The first week, and then some, of the minor league season is in the books. As with their major league counterparts, some players have gotten off to fast starts and others, like our pre-season number overall ranked player, Ronald Acuna is batting below the Mendoza line.
This weekly article, well hopefully weekly, will focus on 10 players who have performed well over the past week. Since there will be likely dozens, if not more players to choose from every week, I’ll do my best to pick some of the famous prospects, as well as players that might be flying under the radar.
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Zac Lowther (BAL, LHP) – The Orioles drafted Zac Lowther last June in the supplemental second round and he’s been lights out since signing. In his first start of the season, he faced 19 guys without giving up a hit while striking out 13. Lowther does have more of a reliever’s delivery as he comes from a low ¾ slot with a fastball that tops out in the low-90’s. Before fantasy owners jump all over him, let’s see what happens once he’s promoted to a more age-appropriate level.
Danny Jansen (TOR, C) – Danny Jansen is starting to make a strong push for his call-up to the big leagues. He’s off to a great start posting a 1.643 OPS through the first week of the season. The problem is, 35-year-old Russell Martin is signed through next season and is still owed $40 million dollars. Given the new math in baseball, Martin should count his lucky stars.
Seuly Matias (KC, OF) – After their World Series run, The Royals farm system is not what it use to be. However, Seuly Matias is one of the exceptions. At 6-foot-3 and athletic, he has the bat speed to hit for plus power. The raw power was on display in the first week as he popped four bombs while posting a 1.357 OPS. He also struck out nine times in 23 at-bats as he’s an aggressive hitter whose swing can get long.
Colton Welker (COL, 3B) – Before hitting the DL for most of the second half last season, Colton Welker posted a .901 OPS in the great hitters park in Asheville NC. He moved to even a better hitter’s part to start the 2018 season and has continued to hit. In his first week of action, he hit .522 with a 1.470 OPS. He’s got great raw power but needs to learn to control the strike zone better. Plus, before we get too excited, let’s wait until he’s promoted to Double-A where he’ll play in a more neutral ballpark.
Mitch Keller (PIT, RHP) – Mitch Keller is one of my favorite pitchers in the minor leagues. He has two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball with his change-up showing great improvement. He already has the ability to repeat his delivery showing promising command and control. In most organizations, at 22-years-old, he’d be banging on the big league door. But he plays in the Pirates organization and therefore, we will not see Pittsburgh until the second half of 2019. Until then…we wait and watch his outstanding performances, like his first start of the year where he threw six innings, giving up two hits while striking out eight.
Nick Kingham (PIT, RHP) – Nick Kingham…remember him? He was once a top prospect and was on the verge of a major league promotion when he blew out his elbow in 2015. I thought for sure he would get some time in Pittsburgh last season but the Pirates thought differently. Perhaps after shoving it for two starts to begin the 2018 season, somebody will finally remember the talent that he still has. What did he do? In 11 innings, he struck out out 16, walked three while posting a 2.45 ERA.
Juan Soto (WAS, OF) – While most prospect watchers know the name Victor Robles, fewer know the name, Juan Soto. Despite an ankle injury that cost him two months last season, he took a major step forward last year and has gotten off to an equally hot start this season. In his first week, he’s batting .400 with four home runs and more walks than strikeouts. While it’s a very small sample size, Soto can really hit with a chance for plus power.
Shane Bieber (CLE, RHP) – Last season, Shane Bieber pitched 173.1 innings and walked 10 batters. So far this season in 13 innings in Double-A, he hasn’t walked a single batter and oh yeah, has struck out 17. It’s more command and control over stuff but every once in a while, double-plus control pitchers can be effective, at least in short burst in the big leagues.
Bryson Brigman (SEA, 2B) – After slugging only .290 in two professional seasons, it is indeed encouraging to see Bryson Brigman slugging a ridiculous .824 after six games in High-A. Granted, four of those games were played in the ridiculous hitting environment of Lancaster CA, if he can at least Slug .350, his on-base skills could give him a ceiling of a major league regular. In the end, he’s likely a utility performer but he’s a name to watch.
Luis Urias (SD, SS) – The Padres are loaded in their minor league’s system and one of their better pure prospects is Luis Urias. He really impressed in Spring Training with some media members speculating he could break camp with the team. He can hit, pick it and has enough bat speed to suggest that future power will develop. If his .536 SLG in the first week of games in Triple-A is any indication, that might be starting.