A look around the minors at Kris Bryant, Amir Garrett, Albert Almora, Devin Williams, and more.
Devin Williams, RHP, Brewers (Rookie AZL Brewers) Milwaukee’s top selection (54th overall) in this year’s draft, Williams is already making adjustments and showing improvement with the complex-league Brewers. The early reports on Williams this summer had him working 90-92 mph, struggling with control, and featuring a violent delivery that included a head jerk and hard fall-off toward first base. While those mechanical aspects were still present at times when I saw him July 27th, they were much more under control. As a result, the 18-year-old righty sat between 92-94 mph and touched 96, relying heavily on his fastball while tossing four no-hit innings. Williams finished his outing by throwing 44 consecutive heaters and pounded the lower portion of the zone. His secondary stuff showed on the raw side, though he did flash some feel for a lively mid-80schangeup. More thrower than pitcher at present, Williams provides a nice package to dream on. His athletic 6-foot-3 frame has some projection, and his fastball could be a monster pitch at full maturity. I’m looking forward to seeing how the secondaries develop, and he’ll certainly be worth another look at instructs. –Jason Cole
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A tour of the minors, with looks at Mookie Betts, Garin Cecchini, Dorssys Paulino, Sergio Alcantara, and more.
Mookie Betts, 2B, Red Sox (High-A Salem) A fifth-round pick in the 2011 draft, Betts was a multi-sport athlete with good feel for baseball, an ideal talent to bring into the professional fold. In a limited look, his plus athleticism was obvious, as he showed easy plus speed on times to first and when on base. His swing had bat speed and was short to the ball, and rarely did it fail to find some contact, showing off his natural bat-to-ball ability. The pop isn’t empty but more line-drive than over-the-fence, and with his wheels, could produce solid extra-base hit numbers. In the field, the glove wasn’t flashy but the range was above average, and the overall defensive profile could give him some left-side versatility if he’s eventually pushed into a utility role. While Betts doesn’t look to be a top prospect with a first-division ceiling, he does have the type of feel for the game and athletic talent to develop into an interesting player, one with bat-to-ball skills at the plate and some leather in the field. He’s fun to watch. Big motor in a little frame. –Jason Parks
Garin Cecchini, 3B, Red Sox (Double-A Portland) After taking the Carolina League by storm, the 22-year-old left-handed hitter has continued his hot hitting in the Eastern League, posting a .331/.424/.468 line in 33 games at the level. Cecchini’s grinding, patient approach at the plate has served him well during his transition to facing higher quality arms. A typical plate appearance by the third base prospect sees him methodically work the count for an offering he can attack. Cecchini’s secondary skills have certainly shown to be up to the initial task, and early signs point toward these traits continuing to have the necessary impact within his game to carry the player to the big leagues.
A tour through the minors, with write-ups on Christian Yelich, Trevor Story, Kyle Crick, Luis Sardinas, and others.
Luis Sardinas, SS, Rangers (High-A Myrtle Beach) A popular name in recent trade rumors, Sardinas is an attractive target for most teams because of his pure defensive qualities at a premium position. The tools are even louder than fellow J2 classmate Jurickson Profar, as Sardinas has superior speed, similar hit tool potential, and a superior glove. The 20-year-old Venezuelan has struggled to stay on the field because of injury, but when he's healthy and decides to turn on the effort, Sardinas can flash first-division potential, an impact defender with plus plus speed and natural bat-to-ball ability. —Jason Parks
Braulio Ortiz, RHP, White Sox (High-A Winston Salem)
It has been a big season for the big Dominican arm, making the jump from the DSL to full-season ball, and after a stellar run in Low-A, the 21-year-old now finds himself in the Carolina League. Even though he has made a few starts, Ortiz profiles as a power arm in the 'pen, riding an impressive mid-90s fastball and missing more than a bat per inning. The command is loose and the secondary arsenal needs refinement, but Ortiz is on the fast-track, and looks like a prospect to keep an eye on going forward. —Jason Parks
Eyes on Nolan Sanburn, D.J. Peterson, Dorssys Paulino, Andrew Aplin and others.
Nolan Sanburn, RHP, Athletics (Low-A Beloit) After seeing the start to his season delayed as a result of a shoulder injury suffered in spring training, Sanburn made his Midwest League debut this week after four brief innings in the Arizona Complex League. Sanburn’s debut for the Low-A Beloit Snappers went well, with the former Arkansas Razorback throwing two hitless innings while walking and striking out two. He sat a comfortable 90-92 mph with his fastball, moving it around the zone and touching 94 twice. Sanburn also mixed in two distinct breakers in the form of a hard 83-84 mph slider with tilt and a downer upper-70s curve with good bite. Sanburn also throws a straight change with some late dip, but did not utilize it in-game. The plan is still to eventually shift Sanburn over to a starter role, but for now the A’s will look to build up his arm strength and help him get innings under his belt. --Nick J. Faleris
D.J. Peterson, 1B, Mariners (Short-season Everett)
Peterson was arguably the most advanced bat of the 2013 draft class, and he has begun to put his lumber to work through his first 21 games with the short-season Everett AquaSox. Over 93 plate appearances, Peterson is hitting .286/.344/.536 with eight walks and 15 strikeouts, while launching five home runs and six doubles in his short pro career. The former Lobo boasts a tight bat path and good extension through contact, as well as balance at the plate and an ability to utilize a full-field approach. Peterson likely won’t see his first true test until he reaches High-A (potentially later this summer) or Double-A (most likely next year), where the caliber of pitching is more likely to match up with his advanced approach. --Nick J. Faleris
OF Micker Zapata (White Sox) Zapata was one of the standout talents on the field during MLB’s International Showcase in the Dominican Republic back in January, as the power potential was on full display. At the end of the day, it’s most likely a corner profile, but the power could make him a middle-of-the-order masher, as some scouts have put plus-plus grades on the tool. Given the lack of high-end talent in the White Sox system, Zapata found himself a top five prospect in the system the day he signed for $1.6M. Obviously he’s raw, and this will be true of most of the talent found in the July 2nd talent window, but Zapata shows good bat-to-ball ability, and could develop into more than just an all-or-nothing power hitter. Kudos to the White Sox. This is going to be a very good prospect. –Jason Parks
RHP Marcos Diplan (Rangers)
Despite a market reputation as a baseball factory, the Dominican Republic doesn’t produce a lot of quality major-league starters, a reality with numerous explanations [possible explanations]. A lack of pitchability is often seen as the biggest villain. Diplan stands out for his impressive raw stuff and his advanced pitchability for his age, attributes that help offset his diminutive size and the reputation of the region for producing more relief arms than impact starters. When I saw Diplan back in January, the right-hander pounded the zone with a low-90s fastball (touched 93) delivered from a lower slot. He showed feel for both a fading 80 mph changeup and a low-70s curveball, brought into game action with the swagger of a much more physically imposing arm. He was the best arm I saw at the Dominican Showcase, and it wasn’t even close. –Jason Parks
I’ve been on the Almonte bandwagon since his easy delivery first caught my eye during a fall instructional league game on the backfields in Arizona. I’m a sucker for an easy delivery and an effortless release, and Almonte won my heart that day by pumping a low-90s fastball for strikes and flashing a changeup that was already a near-plus offering. Fast-forward to his full-season debut, and the bandwagon is starting to look like a bus depot, as the 20-year-old continues to take steps forward with the arsenal and the production, working a fastball in the 92-97 range, flashing multiple breaking-ball looks including a bat-missing curve, and throwing a nasty changeup. Almonte’s inclusion on the Futures Game roster was a win for the young Dominican arm, a win for the Royals’ amateur scouting and player development teams, and a win for every wannabe scout that finds arousal in easy arm action and heavily pronated changeups. —Jason Parks
A tour around the minors, including looks at Oscar Taveras, Xander Bogaerts, Luiz Gohara, and Joey Gallo
Oscar Taveras, CF, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis)
Taveras celebrated his 21st birthday on Wednesday by going 2-for-5 with a home run. His week ended on a sour note, however, as he was lifted from Sunday’s contest after appearing to aggravate his ankle injury, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The top prospect initially injured his ankle while sliding into second base on May 12th. He returned to the Redbirds’ lineup on June 8th. When I saw Taveras in Round Rock last week, his ankle certainly didn’t look healthy––he was limping all over the field (shown in this video).
While Taveras’ ailing ankle rendered him unable to run on the basepaths and in center field––and, despite the clear #want, left me wondering why he was attempting to play through an obvious injury––the other aspects of his game looked sharp. The Dominican Republic native displayed his gargantuan strength by fighting off a fastball and sending it off the wall to the opposite field on Friday. Taveras is a highly aggressive hitter who’s looking to tackle anything within his large hitting zone. But his elite hand-eye coordination and plate coverage (in addition to his strength and bat speed) enables him to make consistent loud contact. As a scout told me this weekend, “That’s what a future all-star hitter looks like.” –Jason Cole
A trip around the minors, with looks at Julio Urias, Martin Perez, Mark Sappington, Jose Dominguez, and others.
Julio Urias, LHP, Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes) At the end of the day, the minor-league story of the year might be the prospect propulsion of 16-year-old Julio Urias, a left-handed pitcher recently signed out of Mexico. The Dodgers decided to send the precocious arm to the Midwest League to begin his professional career, a move that had an initial scent of novelty, but the reality is far from a stunt. Urias is a special talent, with a preternatural feel for his craft and the type of stuff that could one day play at the top of a major-league rotation. Listed at 5’11’’, the southpaw is actually closer to 6’1’’, with a projectable frame and a present fastball that routinely touches 95 mph on the gun. From an easy, repeatable delivery, Urias works 91-93 with the heater and has two secondary pitches that he can drop for strikes in any situation. While it’s easy to get excited about a would-be high school sophomore pitching in a full-season league, the real excitement comes from the reality that Urias is a very legit talent on the fast track to prospect fame. It’s remarkable for a 16-year-old to get outs at the full-season level, much less miss more than a bat an inning. That’s just insanity. I’m drinking the Boing! when it comes to Urias. I’m all in. –Jason Parks
Jose Dominguez, RHP, Dodgers (Triple-A Albuquerque) A pop-up prospect in the Dodgers system, Dominguez has raced to Triple-A on the strength of his 80-grade fastball that is routinely reaching 100-101 mph. The 22-year-old righty is something of a late bloomer. After signing in 2007, he pitched three years in the Dominican Summer League and didn’t reach full-season ball until 2012. He also served a 50-game PED suspension in 2010 followed by a 25-game ban last year.
Updates on Miguel Sano, Michael Ynoa, Albert Almora, and more.
Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins (Double-A New Britain) Sano has been getting column inches since his amateur days, and thanks to a breakout spring, the press love shall continue. We all know that Sano has some of the best raw power in the minors, with plenty of strength built into a leveraged swing with loft. He was born to hit the ball a long way, and so far in 2013 he’s put 16 balls into Florida State League seats. The 20-year-old takes the headlining spot in this week’s Ten Pack because of his upcoming promotion to the Double-A level, where the precocious talent will face his biggest professional challenge. The swing has some length, and his willingness to expand his zone makes him vulnerable to quality secondary offerings and pitchers with a plan. Double-A arms are better equipped to exploit such weaknesses, and if Sano is slow to make the adjustment (shortening up, looking to go the other way, not selling out for power), his on-the-field production could take a step back before it inevitably takes another step forward. —Jason Parks
Henry Owens, LHP, Red Sox (High A Salem) The 20-year-old left-handed starter has made a smooth transition in taking the next step up the ranks, racking up 68 strikeouts in 56 innings while only allowing 38 hits thus far into the season. The big thing that has jumped out when scouting Owens is the development of his changeup. Showing as a below average offering last season, with varying arm speed and lacking finish, the pitch flashed much improved consistency and fading action in his last outing. Owens also created better deception via arm speed in sync to that of his fastball. While the 6-foot-6 lefty’s change is pushing toward becoming an above average weapon at his disposal, there is still work to do in enhancing the command of the 89-93 mph heater. Owens is inconsistent utilizing his large frame to stay on top of his offerings, and he is often unable to find the balance between over-throwing and releasing early. The young arm has ample development in front of him in reaching a ceiling of a mid-rotational starter, but the progress with his overall game is a good sign things are moving forward. —Chris Mellen
Of all the prospects in the minors, Baez’s status might have the most volatility, with the skill set to blossom into a superstar and the deficiencies that could terminate the dream before it begins. With elite bat speed and the type of raw power that can find a home in the middle of any major-league lineup, Baez could end up as the top prospect in the game. But his one-speed-fits-all approach on both sides of the ball can be limiting: His aggressive, see-ball-hit-ball mentality at the plate often puts him behind in counts and vulnerable to offerings out of the zone, and his tendency to rush the actions and the throws makes him error prone despite his exquisite hands at shortstop. Baez is warming up and is a good candidate to explode this summer, with a chance to sneak into the top 10 prospects in the game. But the Double-A test is looming on the horizon, and without more nuance to his game and a more refined approach, Baez could take a big step back against better competition. The talent is extreme. The risk is just as extreme. —Jason Parks
Updates on Raul Adalberto Mondesi, Addison Russell, Mason Williams, Robert Stephenson, and others.
Raul Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Royals (Low-A Lexington)
As much as I enjoy referring to Adalberto Mondesi as Adalberto Mondesi, the young shortstop has expressed his desire to be called by the first name that appears on his birth certificate, which just happens to be the same as his familiar father’s—a former rookie of the year--and his less-than-familiar older brother’s. Hey, if it works, keep working it. Raul Adalberto, which is still a cool sounding name, is one of my favorite prospects to watch, and on a short list of my favorite prospects to monitor and write about. He’s a 17-year-old playing a premium position at a full-season level, so the excitement can exist regardless of the on-the-field outcomes. Context is always a vital part of the evaluation process, as a prospect’s status or sudden rise in status can often put a spotlight on production [itself] at the expense of the specifics surrounding that production. Mondesi has struggled at times this season, and that can lead to overreactions and assumptions that aren’t tethered to the reality of the situation. Mondesi has struggled--no doubt --but he hasn’t been overwhelmed by the level of competition; he belongs at this level despite the poor statistical line. Coming into last night’s game, Mondesi was hitting an anemic .195/.205/.293 in May, which isn’t going to keep his name dripping from the tip of any Pavlovian tongue. But the talent to develop into something very special lives inside of Raul, son of Raul/brother of Raul, and it’s only a matter of time before his positive developmental steps show up on the stat sheet. He hit for the cycle last night. It’s a one-game sample, but bring the context back into the equation. Raul –son of Raul/brother of Raul—is a 17-year-old playing in a full-season league. The fact that he can show glimpses or flashes of brilliance at that level at his age is absolutely remarkable. This isn’t a normal prospect. –Jason Parks
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds (Low-A, Dayton)
Through the first seven weeks of the season, Robert Stephenson has carved up the Midwest League to the tune of 11.6 strikeouts per nine (punching out about one out of every three batters faced) and just 2.4 BB/9, all while holding the opposition to just a .240 batting average. Stephenson was the 27th overall selection in a stacked 2011 draft class, and as impressive as his stuff was out of the scholastic ranks it has bumped up across the board in 2013. His fastball is comfortably sitting mid-90s, climbing to 98 mph on occasion. He pounds the bottom of the zone on a tough downward plane, making him tough to square and helping him to produce a 45 percent groundball rate thus far this spring. His breaker is a hard curve that vacillates between 11-to-5 and 12-to-6 action, working best in the 80-82 mph range. It easily projects to a plus offering, though it plays closer to average right now due to inconsistent execution, which leads to a fair share of hangers. The changeup is still a work in progress, but Stephenson has already shown improvement in his feel for the pitch compared to early April. You can see start-to-start growth in Stephenson's game, particularly in his pitch execution and sequencing, and he's doing the little things, as well, including improving his pacing and set durations from the stretch (which, combined with 1.19-to-1.27 times to the plate makes him difficult to run on). Through 10 starts, Stephenson has made a strong case for being the top arm currently tossing in the Midwest League, and should be included in any discussion regarding the top arms in the minors. --Nick J. Faleris
Updates on Byron Buxton, Francisco Lindor, and others around the minor leagues.
Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
After a scorching start to the season (1.194 OPS in April), Buxton has cooled (somewhat) in his second month in full-season ball, but thanks to game heroics and flashes of his future brilliance, Buxton’s stock has never been higher. Equipped with eye-splitting tools, including elite speed and easy plus raw power, the 19-year-old is well on his way to being the top prospect in the minors. Buxton recently hit a walk-off grand slam that one scout source in attendance said traveled an estimated 450 feet and was launched off a 98 mph fastball. Perfect Game’s Justin Hlubek captured the event on video, and if you have a change of pants handy, please click this link and drift into a euphoric state. --Jason Parks
Yordano Ventura, RHP, Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas)
If Ventura’s physical characteristics read 6’3’’ rather than 5’11’’, the combination of stuff and results would make him one of the premier pitching prospects in the game. Everybody knows about the fastball, as it can hit triple digits in bursts and routinely works in the plus-plus range, but the legitimacy is found in the developmental progression of the secondary arsenal, which includes a plus curveball and a changeup that some think could end up being very special. Because of questions about his ability to handle a starter’s workload, Ventura gets put into the bullpen box, where he profiles as an elite closer. While that’s quite the enticing alternative, the organization is adamant that they always have and will continue to view the 21-year-old righty as a starter, and a very special one at that. Not every slight Dominican righty is going to be the next Pedro, but most slight Dominican righties aren’t in Ventura’s class of talent, and if his body is up to the challenge, the Royals might have the top of the rotation arm they’ve been trying to develop since forever. –Jason Parks