Touki Toussaint, RHP, Atlanta Braves (Low-A Rome)
With the Rome Braves contending for the South Atlantic League title. its pitching staff's embarrassment of riches is on display. That includes using Touki Toussaint out of the bullpen to stay fresh in a Sept. 5 outing against Augusta that helped clinch the second-half division title. Imagine all of your wildest dreams coming true on a baseball field. Toussaint throwing gas in a one-inning stint is basically the same thing.
The 20-year-old consistently sat mid-90s and hit 97 twice with above-average run and sink. He located it arm side and it was devastating inside to right-handed batters. It didn't end there. Toussaint paired it with an impossible curveball, a true 70 pitch, with plus depth, very tight spin and hard bite. It fell off the table late with downward action that flashed 12-6. He tossed one changeup that dived under a right-hander's bat for good measure.
Toussaint is obviously a starting prospect. He shows feel for three pitches that should all reach average or better, including a 60 fastball and 70 breaking ball. He turned his season around with proper development to record a 3.88 ERA in 24 starts. But seeing him air it out with his plus arm speed and elite athleticism over one inning was a treat I'll never forget. —David Lee
Justus Sheffield, LHP, New York Yankees (Double-A Trenton)
The end of the season will often grant you a look at a top prospect you wouldn't otherwise see, either through the cascade of September promotions or playoff reshuffling. The Yankees did less reshuffling than most teams, because they had a bunch of teams make the playoffs, but they did bump Sheffield up to Double-A in the last week of the season. It served as something of a preview for what should be a loaded 2017 Trenton team, which projects to begin the season with at least Sheffield, Jorge Mateo, and Gleyber Torres headlining.
Sheffield was tantalizing in his lone regular season start against Reading, striking out eight over four innings against one of the better lineups in the Eastern League, though in his next start in the playoffs the same Reading lineup hit him around a bit. His command disappeared a few times, and he mostly worked off the fastball. But he peppered everywhere from 91-95 with tremendous life, the fastball especially explosive when thrown up in the zone. He also mixed in a good, hard slider and a solid change. I found his mechanics smoother than expected given prior reports, but there is effort especially in the recoil, and combined with the command and a smaller frame (listed at 5-foot-10), it's easy to project him out as a reliever. That's certainly a possible outcome, but I’d like to see more of him before writing off his chances to start. Luckily, I should get plenty more Justus Sheffield in 2017. —Jarrett Seidler
Anderson Tejeda, SS Texas Rangers (Short-season Spokane)
Tejeda is one of the most advanced teenagers I’ve ever seen in the Northwest League. Just 18, he is clearly still growing. He’s not terribly far from his listed 5-foot-11, 160 pound frame—and yet he already has above-average raw (at least) and great instincts and body control at short. I didn’t get the chance to see him range much to his left or his right, but there was one occasion where he had to make a tough play on a slowly hit ground ball. He immediately charged, correctly determined that he had time to field it with his glove, and then made a strong and accurate throw on the run from a tough angle. Whether he can stick at short or not long term will depend on how his body and athleticism develops as he gets older, but he clearly has the instincts and footwork to play up the middle.
As good as Tejeda looked in the field, I was more impressed with his bat. Due to scheduling shenanigans, Spokane had the chance to play a game at Safeco Field. On a cold night, when most of his teammates were muscling up to try to crank balls out of a big-league park (and mostly failing to reach the warning track) during batting practice, Tejeda calmly deposited at least half a dozen flies into the right field bleachers. While some players generate power with a big, exaggerated swing that leaves them off-balance, Tejeda uses a smooth stroke, generating power from bat speed and a lofted swing plane. He showed off some of that power in the game as well, driving an outside fastball off the left field wall—an impressive poke for a teenager in that yard.
There are developmental hurdles ahead. Tejeda isn’t patient, he doesn’t always read spin well, and the swing can get longer and more leveraged than it normally is. He’s really young and there’s a long way to go between Spokane and the big leagues. Still, those are the kinds of kinks that can be ironed out over time. Tejeda’s blend of tools and instincts are very rare at his age. He could be special. —Brendan Gawlowski
Signed for $350,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, Rincon turns 19 this October. He’s tall and lean—listed at 6-foot-3, 190 lbs—but he has deceptive strength on his athletic frame. He’s an average to slightly-above-average runner, and he didn’t have any defensive miscues in the three games I saw him play. He generates plus bat speed and likes to let it rip, but he struggles with pitch recognition; walking just twice in 26 games while striking out 30 times. He showed some interesting barrel control on a ninth-inning RBI triple in a close ballgame, leaving me fairly bullish on his development at the plate as he continues to see more advanced pitching. He uses his long frame to generate good leverage, hitting the ball hard in the air with consistency. He’s a strong kid and made some real noise, with his seven home runs finishing one shy of leading the league, despite only coming stateside halfway through the AZL season. He has impressive size, athleticism, and potential for plus raw power in the future. He was definitely one of the most interesting players in the AZL this summer, and could prove to be a bargain for the Dodgers in the long run. —Matt Pullman
Ronnie Williams, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (Low-A Peoria)
Broad shoulders appears to be a theme within the St. Louis Cardinals organization as a whole, so while Williams is thin at the waist he has a wide shoulder base, which offers up some projection for the 20-year-old right-hander from Florida. Projection is the key term for Williams: at present he has a high-effort delivery with a head whack, and gets unbalanced in his delivery, keeping him from maintaining a straight line to the plate consistently. He shows three fastballs, a four-seamer at 93-94, a two-seamer at 90-91 which shows run and sink, and a cutter at 90-91 with average movement. His curve flashes sharp movement but when his delivery falls off line he can leave the offering up where it loses a lot of effectiveness. His changeup is firm at 87-88, which normally wouldn’t be worth mentioning, but Williams maintains his arm speed when throwing it, leaving hope that he could pick up a new grip and increase the effectiveness of the pitch in time. Williams is not a finished product and there is a load of risk with the profile, but he’s an arm worth keeping tabs on to see if added strength could help him maintain balance, and in turn his stuff with another year of development. —Mauricio Rubio
Signed for $500,000 in 2014, Fabian’s a physically-mature right fielder out of the Dominican Republic. He’s listed at 6-foot-1, 180 lbs, but he looks closer to 6-foot-2, 210 lbs. He doesn’t turn 19 until next March, putting him on the younger side even for the AZL. I got multiple looks at Fabian over the course of the summer, and he seemed to do something noteworthy in every game. He plays a quality right field with potentially above-average range, and a strong throwing arm, even for the position. He’s aggressive at the plate, and looks to hit fastballs in any count. He’s shown situational awareness, shortening up in late-and-close situations. He starts with his hands high, and has a leg-kick load which can prove inconsistent at times, leading to his swing getting long, leaving him vulnerable to velocity. He has timing issues with his hips as well, often making contact before creating separation. His tools, strength, and athleticism leave potential for him to develop into a big-league regular someday, but like anyone at the complex level, there’s still quite a bit of development ahead. However, Fabian’s definitely an interesting name worth keeping an eye next year. —Matt Pullman
Jack Wynkoop, LHP, Colorado Rockies (High-A Modesto)
A sixth-round draft pick in 2015, Wynkoop has impressed this year in High-A, walking essentially no one and posting an ERA of under 3.00 in the rough-and-tumble California League. Possessing a projectable 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame, the lanky lefty comes out of a three-quarter slot, with early hand separation and a long arm action that results in his front side occasionally flying open early. He managed to repeat his delivery well in the first inning of the start I caught, showing flashes of the high-end control that has driven his success this year. But he lost his feel for his delivery and subsequently the zone in the second inning, eventually getting pulled before he was able to record six outs. Wynkoop sat 87-90 with his fastball, getting some run and decent plane on the pitch. In the short outing, he displayed a changeup at 76-78 that featured nice fade and flashed above-average, along with a short, hard slider at 81-83, which had the look of a potential average pitch. While Wynkoop might have the secondaries to succeed as a back-end starter in the majors, the fastball may hold him back. He’s given up a decent share of homers in his young career, and he doesn’t have a ton of margin for error at his current operating speed. There is some projection left in the 22-year-old’s body, and with it some potential for additional velocity if he can add strength as he matures. If those extra ticks come there’s the makings of a back-end starter here, otherwise he’s more likely to live and die by his control in a swing role. —Emmett Rosenbaum
Garrett Whitley, CF, Tampa Bay Rays (Short-Season Hudson Valley)
Whitley, a first-round selection in last year’s amateur draft (13th overall), possesses the highest ceiling of any hitter in the Rays’ farm system. He has the potential for four above-average tools, including plus-plus speed and plus defense. His elite athleticism and speed give him impressive range and while his average arm is clearly his weakest tool, it should be sufficient for him to play center field long-term. The 19-year-old’s defensive prowess leads to a floor as a fourth outfielder. The development of his hit tool will determine whether or not he reaches his ceiling as a perennial all-star, as concern about his ability to make consistent contact persists. During his first season as a professional, he hit .188 in 116 plate appearances for the Princeton Rays in rookie ball and .143 in 48 plate appearances with Hudson Valley. He improved his contact rate this year and slashed .266/.356/.379 in 292 plate appearances with Hudson Valley. In order to further improve his contact rate, he must shorten his swing. Whitley’s hit tool flashes above-average due to plus bat speed, which, in addition to his swing’s leverage, could enable him to become a 20-20 player. His homer off Jason Groome during Thursday’s playoff game against Lowell serves as a good example. He also displays a willingness to walk (30 walks this season), which is especially encouraging for a prospect recently drafted out of high school. Although Whitley is a raw talent who likely will not make their big league roster until the end of this decade, it is easy to understand why the Rays are very excited about his future. —Erich Rothmann
Michael Ahmed, INF, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
There are always those players whose grind becomes revolutionary in its own small way, at least insofar as it forces eventual notice by means of consistent, solid play over the course of the season. Ahmed’s been one of those guys for me this year. My first note of the year on him from April reads: “solid frame, moderate athleticism, looks like a ballplayer.” He was sporadically on my radar through the first half, but when you look at the commentary I did write on him, a pattern emerges: “quick to get down/lay out, good body control, accurate long throw;” “solid PA, plate coverage to both sides spoiling, stays off 2x off the black, works eight-pitch BB;” “opens up with leverage in good count, misses pitch, shoots low-away SL oppo for 1B next.” The pattern hasn’t changed much as I’ve paid him more mind over the last month, either. Just a bunch of solid plays, piled up on top of each other.
I’m not sure Ahmed ever sips his cup of coffee in the majors, but it’s possible. He logs fairly regular average-or-better run times, and he’s athletic enough that he’s gotten some mildly successful reps in the middle of the infield in addition to his standard corner assignments. He controls the zone well, and he’s gotten better at tapping into fringe-average raw power as the season has progressed. It’s not a sexy profile, at all, and at 24 he’s already old for High-A. But he does a bunch of things pretty well, and it’s certainly enough to earn him a ticket to the high minors next year. For now, he can hang his hat on a really nice season, and that’s an accomplishment that deserves recognition. —Wilson Karaman
Steven Duggar, OF, San Francisco Giants (Double-A Richmond)
Duggar has enjoyed a great amount of success across two levels in 2016, slashing .284/.386/.462 in the Cal League before putting up a similar .321/.391/.432 line at Double-A Richmond. He is an athletic player, but in spite of his plus run tool Duggar’s base stealing isn’t very efficient, indicating a lack of instincts on the base paths which limits the utility of his run to defense only. In center, Duggar has the speed and athleticism to cover the ground but his instincts are questionable there as well. He has contact skills and a solid approach but he doesn’t have the bat speed nor swing plane to hit for much power. He looks the part and has athletic traits but Duggar’s hit tool will have to actualize all the way in order for him to start everyday. —Mauricio Rubio
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