Miguel Diaz, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers (Low-A Wisconsin)
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 for $85,000, Diaz has steadily climbed the developmental ladder and has done nothing but impress. Throwing from a high-three-quarters slot, Diaz uses a slight twist at max leg lift to start his coil. He possesses a lightning-fast arm that gets through a small circle in the back of his motion and gets out front well. At times he will post his front leg which prevents him from finishing with authority.
Diaz’s fastball is electric, sitting 92-95 and touching 97 when needed. In this outing, he started off slowly in the 92-94 range with slightly below-average command to both sides of the plate. Once he started getting in trouble the big-time velocity made its appearance, blowing several hitters away at the top of the zone with 97 mph heaters. It comes out easy and gets on hitters quickly.
The slider is Diaz’s main secondary offering that features 11/5 movement, sitting 75-77 mph. He had a tendency to cast the slider away, but when he stayed on top of the pitch it graded out as solid-average with the ability to locate it to both halves of the plate. The changeup lags behind at this point but there is cause for optimism because the arm speed is starting to even out, and when he throws it with authority the straight change flashes average downward movement, down in the zone.
When you look at his size (5-foot-11, 180 pounds), you want to throw him in the reliever bucket, but that seems like a mistake to me. The arm works well with no glaring issues and the secondary pitches continue to develop. At best Diaz becomes a mid-rotation starter. —James Fisher
Dalton Pompey, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (Triple-A Buffalo)
Triple-A rosters can be weird. The Buffalo Bisons roster, in particular, includes a staggering number of blasts from the prospect past: Domonic Brown, Casey Kotchman, Jesus Montero, Matt Dominguez, Tony Sanchez, Junior Lake, the names keep coming and coming. There’s Drew Hutchison, dominating the International League while waiting for his next shot. And then there’s Dalton Pompey, who is in the arbitrary purgatory of having graduated off prospect lists by the arcane rules of prospect lists before graduating from being a prospect in practice.
The generally agreed upon standard for prospect eligibility, which Baseball Prospectus adheres to, only considers minor leaguers to be “prospects” if they haven’t exhausted their rookie eligibility. (We also don’t rank players on midseason lists who are in the majors at the time of publication.) The playing time limit for position-player rookie eligibility is 130 major league at-bats; there’s also a service time cutoff that doesn’t apply here. Pompey, between his brief trial as a major league regular in April 2015 and September call-up garbage time in both 2014 and 2015, has totaled 133 major-league at-bats. A bit of extrapolation from our top 25-and-under list preseason suggests we’d have ranked Pompey as around the 30th best prospect in baseball, give or take—except we didn’t, because you have to draw these lines somewhere even when they occasionally create weird edge cases like Pompey or Dilson Herrera.
So, going back to our sort-of-but-not-really-a-prospect. Pompey still does all of the Dalton Pompey things you remember from Dalton Pompey, Top 50 Prospect of 2015: Hits, runs, plays defense, has a really cool name. The power hasn’t materialized in-game yet, and it may never come to pass. Because Pompey jumped so quickly up the ladder in 2014, these past two seasons of consolidation in the high-minors don’t ding his stock all that much. He’s still only 23, rounding out his game in Triple-A while all the other prospects past try to revitalize careers gone horribly wrong. And we shouldn’t forget about him just because he won’t show up on our forthcoming midseason top 50 list. —Jarrett Seidler
Christian Arroyo, SS, San Francisco (Double-A Richmond)
In the Giants we trust. They win a championship every other season and develop prospects you have never heard of into major-league contributors. It consequently feels strange to say that their farm system is among the weakest in the league and Arroyo, arguably their top positon prospect, understandably did not make Baseball Prospectus’ top 101 prospects of 2016. That being said, he is clearly a plus hitter. He features a line-drive swing with premium bat speed, which gives him the ability to make consistent hard contact, including gap power to the pull side. Last year, in 409 plate appearances for High-A San Jose, he carried a .304/.344/.459 slash line along with nine home runs, 28 doubles, and a BABIP of .355. In 262 plate appearances with Double-A Richmond thus far, he has a .286/.328/.399 slash line. A slight BABIP regression has contributed to the batting average decrease this season, an indication that the 21-year-old is still adjusting to pitchers with more advanced off-speed offerings, as well as no longer being in the Cal League.
The major “problem” with Arroyo is that his other tools are average at best. He is maxed out physically, so gaining additional power should not be expected. He will never become a stolen base threat. His arm could play at third base, but fringe-to-average range limits his defensive value. The throwing error he committed in the seventh inning in my viewing did not exactly inspire confidence. In order for his hit tool to reach its ceiling, he must improve his approach by demonstrating a greater willingness to walk. During the previously mentioned game, Fisher Cats reliever Chris Smith struck Arroyo out with a heavy dose of sliders, exploiting his aggressive approach. Chasing fewer pitches outside of the strike zone will help prevent weak contact and therefore a more drastic BABIP regression, especially crucial for a player dependent on hitting for a high average. With this adjustment, he would develop into a future regular. His overall profile resembles that of Giants second baseman Joe Panik, a 2015 NL All-Star. —Erich Rothmann
Willi Castro, SS, Cleveland (Low-A Lake County)
Willi Castro is a player that is reflective of a sound organizational approach—one that saw and projected the sketch of a player back in the 2013 signing period, with the tools to stick at shortstop. Castro is not an impact talent, nor does he have an impact ceiling, but in an organization that has Francisco Lindor at shortstop, it’s fair to say the Indians don’t need Castro to be a starting shortstop. At 19 years old, Castro has a wiry, loose build on a 6-foot-1 frame. Castro displays an arm fit for the left side of the infield, grading out as above-average, with good instincts, especially coming in on the ball. At times, he is a little too upright, and would benefit from a more athletic stance. The range and footwork are fine, but will be an area of focus for Castro as he refines his craft at short. The glove-hand transfer was smooth for the most part, with the exception of a couple of plays. He is working on game-to-game consistency in the field, as he is prone to some physical mistakes.
Castro was born in Puerto Rico, but signed out of the D.R. for above $800,000 in 2013. The reports on his makeup are very positive. According to the team, and in my observations, Castro has a professional work ethic that shows in the weight room, in his pre-game preparation, and in interviews. One of six switch-hitters on the Lake County roster, Castro shows a little more raw pop from the left side, which is still below-average, yet impressive for someone of his wiry stature. There is room for physical projection, as Castro’s BP featured a line-drive stroke, with the controlled ability to leave the yard pull-side once. The speed is average, as Castro has medium strides, accelerating out of the box quickly. The in-game approach was more mature than expected, as Castro was able to barrel some guile-and-control starting pitching. His less refined teammates were tied up inside by fringy frisbee sliders and changeups low and outside. Castro is working on his approach, and that effort showed in his pitch selection, which was aggressive at times. The swing features a light toe-tap for timing, and loose hands to go along with average bat speed. An age-advanced player, Castro’s swing path often saw him hit sharp grounders, with the occasional line-drive-lift he displayed in batting practice. As he develops both physically and in his offensive game, I expect Castro to be more of a consistent, line-drive/spray hitter. This a potential low role 4 player for me, who, while lacking an impact profile, can provide solid organizational depth at SS that a lot of teams would value. Again, at 19 years old, the physical projection should complement his game’s overall development nicely. —Will Siskel
Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Triple-A Rochester)
Berrios’ first foray in the big leagues did not go exactly as planned, but he is back to business as usual in the minors. Friday night he sat 93-95, hitting 96 a few times. His fastball located side-to-side well, showing a propensity to be a little off when going up or down in the zone. The late arm-side movement helps with his placement, and he feels comfortable relying on the fastball.
The change has good separation at 83-84, and features nice arm-side fade. He has an advanced feel for his changeup and was confident with it regardless of hitter and count. His curveball is also above-average, and a great pitch to have as a third pitch. He has good spin on it, along with an 11-6 break across the zone. He has shown the ability and confidence to back up the pitch to give it a different look, as well. His arsenal results in a lot of swing and misses from hitters because of his pitchability and confidence.
The mechanics on Berrios are sound: He generates easy velocity and has plus arm speed. He has a thin frame but makes up for it with his athleticism and ability to maintain and repeat. It is only a matter of time until he is back in the big leagues, though the Twins obviously have no reason to rush him, and probably more reason to keep his clock from running given how their season has been going. —Grant Jones
Garrett Stubbs, C, Houston Astros (High-A Lancaster)
I liked the pick when Houston snagged Stubbs as a senior-sign out of USC in the eighth round last summer, as he was a kid who’d caught my eye despite a diminutive build by backstop standards. Having seen him plenty now this spring, I’m not sure it’s the best position for him ultimately, but I am sure that I still dig the athleticism, intelligence, and bat-to-ball. He’s gotten bigger in the last year, but not a ton, and there just isn’t all that much physical projection remaining for his 5-foot-10 frame. The legs have some outsized strength that helps offset some of his durability concerns, but I do wonder about the physical toll of catching a thousand-plus innings over the haul of a full season. The Astros seem mindful of this, and have limited him to 30 games behind the dish thus far, with another 15 occupying the DH slot.
He’s agile behind the plate, moving well to the ground and showing lateral quickness, though his lack of size is a hindrance in smothering balls in the dirt that aren’t right at him. His receiving remains inconsistent, as he lacks the hand strength to hold pitches on the black and present low pitches in particular. His pops are efficient and mechanically sound, registering as low as 1.94 and up to 2.08, with a quick transfer and release helping his average arm strength play up. At the plate his quiet setup and quick trigger get the bat down and on line quickly, helping drive his sound bat-to-ball skills. It’s oftentimes an arms-swing, as his leg lift is short and quick, and he generates little momentum with his lower half. That leaves him hitting uphill, and it drives its fair share of weak fly ball contact. The approach and command of the zone are both advanced, however, and his intelligence as a hitter is evident in his ability to stay on spin and generate all-fields contact from every quadrant. The limited power he does have is all to the pull side, but the hit tool can play to average, and it can play up further with quality on-base skills. He’s also a nominally above-average runner who can read pitchers well and picks his spots to steal the occasional base at a strong clip as well.
The whole package is that of a smart kid with a high baseball IQ, decent offensive skills, and solid quickness and agility. It’s definitely not a traditional catching profile, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him try his hand at second base eventually, or possibly in the outfield as a means to broaden his versatility and potential value to a club down the line. – Wilson Karaman
Shane Bieber, RHP, UC Santa Barbara (And then Cleveland (probably))
Bieber was outstanding in the first game of the College World Series, and while he was out-dueled by Cubs third-round selection Thomas Hatch, it's Bieber who has the best chance of staying in a rotation.
While he isn't a hard-thrower, he does have a tick-above-average fastball that will touch 93, and his 6-foot-3, 195 pound frame suggests there could be more velocity on the way. The slider doesn't have elite depth, but he can locate it for strikes, and there's enough break to call it an average offering. The best pitch here is the change, which has some tumble, can miss bats, and induce weak contact. He throws strikes with all three of his pitches, his delivery is easy on the eyes, and he repeats it well. It wouldn't be surprising if the command ended up being above-average—maybe even plus.
If more velocity comes Bieber could pitch in the middle of a rotation someday, but as is he's a solid backend starting pitching prospect, and he his ability to throw strikes could make him a fast mover. —Chris Crawford
Hunter Wood, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (Double-A Montgomery)
You could make a case that Hunter Wood was a snubbed All-Star this past season. After all he had a similar ERA, WHIP, and H/9 to teammate Brent Honeywell in more starts for Charlotte, en route to being promoted to Double-A. Wood was originally a 23rd-rounder out of Howard College, a prominent junior college in the state of Texas. He has a medium frame and lean body that offers some projection, but I’m not sure how much given how long he has been in pro ball. Pitching out of a full windup, Wood has significant spine tilt in order to alter his body and delivery a high-three-quarters slot with a clean, smooth, deep arm action that has fair arm speed. He does have trouble repeating his delivery and tends to fall off towards first base in his follow-through. His fastball sat 90-93 while touching 94, it featured some sink in the bottom half of the zone, but tended to be hittable in the zone when the pitch was left up. His go-to breaking ball is a big 12/6 curveball with large depth and downer action at 70-74. The pitch shows an early hump, but has impressive depth and action at times, although inconsistent in break and in control. His other offspeed offering was a 82-85 mph slider, it featured short cut-action, at its best it had fair bite with some depth, but was inconsistent and did not feel comfortable with the pitch. Given Wood’s inconsistency with his delivery and arsenal I think he projects more as a reliever where his arsenal will play up in shorter spurts. —Steve Givarz
Joe Musgrove, RHP, Houston Astros (Triple-A Fresno)
A first-round pick out of high school in 2011, Musgrove has battled through injuries, never pitching in more than 19 games in a season. He’s up to 12 this year though, and after dominating the Texas League, the right-hander could emerge as a significant piece in Houston’s summer playoff push.
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, Musgrove has an unusually smooth delivery for a man his size. He’s a good athlete, and his posture, clean arm action, still head, and naturally flowing delivery out of a three-quarters arm-slot help him stay balanced on the mound. He comfortably works the ball around the zone with all of his pitches: He has excellent command and he’s posted one of the lowest walk rates (non-David Rollins division) you’ll see in the minor leagues. Musgrove has allowed only eight free passes in 60 innings this season, and he has a 1.1 BB/9 ratio throughout his career.
Musgrove isn’t just throwing sinkers over the heart of the plate either. He pitches off the fastball, which sits 92-93 with good tail, and some sink he when he locates low. His best offspeed pitch is a sharp, two-plane curve thrown hard enough to avoid the dreaded “slurvy” tag. He throws the pitch for strikes, and can also get hitters to chase the low-80s pitch out of the zone. He also has a slider, which sits in the upper 80s and often looks more like a cutter, with predominantly horizontal (and occasionally vertical) movement. Rounding out his arsenal is a changeup that flashes plus with sinking and fading action. He’s likes using it as a chase pitch, and he’s comfortable throwing it to both lefties and righties.
If I had a criticism from his outing on Friday, it was that his stuff noticeably worsened as the game progressed. He lost a couple ticks on his fastball after the third inning, and he was punished for leaving his offspeed pitches up in the zone, including a fish of a changeup that Tyler Smith smacked out to left for a homer. Still, Musgrove was impressive. He had four pitches that were average or better, and with his best command, he’ll miss bats without conceding many walks. There are injury concerns baked into his profile, but it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see him pitch in the middle of a big league rotation, perhaps as early as late in 2016. —Brendan Gawlowski
Andrew Stevenson, OF, Washington Nationals (High-A Carolina)
Stevenson was Washington’s first pick in 2015, and he’s been performing well through a fairly advanced assignment in his first full professional season. An athletic, wiry 6-foot, 180 pounds, he’s a double-plus runner with effortless glide on both sides of the ball. He’s a quality defender in the outfield with impressive range, and has racked up 25 steals in just over 60 games played this season. Scouts bought the speed and defense coming out of LSU, but there was more hesitation as to whether Stevenson would hit enough to be a regular. He’s a narrow-framed guy who offers little in the way of power, and showed some trouble adjusting to off-speed pitches in college. So far in 2016, he’s doing his best to put questions about his bat to rest: A .293 batting average through the season’s first half, while limiting strikeouts and showing at least some ability to drive the ball to the gaps. He’ll have to continue to prove that his contact/speed-based offensive game translates to higher levels enough for everyday at-bats, but the best-case ceiling is a regular in centerfield—perhaps profiling as a true leadoff hitter who sets the table for the middle of a lineup. If the bat winds up being too light for a regular’s profile, his no-doubt plus speed and range still could provide utility in a reserve role. —Adam McInturff