Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Max Kepler and Darnell Sweeney.
Darnell Sweeney, 2B, Dodgers (Glendale, AFL): 4-5, 2 R, 2 2B, HR. Expectations were tempered entering the season because scouts weren’t crazy about any of Sweeney’s tools outside of his speed, and because his breakout 2013 season came in the California League. Then, he spent the entire 2014 campaign excelling in Double-A, greatly increasing his walk rate and backing up his power production. For a plus runner, he’s not an effective base-stealer, which negates some of his value, but he made better contact while also making the toughest jump along the developmental process. After spending most of his time at shortstop last year, Sweeney played more second base this year and saw some time in center field. His speed and versatility could be something the Dodgers can use in the future, especially if his plate discipline remains intact.
Garabez Rosa, LF, Orioles (Glendale, AFL): 3-4, 2 R, HR. Rosa swings at virtually everything, to little effect. The Orioles continue to give him opportunities because there is some pop in his bat and he can play virtually ever non-catcher position on the diamond (including shortstop), but a career minor league K:BB ratio of over 10-to-1 (yes, you read that right) is borderline criminal and will be enough to keep him from ever hitting effectively. (h/t to @tuckerblairON)
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Daniel Robertson and Deven Marrero.
Daniel Robertson, SS, Oakland (Mesa): 3-5, 2 R, HR. As a hitting prospect, Robertson struggles with very little. He hits for good power (great power for a shortstop), average, and has plus plate discipline. The California League helped this year and the AFL won’t be much different, but even with his stats returning to a more normal environment, Robertson looks to be a major part of the A’s future and one of the best hitting prospects in a depleted farm system. The question is whether or not he will be able to remain at shortstop; most doubt that he will, but the A’s haven’t given up on it yet.
Cal Towey, OF, Angels (Mesa): 3-4, 2 R, HR, BB, K. Towey was a 17th-round pick out of Baylor in 2013, but he handled a jump straight to the California League this season after just a short-season stint last year, which, in the Angels system, makes him something of a prospect. He was a senior sign, however, which means he was old when he got to pro ball and he’ll be 25 before next season begins. There’s virtually nothing blocking anyone who performs in the Angels system, so there’s room for Towey to move quickly, and he should start next season in Double-A. If he can show that his left-handed pop will translate against better pitching and in a more neutral hitting environment, he could end up being a useful piece.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Francisco Lindor and Mark Appel.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (Peoria): 3-4, R, 2B. I’m not breaking any new ground by saying that Lindor is among the best, if not the best, shortstop prospect in the game, but he’s also perhaps the surest bet of any prospect at any position around whom you could build your team. There is no doubt that he is prepared to step in and provide defensive value in the majors today if necessary, as has been the case for some time. What will separate him from the pack, however, will be his ability to drive the ball for extra bases. He has just enough pop to keep pitchers honest and punish them when they leave the ball over the plate, something pitchers don’t fear with Lindor’s most frequent comp, Elvis Andrus. If Lindor can consistently get into the 30-double/10-home-run range (well within reach), the rest of his skill set should make him one of the best players in the American League.
Mark Appel, RHP, Astros (Salt River): 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K. It’s safe to say that Appel has rebounded from his bizarre struggles at the start of the season, and Monday night’s start was the best of three strong outings thus far in the desert. These performances make his struggles early this season even more bizarre, as they were at least partially contributed to the unforgiving hitting environments of the California League, something not unlike what he’s handling quite well this October. Assuming he finishes the month as strong as he has started it, Appel is giving the Astros hope that he could get to the big leagues by some point next season, which seemed almost impossible earlier this year.
Notes on prospects who stood out over the weekend, including D.J. Peterson and Tyler Glasnow.
Friday, October 17th
D.J. Peterson, 1B, Mariners (Surprise, AFL): 1-4, R, HR. I mentioned this in a chat when a reader asked me about Peterson’s future, but sometimes these developmental decisions are quite complicated and sometimes they are remarkably simple. Many scouts believed that Peterson was destined for first base as soon as he was drafted; others thought he had a chance to stick at third. Regardless of where he falls on that spectrum, he’s probably destined for first base just out of the Mariners’ necessity, and he’s seeing some time at the new position this fall. He’s not going to unseat Kyle Seager, but Peterson is going to be an everyday bat and won’t need too much more time in the minors. His bat won’t play as well at first base, but whose does? It still projects to be a better option than the pu pu platter the Mariners trotted there this year.
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Notes on prospects who stood out in the desert, including Greg Bird and Patrick Kivlehan.
Greg Bird, 1B, Yankees (Scottsdale): 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, K. The key to Bird’s success is finding the right balance point between being patient and being passive. He has a tremendous eye at the plate, but there are times when he lets hittable pitches go by instead of trying to do damage, which I noted earlier in the year after seeing him in the Florida State League. As he learns to attack more of these pitches without expanding the strike zone and swinging at pitchers’ pitches, however, he has the potential to do enough damage to be an everyday first baseman, as the power is legitimate and the ball comes off his bat with ease.
Patrick Kivlehan, 1B, Mariners (Surprise): 2-3, 2 R, 2B, HR, BB. Kivlehan is a late-bloomer in the baseball world after playing more football while at Rutgers, but he offers plus right-handed power, a desired commodity in the game today. The Mariners have had him at third base, but he’s destined for first base where he’s playing this fall. It’s going to be all about the power for Kivlehan, and just how much of it will play in games against better competition. He could be a guy who hits his ceiling at Triple-A, but if the power continues to show, he’ll get his chances.
Notes on prospects who stood out in the desert, including C.J. Edwards and Aaron Judge.
C.J. Edwards, RHP, Cubs (Mesa): 3 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 3 K. Since coming over to the Cubs farm system in the midst of his breakout 2013 campaign, Edwards has been unfairly pegged as the leader of a lackluster group of Cubs pitching prospects. He may be one of their better arms in a farm system dominated by impact bats, but there are major questions about his ability to remain a starter. He’s had success, but shoulder inflammation kept him to just 53 2/3 innings this year, which doesn’t help ease concerns about his durability.
Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees (Scottsdale): 2-4, R, HR. Judge didn’t just hit a home run, he crushed one, which he’s perfectly capable of doing given his tremendous size and strength. I’ve noted before that he doesn’t sell out for his power, which gives him a remarkably balanced approach for such a tall hitter and bodes well for his future development. He’ll run into plenty of home runs because he’s so strong, but he’ll be better suited being the all-around hitter he’s attempting to be.
Notes on prospects who stood out in the desert, including Brandon Nimmo and Mark Appel.
Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets (Scottsdale): 2-3, R, 3 BB, K. These are the kinds of games we need to start getting excited about with Nimmo. At first glance, he looks like the kind of hitter who will one day be at the center of a big-league lineup, but he’s not the run producer his physical frame suggests. Because of that, he has a tendency to let scouts down. That’s their fault. Instead, it’s important to focus on what he does well, which is hit for average and get on base even more frequently. Nimmo is going to be an everyday player and a darn good one, but he’s going to be atop a big-league order and not necessarily in the middle of one. The power may not come, but he’s going to get on base enough to play every day.
Roman Quinn, OF, Phillies (Scottsdale): 2-6, K. Quinn is getting his reps in center field this fall, which is good given that he didn’t switch to the position until the second half of the minor-league season. But the real question surrounding the speedster is whether he’s going to hit enough to play every day no matter his position. His speed helps everything play up, but there are real questions about whether or not the hit tool is good enough, and his plate discipline isn’t adequate to make up the difference.
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.
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.
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.