May 28, 2013
Monday Morning Ten Pack
Raul Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Royals (Low-A Lexington)
As much as I enjoy referring to Adalberto Mondesi as Adalberto Mondesi, the young shortstop has expressed his desire to be called by the first name that appears on his birth certificate, which just happens to be the same as his familiar father’s—a former rookie of the year--and his less-than-familiar older brother’s. Hey, if it works, keep working it. Raul Adalberto, which is still a cool sounding name, is one of my favorite prospects to watch, and on a short list of my favorite prospects to monitor and write about. He’s a 17-year-old playing a premium position at a full-season level, so the excitement can exist regardless of the on-the-field outcomes. Context is always a vital part of the evaluation process, as a prospect’s status or sudden rise in status can often put a spotlight on production [itself] at the expense of the specifics surrounding that production. Mondesi has struggled at times this season, and that can lead to overreactions and assumptions that aren’t tethered to the reality of the situation. Mondesi has struggled--no doubt --but he hasn’t been overwhelmed by the level of competition; he belongs at this level despite the poor statistical line. Coming into last night’s game, Mondesi was hitting an anemic .195/.205/.293 in May, which isn’t going to keep his name dripping from the tip of any Pavlovian tongue. But the talent to develop into something very special lives inside of Raul, son of Raul/brother of Raul, and it’s only a matter of time before his positive developmental steps show up on the stat sheet. He hit for the cycle last night. It’s a one-game sample, but bring the context back into the equation. Raul –son of Raul/brother of Raul—is a 17-year-old playing in a full-season league. The fact that he can show glimpses or flashes of brilliance at that level at his age is absolutely remarkable. This isn’t a normal prospect. –Jason Parks
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds (Low-A, Dayton)
Through the first seven weeks of the season, Robert Stephenson has carved up the Midwest League to the tune of 11.6 strikeouts per nine (punching out about one out of every three batters faced) and just 2.4 BB/9, all while holding the opposition to just a .240 batting average. Stephenson was the 27th overall selection in a stacked 2011 draft class, and as impressive as his stuff was out of the scholastic ranks it has bumped up across the board in 2013. His fastball is comfortably sitting mid-90s, climbing to 98 mph on occasion. He pounds the bottom of the zone on a tough downward plane, making him tough to square and helping him to produce a 45 percent groundball rate thus far this spring. His breaker is a hard curve that vacillates between 11-to-5 and 12-to-6 action, working best in the 80-82 mph range. It easily projects to a plus offering, though it plays closer to average right now due to inconsistent execution, which leads to a fair share of hangers. The changeup is still a work in progress, but Stephenson has already shown improvement in his feel for the pitch compared to early April. You can see start-to-start growth in Stephenson's game, particularly in his pitch execution and sequencing, and he's doing the little things, as well, including improving his pacing and set durations from the stretch (which, combined with 1.19-to-1.27 times to the plate makes him difficult to run on). Through 10 starts, Stephenson has made a strong case for being the top arm currently tossing in the Midwest League, and should be included in any discussion regarding the top arms in the minors. --Nick J. Faleris
Kalian Sams, OF, Padres (Double-A San Antonio)
Sams has one single in 17 games with San Antonio. He also has six doubles, seven home runs, and 13 walks, giving him a .298/.468/.872 slash line thus far. One of the most entertaining players I’ve seen this season, Sams is approximately 6-foot-2, 250 pounds of pure muscle, and he made a ball disappear last weekend. Nobody I spoke to (including myself on color commentary) saw the ball after it left the bat, much less where it landed. Later that game, Sams covered plenty of ground in right field to make this full-extension diving catch.
A career .215/.292/.443 hitter over six previous minor-league seasons, the Dutch international was recently released by the Mariners and picked up by San Diego earlier this month. Perhaps the 26-year-old is just riding an incredible hot streak. But his high-energy style is fun to watch, and with his gargantuan raw power, he could be at least something––even if it’s in Japan. –Jason Cole
Jesse Winker, OF, Reds (Low-A, Dayton)
Winker has enjoyed a strong start to his first year of full-season ball, currently sitting on a .309/.414/.525 line while maintaining a walk rate and strikeout rate each around 15 percent. Winker hits out of an upright stance with a low load and compact barrel delivery, and shows a knack for producing loud contact. The 49th overall selection in 2012 draft has solid strength in his legs and core right now and should continue to add to that as he matures. The torque generated through his core, paired with solid extension through contact and a high follow-through, should help him produce solid home run numbers as he progresses through the Reds' system, and he's already tapping into that potential this spring with seven home runs over his first 45 games (with one out of every five fly balls clearing a wall). Winker's carrying tool, however, is his potential future 6 hit, which allows him to operate with comfort deep in counts, and has thus far made him a difficult out in the Midwest League. As he improves the implementation of his already advanced approach, he should be able to maintain a solid strikeout rate as he progresses. Defensively, he's very much the player he was as an amateur, showing stiff actions and below average speed on the grass. He may have the raw arm strength for right field, but loses carry and accuracy due to sometimes choppy mechanics. --Nick J. Faleris
Ronald Guzman, 1B, Rangers (Extended Spring Training)
Sidelined since undergoing knee surgery (torn meniscus) in mid-March, Guzman is currently returning to game action at extended spring training. The Dominican first baseman made headlines on July 2, 2011, by signing for a reported $3.45 million bonus. Ranked by Baseball Prospectus as the Rangers’ no. 9 prospect, Guzman impressed in the rookie Arizona League last summer by posting a .321/.374/.434 slash line in 52 games.