We focus on two types of players in this week’s update. Several that were true breakout players last season but haven’t been heard from this year. Why? Where did they go? Read on and find out. The second group is young kids that are starting to make a name for themselves. Who are they? Read on and find out. And if you’re wondering, yes Vlad Jr. was very good this week.
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Estevan Florial (OF, NYY, High-A) – Estevan Florial was on one of the significant pop-up prospects last season after showing an intriguing combination of power and speed. However, a .404 BABIP helped disguise a 28% strikeout rate and enabled the outfielder to hit an impressive .297 in Charleston and .303 in Tampa to end last season. The poor contact rate caught up to him this season as he hit .245 in April and May before requiring hamate surgery that caused him to miss six weeks of action.
Once he returned, he caught fire hitting .347 in July and .309 so far in August. The power has been slow to return, slugging only .372 with three home runs. But once fully healthy, there is definitely plus power in the bat with a chance to hit 25 to 30 home runs while adding 15 to 20 stolen bases. However, the contact is a problem and with his long swing, fantasy owners might have to settle for a low batting average in the .230 range to go along with the home runs and stolen bases. The good news is he demonstrates the ability to take a walk, so in OBP Leagues, that might be acceptable.
Austin Hays (OF, Bal, Double-A) – After having one of the best statistical performance in all of the minor leagues in 2017, Austin Hays seemed primed to make a major contribution in Baltimore this season. But, the baseball gods had other ideas as an ankle and shoulder injury zapped his power causing him to struggle mightily to start the season. Finally, the Orioles shut him down in late May and while he didn’t set the world on fire when he returned, he’s played much better in August. In fact, over the past week, he was 10 for 21 with two home runs.
We still like Hays long-term and believe he has 20 home run upside and assuming he can become more patient at the plate, he has the ability to hit .260 to .270 with upside.
Bubba Thompson (OF, Tex, Low-A) – The Rangers drafted toolsy Bubba Thompson in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft with the hope that he could assemble at least an average hit tool so that his plus speed and emerging power would play. He’s shown plenty of speed (28 stolen bases) and the great bat speed is starting to translate into power. However, a 27% strikeout rate and a 6.5% walk rate illustrates that the hit tool is still lagging behind. If it all comes together, you’re looking at a 20/20 performer with upside on both the power and speed. If it doesn’t, then he might follow a Lewis Brinson type of development curve, which as a Brinson loyalist, is incredibly painful.
The potential, though, has been demonstrated this month. In 16 games, he’s hitting .323 with a .382 OBP with three home runs and five stolen bases. How’s the strikeout rate, you ask? Or at least you should…it’s the same…28%. I didn’t calculate the BABIP but I’m guessing it’s .400 plus.
Keibert Ruiz (C, LAD, Double-A) – It’s easy to see a .254 batting average and question whether the hype surrounding Keibert Ruiz is warranted. Then you realize that he just turned 20, is in Double-A and is a catcher. Remember, catchers have to spend considerable time working on their defensive skills and is one of the reasons they are slow to develop offensively. But Ruiz is doing just fine. He’s controlling the strike zone very well and showing good over-the-fence pop. The upside continues to be a Top five fantasy catcher with a chance to hit 15 to 20 home runs and bat .280.
After a down July, he’s back to hitting the ball to all fields with a .357 batting average in August with more walks than strikeouts. Again, if you are an owner, don’t panic, just be patient as goodness should arrive next season or in 2020.
Blaze Alexander (SS, Ari, Rookie) – You don’t generally see an 11th round pick make a top prospect list in his first year of professional ball, but Blaze Alexander is making the Diamondbacks look really smart. Granted, he got paid like he was a fourth-round pick ($500,000) but the early returns are showing that he could have been a first or second-round pick. He’s demonstrating power, speed and the ability to control the strike zone. In 42 games, he has a slash line of .353/.443/.582 with four home runs and nine stolen bases. He’ll likely start in Low-A to begin the 2019 campaign, and if he performs, he’ll start to climb prospect list very quickly. If I were you, I’d jump on the train before it’s too late.
Nick Solak (2B, TB, Double-A) – While many people have heard of the more famous players in the Rays organization, fantasy owners need to start familiarizing themselves with the “second tier” players. Perhaps leading that list is Nick Solak. He’s done nothing but hit since being drafted in the second round by the Yankees in the 2016 MLB Draft. This year, the power has developed and he’s stolen 21 bases. Throw in a 19% strikeout rate and a 12% walk rate and it’s easy to get excited. He spent the entire season in Double-A and should be ready for Triple-A next season. If it all goes well, don’t be surprised to see him in St. Petersburg in the second half.
Want more? In 19 games in August, he’s hitting .355 with as many walks as strikeouts while hitting four home runs and stealing two bags.
Freudis Nova (SS, Hou, Rookie) – Last year I added Freudis Nova to most of my Dynasty Leagues. I loved the power/speed combination and from talking with evaluators who laid eyes on him in the DSL last summer, they believed he would hit. This year, It all seems to be coming together for the teenager. In 38 games in rookie ball, he’s hitting .311 with six home runs and eight stolen bases. Sure, he’s only walked six times but assuming he can learn some patience, the Astros could be looking at a very intriguing talent.
Eric Pardinho (RHP, Tor, Short Season) – One of the more intriguing players signed last year during the International signing period was 5-foot-10 Brazilian right-hander Eric Pardinho. The Blue Jays paid him a $1.4 million dollar signing bonus and brought him to their complex to start the process. The work is starting to pay off as his fastball has taken a noticeable tick up and his secondary pitches can now consistently miss bats. While he’s only performed in rookie ball, the results have been outstanding. He’s pitched to a 2.93 ERA while striking out over 11 per nine and walking 2.5 per nine. He’s also given up five home runs and that points to the concern. He’s only 5-foot-10 and while he his delivery helps him stay “tall”, he’s going to be prone to giving up the long ball.
Ultimately, I think he becomes a bullpen arm but the Blue Jays will keep him starting for the foreseeable future.
Parker Dunshee (RHP, Oak, Double-A) – With the A’s ability to recycle presumed over-the-hill pitchers to relevant, if not dominating pitchers, maybe they don’t need young pitchers in their system. Just convert them all to bats! But in the meantime, they’ve got some very good arms. With no disrespect to Jesus Luzardo, Parker Dunshee is making the case to be their pitcher of the year. He’s pitched extremely well in Double-A, pitching to a 2.44 ERA while striking out over a batter an inning while walk 1.4 per nine. The problem is his stuff is just average. His fastball sits in the low 90’s with average to slightly above-average secondary pitchers. However, they all play up because of his ability to throw each pitch for strikes.
Kris Bubic (LHP, KC, Rookie) – Drafted in the supplemental first round last June, Kris Bubic has had an inconsistent start to his professional career. Pitching in the Pioneer League, he got off to a difficult start pitching to a 5.73 ERA in 11 innings in July. However, as he got more comfortable, the stuff got sharper and August has been much better. In 19 innings, he’s pitched to a 1.89 ERA with 32 strikeouts and only five walks. He’s currently a fastball/change-up pitcher with his fastball sitting in the low-90s. With his change-up ahead of his curveball, he’ll likely have early success as batters in the minor league will be fooled. However, as he moves through the system, the curveball will have to improve in order for him to his hit ceiling of a number four pitcher.