As we close out April, there have been a number of quality performances. However, Luis Robert and Casey Mize were the best of the best and have won our April player of the month and pitcher of the month honors.
Both have been recently promoted to Double-A with Mize already notching a no-hitter. Roberts should start tormenting Eastern League pitchers as early this evening (I am writing this on May 1st).
What will May bring? No idea, but like you, I can’t wait to see.
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Death, taxes and Luis Robert making our Hot Prospect List. He’s been the best player so far this season and it’s not close. Fortunately for Carolina League pitchers, he’ll start tormenting Eastern League pitchers in May. If he continues mashing, a promotion to Triple-A will be in the cards later this summer. I still don’t think he has the kind of Juan Soto hit tool that will allow him to blow through the upper level of the minors, but what he’s done so far in 2019 is impressive and notable.
In reviewing my Top 100 list from the winter, our top four players have been promoted to the big leagues (Vlad Jr, Victor Robles, Fernando Tatis, and Eloy Jimenez). Nick Senzel at five is rumored to be promoted this weekend and Forrest Whitely, despite some early struggles should be promoted over the summer. Since my job is to rank prospects, the obvious name to sit atop of the 2020 list is Wander Franco. After a slow start by his standards, Franco posted a .864 OPS in April with three home runs and four stolen bases. He also walked more than he struck out. Oh yeah, he still only 18. The future is indeed bright for Mr. Franco and the question of when we see him Tampa Bay will be the primary question. My guess? 2021
Lost in the excitement of what is happening in San Diego is Luis Urias. The 22-year-old was penciled in as the starting second baseman in October but the addition of Manny Machado and Ian Kinsler changed that. After hitting .400 in April with seven home runs (6 last week), he should get the call soon. I’m not ready to anoint him a power hitter, but clearly, he likes hitting the Major League baseball. What he can do is hit. However, from a fantasy standpoint, just set your expectations as the power and speed are average-at-best.
Sam Huff (Tex, C, High-A)
We always knew that Sam Huff had power. But 12 home runs in April including seven last week point is just crazy. Clearly, he needs to be challenged with a promotion to High-A likely in the cards. While the power is 70-grade, the strikeouts are equally prodigious. In April he posted a 33% strikeout rate while only walking 6% of the time. The ceiling is likely a backup catcher, but if he can reduce the strikeouts, the power is real.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of Austin Riley given his penchant to strike out in bunches, however, based on his April stat line, that might be changing. In 24 games, he posted a 21.4% strikeout rate, which isn’t great but when it comes with 30 plus home runs, that will work just fine. He’s currently blocked by Josh Donaldson, but that’s only for 2019 as the job should be his in 2020. That said, don’t be surprised if the Braves try to find a way to get him in the big league lineup in the second half.
With his big brother having a nice bounce-back season, William Contreras is also having another solid year. In April, he hit .329 with a .394 OBP. He only hit one home run, but it is the Florida State League which is a league that suppresses power. However, his hit tool is very advanced and I believe there is enough power for him to eventually hit double-digit home runs at the highest level.
I was curious what Colton Welker would do once he got to a neutral ballpark. In 24 games in Hartford, he’s slashed .337/.394/.535 with three home runs. So far, so good. He has the chance to be a significant contributor at the big leagues, particularly if he’s able to stay in Colorado. However, with the signing of Nolan Arenado, a move to first will need to be done. In fact, over the past week, Welker has just done that.
Kyle Tucker got off to a difficult start to the season and he’ll need a lot more time to correct his .173 batting average. Last week was a good start as he went 6-16 with three home runs. Sure, that’s not hitting the cover off the ball, but it’s a start. Remember, some failure along the way is a good thing and in Tucker’s case, it’s more than a good thing. You see, there’s a hitch in his swing that I think needs to be addressed. A tough stretch like this could be the impetus for making such a change.
Vidal Brujan (TB, 2B, High-A)
While Vidal Brujan has yet to leave the yard in High-A, he’s been making up for his lack of power by showing off his double-plus speed. In April he stole 14 of 17 bases including six last week. While he has below-average power, he still should be able to hit 5 to 8 at the highest level. He’s still flying under-the-radar in many Dynasty Leagues and if he’s somehow on your waiver wire, you need to fix that.
I’ve always been intrigued by Skye Bolt. He has a nice combination of speed and power with an approach that should allow him to get full-time at-bats at the highest level. He’s had a great April playing in Las Vegas posting a 1.051 OPS with five home runs and three stolen bases. He doesn’t have the crazy hose of Ramon Laureano but has more tools and is arguably a better hitter. It might be time to add him to your roster if he is floating out on your waiver wire.
In all due respect to Forrest Whitely, Casey Mize might have passed him as the best pitching in minor league baseball. Sure, it’s still a small sample size, but after throwing a no-hitter on Monday in his Double-A debut, he’s got everyone talking. The most impressive thing about his no-hitter is he plowed through the Altoona lineup in 98 pitches. If you’re wondering what he’d done before that – he gave up one earned run. His baseball card says 35 IP, 0.26 ERA, 32K/2BB. Yeah, he’s good…
Nate Pearson continues to impress after striking out 10 batters in five innings last weekend. Pearson has had trouble staying healthy, but the stuff is impressive, and the control is better than you would expect in a 6-foot-6 pitcher. He’ll likely be promoted to Double-A in May and that should be an excellent test.
If you like rostering speculative players for your fantasy team, Dylan Cease is a great addition. I think he gets called up by the end of June. Sure, if you look at his overall stat line, it’s good, but it’s not Casey Mize good. In 24.1 innings, he’s posted a 3.33 ERA with 30 strikeouts and seven walks. However, he’s got premium stuff with a fastball that can hit triple-digits. He still needs to throw more strikes, but his 2.59 BB/9 rate so far this year is a great improvement over his career 4.12 BB/9 rate.
Kris Bubic (KC, LHP, Low-A)
If you listen to our companion Hot Prospect podcast, you heard me mention Kris Bubic last week. If you didn’t, well, you might have gotten scooped by one of your league-mates. Bubic has been very good in his five starts in the Sally League. In 29 innings, he’ pitched to a 1.86 ERA with 45 strikeouts and only seven walks. The Royals have several young pitchers and Bubic might not be as heralded, but don’t let that dissuade you. He has a chance to be at least a number three starting pitching.
The Padres have been taking it easy with their prized left-hander MacKenzie Gore. Selected as the number three overall player in the 2017 MLB Draft, Gore has impressed in five starts in the very difficult California League. In 26.1 innings, he’s posted a 1.37 ERA with 38 strikeouts and four walks. He only pitched 60 innings in 2018 so I would think the Padres will want to limit him to 100 to 110 innings in 2019. That will likely be split between High and Double-A. Assuming good health, he should join Chris Paddack and others in San Diego in 2020.