Matt Chapman, Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams, Victor Reyes and more surprised us (in a good way) in 2015
A.J. Reed, 1B, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi)
My first few looks at A.J. Reed gave me a modest impression. He showed raw power for days in BP and worked counts in games, but the bat speed wasn't anything special, there was some length in the swing, and he showed indecision at the dish. But his is an approach that takes some time to understand and appreciate, as is the surprising bat-to-ball skill for a man of his size and power. There's some swing-and-miss in his game, but after you watch him enough you realize his strikeouts are more often a by-product of working deep into counts than flailing away. He thinks along with pitchers, frequently gets himself into advantageous hitting situations, and works the whole field with authority when he does. At the same time, he's not passive and will jump a first-pitch fastball with the best of 'em. It's not often you see a guy with 70 raw power figure out how to bring the vast majority of it with him into games at such a young age. Perhaps most tellingly, he improved his ability to shoot pitches on the outer third to the opposite field and up the middle during his time in Lancaster. That qualifies as remarkable progress for any player's hit tool given the environment's extreme prejudice towards lifting the ball to right field. The numbers were nice this year, but more importantly the developmental progress was real. —Wilson Karaman
The Dodgers’ second-rounder last summer, Verdugo worked his way up to High-A this year at the tender age of 19 despite a slow start. He sports a fairly athletic frame and there’s physical projection remaining, with room to fill out his chest and arms. He carries himself with a quiet swagger, appearing almost passive at times when he’s not in the heat of the moment. His switch flips quickly, however, and he shows as a high-intensity player when engaged. He wasn’t shy about expressing frustration after what he deemed to be a sub-par round in the cage, and after a pop out in-game he spent the better part of the next half inning pantomiming his swing in between pitches in the outfield.
Notes on Bobby Bradley, Yeyson Yrizarri, and several 2015 early-round selections.
Gabriel Ynoa, RHP, New York Mets (Double-A Binghamton)
After spending time in Double-A to finish off last season, this year represented a chance for Ynoa to show that he could adjust to facing more advanced bats on a consistent basis over the long haul at the level and prove that things were trending in the right direction when it came to sticking as a starter. While the overall arsenal doesn’t have a pitch that screams, it’s a collection of offerings that the 22-year-old mixes and matches and throws for strikes.
At times, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing a prospect’s path from amateur ball to the big leagues is relatively standard; then we get snapped back to reality where every prospect’s path is wildly different. Enter, Roemon Fields. After first playing JUCO ball and then transferring to NAIA Bethany, where he ran track and played baseball, Fields was working for the Seattle Postal Service when the Blue Jays signed him out of an amateur exhibition series. Fields stands out for his lean body with fast-twitch athleticism, and his explosiveness on the field. An exceptional runner, Fields consistently got down the line in 4.01-4.08 seconds over the weekend, putting pressure on defenders every time the ball was in play, and he showed an ability to easily utilize his speed both on the bases and in center field. Fields is still raw at the plate, but he hung tough during at-bats, fouling off difficult pitches before finding one he could put in play; typically via a solid line drive or ground ball. At nearly 25 years old, Fields has a limited window to impress and reach the big leagues, and while his future likely resides on a major-league bench, if anywhere, he has some potential to develop into a top of the order, slap-hitting burner. While Fields has taken a unique path to Double-A since signing late in 2013, his journey becomes a nice secondary note after seeing him play for several games. – Mark Anderson
Notes on Anderson Espinoza, Francisco Mejia and a couple frustrated former first rounders...
Anderson Espinoza, RHP, Boston Red Sox (GCL Red Sox)
After starting his professional journey in the Dominican Summer League, the Red Sox saw enough from the 17-year-old to give him an aggressive bump to the Gulf Coast League and in the process begin the right-hander’s assimilation to life stateside, on an earlier than expected timeline. The intrigue with Espinoza goes well beyond the $1.8 million signing bonus inked by the youngster a little over a year ago, with tangible evidence this could be a special arm in the making. Though, the expectation on the timing of that type of potential payout is well down the developmental road.
A look at the recently traded Jimmy Cordero, recent receiver of a promotion Brandon Nimmo, and more.
Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets (Triple-A Las Vegas)
Much has been made about Nimmo’s lack of bat speed, but that issue has been vastly overblown. No, it’s not elite, but he has more than enough to hang at the major-league level and square up fastballs. Additionally, while his passive approach sometimes leads to taking the best pitch in his at-bat, it also helps him get into more hitter-friendly counts, allowing him to jump on fastballs.
Nimmo’s ability to draw a walk will make up for any flaws in his hit tool, and he should get on base at a rate better than league average. The big question is what kind of power production he’s going to have. He’s built like a power hitter and shows above-average raw in batting practice, but his approach in games is more line-drive oriented. He can stick in center field for now, which limits his need to produce big time power numbers, but when he eventually shifts to a corner spot, he’ll need to hit for more power if he wants to stick as an every day player. –Jeff Moore
Notes on Josh Bell, Mitch Nay, and a look at a lefty who is flashing exciting stuff on the cape.
Mitch Nay, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin)
Nay gained some prospect traction because of his prototypical size for the hot corner and some moderate success at a young age, including 34 doubles in the Midwest League as a 20-year-old last season. The overall package is underwhelming, however, without a true carrying tool. With only average bat speed, he can get beat inside with average velocity. He needs to get his hands extended in order to drive the ball with any authority. He’s strong, but his up-the-middle approach leads to more doubles than home run production. Most importantly, he struggles to recognize spin. On defense, he’s already limited by his range, with a poor first step and below-average foot speed. He’ll never be better than an average defender at third base, and even that would take some natural refinement. He’s currently below average.
The Nationals have pushed Severino aggressively, with less than 100 games played at any level. The carrying card for the Dominican catcher has always been defense, which is likely the reason behind his quick ascension through the ranks. While the defense is solid, my viewings this season have left more skepticism than optimism in his future game.
Anthony Alford is one of the more underrated prospects in baseball. Notes on him and more.
Anthony Alford, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin)
It’s never been a question of athletic talent with Alford – the 2012 third-round selection was one of the most highly recruited dual-threat quarterbacks before he committed to Southern Miss. Unfortunately for Alford, the football career didn’t work out, and it hurt his baseball development before he gave up the “other” sport in 2014.
It appears the light has clicked for Alford in 2015 though, and several scouts have told me he’s looked like one of the most improved prospects of the summer. Alford has always been a plus-plus runner, but his swing has shortened and incorporates more of his strong lower half, which has allowed him to put the ball into the gaps and his speed to work. As he adds more loft to his swing, those doubles (20 this year) should go further, and 15 to 20 homer seasons are not out of the questions.
This week's Ten Pack looks at prospects who could wind up on the Top 101 next year.
Amed Rosario, SS, New York Mets (High-A Port St. Lucie)
After an aggressive placement to start 2015saw Rosario skip Low-A and head right to the Florida State League, the 19-year-old shortstop's talent has been on display throughout the first half of the season. As the no. 78 prospect in our off-season Top 101, a case could be made for including him within the last couple slots of the just released mid-season Top 50, but regardless this prospect's stock has jumped forward as we hit the midpoint of the season.
Rosario is currently a top 101 prospect in the game, and barring some kind of unforeseen circumstances will be a shoe-in for our list this coming off-season. So, why highlight him? He is an interesting case study because of how advanced he is, with a good dose of physical development likely to come. Standing 6-foot-2, Rosario currently is on the wiry/thin side. Though the expectation isn't that he'll suddenly morph into a monster, strength is going to come in time, and with strength there's going to be an enhancement to the overall offensive game.