Notes on prospects who stood out in the desert, including Kyle Zimmer and Josh Bell.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mariners (Surprise): 5 IP, 2 H, R, 2 BB, 6 K. It feels like Walker has been around forever, and on the verge of the majors for almost as long. When that happens, much like a Heisman-winning quarterback returning to school, we begin to nitpick. Walker is still a stud, perhaps the best pitching prospect in the game (though he no longer qualifies by most service time definitions). For those who like to see prospects fulfill their destiny, we must only root for Walker to finally be healthy and step in behind Felix Hernandez. And even the “finally” is unfair. He just turned 22.
Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals (Peoria): 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 11 K. My goal this fall was to discuss as many different prospects as possible and not repeat the same guys too many times, but when a former first rounder strikes out 11 in five innings, I don’t care if it’s in the California Penal League. Zimmer appears to be getting back to his old self after missing the majority of the year due to a strained shoulder. Expecting him to jump into the Royals big-league rotation next year with just 18 2/3 innings of Double-A ball under his belt and virtually no innings built up this season is a stretch, but if he’s healthy, there’s no reason he can’t get to Kauffman at some point in the summer.
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Notes on prospects who stood out in the desert and in Venezuela, including Andrew Aplin, Tyrell Jenkins, and Giovanny Urshela.
Friday, October 10th
Andrew Aplin, OF, Astros (Salt River, AFL): 4-4, R, HR. Aplin doesn’t impress you at first glance, but he does enough things well that he should end up being a major leaguer. He doesn’t hit for much power, but he has just enough pop to keep pitchers honest and walks more than he strikes out. As an up-the-middle player with on-base skills and decent speed, he does enough on a baseball field to help a team.
Notes on prospects who stood out in the desert, including Francisco Lindor and Hunter Renfroe.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (Peoria Javelinas): 4-6, 2 R, 2B, HR, K. There is a legitimate debate between Lindor, Addison Russell, and Carlos Correa for the title of the best shortstop prospect in the game. For many, it comes down to preference, with Lindor seen as the best defensive option of the trio. While that’s true, his defensive prowess often overshadows his offensive abilities, which are impressive in their own right. Lindor should provide more than enough offense to eclipse the below-average bar set by the current crop of major-league shortstops.
Aaron Northcraft, RHP, Braves (Peoria Javelinas): 3 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 2 K. Northcraft has lasted longer as a starter than anyone gave him credit for early in his development, but the rotation is still probably not his long-term home. He’s a sinker/slider pitcher with a low armslot and a changeup that’s not good enough to combat lefties. Still, he’s kept his strikeout totals respectable enough to possibly eat up some innings in the back end of a rotation. More than likely, however, he’ll settle in as a low-leverage reliever.
Notes on prospects who stood out in the desert yesterday, including Jesse Winker and Mark Appel.
Jesse Winker, OF, Reds (Surprise Saguaros): 2-3, 2 R, 2B, HR, 2 BB. There are many ways to look at Winker. On the one hand, he’s a left-field-only defensive player whose only value is with his bat. On the other hand, he hit .287/.399/.518 this year and finished the season in Double-A. On the one hand, almost all of that damage came in the hitter-friendly California League. On the other hand, he battled a wrist injury in July that affected his performance after being promoted. Either way, he remains one of the more underrated hitting prospects in the game and should hit enough to handle any defensive assignment.
Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals (Peoria Javelinas): 2-4, R, 2B, 2 K. In our Ten Pack on Monday, I named Mondesi as the prospect I wanted to see most this fall. That’s because he has perhaps the biggest gap between current production and ceiling of any player in the desert. I’ve seen glimpses of the tools at the plate that make for a good hitter, but the approach at the plate still has a long way to go, and facing by far his stiffest competition yet won’t make it any easier.
Aaron Judge has long arms. Hitters with long arms have swing-and-miss issues. Do two sentences make a destiny?
Few things scare scouts off a hitter more than high strikeout totals. We’re trained to look past the numbers and to see just the player, rather than be swayed by, for example, gaudy numbers in an extreme hitting environment or against inferior competition—or the reverse. But high strikeout totals are one number that can set off scouts’ alarms. Even the most successful minor-league hitters can, and usually will, struggle when they get to the majors if they have extreme swing-and-miss issues. As George Springer showed this year, a hitter with extreme strikeout tendencies can still be productive; that production might just come with a painfully low batting average.
A few weeks ago, I talked about how predetermined biases about a player can affect the evaluation process, especially with prospects for whom expectations play a large part. In the case of Yankees outfield prospect Aaron Judge, however, even if we can strip away all of the background information, forget about his success in college and forget that he was selected in the Yankees in the first round, we can’t ignore that he is a tremendously large human being. I mean, he’s just massive.
We know certain things that are generally pretty true about tall hitters. They typically hit for more power than their shorter counterparts, and at the same time, they generally swing and miss more. Part of that is due to the aforementioned propensity for power (as powerful swings tend to bring whiffs), but part is due to physics. Taller hitters have longer arms, and long arms make for long swings. The longer a swing, the more holes in it.
Kicking off the AFL season with notes on Steven Moya, Kyle Zimmer, and other prospects who stood out yesterday.
The Arizona Fall League began on Tuesday, and with it comes the return of the Minor League Update. Soon, leagues throughout the Caribbean will begin play as well, giving us a return to the prospect action we’ve been going through withdrawals from over the past five weeks, even if it’s in a limited fashion.
As a reminder to those not completely familiar, the AFL is often referred to as a “finishing school” for prospects on the cusp of the majors. Not all players on the roster are top prospects, but most will make the majors in some capacity. You can read about all of the player eligibility rules here, but it makes for a strong collection of top prospects, fringe prospects, role players, and true youngsters. It’s a dream setting for a scout looking to see as many prospects as possible in one plcae, which is why several members of the BP Prospect Team (including yours truly) will be heading out to the desert at the end of the month.
What are we talking about when we talk about disappointment?
"(A box score) doesn't tell how big you are, what church you attend, what color you are, or how your father voted in the last election. It just tells what kind of baseball player you were on that particular day." –Branch Rickey
If only it were still that simple. Back when Rickey was making personnel decisions for major-league organizations, and those last three traits were actually factors in how people were judged, it was a lot easier to evaluate a ballplayer without knowing too much about him. But with phones and tablets now as essential to the scouting toolbox as a stopwatch, with three different prospect rankings appearing on players’ Baseball-Reference pages, with signing bonuses public (and publicy debated), with the conversation about some players’ draft stock now rivaling the lifespan and intrigue of a presidential primary, that’s no longer the case.
Colin Moran is not a bad baseball player. The University of North Carolina doesn’t recruit bad baseball players. Bad baseball players don’t get popped sixth overall in the major-league draft. And bad baseball players don’t hit .296 between High- and Double-A, as Moran did in 2014, his first full year among the professional ranks.
Yet to hear many evaluators talk—to hear me at certain points during this season—you might think Moran is just terrible. Throughout a season of sitting behind home plate, I saw no player inspire more head shakes, shoulder shrugs and eye rolling than Moran. "How was this guy the sixth-best amateur player in the country last year,” I heard from more than one scout. I wasn't terribly kind in my initial write-up of Moran, saying "I came away feeling very underwhelmed with the player."
Mike Montgomery, LHP, Rays (Durham, AAA): 6 IP, 3 H, R, 6 BB, 6 K. The once highly touted southpaw has never quite put it all together, struggling with command and at times control thanks to poor mechanics that he's never been able to iron out. Now 25 and having repeated Triple-A for a second straight season, he hasn't made the progress the Rays were hoping for for when they received him from the Royals last offseason. At this point, he's not much more than organizational depth.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Henry Owens and Rio Ruiz.
Austin Barnes, 2B, Marlins (Jacksonville, AA): 3-7, 2 R, 2B, HR, K. I love players who have strong K:BB rates, and I love players with positional versatility, so it’s no wonder that Barnes has become one of my favorite prospects. His tools don’t jump out at you and his ceiling isn’t terribly high, but there is some pop in his bat and he controls the strike zone incredibly well, walking more often this season than he struck out. He was blocked within the Marlins organization as a catcher (which is the only reason he started back in the Florida State League to begin with), so after a mid-season promotion, he’s seen time at both second and third base as well as behind the plate. He’s got just enough power to keep pitchers honest, good bat control, and positional flexibility that includes being able to catch, which is a combination that will have significant value on a major-league roster.
Duane Underwood, RHP, Cubs (Kane County, A-): 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 8 K. Right now, Underwood features a mid-90s fastball and not a whole lot else, but there’s a lot there to dream on. He’s got good size, but he needs to take major steps forward with the command of his fastball and the development of his secondary pitches. He’s still a high-risk prospect because of the gap between his present abilities and his ceiling, but as a potential mid-rotation starter, he’s a guy the Cubs will be patient with.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Corey Seager and Adalberto Mejia.
Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Cubs (Kane County, A-): 2-4. As if it weren’t tough enough to make a name for oneself in the Cubs system, Candelario laid an egg in the Florida State League to begin the year, then rebounded only slightly after being demoted back to Kane Country, performing on par with his previous stint in the league. The good news is that he’s only 20, so there’s plenty of time to take another hack at the FSL and move quickly, but the obstacles in between him and Wrigley seem a lot less surmountable than they did at this time last year, and Candelario didn’t make things any easier on himself with a disappointing season.
Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers (Chattanooga, AA): 2-4, HR, 2 K. Will he stick at shortstop or shift over to third base? That’s really the only question left for Seager, who has hit at every level and gives no indication that he will stop any time soon. It’s not just the home-run totals that are impressive, but the doubles power as well, which indicates a more balanced approach and the potential for even more power down the road.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Wilmer Difo, Edwin Escobar, and Clayton Blackburn.
Wilmer Difo, SS, Nationals (Hagerstown, A-): 3-5, 2 R, 2B, 2 HR, K. The South Atlantic League player of the year didn’t impress me in a short two-game stint earlier this year, but that alone should tell you why it’s important to see a player for a longer period of time. As word spread throughout the Sally League about Difo’s performance early in the season (five home runs in May), the league began to avoid him more frequently, and he took what they gave him. That wasn’t the best strategy, because, with plus speed, he made them pay quite often (49 steals on the season). I still don’t see him as a power threat long term, and his performance did come as a 22-year-old in Low-A ball, but it was a breakout performance nonetheless. He also features a plus arm at shortstop, giving him an interesting package of tools on which to build.
Danny Diekroeger, 3B, Cardinals (State College, SS): 3-5, 3 R, 3B, BB. Drafted in the 10th round this past summer out of Stanford, Diekroeger offers a solid skill set and tools to carve out a major-league career. He saw time at second base as well, though he primarily played third, and offered moderate pop and plate discipline while helping the Spikes to a title.
Notes on a handful of prospects who stood out yesterday, including the Rockies' Raimel Tapia, David Dahl, and Ryan McMahon.
Viosergy Rosa, 1B, Marlins (Jacksonville, AA): 2-5, 2B. Rosa isn’t much of a prospect, but the playoffs make for a slow time for the Update, and I saw Rosa about 20 times this year, so this seems like a good time to talk about him. He’s old for a prospect and is limited to first base, but he lacks the massive power production required out of the spot. Power is his calling card: He has some, but not enough to profile as an everyday first baseman. He’s limited defensively, so the bat will have to carry him, but it’s probably not going to be able to carry him far enough.
Rob Zastryzny, LHP, Cubs (Daytona, A+): 3 1/3 IP, 6 H, 2 R, BB, 3 K. Coming from the left side with a little cross-fire delivers, Zastryzny brings some deception and a changeup with some diving action that gives him a chance. The offspeed pitch needs become more consistent, and he needs a breaking ball that he can trust, but Zastryzny has a chance to be a back-end starter if it all comes together. That ceiling, however, is still quite far from being a reality.