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.
Pitcher of the Day: Anderson Espinoza, RHP, Red Sox (GCL Red Sox): 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K. Strike-throwing and bat-missing success in the Gulf Coast League is always an impressive feat, but it becomes something else when it’s done by a 17-year-old. Any 17-year-old having success is noteworthy, but one doing so in pro ball is something else altogether. With a mid-90’s fastball, he’s already ahead of the majority of pitchers his age. With a feel for multiple secondary pitches, he’s ahead of almost all of them. There’s still a ton of developmental time left in front of Espinoza, but he’s more than just a product of success versus age and level.
Best of the Rest
J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies (Reading, AA): 3-5, 2 R, 3B. Despite the impressive additions to the Phillies farm system in the past months, no one has even hinted at anyone surpassing Crawford as the top prospect in the system. Not that leading a system is a designation in the actual baseball world (as compared to the rankings-based one in which we discuss them), but the fact that the organization’s recent influx has left him unchallenged for top billing highlights Crawford’s talent level. Despite still getting his feet wet in Double-A, Crawford is remarkably polished and has only incremental developmental steps left to take in the minors. His refinement is incredible for a prospect of his age, and it shows in his production. He could likely hold his own in the majors right now, but much more than that is expected of him as the centerpiece of the Phillies’ future. Another few months in the minors could be huge for his development, as he completes his ascent into the middle of the Phillies ever approaching present.
Austin Meadows, OF, Pirates (Bradenton, A+): 3-5, R. Meadows gets overlooked because his skillset doesn’t scream elite tools, but his pure hit tool is among the best in the minors, especially when the likelihood of reaching its potential is factored in. He may not flash the raw ability of a player like Williams, but his barrel control skills and propensity for finding the barrel are almost as good and his approach and strike zone control are remarkably better, giving his skill set a better chance of reaching their in-game potential. His in-game power doesn’t match his raw skills because of his contact-oriented approach, but he’s got enough to keep pitchers honest and it works as long as he’s hitting for average. As an up-the-middle player, which is another area in which he gets sold short, his average-for-power concession is perfectly acceptable.
Jake Bauers, 1B, Rays (Montgomery, AA): 2-4, 2 R, 2 2B, K. If there’s a bigger under-the-radar story in the minors than Bauers’ hitting .280 in Double-A as a teenager during the second half of this season, then I don’t know what it is. Bauers was the most impressive first baseman in the Florida State League during the first half, and no one would have batted an eye to see him finish off the season in Port Charlotte. But the typically methodical Rays pushed him forward anyway, and their off-season acquisition has proven himself up to the task. With a shortage of first base prospects in most rankings, Bauers should be in the discussion among the best in the game.
Brendan Rodgers, SS, Rockies (Grand Junction, R): 2-4, 2 R, 2B, HR, K. The adjustment to professional baseball is difficult for any prep draftee, something we discussed in depth on the latest edition of Raw Projection. Rodgers hasn’t been eased into things on the Rockies’ complex, and even though he’s in short-season ball, the step up in competition is massive compared to even the most elite travel ball pitchers he saw this past fall and spring. It’s a testament to his ability level that he’s not just holding his own in short-season ball but showing some power potential.
Notable Prospect Starters
- Jarlin Garcia, LHP, Marlins (Jacksonville, AA): 3 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 3 BB, 2 K.
- Amir Garrett, LHP, Reds (Daytona, A+): 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 6 K.
- Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Rockies (New Britain, AA): 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, BB, 3 K.
- Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Blue Jays (Dunedin, A+): 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K.
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