Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes)
If there was ever an outing to see Alvarez, his start in Lansing on Tuesday was the one to be at. Over five innings he allowed no hits, while dominating opposing hitters. Some claimed he hit 100+ mph multiple times, though the guns behind the plate showed 99s with 100 once, to boot. His fastball, in addition to his extraordinary velocity, was easy out of his hand displaying the easiest velocity I have seen all year. Most of the night he was mid-90s and up with average command, showing the ability to hit his spots. His curveball was in the low 80s, and he had great confidence in the pitch. It had tight spin, as well as the ability to show a deeper shape for strikes, or tighten up for sharper break out of the zone for swings and misses. His mixed in a low-80s changeup sparingly and it lags behind the others, as you might expect, though it did feature some tumble. As mentioned earlier, Alvarez has an easy delivery with a live arm, and a staggered motion as he rocks, stops, has a leg lift and reaches back with a longer natural path to slot. He will occasionally come off line towards first base, but it isn’t of much concern. His athleticism also shows, and is always a plus for pitchers. —Grant Jones
Bryan Reynolds, CF, San Francisco Giants (Short-season Salem-Keizer)
Sometimes it’s the little things you remember about a player. In the first game I watched Reynolds, he had an at-bat against side-arming righty Michael Koval. Koval gets plus movement on his fastball, and against Reynolds, he threw a hard heater down and in that started off the plate and tailed back over the inside corner. Some hitters would have jumped back, most would have taken it for a strike, but Reynolds hung in, pulled his wrists through and lined the ball hard to right. In the box score, the play reads as a routine F-9. But there aren’t many hitters in this league who could have made contact on that pitch, much less get the barrel on it and pull a line drive.
Reynolds is on the short list for best athlete and best prospect in the Northwest League this summer. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he has major-league size, with big forearms and a filled out frame. He swings hard and should have average power in games from both sides of the plate down the line. If there’s a weakness in his game, it’s the swing and miss: he’s struck out in a quarter of his plate appearances thus far, and with a leveraged swing and a pronounced head yank, he’s never going to be a high average hitter. Defensively, he’s a center fielder for now, and in my look he read the ball well off the bat and got quick jumps on the ball when he had to chase something down. As an average or slightly below average runner though, he may profile best in a corner down the line, particularly in a large ballpark like San Francisco’s.
Reynolds ultimately projects as an average regular, perhaps a tick more if he can stay in center. To get there though, he’ll have to make contact more consistently. The Northwest League doesn’t have the best collection of arms in the minors, and it’s a little concerning that he’s struck out so often against middling stuff. The Giants will likely put him on the Chris Shaw/Steven Duggar path and send him out to High-A to begin next year: that’s not a terribly aggressive assignment for most players with his pedigree, but it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the pitching at that level. —Brendan Gawlowski
C.J. Chatham, SS, Boston Red Sox (Short-Season Lowell)
The Red Sox selected Chatham in the second round of this year’s draft out of Florida Atlantic. One of the best shortstop prospects in the draft class, a broken thumb delayed his professional debut. His height (6-foot-4) immediately stands out as well above-average for his position and he should gain additional muscle as he continues to mature. He possesses plus potential as a defender with a plus arm, solid range, and impressive athleticism. I expect him to remain at shortstop, but his arm is strong enough for third base if necessary. The diving play he made to initiate a crucial double play in the sixth inning of the August 3rd game against Vermont exemplifies his ability. Chatham will likely steal bases infrequently.
The development of his bat will determine his career trajectory. His good hand-eye coordination helps him make consistent contact and he can add power (presently grades as fringe) due to his projectable frame and leveraged swing. However, during my viewings of him, the 21-year-old’s bat speed looked only average and he generated too much weak contact. Despite his early struggles to adjust to minor-league pitching, his approach at the plate drastically improved over the course of his three years at Florida Atlantic. Chatham’s career will almost certainly more closely resemble Deven Marrero’s than Xander Bogaerts’, yet if his approach progresses further and he succeeds in developing more power, he will reach his ceiling as a second-division major league starter. —Erich Rothmann
Jose Almonte, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Low-A Kane County)
Almonte was part of the package the Red Sox sent over in exchange for Brad Ziegler. He's enjoyed a measure of success at Kane County spinning 40 quality innings while flashing some major-league qualities. Almonte has a slender upper body and a well-developed lower half. He uses a high-slot delivery with a short stride and lands a little stiff on the front foot. The stiff landing and short stride lead to some balance issues through his delivery which in turn creates command issues. Almonte's fastball sits in the 90-93 velocity band and it has natural cutting action. He can reach back and touch 96 but the offering flattens out at that velocity. Almonte has a curveball with 11-5 shape that typically sits 75-77. The offering shows bite and is an effective out-pitch. It can also lose its shape and become slurvy. He also showed a slider at 80 mph but it had short, 10-4 action and is behind his curve. Almonte's change works in 80-83 range and it flashes sinking, fading action but when he loses feel for the pitch it becomes a short offering. Overall Almonte has some of the qualities of a major-league arm but the mechanics are a red flag in terms of command development and his future likely lands him in low-leverage pen role due to his command. —Mauricio Rubio
Ruddy Giron, SS, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
Recovering from a rough start to the season, Giron has trended upward in the second half, recently replacing Javier Guerra in High-A Lake Elsinore, who was placed on the DL. This promotion acts as both a taste of what Giron will have to adjust to in High-A going forward, as well as the logistics of being the next man up, which would have seemed improbable a few months ago given his struggles at the plate.
Giron will never be the celebrated defensive shortstop that Guerra is, but at present will likely provide Lake Elsinore with better plate appearances. At 19, Giron is hit over power, though his bat is not devoid of power. He has a muscular frame with a squat build, but a longer torso. The swing is compact and powerful, with an abbreviated toe touch for timing. While Giron has showed some barrel control and good timing, he struggles with spin recognition. It’s not a hyper-aggressive approach, but he tends to fall susceptible to spin later in the count, and struggles to adjust later in games. The bat speed is there, though, with a level swing plane and the ability to spray the ball up the middle and to the opposite field. His hands start just above his collarbone with some noise, but he evens out and keeps them still when timing.
In the field, Giron features solid hand-to-glove transfers and an above-average arm. He can pick it just fine on a short hop, but has some trouble going to his left up the middle. There are some instinctual questions, as he made a curious cut off on a relay throw in a viewing, but he is engaged and displays leadership skills. His range and feel do strike me as long-term concerns with the shortstop profile going forward. Giron’s tools and overall profile do not suggest impact major-league talent, but he is a nice depth piece at 19 who needs to tighten up his strike zone to let his all fields, sharp-line drive contact play more often. —Will Siskel
Taylor Clarke, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Double-A Mobile)
Clarke started the year in the Midwest League as an advanced arm with deceptive stuff, good command, and a feel for pitching. Naturally he shredded the league and has been on an aggressive promotion path since. He now finds himself in Double-A where he is finally running into a challenge. Clarke attacks hitters with a 90-92 mph fastball, showing the ability to locate the offering east and west on both lefties and righties. The velocity isn't anything special but his command of the offering paired with his willingness to attack hitters with it allows for plus projection. He shows feel for an average curveball as well, and his changeup can get to average. Clarke uses his curve in the lower quadrant of the zone and he varies the shape from 11-5 to 12-6. Clarke's change shows deception and average action with some drop, so it will be a useful offering at the major league level. —Mauricio Rubio
Omar Estevez, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes)
The Dodgers spent big to pluck prospects off the island of Cuba last year with Yusniel Diaz being the big ticket purchase, signing for $15.5 million. Also signed for “only” $6 million was 17-year-old second baseman, Omar Estevez. Now in his first pro season, playing against players averaging three years older in the Midwest League, Estevez is quietly putting together a solid season.
Power has been the most impressive aspect of Estevez’s game this year. He currently has nine home runs and is in the top-ten in the league with 29 doubles. Above-average bat speed and a swing path that gets leverage allows for plus power to all fields. The hit tool has potential to become above-average. The swing starts with high hands and a moderate leg kick. There currently is a lot of swing-and-miss in his game due to his aggressive nature at the plate and a bat wrap that causes length in the swing.
Estevez has spent time at both middle infield positions this year, but appears to be a more natural fit at the keystone, showing average range. The arm is average in strength but is accurate, and he has a quick release. Raw speed is a slightly above-average, with a 4.23 time recorded from home to first.
All of this adds up to a very young player with a high floor. The height of his ceiling will be determined by if he can become an average defender at the more premium shortstop position. If the defense can develop, look for Estevez to move up quickly in the organization. —Nathan Graham
Michael Cederoth, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
Drafted out of San Diego State in the third round in 2014, Cederoth has spent the last two years in Cedar Rapids. Minnesota had ideas of him starting, giving him six starts in 2015 before moving him to the bullpen full-time in 2016. Although the reliever profile in Low-A doesn’t give much hope, Cederoth does deserve some attention due to his delivery and stuff.
Cederoth’s delivery features plenty of funk with an extreme over-the-top arm angle and spine tilt to accompany that slot. In the back there is a hard stab and pause. Out front he strides closed and a little short in an effort to increase the downward plane and sink. All told, this package doesn’t give much hope in the way of command but he throws enough strikes at present to make it work. The fastball sits 89-92 and touches some 94s with more plane than actual life. Due to his over the top delivery, misses with the fastball are usually up in the zone and are hit hard. In the two appearances I caught this year, one of them he kept the fastball down in the zone and was effective, while the other he left everything up and was hammered. He refers to his breaking ball as a slider but in reality it is a curveball with 12/6 shape and some depth to it. It is his main strikeout offering and he has the ability to locate the pitch in the zone or bury it down in the dirt. The changeup doesn’t feature prominently in his arsenal at this point, but he shows some feel for the pitch and when he throws it with authority, it flashes fade.
Cederoth’s profile isn’t sexy and he has no chance of starting but in his second go-round with the Midwest League he’s striking out more than a batter an inning, and if you're a pro scout you can't leave him off your list because he may pop up in the bigs at some point. —James Fisher
Garrett Davila, LHP, Kansas City Royals (short-season Burlington)
Davilla is all about projection. The Royals selected him in the fourth round in 2015, though he spent the summer getting stronger and more durable for the professional grind after signing last summer. Presuming he can add strength and hold his stuff later into outings, Davila's easy delivery, control, and three usable pitches look the part of a reliable lefty starter. Right now his stuff is fringy across the board, but Davilla has the mechanics and projectable frame to take a jump across the board. He fills the zone with a running fastball at between 87-90, a shapely low-70s curveball with good depth and rotation, and a changeup he has a feel for. He has no difficulty filling the zone, and he demonstrates plenty of advanced pitchability. He's been very consistent in the Appy League this summer, and is a low-minors pitching prospect Royals fans should know. —Adam McInturff
Reggie Lawson, RHP, San Diego Padres (Complex Level AZL)
Tall, athletic right-hander with a loose arm. Lawson’s thrown just four innings as a pro, but he’s flashed intriguing stuff and is yet to issue a walk. He recently turned 19, and signed for $1.9 million this summer—almost a million over slot—after falling to 71st-overall due to concerns surrounding a season-shortening oblique injury.
He’s listed at 6-foot-4, but looked closer to 6-foot-6. It’s a long body, a fairly wide frame, and a strong lower half. His over-the-top delivery creates good downhill plane on his two-seam and four-seam, which both sat 92-94, with his four-seam topping out at 96. His long legs create an easy letter-high leg kick, and he does a good job driving off his back leg. He breaks his hands late, but has a quick enough arm action to make up for it, which he repeats surprisingly well.
I didn’t see many changeups, but he showed average arm-side run and limited feel for the mid-80s pitch. His overhand curveball was 75-77 with 11-5 action, but occasionally bit like a slider. With his arm action and release, he might benefit from the addition of a cutter to supplement his work-in-progress changeup, and help break up the 20 MPH gap in velocity between his primary offerings. His fastball can straighten out over the outer half of the plate, and with the occasional telegraphed curveball, he could become too predictable a pitcher without a more complex repertoire. It’s tough to make a real projection about his long-term role given how little he’s actually thrown professionally, but he has the mid-90s fastball with life, a good feel for his breaking ball, and has shown the ability to throw strikes so far in his very young career. With his size, athleticism, and naturally quick arm, there’s some definite upside here, but there’s still a lot of development ahead. —Matt Pullman
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