Richard Urena, Thomas Hatch, Cal Quantrill and more.
Richard Urena, SS, Toronto Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire)
As I watched the Eastern League All-Star game, I couldn’t help but think that Urena has more talent than most of the players actually selected for the event. Unfortunately, he wasn’t at the game due to his inconsistent performance in the field (nine errors) and at the plate (slashing .246/.291/.372 through 370 plate appearances). He has been of the more frustrating players to evaluate this year. Three Eyewitness Reports have been published on him since July 22, 2016, and the hit tool grades range from 45 to 60. The reason for this high variance is likely his overly aggressive approach. He rarely walks and is prone to chasing bad pitches, which leads to excessive weak contact. Nonetheless, he will have stretches like the first two games of this past Portland series (5-10 combined) when he consistently drives the ball and looks like a plus hitter. The 21-year-old switch-hitter does have a loose, contact-oriented swing and above-average bat speed. He is capable of squaring up any pitch and uses the whole field. All things considered, I feel most comfortable giving his hit tool a 50. His power grades as below-average although it’s better from the left side and he should continue to bulk up. In addition, he is a good athlete and possesses the arm strength and range to develop into an above-average shortstop. The errors typically result from a lack of focus. These mistakes will hopefully dissipate as he continues to mature. Troy Tulowitzki is not getting any younger, so Urena should eventually have an opportunity to become the Jays’ starting shortstop. But he has a long way to go. —Erich Rothmann
We review some of the moments from Sunday that made the biggest impression on us.
Nathan Graham Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.: My favorite moment on Sunday came from Vladimir Guerrero, who tweeted a picture from his playing days of him and his son both in Montreal Expos jerseys: Sr. and Jr. Hours later, Vlad Jr. delivered my favorite moment in the Futures Game by sending a first pitch, out of the zone fastball from Jon Duplantier straight up the middle for a single in the seventh inning. That one swing reminded me of the aggressive nature and plus hit tool that made Dad a nine-time All Star during his 16-year career. It’s probable that none of the Futures Game participants will ever match the 449 home runs and career 59.3 WAR that Vlad compiled but Vladito is showing that he has developed power and hand-eye coordination that might one day rival his dad’s.
Wilson Karaman Eloy Jimenez: It was a small moment on a whiff of all things, but Jimenez faced Brent Honeywell in his first plate appearance and took a seat on a nasty in-zone 1-2 slider. What caught my eye wasn't the result, but the attempt at an in-swing adjustment. He was beaten by the pitch—it looked like he was expecting away—but he showed a smooth, quick transition into a shorter, dragging stroke in an attempt to fight the pitch off, foul it back, and live on to see another pitch. It's an encouraging sign for a hitter so precocious, and especially one so powerful and leveraged in his "normal" swing, to show signs of on-the-fly mechanical malleability. The effort jives with his wholly reasonable strikeout numbers as a 20-year-old in Double A, and it inspires my confidence in his hit tool developing into something good.
Mike Soroka: I was as impressed by Soroka as any arm in the game, in part because I never have cause to get to see Braves' pitching prospects, and in other part because he's a really impressive young pitcher. The arm action's a little wonky, but I'm a sucker for guys who generate outsized movement with slingier action and can flash command out of a lower slot, so he's right up my alley. He really got me with his adversity response after yielding a ringing RBI double to Kyle Tucker, though. His sequencing to the next hitter, Brian Anderson, looked like this:
1: 94 glove-side on the black
2: Right-on-right change-up with above-average tumble, located perfectly below the zone off same line and plane as the previous fastball away (ball 1)
3. Moving two-seam with nasty life and finish on the inside corner for called strike 2 at 94
4. Hard slider off outside corner with late movement at 89 that was fouled off the end of the bat
5. Another two-seam with plus run and sink running down and in off the inside corner to draw out a swinging strike three
Five pitches, excellent sequencing, perfect execution. There just aren't many 19-year-olds running around in Double A right now, and there definitely aren't many of 'em succeeding with both an advanced feel for craft and the maturity to respond with that level of controlled, precise execution to a tough spot on a big stage.
The team goes deep on guys they'd have put on the list or ranked higher if they had final say.
Bo Bichette, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin)
Bichette jumped from off of our Top 101 in the offseason to No. 29 in the midseason, so it’s not as if we don’t like him. And the concerns about him are legitimate. He isn’t a shortstop, there is a decent amount of swing-and-miss in the game, and he was only in Low-A. That said, this kid is something special. While Bichette isn’t going to stick at the six, I believe his final home will still be on the dirt. His footwork will look at little clunky at short at times, but he’ll show solid lateral movement and an average arm, which makes it a profile I can envision working well at second.
The ground rules haven’t changed here, folks. Our midseason list update does not include 2017 draftees, 2017 J2 signings, or any prospect-eligible player currently in the majors. This is going to change again in two months, so it’s a little more fluid than our offseason lists, but Craig tells me that the people love lists. So lists they shall have - Jeffrey Paternostro
Why He’ll Succeed: Moncada is a true five-tool player, with potential plus or better grades in all five slots. Slot that in at an up-the-middle-spot, throw in a dash of 70-grade pop, and you have the recipe for a perennial all-star.
Why He Might Fail: Moncada may end up more of a four-tool player, and when the missing tool is hit, the profile can get volatile. There’s potential for a lot of swing-and-miss here, and while a .230 or .240 hitting second baseman with pop is still a regular, it’s not an impact one. There’s also more true ‘bust’ potential than you’d like as your number one prospect, but hey, we put a pitcher who immediately blew out at one preseason. Risk doesn’t bother us.
Notes on Blake Perkins, Isaac Paredes, Malquin Canelo and more.
JH Schroeder Eli White, SS, Oakland Athletics (High-A Stockton)
R/R SS. Skinny build with narrow hips. Slight crouch, high hands, slight drop during load, flat bat. Small leg kick. Got wrapped a bit, looks really slow to ball, late on a 3-1 FB, and late on a couple low FBs. Low finish. Decent spin recognition. Pretty good zone feel, rarely expanded. Surprisingly amount of hard contact. Defensively, pretty quick transfer, but looked a little unsure. Played on ball back into a hit, and threw one away. Showed some really nice hands on a bad hop where the ball stayed down. Run times, 3.96 (jailbreak), 4.1, and 4.3 (pulling up).
Boomer Biegalski, RHP, Oakland Athletics (High-A Stockton)
RHP. FB 87-91, limited arm-side tail, looked all 4S. Command was not precise, generally down, but not in/out. Generated good tilt down in zone. CH. 77-79. More fade than FB, good arm-action, flashed plus drop. Trusted R v. R, locked up several hitters. Left up on occasion. CT/SL, 80-83. Short-sharp, showed late, commanded glove-side, hung only a couple. CB, 77. Rolls, useful to steal strike. Delivery, 1B-side, over-the-top release. Lanky guy, all knees and elbows, quick delivery, short arm action, doesn't get extended out back, action looks tough on elbow/shoulder. Seemed to get more over top on CH, really trying to turn it over. FB probably would play a lot better up in the zone, but doesn't have repertoire of secondary pitches to go with it (good CH, bad CB).
Grant Holmes, Walker Buehler, Heliot Ramos, and more.
Grant Holmes, RHP, Oakland Athletics (Double-A Midland)
If A.J. Puk is all raw potential in the Oakland A’s system, then Grant Holmes is a prime example of a prospect with a little more finesse, but a bit lower of a ceiling. A short right-hander, Holmes has a traditional over-head wind-up into a high-three-quarters arm slot with a fairly short stride, which is more striking when he’s throwing out of the stretch. There are no real obvious flaws in his delivery outside of the short stride, as he repeats his release point fairly well, and doesn’t have an excess of moving parts. In this outing, Holmes showed a fastball between 89-93 mph, and he was able to create some good movement on the pitch. His curveball was his best offspeed, coming in anywhere from 78-85 MPH, with variation in depth and sweep, and he was able to locate the pitch for both swings and misses and called strikes. Holmes’ changeup is his weakest pitch, sometimes showing good arm-side drop, but more often spinning into the zone in the mid-80s. Over the 70-pitch mark, Holmes began losing command, giving up hits on balls left high in the zone. Because of the simplicity of his delivery—and the fact that his velocity does look to be coming mainly from the arm—it seems unlikely that a move to the bullpen would do all that much for Holmes’ velocity, though shorter outings might help his command. —Kate Morrison
Jason Groome, LHP, Boston Red Sox (short-season Lowell) Leading up to the 2016 amateur draft, Jason Groome was considered to be a possible 1-1 selection. However, he ended up falling to Boston at 12th overall due to concerns about signability and maturity. He eventually agreed to a $3.65 million bonus and his work ethic has impressed the Red Sox. He began the year in Single-A Greenville, but struggled mightily in his first start and left with a lat injury. His next start was not until June 19th for Lowell, which lasted only 2 1/3 innings due to rain. Boston’s top pitching prospect should return to Greenville once he proves that he can pitch deeper into games.