It’s still has yet to become completely mainstream as the game is played on Sunday afternoon while major league games are played and is billed as the lead-up to the celebrity softball game featuring actor James Denton and rapper Fat Joe. Like I said, it’s not yet completely mainstream…

This year the rosters were not as stacked with major league ready prospects as in previous years. In fact, the rosters featured several low-A and High-A players that are likely two, maybe even three years away.

As is tradition, power was on display. Joey Gallo wowed the onlookers with his 80-grade power in batting practice, hitting a 450-foot bomb that damaged the front window of a car past the right-field bleachers. While no pitcher hit triple digits, several pitchers hit 98 including Cincinnati right-hander Robert Stephenson.

We’ve written capsules about some of the more notable performances on the afternoon and when these players might see the major leagues.
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Young kids who can really hit

The elusive tool of the prospect rainbow is the ability to hit. It also happens to be the hardest to evaluate and put an accurate future grade.

I saw Franchy Cordero multiple times during the Spring and fell in love with his beautiful left-handed swing. He showed a quick short stroke and had the ability to keep his hands inside the ball to make solid, hard contact to all fields. The Padres clearly liked what they saw and gave him an aggressive assignment to full-season ball in beautiful Fort Wayne Indiana. How did he do? In 85 at-bats, he had 16 hits and struck out 36 times while walking four times.  At the end of April, he was sent back to the Padres Arizona Complex for more instruction.

Is it over for Cordero? Absolutely not! In fact, he hit better once he moved back to Arizona and is continuing to hit in his limited play in the Northwest League. Then why did he fail in his first attempt at full season ball?
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2014 Mid Season Top 50

As we head into the midway point of the minor league season, it’s time to profile our Top 50 mid-season prospects.   The list contains only players who have minor league eligibility and who ARE NOT currently on a major league roster. That rules out Gregory Polanco and even Eddie Butler (who is on the major league DL).

The list contains eight shortstops, five catchers and 22 pitchers, clearly showing that third base and first base are becoming scarce commodities. Granted, many shortstops will move to third and first baseman are usually made and not born, but it’s interesting nonetheless to the see the current dynamics.

As always, please provide me your feedback and questions and I’ll do the best I can to respond.

1. Byron Buxton (Min, OF)

It’s been a lost year for the best prospect in baseball as injuries have kept Byron Buxton on the sideline for all but five games. This will clearly delay his arrival to Minnesota until very late in 2015 or more likely 2016, but the wait will be worth it. He has all the tools in the shed, including the most important one – the ability to hit with a mature approach, particularly for someone his age. Stay all in!

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June Update: Who’s going to be up next by organization

We have updated our series, “Who’s going to be up next” to reflect the changes that are occurring in each organization.

As a refresher, we have outlined who we believe are next in line in the infield, outfield, starting pitching, and relief pitching for all 30 teams.  For each player we provide an indicator as to their fantasy relevance (High, Medium, or Low) as well as a brief write-up of the more significant players.  The target audience is primarily fantasy players.  For instance, if you own Pablo Sandoval and he gets injured or just continues to play poorly, is there anybody who can help?

To see the details, simply click on the team name.

Team Top Next in Line
Arizona Diamondbacks Archie Bradley (P)
Atlanta Braves J.R. Graham (P)
Baltimore Orioles Kevin Gausman (P)
Boston Red Sox Mookie Betts (OF)
Chicago Cubs Arismendy Alcantara (MI)
Chicago White Sox Matt Davidson (3B)
Cincinnati Reds Robert Stephenson (P)
Cleveland Indians Trevor Bauer (P) **
Colorado Rockies Jonathan Gray (P)
Detroit Tigers Robbie Ray (P)
Houston Astros George Springer (OF) **
Kansas City Royals Kyle Zimmer (P)
Los Angeles Angels C.J. Cron (1B/DH) **
Los Angeles Dodgers Joc Pederson (OF)
Miami Marlins Andrew Heaney (P)
Milwaukee Brewers Jimmy Nelson (P)
Minnesota Twins Alex Meyer (P)
New York Mets Noah Syndergaard (P)
New York Yankees Manny Banuelos (P)
Oakland Athletics Addison Russell (SS)
Philadephia Phillies Maikel Franco (3B)
Pittsburgh Pirates Gregory Polanco (OF) **
St. Louis Cardinals Oscar Taveras (OF) **
San Diego Padres Matt Wisler (P)
San Francisco Giants Edwin Escobar (P)
Seattle Mariners Jesus Montero (DH)
Tampa Bay Rays Nate Karns (P)
Texas Rangers Rougned Odor (2B) **
Toronto Blue Jays Marcus Stroman (P) **
Washington Nationals Brian Goodwin (OF)

** Indicate the player has already been promoted to the majors.

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2014 First Year Player Draft Notes and Observations

Baseball’s first year player draft starts on June 5th and while it doesn’t carry the same national buzz that the NFL draft does, for prospect hounds, it’s a must watch.

The top of the draft is heavy on pitching, particularly high school pitching but light on positional players.   While the draft doesn’t appear to have an impact talent like Buxton, Correa, Bryant, or Gray, it is substantially deeper than the past two drafts and will provide value for major league organizations well into the second and third rounds.

We have listed 10 of the top players that will go off the board and their potential fantasy impact. In addition, we have included two of our personal favorites that might be running a little under-the-radar.

Top three players

Brady Aiken (High School, LHP)

Short: 17-year-old high school lefty that has been comp’d by some to Clayton Kershaw when he was drafted.

He has a projectable 6-foot-3, 210 pound frame that coupled with his age have many evaluators excited about his future. Both his fastball and curve have taken a big step-up this year with his fastball now sitting consistently 92-93 MPH and his curve ball grading out as a future plus pitch. This is what teams like to see in a kid…increase fastball velocity in their senior year of two to three MPH. Many believe there is still more in the tank for more.

Fantasy Impact: The comment about Kershaw should grab your attention. For me, he has the highest upside in the draft and even though his stuff should allow him to move quickly, he might not see the big leagues until 2017 at the earliest.

Tyler Kolek (High School, RHP)

Short: Kolek stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 245 pounds and looks more like a college lineman or college power forward than a baseball player.

Kolek’s fastball sits 96-98 MPH and has hit 102 multiple times this spring. He uses his body well to get downward plane and when combined with natural sink, induces a lot of ground balls. His best secondary pitch is a slider that sits 86-88 MPH and is flashing future plus potential. His delivery needs works as he throws across his body; which allows his stuff to play up but won’t be good on his shoulder long-term.

With that glowing report, there are a number of red flags. There’s never been a high school pitcher drafted in the top three of a class with the physicality and premium velocity of Kolek. With the concern about young pitchers throwing premium velocity at the top of everyone’s mind, it’s a concern. Throw in the fact that he throws across his body, and Kolek could drop come draft time.

Fantasy Impact: A kid that throws that hard could bring massive strikeouts to the fantasy game either as a starter or potential closer.

Carlos Rodon (College, LHP)

Short: A college lefty from North Carolina State that has lost his luster from 12-months ago.

This time last year, Carlos Rodon was being touted as the best left-handed pitching prospect since David Price. His fastball was touching the mid to upper 90’s and his slider was viewed as a big-league-ready plus offering. Some evaluators even speculated that he could break camp in 2015 as a member of a major league starting rotation.

However, things haven’t gone as well for the Cuban-born lefty in 2014. The fastball velocity and command was off in the early going and his slider, that was once considered a plus major league pitch, had dropped a full grade. One evaluator told me that he didn’t think Rodon was a top 10 pick. In March, the fastball velocity came back and the slider improved but he’s not showed the consistent arsenal he had last year. Reasons for the inconsistencies have ranged from being overworked in college to being bored.

Fantasy Impact: I’m still a big fan of Carlos Rodon and believe he has top-of-the-rotation potential. I don’t think his ceiling is David Price but he could slot into a rotation as a solid number two starter; and do it quickly.

Best positional players

Alex Jackson (High School, C/OF)

Short: An advanced high school bat with plus power potential.

Alex Jackson has caught helium this Spring and is now projected to be drafted as one of the top seven picks. In fact, the Astros have been linked to him at number one. His calling card is plus to plus-plus raw power but even as a high schooler, he shows great plate awareness and can really hit.   He’s also a right-handed batter and right-handed power is at a premium.

While some evaluators believe Jackson will stay at catcher others believe that he should be moved to right field to accelerate his path to the majors. The Nationals did this successfully with Bryce Harper after the 2010 draft. However, Jackson does not have the same type of tools as Harper. The power is similar but the athleticism of Harper far outpaces that of Jackson.

Fantasy Impact: The potential to hit 30 home runs in the middle of the lineup with a .280 batting average should get a fantasy owners attention. In fact, Jackson might have the highest and safest fantasy upside of any player. Yes, you might have to wait a while, but it could be a nice pay off.

Nick Gordon (High School, SS)

Short: Son of Tom Gordon and brother of Dee Gordon and praised for his makeup and baseball instincts.

Nick Gordon is a different player than his brother in that he’s stronger and a better defender but doesn’t have a chance to steal 50 bases like Dee. However, he could be a plus defender at short with double-digit home run power and 20-30 stolen bases potential.

Fantasy Impact: Gordon could move quickly through a team’s organization on the back of his plus defensive play. His bat will take longer but a 10/30 production up-the-middle could be very nice.

Michael Conforto (College, OF)

Short: In a draft light on impact college bats, Conforto offers a great hit tool but with question marks about his future power potential.

As a junior at Oregon State, Conforto slashed .351/.506/.557 with an impressive 35K/51BB strikeout-to-walk ratio. His slugging percentage as well as his home run production has been dropping since his freshman year but his pull swing indicates that he could eventually have above-average power at the highest level. There is also concern about his defensive position as he lacks the foot speed and arm to play anything but left field. Will he hit enough to make that viable? Time will tell.

Fantasy Impact: In fantasy we care about offense and Conforto should fit the bill. He has no speed so will likely profile as a Ryan Ludwick type of player. In other words, a nice fantasy player but not a stud.

Injured players but first round talent

Jeff Hoffman (College, RHP)

Short: An advanced college right-hander out of East Carolina became a statistic on the Tommy John Surgery tote board.

At the start of the college season, many evaluators put Hoffman as the Top player on their board. He has a great projectable and athletic body at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, a fastball that sits 93-95 MPH and can touch higher, a tailing 2-seamer that is even a better pitch and a curve ball and change-up that both flash plus. He looked nearly big league ready but had Tommy John Surgery in March and has become a huge wildcard for the draft.

He’ll be drafted and will sign and five years from now could be viewed as the steal of the draft. Yes, there is risk but the reward is also very high.

Fantasy Impact: If this story looks and sounds like Lucas Giolito, Part 2, you’re are thinking the same thing I am. The talent projects him as a top-of-the-rotation arm and a fantasy owner willing to gamble in their draft could benefit greatly. Of course, it’s also a huge risk as the downside is he never fully recovers.

Erick Feede (College, RHP)

Short: Freede doesn’t have the upside of fellow TJS survivor, Jeff Hoffman, but they will be forever linked.

At 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, Erick Freede represents tall and lanky. He has good stuff with a fastball that sits 92-93 MPH with a nice slider and change-up. He also had TJS in the spring but still is expected to go in the first round. The upside isn’t what Hoffman provides, but he has the chance to be a solid number three major league starter.

Fantasy Impact: He’s your prototypical mid-rotation starter with the chance for league average ratios and seven strikeouts per nine. While I might be willing to take a risk in a fantasy draft on Hoffman, I’m likely passing on Feede.

Players close to being big league ready

Kyle Freeland (College, LHP)

Short: Some evaluators think that Kyle Freeland provides the best value in the draft.

Freeland has a nice arsenal that consists of a fastball that sits 90-91 MPH with a hard slider (more of a cutter) and a traditional slider that sits 84-85 MPH.   He throws a ton of strikes and posted a crazy 128K/13BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 99.1 IP in Evansville. While it’s not a top-of-the-rotation profile, he could move quickly and be in the big leagues sometime in 2015; depending on who drafts him.

Fantasy Impact: While the arsenal is not as advanced as Michael Wacha, the pitchability is similar to what Wacha showed and therefore Freeland should move quickly. The upside is a number two put he’ll likely slide into a fantasy rotation as a solid number 3/4 fantasy starter with 7-8 strikeouts per nine.

Aaron Nola (College, RHP)

Short: Another in a long line of advanced college pitchers from LSU.

Aaron Nola is not a big guy and stands 6-foot-1 while weighing 190 pounds. His arsenal consists of a fastball that sits 90-93 MPH and an above average curve ball that gets a lot of swing and misses. The arsenal plays up because of funk and deception in his delivery.

Nola slings the ball from a low three-quarters slot, not quite side-arm but it definitely comes at a hitter from a funky angle. Consequently, batters have trouble squaring up his pitches and wind up beating the ball into the ground; in particularly right-handed batters.  He’s getting strikeouts and limiting walks with a 134K/27BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 116.1 IP.

Fantasy Impact:  There is injury concern with Nola long-term but with the funk in his delivery, he could confound minor league hitters and move through a system quickly. He’s also that guy, ala Alex Wood that could have early success in the majors before falling back into a number three starter.

Our personal favorites

Touki Toussant (High School, RHP)

Short: 80-grade name but also has an electric arm

At this point, Touki is a thrower without a ton of polish in his craft. The fastball is a monster pitch that sits in the mid-90’s and can touch higher. Sources have put a 70 future grade on his curve ball. He’s also uber-athletic with a 6-foot-2, 180 pound wiry build.

While the package is electric, it’s also sushi raw. However, I always bet on the athlete with the great arm and therefore, I’m very high on Touki.

Fantasy Impact: The ultimate high risk/high reward prospect. He has the upside of an ace or a high-end closer but might not make it out of Double-A.

Brandon Downes (College, OF)

Short: Downes will be drafted on the second day when nobody is paying attention. However, take note…this guy can play.

Downes looks the part of a big leaguer at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds and in March was one of the hottest hitters in college. However, a wrist injury caused him to miss time and his draft stock dropped. However, he has nice bat speed, great instincts, and natural bat-to-ball skills that gives him the ceiling of a first division player. I’ve been following Downes since he was a junior in high school from New Jersey and believe the talent is there.

Fantasy Impact: Downes is the kind of player that could become a solid contributor to your fantasy team. A 20/20 ceiling with a .280 batting average is not out of the question.

 

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May Pop-up Guys

“Pop-up guys” is a scouting phrase that is used this time of year to refer to players in which the general public has little to no knowledge, but are now considered legitimate prospects for the first-year-player-draft.   Since I primarily scout players already in professional ball, I’m going to profile 13 players that are my professional “Pop-up guys”.

This list is a combination of players that are already on the prospect landscape but have jump substantially in status or are not yet household names and should be.  It should be noted that we are not necessarily high on all these players but each has made substantial noise in the early going of the season.

PLAYERS YOU SHOULD ALREADY KNOW

Mookie Betts (Bos, Double-A, 2B)

Mookie Betts was ranked as my number 79 overall prospect entering 2014 and technically is not a “Pop-up” guy. However, based on what he has done in Double-A, he’s a name that needs to be discussed…daily…if not hourly.

He has been in a word – sensational. In 150 at-bats, he has a slash line of .393/.462/.607 with an 13K/17BB strikeout-to-walk ratio. His streak of reaching base in 71 straight games finally ended on Saturday May 17th.  When Betts was asked about the streak, he simply said he would start a new one.  You know what?  Nobody would be surprised if he did it again.

The performance has not just been statistical in nature as he’s demonstrating an impressive approach at the plate while making hard contact to all fields. While he does have six home runs to-date, his size and swing path point to a 10-12 home run prediction at the highest level.

In most organizations, there would be cries of when Betts will be promoted to help the major league club. However, this is Boston and they have some guy named Dustin Pedroia playing second base and is signed for the next six years. So, Mookie is blocked and needs something to change for him to see the major leagues. That might have began on Sunday May 18th as Betts started at center field for the Portland Sea Dogs.  I’ve him play in the outfield there during batting practice, but it appears that the Red Sox may now be formalizing that.  Of course, that begs the question of how long will it take for him to learn the position.  Yeah, that’s a real good question…

Clearly, Betts is a must own in all Dynasty League formats and has a chance to be a Top 20 prospect by years-end.

Joey Gallo (Tex, High-A, 3B)

I was never that high on Joey Gallo as I believed the swing and miss would be so great that his prodigious power would be left at Batting Practice. So far this year, Gallo has silenced his critics as he shorten up his stroke without losing his plus-plus power. The result is a minor league leading 17 home runs and a 68% contact rate.

Yes, the 68% contact will not translate into a .300 plus batting average, but he has excellent plate discipline that should provide a .330-.350 OBP to go along with a .240-.250 batting average with the potential to hit 40 or more home runs annually.  That will play more than enough.

While his 6-foot-5 frame would indicate that his ultimate position is not at third and is instead as a power hitting right fielder, I wouldn’t rule third out. He’s athletic and has decent foot work and a plus arm.

While I missed on Gallo, I’m trying to right the ship and get onboard. I do worry on how well he will hit in the upper minors, but the adjustments he has made in the Carolina League are indeed impressive. As a fantasy option, that kind of power in Rangers Park – I’ll let you fill in the blank…but it’s very, very good.

Trevor Bauer (Cle, Triple-A, RHP)

Another guy I wasn’t high on, particularly after he lost his velocity last year, was Trevor Bauer. But give Mr. Bauer some credit, he re-worked his delivery over the winter and is back to hitting the mid-90’s with his fastball and so far this year, has been dominate. In 46.0 innings, he has a 44K/14BB strikeout-to-walk ratio and has limited the opposition to 36 hits.

He never lost the secondary stuff and therefore his strikeout rate remained high throughout his struggles. However, his violent delivery coupled with his fear of attacking hitters; probably because of his lost velocity, drove his pitch count high with walks and ineffectiveness. However, that seems to be a thing of the past and the pitcher that won the Golden Spikes Award after the 2011 season, has his career in high gear.

Bauer made one start this year in Cleveland and was equally dominate and should spend the remainder of the year in the big leagues with a chance to be very, very good. He should be owned in all fantasy leagues.

Hunter Harvey (Bal, Low-A, RHP)

I ranked Hunter Harvey as the number 59 prospect in the minor leagues entering the season and was ridiculed by many as being overly optimistic on the teenage from North Carolina. However, after seven starts in which he’s posted a 3 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio with 19 hits in 39 innings, the rest of the industry is starting to see that Harvey has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starter and also move quickly.

The arsenal is impressive with a fastball that sits 92-94 MPH and a plus hammer curve that is already a weapon. He still needs to work on his change-up and command, but the mechanics suggest that both should improve with repetition.

I expect the Orioles to move Harvey to High-A during the second half and given his advanced arsenal, I would expect him to continue to dominate.   If all goes according to plan, he could start 2014 in Double-A and be poised to be one of the best pitching prospects in the game. I continue to be all-in.

PLAYERS FIRMLY ON THE RADAR

Alex Reyes (Stl, Low-A, RHP)

Alex Reyes was listed as our 2014 emerging prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals and while he’s been inconsistent, he’s shown flashes of being a top-of-the-rotation talent.

The arsenal is impressive with a fastball that he can comfortable run up into the mid-90’s with a curve ball that has improved from last year. The mechanics still have a ways to go and explains his bouts of wildness; but he’s athletic and I always bet on the athlete.

The Cardinals will likely go slow with the New Jersey native and I would expect him to spend most, if not the entire season in Low-A. The Cardinals will focus on harnessing his arsenal as well as working on his change-up. Given his progress, Reyes has a chance to sneak in the back half of our 2015 Top 100 prospect list.

Dalton Pompey (Tor, High-A, OF)

Being drafted in the 16th round of the 2010 draft, Dalton Pompey hasn’t enjoyed the uber prospect status that many others have in the Blue Jays organization. In 2014, that changed.

Pompey is already considered an elite defender, winning the minor league gold glove for his play in center field in 2013, but his bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline have taken a noticeable step-up this year. In 145 at-bats, he has a 30K/17BB strikeout-to-walk ratio with a slash line of .331/.406/.483. He’s also hit three home runs and stolen 17 bases while being caught but one time. While the swing lacks leverage, he does have strength in his 6-foot-1, 170 pound frame and 10-15 home run power is not out of the question once he fully matures.

Michael Lorenzen (Cin, Double-A, RHP)

Coming out of college, many thought that Lorenzen would be drafted as an outfielder as that was his primary position in college. However, the Reds loved his arm and how he handled the closer duties at Cal State Fullerton and moved him to the bump.

He spent his entire first year in the minor leagues as a reliever, closing four games along the way. The Reds decided to move him to the rotation to start the 2014 season and so far, it’s worked. In 46.2 innings, he’s posted an impressive 2.51 ERA with 31 strikeouts and 14 walks while giving up 40 hits; and doing it in Double-A. He’s primarily a two-pitch pitcher with a plus fastball that he can run up into the mid-90’s and a hard slider that generates plenty of swings and misses.  He’ll need to continue to work on his change-up in order to neutralize left-handed batters.

The arsenal as it stands today, still screams bullpen but we have received reports that his change-up has improved. From a fantasy standpoint, it doesn’t matter. If he doesn’t succeed in the rotation, the arsenal will play very well as a closer down the road.

Gabriel Guerrero (Sea, High-A, OF)

It’s hard to write about Gabriel Guerrero and not mention that, yes, he is related to that other Guerrero. In fact, his game has a lot of the same free-swinging attributes that Vladimir’s game had. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. He does have great hands and premium bat speed like his famous uncle, but will he be able to hit the ball off his shoe-strings? Not likely.

While his five home runs in High Desert is not all that impressive, the bat speed and swing path suggest that he could eventually hit 20 plus home runs. There will be strikeouts and less than a 10% walk rate, but he should also sting the ball enough to prop his batting average with a high BABIP.

I’m not ready to call Gabriel Guerrero a potential star, but he’s definitely somebody to put on your radar. The real test should come in the second half when he will likely be promoted to Double-A.

Ben Lively (Cin, High-A, RHP)

Ben Lively has the most impressive stat line in baseball in 2014. In 48.2 innings, he has a 61K/5BB strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 0.74 ERA and 0.66 WHIP. He’s given up a measly 27 hits! The problem is he ceiling is likely a number three starter or more likely, a back-of-the-rotation starter.

He is dominating through a funky delivery but not plus stuff.   The fastball sits 92-93 MPH with just average secondary pitches.   Because of the funk in the delivery, he is able to get away with living up in the zone. Will this play as he moves to the next level? Not likely but you never know.

I would be a seller of Lively in a Dynasty League, playing up the crazy 12.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Teoscar Hernandez (Hou, High-A, OF)

I had a chance to scout Teoscar Hernandez during opening day weekend in Lancaster. Besides Carlos Correa, he was the best player on the field that also included 2013 first round pick, Hunter Renfroe. He has an intriguing power/speed combo that has allowed him to slug .528 through 39 games with five home runs and 12 stolen bases.

This season, he has become more aggressive at the plate but that has not stopped him from working 20 free passes in 159 at-bats. His swing can get long at time so there will likely be swing and miss in his game. However, as he fills out, it’s not crazy to project him to hit 20-25 home runs and steal double digit bases. From both a fantasy and real-life baseball, that should play just fine.

Josh Hader (Hou, High-A, LHP)

While highly touted prospects, Vince Velasquez and Lance McCullers have anchored the Houston High-A Lancaster pitching rotation, it’s been left-hander Josh Hader who has the best pitching line of the three.

Hader is a lot of arms and legs coming at you with a fastball that sits 90-92 MPH but plays up given his low three-quarters delivery. He does throw a curveball but given the angle from which he pitches, he could be better served to introduce a slider into the arsenal.   He does have a tendency to lose his release point, but when he’s on, he can be very difficult to square up.

Prospect361 stepped out when making Josh Hader their 2014 emerging prospect and he’s done just that. His upside is a number three starter or a very nasty lefty specialist reliever. He’ll probably be moved to Double-A before the end of the season and could see time in Houston in late 2015.

Since we are talking about the Houston Astros organization, I’ll briefly touch on the 2014 number one overall prospect, Mark Appel. It’s been a disappointing season for the 22-year-old right-hander. He started the season late after having his appendix removed and then he just did not pitch well in the Astros two pitcher format (two starters pitch four innings every fifth day; one starts on the first rotation and then the two pitchers switch the next time out). Wisely, the Astros pulled him back to Extended Spring Training to put him on a schedule in which he’s more comfortable.  I would guess he’ll work every fifth day once he returns to competitive action.

Appel has the stuff to be a solid number two pitcher in the big leagues. Has Jonathan Gray and Hunter Harvey passed him in the draft class? Probably, but fans and fantasy owners should not get discouraged as once Appel returns to action, he could move very quickly.

Peter O’Brien (NYY, Double-A, C)

While everyone is marveling, and rightly so at the tremendous home run totals by Joey Gallo and Kris Bryant, Peter O’Brien is right there in the mix with 14 bombs. In fact, after hitting 10 in 30 games in the favorable pitching environment of the Florida State League, he was recently promoted to Double-A and has already hit four homes in six games. Even more impressive, all four have been at Arm and Hammer Park in Trenton; one of the more difficult places in the minor leagues to hit a home run.

Since Trenton is “my home park”, I will lay eyes on him before June and will write-up a full scouting report. The reports I have received have not been favorable on his catching ability, but the raw power appears to be for real.   It’s unclear whether he could move to right-field. One thing that is clear – he’s a New York Yankee, so that means he’ll likely see New York from the visitor’s dugout.

Jake Thompson (Det, High-A, RHP)

The Detroit Tigers minor league system ranked as one of the bottom five in all of baseball, and if we were to re-rank the organization today, they would still be the case. However, 20-year-old Jake Thompson is doing his best to push the Tigers minor league system into relevancy. He’s been one of the more impressive performers in 2014, striking out 41 in 45 innings while walking only 13. That’s helped him to post a 1.80 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP

The stuff is good, not great with a fastball that sits 90-92 MPH with a slider that could be a nice out pitch. Despite the early success, for me, this profile is one of a back-of-the-rotation starter. It’s a similar profile to Brandon Maurer, Erik Johnson, and Dan Straily. Fantasy owners will get excited and start snatching him up, but I would hunt elsewhere.

 

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