Our prospect team has arrived in the desert, with reports on eight prospects, including Hunter Renfroe and Michael De Leon.
With a strong portion of our prospect team in the desert, Baseball Prospectus has you covered for the Fall League action. Our plan was to approach these reports in a similar fashion to our Ten Pack articles, but with fewer players to work with, we anticipated what was to be called a Six Pack. In so many ways, however, a six pack just wasn’t going to be enough to get the job done this weekend, so we overachieved.
Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres (Saguaros, AFL)
In terms of raw power, Renfroe checks in just below the truly elite guys (Gallo, Bryant, Sano), and the show he puts on in batting practice impresses even veteran scouts. The bat speed is at the plus level and the raw power is plus-plus. The game application, however, leaves you wanting more. Few can time up a fastball like Renfroe, but there is a ton of forward movement in his swing and the weight transfer is significant. His entire swing is timed to hit fastballs, and he does that as well as any prospect in the minors, but without an adjustment, he leaves the door open for exposure to better breaking pitches. At this point, he could hit anywhere from .230 to .280 at the major-league level (which was confirmed by a scout in attendance on Wednesday), and the slot in which he falls depends largely on his ability to handle better offspeed offerings. The power will play regardless, though its application will also depend on his hit tool. It’s a big-league profile either way, but the level of impact greatly depends on his ability to separate the stride from the swing and handle offspeed pitches. —Jeff Moore
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Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Tim Anderson and Hunter Renfroe.
Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox (Glendale, AFL): 3-4, R, 2B. Amateur scouts still rave about Anderson’s tools, and if you look at him under that microscope, he stands out on a minor-league field, even when compared to his professional contemporaries. He’s still extremely raw as a baseball player, so his success to this point is a testament to his athletic ability, but concerns remain about his future. The White Sox have pushed him aggressively, as they’ve been known to do with top prospects, but it isn’t exactly giving him the time he’ll need to develop. Despite being in Double-A, he still has a long way to go before he’s ready to produce anything at the major-league level.
Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals (Peoria, AFL): 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 3 K. It’s a good sign for Almonte that he’s still going strong at this point in the season, despite missing a start in June with elbow inflammation. He’s still short of his innings mark from last season, and his strikeout rate dropped this year, though scouts still rave about his arm. His offspeed arsenal still needs work, specifically his change-up, but at 21, there’s still time for that development to take place.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Steven Moya and Roman Quinn.
Steven Moya, OF, Tigers (Glendale, AFL): 3-4, 2 R, 2 HR. It’s hard to argue with production, but that’s what scouts are paid to do. Moya continues to impress on the field, no matter what competition level the Tigers throw at him, producing power at every turn without sacrificing too much batting average. Scouts, however, have major questions about how long he’ll be able to get away with his approach at the plate, or lack thereof. His career minor-league K:BB ratio is well over 5-to-1, which would be higher than that of any current major leaguer and does not bode well for his success at the next level. Still, he’s handled every challenge thrown his way, including the AFL this month.
Jesse Winker, OF, Reds (Surprise, AFL): 2-5, R, HR, K. Winker doesn’t offer the physically imposing presence of Moya or the overwhelming power production, but he’s by far a better all-around hitter. He should have enough power to put forth a high level of production as a corner outfielder in the majors, and his approach should lead to high on-base percentages as well. Winker is having a strong fall to help ease concerns about his struggles after a midseason promotion to Double-A, some of which also could have stemmed from lingering injuries from a car accident. He suffered a wrist injury in the accident that likely sapped some of his power, but he’s back to full strength and driving the ball this fall.
Notes on prospects who stood out over the weekend, including Tyler Glasnow and a trio of Yankees bats.
Friday, October 24th
Sam Selman, LHP, Royals (Peoria): 2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K. A high pick by the Royals, this college left-hander was expected to move quickly. Sound familiar? Selman has been passed by the likes of Brandon Finnegan, but he’s far from a lost cause. He still misses bats like the high-end pitcher he was drafted to be, but he needs to throw more strikes. The Royals began using him as a reliever in July, which could be a sign of things to come.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Kaleb Cowart and Jace Peterson.
Wei-Chung Wang, LHP, Brewers (Glendale, AFL): 4 IP, 3 H, R (0 BB), BB, 2 K. Wang had no business being in the majors last year, but he was forced to stay there for an extended period of time due to his Rule Five status. The Brewers liked him enough that they spent a portion of the year with a short bullpen in an attempt to retain his rights.
Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Angels (Mesa, AFL): 2-3, R, 3B, BB. One of the few guys thought to have major-league tools in what has become the weakest farm system in baseball, Cowart has disappointed in back-to-back seasons while repeating Double-A. There is a reason why the upper minors are considered the hardest jump to make on the developmental ladder, and Cowart’s lack of patience and power outside the California League has been exposed the past two seasons in the Texas League.
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.
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.