Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox (High-A Salem)
Devers is young for the Carolina League, and he’s taken some lumps as a 19-year-old against much older competition. His frame, raw power, and arm-strength give him the raw ingredients of a quality corner infielder, though there’s plenty of projection required to see him as one. A left-handed hitter, his lightning-quick bat-speed can’t be taught, and with the strength in his frame, he has plenty of raw power when he squares his pitch. How much he will get to his power—and whether he’ll maintain the mobility to stick at the hot corner—are the two largest questions regarding Devers’ future. He swings aggressively, but relatively speaking his total strikeout numbers aren’t particularly high. That said, scouts see more holes in his present pure hitting ability than the stat-line shows, especially against the type of quality left-handed pitching he’ll see at higher levels. Defensively, Devers has a very strong arm across the infield, though he holds a 6-foot, (generously listed) 200-pound frame with thickness in his lower half, which takes away from his lateral agility. Some evaluators have felt that he profiles more safely at first base.
On the right night, he’ll show scouts tantalizing bat-speed and easy raw left-handed power. On the next, he looks like a batting practice hero without the hit tool to produce enough power to play every day if he moves to first. There’s no reason to panic at his sub-.700 OPS as a teenager taking his first crack at the Carolina League, though the projections about his big-league ETA before this season might be a little aggressive. Boston will be patient with the young, talented Devers, hoping his loud tools come together enough for a solid-regular at third base. —Adam McInturff
Jairo Beras, RF, Texas Rangers (High-A High Desert)
Beras’ body is about as unique as his signing story, and his 6-foot-6 frame can handle plenty of additional weight. It’s not a build that will max out with bulky muscle, but the wiry athleticism that the Rangers crave is there in spades. He has limbs for days, and it looks a bit like he’s holding a little kid’s wiffle ball bat in his hands when he strides to the dish. He’s certainly not the most fluid player on the field, though he does show notable baseline ability to corral his gangle into coordinated movement. Even since my last look in late April he’s made some progress in streamlining his swing, and it has tightened up considerably since Ryan Parker wrote him up two-plus years ago on this very site. The load is quieter now, with less of a bat wrap and a more direct angle into the zone at trigger. His hand and wrist strength is elite, and combined with quick hips and extreme leverage to the pull side we very well may be looking at double-plus raw power once he’s physically mature.
Whether he gets to that power in games is very much an open question. The pitch recognition has been poor in both of my looks, and those quick hips often abandon his shoulders early against spin, causing him to get steep into the zone and compromising his barrel delivery. He’s extremely aggressive in expanding his zone, and if the hit tool is to evolve even into 40 range it’s going to require a lot of adjustment to the approach. He’s got a slow start-up out of the box and on contact when he’s in the outfield, and it takes him a hot minute to get up into fringe-average range with his speed. His strides are long and gliding in the outfield, though his reads have shown raw in a couple chances and he hasn’t yet learned how to decelerate and get the ball in quickly. He took at least a half-dozen steps after retrieving a ball in the gap yesterday to settle himself, turn, and fire a ball back in, and the deliberate pace cost his team an extra base and run. The arm strength is already above-average, and should get to plus as he grows.
The raw ingredients that compelled the Rangers to dump seven figures in his lap are evident, but the puzzle pieces remain strewn all over the floor, and extreme patience will need to be a virtue in his development. —Wilson Karaman
Adam Ravenelle, RHP, Detroit Tigers (Double-A Erie)
A fourth-round pick of the Tigers in 2014, Ravenelle battled nagging injuries during his first full season at West Michigan in 2015. When healthy, particularly in the Arizona Fall League, Ravenelle flashed impressive raw stuff that matured and has shown consistently in 2016. Working from a long, lean body and offering excellent athleticism, Ravenelle has added considerable strength/muscle in his lower half since draft day. He uses his added strength well in his delivery, generating good drive to the plate and pairing with his lightning quick arm to generate tremendous velocity. In both looks I've had this season, including over the weekend, Ravenelle has sat 96-97 with arm-side life that helps his fastball play up. In my most recent viewing, Ravenelle reached back for several 98s and 99s when he needed a little extra. Control and command of the fastball are still developing, largely because Ravenelle has some inconsistency in his delivery, leaving him prone to losing the strike zone.
Working off the fastball, Ravenelle has improved his tight slider, frequently firing it as a plus offering that sits in the 88-90 mph range. The best sliders Ravenelle threw over the weekend were thrown ahead in the count after pounding fastballs, and were thrown with confidence and good arm speed. When he executed the pitch well it held a fastball disguise, darting sharply at the last second to miss bats or induce weak contact. Despite the electric two-pitch arsenal, Ravenelle currently projects to a seventh-inning role because of his inconsistent control. If his athleticism takes over and he gains more experience to iron out his game, he could improve his control and command enough to profile as a dominating setup reliever. He's a longshot to help the Tigers' bullpen in any significant capacity this season, but he should be ready to contribute next summer. —Mark Anderson
Phil Maton, RHP, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
After posting a 19-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Low-A Fort Wayne, Maton has received the promotion to gorgeous vacation destination Lake Elsinore, and in a (terribly) small sample size, he's been impressive, giving up just one run in his six games and striking out six.
Maton's fastball is plus; not so much because of his velocity as he only touches 94 mph, but because there's so much life on the pitch. His best pitch is his cutter, a pitch that bares into the hands of left-handers and has slider-like depth as well. He'll also mix in an average curveball, a pitch that doesn't have elite break but has enough spin and depth to keep hitters from sitting on those pitches. There's also reports of a show-me change that I guess he won't show to too many hitters at the big-league level. He pounds the strike zone with all of his pitches, and while the control is ahead of the command, the latter is good enough to earn an above-average grade.
Because there's "four" pitches here and the ability to throw strikes, there's at least a chance Meton could be a starter. Considering he's already 23 and the change hasn't made any progression, the bullpen is the more likely landing spot, and he could help the Padres bullpen at some point in 2017. —Christopher Crawford
Shedric Long, 2B, Cincinnati Reds (Low-A Dayton)
Long has a short, athletic build with a strong lower half. Originally drafted as a high school catcher out of Jacksonville, Alabama he seems to now have found a home at second base. Everything about Long’s game is raw but there is plenty of potential for development.
There is some noise in the swing and it can be a little long, but strength and natural quickness through the zone is evident. This year he is beginning to realize some of his power potential as he grows into his body and develops more muscle. He still struggles to recognize off-speed pitches at times but has shown the ability to be selective and take a walk.
Long’s strength is raw speed, showing sub 4.0 down the line on several occasions. He is also improving as a base stealer and could become a threat as he learns to read the pitcher. The glove is currently average but could greatly improve as he becomes more accustomed to the position. He also displays a slightly above-average arm.
The potential is there for Long to become a valuable utility player at the major-league level, but only if the hit tool develops. If it doesn’t, he probably has reached his ceiling. —Nathan Graham
Kyle Lewis, OF, Seattle Mariners (Short-Season Everett)
It’s not hard to pick out Lewis on a short-season field, given that he looks more like a football player than a minor leaguer. While he looks comfortable in center at the moment, Lewis doesn’t possess the type of speed that will allow him to avoid a corner spot at the next level. At the plate, the most noticeable thing was that he appeared to be fighting his well-known leg kick, alternating it with a significantly smaller move where he got his foot down early with a toe tap. He sets some good angle with his upper body, but his lower-half mechanics are inefficient, as he stays closed with his hips rather than allowing them to lead the swing. It’s been a rocky start to his professional career, and he might have been pressing a bit in this viewing, as he was aggressive early in the count, going after sub-par pitches. An obviously gifted hitter, I expect him to snap out of this slow start rather quickly. —Derek Florko
Nick Williams, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley)
I’ve seen Williams at all four full-season minor league levels, and each year of his career tells a piece of his story. In 2013, he was on the legendarily loaded Low-A Hickory team, a quality prospect but something of a face in the crowd amongst highly-touted international signings Nomar Mazara, Ronald Guzman, and Jorge Alfaro, and first-round draft picks Lewis Brinson and Joey Gallo. Williams—showing loud hitting tools but not much polish—made our top 101 at the end of that season, but wasn’t even the biggest breakout prospect, as C.J. (now Carl) Edwards jumped from an off-the-radar 48th-rounder to 81st on the same top 101. The next season saw Williams continue on with the bulk of the 2013 Hickory class to High-A Myrtle Beach. I ventured down to Wilmington for a look, and while Gallo and Alfaro showed major progress season-to-season, it was more of the same from Williams—a lot of natural hitting ability, a lot of athleticism, not much of a plan at the plate, not much in the way of polish in the field or on the basepaths. Like many, I didn’t think he had a real great chance of putting it together.
By the time I saw Williams next, late in the 2015 season for Double-A Reading, he’d already put a lot of it together. Colin Young and Kate Morrison noted several times during his stint in Double-A Frisco that Williams’ selectivity and approach had vastly improved. With his stock rising, he was dealt to Philadelphia as one of the headliners in the Cole Hamels trade. After seeing it in person, I agreed with Young and Morrison; the quality of his at-bats was starkly improved, and typically that’s something that goes the other way at Double-A.
This season in Triple-A, Williams has kept on chugging along. His teammate J.P. Crawford is the higher-ranked prospect, and rightly so, but Williams is outperforming Crawford and might beat him to The Show. Improvements in his first step make center only a bit of a stretch at present, but I believe his future is ultimately in left due to a below-average arm. As long as his improved approach holds up in the majors, Williams will soon make hits rain down all over the National League. —Jarrett Seidler
Alex Jackson, OF, Seattle Mariners (Low-A Clinton)
Drafted sixth-overall in 2014, Jackson has had a tumultuous start to his pro career and the early returns are not promising, though he is still young for the Midwest League. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Jackson has strength throughout his frame with a thick torso and legs that leave little room for projection. He will need to stay on top of his conditioning going forward.
The bat was his calling card as an amateur, showing plus raw power with bat speed and while that hasn't disappeared, the swing and miss that was a concern then has become more pronounced. Hitting from a slightly open stance with his hands at his shoulder, the swing starts with a mild hand drift towards the catcher and the bat gets uphill quickly, leaving little time for the barrel to stay in the zone. While the power is plus, he will struggle to reach it in games because the lack of contact just doesn't allow him to. Defensively, Jackson is limited to a corner outfield spot or possibly first base because the mobility just isn't there. He's a well below-average runner with heavy feet. The arm does play plus, with online carry through the bag and he isn't afraid to show it off.
In the end, the Mariners may have a player whose best position is the batter’s box ,but the bat-to-ball ability just isn't good enough to carry him to the big leagues. —James Fisher
Merandy Gonzalez, RHP, New York Mets (Short-Season Brooklyn)
Gonzalez is another in a long line of polished IFA arms that the Mets have rolled out in Brooklyn rotations over recent years. His 20-year-old frame is already close to maxed out. He's listed at 6-foot-1, which looked about right, and it's a square, stocky body. He wrings a lot out of it though. Gonzalez's fastball was 91-96 out of a compact, quick arm action. He gets a bit of plane on the four-seamer at 93-95, but utilized a low-90s two-seamer a lot to give a different look to the fastball. When he wanted to he could elevate 95-96 and beat guys with it. He held 93-94 deep into his outing, and his last pitch of the night was 96 up for a strikeout to get out of a jam.
Gonzalez also used a curveball at 78-84 that was way too much for hitters in the Penn League. He'd fall in love with it at times, at one point running a 3-0 count with three straight breakers, but even when it flattened out or he left it up, he would miss bats with it due to the tight, late break on the pitch. The arm action could be inconsistent, as he'd slow it and guide the pitch at the lower end of the velo band when he wanted to bury it. But the best ones flashed plus. He can backdoor or backfoot it to lefties, and play with the shape/velocity. It is one of the better breaking balls I have seen at this level and is a potential future plus offering with further refinement.
He threw it a lot in part because the change is very, very rough at present. The three I was sure were changeups came in at 83, 86, and 88 respectively, which tells you a lot. It's very firm, and is functionally just a slower fastball for him. It's easy to throw a bullpen projection on Gonzalez as a shorter Dominican righty without a third pitch…and that's what I am going to do. It's an exciting arm though, and there is more than enough stuff here to keep him a starter through at least Double-A. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Tanner Rainey, RHP, Cincinnati Reds (Low-A Dayton)
Rainey was a two-way player out of West Alabama last year, and has been on the mound exclusively since signing. On Sunday, he showed very quickly why he was picked as a pitcher, with a fastball reaching as high as 99, while sitting comfortably in the mid 90s. He also features an above-average slider that comes in at 87-89 with sharp tilt.
The two pitches complement each other well, but Rainey has struggled with his changeup because as a reliever in college he did not need a third pitch. He only threw two changes on Sunday, coming in at 84-85 with tumble. As it stands currently, it is brutally lagging compared to his other pitches but with time and reps it will improve. He repeated his delivery well, and showed little effort for someone throwing as hard as he was. His body has a starter’s build at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, which bodes well for his mission to start. No one doubts Rainey has the durability to start once stretched out, or that his fastball and slider aren’t big-league quality, but rather it is all about what the changeup will do. It was interesting to see he wasn’t on a mandate to throw it more often, but moving forward I would expect to see that change, as he hopefully becomes more comfortable with the pitch. —Grant Jones
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