Hitter of the Day: Trayce Thompson, OF, White Sox (Charlotte, AAA): 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR. It’s been a pretty strong week in the Thompson household. While Trayce isn’t having any parades thrown for him, he is once again running into his share of home runs. The power is the calling card for Thompson, though he does offer value with his glove as well. The question for Thompson is just how much the power is going to be able to play against advanced pitching, thanks to some major approach issues and holes in his big swing.
Pitcher of the Day: Steven Matz, LHP, Mets (Las Vegas, AAA): 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, BB, 5 K. Matz has continued his run of minor-league dominance even in the hitter-friendly PCL, and has quelled concerns about his health and durability after some issues earlier in his career. He continues to sit in the mid-90s with his fastball, and while his curveball has some consistency issues, it shows above-average potential. You may prefer the upside of Julio Urias, but no left-handed pitching prospect in baseball offers Matz’s combination of ceiling and major-league readiness.
Best of the Rest
Max Kepler, 1B, Twins (Chattanooga, AA): 4-5, R, 3B, K, SB. As I mentioned the other day, Kepler is really beginning to hit the way many scouts believed he would when the Twins made him the highest-paid European amateur of all time. The question, however, is why he’s playing so much first base. He doesn’t belong in center field, where he saw some time early in his career, but he’s still agile enough to handle a corner outfield spot. He may outgrow it and end up at first base someday if he fills out, but he’s not there yet.
Trea Turner, SS, Nationals (Harrisburg, AA): 3-5, 2B, 2 SB. It’s good to finally be able to write “Nationals” after Turner’s name. Turner had a heck of a run this year, finishing out his lame duck term with the Padres thanks to an antiquated rule that has since been changed (though they could and should take it a step further). Despite his success, he still strikes out more than you’d like to see from a player with his speed and only moderate power, thanks to a long swing. Still, his elite speed limits the margin for error some and his ability to remain at shortstop gives him a strong future.
Trevor Story, SS, Rockies (New Britain, AA): 1-3, 2 R, HR, BB, K. Story is back to putting his plus athleticism and strong set of tools to proper use on the baseball field after a few years of inconsistent action. Story moves about the field fluidly with strong actions, though he may be a better fit at second base than short, where his hands and arm are fringy. Either way, his bat will be more than enough to play, as his power potential makes up for the swing and miss in his game.
Alex Reyes, RHP, Cardinals (Palm Beach, A+): 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R (2 ER), BB, 13 K. How does a pitcher who strikes out 13 batters in 6 innings still allow 3 runs? Well, A-ball defense has a lot to do with it, but so does fastball command. Reyes is electric, and features the best fastball/curveball combination of any pitcher in the minors not named Giolito. But even in the Florida State League, most hitters can hit a fastball over the middle of the plate, even if it’s 99 mph. The command is a work in progress for Reyes, and his velocity means it doesn’t have to reach the levels of other pitchers, but will be the deciding factor of whether or not he reaches his top-of-the-rotation potential or settles in somewhere lower.
J.D. Davis, 3B, Astros (Lancaster, AAA): 2-3, 3 R, 2 HR, BB. Davis has big power, but also a big swing that leads to massive strikeout numbers. Those will limit his hit tool at the major-league level, and likely limit his in-game power as well. That could be a problem if Davis has to move to first base as some scouts expect. Still, power is at a premium, especially from the right side, and teams are getting more patient with those who swing and miss.
Stephen Piscotty, OF, Cardinals (Memphis, AAA): 2-4, 3 R, HR, BB, K, SB. Piscotty features an atypical profile for a right fielder, outside of a very strong arm. He doesn’t hit for big power, but he has extremely high contact rates that allow his hit tool to play up. It’s not the sexiest corner outfield profile, but it’s one that should work in an everyday role, and he doesn’t have much left to prove in the minors. On most teams, he’d already be in the majors.
Fight Another Day
Aaron Blair, RHP, Diamondbacks (Reno, AAA): 4 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 2 BB, 4 K. This wasn’t the Triple-A debut Blair was hoping for after having so much success at Double-A Mobile. We can never put much stock into debuts, no matter where they take place, nor should we here, though it is worth noting that his strikeout numbers have been on a steep decline over the past year as he’s continued to move up the ladder. It might mean nothing, but it’s something to watch.
Notable Prospect Starters
- Dillon Overton, LHP, Athletics (Stockton, A+): 5 IP, 5 H, R, BB, 4 K.
- Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Blue Jays (Lansing, A-): 4 2/3 IP, 4 H, 2 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 5 K.
- Jorge Lopez, RHP, Brewers (Biloxi, AA): 6 IP, 4 H, R (0 ER), BB, 3 K.
- Pierce Johnson, RHP Cubs (Tennessee, AA): 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, BB, 4 K.
- Grant Holmes, RHP, Dodgers (Great Lakes, A-): 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R (2 ER), 2 BB, 6 K.
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