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Week 16 Hot Prospects

HOT PROSPECTS 1

Hitters

1. Gavin Lux (LAD, SS, Triple-A)

The Dodgers have hoarded their elite prospects over the past few years and the plan has worked out. Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger both won the Rookie of the Year, Walker Buehler came in third in the voting in 2018 and while Alex Verdugo will likely not place in the voting this year, he’s on track to hit .300 with 20 home runs. All four are core players for the Dodgers with multiple All-star appearances in their future.

Next in line for the Dodgers is Gavin Lux. After slashing .311/.372/.515 in 65 games in Double-A, the team had seen enough and promoted him to the crazy hitting environment of the PCL. In 14 games, he’s slashed .500/.554/1.000 with six home runs. In case you’re wondering, that’s pretty good. He can hit with plus power and is an above-average runner. A .280/.360/.460 slash line in the Major Leagues with 20 plus home runs and 10-15 plus stolen bases is not out of the question. Plus, there could be more in the tank for home runs.

While he looks nearly ready, the question is when he will get the call. The problem is he’s blocked at short but his arm strength points more to him being at second long-term. However, Max Muncy is been getting a lot of time there. Does Muncy move to first full-time, putting Bellinger in the outfield full-time? Is that the best defensive configuration for the Dodgers? There are lots of questions and injuries will likely play a role.

For fantasy owners, don’t worry too much about where Lux will play. It’s going to happen and when it does, it’s going to be very good.

2. CJ Abrams (SD, SS, Rookie)

Selecting in the six-hole of the 2019 MLB Draft, the Padres got one of the most exciting players in CJ Abrams. From a fantasy standpoint, he might be the most intriguing.

First, Abrams is an 80-grade runner with good instincts on the basepaths. He also shows his speed in the outfield and while his routes could use some work, his speed allows him to make up for some of the mistakes he’s making. He has good bat speed, but his swing is more geared for contact and lacks loft. As he matures, he’ll get stronger and should naturally add some loft to his swing. While nobody will mistake him ever for a power hitter, he should have enough pop downstream to hit plenty of doubles and the occasional home run.

To begin his career, he’s given the Padres everything they would have hoped. In 22 games, he’s hitting .420 with 13 stolen bases out of 16 attempts. He’s even popped two home runs. Most impressively, he’s shown a very good approach and the ability to make contact (8.8% K/9) and take a walk (7.2% BB/9)

3. Aaron Bracho (Cle, SS, Rookie)

The Indians had a strong international class in 2017 where they added several athletic players with high upside. While George Valera has gotten most of the press, their biggest sign in term of dollar amount was Aaron Bracho. Injured in 2018 with a broken arm, Bracho has made up for the lost time in 2019. In 21 games in the AZL, he’s slashed .280/.406/.653 walking more than he’s struck out. He’s also hit six home runs while stealing four bases.

Bracho has exciting tools with plus bat speed that should translate into at least above-average future power. He’s a good runner but is already 175 pounds and as he fills out, will likely a step. He’s a switch hitter and is already demonstrating an ability to control the strike zone. If it all comes together, he has a chance to be a regular at the highest level at either shortstop or second base.

4. Calvin Mitchell (Pit, OF, High-A)

Cal Mitchell was a sexy pickup last year in Dynasty Leagues as posted a nice .280/.344/.427 slash line in 119 games in the Sally League. He showed good future power potential with a little bit of speed. What he needed to focus on was his approach at the plate as he tended to get overly aggressive and expand the strike zone. This year, that has happened.

In 88 games in High-A, he has posted a 29% strikeout rate and is only walking 5.6% of the time. He has shown good power, particularly for the Florida State League with 14 home runs and a .186 ISO. In his past five games, he’s 8 for 19 with three home runs.

At 20, Mitchell was one of the youngest players in the FSL in 2019 and therefore, there is still time for him to work on his approach. He’s athletic and from all accounts has good makeup so I’m sticking with my ceiling of a Top 45 outfielder in fantasy.

5. Trent Grisham (Mil, OF, Triple-A)

Trent Grisham was selected in the first round in 2015 with the hope that he would be a top of the order bat who based on his ability to hit, would move quickly through the minor leagues. Four years later, the 37 bases he stole in Low-A is a distant memory and candidly, he’s never really hit (.245 lifetime batting average). In 2019, Grisham appears to be transforming himself showing an improved approach at the plate with more power.

In 63 games in Double-A, he hit 13 home runs and walked nearly as much as he struck out and after his promotion to Triple-A, he’s already hit nine home runs in 23 games while continuing to show an improved approach. Also, he still is a good runner, so a 20-20 performer is still not out of the question.

The development path can be long and circuitous as not everyone hits immediately and takes off. The best news is that Grisham only turns 23 in November and given his slow start to his career, is likely sitting on a lot of waiver wires. I think he’s worth an add as I think there is something there.

6. Alec Bohm (Phi, 3B, Double-A)

After a slow start to his career in 2018, Alec Bohm has been flying through the minor leagues in 2019. He started off in Low-A and after 21 games and batting .368 with a .592 SLG, he was promoted to High-A. He was there for six weeks and again showed that he was too advanced for the league as he slashed .329/.393/.497.

He’s finishing up the season in Double-A and is enjoying playing in the hitter-friendly environment of Reading. In 22 games, he’s slashing .270/.323/.517. Over the past week, he’s 8 for 27 with two home runs.

Bohm has an advanced approach at the plate showing the ability to make solid contact (16% K/9 in 2019) with nearly a 10% walk rate. While he’s not showing a lot of over-the-fence power yet, at 6-foot-5, he’s got the size and bat speed to eventually hit for at plus power (25+ home runs). While the Phillies still have him primarily playing at third, he has played a little at first as well. Given his size, I doubt he stays at third long-term and he’s blocked at first. I do think there is enough athleticism for him to move to the outfield and that could eventually be where he winds up. Regardless, he could be a solid fantasy performer with 25 plus home runs power who can post a .270/.360 average.

7. Victor Victor Mesa (Mia, OF, High-A)

Victor Victor Mesa and his brother Victor Mesa Jr. were the center of the baseball universe on October 20th, 2018 when the Miami Marlins signed Victor Victor to a $5.25 million dollar signing bonus and his brother to a million-dollar bonus. The Dynasty League community was excited and we at prospect361 were excited, particularly at the potential of Victor Victor. Why not…in 2017 while playing for La Habana in Cuba, he hit .354 with seven home runs and 40 stolen bases in only 70 games. Plus, he came from a famous baseball family.

The Marlins assigned the 22-year-old to the Florida State League and he showed a lot of understandable rust. In April he hit.226, in May he hit .220 and if it weren’t for a 3 for 4 game on June 30th, he would have hit .223 in June. Instead, he managed to post a .254 batting average. Plus, he showed no power and rarely walked. The two things he did well was play the outfield and make contact (12% strikeout rate).

In July, the rust started to come off and he’s hit .319 with a .342 OBP but still is showing no power (.362 SLG). Is this who Victor Victor is? A soft-contact player with a great glove who can steal bases. If so, that’s the profile of a fourth outfielder.

At this point, I’m not willing to conclude anything, although I’ve received reports of his weak contact. However, he’s still a plus runner and I’ve been told he does have good bat speed. At worse, he’s a fourth outfielder for the Marlins, but given the investment they made, I think they will give him every opportunity to be more.

8. Joey Bart (SF, C, High-A)

With all the talk of Adley Rutschman, it’s easy to forget that Joey Bart was the top catcher in the 2018 MLB Draft where the Giants drafted him with the second overall pick. He’s had a solid year in the California League playing in one of the few pitcher-friendly ballparks in the League, San Jose. In 42 games, he’s slashed .271/.319/.500 with nine home runs. He did miss six weeks from mid-April through May recovering from a broken hand that he suffered after getting hit by an errant fastball from Mitchell Jordan on April 15th. Once Bart returned and knocked the rust off, he’s been solid with a .286 batting average in June with three home runs.

Bart projects to be a Top 10 major league catcher with excellent defensive chops and good, but not great offensive upside. He has good size and bat speed and projects to hit 20 plus home runs at the highest level. He is aggressive at the plate and will expand the strike zone, so there will likely be pressure on both his batting average and on-base percentages.

While it’s getting late in the season, a promotion to Double-A to finish the season still could be in the cards. That should set him to spend most of his 2020 in Double-A before a promotion in 2021 to the big leagues.

9. Ryan Vilade (Col, SS, High-A)

I bet big, well, kind of big on Ryan Vilade in 2018 and added him to several my Dynasty Leagues. While it was ok in 2018, I expected to see more of an offensively then what he showed but was encouraged by his contact, especially as the season progressed. Lancaster was the next test and while Asheville is an extreme hitters-environment, Lancaster is even better. After 92 games, it’s been just about the same year with slightly more power (.386 SLG vs. .432). Is the 50-point difference a factor of Lancaster and the California League or a skill increase? I’m guessing the former.

We now have two years of data and scouting and the profile for Vilade is becoming clear. He’s a high contact player who can control the strike zone, runs well but has below-average power. That puts him on a path of somewhere between a utility player and a full-time regular.

Over the past week, he’s been red hot going 10 for 27.

10. Leonel Valera (LAD, SS, Low-A)

I honestly don’t know a lot about Leonel Valera as I’ve never seen him play. Signed out of Venezuela in 2015, he finally got a full-season assignment in Great Lakes of the Midwest League. While it’s just been ok with a .616 OPS and a sub-.300 SLG, he has stolen 10 bags in the last 10 days. He only has 20 for the season, but since owners are always looking for stolen bases, I thought Valera was worthy of inclusion.

Pitchers

1. Michael Baumann (Bal, RHP, Double-A)

Taken in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Michael Baumann has been making steady progress through the minor leagues. While he has a good fastball that can touch 97 to 98 MPH, the knock against him has always been that his secondary pitches (slider and change-up) were average-at-best. Most evaluators believed he would wind up in the bullpen and perhaps that 97 would turn into 100 and he could be a weapon, perhaps even in high-leveraged situations.

In 2019, Baumann has been better. His secondary pitches have improved with his change-up flashing plus at times. The result is his now missing more bats and that was evident in 11 starts in High-A where he posted a 12.83 K/9 rate. To begin July, the Orioles promoted him to Double-A where on July 16th he pitched a no-hitter against Harrisburg striking 10 and walking two.

Baumann will make our Baltimore Top 15 prospect list with a chance to be a number four starter. If he can get more out of his slider, he could be more than that.

2. Luis Patino (SD, RHP, High-A)

I did my first cut of our Mid-Season Top 100 list before the Futures Game. After watching the game and seeing Luis Patino dominate his 1.2 innings, I wanted to place him higher than slot 59. In the end, I kept him there and figured…well, he has nowhere to go but up.

In 15 starts in the California League, Patino has pitched extremely well. He’s shown a mid-90s fastball that can scrape higher and a slider and change-up that are improving quickly. His delivery is simple and clean and he’s athletic enough to repeat his delivery. The knock against him, and it’s a big knock is that he’s not a big guy. He stands 6-feet and 190 pounds. Will he be able to handle a starter workload? Will he be homer-prone? I’ve gotten different opinions when I posed these and other similar questions to evaluators. However, everyone has said that the arm is special. We all saw that in his brief outing on that hot evening in July.

While he’s pitched his entire season in High-A, he only turns 20 in October, so there really is no need for the Padres to rush him. Assuming health, he could see the Major Leagues by 2021, with an outside shot at the second half of next season. It’s big stuff and if it all comes together, he has top-of-the-rotation potential.

He makes our Hot Prospect List after two dominating home/away outings against Visalia. In 12.1 innings, he gave up one earned run striking out 16 and walking three.

3. Jonathan Bowlan (KC, RHP, High-A)

The Royals seem to have multiple pitching prospects at every level of the organization. Jonathan Bowlan is a new name to many of you. He was a second-round pick in 2018 and after pitching well in the Midwest League to begin the season, has been dominating in six starts in High-A including pitching a no-hitter on July 15th against the Carolina Mudcats (note: he gave up no hits or walks but the Blue Rocks did commit an error). His stuff points to a back-of-the-rotation arm, but a no-hitter at any level should be celebrated.

4. Kris Bubic (KC, LHP, High-A)

Kris Bubic has been one of the big risers this year and has made our list multiple times. He’s back again after tossing back-to-back impressive outings on July 12th and 17th. In 13 innings, he gave up one run while striking out 21 and walking one. He stumbled a little

5. Thomas Szapucki (NYM, LHP, High-A)

Thomas Szapucki was a hot pickup in Dynasty Leagues a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, he blew out his elbow after only six starts in 2017. He spent the rest of 2017 and all of last season recovering from Tommy John reconstructive surgery.

Fully healthy, he hit the mound in 2019 with the Mets being very careful with his workload. In fact, he didn’t pitch more than two innings in any outing until late June. The plan worked as the results were impressive. In 21.2 innings, he pitched to a 2.02 ERA. He showed good swing and miss stuff, but his control was clearly not all the way back as he walked over four per nine. Next up was High-A and he pitched even better. So far in four starts, he has been dominant pitching to a 2.02 ERA while striking out 19 and walking five.

Szapucki has good stuff and it’s made even better because it’s coming from the left-side. He has a low three-quarters delivery which makes his stuff even that more difficult on left-handed batters. The delivery does present problems as right-handed batters get a longer look. This ultimately could limit his upside. With the Mets history of developing pitchers, I think his upside is a number four starter, perhaps a little more.

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