Mike Soroka, RHP, Atlanta Braves (Low-A Rome)
Perhaps calling Soroka a “positive surprise” is slightly misleading. After all, he was drafted 28th overall last year. First-round picks often succeed. It’s why they’re first-round picks.
But Soroka wasn’t exactly lighting up public draft boards in early June 2015. He was seen by many as a potential high-round pick, but 28th overall seemed like a bit of a surprise, at least to me. Leave it to the Braves to find the pitching talent.
Soroka started the season working mainly with two pitches in a low-90s fastball with late arm-side run and a two-plane curveball with wipeout ability. By the end of the season, he was showing a feel for three pitches at the same time, which was something he worked to achieve. Now, he’s featuring a two-seamer with plus sink in the low-90s, a plus-potential curveball and average changeup, all from a deceptive arm angle and strong, durable frame.
In the span of a year, Soroka has established himself as a mid-rotation-caliber starter who could eat innings and generate a ton of weak contact. He did this while continuing to work with his developing body as an 18-year-old. He’s also a very impressive kid who wants to learn everything about the game and has excellent makeup. Soroka is proving to be quite the pick for the Braves. —David Lee
Back in the spring I wrote a fairly glowing report about Toles after he came (pretty literally) out of nowhere to shock the scouting gallery at Rancho Cucamonga with how absurdly intact his baseball skills remained after a season and a half of inactivity against professional competition. In addition to the lost developmental time, I noted, the disciplinary history was such that he made for an absurdly high-risk prospect. But the talent that had at one point made him a potential first-round pick was clear, from excellent speed which he utilized on the bases, to the aggressive discipline of his approach and quick stroke that allowed him to drive pitches from gap to gap. I wasn’t necessarily surprised that Toles advanced up the chain and continued to find success when he did. I was surprised that success exploded across two more levels of the high minors and culminated with a to-date absurd 106-plate-appearance debut in the big leagues. This kid can play, though. And while the top-line numbers aren’t likely to remain in the clouds, his is a well-rounded skillset absolutely capable of producing average-regular value as a reasonable outcome, with room for more if he succeeds in counter-adjusting to the inevitable scouting book being written in real time. —Wilson Karaman
Alec Hansen, RHP, Chicago White Sox (Low-A Kannapolis)
Ahead of the 2016 draft Hansen was in the conversation to go first overall thanks to a fastball that works 94-97 and a devastating slider. His junior season was a disaster from the outset as he completely lost command of the strike zone and he was relegated to a relief role as he battled the strike zone. Hansen finished the year with 39 walks in 51.2 innings but the White Sox took a risk and selected him in the second round of the draft. He worked primarily in Rookie Ball at the start of the season where he made significant strides with his command. Hansen walked 16 in 43.2 innings of work in the AZL and the Pioneer League, eventually earning a brief promotion to Low-A Kannapolis where he made two starts and threw 11 innings with 11 strikeouts and four walks. There is a long path for Hansen to traverse if he is to tap into his potential as a starter. College pitchers frequently do dominate the lower minors but with Hansen a significant drop in his walk rate is an encouraging sign. —Mauricio Rubio
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