In this week’s Hot Prospects, I provide an analysis of the difficulty the Houston Astros face in promoting Yordan Alvarez. While Alvarez has arguably been the best player in the minor leagues this season…ok, along with Casey Mize and Luis Robert, the calculus on his promotion is hard.
In addition to Alvarez, we provide 14 other prospects who have had great weeks.
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With last week being prospect promotion week, to some, it was surprising that Yordan Alvarez was still in the minors. He’s been one of the top three players in the minor leagues this year and from all discussions, I’ve had with evaluators, is ready. In fact, the hype for promotion has gotten so high that I’ve read David Ortiz comparisons through mainstream commentators. While I can see the physical comp, putting a potential HOF comp on a player, in my opinion, is setting him up for disappointment, particularly in the fantasy world.
Regardless, it’s time for the Astros to promote him but the calculus is hard. He’s not on the 40-man roster and the Astros would have to make a difficult decision on the major league roster. It’s a good problem for the team but for fantasy owners waiting for the call, it can get frustrating. In the meantime, he continues to mash. He’s batting over .400 with a 17 home runs and a ridiculous .850 SLG.
Making the decision to promote Yordan Alvarez more complicated is the re-emergence of Kyle Tucker. Tucker got off to a very slow start but has been mashing. In 17 games in May, he’s hitting .355 with a .823 SLG and seven home runs. Would the Astros promote Tucker over Alvarez? It’s possible as he’s on the 40-man. If they did though, I think the fantasy community might just explode. Don’t misunderstand, Tucker is still an elite prospect and arguably has much more fantasy upside than Alvarez with 20-20 potential. As always, I will caveat my comments about Tucker that I still wish he would eliminate the hitch in his swing.
Mark Vientos had a lot of helium coming into this season. As with many young players, he got off to a very slow start hitting .227 in April with a 27% strikeout rate. However, as the temperature has risen, so has Vientos game. Last week he mashed, going 10-22 with three home runs. The ceiling continues to be a major league regular with 25 home run potential and based on his ability to work a walk, a high OBP.
Given Josh Ockimey penchant to strikeout, I do not consider him an elite prospect. What he does have is 70-grade raw power and when he makes contact like he did last week, the ball will fly out of any ballpark. In the month of May, he’s hit six home runs but has also struck out 33% of the time. He also walked 12 times. If you like three true outcome players, then Ockimey is your guy.
After a breakout season in his junior year at Florida, Jonathan India shot up draft boards and the Cincinnati Reds snagged him with the fifth overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. How good was his junior college season? In 68 games, he posted a 1.214 OPS with 21 home runs and 15 stolen bases. After he signed, the question that needed to be answered…is the bat for real, and more importantly, is the power for real.
In reviewing the swing, there is plenty of leverage, but he also doesn’t sell out for the power. There are holes in the swing, so there will be some swing and miss, but I think there is 20 home run power, perhaps more. Throw-in average speed and a proven ability to steal bases and there is a lot to get excited about. The ceiling is a full-time regular with 20 plus home run potential, low double-digit stolen bases and a .260/.330 batting average.
Drafted in the first round (pick 33) of the 2016 MLB Draft, Dylan Carlson got off to a slow start to his career. He’s always had the tools to be considered an elite prospect but left most of his raw power in batting practice. But the breakout that started last season when he struck out 17% of the time has continued in 2019 and with a BABIP correction, all of sudden his batting average looks much better.
The in-game power is also starting to emerge as he’s hit seven for the season while also showing solid speed. With a 12% walk rate, a strikeout rate less than 20% with speed and power, there’s just a lot to like with the young outfielder. The ceiling for me is a .270/.340 hitter with a chance for 20-20 potential.
Patrick Mazeika has gone 7 for 24 over the past week and has hit five home runs in the month of May. The young catcher for the Mets has also been spending time at first base as many believe he doesn’t have the defensive chops to stay behind the plate. The problem is he might not have the power to be a full-time regular at first. However, with five home runs in 16 games, perhaps that assessment needs to re-visited.
I fell hard for Jhailyn Ortiz a few years ago as I loved the 70-grade raw power and thought he would hit enough to get to it. Since then, he’s been striking out at alarming rates and hasn’t been able to get to the raw power that he shows in batting practice. While he’s been hot over the past week, hitting three home runs, and from what I’ve been told, they were majestic shots, the 37% strikeout rate just will not work. That said, Ortiz should be monitored as the raw power is very real and he’s still only 20-years-old.
After taking Keston Hiura with the first pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, the Brewers took another bat-first player in Brice Turang with the first pick in the 2018 MLB Draft.
Since being drafted, Turang has walked nearly as much as he’s struck out while batting .292 with a .404 OBP. He doesn’t have much current power and unless he puts on additional weight, I don’t see that changing. He does have plus speed and shows that on the basepaths stealing 14 bases to-date while only getting caught 3 times.
The Brewers have played him both at short and second in High-A and he has the arm strength and athleticism to play both. The ceiling is a full-time regular performer in the major league and at worse, he’ll be utility player with significant stolen base and on-base skills.
Ronny Mauricio turned 18 on April 4th. The fact that he’s playing in Low-A is impressive enough but he’s also playing very well. In 40 games, he’s slashing .280/.333/.348 with a 19% strikeout rate. Last week, he went 10 for 23 with a home run. The power has yet to emerge but the bat speed and athleticism is there. This might be one of the final times a fantasy owner can buy cheap on a potential Didi Gregorius type talent.
Brailyn Marquez (CHC, LHP, Low-A)
Brailyn Marquez has turned it up a notch in May. In three starts, he’s posted a 1.29 ERA with 15 strikeouts and five walks in 14 innings. The stuff is premium with a fastball that he can run up to the upper nineties and a slider and change-up that can miss plenty of bats. He doesn’t always throw every pitch for a strike, but there is clearly a lot to like with the 20-year-old lefty.
Casey Mize has started nine games and has had eight dominating starts and one so-so start. The so-so start was on May 15th when he gave up four earned runs in 5.2 innings against the Richmond Squirrels. In that outing, he struck out eight and walked only two. Of course, he followed that outing up to pitch six shutout innings on Monday striking out six and walking one.
We’ve written many times about the Kansas City Royals burgeoning minor league pitching staff and Kris Bubic performance in particular. He was at it again on Monday, pitching seven innings, giving up one run while striking out nine and not walking anyone. The improved control was good to see as he had given up eight walks in the previous two starts. I would expect him to be promoted in High-A sometime in June as the stuff is too good for Low-A.
The Rays took Shane McClanahan in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft and assigned the college pitcher to Low-A. I thought he would have no trouble with the assignment but instead, struggled. In five starts, he posted a 4.71 ERA with 16 walks in 21 innings. However, in May things have gotten better as he has cut down his walks while also increasing his strikeout rate. The ceiling continues to be a mid-rotation starter.
The Orioles continue to audition a variety of players in Baltimore to determine who are keepers and who are not. Keegan Akin should get his chance shortly and based on what he’s done to-date in Triple-A, could have success. In eight starts, he’s posted a 3.60 ERA striking out over 10 per nine while walking 3.6 per nine. His last outing was very impressive where he threw 6 shutout innings while striking out nine and walking only one.