A look at the batters from the Carolina League All-Star Game, from the perspective of a single look, and the benefit of a half-season of play.
We have the good fortune of having BP Prospect Team members all over the country, taking in games and giving you eyewitness reports and notes from the field. Unfortunately, they don’t always get to travel, which is why the California/Carolina League All-Star Game is always a treat for some of our team, as they get a brief look at guys they’d never otherwise see. Wilson Karaman was the beneficiary this year, as California hosted, and he took copious notes on guys he normally doesn’t get to catch. We’re presenting you with those notes and providing the backup of Adam McInturff’s season-to-date looks at many of the same players. This gives you the benefit of seeing what we’re able to take away in one viewing, and the nuances that bear out over a longer set of looks. We’ll start with hitters and tackle pitchers in a second installment. —Craig Goldstein
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Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Thomas Szapucki, Josh Bell, Aaron Judge, and Nick Neidert.
Prospect of the Day:
Thomas Szapucki, LHP, New York Mets (Short-Season Kingsport): 6 IP, 2 H, 13 K. So there’s a right way to make your first professional start, and there’s probably a wrong way or 86, and there’s the next-level ballin’ than Szapucki did yesterday. A fifth-round prep arm last June, he dominated in ways Appy League lineups just aren’t accustomed to with a low-90s heater and 11-5 hook. Lauded for his projectability and arm strength heading into the draft, he’ll be a long burn on account of his age and customary mechanical rough edges, but that was one hell of an introduction.
A look at what's been holding the White Sox slugger back, and whether he might soon emerge from his slump.
As of Mike Gianella’s most recent valuation update a couple of weeks ago, Abreu was on pace for merely a $12 AL-only season--good for just 15th among first-base-eligible hitters in the junior circuit. He’s since rebounded with his first sustained hot streak of the season across his last dozen games, dropping a .370/.396/.630 line with three dingers and 18 R+RBI to take some of that early-season sting out of it for mixed leaguers who, on average, bough him 21st overall in mixed NFBC drafts. Still, he remains well below his level of expected production in the macro sense, and we’re deep enough into the season that we need to be asking ourselves with straight faces whether recent hot streaks like Abreu’s are in fact sustainable turn-arounds, or whether they’re temporary beacons among more troubled seas. So let’s dive under the hood and figure out what went wrong early, why it’s not going wrong now, and whether it’s likely to go wrong again over the next three and a half months.
Let’s start with the basics: Abreu’s BABIP is down, sitting at present at a nominally-above-league-average mark of .299 that is well south of the .356 and .333 marks he posted across his first two campaigns. And sure enough, he’s hitting less line drives than he ever has while seeing a boost in his fly ball contact. It hasn’t been better fly ball contact, however, and courtesy of Statcast we can see that he’s hitting the ball with less authority overall this year:
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Rhys Hoskins, Osvaldo Abreu, Jharel Cotton, and Marcos Diplan.
Prospect of the Day:
Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies (Double-A Reading): 3-4, BB, R, 2 2B, HR, 6 RBI, K.
Six RBI, whatever. But Hoskins is on some kind of a streak right now. Over his last 11 he’s hitting .447 with eight dingers powering a 1.064 slugging percentage. The power comes with some aggressiveness and swing-and-miss, but it’s looked awfully legit in the Eastern League.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Rafael Devers, Francis Martes, Carson Fulmer, and Dylan Davis.
Prospect of the Day:
Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox (High-A Salem): 5-5, BB, R, 2 RBI.
Theeeeere it is. Devers is the youngest player in the Carolina League and has struggled mightily in the season’s early going because baseball is hard. But he’s picked it up of late, with hits in 10 of his last 11, and yesterday’s five-hit effort gives him some kind of something to hang his hat on going forward.
Viewing the Cal League's first-half standouts through a fantasy lens.
Yesterday the California League All-Star roster was announced for the upcoming Cal-Carolina League All-Star Game at Lake Elsinore. On paper it’s the weakest crop by a good bit in the three years I’ve been covering the league, but there are certainly still plenty of fantasy-relevant names littering the roster that bare some discussion. Let’s take a look at some of them, and then I’ll follow it up with some notes on a few of the more notable non-All Stars from around the league as well.
Travis Demeritte, 2B, Texas Rangers (High Desert Mavericks) – Demeritte is a prototypical boom-or-bust fantasy prospect, with the latter the more likely outcome. He frequently loses his mechanics with wild swings from the heels, and after taking the Cal League by storm in April the book has gradually circulated on him and pitchers have been much more successful at keeping him in the yard and off the bases of late. He’s got a ton of strength and bat speed though, and the ability to provide a useful power-speed combination at a shallow position, though it’s likely to come with a low AVG. He’s in the conversation to be a top-150 dynasty prospect at this point, but it’s a high-risk profile and managers would do just as well to move Demeritte now if they’re able to before Double-A pitchers sink their teeth into him.
As Spring comes to a close and the 2016 draft looms larger than ever, scouts are finishing up evaluations on players and trying to get one last look. One of the most difficult things for them to do is line up their pref list. The pref list is where they rank each player in order of how they would select them in a vacuum. It mainly follows an OFP (Overall Future Potential) number but sometimes a player will be ranked higher on the list because of intangibles or an area scout’s feel on a player. Most clubs take it a step further at the cross-checker level and have them rank their players by position as well. When all is said and done, there will be a master pref list, or big board, and several smaller lists by position. The team will use this list as the draft unfolds and it allows them to keep track of priority guys and trends that are happening within the draft.
The debates between scouts on particular player positioning can be intense, especially when two area scouts or cross-checkers are pit against each other, but eventually the scouting director will make a decision based on his evaluations of the particular players. Last week James Fisherlooked at a couple college right-handers in Justin Dunn and Cody Sedlock projected to go off the board somewhere around the end of the first or beginning of the second round. This week we’ll creep north on the draft board to contrast a couple more college righties, Stanford Tommy John convalescent Cal Quantrill and Mississippi State ace Dakota Hudson, both of whom Chris ranked inside his top 25.
Figuring out how to deploy the Pirates lefty in fantasy could be a dicey proposition.
9 IP, 3 H, K. Yep, that’s the line from Jeff Locke’s most recent start against a Marlins offense that ranks fifth in team TAv and sixth in VORP (no, Giancarlo Stanton wasn’t in the lineup, or Dee Gordon for that matter, but the Fish can still hit, somehow). Locke has actually been quite useful in the month of May as a streamer, with clunkers @CHC and home against the excellent D’backs—neither of which should’ve seen him in anyone’s active lineup anyway—mixed in among four quality starts in which he pitched to a 2.48 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP across 29 innings. Are those stats cherry-picked? Kind of. Not really. They’re the whole point of streaming, and Locke’s been a dandy of an option lately. And I suspect he’ll continue to be an option on most of your waiver wires over the next several weeks, as is his lot in mixed league fantasy baseball life. He’s currently the fifth-most added player in Sportsline leagues, however, so perhaps we should dive in a little bit and figure out what’s going on with his recent production. Most importantly, is he worth the add? Should we expect him to remain a viable option through his next few turns?
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Tyler Jay, Sean Reid-Foley, Jake Bauers, and Rowdy Tellez.
Prospect of the Day:
Tyler Jay, LHP, Minnesota Twins (High-A Fort Myers): 8 IP, 2 H, BB, 11 K
We could reasonably rename this column “Tyler Jay Update” every fifth day at this point. He’s been forcing the issue of consistent spotlight all month, with yesterday’s May capper his best effort in a professional uniform. Both hits were singles, and he didn’t so much as go to a two-ball count in recording his final 15 outs. Not a bad day at the office.
A look at several players who might be well equipped to sustain lofty batting averages on balls in play.
There’s a pretty well-established correlation between hitting the ball hard and successfully reaching base. Line drive performance tends to bear this out, insofar as batting average and slugging percentage on this kind of batted ball far outstrip the other two main batted ball types: fly and ground balls.
In the current era of advanced outfield positioning, flyballs have suffered the gravest of recessions recently. The number of fly-ball doubles and triples has declined over the past few years, driving an overall deterioration in fly-ball slugging percentage from .613 as recently as 2012 to its current .528 (which should be noted has rebounded significantly early on this year from two straight years of sub-.450 marks). Fly-ball batting average, meanwhile, remains buried well under the Mendoza line for a fourth consecutive season.
And so begins the greatest round of "I feel so, so, so old" we've ever seen.
The Situation: The Dodgers’ thin rotation took at least a brief hit with the announcement that, fresh off a 13-strikeout performance in his last start, Alex Wood would have his turn skipped on Friday on account of ominous “triceps tendinitis.” He’s been bumped to Monday for now, and with Ross Stripling procedurally demoted to Oklahoma City in the wake of The 17-Inning Game the Dodgers have elected to turn the ball over to a teenager for the first time since Fernando Valenzuela in 1980. Urias will make his big-league debut riding a streak of 27 innings since allowing his last earned run.
Background: Signed as part of a package deal by the Dodgers on a scouting trip through Mexico in the summer of 2012, Urias is…unique. There just isn’t much in the way of valuable precedent for what he has managed to accomplish at such tender ages in his career to date. He has rung up five and a half strikeouts for every walk this season at Triple-A while pitching eight (that’s right eight) years younger than his average league-mate. His ERA, WHIP, and batting average-against all pace the circuit.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Zach Eflin, Bradley Zimmer, Mike Yastrzemski, and Andrew Morales.
Prospect of the Day:
Zach Eflin, RP, Philadelphia Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley): 7 IP, 4 H, BB, 6 K.
That’s three straight outstanding starts for Eflin, who continues to evolve into an impressive pitching prospect. He’s a smart kid, and sometimes smart kids take some time to figure things out. After struggling to find a balance between his four- and two-seam fastballs he’s finding that happy place now, and rapid development of a curveball he just added to the mix last year has helped him boost his strikeout totals significantly.