Michel Baez, RHP, San Diego Padres (complex-level AZL)
The Padres have signed so much international talent that it can be hard to keep track of everyone. The 20-year-old Baez signed out of Cuba in December 2016 for $3 million with little fanfare, and he gives San Diego another huge arm to dream on. After sitting out game action all of the extended training, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound righty appeared in Arizona last week, blowing away young Mariners hitters with his huge fastball. The pitch explodes on hitters with late running life, generating exceptional plane from his three-quarters arm slot. In the first he was 97-98 mph, with good command to his arm-side. He was 94-96 mph thereafter, mixing in a hard slider with two-plane break. His command of the pitch is inconsistent at present, losing his release point and coming around the baseball to spike it down and away to righties. He rounds out the arsenal with an 85-87 mph change-up that he mostly threw to lefties on the outer edge or off the plate. He threw it with conviction, and is still learning to locate it, but at maturity, I would not be surprised if it is above-average, giving him a mid-rotation arsenal.
Given his extended layoff and long levers, it is not surprising that Baez’s command is still developing. Key will be repeating his delivery to the glove side, as the times he was offline or out of sync were mostly to that target. His arm action is on the longer side with only mild effort, and the big heater gives him some margin for error, particularly in the lower levels. This was a limited look, but the raw stuff and remaining projection should keep him in the rotation into the upper levels, and San Diego has every reason to be patient with him. If he does go to the pen, a future late-inning role is in play. He will likely head to Tri-Cities in the Pioneer League to open the year. —John Eshleman
Nicky Lopez, SS, Kansas City Royals (High-A Wilmington)
The Royals were able to find a shortstop from Creighton in Lopez in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. Lopez is a skilled defender, and impressed in the Appalachian League last season before moving to Wilmington to start 2017. He flashes above-average range at the shortstop position, with soft hands, quick feet, and a strong arm. He gets good reads on balls and controls his body well, too.
At the plate, Lopez has impressed with his ability to get on base without striking out; he has a 32:19 BB-K ratio this season, displaying above-average pitch recognition and a good feel for the strike zone. It doesn’t hurt that he has above-average speed as well. He certainly hasn’t played in hitter-friendly parks thus far in his career, be it in college or in pro ball, but that being said, he still doesn’t project to be much of a power hitter, and there are questions as to whether his bat speed can catch up to major-league fastballs. But Lopez is getting on base at a nice clip, and his defense should play well in the infield regardless of where he is. The Royals might not have found a stud shortstop in that 2016 draft, but Lopez is progressing nicely thus far, and could find himself being a useful utility infielder that could handle being at the top of the lineup when called upon. —Victor Filoromo
Drafted in the 15th round of the 2014 amateur draft out of Creighton University, Gerber has proven to be a steal for the Tigers. Through his first 250 plate appearances of this season with Erie, he has slashed .299/.372/.448. The 24-year-old lacks a standout tool such as teammate Christin Stewart’s power, but also lacks any glaring weakness. He bats from the left side of the plate and appears to have worked on shortening his swing, resulting in a lower strikeout rate this year so far. Never the less, I would still like to see him chase fewer pitches out of the zone (especially against lefties) and become less pull-happy since he has flashed the ability to hit for average power to all parts of the field. His hit and power tools both check in around average, thanks to his quick hands and above-average bat speed. Gerber is an average defender as well and can play all three outfield positions. Erie has him in center although with only average speed and an above-average arm, he is probably better suited for right field. I expect a promotion to Triple-A later this summer and 2018 arrival at Detroit. While his profile certainly doesn’t jump off the page, he realistically will develop into a fourth outfielder and possibly compete for a regular role at the major league level. —Erich Rothmann
Ryan Mountcastle, SS, Baltimore Orioles (Single-A Frederick)
At just 20 years old Mountcastle is tearing up the Carolina League, hitting over .300 and having already cleared the double-digit home run mark through 61 games. The former 36th-overall selection has dominated offensively at every level he’s played in his pro career thus far. He’s also added a considerable amount of muscle to his frame since being drafted out of high school, and should continue to add strength to his projectable body. Mountcastle flashes above-average bat speed, while using minimal effort throughout the stroke. The shortstop is a natural hitter that has the hand speed and bat control to eventually become a solid all-around major league hitter one day. However, Mountcastle’s real bread and butter lies in his ability to drive the baseball. He is able to generate plus raw power because of the considerable leverage in his swing while using his quick hands to drive the ball to all fields and create loud contact no matter where the ball is pitched. He can get a little too aggressive in the box at times, but with more plate appearances, it’s likely that Mountcastle will develop above-average game power. The questions in his profile certainly lie in his uncertain future in the field. Mountcastle doesn’t have the range or natural arm strength to stick at shortstop long-term, with his lack of fielding chops even bringing his ability to play an average second base into question. The Orioles could just stick him in left field and see what happens, but it’s all but guaranteed that he won’t remain at his current position for long. Despite Mountcastle’s fielding deficiencies, the projectable infielder has the potential to become an above-average major leaguer as he continues to develop some of his great raw hitting ability in the minors. —Greg Goldstein
Gianfranco Wawoe, 2B, Seattle Mariners (High-A Modesto)
An international free agent signed out of Curacao in 2014, Wawoe boasts a 70-grade name and a few tools behind it. He’s a small-framed second baseman by trade, though he’s begun to see some increased reps in left field as well, and he has the physicality to handle either position. On the dirt he’s an agile defender who moves well to both sides, with sound footwork and fundamentals that drive a potentially above-average defensive profile. The arm is accurate, and he gets the ball out quick with both body control and transfer as assets around the bag.
At the plate he crouches into one of the odder setups you’ll see, with an extremely wide, square base and his hands tucked up tight to his back ear. He’s set more square this season than he had been previously, but there’s still very little load or early momentum generation. The bat is flat at launch, with a high back elbow that sets a level plane and limits pretty dramatically his ability to drive the ball with any carry. There’s little power in his stroke as a result, but the hand-eye is outstanding, he stays well-balanced, and he makes a ton of contact on the back end of what can be very frisky at-bats. The lack of pop and a run tool that sits somewhere in the average range conspire to limit his ceiling, but I like the glove and bat-to-ball despite its unorthodoxy. There’s a path to a legitimate utility profile if he can continue to add defensive versatility to his resume. —Wilson Karaman
The Chicago Cubs went all in during the 2013 international signing period inking big-name prospects like Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez. Signed late and without much fanfare, Wladimir Galindo is quietly establishing himself in the organization. Physically mature and athletic with little projection left, Galindo has thick thighs and broad shoulders. At the plate he starts tall with high hands and there is a mild load and leg kick. As the case with most 20-year-old prospects, there is some noise in the swing and he can get off balance on secondary pitches. Mild leverage and raw strength generate line-drive type power to the pull side. A former shortstop in his youth, growth has necessitated a move to corner infield and in my looks this spring, he has looked more comfortable and natural at third base showing moderate range, soft hands, and a fluid transfer. The arm plays slightly above average for third but can become inaccurate when hurried. Galindo displays average speed with an average of 4.25 on my multiple clocks from home to first. He does possess a high baserunning IQ, taking extra bases when there is the opportunity. While he does not have the same power as Eloy or hit tool as Torres, Galindo is a solid prospect who should continue to quietly progress towards the major leagues. —Nathan Graham
Micker Adolfo, OF, Chicago White Sox (Low-A Kannapolis)
Adolfo is listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds. I’m sure, at some point, that was probably close enough to pass for true, but the dude is now built like a NFL defensive end, or maybe a modern tight end. His size and athleticism stands out in warm-ups, let alone games. He can hit it really hard in batting practice, and last week I saw him launch a long home run off Adonis Medina, a Top 101 prospect. You can immediately figure out how Adolfo got $1.6 million as a July 2 free agent upon seeing him. He’s been putting up decent numbers and is starting to regain some of the hype he had after being signed.
Part of being built like a giant football player is that you’re naturally going to have long levers and some swing-and-miss problems, but what exists here in that regard goes way past that. I’ve seen Adolfo repeatedly get himself out chasing breaking balls and making weak contact outside of the zone. “Don’t scout the stat line” is quite an important mantra, especially in A-ball with the added uncertainty of A-ball quality fielders, umpires, and scorers. But a 7/60 BB/K ratio is still a 7/60 BB/K ratio, especially repeating the level coming off a .609 OPS and 14/88 BB/K ratio last year. Adolfo has enough of a strange background—though he signed out of the Dominican, he mostly grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which has much more uneven baseball development—that combined with his incredible physicality gives him more of a shot than your average 20-year-old Low-A repeater power dude. Yet the risk here remains extreme, and you can just as easily see him topping out at Double-A as being a MLB regular. —Jarrett Seidler
Yu-Cheng Chang, SS, Cleveland Indians (Double-A Akron)
Chang, perhaps the most notable player almost traded for Jonathan Lucroy in July not named Francisco Mejia, might soon figure to be more than a mere footnote. The 21-year-old was surprisingly competent at shortstop, flashing better than advertised range at the position and an arm that could play at any infield spot. In just a two-game look, he made several tough plays at the position, including one instance where he dove to retrieve a hard hit groundball up the middle that appeared to be an easy single for Tomas Nido. He comes attached with contact-related questions offensively, but he has legitimate power potential that has already translated well into game power. While he may never hit for a high batting average, he has a strong eye at the plate and a tendency to draw an above average number of walks, which along with his power, should be enough for him to be an asset offensively in the majors. He should be given a chance in the next couple years to be a starting major league shortstop, a chance that almost definitely not be realistic with the Cleveland Indians for obvious reasons. While he may settle in at less than that or at a different position down the line if he fills out his frame more, Chang deserves a real chance to maximize his potential as a second-division regular at shortstop. He’s a nice little piece and will probably be best served being a nice little piece for a team that doesn’t simultaneously employ Francisco Lindor. —Skyler Kanfer
Edgar Garcia, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (High-A Clearwater)
Garcia is the fifth-youngest pitcher in the Florida State League and is once again being tried as a starter. He has some pitchability but is more of a thrower at the moment, getting by with his naturally cutting fastball (91-94) and two-plane, disappearing, 10-5 slider (85-88). To round out his repertoire, he has a two-seamer, change-up, and curveball. The two-seamer sit in the 91-94 range, thrown to lefties mostly with inconsistent sink and tail. The changeup is in the mid-80s, cutting at times, as well as showing inconsistent sinking action. The curveball was only thrown in warm-ups in his most recent outing, and showed similarities to his slider except with bigger depth. The inconsistency in stuff can be explained partially by Garcia’s transition from relief to the rotation. He is still building up endurance and learning to stay within himself.
One would think that a young pitcher’s ability to command hails from the ability to repeat a clean, athletic delivery. While he does repeat well, Garcia’s delivery features some rigidity, and cross-body mechanics. He has a quick arm and a three-quarters slot, but he cuts himself off towards the end of his delivery with his throwing arm finishing high across his chest. Though not the cleanest delivery, his key is his ability to repeat which has led him to a career six percent walk rate and 24 percent strikeout rate. If Garcia is going to stick as a starter, he’ll need to refine his consistency across the board. If he can’t do that, the Phillies have a nice fallback option in the bullpen. —Javier Barragan
Ryan O’Hearn, 1B, Kansas City Royals (Triple-A Omaha)
An eighth-round pick out of Sam Houston State in 2014, O'Hearn has jumped a level in each of his four seasons in the Royals organization. Either he or Hunter Dozier will likely be in line for the Royals 2018 first base job should the Royals choose to move Eric Hosmer at the trade deadline or let him walk this winter.
O'Hearn is strong and short-limbed; likely under his listed height of 6-foot-3 (he did hit between Jorge Soler and Bubba Starling on June 9th and 10th, so forgive me if I'm suffering from contrast bias). He is close to maxing out his frame, but could still add some weight in the upper body. He has a nice, patient approach at the plate, and should continue to control at-bats well at the next level. The swing is a bit long, but there is 60 power mixed in there with a bit of swing and miss. A 50 hit tool is likely the ceiling, but reaching that threshold may put a dent in the power totals. O'Hearn is certainly capable 50 defender at first with soft hands, but a slow first step diminishes his range. —Keith Rader
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