Fernando Tatis Jr, just promoted to Double-A, has generated significant – and deserved – attention for his record-setting season as an 18-year-old in Low-A. He paced Fort Wayne to the playoffs, and will now join a Double-A club that will also be in the playoffs. Tatis Jr. has great body language and always seems to be at the center of a conversation with teammates or coaches in the dugout. He stands out on the field for his long build and legs and has projection through the upper half and shoulders. He clocked in at 4.25 to first base, just at above average for a right-handed batter, which will tick down a bit as he fills out. What won’t tick down is his effort, as he runs hard with energy and perceptive baserunning instincts (e.g. anticipating passed-balls, taking an extra base).
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Notes on Yankees, Cubs, Blue Jays, Tigers, Rays, Mariners and Dodgers prospects.
Greg Goldstein Donny Sands, C, New York Yankees (Low-A Charleston)
Rounder build, below-average athlete, lacks projection; fringe-average bat speed, off balance during swing, long swing path, flashed some looseness vs. lesser stuff, pull-side hitter, lunged at better offspeed, lacks projection to change profile much; projects fringe-average hit utility; above-average raw, showed some pull-side power on pitch in the middle of the zone, swings with mild leverage, high leg kick for power, needs effort to produce pop, limits ability to square with consistency; projects to below-average game; timed 4.47, 4.50; average arm strength, stiff in the upper body, sails ball on throws to 2B, lack of accuracy limits natural arm ability; 2.05 pop up, fringe mover behind the plate, failed to keep balls in front, blocking doesn’t look easy for him, has enough size to make up some for lack of side-to-side skills, still projects below-average behind the plate right now, projected improvement to fringe with maturity; potential backup catcher, likely up and down Triple-A backstop.
Zack Short, SS, Chicago Cubs (High-A Myrtle Beach)
Small build, solid athlete; mild load, little noise; below-average bat speed, contact ability negatively affected by high effort, lots of grounders, lunged at offspeed, below-average bat control; below-average raw, struggles getting loft, doesn’t lift balls in the middle of the zone, flashed leverage and power on pull-side HR, not confident that he does much vs. higher-level stuff; 30 game power; timed 4.18; average arm strength, loose arm, normal mechanics, quick release, plays at SS; smooth fielder, makes plays to both sides and on the move, quick transfer, clean defensive actions, flashed glove skills on short hops, controls the infield; potential reserve SS; likely org infielder.
Notes and video on Brendan McKay, Keston Hiura, Zack Collins, and more.
Brendan McKay, 1B/LHP, Tampa Bay Rays (short-season Hudson Valley) In the leadup to the 2017 draft, McKay was on the short list of players receiving consideration to be selected first overall by the Twins. The Rays ultimately snagged him at pick four and are giving him the opportunity to both hit and pitch for the foreseeable future. Early results suggest he is presently more advanced on the mound. Through his first two professional starts (five innings), the left-hander has yet to allow a run and has compiled seven strikeouts. The athletic 21-year-old’s most impressive offering is his potentially plus curveball. It displays 11-5 action and should generate swings and misses at the major-league level. His fastball initially sits 90-94 before dropping to the upper 80s by the end of an outing. Despite the lack of elite velocity, the pitch flashes plus due to its movement and his ability to command it on both sides of the plate. His final pitch is a sparingly used and inconsistent changeup. McKay’s floor is a middle reliever, and he should become a mid-rotation starter once he learns how to sustain velocity deeper into games and gains confidence in his changeup.
Kevin Maitan, Michael Kopech, Jesus Luzardo, and more.
Kevin Maitan, SS, Atlanta Braves (short-season Danville) I saw the Braves $8 million investment two games recently. It was a reminder in patience, projection, and rawness, as the (listed) 6-foot-2, 190-pound (more like 205) 17-year-old has a ways to go to get to his ceiling. Maitan played shortstop in both games but will move, the hope being to third. He is already filled out, and the body will require some maintenance, especially into his mid-late 20s. While his footwork is good, his hands and arm do not portend well for the left side of the infield. At present it’s a 45 arm and a 45 glove at third base, so he could stick there, particularly if the bat profiles. Also he’s not a runner: 4.55 home to first (as a left-hander).
Adrian Morejon, Leody Taveras, Mike Matuella, and more.
Leody Taveras, CF, Texas Rangers (Low-A Hickory)
We ranked Taveras 30th on our midseason list off a combination of internal looks and industry reports. This was my first look at Taveras and as the person whose name has to go on these lists...WELP, he should have been higher. The funny thing is I figured this out before he took an at-bat in the first game of my long weekend look at him in Lakewood. I hit brutal traffic on the Garden State—as one does—and didn't get to the Shore in time for batting practice. So literally the first time I laid eyes on Taveras was in the on-deck circle in the top of the first. It's a great baseball body and you could see the premium bat speed with a donut on the lumber. The overall stat line for the three games won't wow you, but he has an advanced approach for his age, and I think given the loft in the swing and the plus-plus whip, he will eventually show good game power. He had no problem squaring Sixto Sanchez’s fastball for example. The swing looks better from the left side than the right side at present. He's a bit more tentative against southpaws, but given more reps I don't see it as a huge issue in the future. He's a sure shot center fielder with requisite flair out there too (I suspect he knows exactly how good he is). He's a plus runner with a solid arm too, so there’s a better chance for a major league floor here than you'd expect from an 18-year-old hitting .250 in the Sally. And there is all-star level upside if the bat continues to develop. Amend your lists accordingly. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Eyes on Yency Almonte, Tanner Houck, Freicer Perez and more.
Yency Almonte, RHP, Colorado Rockies (Double-A Hartford)
Despite being delayed for a year, Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford is a nice little stadium with a lot to recommend. There is a very legitimate jerk chicken sandwich hidden away in the right field upper deck, it’s about eight minutes door-to-door from my favorite bar in the area, and oh yeah, pretty much every night you had a decent chance of seeing a future major-league arm starting for the Yard Goats. Almonte may be the best pitching prospect of the group. He’s a lean righty with simple mechanics and an easy 95 whenever he wants it. Usually for starting pitchers at this level, I’ll run the gun for a few innings and then check back in to see where they are in the sixth or seventh inning. Usually I end up writing something like “93-95 early, 91-93 late,” but Almonte maintains and even builds velocity throughout his outings. He found more 95-96 late in the start I saw, and he commands the heater well to all four quadrants. The advanced command covers for limited movement, although he will show some arm-side run from his three-quarters slot. He used a fastball-heavy approach—didn’t need much else—but both the slider and change flashed above-average. The slide piece is the more advanced secondary at present—despite some issues with the feel for it early in the outing. It’s a mid-80s offering with hard, late tilt. He pulled the string on a few nice cambios, but the pitch was too firm too often. Ryan Castellani has the better raw stuff on the Yard Goats staff, but that’s usually only the case for the first 50 pitches or so. Almonte’s ability to measure out his arsenal and superior pitchability makes him the better long term bet for me, and a potential 101 name come this offseason. —Jeffrey Paternostro