Omar Estevez, MI, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
Signed for $6 million out of Cuba during the Dodgers’ most recent international binge in 2015, Estevez was billed as a relatively advanced bat with questions about his glove. So far across about a half dozen looks he’s presented as exactly the opposite of that. In the box he starts tall and moderately open, with high hands that load quietly and stay above his shoulder line at trigger. This swing path is direct but steep, and coupled with a tendency to step in the bucket, he pulls off and slashes under a lot of balls for weaker fly ball contact. And that’s when he does make contact; the approach is fairly aggressive, and while he’ll square the occasional early-count fastball he struggles a good bit to find breaking stuff. He’s got loose wrists and a reasonably quick bat, but there’s a long way to go for him to start translating anything into consistent at-bats.
His effort on the dirt, on the other hand, has been a pleasant surprise—particularly at shortstop, where he has played roughly two games for every one at second this season. He’s got a quick first step and some lateral quickness to help compensate for modest range, and his solid hands and fluid transfer combine to help him convert whatever he reaches into outs. The arm’s a little light for the six, but he’s accurate and does well to utilize momentum on balls in and to his left to complete plays. The footwork is solid around the bag, and he’s made a couple wizardly tags of late.
Adjustments in the batter’s box will be the key thing to watch with his development this season. If he shows the ability to make some, there may just be something of a utility profile here down the line. —Wilson Karaman
Gavin LaValley, 1B, Cincinnati Reds (High-A Daytona)
LaValley has gotten off to a quick start this season, as he’s produced 13 home runs, which puts him second behind Pittsburgh’s Logan Kelly in pitcher friendly Florida State League. A right-right first baseman, LaValley’s best tool unsurprisingly is his power. Though most of his power is to the pull side, he has enough power to hit the ball over the fence without flush contact and drive to left center. He optimizes this strength with a pull-and-lift approach, often leaking and opening up. His hit tool is fringy, but enough to adjust his approach to poke breaking balls away. A rather average Joe when it comes to physique, LaValley handles first base well— fielding most plays with solid range, and his throws are accurate and firm. LaValley will not ever steal more than a three bags a season, not showing any inclination to steal a bag in my games seen (or even last year), but runs okays on the base paths. Depending on whether he improves his approach at the plate and spreads his power to more of the field, LaValley projects to be a second-division regular. —Javier Barragan
Lucas Sims, RHP, Atlanta Braves (Triple-A Gwinnett)
The 2012 first-rounder has always racked up strikeouts (career 10.60 K/9) and can turn in some strong starts, but he’s been plagued by poor command and inconsistency in his progression to Triple-A(career 4.57 BB/9). The 2017 version of Lucas Sims came out of the gates strong, followed by some recent rough outings, but what’s interesting is that he’s changed his fastball in 2017.
Sims FB has been 94-96 mph in the recent past but quite straight and hittable. On May 19 in Durham, he showed a 90-93 FB, presumably a two-seamer, as the run on the pitch was much improved from his higher velo past. Arm-side command of the FB was better than glove-side, and the pitch worked best down at 90-91 mph. At its best it could play as average, but when the command slipped and he was up, he was hit hard. A pro scout confirmed this is where Sims’ velo has been all season.
Sims can have some success with this new fastball when located, and the curveball is plus, but there’s too many concerns for me to project Sims as a future starter. His arm action is short and stiff with a violent finish, the main culprit of his inconsistent command. His changeup showed average fade, but was used infrequently and not located well, projecting as below average. Sims’ appeal as a leverage pen arm was greater when his FB was in the mid-90s with a swing-and-miss curve as his out pitch. As is, the realistic future role is middle relief.
The first two pitches in the video (to the game’s first hitter Mallex Smith) tell the tale—first a fastball at 92 with run on the outer half, followed by the same pitch up and out over the plate, parked over the right-center wall. Later, a few filthy curveballs feature. —John Eshleman
Taylor Clarke, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Double-A, Jackson)
Clarke has an ideal pitcher’s body, listed at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds. He is well conditioned, but not a plus athlete. His delivery does not entail a lot of effort, but he does struggle to repeat it at times. He pitches from a very high three-quarters arm slot that gives him good downward plane on his fastball, which sits 91-93 and can touch 95. He can run the fastball in on righties and cut it in on lefties. The slider is another average pitch at 86-88, with bite, that he can throw to either side of the plate. He has above average command of both pitches.
Clarke’s major flaw to this point has been the absence of a reliable third pitch. He has always had an inconsistent changeup and he has yet to find any feel for it. He throws it 82-85 and it often is just a BP fastball with little movement. When he throws it off his fastball, he can use it effectively at this stage, but it is not a pitch that will survive at the highest levels without more consistency.
With the difficulty Clarke has had developing the change, he has now turned to a curve at 76-78 that flashes above-average with good 11-5 break. His command of that pitch lags behind his others, but there is promise there.
In his second full season as a pro, Clarke has shown a willingness to work on his craft. His fastball-slider combo give him a floor of a useful bullpen piece, but the Diamondbacks are giving Clarke every chance to find that third pitch to have a chance to become a solid 3/4 rotation option. —Scott Delp
Danny Jansen, C, Toronto Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire)
Jays’ prospect Danny Jansen has had a pretty pedestrian career to this point. Entering 2017 you would struggle to find him on any top prospect lists. However, Jansen has exploded so far this season, earning a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire as the 22-year-old catcher crushed High-A offerings and is doing more of the same in the northeast. Behind the plate Jansen has an above-average arm and looks to have the tools to stay back there. At the plate Jansen features a very flat, pullish type swing that struggles to get the ball in the air consistently and results in a lot of pulled ground balls or flares to right as he doesn't have a swing path to drive balls that direction. If he can home in the direction of the swing and add a little loft, Jansen could be a nice sleeper prospect for the Jays. —Derek Florko
Logan Allen, LHP, San Diego Padres (Low-A Fort Wayne)
Originally a piece in the Craig Kimbrel trade, it’s a little surprising to realize that Allen is still just 20 years old. And after losing much of his 2016 season to an elbow injury, he has been carving up the Midwest League so far this year. The southpaw possesses a starter’s build, listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, though he looks a bit heavier than that. His fastball sits 91-94 with heavy run and sink, and he managed to locate it well side-to-side. His main secondary weapon is a big 12-6 curveball in the lower 70s that consistently flashes plus with tight spin and sharp break when he snaps one of properly. The changeup was impressive to me, checking in at 82-83 and consistently showing above-average fade and eliciting swings when buried in the dirt. Allen also flashed a slider a few times early in the game at 80-81, but it was a below-average pitch and he abandoned it in the later innings.
Allen’s biggest weakness is his command, which isn’t exactly a surprise for a 20-year-old pitcher, but his issues were consistent. He employs a drop-and-drive delivery that works well as he gets going, but he has a violent finish, falling off hard to the third base side. As a result, he frequently flies open early, causing his pitches to be left up and hit hard in my look at him.
The stuff is there for a mid-rotation starter in Allen, and the changeup is more advanced than most you find at Low-A. However, none of that will matter if he can’t find a way to consistently repeat his mechanics. —Emmett Rosenbaum
Jonathan Davis, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire)
Coming off a breakout performance at Single-A Dunedin, the 25-year-old outfielder showed some skills that could translate to the major-league level. At just 5-foot-8, Davis possesses sneaky strength for his small frame. He uses his compact stroke and slightly above-average bat speed to drive the ball pull side when he’s at his best. Davis also keeps his weight back, while using enough leverage on his swing path to project as a low/mid-teen home run hitter if given regular playing time in the big leagues. His hit tool is below average because of the stiffness in his swing and his problems with letting the ball travel to go with the pitch, which created some weak contact. The former 15th-round pick does have a patient approach at the dish and did not chase pitches that were out of the zone. Davis’ best tool is clearly his speed. I clocked him at 4.08 home to first from the right side with the speed being usable in game as well. Davis played center field in the series, but projects as more of a left fielder because of his subpar arm strength, although he does have the speed and tracking ability to cover a lot of ground in the outfield. However, his ability to make plays on the ball didn’t stand out. Davis does not project as a major league regular, but could certainly log major league service time as a reserve or spot starter of sorts because of his sneaky in game power and his ability to make a difference on the base paths. —Greg Goldstein
Pedro Payano, RHP, Texas Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
Payano made his Double-A debut with Frisco Thursday, at the young age of 22. His two-seamer sat 87-92 touching 93 several times and showed good arm-side run. Throughout his five innings Payano mixed speeds and commanded his fastball well on both sides of the plate. He also used a changeup that had good velocity separation from the fastball and a slider he used sparingly but effectively.
What impressed me most from Payano’s start was his curveball. By the time hitters started swinging the bottom dropped out of the pitch leading to some ugly looking swings. Against righties he consistently placed it on the outside corner and when he’d miss with the pitch he missed down except for one hanger that got whacked for a double in the fifth inning. Payano showed why the Rangers like his stuff in this first Double-A start and with more like it he could be a real bright spot in a system in need of one. —Brice Paterik
Jon Harris, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire)
Heading into the season, I was most excited to see the New Hampshire Fisher Cats because its starting rotation would feature the Blue Jays’ top three pitching prospects: Harris, Sean Reid-Foley, and Connor Greene. Out of these three right-handers, Reid-Foley possesses the highest upside, but Harris appears to have the highest floor despite the rough start to his first Double-A season (5.79 ERA and 1.57 WHIP through 56 innings). Toronto drafted Harris 29th overall in the 2015 amateur draft, and he certainly looks like a prototypical starter although has surprisingly little remaining physical projection for someone listed at 6-foot-4 and 175 pounds.
He throws from a high three-quarters slot, and his firm delivery includes overhead break, a high leg-kick, and some fall-off to the glove-side. The best offering in his arsenal is clearly the potential plus fastball, which generally sits 92-94 with arm-side run and can hit 95-96. His height also allows him to create a downhill plane toward the plate. While his three secondary pitches all flash average to above-average, none of them are presently consistent out pitches. The slider can exceed 90 and be difficult to distinguish from a cutter. His curveball shows 12-6 break and changeup possesses some late fade. In my two viewings of Harris, the changeup and curveball were slightly more effective than the slider, and the curveball exhibited the greatest potential of becoming an out pitch. Harris’ solid four-pitch mix gives him a realistic future role of a back-end starter, assuming his command and control continue to improve. If at least one of his off-speed pitches starts to consistently generate swings and misses, he could develop into a mid-rotation starter. —Erich Rothmann
Conner Greene, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire)
Greene lit up the radar gun in this outing, hitting the upper 90s on multiple occasions in the middle-late innings, even touching tripe digits at a point in the start. The fastball lacks movement, however, which could explain the questionable strikeout totals given his outstanding velocity—though he did get his fair share of swing and misses on this day. The 22-year-old right hander also throws a changeup with fade and tumbling movement that has the potential to be above-average with quality velo separation (80-83). His curveball and slider lag behind, but at least one of them should become an average pitch in time. Still young, Greene came into the season as BP’s number four prospect on the Blue Jays top ten list, and it’s easy to see why, with his electric fastball and the athleticism he shows on the mound. His mechanics are a bit choppy with a hand stab leading to his three-quarters slot, but he finishes well and shows some fire when he makes a big pitch. There is some thought around baseball that he would be better served as a dominant late-inning reliever because of some command/control issues and lack of a clear third offering. However, I’m buying into him as a starting pitcher. His fastball makes up for his inconsistent control/command and his change has the potential to be above average with the curveball-slider combo being just good enough to keep hitters honest. I believe he has the potential to be a capable number three starter in a first division rotation. —Greg Goldstein