Franklyn Kilome, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (Low-A Lakewood)
In my first viewing of Kilome in April, he hit 94 early but tanked down into the 89-91 range in the fourth, where he was forced from the game before recording an out. The breaking ball and command weren’t there, but despite everything else he threw some decent changes. The Phillies wisely gave him a couple weeks off after that one, and in his next start, Kilome sat a consistent 91-94, topping out at 97, with much-improved command and a plus-potential curveball. Fast-forward another month to my third look this past Thursday, where Kilome was dominant for two innings, working mostly off a fastball sitting 92-97 that he was able to manipulate well—before the fastball command completely imploded in the fourth and on, just as I was noting how much he’d improved it.
Had I written Kilome—currently our 95th-ranked prospect overall—up in April, it wouldn’t have been pretty. Had he been on a low pitch or batter count in my third look—as many prized prospects now are—I’d probably be using this space to write him up as better than that 95th ranking. But only in looking at the whole picture do you get the full story on Kilome: A maddeningly inconsistent arm with command that comes and goes, flashing all of the individual pieces for number 2 upside, yet less impressive as an overall package than his opposing number on Thursday, Rangers sleeper Erik Swanson, who sat 93-96, touched 98, and showed some feel for a change and slider.
Too often, we evaluate players based on less than ideal info. We have geographic restrictions; I mostly see the Sally and EL because of where I live. We have limited time and resources. For example, given where the Rangers have their affiliates, I likely won’t see Swanson again unless he’s traded or hits the majors. Even at the major-league level, one or two games is often an unrepresentative sample. Imagine writing Julio Urias up only on his disastrous first two major-league starts with poor command, or on the flip side, Jhoulys Chacin based on his recent complete-game masterpiece where he was perfect into the sixth and struck out ten while outdueling Justin Verlander. These are the challenges we sometimes face when we’re talking prospects. —Jarrett Seidler
Angel Perdomo, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Low-A Lansing)
Signed in 2011 out of the Dominican Republic, Perdomo has spent the last four years on Toronto’s rookie ball affiliates. Now 22, and promoted to Low-A Lansing, he has been dominating the Midwest League. Perdomo’s velocity has increased as he’s added muscle to his 6-foot-6 frame, with room for even more growth. He starts with a semi-windup, and shows above-average arm speed from a three-quarters slot. There is also a tendency to fall off towards third base after delivery.
His fastball sits at 90-92 mph, touching 94, with life and arm-side run. He has shown plus command and works low in the zone, generating many swings and misses. As Perdomo continues to develop physically, his fastball has the potential to grade out as above-average. His changeup is his primary off-speed pitch, sitting 80-83 mph with minimal fade but good arm-speed replication. The slider sits 87-89 with very little tilt. Both pitches are works in progress with the changeup showing the most potential.
A tall left-hander with a live arm, Perdomo has the potential to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Blue Jays. The key will be if he can continue to improve the slider and changeup to at least average. Without both secondaries, he could still develop into a key bullpen arm, especially as the fastball gains life. —Nathan Graham
Willson Contreras, C, Chicago Cubs (Triple-A Iowa)
A 24-year-old who has settled in as a catcher, Contreras is an advanced hitter. From a crouched position, Contreras starts his swing with a wide base. He's a balanced hitter, and he uses a high leg kick as a timing mechanism. The stroke itself is level with a bit of loft at the end, though it's not conducive for anything more than average power at maturity. He has an excellent feel for the barrel, thanks in part to a quick bat, strong wrists, and a still head. He tracks pitches well out of the hand, can read spin (although he sometimes can't stop his swing in time), and stay back on off-speed pitches. He knows the strike zone well and is comfortable working deep into at-bats. He did expand the zone a few times in my viewing, chasing one breaking ball in the dirt, and climbing the ladder a couple of times on fastballs, where he appears most vulnerable to chasing a bad pitch. Behind the dish, Contreras blocks well, has a strong arm, and gets out from behind the plate quickly on bunts. Framing is one of the most difficult things to evaluate in a catcher at the ballpark, but it does appear he has room for improvement there. He stays low and keeps his head steady, but he doesn't always "hold" pitches well when he catches them, and often "sweeps" the ball from the strike zone once it's in his mitt. Despite that, he looks every bit like a first-division catcher, a player who will spray doubles and chip in a good OBP on top of solid defense. —Brendan Gawlowski
Josh Van Meter, 3B, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
Listed at just 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, Van Meter is significantly larger than that, with moderate muscle tone in his upper half and a thick trunk. The former fifth-rounder is playing himself back into game shape after missing most of last year following surgery on a gnarly broken left leg courtesy of a now-illegal takeout slide at second. He’s primarily handling the hot corner these days, and while there’s some stiffness in his actions he controls his body well and plays with rhythm. He’s made all of the routine plays across a couple looks at third now, though the first step still lacks explosiveness, limiting his present range. He’s posted home-to-first run times all over the map, but the true-talent of his speed looks to be somewhere in the fringe-average range. His arm strength is borderline for third, with average-at-best velocity and limited carry from the line, but it plays okay at second.
It doesn’t look at first glance like Van Meter’s swing should be all that conducive to consistent contact, but he can swing it pretty good. His setup is wide and relatively quiet, with some early rhythm into a high hand load and extreme bat wrap. He takes an aggressive stride, creating separation and significant torque. There’s some steepness into the zone, but his strong forearms and wrists pair with lightning-quick hips to get the bat head down and through with well above-average bat speed. The arms can get stiff, as he’ll drop the back shoulder and fail to turn over through the zone, leading to some weaker flyball contact and swing-and-miss. But there’s above-average raw power to the pull side, and some patience in the approach and solid pitch recognition gives a good majority of it the chance to play. He’s continued to work out some at the keystone this spring and, depending on whether some additional mobility returns as he gets further removed from the injury, there’s bat-first utility potential here. —Wilson Karaman
Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago Cubs (Low-A South Bend)
At 19 years old, Jimenez stands out—both on the stat sheet, and especially on the field among his Midwest League peers. With broad shoulders and a wide frame at 6-foot-4, Jimenez looks as if he is still growing into his body. The high-profile, 2013 international signee, is, in other words, still getting used to his body, as he barrels down the baseline with caution, or chases a pop fly in left field. Jimenez is athletic for his size, which will likely affect his present fringe-average run times as he gets older. With age, increased coordination and game power should follow. The book is largely out on Jimenez: Sequence him hard in on the hands, and get him low on off-speeds. It is a traditional strategy, but one that has worked in recent games, though you couldn't tell by looking at his gaudy stats.
Here is where Jimenez stands out. He is a gifted hitter with a feel for the barrel such that he gets cheap hits and flares, stymying the logic of the hard in, slow away approach he so often encounters. The swing is long, and Jimenez has a tendency to golf at it, displaying a pronounced loop at times. Jimenez has long levers, featuring a leg kick for timing and an open stance. Early in the count off-speed pitches can get him out in front. The gap and home run power is effortless when he can get his loose arms extended and the barrel around something middle away. Right now the power is more oriented up the middle and opposite field. You might expect more pull-side power, but the hitting mechanics seem to impede Jimenez from turning on inside pitches. Defensively, Jimenez is a left fielder, and someone you stash away there—he is by no means a liability, but I have yet to see his range and instincts truly tested out there. If the hit tool can reach a 4, Jimenez—the owner of an .890 OPS and a .206 ISO despite being 2.6 years younger than league average—could prove to be a tantalizing player at the plate. —Will Siskel
Fernando Romero, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
The 21-year-old Romero was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Twins in 2011. He succumbed to the Tommy John curse during the 2014 season and is just starting to make his way back with three starts under his belt so far in 2016. The results have been promising and give plenty of reason for optimism that the stuff is returning as well.
The right-hander throws from a three-quarters slot with a loose arm action that can get long in the back, and an elbow that can get a bit high at times. He gets through it with above-average arm speed and the ball jumps out of his hand. Romero does get stiff on his landing leg, leading to misses up and in on right-handed batters.
Romero’s fastball started off slow, with a couple 90s, but ramped up quickly, sitting 93-96 and touching 98 with tons of arm-side run. This is a no-doubt 7 pitch that hitters struggled to barrel for most of the outing. As expected, his command at this point is hit and miss, but he did show the ability to locate the fastball to his glove side, which is promising.The slider is Romero’s main strikeout offering, sitting 86-90 with short, late bite in the zone. He showed limited feel for the pitch, mainly throwing it to halves of the plate, but flashed the ability to bury it down on left-handers’ feet for strikeouts. As the feel comes around, this pitch will be plus with explosive movement. Romero didn’t throw many changeups, but flashed proper arm speed and the pitch had fade down in the zone.
It is still early in the road back from TJ but the results from Romero have to give the Twins reason for optimism because the system can always use more power arms that have a chance to stay in the rotation. —James Fisher
Ryan McMahon, 3B, Colorado Rockies (Double-A Hartford)
By no means is Ryan McMahon as talented as Nolan Arenado, but the Rockies seem to have another future major-league regular at the hot corner. Last year, as one of the youngest players in the California League, he destroyed High-A pitching to the tune of 18 home runs and .220 ISO in 556 plate appearance, though he did have 153 strikeouts. His experience in Double-A has not been as smooth thus far, however. In 203 PA with Hartford, he is posting a paltry .124 ISO with a mere two home runs.
Nonetheless, McMahon is a solid all-around prospect with four average or better tools. His swing is built for leverage, which was especially noticeable on May 27th at Portland. Each of his four at-bats resulted in a deep flyout, and the second at-bat below illustrates his ability to drive the ball to the opposite field. Adding additional muscle (and hitting on a warmer night) could possibly transform those outs into homers. The length of his swing and aggressive approach likely limit his hit tool potential to average, but he should make enough contact for his raw plus power to appear in major-league games.
He is also an above-average defender with good instincts and soft hands. In the ninth inning of the same game, he confidently charged a softly hit grounder on the grass and made a strong throw to first in time for the out. McMahon’s speed is clearly his weakest tool, but his stolen base efficiency has vastly improved so far this year (from 6-for-19 in 2015 to 7-for-7 in 2016). While his future may not reside in Colorado, with a few adjustments at the plate, McMahon will have a productive career at a position in high demand. —Erich Rothmann
Tyler Viza, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (High-A Clearwater)
Originally signed as a 32nd-rounder out of an Arizona high school for $160,000, Viza has climbed through the system at a good, if un-noteworthy pace. At 21, he is one of the youngest regular members of any rotation in the FSL, and has been more than holding his own this season. Listed at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, Viza has a large body with room for added strength down the road. He pitches from a full windup and while he tends to drag his glove side down as he begins his arm circle, he is able to repeat his tight, compact delivery. He has fair arm speed with a slight stab, but overall smooth arm action featuring a high-three-quarters slot. His fastball this outing was 89-92, touching 93 with some inconsistent cutting action. Some pitches had above-average movement but he wasn’t able to repeat it consistently, though this could come with more repetition. His go-to pitch was a 79-82 slide piece that proved to be effective, as batters weren’t able to identify the spin. While the pitch has good depth, it lacks the tilt you would like to see on slider and can be left up in the zone. His change was 81-83, and while it was behind the slider, he already has some feel for it, showing the ability to locate to the bottom of the zone. While the changeup lacked movement and consistency, it showed a lot of promise and could be an average offering. When you add it all up, Viza has a potential 55 fastball, 50 slider, and 50 change. He might lack the ceiling of some of his fellow teammates, but he can be a valuable member of somebody’s rotation down the road. —Steve Givarz
Nick Ciuffo, C, Tampa Bay Rays (High-A Charlotte)
Ciuffo is an example of a guy whose stock was down heading into the season. Despite moving up a level every year, the 21-year-old Ciuffo wasn’t showing the progression the Rays expected from the former first-round pick.
While getting off to slow start at the plate, and in a platoon situation with fellow FSL All-Star selection Mac James, Ciuffo has shown progress offensively, hitting .386 over his last 10 games. However, his current slash line of .289/.306/.325 shows an inability to get on base and slug at an effective level. The power that was projected by earlier evaluators has yet to even flash in games. However, there are some positives to take away. I see above-average bat speed with an easy, smooth swing with good, loud contact. The whiff rate is down and I particularly like the way he handles pitches down and in, as he’s been able to consistently produce base hits when pitchers target that location.
Defensively, the plus arm has always been there. He regularly clocked below two seconds and it shows on his caught stealing percentage (19 of 31). Ciuffo takes pride in his craft and it shows with in his work behind the dish. I see plus potential all around on defense. In my two looks, he showed above-average blocking, receiving, and presentation skills. He has been lauded for his work with the pitching staff; Charlotte has the Florida State League’s lowest ERA at 2.70. —Thomas Desmidt
Ruddy Giron, SS, San Diego Padres (Low-A Ft. Wayne)
Once May rolled around people started to be curious about Giron, and the interest only increased as he continued to struggle. On the year he is hitting .180 with an OPS of .492, and this is coming off a year where he hit .285 with an OPS of .742. This has been concerning to many, as Giron is repeating the MWL.
Having seen a decent amount of Giron, I’m not particularly worried. While he is struggling, it’s clear that he’s been the victim of bad luck, and in turn is pressing a bit at the plate, as nothing looks wrong. He has chased down and away often, and has struggled with other aspects as well. His shoulder and hip alignment goes awry far too easily, which forces him to stab at the ball. When he does that he rolls over pitches, or misses completely. His swing is concentrated on line drives with minimal leverage, and while he is able to get the bat on the ball, we’re at the point that his consistency in making contact may be negatively impacting his approach, as he chases bad pitches.
Giron has his issues that he is working on, and it is common for young players to struggle in the low minors. It can be easy to forget that he is still only 19, and working through these issues now is better than riding out a raw approach as far as you can take it. Right now it would look like Giron is destined for another full season in the MWL. While repeating the league might have been a disappointment to open the year, in the long run it is much more important for him to refine his approach, and work on a consistent swing that allows him to maximize his profile regardless of level. —Grant Jones
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