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Hot Prospects – Week 20

HOT PROSPECTS 1We have added a new feature to our hot prospect list and will continue this treatment in our team write-ups over the winter.  We have provided a quick tools summary on each player as well as their ETA and fantasy ceiling.  For those of you looking to simply skim the players, this should provide a quick way to view our perspective on the player.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

HITTERS

1. Julio Rodriguez (Sea, OF, High-A)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 OF

Tools Summary: Plus power who can hit.  Classic right-field profile
Julio Rodriguez was one of the big bonus babies during 2017 J2 signing period and hit the ground running in the DSL in 2018.  He showed a mature approach and an impressive ability to control the strike zone.  Throw-in plus bat speed and average foot speed and it looked like he might be a fast mover.  The Mariners aggressively assigned him to begin the 2019 season in West Virginia of the Sally League where he posted a .857 OPS as one of the youngest players in the league.  Last week, they promoted him to High-A where he’s been five for seven with a home run in his first three games.

Rodriguez has star potential.  The mature approach he showed in the DSL has remained as he moved state-side.  While he struck out 22% of the time this year, you must put that in context based on his age.  I had a chance to scout him earlier this year and he’s selective and doesn’t expand the strike zone.  Also, the bat speed is significant, and he will develop power.  In fact, I think it could be 30 plus home run power.  While he’s currently an average runner, he’s a big kid and as he puts on weight, I don’t think he will be a big stolen base threat.

If you add it all up, the ceiling is an all-star with a .280/.360/.550 slash line possible with 30 plus home runs.  Throw-in a plus defender with a cannon for an arm, the only thing he is missing is speed.  I’m all in and clearly, so are the Mariners.  I expect him to split time between High and Double-A next season with a chance to see the Majors as a 20-year-old in 2021.

2. Jeren Kendall (LAD, OF, High-A)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 OF with extreme risk

Tools Summary: Speed and power but a 36% strikeout rate is holding him back

Drafted in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft, the Dodgers had Jaren Kendall repeat High-A this season and the results were strikingly similar.  There is double-plus speed, solid power and he is getting his walks.  However, a 32% strikeout rate in 2018 followed by a 36% strikeout rate in 2019 will just not work.  However, when he’s hot like he has been recently, he’s easy to dream on.  In August, he’s hitting .362 with five home runs.  Over the past week, he’s hitting .476.

The Dodgers have been working with his swing as it gets long and has too many holes.  I’ve heard they are happy with what he is doing, but the results are not backing it up.  Things will just get tougher as he moves into Double-A next season (I’m assuming that’s where he will go).  However, if it’s another 30% strikeout rate, he might not move any further, particularly with the Dodgers.

I do hold out hope that the Dodgers know how to develop players and therefore, I have not given up the dream of a potential 20-20 performer on my fantasy team.  But, we need to see some positive results on the swing changes that have been made.

3. Jeremiah Jackson (LAA, SS/2B, Short-Season)

Highest Level:  Short-Season ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS

Tools Summary: Athletic middle infielder that is cranking out home runs but striking out a ton

In 56 games in the Pioneer League, Jeremiah Jackson has hit 21 home runs.  While he hasn’t lapped the field, he’s getting close as the second-most home runs hit is 13.  The problem is that the big power is coming with a 31% strikeout rate and unless it’s Joey Gallo power (which it’s not), it’s a problem.

Jackson doesn’t turn 20 until next March and still has time to resolve his tendency to swing and miss.  He’s athletic with great bat speed but the swing is “rare back and swing the pole”.  He needs to get shorter to the ball and tighten up the swing, which was more his profile when he was drafted.  He was never projected to be a 40 home run threat.  Perhaps things have changed, or perhaps the Angels need to have him refocus his tools.

Regardless, I’m still very intrigued as the tools are indeed exciting.

4. Travis Swaggerty (Pit, OF, High-A)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 OF

Tools Summary: Double-plus speed with a little pop.  He needs to reduce his strikeouts to reach his potential

I was very high on Travis Swaggerty entering the draft but swallowed hard when the Pirates drafted him.  Would the Pirates develop him properly or would he become 2024’s version of Austin Meadow – a kid with a ton of upside that spent too long in the minors just to become an all-star for another organization?  However, the Pirates changed their organizational approach to hitting over the winter and it seems to be working.  Positional players are performing better, including Swaggerty.

In 112 games in High-A (yes, High-A for 2018 draftee!!), Swaggerty is hitting .269 with nine home runs and 21 stolen bases.  He’s striking out 22.5% of the time and walking 10% of the time.  While the strikeout rate is a little high, he is controlling the strike zone enough for him to get to his secondary tools.  His secondary tools are highlighted by his double-plus speed with enough power to pop double-digit home runs annually.

If it all comes together, I think he’s a better version of Austin Meadow – a top-of-the-lineup threat with 30 stolen bases and 10 to 12 home runs.  However, he needs to continue to work on reducing his strikeout rate to make this a reality.

5. JJ Bleday (Mia, OF, High-A)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 OF

Tools Summary: Multi-part swing is concerning but he’s a high pick and we are treating as such

JJ Bleday was taken as the fourth overall pick in last June’s draft and his piggy bank is now $6.6 million dollars heavier.  He played college at Vanderbilt and posted great numbers hitting .323 with a .556 SLG in three years.  He got a late start to his professional career but based on the success he had in college; the Marlins assigned him to High-A.  He initially struggled and really hasn’t got hot until recently.  In the last week, he’s 9 for 25 with two home runs.

I’ve gotten a variety of opinions about Bleday (I haven’t seen him yet).  Some believe he’ll hit with power and others think his swing needs to be simplified for him to find success.  In looking at video, I’m leaning to the latter.  His swing is not short to the ball with a lot of moving parts. He starts high, lowers his bat before a very large load and swing.  With this approach, there could be a lot of holes that pitchers will expose.  It does look like he’ll have average to above-average power, but speed will not be part of the equation.

I’m not sure with Bleday.  He didn’t make our mid-season Top 100 list and at this point, I’m not inclined to put him there yet.  I’m putting his ceiling as a Top 50 outfielder based mostly on the investment the Marlins made.

6. Adley Rutschman (Bal, C, Short-Season)

Highest Level:  Short-Season ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top three catcher

Tools Summary: Plus hit tool and power.  Elite catching skills.

Being selected 1:1 in a draft brings riches but also a ton of expectations.  What are the riches?  $8.1 million dollars.  What are the expectations?  Joe Mauer (when he was a catcher)/Buster Posey type of career.

He got off to a slow start and only hit .230 over his first three weeks and it was amazing how the naysayers came out on my Twitter feed.  But, he got hot and is now hitting .325 in the New York Penn League with 16 strikeouts and 14 walks in 20 games.  Of course, the naysayers are still out saying he should be in High-A or Double-A if he’s that good.  Sigh.

I’m a big fan of Rutschman and believe he will be an elite player at a scarce fantasy position.  He can hit with plus power and could put up a .280/.370/.550 slash line with 20 to 25 home runs.  Sure, his runs and RBIs will be muted a little because he won’t play in 150 games, but if he hits as much as I think he will, the Orioles will find a way to get him more at-bats and with that, the counting stats will increase.

Defensively, he’s a plus catcher and should make the Orioles a better club.  Sure, for fantasy owners…who cares.  But I contend with all the platoon situations occurring in the game now, having a player locked into a position is a good thing.  Plus, I play exclusively in two-catcher leagues and I’m convinced in looking at the math that having a plus player at each catcher slot gives you a huge advantage.  Net-net, don’t back away from Rutschman because he’s a catcher in your upcoming Dynasty League drafts.  Take him with confidence.  I know I will.

7. Peyton Burdick (Mia, OF, Low-A)

Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 OF

Tools Summary: Double-plus power and showing the ability to hit

Drafted in the third round in last June’s draft, Peyton Burdick has gotten off to a fast start to his professional career.  After a quick stopover in the New York Penn League, he spent most of his time in Clinton in the Midwest League where he hit .316 with eight home runs and three stolen bases.  In August, he’s hit .364 with four home runs.  He has been banged up over the past few days but should be back shortly.

Burdick carrying tool is his double-plus power but as opposed to a lot of potential power hitters, the swing isn’t long, and he also shows some plate patience.  He can expand the strike zone but if performance in Low-A is any indication, a 20% strikeout rate, and a 10% walk rate should allow him to get to his power.   If it all comes together, the ceiling is a .260/.340/.550 player with 25 to 30 home runs and a handful of stolen bases.  While Max Kepler has blown up for more power than that this year, I think that’s a reasonable comp.

8. Victor Mesa Jr. (Mia, OF, Rookie)

Highest Level:  Rookie ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 75 OF

Tools Summary: Average tools but showing the ability to hit

While the spotlight has been on Victor Victor Mesa, his brother Victor Mesa Jr. has been holding his own in his first taste of professional ball.  In 43 games in the GCL, he slashed .289/.366/.410 with a home run and seven stolen bases.  While his brother has more tools, Victor Mesa Jr. is quickly showing that he might have the hit-tool to be a major leaguer as well.

Mesa Jr. doesn’t have a true carrying tool, but instead has a lot of average to above-average tools.  He’s a good runner who should be able to steal double-digit stolen bases.  His power is average at best but still should be able to post a .400 SLG with a handful of home runs.  The encouraging tool is his hit tool as he appears to have an approach with a good understanding of the strike zone.  If it all comes together, he could be a full-time regular in the outfield, although he doesn’t have the power for a corner, and he might not have the chops to play center.  That usually means, he’ll be a fourth or fifth outfielder.

9. Noelvi Marte (Sea, SS, DSL)

Highest Level:  DSL ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 10 SS with extreme risk

Tools Summary: Toolsy middle infielder who is showing the ability to hit

Noelvi Marte graduates from our Hidden Five to the big list as he continues to impress in the DSL.  He slumped in July but is hitting .400 in 15 games in August with three home runs and five home stolen bases.

There’s a lot to get excited about with Marte as he has plus speed with excellent bat speed and a chance to hit for above-average future power.  At 17-years-old and still playing in the Dominican Summer League, it’s hard to get a great read on his hitting ability, but he’s kept his strikeouts under control (19% K/9) while also getting his walks (10% BB/9).  He’s currently playing shortstop and should be able to stay at the position given his athleticism, but if not, a move to second should work as well.

10. Alejandro Kirk (Tor, C, High-A)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 Catcher

Tools Summary: Undersized catcher with a solid hit

At 5-foot-9 and 220 pounds, Alejandro Kirk is short and er…has a thick lower half.  He’s always shown the ability to make excellent contact with plenty of walks.  In fact, over his three professional seasons, he’s walked more than he’s struck out.  That continues to be the case in 66 games in the Florida State League.  He’s hitting .296 with an impressive .398 OBP.  He also has shown some power with 23 doubles but has only left the yard four times.

Finding catchers that he can hit like Kirk is hard.  With his ability to control the strike zone, he could profile as a .300 hitter or close to that throughout his career.  His swing though is not geared for power as it’s more contact-oriented but once he starts using the Major League ball, he could hit 10 plus home runs.  While I’ve not seen him play, I don’t get good reports about his ability to catch.  The arm is solid but his ability to be nimble behind the plate has been questioned.  Given his body type, I’m not surprised.  If you’re thinking Willians Astudillo, well, I am as well.

PITCHERS

1. Logan Gilbert (Sea, RHP, Double-A)

Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP

Tools Summary: Big kid who has improved in nearly every start this season

Logan Gilbert is a back-to-back member of our list as he continues to shove-it in Double-A.  Three days ago, he pitched five shutout innings giving up two hits and striking out eight.  He continues to impress and has lowered his ERA in Double-A to an impressive 2.50 in seven starts.

2. Luis Garcia (Hou, RHP, Double-A)

Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Back of the rotation starter or bullpen arm

Tools Summary: Good arm but doesn’t always throw strikes

The Astros continue to find and develop good arms that can one day help their major league team.  Sure, Rogelio Armenteros, Jose Urquidy, Framber Valdez, et. al have had their moments, none of them have provided consistent help for the Astros.

Luis Garcia might soon be the next pitcher in line to help the club.  Will he catch on?  Probably not, but he has a good arm and is showing he can miss plenty of bats.

Garcia can run his fastball up to the mid ’90s with a quality curveball that is his primary out pitch.  He lacks a feel for a change-up which will likely point to a bullpen role once he finds his way to the big leagues.  Complicating matters is he doesn’t always throw strikes, but he’s been able to keep the ball in the park and hitters just don’t pick up the ball well.  The ceiling is likely a bullpen arm, but at some point, one of these young pitchers is going to hit and why not Garcia?

3. Anthony Kay (Tor, LHP, Triple-A)

Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP

Tools Summary: Premium stuff from the left-side.  Still working on control and command

As the Mets strive to make it back to the playoffs, they appear to be moving anything not nailed down in the minors.  Their latest movable pieces included Anthony Kay.  The good news if you are a Mets fan is, he doesn’t have the kind of upside that Jared Kelenic did, but he’s nonetheless, pretty darn good.

Kay has premium stuff from the left side which includes a fastball that will touch 96 to 97 while sitting 93 to 95.  His curveball is his best offering and over time, it could be a knockout pitch as it has great depth and spin.  His change-up is also a quality offering and if you are keeping track, that’s three potential plus pitches in his arsenal.  What he can’t do yet is throw consistent strikes.  Over his professional career, he’s posted a 3.62 BB/9 rate.

While I don’t see Kay having top of the rotation potential, he could slide in nicely behind Nate Pearson in the Blue Jays rotation at some point in 2020.  I don’t think he has an overall number two ceiling, but I’ll take him as a number three.

4. Brady Singer (KC, RHP, Double-A)

Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP or closer

Tools Summary: Good stuff but a delivery that points to a bullpen role

The Royals 2018 first-round pick (pick 18) is moving quickly through the minors.  He split his time between High and Double-A posting a 3.01 ERA striking out over eight per nine while walking less than three per nine.  He was particularly good in an outing last week when he pitched seven shutout innings striking out nine and walking one.

Singer is primarily a two-pitch pitcher with a solid-average fastball that he pairs with plus slider with tight rotation.  He still doesn’t yet have a good feel for his change-up.

My biggest concern with Singer continues to be his delivery.  It’s far from smooth but more concerning, is he drops his arm down and doesn’t get great extension on his delivery.  Translation…he short arms the ball from a lower delivery point.  While that delivery will likely give right-handed batters fits, he’ll be more prone for injuries and you just don’t see a ton of starting pitchers with that delivery.

If Singer can remain a starter, I see him as a four.  However, I do think he eventually finds his way to the bullpen where he could excel into a high-leveraged reliever.

5. Grayson Rodriguez (Bal, RHP, Low-A)

Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 SP

Tools Summary: Good size and plus fastball but secondary pitches need work as does delivery

Grayson Rodriguez, the Orioles number one overall pick in 2018 (pick 11) has spent the entire season in the Sally League and has had little trouble.  In 18 starts, he’s pitched to a 2.59 ERA striking out 12.6 per nine while walking 3.5 per nine.  Ok, you can say that the control is not there yet, but the Orioles appear to be handling Rodriguez very carefully.

At 6-foot-5, Rodriguez has the size that teams are looking for in a starter.  He’s got a quality fastball that sits 93 to 94 MPH, but as we saw in the Futures Game, he can run it up to 96 we needed.  His breaking pitch is more of a slurve and when I saw him earlier this year, his change-up needed a lot of work.

Ultimately, I see his ceiling as number four, perhaps a number three starter.  That might be lower than others, but I’ve had a chance to see him live.  In fact, the outing in which I scouted was his worse of the season.  I just don’t see front-of-the-rotation stuff.  Plus, the delivery needs a lot of cleanup.  Perhaps it’s for these reasons that the Orioles have kept him in Low-A.

He makes our list after pitching eight shutout innings over two outings striking out 16 and walking two.

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