As with approach the final month of the minor league system, the dog days of summer are starting to have their effects. Many guys will start to wear down, especially the teenagers who are in their first year of full-season ball. But, there are still plenty of guys raking and this week we highlight a number of catchers who have played well recently.
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1. Sean Murphy (Oak, C, Triple-A)
When we wrote about Sean Murphy entering the 2019 season, we thought he would be manning the backstop for the Athletics at some point during the year. Unfortunately, he tore his meniscus in May which required him to miss nearly three months of the season. He’s back playing and showing the offensive potential that we always saw. In four games in July, he’s hitting .500 with five home runs. Sure, it’s Triple-A, but he has a chance to be an impact offensive weapon still at some point in 2019.
Despite missing over half of the 2019 minor league season, Sean Murphy is one of the best catching prospects in the game. He’s always been a plus defender, but his hit-tool has developed very nicely and given his power outburst, the power is starting to show in games. He does remind me of the development path of the Dodgers young catcher, Will Smith. Both started off as defensive backstops with empty bats but have developed their hit-tool and power as they have worked through the system.
Given his ability to control the strike zone and his growing power, the ceiling is a Top five fantasy catcher. The fact that he’s a plus defender will only enhance his playing time. Once he gets acclimated to the Majors, I think you could see a slash line of .270/.340/.470 with 15 to 20 home runs. That’s an impact player performer at a position where finding a bat that won’t hurt you is a plus.
2. Luis Campusano (SD, C, High-A)
While the Padres want Francisco Mejia to be their catcher of the future, they are so deep with prospects, if it doesn’t work, there’s another kid who will challenge for the role. Luis Campusano could be that kid. He is quickly being mentioned in the conversation of the best catchers in the minor leagues.
Drafted in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Campusano arrived with solid defensive skills (catch, throw and block) but has improved his game-calling by working with some of the best young pitchers in the minor leagues. After a solid offensive season in 2018, he’s backed it up with an even better season in the California League. In 85 games, he’s slashed .326/.395/.514 with 11 home runs and nearly as many walks as strikeouts. The swing has improved as has his pitch recognition.
After a solid season in High-A, Campusano should begin 2020 in Double-A with a chance to see Major League at-bats in 2021.
3. Corbin Carroll (Ari, OF, Rookie)
Many believe that the Diamondbacks got a steal when Corbin Carroll dropped to them at pick 16 in last June’s MLB Draft. Based on my Top 100 mid-season ranking, I did as well.
Part of the argument I heard for him dropping was his size. He’s a 5-10 outfielder and teams just didn’t want to invest in a high first-round pick on a high school player of that size. There was just too much risk. I don’t see it that way as Carroll has great tools and even reminds me a little of Alek Thomas, also of the Diamondbacks or even the Red Sox, Andrew Benintendi. Do two inches really make that much difference?
In Rookie ball, Carroll is starting to flash those skills. In 25 games, he’s hitting .295 with two home runs and 10 stolen bases including going 3 for 4 on Monday night. He’s struck out more than I would have liked (20.4%) but has also walked as many times. It’s so hard to get a read on a player’s hit tool in Rookie Ball but in reviewing the swing, I think it works. Time will tell whether his high walk rate is a skill or whether he is being tentative at the plate.
While he’s only 18, the upside is a Top 45 outfielder in fantasy with a chance to become a 20-20 performer.
4. Gabriel Arias (SD, SS, High-A)
Another Padres that has been performed very well all season is Lake Elsinore shortstop Gabriel Arias. He played the entire season as one of the youngest players in the league and showed nice offensive skills to go with his plus defensive ability. In July, he hit .371 and slugged .567 with four home runs.
When the Padres signed Arias in 2016 for an impressive $1.6 signing bonus, they saw a young kid with great defensive instincts that could really pick it at short with a swing that worked. Since then, he developed into a plus defender with a growing offensive profile. He has added loft and that when combined with the great hitting environment of the California League, some over-the-fence power has surfaced. The hit-tool though is still very raw as he strikeouts too much and is very aggressive at the plate.
The upside is likely a utility player at the highest level, but some evaluators believe he could develop into a little more. Remember, he was very young for the level.
5. Jairo Pomares (SF, OF, Rookie)
Jairo Pomares gets the promotion from our hidden five lists (only heard on our weekly podcast that can be found here) to the main list. He’s been one of the best performers in the AZL this season hitting .382 with a .618 SLG in 26 games.
Pomares is yet another young tooled up player that is starting to transform the San Francisco Giants minor league system. He has plus raw power, is an above-average runner who appears to have a semblance of a hit-tool. His power is generated out of strong, quick hands and a compact swing. While the approach is still raw, the early returns are positive with a 16% strikeout rate and a 6.7% walk rate.
He’s still four years away, but if the hit tool develops, he could be a Top 45 outfielder in the game with solid power and speed.
6. Mason Martin (Pit, 1B, High-A)
Mason Martin spent the first three months of the minor league system destroying Sally League pitching, leading the league in home runs with 23 while batting a respectable .262. In July, he was promoted to the Florida State League where he continued to pound the ball. In 22 games, he’s already hit seven while posting a .681 SLG.
Martin doesn’t have the athleticism that will allow him to move off first, so he’s going to have to continue to hit to make it the big leagues. The power is significant, but more born out of brute strength than elite bat speed. If he can improve his approach and make enough contact, he could develop into a solid first base prospect. However, if the approach doesn’t improve, the upside might be more AJ Reed.
7. Ryan Mountcastle (Bal, 1B, Triple-A)
A lot of fantasy owners pay little attention to a player’s defensive ability because all they care about are the offensive stats. While that’s totally understandable, sometimes defense matters. In Ryan Mountcastle’s case, it has in part, slowed his progression to the big leagues.
He was drafted as a third baseman but never had the arm or athleticism to play there. This season, the Orioles have played him at first and left field with first his logical defensive home. While many believe his bat is ready, I have questions and when you combine that with his defensive struggles, I’m not sure he’s ready.
Major League teams care about defense unless of course you have the kind of raw power and hitting ability that it appears Yordan Alvarez has. It’s hard to promote a 22-year-old to the big leagues and put him at bat (aka, DH). When you consider Mountcastle’s very aggressive approach, the decision to promote him becomes difficult. In looking at his 3.4% walk rate, there’s a good chance he’ll post a sub .300 OBP and when you combine that with poor defense, it’s a problem. Plus, don’t the Orioles already have that guy in Renato Nunez?
I know it sounds like I’m bashing Mountcastle and perhaps I am. However, from a fantasy standpoint, owners need to understand the risk. Sure, there is 30 home run potential, but it’s going to come with a low batting average and low on-base percentage and no speed. In my opinion, you can get that anywhere.
While he’s hit .324 in 21 games in July, he’s struck out 24 times while only walking three times.
8. Ronny Mauricio (NYM, SS, Low-A)
A lot of people are confused about what the Mets are doing as we enter the trade deadline. Are they really trying to corner the market on pitching, much like a friend of mine did in a fantasy league where he drafted the top five quarterbacks in the league with his first five picks?
His thinking was that the other teams would come crawling to him in desperate need of a quarterback and overpay. Well, they didn’t, and the guy wound up dropping most of the other quarterbacks because he needed to field a team. Needless to say, the season ended sub-optimally. Want another example, go review the Hunt Brothers attempt to corner the Silver Market in the ’70s. While the plan initially worked, the price of Silver collapsed causing the Hunt Brothers to file for bankruptcy. I’m not saying that will happen to the Mets, but the strategy of bringing in veterans is causing a significant drag on their farm system. With the team looking to get younger, it’s definitely a contra-approach. Will it work? Maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it.
With that as a backdrop, one prospect that Mets fans should hope doesn’t get moved is Ronny Mauricio. Assuming he stays with the Mets, there is a good chance he will be their top prospect. As the second youngest full-time player in the Sally League, he’s holding his own quite well. In 91 games, he’s hit .283/.324 with a .383 SLG with three home runs and four stolen bases while playing an excellent shortstop.
There is plenty of bat speed but his swing lacks loft, so it’s more doubles-power than over-the-fence power currently. He has very good bat control with a good understanding of the strike zone. The approach is very aggressive, but given his age, I think he grows into some plate patience. He’s currently an average runner but not that adept at stealing bases as he’s been caught in 8 out of 12 attempts.
The bottom line is that the scouting report is well ahead of his performance. If it all comes together, I see a .270/.330/.430 with 15 to 20 home runs playing a great shortstop. While there is clearly some utility risk, we thought that about Andrelton Simmons before he started to show his power as he matured.
He makes our list with a strong week going 12 for 28.
9. Diego Cartaya (LAD, C, Rookie)
During my Dynasty League rookie drafts last season, while everyone was taking Marcos Luciano in the first round, I decided to draft Diego Cartaya several rounds later. BTW, I drafted Luciano in one draft and I’m very happy. But, I’m equally pleased with the value that I got with Cartaya and further pleased that I’m being rewarded with a strong start to his 2019 season.
He started the year in the DSL, but his bat was too advanced, so the Dodgers brought him over to the states so he could play in the AZL. After a week or two of adjustment, he started stinging the ball and has gone 8 for 22 over the past week with a home run. Not bad for a 17-year-old who has lived in the states for less than a month.
Cartaya brings a lot of offensive and defensive skills to the table. His swing is short to the ball which should generate a lot of natural power. He has an understanding of the strike zone and with his short swing, should be able to hit while keeping his swing-and-miss under control. Defensively, he projects to be a least an average, if not an above-average receiver, including a cannon for an arm.
While a lot of Dynasty League owners will not hold a 17-year-old catcher for the four to five years it will take before he sees the Major Leagues, I dance to a different tune. I think Cartaya has a chance to be an outstanding player and given how hard it is to find catchers with fantasy Top 10 upside, I’m willing to be patient.
10. Kristian Robinson (Ari, OF, Short-Season)
Playing at 19-years-old in the Northwest League, Kristian Robinson doesn’t appear to be phased. In July, he’s hit .322 with eight home runs. He’s quickly climbing up rankings with a chance to be Top 45 fantasy outfielder.
1. Brailyn Marquez (CHC, LHP, Low-A)
Brailyn Marquez has had a solid season in the Midwest League show great swing and miss stuff but inconsistent control. In 16 games, he’s pitched to 3.91 ERA striking out nearly 12 per nine but walking over five per nine. In his outing on July 25th, he showed his true potential by pitching six innings of one-hit ball, striking out 14 without issuing a walk.
There’s a lot to like with Marquez. It’s premium velocity from the left-side with his fastball sitting 94 to 95 MPH and scraping higher. He’s ditched his curveball and is now throwing a slider that is starting to miss bats while also showing a feel for a change-up. His delivery still needs work as he doesn’t always repeat it which is causing control issues.
At 6-foot-4, he’s got the size and velocity to at least be a mid-rotation starter. There’s still a lot of work left to refine his delivery, but he’s young and athletic, so there is a lot of time. If he never achieves average control, he can always move to the pen where his velocity will likely even play louder.
2. Nate Pearson (Tor, RHP, Double-A)
I first saw Nate Pearson in the Fall League in 2018 after he spent most of the season on the Disabled List. He was clearly rusty but showed premium stuff with his fastball scrapping the upper nineties. As he’s gotten stronger and knocked the rust off, he has blossomed. The upper nineties fastball is now scrapping triple-digits and even hit 101 MPH in the Futures Game.
Not only does Pearson have the big fastball, but he also has a hard slider that he throws in the upper nineties. When he can throw it for strikes, is just a nasty pitch. He also throws a curveball and change-up with his change-up showing nice depth. As his 10 strikeouts per nine shows, the arsenal can miss bats. This year, he’s also showed much better control of his arsenal, walking less than three per nine. The command is not always there but that should improve as he gains more experience.
Assuming health, he has at least number two starter upside with a chance to be an ace. Just remember, the baseball Tommy John gods have not been kind to hard throwers and while you can never predict when and if a guy can blow out, just know the profile.
3. Ian Anderson (Atl, RHP, Double-A)
Ian Anderson continues to shine in 2019. In the month of July, he’s thrown 19.1 innings with 25 strikeouts and three walks. It’s premium stuff with an athletic delivery. We should see him sometime in 2020.
4. JB Bukauskas (Hou, LHP, Double-A)
2019 has not been the step-up year people expected from JB Bukauskas. In 19 games, he’s pitched to a 5.22 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 81 innings but also 49 walks. He’s also given up nearly a hit an inning and with his stuff, I find that puzzling. When he’s on like he was on the 24th, it can be flat out nasty. In a five-inning start against NW Arkansas, he gave up one hit, struck out seven and walked one.
I had to chance to see him the Fall League in 2018 and liked what I saw. He’s primarily a fastball/slider pitcher with his fastball touching 96 MPH and a plus sider. In fact, the slider was so good, a scout told me during the outing that the pitch could get major leaguers out now. I then added: in the bullpen.
While I like Bukaukas, there is reliever risk. He doesn’t repeat his delivery and that is leading to control problems. While he will continue to work on that, his current arsenal will get guys out in the Major Leagues…NOW. Since the Astros are in a win-now mode, if he’s still in the Astros organization, there’s a good chance he could get promoted as a bullpen arm and if he has success, he could stay there long-term.
5. Seth Corry (SF, LHP, Low-A)
Seth Corry has had a terrific season while pitching in the Sally League. The 2017 third-round pick has pitched to a 1.97 ERA over 20 starts striking out over 12 per nine while allowing 53 hits in 86.2 innings. He was particularly effective in his last two starts where he gave up two hits in five innings over 10.2 innings, striking out 17, while walking three.
Corry has good stuff with a fastball that he can run up to 95 MPH and a nice 11-5 curveball that is his primary swing and miss pitch. He’s also showing a feel for a change-up but it’s clearly his third pitch. While the arsenal is solid, if not a touch better, he has yet to show he can throw consistent strikes.
His control problems are coming from his inability to repeat his delivery. The delivery is simple without a lot of effort, he just hasn’t been able to find a consistent slot for his release. If he can solve that, he has a chance to be a solid mid-rotation starter. If not, it’s more of a back-of-the-rotation profile.