A second-generation impaler continues to impale, a first-round pick continues to confound in the Cal League, and more.
Eric Lauer, LHP, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
The last of San Diego’s three first-rounders last June, Lauer wore the tag of polished, “safe” collegiate southpaw heading into the draft, and he’s acquitted himself accordingly in the first calendar year of his professional career. He’s got good size, and while his is not a quick-twitch athleticism, he is classically “pitcher athletic”: he’s extremely fluid and consistent in his delivery, with strong balance and quality timing. The arm swing is not traditional, with a stab and mild wrist wrap at the back of a deep, closed-off turn. But while he’s long to is higher three-quarter slot as a result, he’s also quite loose, and the result is a clean, flowing delivery that he repeats very well.
Brendan Rodgers chugs right along through the Cal League, Mitch Keller does the same in the FSL, and don't look now but Brent Honeywell is staring you down while you read this.
Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado Rockies (High-A Lancaster)
Rodgers’ start to the season was delayed by a couple weeks on account of a sprained wrist, but he’s certainly doing his part to make up for lost time, throwing up an only-partially-Lancaster-aided .400/.427/.614 line through his first 17 games. He’s not the type that immediately jumps off the diamond as an elite physical specimen with supreme athleticism, but you watch him play for a few innings and you get it pretty quickly. He’s a smooth mover, with lo-fi grace in the field and a keen sense for measuring out his strides when ranging east or west. He’s not the quickest shortstop you’ll see—the run tool looks to be somewhere around average—but he controls his body well and shows solid actions fielding on the run to convert transfers into accurate, strong throws.
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Alex Jackson is re-establishing himself as a prospect now that he's in Atlanta, and Walker Buehler is hitting triple-digits.
Alex Jackson, C, Atlanta Braves (High-A Florida)
Jackson is an athletic, thick-boned man-child. Listed at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds (though looks closer to 225 pounds) with wide shoulders, he is a good target behind the plate. Jackson receives very well with minor flinches that will be ironed out with time, and that is “very well” without considering he has played outfield exclusively as a pro. Moreover, having played the outfield since being drafted sixth-overall in 2014, he has plenty mobility for a catcher. He blocks most balls in the dirt, his throws are accurate and on-line with carry through the target. He commands the field with his quiet confidence and presence, and has a feel for game calling. The Braves scouted this conversion nicely.
Zack Collins, C, Chicago White Sox (High-A Winston-Salem)
Collins may be one of the pickiest hitters in the minors right now, as evidenced by his.212/.384/.379 slash line. At the plate, Collins is an extremely patient hitter with above-average plate discipline and pitch recognition. He has a mild bat wrap, but it doesn’t seem to impede his balanced, smooth swing. There’s unquestionably plus power in the bat. Right now, though, too many of Collins’ deep counts are ending with strikeouts, and he’s pounding plenty of balls into the ground with a low-line drive rate to go along with it. He has to work on making consistent contact more often.
Behind the plate, Collins seems like a logical game caller; he has soft hands and can handle balls in the dirt well. He’s not afraid to be a bit frisky either; I saw him throw behind a runner at second early in game action and behind a runner at third later in the evening, with above-average release and accuracy. He’s been more consistent with his pop times and throws velocity-wise this season, and the numbers back that up. The book on Collins in 2016 was that you could run on him, but he has certainly changed that perception in 2017. In a diverse and interesting White Sox system, Collins is certainly a name to watch.There is tangible progress in his defense that could go a ways towards combatting a pre-season scouting consensus that he was unlikely to last at the position. —Victor Filoromo
Yadier Alvarez, Triston McKenzie, and other players who aren't skinny pitchers.
Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
Alvarez looks more filled-out than his listed 175 pounds would imply, with long levers, and a lazy, controlled physicality that produces strong balance and extremely fluid movements. The arm action is on the deeper side, but clean and consistent to a higher-three-quarters slot that leverages his length effectively to create a strong angle of attack. He’ll lose his back-side a bit when he pushes off, and the overall timing and execution of the delivery isn’t there yet pitch to pitch. But it’s a lot of frame to grow into and harness, and he just turned 21. This is exactly the combination of body control and delivery elegance that makes you unduly comfortable as an evaluator in projecting hard on future gains.
Notes and video on Juan Soto, Cal Quantrill, and more.
Sandy Alcantara, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (Double-A Springfield)
Yet again, the St. Louis Cardinals have a Double-A pitcher with the ability to throw serious gas at a young age, seemingly out of nowhere—so out of nowhere that he was unsigned at age 17, for a mere $125,000.
Alcantara has a tall and slight-but-not-skinny build, and it’s difficult to imagine him adding much more in the way of muscle mass without overwhelming his frame, though he has added about 20 good pounds since last season. The velocity is real, but not too much of it comes out of the legs, but rather the arm—a concern, but not an overwhelming one. Despite some violence in the delivery, Alcantara was able to deliver strikes, helped by the aforementioned velocity. He sat in the mid-to-upper 90s, hitting 100 in both the second and sixth innings, with good life that makes the pitch even more difficult to hit, though he is prone to missing arm-side. Alcantara also throws a changeup and a curveball, with the change being the more developed pitch, though he can show some arm deceleration when throwing it. Additionally, while the change has around a 10-mph difference from the fastball, Alcantara will need to consistently add movement to it, or hitters will sit on it like a “normal” fastball. The curve has some nice break on it, but it’s his weakest pitch, and he only used it as a change-of-pace offering, not showing the ability to throw it for strikes.
The Prospect Team lays out which teams they're eyeing in 2017.
Charlotte Knights (White Sox Triple-A) The possibility of a Giovanni Soto-Geovany Soto battery would qualify as the most interesting storyline to watch in Charlotte most years. After an offseason focused on the future, homophony takes a backseat to a 2017 Opening Day roster that suddenly boasts three of our top 30 prospects. The highest ranked among them is YoanMoncada, who’ll hope that some of first year manager Mark Grudzielanek’s contact ability rubs off on him before he ascends to the South Side for good. Charlotte’s pitching staff is particularly rich, fronted by Lucas Giolito. He’s attempting to restore a top-of-the-rotation projection by finding some mechanical consistency and a few missing ticks on his once-and-future 80-grade heater. Joining Giolito in the rotation are Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer, each of whom face questions about ability to pitch every fifth day because of less-than-ideal size and inconsistent command. If the rotation doesn’t work out, I hope Lopez and Fulmer don’t mind setup roles, because the White Sox spent their 2016 first rounder on Zack Burdi. His triple-digit cheese and wipeout slider will end games in Charlotte for the time being, and could do so in the majors in short order if the Sox continue their rebuild by stripping the current bullpen. The Knights roster may well be typically barren come mid-summer, especially on offense. Until the calls come, they’ll run out one of the best collections of talent on a Triple-A roster in some time. —Greg Wellemeyer
Gleyber Torres, SS, New York Yankees
We ranked Gleyber Torres as the 15th-best prospect in baseball, and word on the street is that makes us the low guys in the prospect ranking community on him. I suspect this is due to his monster Arizona Fall League in front of every scout and prospect writer in the known universe, where Torres became the youngest AFL MVP in league history. He’s slated to begin 2017 with the Trenton Thunder, one of my “home parks” and just a short jaunt down the New Jersey Turnpike or Interstate 195 for me. I’ll be fascinated to see whether the ginormous AFL was reflective of real late-season gains for Torres or just a small-sample in a great hitting environment against inconsistent and/or gassed pitching. Even the Torres that showed up in 2015 and for the bulk of 2016 is a heck of a prospect, a potential future star at short or second, so I doubt I’ll be disappointed by any version of Torres that shows up. But there’s a shot that I’m going to get to watch a shooting star fly up right to the doorstep of the majors, and that’d be really fun to see. —Jarrett Seidler
The Lake Elsinore Starting Rotation
Yes, pretty much all of them. The Padres have a system growing by leaps and bounds in its depth, and one of the great corners of coagulation for a bunch of their mound talent will be the Elsinore Valley. Enyel De Los Santos made 15 very solid starts for Elsinore last year but, given his youth, he may well be a candidate to return in April. He boasts top-shelf arm speed, mid-90s gas, and the foundations for a couple solid secondaries that can miss bats. That’s really not a terrible placeholder to start the season, if it comes to it, and it’s a quality warm-up act. Teen-aged wunderkind Anderson Espinoza is probably the headliner. That he didn’t thoroughly dominate full-season ball at Age 18 was enough to blunt some of the madness that had swept up his name last offseason, but the year was by and large a smashing success for him given age and league context, and he appears on track to maintain an aggressive promotion schedule.
Mitchell White, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
I wrote a good bit about White in our Dodgers Top Ten a few weeks back, but felt he warranted further advocacy in this here space as well. He’s a rare bird, in that he already has an arsenal capable of carving up left-handed hitters in spite of possessing very little in the way of a developed changeup. That’s because his cutter is an absolute weapon, holding plane effectively while it wanders to the glove side with well-above-average (and late) horizontal action. He can get in the kitchen as well as anybody I saw last year, and while the curve can lack for bite, it already shows quality depth that can generate field trips out of the zone. This all takes for granted a lively fastball that sits 91-93 right now, too. He generates quality extension to slot, and his velocity plays up a tick because of it. There’s some effort in the delivery, and it’s an up-tempo pace that can get too quick at times right now. The lack of a workload to date also makes him vulnerable to durability questions until he can build up some innings. But the frame is large and athletic, he controls it very well pitch to pitch, and I see a straight path to above-average command. Between White and the more-heralded Walker Buehler, the Dodgers have a couple very interesting post-surgery right-handers to monitor next year, and for my money there isn’t a ton of daylight between them. After crossing into triple-digit innings last year and looking no worse for the wear by the end of it, White has the potential to explode up prospect lists with 140-150 quality innings up into the high minors this season. —Wilson Karaman
Justin Dunn, SP, New York Mets
Honestly, Dunn would’ve fit in last week’s list of players who narrowly missed the 101 just as much as this week’s list. And on pure stuff, Dunn certainly belongs, with a plus fastball and the makings of a solid slider and change. Mostly a reliever at BC until midway through his junior season, the Mets were very careful with Dunn’s post-draft usage, using him for only two or three innings every six or seven days at short-season Brooklyn. Given that his track record as a starter is limited, he’s slight of frame, and there’s a touch of violence in his motion, we have just enough skepticism over Dunn’s long-term outlook starting, and the potential that he ends up in the pen kept him off the list this year. A couple dozen healthy starts and continued development of the offspeeds and command will easily put him pretty far up 2018’s 101, and you can dream on even more given the recent organizational track record with this sort of profile. —Jarrett Seidler
The Prospect Team checks in with a look at the best tool they saw this year.
Javier Guerra, SS, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore): Glove
Guerra’s prospect stock took a hit this year after a tough campaign in the Cal League, but his glove certainly wasn’t the culprit. In my looks Guerra showed as a heads-and-shoulders defender at the six spot, and the class of the league. He leverages lateral agility and quickness to offset notably unimpressive foot speed, and his range is an above-average asset in spite of the fringy speed tool. The hands are exquisitely soft, and the actions are as fluid as they get, highlighted by a quick and controlled transfer from tough body angles on the move. That transfer helps his plus arm strength play up even higher, and solidifies the profile as that of a potentially plus-plus defender at shortstop. —Wilson Karaman
Michael Gettys, OF, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore): Arm
I find that recalibrating my eye and taking in some higher-level minor league or major-league games in person really helps my evaluations for Low-A. It's important to see players at all stages of development and it helps keep the mind sharp. One of the main differences that stands out is what the warm up procedure looks like in the majors versus what it looks like at Low-A. In the majors the throws are crisp, the actions are sharp, and it looks like a polished and finished product. Low-A provides a rawer look at defensive actions and tools, so when a major-league double-plus arm comes across during infield/outfield, it has a tendency to stand out. A lot. Gettys has a special arm, the kind of arm you share videos of on YouTube if you can find a good angle, the kind of arm that makes you twist in your seat in excitement as the complete story of the individual throw, from gather to release to carry to glove to tag, is played out in front of you. It's the kind of arm whose gif or video could end up as a twitter bio one day. It's a damn good arm and it helps complete a profile which, if the hit tool gains he showed throughout the year are real, can be a really fun and special player with power, speed, defensive chops and a damn cannon for an arm. —Mauricio Rubio Jr.
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.
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.