Sandy Alcantara, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (Double-A Springfield)
Yet again, the St. Louis Cardinals have a Double-A pitcher with the ability to throw serious gas at a young age, seemingly out of nowhere—so out of nowhere that he was unsigned at age 17, for a mere $125,000.
Alcantara has a tall and slight-but-not-skinny build, and it’s difficult to imagine him adding much more in the way of muscle mass without overwhelming his frame, though he has added about 20 good pounds since last season. The velocity is real, but not too much of it comes out of the legs, but rather the arm—a concern, but not an overwhelming one. Despite some violence in the delivery, Alcantara was able to deliver strikes, helped by the aforementioned velocity. He sat in the mid-to-upper 90s, hitting 100 in both the second and sixth innings, with good life that makes the pitch even more difficult to hit, though he is prone to missing arm-side. Alcantara also throws a changeup and a curveball, with the change being the more developed pitch, though he can show some arm deceleration when throwing it. Additionally, while the change has around a 10-mph difference from the fastball, Alcantara will need to consistently add movement to it, or hitters will sit on it like a “normal” fastball. The curve has some nice break on it, but it’s his weakest pitch, and he only used it as a change-of-pace offering, not showing the ability to throw it for strikes.
If Alcantara follows the trajectory of other St. Louis flamethrowers, he could be in the majors making life difficult for big-league batters in only a year or so, though an extra year in Triple-A would probably be for the best. —Kate Morrison
Signed for $1.5 million in 2015, Soto has cut a swath through the minor leagues during his short tenure, landing in Low-A Hagerstown as an 18-year-old. He was impressive in both games of a double-header, showing a compact, but powerful stroke at the plate. He has a great approach at the plate, willing to spit on soft, spinning stuff and wait for his pitch. Don’t confuse a “great” approach for a patient one though, as a great many offerings qualify as “his pitch.” Despite the compact swing, he covers the plate well and spoils pitcher’s pitches with regularity. Soto doesn’t lack for power either. He only poked a few singles in my viewing, but it was easy to see how his quick hands and plus bat speed project forward to plus power. Soto wasn’t tested defensively in either game, with the one time he had to come up firing resulting in a firm, accurate throw to the cutoff man. Soto checked in at No. 57 on the 101 because we knew he was laden with tools. Tearing up the lower minors (he’s at .439/.477/.634 as of Sunday) will only enhance that reputation. The Nationals bumped Victor Robles up to High-A after 64 games last year, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Soto promoted at a similar pace. —Craig Goldstein
Akeem Bostick, RHP, Houston Astros (High-A Buies Creek)
Under a Dontrelle Willis-model lid is a well-proportioned, 6-foot-4, 224-pound frame that looks like a second-round pick right off the bus. Bostick’s athleticism presented itself several times throughout Wednesday morning's game against Myrtle Beach: his full-windup motion was fluid and balanced, he repeated well, he even bobbed and weaved off the mound to elude some sort of stinging insect. When the weak Pelicans lineup made contact, it was often soft and on the ground, the result of excellent angle and deception born from an arm action that keeps the ball hidden until it comes out of his ear. Despite fastball velocity that sat 91-92 and topped out at 95, I couldn’t help but wonder if loosening up or elongating his arm action would unlock another tick or two, or add some needed life. Bostick controlled well inside and out, and pounded the bottom of the zone—save for a few times he abandoned his easy delivery and overthrew, leaving the ball up and off the plate to the glove side. His best secondary on this day was a sweeping slider at 83-85 that he wasn’t afraid to sequence first in an at-bat or double down when the first one had the hitter off balance. Against a squad flush with righties, I didn’t see enough of the changeup to ruminate on his ability to stick in the rotation, but it was a positive outing overall, a sign that Bostick still has time to realize some of the potential that’s been obscured by injuries and command struggles. —Greg Wellemeyer
Cal Quantrill, RHP, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
The seventh-overall pick last year didn’t throw a pitch before the draft as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. His arm looked live in this one, but he struggled to harness it for much of the night. Listed at 6-foot-2, 165 pounds for some reason, he’s probably an inch or two taller and cracking 200. The delivery has a quicker tempo, and he shows off athleticism and lower-half strength into and through his kick. He has a longer arm action coming uphill a bit to a high-three-quarters slot, and while his hips are lightning-quick, he struggled to keep his arm synced despite plus arm speed. The result was inconsistent command with a lot of balls up in the zone and lost to the arm side. The foot strike and finish are squeaky clean, and combined with the arm speed and athleticism there’s cause to project a solid command profile in spite of the timing issues in this one.
He came out sitting 94-95 in the first, before settling in 92-94 for the rest of his five innings, touching 95 again a couple times in peril. The pitch has plane and life from his higher arm slot, getting on hitters quickly and inducing foul balls and whiffs in the zone. As with all his pitches on the night, he was loose with his command, leaving it in hittable parts of the zone too often and seeing it get turned around when he did. His changeup flashed as an out pitch, though he lacked consistency and feel for it. At 81-83 it boasted strong velocity separation, and he sold it with perfect arm speed replication. The cambio has plenty of tumble, and while it didn’t play close to it in this outing it projects to a plus pitch based on the salesmanship and movement. The breaking pitch was a work in progress, coming in at 77-80 without a ton of bite. Aside from several non-competitive efforts, he commanded it reasonably well into the zone, though was less consistent taking it from strike-to-ball as an offensive pitch.
It’s certainly easy to see why the Padres invested what they did in Quantrill: the frame, athleticism, and raw stuff of a frontline starting pitcher are present. The timing and consistency to slot were not, at least in this start, and the fringy breaking ball will need to take a couple steps forward if he’s going to realize his Role 6 potential. —Wilson Karaman
Conner Greene, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire)
It’s almost meaningless to say that a Double-A pitcher is a grade of command away from being a top-of-the-rotation starter. First of all, from this point it doesn’t happen all that often. And secondly, the class of arms this applies to in Double-A is larger than you’d expect. Greene sure is one of them though. Pitching in the second game of a bitterly cold April doubleheader, he touched 100 on multiple guns and sat 95-98 all outing. The velocity comes easy for him and the pitch has riding life up in the zone. On a night I could barely feel my hands, Greene struggled with the feel for his curve and change, although both flashed above-average. While the frame and mechanics scream starter, his below-average control and command make the bullpen the more likely landing spot, where he could be an impact late-inning arm. But the potential major league force he could be if he is even average at throwing strikes is going to continue to tantalize. And while it doesn’t happen all that often, when it does, the results can be spectacular. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Listed at 6-foot-3, 185 lbs, the Phillies 23-year-old was making his Double-A debut. Anderson has an athletic build, strong lower half, and well-proportioned frame. While there’s room for added strength, he is most likely matured physically. He had a rhythmic, full windup, hands-over-head delivery that he repeated well, yet struggled to maintain his release point causing command struggles that resulted in getting knocked around on many hard-hit balls on pitches up in the zone. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot with long arm action in back, average arm speed, and delivers pretty free and easy with a three-pitch mix. The fastball was 91-93 with cut at times and was a future average grade fastball unless he improves the ability to command. He’s also making his second full season return from Tommy John surgery and the arm works well, so there could be more velo in there. The curveball had 11-to-5 shape at its best and appeared loopy without much bite resulting in a below-average grade, flashing average at best. The changeup was 82-84 thrown with decent arm speed but lacked much movement also grading out below average. From the stretch he was 1.22-1.28 to the plate and should hold runners well. —Chaz Fiorino
Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
Let's talk about defense, perception, and expectations. Rafael Devers is a huge, huge man. This isn't intended to be a euphemism for fat, which we often do here because it's really not cool to fat shame 20-year-olds (or anyone else). Devers really isn't fat, but he's got broad shoulders, big, strong thighs, and a big old booty. He's just big.
You always hear phrases like “surprisingly athletic” attached to Devers, usually in defensive concert with the obvious plus-plus arm. I myself used something close to that in his 101 blurb in this year’s annual. But having seen him quite a bit now, it simply no longer surprises me. In a single game on Friday night in Trenton, he made three plays that I would consider MLB plus plays, two tremendous scoop-transfer-throws on slow-hit balls in front of him (the prime David Wright special) and one phenomenal backhand and throw by the line on the edge of the outfield grass (the current Manny Machado special). These were plays that I wouldn't expect an average major-league third baseman to make, let alone a 20-year-old in Double-A often tagged with suspect defense. Then again, Devers also airmailed a fairly routine throw to first and booted a medium difficulty grounder. Combine that with a body that just doesn't look right at the position, and it's so easy to just go “yeah, he's a first baseman,” but if you could sand those rough edges just a little…
Oh yeah, Devers can mash the ball like crazy, too. You probably already knew that part. Boston intends to compete this year, and is running out Pablo Sandoval and Mitch Moreland at the infield corners right now. Don't be surprised if this issue is forced much quicker than you'd think. —Jarrett Seidler
D.J. Peters, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
The Dodgers snagged Peters for nearly $200,000 under slot value in the fourth round last year, and after a couple looks I’m not entirely sure how they managed to do that. At a 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, Peters has the frame of Paul Pierce, but more quick-twitch athleticism and less rhythm. There’s a bit of stiffness in his setup and launch, and the swing is long into the zone. But the bat speed is electric, and he produces loud contact to all fields thanks to a leveraged swing that has plane to drive the ball with loft and carry. You can beat him with elevated and inner-third velocity, and he can be fooled into chasing a changeup down low. But he stayed inside the zone pretty consistently across my first two looks and showed the ability to make adjustments to velocity and movement.
His out-of-the-box speed plays at above-average (4.27 home-to-first), but it’s plus or even a tick better underway. The speed plays well in center, where he closes well to the gaps and ran efficient routes in each direction. He shows a nascent feel for reading contact and finishes plays well, to where even if he loses a tick or two of raw speed as his body continues to mature (a likely outcome given the frame) there’s a shot at future average utility in center. The arm strength is there for a move to right, with 60 raw arm strength that plays to an above-average tool right now. His ball tails pretty severely, compromising accuracy and carry, while he showed some rawness in his setup and delivery on a competitive throw home.
Peters is an interesting prospect, with across-the-board tools and impressive physicality. He’ll be a guy to watch closely to see how the swing-and-miss specifically, and hit tool in general, progresses this season. —Wilson Karaman
Jose Trevino, C, Texas Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
At some point, someone will have something substantive to say about Jose Trevino’s offense, which needs improvement that it’s far too early in his Double-A career to see. Right now, though, the most interesting thing to discuss is Trevino’s outstanding defensive capabilities.
Quickly, the bat—Trevino’s not without power, though his flat, direct-to-the-ball swing doesn’t make the most of his strength in a professional environment. He showed a decent feel for the zone, and while he may bloom offensively later in his career—as catchers tend to do—he’s not going to be such a drag that his glove doesn’t make up for it. Defensively, Trevino is a joy to watch play. He displays a fundamental understanding for where the ball is at all times, putting himself in a position to make excellent defensive plays. In a three-game series, he was twice able to prevent a run from scoring by being in the right place to receive a ball legally, before getting across to block the plate and tag the runner. Written out like that, it doesn’t sound particularly impressive, but considering how many catchers would have been content with stopping the ball and allowing the runner to score, Trevino’s athleticism stands out. Behind the plate, he displays a quietness and steadiness that leads to a good ability to frame borderline calls to the pitcher’s advantage. Beyond the physical traits, everyone who has interacted with Trevino says that he’s a natural-born team captain, and this shows in the way he manages the infield during game situations. Though he’s no Pudge Rodriguez, Trevino represents Texas’ best defensive catching prospect in a fair while. —Kate Morrison
Anthony Alford, CF, Toronto Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire)
Alford muddled through a rough 2016 to follow up his breakout 2015 season. A bad concussion and a knee injury limited his playing time last year, and he struggled mightily even when on the field. That all looks to be in the past now though, as he flashed plus athletic tools in my two-game look opening weekend. Alford’s a plus runner with a plus arm in center field, and if you wanted to put a future 6 on the glove there as well, I wouldn’t quibble with you. It’s one of the best bodies in baseball, and you’d expect more power than he’s shown so far in his pro career just by looking at him, but his approach was mostly line drives, up the middle or opposite field. April weather in New Hampshire limited my look to two games, so I am less comfortable making pronouncements about the bat, but Alford has given me plenty of incentive to see enough Fisher Cats games this year to fill in the gaps there. —Jeffrey Paternostro