Gabriel Ynoa, RHP, New York Mets (Double-A Binghamton)
After spending time in Double-A to finish off last season, this year represented a chance for Ynoa to show that he could adjust to facing more advanced bats on a consistent basis over the long haul at the level and prove that things were trending in the right direction when it came to sticking as a starter. While the overall arsenal doesn’t have a pitch that screams, it’s a collection of offerings that the 22-year-old mixes and matches and throws for strikes.
Ynoa is consistently around the strike zone and makes opposing hitters earn their way on base. He will have to walk a fine line as he advances because of the nature of his stuff, but so far he’s been passing the test in the Eastern League, and at the very least has earned the chance to show whether he can stick in the role in Triple-A; a major-league arm in some capacity is coming into focus. – Chris Mellen
Bobby Bradley, 1B, Cleveland Indians (Low-A Lake County)
The former third-round pick hit the ground running after signing last year and in the process took the Arizona League by storm. That impressive showing led onlookers to validate that Bradley was indeed advanced with the stick, and also earned the 19-year-old left-handed swinger a placement in the Midwest League for 2015. Standing 6-foot-1 and checking in at a solid 225 pounds, the Mississippi native brings strong power to the diamond. His swing already shows solid leverage through the strike zone and enables Bradley to produce lift and loft when he squares pitches up. Unsurprisingly, the power has manifested out of the gate in game action and offers clues that a potential slugging type can emerge down the line.
The next step for Bradley centers around tightening up his swing, which can be all-or-nothing regardless of the count and circumstances. He has a batting eye and a feel for controlling plate appearances. Much like a young arm with a fastball capable of lighting up the radar gun, the first baseman likes show his power off. As he takes the next step, it will become increasingly important to reel things in a bit. There’s likely always going to be an element of swing-and-miss to his game, but finding the balance between hitting and slugging will be necessary to push his hit tool to a level where his power can consistently play against high-caliber competition. – Chris Mellen
Luis Reyes, RHP, Washington Nationals (Low-A Hagerstown)
A recent Reyes outing showed the inconsistency in his present skill set. He had one of the best starts of his season, and halfway through, a scout who saw him earlier in the year said there was much more movement on his fastball this time out. It was obvious that he needs that movement, and he needs it on a more consistent basis. Reyes' fastball was 90-94 mph, and touched 95, with above-average run that bored pretty well on right-handed batters. He used it to his advantage by commanding the arm side of the plate early. He added a cutter at 89-91 featuring average movement away from right-handers; he placed it fairly well to the glove side. Despite early success in spotting his stuff, Reyes' fastball command is currently below average with the chance to reach average. It wavered as his start progressed: His arm slot varied and he struggled repeating his delivery with fatigue. If he can dispel the durability concerns and maintain the movement on a more consistent basis, the fastball shows above-average potential.
Reyes' curveball flashed deep break with 11-5 movement at 76-80 mph. Like the fastballs, it was stronger early in the game before flattening as Reyes got on the side of it with a lower arm slot late. The early curve often started at the letters before dropping into the zone, resulting in three called strikeouts within a five-batter span between the first and third innings. He'll need to tighten it and improve his command to avoid getting picked up early by upper-level batters. It shows above-average potential, but there's currently a wide gap between the present and potential grades. He threw a few token changeups later in the start at 84-86 with some sink, but it's well below average and doesn't show average potential.
His motion is fairly clean and the arm path is loose and easy, but he can struggle maintaining his three-quarters slot after several innings. His lower half also leaks when that happens. The durability concerns and lack of a true change of pace spell a middle-relief future, but additional command and consistency with movement could tick him up to a back-end starter role. – David Lee
Angel Heredia, RHP, Houston Astros (Low-A Quad Cities)
It’s not pretty, but watching the 5-foot-9, 170-pounder work on the mound is an entertaining time. It’s high-effort everything for the high-waisted righty with a jacked build. Heredia’s delivery features an inverted foot strike and a severe head whack. He produces plus arm speed out of a true three-quarters arm slot with his aggressive throwing motion, and it allows him to work comfortably in the 93-95 mph range in short, one-inning bursts. His fastball has moderate run and bores in on right-handed hitters. Heredia has a multitude of secondary offerings. His breaking ball gets slurvy but it works best when it breaks 11-5 and is operating in the 78-81 velocity band. He throws a firm change and has a split that flashed plus downward movement with moderate depth. All of this is undercut by his mechanics. With all the effort and moving parts, it’s difficult for Heredia to stay on top of his release points; he was all over the place in my viewing. Tthe command doesn’t appear to be good enough to tap into his arm's raw potential. – Mauricio Rubio
Gerrion Grim, OF, Baltimore Orioles (GCL Orioles)
I touched on Grim in this week's notes, but I wanted to expand on his intriguing package of athletic tools. At 21 and still in the GCL, Grim is still an extremely high-risk prospect with a greater-than-average bust rate. Still, compared to other players who fit that same description, he's also got a much higher ceiling and potential room for growth. Grim has two inherent skills that set him apart from most: plus bat speed and a plus arm. That makes him interesting despite his combination of age and level. At present, he's still struggling with how to effectively use the first of those skills, and he'd hardly be the first young player whose lack of bat-to-ball ability derails an otherwise talented package. His struggles at the moment appear to be related to pitch recognition, which gives him a chance for some improvement with experience, though that's where his age plays against him. With a linebacker's build, however, he does offer power potential, which could result in a low-average/low-on-base thumper.
The odds are long for Grim to make it to the majors, but in the non-linear world of player development, he's a good example of a player for who, if it clicks, it could click very loudly. – Jeff Moore
Luis Arraez, 2B, Minnesota Twins (GCL Twins)
In the low levels of the minors, there are a ton of slick-fielding, athletic middle infielders with little to no power. It's not that that's a bad profile, but in order to stand out, a player in this mold has to have something extra. Arraez is doing that thus far, as his something extra is bat control within the strike zone. This is aided by an incredibly short swing path that makes no attempt to drive the ball or hit for any power, but there are plenty of players with similar swings who still swing and miss plenty. Arraez, despite being just 18 and stateside for the first time, makes contact at incredibly consistent rates, and even though he doesn't drive the ball, he does connect solidly. His approach is primarily to hit up the middle and the other way, which limits his power even further.
Arraez is limited to second base and needs to hit .300 to succeed, and average foot speed limits his overall profile further, but his contact skills and barrel control are also rare for an 18-year-old, which gives him a chance to max out that profile. – Jeff Moore
Bryce Denton, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals (GCL Cardinals)
Denton was the Cardinals' second-round selection out of a Tennessee high school this June, but the adjustment to pro ball hasn't been smooth. With a solid frame and good present strength, Denton looks the part, though he's shorter than the prototypical third baseman. He offers above-average bat speed, but his swing can get rotational and his issues with plate coverage are being exploited consistently on the outer half. He's also having issues identifying breaking balls, though that can be common among high school picks during their draft season as they see a better collection of breaking balls than they've ever seen in their life.
In the field, Denton has the arm teams want from their third basemen, but his actions are rough, especially on balls in front of him. He's not overly athletic, which limits his range, though assuming he smooths out his footwork he should be able to handle the position.
Overall, there are some things to like about Denton, mainly the bat speed, frame, and arm, but there's a lot of work to be done. He won't be a fast mover within the system, but if given time, there's potential. – Jeff Moore
Nick Neidert, RHP, Seattle Mariners (AZL Mariners)
There have been some impressive performances in Arizona since the draft, but Neidert has been among the most remarkable, posting a 1.32 ERA with a 20:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the process. The Mariners' second-round pick this June—and their first-overall selection after losing their first pick by signing Nelson Cruz—Neidert works with a fastball that sits 90-93, with the occasional tick up to the mid-90s when he reaches back for more. His most advanced secondary offering is a changeup that offers good deception from his arm speed and three-quarters slot. The curveball also flashes average with good spin, but the depth isn’t consistent yet, and he’ll leave the pitch up in the zone when he doesn’t finish his delivery. He throws all three pitches for strikes, and though the command needs work, he’s generally within the margin of error in terms of location.
Neidert isn’t going to be a top-of-the-rotation arm, but he does have a chance to pitch in the middle of one, and he could move relatively quickly through the Seattle system, particularly compared to other prep arms. – Christopher Crawford
Yeyson Yrizarri, SS, Texas Rangers (Short-season Spokane)
Signed for $1.3 million out of the Dominican Republic two summers ago, Yrizarri’s tools easily justify the price tag. One of the youngest players in the Northwest League, he’s impressed at the plate in his short-season debut, regularly pulling hard line drives and flashing more power than you’d expect from someone of his age and stature. He’s an above-average runner and in the field, he made all of the routine plays in my viewing. He’s not exceptionally quick, but could have enough athleticism to stick at short; should he need to shift down the defensive spectrum, his plus-plus arm will play well at third.
Not surprisingly, Yrizzari is far from a finished product. A free swinger, he’s living on his bat-to-ball skills at the plate right now. As he gets older, he’ll need to learn the strike zone, or better arms are going to pick on his tendency to chase elevated fastballs and breaking balls out of the zone. He makes a lot of weak outs when he tries to hit pitcher’s pitches and when his swing-first mentality lands him in pitcher’s counts. It’ll be interesting to see how his approach and free-swinging tendencies translate to full-season ball in 2016. – Brendan Gawlowski
Brett Kennedy, RHP, San Diego Padres (Short-season Tri-City)
The Bronx is an attitude, a swagger, a lifestyle. It seems that Kennedy, an 11th-rounder out of Fordham, has brought The Bronx to Pasco, Washington. The 6-foot, 200-pound right-hander has been making short work of opposing hitters in the Northwest League with an impressive 32 strikeouts in 25 innings, along with only 16 hits allowed in his 10 appearances (eight starts). Kennedy is attempting to follow in the footsteps of fellow Fordham alum Nick Martinez as an under-the-radar player who quietly puts up numbers with consistency and become another tough-minded pitcher born of that Bronx attitude and swagger. – Colin Young