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Eric Lauer, LHP, Kent State (2016 Draft Class) Lauer and the Kent State Flashes entered the MAC Tournament as the heavy favorites, however a loss to Western Michigan ended their run at post season play. Lauer started for the Flashes on Wednesday, going the distance with a complete-game shutout. He showed advanced pitchability throughout the game, and the stuff to match. While Lauer doesn’t currently have a pure out-pitch, his arsenal is still adequate. His fastball sat 93, hitting 94 a few times with a deceptive look from the left side, with some cutting action on it. His curveball will be an above-average pitch, showing 1-7 break across multiple planes at 76 mph. His slider is much improved since I last saw him in April; it usually sits 85-86 topping at 87 mph. His changeup also looked improved, and he threw it with much more confidence this game, featuring horizontal arm-side fade and a touch of tumble as it fell late at times.
Lauer won't be an ace, or even a number two in all likelihood, but what he is missing in ceiling he makes up for in floor. Even as someone who hates the term “high-floor player,” Lauer looks the part to be a fast-rising mid-to-back-end starter. He is as polished as anyone in the class currently, and if any of his off-speed pitches can improve into the plus range, his ceiling becomes even higher. His endurance has never been questioned, as his last two outings have been a no hitter at Bowling Green, and this shutout. His velocity held through all nine innings on Wednesday, and he maintained his delivery well. His delivery is extremely clean, but has a quirk with his left leg that needs to be timed correctly in order to hit his spots. But out of all of his outings that I have seen, he’s only lost his timing in a few. I would look for Lauer to go anywhere in the 25-40 range, but losing out on his ability to prove himself against post season competition is unfortunate. —Grant Jones
Drew Mendoza, SS, Lake Minneola HS (2016 Draft Class)
Florida State-commit Drew Mendoza is a 6-foot-4, 200-pound shortstop with premium offensive tools and plenty of projection remaining. He is a veteran of the showcase circuit and a well-known name who will get his draft ID number called on the first day of the 2016 draft, never setting foot on campus.
At the plate Mendoza combines well above-average bat speed with feel to hit and barrel awareness. The stance is simple with his hands at his shoulder, some drift back with the hands to get it started, and an on-line stride. He’s at his best when he keeps his hands near his midline and lets them work. His power is mainly to his pull side at this point but as he fills out, the combination of strength, bat speed, and barrel awareness will lead to above-average power. Mendoza is a confident hitter and now that the wrist injury that hampered him during the fall and winter showcase circuit has fully healed, he is showing the offensive skillset that scouts have envisioned.
On defense, he shows solid-average hands and average body control from a large frame combined with an arm that would play anywhere on the diamond. As his body continues to fill out, he will be forced to move to third but the athleticism he shows at short will play up. In the end, the team that drafts Mendoza will have a potential all-star caliber third baseman with loud tools at the plate and plenty of defensive skills to play a capable third base. —James Fisher
Mikey White, SS, Oakland Athletics (High-A Stockton)
White was Oakland’s second-rounder last summer, and after a very slow start to his California League career he’s shown signs of life lately, including two balls he stung in my look last week. To say he’s quiet in his setup and load is an understatement. He borders on straight-up mute, to the point where there’s notable stiffness in his launch and a slow start-up to his bat that compromises its speed and leaves the barrel control inconsistent against velocity. His lower half is mechanical in its stride as well, with a stiff plant that robs him of the torque he needs to consistently generate power. And he has the potential to develop some: His broad shoulders frame a filled-out upper half with notable strength through his arms. The swing just isn’t geared to take advantage of it, however.
He posted a 40-grade run time, and the stride lacks much in the way of a second gear. He moved around the infield dirt okay, though the lack of explosiveness in his first step left him looking more likely for a future home at second or third than his current assignment at short. His arm strength was average or better for the left side, with sound fundamentals on his transfer helping the tool play to its fullest. It’s a tough profile, with no evident carrying tools to highlight what appears in a best-case to be a utility profile. —Wilson Karaman
Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies (Double-A Hartford)
It's easy to fall in love with Tapia as a prospect writer. On an otherwise nondescript day you might see him double into the gap on a curve that bounced, the evaluator's version of a romcom meet-cute. He will then delight you with a two-strike approach that involves making his strike zone the size of Eddie Gaedel's.The relationship shouldn't work long term, mind you. The athletic profile is a stretch in center, and you can only be a bad-ball hitter for so long, right? He's a Manic Pixie Dream Outfielder.
On a recent look, Tapia showed both the good and the bad in the profile. In one plate appearance he worked a full count, fouling off some tough pitches (and one that probably would have hit him otherwise—it was so far inside, he fouled it off the top off his thigh), before lacing one through the 3.5 hole. Later in the game he whiffed on a drag bunt, swung at a slider in the dirt, and then crouched lower and swung at a slider in the dirt. He did look better in center, moving well to balls in a big park he hasn't played in much, but he's an average runner at this point, so I do wonder if the defensive profile works up the middle by the time he gets to the majors. The Double-A performance is there though, the barrel control still seduces, and in the end we still need the eggs. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Bubba Starling, CF, Kansas City Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas)
Starling came into pro ball with somewhat unfair expectations, but that’s what comes with $7.5 million. Over the past four-plus years there have been a few glimmers of hope for Starling, however they have been vastly overshadowed with disappointment. While his ability to play center at the big league level may carry him, as he possesses a plus arm and above-average speed. The bat still is not there, however, and it shows little signs of improving. Many reports on Starling have him adding a leg kick or being too busy. The reality is the guts of his swing are not good enough to hit at the highest levels of baseball. Starling’s swing features very “handsy” and awkward movements, beginning with an early and inefficient load, leading him to push his hands at the ball. This is creating a swing where he always has to hit the ball out in front of him, leading to early decisions, and as a result poor pitch recognition and a lack of adjustability. It is pretty impressive that he has done as well as he has so far, which speaks to his athleticism. —Derek Florko
Ariel Sandoval, RF, Los Angeles Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes)
For Sandoval, drawing a walk is an agitating byproduct of waiting for the right pitch. Just as his stat-line suggests a distaste for walks, so too does Sandoval’s methodical routine of disrobing (gloves, shin guard, and, painfully, his bat) en route to first base following a disappointing ball four. The distinction of a selectively aggressive or passive hitter does not really apply here. Sandoval’s up there to hit, but will take a walk—if he must. In his first at-bat of the series (5/24-5/26) versus South Bend, Sandoval set the tone for a power display that would follow, lacing an opposite-field homer to right on an elevated fastball by Justin Steele. He has a lot of pre-swing noise, but that only adds to the excitement he generates at the plate. With an exaggerated leg kick and bat wiggle, Sandoval showcased impressive torque and bat-speed to turn around fastballs to all fields. The Dodgers signed Sandoval in 2012 for $150,000 on the promise of his prototypical right-field profile, and that is exactly what he resembles in his present form. On a throw from somewhat shallow right, Sandoval displayed a plus arm with big carry.
He carries a certain looseness on the field in his actions and expressions. After the home plate umpire clearly missed a call, shifting the count to 2-2, instead of 3-1, Sandoval just smiled, paced around the box, and remained composed. He then laid off a changeup in the dirt, setting up a full count. Sandoval knew then what to expect, a fastball, but this one was almost parallel to his collarbone, and Sandoval outdid himself, parking one in the Kids’ Zone in left. Sandoval remained focused, undeterred by the blown call—a center-cut fastball his reward. He will, of course, have to work on his approach, but throughout the series, he generated favorable counts, routinely tracking pitches into the catcher’s glove. I think there is definite feel for hitting, and spin recognition did not seem to be a serious issue. Still, it was a question of when—not if—he would unleash a wild swing (or two) in a game.
There were some moments of immaturity—he’d occasionally drop his back shoulder, selling out for home runs. Or when he had a puzzling baserunning miscue that saw Sandoval almost get lapped by a teammate after lifting a double. These blips of immaturity, though, do not impact Sandoval’s overall profile. He was having fun, exuding a confidence amidst a successful 2016 season whose increasing temperatures have coincided with Sandoval’s power stroke. The right fielder entered the series with a .661 OPS, and left South Bend after three games with a respectable .755 OPS. At the series’ end, Sandoval was atop the dugout steps—the first to greet his teammates on the field following the win.
Crucially, as expressed recently in an MiLB.com interview, this is a 20-year-old who is adjusting to life in the U.S., separated from his family, all the while bussing through the Midwest League, which might be the literal inverse of Sandoval’s hometown of Monte Plata in the Dominican Republic. At this stage in his development, after two seasons in the Dodgers’ AZL, Sandoval’s push toward his ceiling as a regular in right field is a go. —Will Siskel
Richie Martin, SS, Oakland Athletics (High-A Stockton)
Martin missed the first month and a half after undergoing knee surgery after injuring it in spring training, but he's shown very little rust upon his return to full-season baseball, posting a .333/.474/.533 line in an admittedly (very) small sample.
Martin's swing won't be featured in Tom Emanski commercials, but he's made some adjustments since he was in college that should help him in the short and long run. He's still short to the ball, but there's more load now, and that helps him drive the baseball more than he did at the University of Florida. He has a good game plan at the plate as well, working counts into his favor and drawing his fair share of walks. Despite the better mechanics you still shouldn't expect much power, as he doesn't have the frame to be more than a 40-grade power hitter.
The reason Martin was a first-round pick was for his defense, and it's still the reason why he has a chance to be an everyday shortstop. He's a plus runner with a plus arm, and though there are the occasional gaffes—both mental and physical—he makes up for it by taking hits away. If the hit tool can be even average, he has a chance to be a a quality regular, with a very useful floor of a defense-first middle-infielder. —Christopher Crawford
Ryan Cordell, OF, Texas Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
So many players clamor for our attention: Back-end starter types, potential two-pitch bullpen guys, late-blooming DH-types that won’t stop raking. Like a blind date who starts a story with “I’m not a racist, but...,” there is a certain relief that comes when we can cross someone off the ever-growing list of “maybes.” Cordell was an interesting toolsy college player before he posted a .914 OPS in 2014, his first full professional season. Then he got a promotion to Double-A, struck out like he was at a middle school dance, and baseball could almost cross off at least one more fourth outfielder-type.
Except that on a team with Lewis Brinson and Ronald Guzman, Cordell has re-emerged, at least momentarily, to lead the team in OPS. Can that swing sustain it? Maybe not, and I urge you not to screen it back-to-back with the fluidity of Brinson or the explosiveness of Guzman; you’ll strain your eyes. It’s a workable swing though, and he makes hard contact. He’s won’t make more than average contact or power, a perpetually dangerous but exploitable six-spot type, maybe. If he can get to that level (the one he has shot past currently, mind you), everything else is ready. He could be a very good outfielder. The sun and the scorekeeper conspired to make singles out of routine fly balls Sunday afternoon in Springfield, but Cordell crashed the wall in right-center to pluck an ambitious gapper from the cosmic inferno. He maintains the arm of a college pitcher. He can take a base that isn’t his, even off a minor-league gold-glove catcher. Tommy Pham’s recent rehab stint in the Texas League was a reminder that being good or even average at the hardest things in baseball is a shorter path to the majors than people realize. Cordell is making up for lost time. —Kit House
Ronald Guzman, 1B, Texas Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
Guzman is having an interesting year. The 21-year-old first baseman entered the season needing to make some serious strides in development to avoid falling further down the prospect rankings than he already had, and he seems to have stepped to the plate.
There’s not much to go into on Guzman’s defense. He’s a first-base-locked giant of a human who can do the splits but isn’t amazing at catching foul popups. He’s also not a quick runner by anyone’s standards, and as befitting a first baseman, he’s not got the world’s greatest arm.
With all that out of the way, we can move on to the really interesting thing about Guzman—his swing, and his power. He’s been long touted as Texas’ potential power-hitting left-handed first baseman (there’s a set of dashes for you), though he’s only hit double-digit homers in one minor-league season. This season, however, it looks like Guzman might have finally figured it out. He’s found a sense of discipline at the plate, walking more and striking out less on average, and his swing, while it will never win awards for beauty, has been adapted just enough to let him catch up to Double-A pitching. With the length of his swing, it would be easy to assume that he would get beaten on the inside part of the plate, but his quick wrists and trigger allow him to at least foul those balls away, if not hit them for doubles. The power is blooming with these adjustments, as well (seven homers, 10 doubles through 45 games). In addition to any adjustments in his swing, Guzman’s simply gotten stronger, adding important musculature to his already imposing frame. It’s a tough sell to argue that a 21-year-old at Double-A needed to show something (preferably power) and yet, improbably, that is where Guzman found himself entering the season. If he can maintain his adjustments and physique, he’ll have little to prove going forward. —Kate Morrison
Zack Collins, C, University of Miami (2016 Draft Class)
Collins will be a first-rounder on the strength of his bat, with the best-case ceiling of a passable defensive catcher with significantly above-average offensive outputs for the position. Collins hits in a relaxed, upright stance with a loose medium-height handset that doesn’t draw too far back behind his body before the pitch. He gets to his launch position with a quick toe-tap in the front; his hands get through his load with a powerful downward drive. Collins has the size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and hitting tools for middle-of-the-order power, with a fast, fluid swing-path and slight uppercut finish from a balanced hitting base. There’s a big-league look to how he generates easy power, and in last week’s ACC tournament, Collins stayed on an outside pitch and easily flicked it over the opposite-field wall for an impressive home run. His approach controls the zone well, with the look of enough hitting ability to get to his power. That said, there were instances throughout the tournament last week where he put less comfortable hacks on pitches from lefties, especially breaking balls.
The chance for 20-plus bombs with demonstrated patience plays way up at catcher, but there are plenty of questions regarding whether Collins’ future defensive home is at first base. He receives the ball with a fairly high setup, and his framing, and general actions behind the plate, are fringy. A mainstay in Miami’s lineup since his freshman year, the left-handed-swinging catcher has a long track record of statistical production in the ACC, with a .317 batting average, 38 home runs (.271 ISO), and more walks than strikeouts during his college career. —Adam McInturff
Strongly built at 6-foot-3. 210 pounds, Eshleman pitches from a full windup with a compact, in-line circle-in-back arm action with fair arm speed and a three-quarters slot. From the windup, he would often rush through his follow-through to try and disrupt hitters’ timing, but this would sometimes sacrifice the quality of his pitches. Pitching mainly off his 90-92 mph fastball, he has the ability to manipulate the pitch to add either cut or sink. While the fastball could become quite hittable in the zone, he was able to avoid major damage this outing due in part to some good defense behind him. Eshelman has plus control of his heater and was able to locate in all quadrants of the zone, frustrating hitters. His slider is the most promising off-speed offering as it came between 80-82 mph and had fair tilt and bite, with short action and fair depth. His change also has potential as it came in between 81-83 with good arm speed, and late tumbling action. He did mix in a 73-75 curveball but it was more of a show-me offering with early break and lacked bite. While a usable offering, it is not a primary part of his arsenal.
Eshelman has plus control of all his pitches, and potentially plus command as well. So while his fastball, change, and slider all grade out at average, his strike-throwing ways and pitchability all help his arsenal play higher. —Steve Givarz