Alen Hanson, 2B/SS, Pirates (Indianapolis, AAA): 4-5, 2 R, K. Hanson is not the impact prospect many had him pegged to be after he broke out as a 19-year-old in 2012, but the difference between the Sally and International Leagues has had that affect on more than one prospect. The tools are still evident, though not as loud as they once were. He’s no longer a shortstop prospect, despite playing there last year, but he could have a home at second base. The bat may never play because of the aggressive approach, which will be exploited at first by major-league pitching, but he does offer above-average pop for the keystone and his speed is an asset. There are things to like about Hanson, but even at 22, there is still refinement needed before he can contribute at the major-league level.
Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates (Altoona, AA): 6 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K. The only thing between Glasnow and utter dominance is his ability to throw strikes, something which has plagued him his entire professional career. He’s walked just two batters over his last three starts (spanning 17 2/3 IP), which marks a significant and necessary improvement for his development. Glasnow simply doesn’t get hit, and the only question has been how long he’ll be able to get away with giving away extra base runners. If he can limit the latter, there’s no telling his ceiling.
Blake Snell, LHP, Rays (Montgomery, AA): 6 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 8 K. After spending half the season in the Florida State League last year, Snell simply wasn’t being challenged repeating the level. He still battles strike-throwing issues, but by missing more bats than ever he’s forced the Rays hand, a move which he didn’t dispel in his first chance at a new level.
Kyle Crick, RHP, Giants (Richmond, AA): 5 1/3 IP, 5 H, R, BB, 8 K. As good as Crick’s arm is, a start of 5 1/3 innings not only represents his longest start of the brief season, but one of the longest of his professional career. He had only four starts longer than that last year and has gone further than that in only 12 of 62 starts as a professional. Crick misses bats at an exceptional level, but his inability to throw strikes has greatly limited him. When he throws strikes, he’s close to unhittable, but those instances are few and far between.
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds (Pensacola, AA): 2/3 IP, 3 H, 6 R, 4 BB, K. Stephenson has now been in Pensacola for 34 starts and over 170 innings, yet he’s throwing fewer strikes than ever. That’s not a good sign for a guy who had fringy fastball command to begin with. No one has ever questioned Stephenson’s raw talent, but at 22 and with four professional seasons under his belt, he should be making progress and not trending in the wrong direction.
Dylan Cozens, OF, Phillies (Clearwater, A+): 4-4, 2 R, 2B, HR. Cozens is massive and built with a swing to fit his body, one that has a tendency to get long and get his arms extended too far. His raw power is considerable, and when he gets his long arms extended on a fastball, he has as much natural power as any prospect in the game. His home run off of a Lucas Giolito 97-mph fastball last season was still one of the more impressive things I’ve seen in person. Cozens’ propensity to get long in his swing leads to a lot of swing and miss, an issue which will only get worse as he faces better pitching.
Mac Williamson, OF, Giants (Richmond, AA): 4-5, R, HR. The power that Williamson showed in the California League in 2013 has yet to manifest itself in Richmond, but it’s early yet, and the Squirrels play in a big park, quite the change of scenery form the California League. Williamson can hit, the question is just how much of the power is for real and how much of it is a product of his former home parks. Having missed a year to Tommy John surgery, he’s behind the developmental curve, but if he can show some power outside of the California League, he’ll pick up where he left off.
Franklin Barreto, SS, Athletics (Stockton, A+): 3-4, 2 2B, K, SB. Barreto gets most recognition as the player with the most upside in the Josh Donaldson trade, but that upside needs to be tempered with reasonable expectation. Yes, he’s just 19 and in full-season ball this year, but we can already likely rule out a future at shortstop, as I’ve had multiple scouts tell me that his lower half has him destined for a corner. That means the power will have to come to its full fruition in order for him to pan out. This is all projection, of course, as he’s still years away from the majors.
Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates (Altoona, AA): 1-3, R, HR, BB. I don’t like Bell’s swing. He’s not a great athlete, and it shows with a bat in his hand, as the swing looks relatively uncoordinated from both sides, especially the right. That said, there is no denying Bell’s ability to find the barrel of the bat with the ball, which borders on the elite. He’s currently in the midst of a ridiculous 18-for-31 streak, and he continues to control the strike zone at elite levels. The full power potential hasn’t kicked in the way it will need to in order to handle first base on an every day basis, but there’s no denying his ability to make contact, which is translating into the upper levels of the minors.
C.J. McElroy, OF, Cardinals (Palm Beach, A+): 2-4, R, BB, 2 SB. McElroy is one of those guys you watch and just want to see him hit better. He’s so athletic and can do so many things on the field that if the hit tool could just work its way to average, he’d be quite a player. Alas, it’s probably not going to happen, the hit tool is almost non-existent, preventing the speed from playing at an impact level. Still, he manages to make some contact, giving him a chance, and shows some instincts on the bases and in the field as more than just a runner.
Aaron Blair, RHP, Diamondbacks (Mobile, AA): 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K. Blair is essentially depth in waiting for the Diamondbacks, The 23-year-old former first-rounder has handled every challenge thrown at him while missing the prerequisite bats looked upon for a mid-rotation starter. Those numbers are down this year, but he’s shown a track record in a brief stint in the upper minors. The potential for multiple plus pitches should help him when he’s ultimately inserted into the Diamondbacks rotation out of necessity at some point this season.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets (Las Vegas, AAA): 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K. Utter dominance is what best describes Syndergaard’s time in Vegas this season, a drastic change from his stint in the desert last year. It’s as though he can see the light at the end of the tunnel and knows his time in Queens is coming soon. He’s ready, and there’s nothing left to prove in the PCL. He’s simply waiting for an opening.
Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox (Greenville, A-): 5-6, 4 R, 2 2B, 2 HR. Devers is supremely talented, and while I’ve noted his skills for some time now, it’s nice to see him carrying those skills over to full-season ball as so many prospects struggle to do. The left-handed hitting Devers offers plus bat speed as well as plus feel for the barrel, two prerequisites for a plus hit tool. His size also lends itself to plus power potential. He’s still just 18, but the tools are evident for Devers to become a potential impact bat.
Trevor Story, SS, Rockies (New Britain, AA): 4-4, 3 R, 2 2B, HR, 2 SB. We’ve discussed Story’s athleticism before, but it’s fun to see it translating into in-game production like we’re seeing this year. When he’s on, he’s an impact bat. There may be some holes in the hit tool, but the power/speed combination is virtually unparalleled up the middle in the infield.
Jose Peraza, 2B, Braves (Gwinnett, AAA): 4-4, 2 R, BB, SB. Peraza can’t offer Story’s power, but he can expand upon the hit tool and few can challenge his speed, especially when it comes to actual in-game utility. Peraza is putting the ball in play just as often, it’s just not translating to hits as frequently at the minors’ highest level as it has in the past. That’s partially to be expected and partially bad luck. Getting on base at a higher average than normal is a part of Peraza’s game and a part that he does well.
Billy McKinney, OF, Cubs (Myrtle Beach, A+): 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, K. Scouts have questioned McKinney’s raw bat speed, which is average to above average, but lacks that elite level associate with most plus hit tools (which McKinney features). The Cubs outfielder makes up for it with exceptional feel for the barrel and with a patient approach that consistently puts him in strong hitters counts that allows him to cheat and get the barrel of the bat moving. He’s a smart hitter with good instincts, which can help make up for less-than-elite natural talent.
…and Carlos Correa did awesome things (3-4, R, 2B, BB, 2 SB).
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