Notes on Mike Soroka, Alec Hansen, Magneuris Sierra, and more.
Mike Soroka, RHP, Atlanta Braves (Low-A Rome)
Perhaps calling Soroka a “positive surprise” is slightly misleading. After all, he was drafted 28th overall last year. First-round picks often succeed. It’s why they’re first-round picks.
But Soroka wasn’t exactly lighting up public draft boards in early June 2015. He was seen by many as a potential high-round pick, but 28th overall seemed like a bit of a surprise, at least to me. Leave it to the Braves to find the pitching talent.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
A look at who we're keeping an eye on come October.
Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago Cubs (Mesa Solar Sox)
Eloy Jimenez has earned himself a reputation with a highly productive 2016 and it’s come with a tool set that is awe-inspiring and tantalizing. The key to the profile is double-plus raw power which shows up in game thanks to a hit tool that allows for enough contact for his prodigious strength to actualize. Jimenez is a massive human already and he’s not quite done growing, so the raw strength could eventually get to the top of the scale. He’s visceral, exciting, and capable of putting up big time performances.
Notes on Touki Toussaint, Justus Sheffield, Anderson Tejeda, and more.
Touki Toussaint, RHP, Atlanta Braves (Low-A Rome)
With the Rome Braves contending for the South Atlantic League title. its pitching staff's embarrassment of riches is on display. That includes using Touki Toussaint out of the bullpen to stay fresh in a Sept. 5 outing against Augusta that helped clinch the second-half division title. Imagine all of your wildest dreams coming true on a baseball field. Toussaint throwing gas in a one-inning stint is basically the same thing.
The 20-year-old consistently sat mid-90s and hit 97 twice with above-average run and sink. He located it arm side and it was devastating inside to right-handed batters. It didn't end there. Toussaint paired it with an impossible curveball, a true 70 pitch, with plus depth, very tight spin and hard bite. It fell off the table late with downward action that flashed 12-6. He tossed one changeup that dived under a right-hander's bat for good measure.
Notes on Matt Manning, Stephen Gonsalves, Cody Ponce, and more.
Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Minnesota Twins (Double-A Chattanooga)
Gonsalves has been putting up impressive numbers throughout his minor-league career, and that hasn’t changed in the Double-A jump this year. Does the stuff match the minor-league production? Somewhat. Most importantly, it’s enough to project a serviceable major-league starter.
Notes on 2014's biggest international bonus baby, a live arm that was traded for Jason Rogers, an intriguing 2016 draftee, and more.
Melvin Adon, RHP, San Francisco Giants (Short Season Salem-Keizer)
When I looked at the pitching matchup for the Everett-SK game on Friday, I wasn’t exactly intrigued. Everett’s Ljay Newsome, a righty thumber who throws strikes but lacks impact stuff, was set to oppose Adon, and while I didn’t know anything about the Dominican right-hander, his profile wasn’t all that exciting. He’s 22-years-old, didn’t sign until he was 19, had walked six in his last outing, and was running an ERA north of six through nine starts. I almost skipped the game. Instead, I got my first look at triple digits in the Northwest League.
Notes on first-rounders Will Benson, Dustin May, former first-rounder Cornelius Randolph, and more.
Will Benson, RF, Cleveland Indians (Complex Level AZL)
As I overheard one scout say, “That’s a big-league body.” Benson turned 18 just two months ago, but he’s 6-foot-5 and built like a defensive end. Taken 14th-overall out of a Georgia high school this year, Benson is already a premium physical specimen for the baseball diamond. He isn’t polished defensively, but he makes up for some of it with his athleticism. He uses his body well while throwing, and looks like he could have a plus arm in the future. Out of the box, he has a little bit of “great dane puppy” to him, but once he hits his stride, he moves well for someone his size and he typically displays the head-down hustle you hope to see.
Notes on Peter Lambert, Mitchell White, Thomas Szapucki and more.
Peter Lambert, RHP, Colorado Rockies (Low-A Asheville)
If you frequent the lower levels, you’re watching 18-19-year-olds spotting every so often with stuff that flashes more than consistently hits a grade. Lambert is different. He stands out more for his polish as a 19-year-old prep product than his arsenal. He flashes a plus changeup that could reach 60 with time, but otherwise he’s working with a deep arsenal of average pitches that he utilizes with advanced command and control.
In his Padres debut, 18-year-old Anderson Espinoza displayed the precocious ability and projection that has driven his status as a nationally-celebrated prospect. Espinoza came out in the first inning with a toned-down fastball, working smoothly between 91 and 94. He lasted three innings, but in the latter two he worked 93-96, touching 97 twice, with natural though inconsistent running action and some sink. At higher velocities, the fastball run can be downright explosive. Espinoza works from a high 3/4 release point with a good arm action and an overall mechanical package that exudes premium fluidity and athleticism. His command and feel sometimes evaded him on this muggy night, and he impressed by remaining composed.
Notes on Yadier Alvarez, Dillon Tate, Matt Thaiss, and more.
Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (Complex Level AZL)
Alvarez was arguably the highest-profile international free agent last summer, signing with the Dodgers for $16 million out of Cuba. Los Angeles has decided to take their time developing him, with the 20-year-old working through some command issues in the Arizona League. He’s listed at 6-foot-3, though his lean, athletic, frame makes him look a bit taller.
The velocity is easy—almost effortless—with reports of him touching triple-digits this spring. He works primarily at 93-97 with the fastball, rushing it up to 98 a few times the night I saw him. He seems to be experimenting a bit, working almost in phases—occasionally sitting 91-93 for an entire at bat, and then 94-96 against the next hitter. While his four-seamer is pretty straight, he generates excellent downhill plane when he gets on top of it. He also works in a sharp slider with a similarly large velocity band to the fastball, ranging from softer, slurvy offerings at 82, to power-sliders which might even be classified as cutters, as hard as 90 mph. His changeup is a work in progress; he struggles to replicate the same arm speed as his fastball, but he throws it hard enough (85-89 MPH) to get away with some mistakes at this level. The development of his off-speed pitch will likely be the difference between him throwing every fifth day and being a high-leverage reliever at the big league level.
I was sitting on an Appalachian League game last week. The teams and players involved don't really matter for the purposes of this story. There were runners on first and second, two out. The batter lined a ball into short left field. Even with the head start, this was clearly a station-to-station to situation. The manager, coaching third, immediately pointed to the base. The throw came in about shoulder high to the catcher who came out from behind the plate to take it. And Fin, right?