Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Cubs outfielder Rock Shoulders and Blue Jays righty Taylor Cole.
Hitter of the Night: Rock Shoulders, LF, Cubs (Daytona, A+): 2-2, 2 R, HR, 2 BB.
Shoulders has struggled in the Florida State League this season against pitchers with a more advanced plan to attack the holes in his swing. Still, the power is very much intact, and his home run on Monday got out of the park before Shoulders had even left the batter’s box. He’s patient and looks for his pitch to hit, but he can be exploited on the inner half and struggles with decent breaking stuff once he’s behind in the count. He’s also not a left fielder, though he’s playing there some of the time. A massively built human being with some of the strongest legs I’ve ever seen, Shoulders will have to make adjustments quickly to continue to get at-bats in a stacked Cubs farm system, but his power potential remains enticing.
Pitcher of the Night: Taylor Cole, RHP, Blue Jays (Dunedin, A+): 6 2/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 12 K.
Maybe this will be the start that gets Cole out of the Florida State League. At 24, he’s old for his level, but his strikeout numbers have spiked this season to almost double his career norms. He’s also throwing a ton more strikes. He doesn’t have a power fastball or overpowering secondary stuff, so his strikeout totals may be a bit of an aberration, but he’s kept them up all season, so there’s something there. It’s time to find out if he can carry it over at the next step.
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Notes on prospects who stood out this weekend, including Addison Russell, Hunter Harvey, and Archie Bradley.
Friday, July 18
James Ramsey, OF, Cardinals (Springfield, AA): 2-4, R, HR, BB, K. As though the Cardinals needed more well-developed hitting prospects, they are beginning to see yet another former first-round pick develop into something on which they can rely. Ramsey, once thought to be more of a fourth outfielder, is seeing his power production increase in Double-A this season without any diminishing effects on the rest of his offensive output.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including just about every blue-chip bat in the Cubs system.
Hitter(s) of the Night
The Cubs, Multiple Positions, Wrigleyville (All Levels): It’s a good time to be a Cubs prospect, and Thursday may have been the climax of the hype machine. It’s not going to be easy to tell Cubs fans to calm down after what happened last night.
In Triple-A, Javier Baez, who was making his regular season debut at second base in order to give himself and the organization more options for the future, continued his rise out of his early-season doldrums with a 2-for-4 night that included a double and a homer. Not to be outdone, his teammate Kris Bryant went 3-for-5 with a double and a home run of his own.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Astros outfielder Danry Vasquez and Rockies righty jon Gray.
Hitter of the Night: Danry Vasquez, OF, Astros (Lancaster, A+): 3-3, 3 R, 3 HR. Vasquez is an intriguing hitting prospect who still has a long way to go, but who some believe has more power than he’s shown in games thus far. A three-homer game on Wednesday is a good start, but it gives him just four on the season. The hit tool is going to have to carry Vasquez, but he’ll need to start turning more of his doubles into home runs.
Pitcher of the Night: Jonathan Gray, RHP, Rockies (Tulsa, AA): 5 2/3 IP, H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K.
This is more like the dominant Gray we were hoping to see from college. The Rockies have had him working on stuff, so don’t put too much stock in his numbers. The power arm that got him drafted so high is still very much intact.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Phillies outfielder Dylan Cozens.
Prospect of the Night: Dylan Cozens, OF, Phillies (Lakewood, A-): 4-5, 2 R, 2 HR.
Cozens looks the part of a big-time power hitting prospect, and there are nights when he backs it up. It’s easy to see why the Phillies were intrigued by his package of tools and used a second-round pick on him in 2012, and it’s also easy to see why it was the Phillies who liked him the most. His home run, to dead center off of a Lucas Giolito fastball, was one of the more impressive things I’ve seen this year, especially coming in Lakewood, where the ball does not carry well at night. He’s at his best when he stays up the middle and drives the ball to the gaps. When he gets pull-happy, his bat leaves the strike zone too much, and he loses power because he generates too much topspin. There are some pitch recognition issues that may never get worked out and he’s aggressive, a combination that leads to a ton of bad contact, strikeouts, and a low batting average. There’s some room for improvement in that regard, but likely not too much. Still, he’s an intriguing guy who is still learning how to use his size and athleticism in a baseball way, and when he puts it together in short stints, it’s very impressive to watch.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Cubs outfielder Albert Almora and Diamondbacks righty Ben Eckels.
With no Triple-A games in action and rainouts lightening the schedule around the country, we don’t have as deep of an Update as we usually do. There’s nothing to fear, however. If we made it through January and February, this is a piece of cake.
Hitter of the Night: Albert Almora, OF, Cubs (Daytona, A+): 5-7, 4 R, 2B, 3B, HR.
Yep, that’s a cycle. Almora is coming on strong of late after a horrid start to the season. His aggressiveness at the plate is still a concern, but there are some guys who are talented enough, and do enough other things well, to get away with it. Almora may just be one of those guys.
Notes on prospects who stood out over the weekend, including Cubs third baseman Christian Villanueva and Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia.
Friday, July 11
Christian Villanueva, 3B, Cubs (Tennessee, AA): 2-4, R, HR. Villanueva was struggling in his first taste of Triple-A this season, which made it easy to send him down a level to make room for Kris Bryant. Still, Villanueva is a legitimate prospect in his own right who gets overshadowed in the Cubs system. He's getting back on his feet in Tennessee and will get another shot at Triple-A soon.
A look at Lucas Giolito in Lakewood brought back memories from 2012.
Lakewood is not what you expect when you think of minor-league towns. Just off a main road not far from a recently rebuilt Jersey Shore, Lakewood is not small town America. It’s overcrowded New Jersey, within commuting distance of our nation's biggest city, a place where it's go big or go home. It's not the kind of place you expect to see perspective-altering performances from 19-year-old kids in A-ball.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Cubs third baseman Jeimer Candelario and Pirates righty Nick Kingham.
Hitter of the Night: Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Cubs (Kane County, A-): 3-4, R, 2 2B, HR.
After a solid season of holding his own against older competition last year, Candelario struggled mightily this year in the Florida State League and hasn’t returned to form upon a return to Low-A ball. His big Thursday night helps.
Pitcher of the Night: Nick Kingham, RHP, Pirates (Indianapolis, AAA): 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 4 K.
Whether it’s as an audition for a rotation spot in Pittsburgh or in order to increase his trade value, Kingham continues to make his case for being major league ready despite just six starts in Triple-A. It’s not the sexiest ceiling, but Kingham should be a major league starter for a long time.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Rangers outfielder Nick Williams and Mets righty Gabriel Ynoa.
Hitter of the Night: Nick Williams, OF, Rangers (Myrtle Beach, A+): 4-5, 2 R, 2 2B, 3B, BB.
It remains to be seen how Williams’ hit tool will play against better pitching with more of a plan to exploit his aggressiveness, but few can match his pure hitting combination of bat speed and feel for the barrel.
Pitcher of the Night: Gabriel Ynoa, RHP, Mets (Binghamton, AA): 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K.
Ynoa isn’t overpowering, but when his command is on, he can be extremely effective. He has plus control, but he’s still refining his ability to throw good strikes and working on an effective breaking ball. At 21, however, and already in Double-A, he has plenty of time to work those things out.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including the Rangers' Nick Williams and the Twins' Alex Meyer.
Hitter of the Night: Nick Williams, OF, Rangers (Myrtle Beach, OF): 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, K. If you know one thing about Williams, it’s his hit tool, but part of what makes it so exceptional is his natural bat speed, which will also lead to some power production. More power will come from Williams getting himself in better hitter’s counts, something he may never do with any frequency, but even if he doesn’t, his raw talent should give him moderate power production to go along with a plus batting average.