The best bats from the Cal League, all in one place.
It was a notably weaker year for top-shelf prospects in the California League this season, with a whopping 30 combined games from Kyle Tucker, Yohander Mendez, and Luis Ortiz representing the sum total of contributions by prospects that cracked our Mid-Season Top 50. The season also ended under a cloud of bummerness, with the news that two franchises—including eventual champions High Desert—would contract at season’s end. Two of the stronger systems of recent vintage in the circuit, those belonging to the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers, have been confirmed as future transplants to the Carolina League, and rumblings that the Colorado Rockies may join the exodus have been percolating as well. Boo.
The good news: what the league lacked in elite pedigree it made up with quality play from a reasonably large middle class of players with future big-league potential. I’ve written about dozens of them along the way this season, and you can access all of my Eyewitness Reports, as well as a link to my full scouting database, at the bottom of this article.
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Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Touki Toussaint, Jake Cave, Jose Hernandez, and Brendon Davis.
Prospect of the Day:
Touki Toussaint, RHP, Atlanta Braves (Low-A Rome): 8 IP, ER, 4 H, 6 K, HRA.
On Monday, David Lee discussed Touki’s raw stuff in pornographic terms after catching a brief one-inning playoff tune-up, and the young right-hander carried over the nasty with a dominant post-season start against a very good lineup. Since the beginning of June he’s thrown 97 1/3 with a 2.59 ERA, 110 strikeouts, and just 71 hits allowed.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Gavin Lux, David Thompson, Ricky Aracena, and Mitch Keller.
Editor’s Note: With the end of the full-season leagues, there will be an abbreviated slate for the remainder of the minor-league campaign.
Prospect of the (Truncated-Schedule) Day: Gavin Lux, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (Rookie Ogden): 3-5, 2 R, 2 2B, RBI
The 20th-overall pick has taken quite the shining to Pioneer League pitching since his promotion last week, reaching base in all seven games and hitting at a cool .423 clip. The foundations of a strong, across-the-board shortstop are here, yearning to be free.
We're not even sure Jor-El Cotton could save the A's.
The Situation: It’s September, and the Athletics’ rotation looks like Ivan Drago in the fourteenth round, so they will hand the ball to one of their top pitching prospects for what will likely be several turns in the rotation.
The Background: Cotton is a former 20th-round selection by the Dodgers out of the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2012, and he’ll be the second man from his native land to toe a big-league rubber. He showed some promise in a handful of appearances in the Pioneer League after signing, and posted solid numbers again to start his full-season debut in 2013. The Dodgers saw fast-track potential and jumped him into the Double-A bullpen, but he struggled with the assignment and returned to High-A, where he spent all of 2014 and piled up the second-most strikeouts in the California League. After injury forced a late start to his 2015 campaign, he went on to post an excellent season largely at Double-A, before continuing to pitch effectively in the rough-and-tumble PCL. He was traded to the Athletics as part of the return package for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick in July.
If it wasn’t clear from Mauricio Rubio’s piece earlier this week entitled “Isan Diaz Is A Monster,” we’re collectively kind of high on Diaz at this point. I will refer you to that article and Mau’s accompanying scouting report for the nuts and bolts, but the punchline is that this is a quality bat-first keystone prospect, and those don’t grow on trees. One bit of warning, Diaz has thieved 11 bags this year against low-minors pitching, but that should not equate to you expecting a power-speed combo here. His efficiency rates have been poor already as a professional, and he’s likely to settle in as a pretty firmly below-average runner as he matures physically. Still, beneficial AVG and HR totals (and the R and RBI they generate) from your second baseman is where it’s at. He’ll most certainly crack our Dynasty 101 this winter, so get him now while the getting’s good.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Mitch Keller, Ian Happ, Jordan Stephens, and Logan Shore.
Prospect of the Day:
Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (High-A Bradenton): 6 IP, 5 H, BB, 7 K
Making his High-A debut, Keller missed not a beat in running to five his streak of starts without allowing an earned run – a span of 29 innings (and counting). His heavy fastball runs up to 95, and he pairs it with a nasty hook that’ll flash plus when he’s able to land it consistently. With last year’s arm issue hopefully in his rearview at this point, he looks the part of Pittsburgh’s next best pitching prospect.
Our advanced pitching metric suggests brighter days ahead for some of these hurlers.
As we head into the homestretch of the season some of you are angling for a title run, or a challenge for the money, or waiting in vain for your one-category “Perfect Games” league to get more interesting. I, however, play in at least two full keeper leagues in which mine eyes are affixed squarely upon the great horizon beyond 2016. And that means using this time of the year to start searching for potentially undervalued acquisition targets, either for your end-of-year FAAB queue or your off-season trade list. So let’s start in a basic and logical place with some pitchers who have performed much worse than their underlying metrics suggest they should have performed to date. Below is a table of the hurlers with the biggest gaps between their DRA and ERA. I’ve isolated guys who have performed at least a run and a half worse by ERA than their DRA suggests. And for the sake of weeding out some additional riffraff I’ve limited the pool to those arms who have performed as at least a roughly league-average level.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Allen Cordoba, Zack Collins, Trevor Clifton, and Ricardo Sanchez.
Prospect of the Day:
Allen Cordoba, SS, St. Louis Cardinals (Rookie Johnson City): 6-8, BB, 5 R, 2B, 3B, RBI, SB, CS.
Evidently Cordoba is a fan of my work, as he keeps smoking line drives all over the place and forcing his way into this column on the nights I’m running it. Yesterday’s outburst in a doubleheader included a walk-off in the first game, and came on the heels of a four-hit night the day before. He’s hitting .500 now over his last 10 games with six walks and just two whiffs, and may just be ready for a new challenge.
A pack of elite shortstops is behind the position's resurgence, but there are some very noteworthy contributors beyond the cream of the crop.
Thirteen shortstops currently rank among the top 100 players overall per Sportsline’s standard rankings, including 10 among the top 50 overall, and those numbers mark a significant leap forward in status for six-spotter fantasy performance. Just eight earned top-100 status per our valuations last year, with only Xander Bogaerts cracking the top 50. The position’s renaissance has been driven by some who were expected to usher in a new age of relevance for the position, to be sure; Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and pleasant surprise of re-eligibility Manny Machado all pepper the ranks of double-digit overall value. But there has been an interesting second wave of guys who were decidedly not expected to provide that kind of value, who have stepped up and taken their games to new levels this year. A full six of those 13 shortstops—yes, almost half—have produced top-100 value by outperforming their average draft positions by at least 200 spots. That’s league-winning surplus value, right there. So let’s take a look at that crew and see if we can’t figure out whether their meteoric respective rises represent new normals, or whether managers who’ve reaped their rewards this year will be best off selling high before keeper deadlines this winter.