On the 18th episode of the DFA podcast, it's time to talk about all those medium-sized deals that are part and parcel of deadline season. The Padres and Royals swap intriguing pitchers, Jaime Garcia (finally) heads to Minnesota, and the Red Sox add two third basemen: one from within and one from without.
It's Baseball Prospectus's newest podcast: DFA! Host Bryan Grosnick (Baseball Prospectus), co-host R.J. Anderson (CBS Sports), and producer Shawn Brody (Beyond the Box Score, BP Mets) are talking about all the transactions and roster moves that make MLB go. From trades and signings to callups and disabled list stints, DFA is here to provide analysis and commentary on all things baseball.
The Situation: It’s July 23rd. Red Sox third baseman have hit .224/.284/.307. Rafael Devers can probably do better than that.
The Background: Devers signed out of the Dominican Republic as part of the 2013 IFA class for $1.5 million. He came stateside the following summer after just 28 games in the DSL. In 2015, he was given an aggressive assignment to the South Atlantic League as an 18-year-old. He held his own—batting .289/.323/.443—and jumped up our 101 from No. 90 to No. 35. He almost xeroxed his line in 2016 as a 19-year-old in Advanced-A, and that was after an ice cold start to the season. The continued development of his offensive tools—along with solid on-field performance as one of the youngest players in the Carolina League—made him one of the top-20 prospects in baseball coming into this season, despite questions about his ultimate defensive home. If a top-20 prospect in baseball could “break out,” Devers 2017 would qualify. He mashed in Double-A, hitting .300 with 18 bombs in a half season before a recent promotion to Pawtucket. It took a mere week of additional mashing to get the call to Boston. Devers checked in at No. 5 on our Midseason Top 50, but he had a case for No. 1.
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There were seven candidates for the top spot. How did we arrive at No. 1?
It’s a fun time in baseball, with a lot of elite talent floating around, much of it close to the majors. We discussed seven of those elite talents as potential top overall prospects for this midseason list—not surprisingly, the top seven guys on the list. I’d suggest that the top eight or nine prospects (depending on your feelings about Tommy John recovery with regard to Alex Reyes) form a top tier, and they could be jumbled in nearly any order without being abjectly wrong. But part of the job here is to find an order in the mayhem, and after some great internal debate, we came up with a list. Here’s how that top prospect debate developed...
A look at five prospects who should get called up.
We’ve started the Midseason Top 50 process here at Baseball Prospectus. There is a ways to go—so far we are only at the point where we have sorted a draft in a car heading to Camden Yards and then were unable to explain to the rest of the staff why Joshua Lowe ended up on it—but one of the hardest parts of the process is pegging who will actually be eligible. We only consider players in the minors at the time of publication, and now that we are well past the Super 2 safe harbor date, teams don't have service time manipulation reasons to keep their best upper-level prospects in the minors (well, maybe one of them, which we’ll get to). So let's take a look at some of the top names who may send us scrambling to find more top 50 prospects at the last minute (I guess Lowe still has a chance after all).
Rafael Devers put an assault on Dunkin Donuts Park last week.
Jeffrey Paternostro P.J. Conlon, LHP, Binghamton Rumble Ponies (New York Mets)
Small lefty, leans back, stab down, uphill delivery with deception, H3/4 slot. Effort with head whack, but doesn’t impact command. 1.2 out of stretch. Fastball 85-88, s85-86, higher reports last year, and the weather was New England brisk, above-average command, spots to both sides, some run 4/4. CH 76-78 present plus, will throw to either side in any count, good sink, bat misser. 6/6. Showed two different breaking balls, a slider/cutter thing, which is a short breaker, but he can spot it and keeps it down in the zone. 3/4 Lollipop curve around 70. Showed one tighter one with 12-6 action, but doesn’t project much past show me. Any velo bump might make him a middle reliever with enough change to cross over, but tough to see getting much more out of these mechanics. Likely role 3, emergency starter/swing.
Rafael Devers, 3B, Portland Sea Dogs (Boston Red Sox)
Open stance, high hands, some noise, premium bat speed, can cover plus velo easily. Gets pull-happy, but will hit the ball where it’s pitched, doesn’t get cheated at all, hard contact to all fields. Can get in on him left-on-left, but didn’t try to do too much against southpaws. Approach is a work-in-progress generally. Thick lower half, but I think he can stick at third if the body cooperates, good instincts on the dirt, arm is strong and accurate, can make plays on the run. Only hiccups came with extra time to make transfer/throw, more reps should smooth that out. 4.2 to first when he sniffed an infield hit, bit of a jailbreak, but might be a legit 5 runner underway. Potential 6/7 offensive tools at third base. Monster prospect, OFP 7/Likely 6. Oh yeah, also put baseballs here:
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.
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.
Questions on Corey Ray, Edwin Diaz's big move, and a trio of struggling youngsters highlight this week's mailbag.
Q: When is the last time we have seen a college hitter like Corey Ray have over 30 SBs, flirt with a .300 ISO and K less than 12% of the time? That package might be unprecedented. Who’s the best MLB comp? Where is his most likely landing spot; still Braves? – Imari L.