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Hot Prospects – Week 22

HOT PROSPECTS 1The minor league system officially finished on Monday with the playoffs ramping up later this week.  It seemed like the season just started yesterday, but nearly 300 players later, it’s over.  We encourage you to use these updates for research as you plan your off-season drafts.  Simply use the search box on the site to look for players or the updates.

HITTERS

1. 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 has appeared on our Hidden Five list and a couple of weeks back, on the main list.  He slumped in July but can roaring back in August to hit .423.  For the year, he hit .307 with a .371 OBP.  He showed excellent power and speed potential by swatting nine home runs and stealing 17 bags.

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.

2. Andrew Knizner (Stl, C, Majors)

Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 catcher

Tools Summary: Nice hit tool with 15 to 18 home run potential. The obvious concern is when he will get a full-time job in St. Louis?

Andrew Knizner, like Carson Kelly before him, is the designated catcher behind Yadier Molina.  How long will that be?  Molina is signed through 2020 and will be 37 years-old and despite some skill erosion, I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides to play for a few more years.  If that happens, the Cardinals will be put in a difficult spot.  Would they really take playing time away from an all-time Cardinal great?  I don’t know, but Knizner can play and deserves more playing time than he will likely get.

Knizner had another strong offensive year across Triple-A and the Major Leagues in 2019.  In 66 games in Triple-A, he hit 12 homer runs while continuing to control the strike zone very well.  He only struck out 13% of the time while walking 8.6% of the time.  The chance for him to hit for a high batting average and on-base percentage makes him an intriguing catching option for fantasy players.  Sure, I don’t see 20 to 25 home runs, but for a full Major League season, he could slash .270/.340/.425 with 15 to 18 home runs.  That’s a very nice fantasy option provided he gets the playing time.

He slugged .571 in August to finish up the Triple-A season and then hit a home run in his first game back in the Major Leagues.

3. Riley Adams (Tor, C, Double-A)

Taken in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Riley Adams has been having a solid season in the Eastern League.  In 81 games, he’s hit 11 home runs with a .354 OBP.  Over the past week, he smacked three homers and looks to be ready for Triple-A.  There is a lot of swing and miss in his game and therefore, he profiles as more of a backup catcher than a front-line starter.

Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Backup Catcher

Tools Summary: Power over hit tool but with the number of strikeouts he is producing, he might not hit enough to get to his power.

4. Tyler Nevin (Col, 1B, Double-A)

Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 1B

Tools Summary: Swing is more geared to contact but he’s now been put at first.  He did hit eight home runs in August which is encouraging.

After having a nice season in the California League in 2018 and following that up with being named the MVP in the Fall League, Tyler Nevin wasn’t able to build on that momentum.  After showing some nice pop, he regressed to posting a .398 SLG in Double-A.  Part of that was just moving to a more neutral hitting environment and the other factor is his swing is more geared to contact than power.  Then again, he hit eight of his 13 home runs in August.  Did he change his swing path or did he get lucky?

The calculus in predicting the upside of Nevin is challenging.  He makes great contact and does not expand the strike zone.  His strikeout rate was 17% and his walk rate was 12%.  While he’s far from a burner, he will also steal the occasional bag.  I do think he’ll have average power in the 18 to 20 range, but the Rockies have moved him to first and this could prove problematic for him being a viable fantasy asset.  But, he’ll play half his games in Coors Field which could add another four of five home runs.

For now, I still see Nevin as a soft regular in fantasy.  Will he join the Launch Angle revolution?  Will the ball get de-juiced?  In the end, in a neutral park, I see a .270/.340/.430 performer with 15 to 20 home runs.

5. Taylor Trammell (SD, OF, Double-A)

Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 OF

Tools Summary: Double-plus runner with a chance to hit for some power.  On-base over Batting Average player.  A chance to be an impact fantasy contributor.

Despite an underwhelming season, first with the Reds and then the Padres, in my opinion, Taylor Trammell continues to be one of the best prospects in the game.  Plus, the Padres gave up two very good players in Franmill Reyes and Logan Allen to acquire him at the deadline.  While you might discount Reyes as simply a full-time DH, which is likely his path, the fact is he hit 30 home runs in the big leagues.

First, let’s talk about Trammell’s performance in 2019.  In 126 games in Double-A, he slashed .234/.340/.349 with 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases.  While fantasy owners will like the 20 steals, the .349 SLG is concerning and actually a little surprising.  He has good bat speed with a short, compact swing and while I don’t see a .500 SLG in his profile, I do think he could slug .425 with 15 to 20 home runs.

What he did continue to do in 2019 was show good contact (23% K/9), take his walks (13% BB/9), run, and play great defense.  While his strikeout rate is a little high, I do believe he will add another 100 points in on-base percentage and that should allow him to hit at the top of the lineup.  As a double-plus runner, he’s going to steal a lot of bases.  A .260/.350/.425 slash line with 12 home runs and 30 stolen bases should be a good baseline for fantasy owners.

He did finish the year strong going 9 for 19 with 2 home runs.

6. Justin Williams (Stl, OF, Triple-A)

Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 75 OF

Tools Summary: A lot of 50 tools but has never put it together until the last six weeks.

I saw Justin Williams play in several games in the Fall League when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays.  He was athletic with a nice swing and I thought there could be something there.  Plus, he just looks the part.  Since then, he just hasn’t hit until the last six weeks.  In 36 games, he’s hitting .364 with seven home runs.  It’s likely Triple-A, but we thought that about Aquino and he that story has had quite a second chapter.

7. Mike Siani (Cin, OF, High-A)

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

Tools Summary: Plus speed with good contact.   Average at-best power

Mike Siani was number 13 on our Top 15 list last year and we noted…” we use to publish an ‘emerging prospect by system’ and if we were still doing that, Mike Siani would fit the category perfectly.”  Well, 2019 showed that our analysis was not far off.

The skills are clearly alluring.  In 54 games, while he’s only hit .224, he’s posted a respectable .330 OBP with four home runs and 19 stolen bases.  He doesn’t have a ton of power and while he has strong wrist with plenty of bat speed, the swing is more geared to contact.  I think that will work just fine as I think he will hit, despite his low batting average and of course the plus speed will be his best asset.

While he’s been a little inconsistent, the thing that has been constant is his ability to steal bases.  In August, he stole 13 while only being caught three times.

8. Canaan Smith (NYY, OF, Low-A)

Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF

Tools Summary: Intriguing power-speed profile that is starting to open eyes.

Drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Canaan Smith has really come into his own in Low-A.  Since July 1st, he’s hit over .400 with a .520 on-base percentage and more walks than strikeouts.   While he’s only hit 11 home runs, he has plus bat speed and therefore projects to hit for plus power.

He’s also a solid runner and has stolen 16 of 20 bases, five in the past week.  However, he’s already 215 pounds, so as he continues to fill out, the speed will likely regress.  Overall the profile is very exciting with a chance to be a full-time regular as a corner outfielder with 20 plus home run potential and a high on-base percentage.

9. Josh Lowe (TB, OF, Double-A)

Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF

Tools Summary: 20-20 power-speed potential but with some swing and miss.  He will walk though, so he could even help you in OBP.

Part of the Tampa Bay Lowe brother trio, although they are not brothers and one of them doesn’t even pronounce his name like the other two, but you know what I mean.  Anyway, Josh Lowe is the last player of the three to make his Majors debut.  However, he might have the highest ceiling of the three, particularly from a fantasy perspective.

In 121 games in Double-A, he hit 18 home runs and stole 30 bases while posting a .340 on-base percentage.   It was a nice bounce-back year after slashing .238/.322/.361 in the Florida State League with only six home runs in 2018.  At 6-foot-4, there is going to be strikeouts and Lowe has been consistent over his minor league career with a mid-20s strikeout rate. But, he’s also walked a lot, usually posting a double-digit walk rate.

In the end, I like the athleticism, the power-speed potential and will live with the .250 batting average he’ll likely produce.  In an on-base percentage, he might even be an asset for that category, or at least neutral as he should post a .340 OBP.

10. Cristian Pache (Atl, OF, Triple-A)

Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 OF

Tools Summary: 20-20 power-speed potential but currently does not control the strike zone well.  Double-plus defender in the mold of JBJ with more speed

Cristian Pache had a quiet 2019 season.  In fact, if you look at his strikeout and walk rates in Double-A vs. Low-A (2017), they were nearly identical.  What was different is he showed a lot more power and didn’t steal as many bases.  For fantasy owners, the lack of stolen bases is concerning and when you see that he got caught more times than he was successful, it raises even more flags.

He does have good speed, not a burner, but clearly needs to work on his base stealing.  I think that will come and he should be able to produce 20 stolen bases at the highest level.  The power is developing nicely and I think there could be 20 plus home run power to come.  That leaves his hit tool and therein lies the challenge.  He walked more this year than he ever has, but at 7.9%, he’s not going to challenge Freddie Freeman OBP.  Plus, he strikes out a lot.  In Double-A, it was 24%.

Net-net, we have a potential 20-20 performer who might only hit .260 with a low .300 OBP.   But, he’s still only 20 and still has a lot of time to improve the hit tool.  I’m still putting his ceiling as a Top 30 fantasy outfielder who will always get at-bats because of his defense, which is stellar.

PITCHERS

1. Roansy Contreras (NYY, RHP, Low-A)

Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP

Tools Summary: Undersized fastball/change-up pitcher that is moving up lists quickly

Over the past five years, few teams have done a better job in mining the Latin market than the Yankees.  They have signed the famous players like Jasson Dominquez as well as the lessor known talents in right-handed pitcher Roansy Contreras.

While undersized at 6-feet, Contreras has the makings of a solid arsenal that begins with a fastball that sits 93 to 94 MPH with a high spin rate.  His best secondary pitch is his change-up that in Low-A is just not a fair pitch.  Lower-level minor league players rarely see a pitch that good and consequently, it’s missing plenty of bats.  His curveball was ok for me when I saw him, but it’s not as far along as his change-up.

As a fastball/change-up pitcher, Contreras should continue to put up solid numbers in the minor leagues and will likely have early success in the Majors.  Whether his ceiling is a number 2/3 starter or 3/4 will depend on the development of his curveball.  For now, we will split the difference and put his ceiling as a number three.

To put an exclamation on his season, Contreras pitched six shutout innings, striking out 8 and walk one with one hit allowed in his final outing.  He should start the 2020 season in High-A.

2. 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 made his last start of the season on the 29th and went six shutout innings, giving up one hit, striking out seven and walking one.  It was a terrific year for the talented left-hander and one that I would have liked to see him pitch some in Frederick.  But, the Orioles though otherwise and we will all have to wait until next year.  Don’t be surprised if covers both High and Double-A next year with a chance to see Baltimore shortly afterward.

3. Daniel Lynch (KC, LHP, High-A)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 SP

Tools Summary: Size, premium stuff from the left-side, and he throws strikes.  All you want in a frontline starter.

The Kansas City Royals selected Daniel Lynch with their first-round supplemental pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and appears they drafted a potential top of the rotation talent.  He has everything you are looking for in a pitcher – size, premium stuff from the left-side, and he throws strikes.  In 15 starts in High-A this season, he pitched to a 3.10 ERA striking nearly a batter an inning while keeping his walk to 2.6 per nine.

The only blemish on the year is he spent time on the Injured List with general arm soreness.  While that’s not something you ever want to hear, the MRI’s checked out and after some downtime, he was back with the same stuff and control he showed before hitting the IL.

The Royals will likely start him in Double-A to begin the 2020 season with a very good chance to see Kansas City in 2021.  The ceiling is a number two starting pitcher with even perhaps some upside.

4. Simeon Woods-Richardson (Tor, RHP, High-A)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 SP

Tools Summary: Size, athleticism with premium stuff.  There’s a lot to like with a pitcher that many are not high on.

Drafted in the second round by the Mets in the 2018 MLB, Simeon Woods-Richardson had an excellent season first with the Mets and then to finish up the year with the Blue Jays.  The Mets limited him to three to four innings per outing in the Sally League to begin the season and he responded.  In 20 starts, he posted a 4.25 ERA but struck out over 11 per nine while walking less than two per nine.  After being acquired by the Jays at the trade deadline, he performed even better in High-A.  In fact, his hits allowed per inning went way down.  However, in digging through the game log, the same thing was happening in his tenure in the Sally League.

Woods-Richardson doesn’t turn 19 until September 27 and the fact that he’s already pitching well in High-A is indeed impressive.  At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, he has the ideal frame for a pitcher.  His arsenal is also very good with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s that can scrape higher, a plus curveball that misses a lot of bats and a change-up that was better than advertised when I saw him over the summer.  He’s athletic with good mechanics.  Honestly, it’s hard to find a lot of faults with the profile and therefore, the ceiling could be a number three starter or perhaps even higher.

5. Forrest Whitley (Hou, RHP, Double-A)

Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 SP

Tools Summary: Size and premium stuff but the walks are a problem.  The ceiling is still an ace, or slightly less, but there are growing concerns.

Forrest Whitley’s last start of the season eased some concerns in Houston as he pitched 5.1 shutout innings, giving up only one hit and striking out eight.  But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  You see, he also walked four.  In fact, in August he walked 18 batters in 20.2 innings which was pretty much what he did when he was getting blown up in Triple-A earlier in the season.  The stuff is elite, but it’s become clear that the control is not.  I think he gets there, but it’s going to take more time.

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