A look at seven prospects who need to step it up in 2017.
The 2016 “prospect” season was a fun one. It may not have been as star-studded as the bumper crop of 2015, but we saw plenty of high-end guys make an impact at the big-league level, and we saw quite a few players show the upside that suggests they could be the next Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant or Carlos Rodon.
Notes on Alex Jackson, Kyle Lewis, Rafael Devers, and more.
Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox (High-A Salem)
Devers is young for the Carolina League, and he’s taken some lumps as a 19-year-old against much older competition. His frame, raw power, and arm-strength give him the raw ingredients of a quality corner infielder, though there’s plenty of projection required to see him as one. A left-handed hitter, his lightning-quick bat-speed can’t be taught, and with the strength in his frame, he has plenty of raw power when he squares his pitch. How much he will get to his power—and whether he’ll maintain the mobility to stick at the hot corner—are the two largest questions regarding Devers’ future. He swings aggressively, but relatively speaking his total strikeout numbers aren’t particularly high. That said, scouts see more holes in his present pure hitting ability than the stat-line shows, especially against the type of quality left-handed pitching he’ll see at higher levels. Defensively, Devers has a very strong arm across the infield, though he holds a 6-foot, (generously listed) 200-pound frame with thickness in his lower half, which takes away from his lateral agility. Some evaluators have felt that he profiles more safely at first base.
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
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Phillies outfielder Nick Williams and Red Sox wunderkind Anderson Espinoza.
Hitter of the Day: Nick Williams, OF, Phillies (Reading, AA): 4-6, 4 R, 2B, HR, K.
So let’s get right to the point on Williams. I was lower than anyone on him entering this season and now I’m fully on board, largely because his plate discipline was a complete abomination before this year and he’s made improvements in that area. That said, his improvements in that regard have been somewhat overstated, fueled by an incredible 16-walk May. In fact, his walk rate since June 1 is 4.7 percent, which is exactly what it was last year at Myrtle Beach. No one has ever expected him to be a patient hitter. It’s just not in his DNA. But with his raw hitting ability, he doesn’t need to be very patient, or even have average discipline. He just needs to not be on the extreme side of general hitting aggressiveness. So if he can work his way from “so obscenely aggressive it limits his ability” to “just enough of an approach to let his hit tool play,” he’s got a chance to hit .300 in the big leagues, which is really all that matters.
Nick Williams, Kyle Schwarber, Lucas Giolito and others propelled Team USA to a loud victory.
A once minor event, the Futures Game has erupted into a festival of pomp and circumstance, unrivaled on the prospect landscape. Part Mardi Gras, part NFL Combine, its national exposure has grown correspondingly with the increased focus on the prospect scene.
Quotes on Manny Machado, Nick Williams, Lucas Giolito and more.
Many of our authors make a habit of speaking to scouts and other talent evaluators in order to bring you the best baseball information available. Not all of the tidbits gleaned from those conversations make it into our articles, but we don't want them to go to waste. Instead, we'll be collecting them in a regular feature called "What Scouts Are Saying," which will be open to participation from the entire BP staff.
Scouts' takes on Travis d'Arnaud, Chris Johnson, Mariano Rivera, Ian Kennedy, and other interesting players.
Many of our authors make a habit of speaking to scouts and other talent evaluators in order to bring you the best baseball information available. Not all of the tidbits gleaned from those conversations make it into our articles, but we don't want them to go to waste. Instead, we'll be collecting them in a regular feature called "What Scouts Are Saying," which will be open to participation from the entire BP staff and include quotes about minor leaguers and major leaguers alike.