When I scan the weekly results for minor league players, the number of Triple-A hitters at the top is the largest I’ve seen over the past five years. Clearly, the new ball is having an effect. When you combine that with great hitting PCL ballparks and the normal inconsistent pitching you always see in Triple-A, it creates an environment for great production.
Going forward, I’m going to take that into consideration with my Hot Prospects List. Plus, how many more times do we have to highlight Yordan Alvarez. He’s having an amazing season and it will likely continue until he gets the call from Houston.
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Yordan Alvarez (Hou, OF/1B, Triple-A)
There was a report out last week where Houston General Manager, Jeff Lunhow suggested Yordan Alvarez’s bat was ready but he needed work on his defense. Most comments from GMs like this should be taken with a grain a salt, but in this case, Alvarez needs to work on his defense and candidly, will always. The problem is he’s not an outfielder and should be playing first. But as Lunhow suggested, the bat appears to be ready; and with two more home runs this week, more walks than strikeouts and a ridiculous .389 season batting average, it’s hard to argue the point. Do I expect him to mash when he gets to the Majors? I hope so as I have three shares in Dynasty Leagues. But candidly, I’m not sure. I’ve seen him play a bunch and believe he’s a nice prospect with 25 home runs potential with an average hit tool, but I didn’t see this. I worry his stat line is a result of the new ball, hitter’s ballparks, and bad pitching. Only one way to find out…
Keston Hiura (Mil, 2B, Triple-A)
After a slow start, Keston Hiura’s bat is coming around. After striking out at an alarming 32% rate in April, he’s started to make better contact. In his first seven games in May, he’s struck out only twice in 23 plate appearances. The ceiling continues to be a .300 batting average, 25 home runs and a handful of stolen bases annually. Given the maturity of his hit-tool, I think he hits the ground running. Unfortunately, he needs an injury to see the big leagues or a bold move by the Brewers that might involve a demotion for Jesus Aguilar, who is out of options or perhaps, Travis Shaw, who still has options remaining.
Alex Kirilloff (Min, OF, Double-A)
After sitting out the first few weeks of the season with a wrist injury, Alex Kiriillof makes his debut on our Hot Prospect list. In his first five games, he’s done what he does best – hit. In 21 plate appearances, he’s hitting .389 with four strikeouts and three walks.
Austin Riley (Atl, 3B, Triple-A)
Austin Riley makes our list for the second week in a row after hitting five home runs last week and nearly hitting .400. It took him a while to get going, but the 22-year-old is starting to give the Braves pause on a possible call-up. Josh Donaldson has been ok…better of late, but at some point, don’t be surprised if you see Riley in the Majors sometime in the second half.
Jake Fraley (Sea, OF, Double-A)
Jake Fraley was part of the return when the Mariners sent Mike Zunino to the Rays in exchange for Mallex Smith. Fraley has great bat-to-ball skills and should be able to hit for a high average with solid on-base skills. The question has always been his secondary skills (speed and power). However, this year, he’s already hit five home runs so perhaps we are starting to see a power surge.
Jazz Chisholm (Ari, SS, Double-A)
Few players got off to a worse start to the season than Jazz Chisholm. In fact, April was so bad, that he’s still only hitting .176 across 25 games. But, he’s stepped it up in May posting a .944 OPS with five home runs. There will always be swing and miss in his game, but he has plus bat speed and is an above-average runner so a Tim Anderson type performer would be the ceiling.
Jarred Kelenic (Sea, OF, Low-A)
Most of the industry thought the Mets would regret trading Jarred Kelenic in the off-season and so far, they are right. In 28 games, he’s hitting .327/.429 with six home runs and six stolen bases. He’s likely outgrown Low-A and should see Modesto in the California League sometime in the second half.
Leody Taveras (Tex, OF, High-A)
Prospect fatigue is starting to set in for Leody Taveras. He’s been on our Top 100 list for multiple years and yet his career batting average is .259/.320 with 4 home runs and 7 stolen bases contributed annually. Making matters worse, the Rangers decided to slow things down and had Taveras repeat High-A to begin the 2019 campaign. I was fortunate to catch an early May series with him in Myrtle Beach and came away impressed.
The skills are evident. He has good bat speed and jumped on numerous pitches showing excellent pull power. He’s more explosive from the left-side but based on his launch angle, I don’t see plus power from either side. He also showed a very good understanding of the strike zone. His strikeout rate is higher than his career norm, but it’s still early and once the sample size increases, his strikeout rate should normalize. He’s a good runner, but I only got a 4.21 time to first base to avoid being doubled-up. That puts him at a solid 55, maybe 60 runner. He did steal a base during the second contest easily, getting a great jump off the pitcher.
I see the upside with Taveras as a full-time regular but not a star. I think he’ll hit with a .270/.340 batting average and with his athleticism, should be a plus defender in either center or right. I don’t see him developing a lot of power with 10 to 12 being his likely ceiling. He should be able to steal plenty of bases early in his career with a possibility of 20 plus annually.
Lolo Sanchez (Pit, OF, Low-A)
Lolo Sanchez might be a new name to many of you, but after posting a .924 OPS in 28 games to start the season, he needs to be on your radar. His carrying tool is plus speed which shines both in the outfield and on the bases. Evaluators have been concerned about his ultimate power potential, but the two home runs he has hit to-date is encouaraging. He rarely walks but makes excellent contact.
Rylan Bannon (Bal, 3B, Double-A)
Rylan Bannon was one of the lesser known prospects received when the Orioles sent Manny Machado to the Dodgers last July. Bannon has outplayed his trade partner Yusniel Diaz so far in Double-A and has posted a .916 OPS in 31 games including hitting .458 last week. I still believe Diaz has the higher ceiling but Bannon has a potential plus future hit-tool and enough power to give him the ceiling of a full-time regular.
Ian Anderson (Atl, RHP, Double-A)
The Braves pitching strategy, while frustrating for fantasy owners, is working out just fine. The strategy was to sign as much high-end talent and see who emerges. So far, it’s Max Fried and Mike Soroka with a little Touki Toussaint thrown-in. Next year, Ian Anderson will be the in the mix and he might have the best arm of the group. He has plus stuff but still struggles to throw consistent strikes. However, when he’s on like he was in a start over the weekend, he can be dominant. In six innings, he gave up two hits with 11 strikeouts and three walks.
Tarik Skubal (Det, LHP, High-A)
Tarik Skubal graduates from our secret list I share on the podcast to our official list. If you are not familiar with our podcast, it can be found here. Look for the prospect episodes. In a word, Skubal has been dominant this year. In 6 starts in High-A, he’s pitched to a 3.07 ERA striking out nearly 13 per nine while only walking six in 29.1 innings. Five of his six starts have been dominant with only one down start. Look for a promotion to Double-A sometime in mid-June.
Mitch Keller (Pit, RHP, Triple-A)
I’ve long been a big fan of Mitch Keller and have found his recent control struggles to be curious. He has good stuff with simple mechanics and is athletic enough to repeat his delivery. While the 4.06 BB/9 still is ugly, he had another impressive outing over the weekend where he struck out six in six innings without issuing a walk. That followed up a 10K/1BB performance despite giving up four earned runs. The upside is a solid number two starter and assuming his control issues are behind him, he should be up in Pittsburgh sometime in the second half.
Mitchell White (LAD, RHP, Double-A)
Mitch White came to my attention when I saw him three years ago in a start in the California League. Since then, he’s not been able to stay healthy and has really struggled. Finally healthy, he’s starting to put up results that align with his skills. In six starts in Double-A, he’s pitching to a 1.85 ERA with over 11 strikeouts per nine while walking just over two per nine.
Hunter Harvey (Bal, RHP, Double-A)
I’ve been very critical of the former Baltimore brass as I believe they overused pitchers to the determinant of those pitchers and ultimately the Orioles overall success. Dylan Bundy is the poster child. Hunter Harvey is another talented pitcher who has not been able to stay healthy. Fortunately, they have better leadership in the organization and I’m hopeful. He’s still got premium stuff and if he can stay healthy, there is upside. Does he stay healthy? I have no idea.