Hitter of the Day: Alex Verdugo, OF, Dodgers (Rancho Cucamunga, A+): 3-3, 3 R, 3 2B, BB
Verdugo got off to a slow start in his first full season, but last year’s second-round pick rebounded nicely after hitting just .213 over the first two months to earn himself a late-season promotion to the California League. He’s aggressive at the plate, but the approach doesn’t lead to excessive swings and misses, which is a testament to his raw hitting ability. The power hasn’t kicked in yet, but as with so many young hitters, that can be the last tool to develop, so it’s far too early to worry about that yet.
Pitcher of the Day: Francis Martes, RHP, Astros (Corpus Christi, AA): 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K
It’s hard to believe that just last summer, Martes was struggling on the Marlins GCL team. It’s even harder to believe given his pure stuff. That’s what the Astros were taking a chance on when they traded for him last year, but even they couldn’t have envisioned a scenario where he was turning in dominating performances in Double-A like he did on Wednesday night. There will be adjustments ahead of him for sure, and development in his consistency from start to start will be the key, but what 19-year-old doesn’t have those problems? What most don’t have are two potential plus-plus pitches, and that sets Marte above the rest.
Best of the Rest
Richard Urena, SS, Blue Jays (Lansing, A-): 2-5, R, HR. Winding down a long up-and-down season can be difficult for a young player, but Urena is ending his year on a high note. Wednesday’s performance makes it 11 hits in his last five games, with some extra-base knocks mixed in. He’ll need to show some pop eventually, because he might have to move off of shortstop if he fills out his frame much more.
Raimel Tapia, OF, Rockies (Modesto, A+): 2-3, R, HR, K. Tapia is a polarizing prospect, though both those highest and lowest on him seem to see the same things. The question is just how they will work against better competition. Tapia is supremely talented at putting the barrel of the bat on a moving baseball, which is the key to hitting that you can’t teach and what gives him a head start on the majority of minor-league hitters. He swings at everything and lacks a plan at the plate, which becomes more concerning with each progressing season but hasn’t slowed him down yet. He’s also destined for a corner-outfield spot but has yet to grow into his power potential. There’s a lot to love about Tapia, but he’ll remain a volatile prospect among those debating him.
Akeel Morris, RHP, Mets (Binghamton, AA): 1 IP, 3 K. Relievers don’t typically make the Update, but Morris has been very good lately and you literally can’t pitch a better inning than he did last night, so it seems like a good time to discuss him. One ugly major-league appearance aside (which was the result of a desperate Mets bullpen and a 40-man-roster crunch), Morris has had a strong season. He dominated the Florida State League before the promotion, and has handled Double-A successfully since. Morris comes at hitters with good-but-not-elite velocity that plays up because of deception in his delivery. That deception makes his changeup even more effective, with the feeling that he’s trying to throw everything as hard as he can but a huge differential between his fastball and off-speed pitch. It’s a no-doubt relief profile, but it’s one that could work against lefties or righties.
Mallex Smith, OF, Braves (Gwinnett, AAA): 2-5, 2 R, 3 BB, K, 2 SB, CS (DH). Smith can be electric, and unlike many powerless hitters, he also manages to get on base without swinging, which gives him a chance to be an effective hitter even if he doesn’t hit .300. That said, he will still need his hit tool to reach its ceiling in order for him to be an everyday player. He’s a strong defender in center field and will bring significant base-running value as well, which lowers the bar for his offensive requirement considerably, but he’ll have to prove he can get on base consistently against major-league pitching.
Notable Prospect Pitchers
- Dillon Tate, RHP, Rangers (Hickory, A-): 2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, K.
- Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals (NW Arkansas, AA): 3 2/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 2 K.
- Grant Holmes, RHP, Dodgers (Great Lakes, A-): 4 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 K.
- Erick Fedde, RHP, Nationals (Hagerstown, A-): 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 2 K.
- Franklyn Kilome, RHP, Phillies (Williamsport, SS): 2 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 BB, K.