Leody Taveras, CF, Texas Rangers (Low-A Hickory)
We ranked Taveras 30th on our midseason list off a combination of internal looks and industry reports. This was my first look at Taveras and as the person whose name has to go on these lists…WELP, he should have been higher. The funny thing is I figured this out before he took an at-bat in the first game of my long weekend look at him in Lakewood. I hit brutal traffic on the Garden State—as one does—and didn't get to the Shore in time for batting practice. So literally the first time I laid eyes on Taveras was in the on-deck circle in the top of the first. It's a great baseball body and you could see the premium bat speed with a donut on the lumber. The overall stat line for the three games won't wow you, but he has an advanced approach for his age, and I think given the loft in the swing and the plus-plus whip, he will eventually show good game power. He had no problem squaring Sixto Sanchez’s fastball for example. The swing looks better from the left side than the right side at present. He's a bit more tentative against southpaws, but given more reps I don't see it as a huge issue in the future. He's a sure shot center fielder with requisite flair out there too (I suspect he knows exactly how good he is). He's a plus runner with a solid arm too, so there’s a better chance for a major league floor here than you'd expect from an 18-year-old hitting .250 in the Sally. And there is all-star level upside if the bat continues to develop. Amend your lists accordingly. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Signed out of Cuba for $11 million dollars last year, Morejon was promoted this week from short season Tri-City to Fort Wayne. Already with arguably the most talented pitching staff in the Midwest League, he adds another top shelf arm to their rotation. The body appears to be mature, probably heavier than the listed 165 pounds, but there is fluidity and some athleticism. The delivery is easy and repeatable with low effort into a three-quarters arm slot. The four-seam fastball has late life and sits 93-95. Morejon also flashed a two-seamer that broke a few bats as it ran in on the hands of lefties at 90-92. He showed plus command of both through the entire outing, hitting his spots in all quadrants. Two secondary pitches were also shown, both having potential to become plus offerings. The curveball displayed good bite and has 1-6 movement sitting 76-78 mph. The changeup has good velocity separation sitting 83-86 and showed some late tumble, dropping out of the zone. The offspeed pitches are in development, a few curveballs were left up in the zone and there is some inconsistent arm speed in the changeup, but there is swing and miss in both. Watching him pitch, it’s easy to forget that he’s just 18 years old given the clean, easy delivery, the multiple pitch offerings, the ability to hit his spots. The Padres spent big to get him and he looks like a cog in their starting rotation of the future. —Nathan Graham
Michael Matuella, RHP, Texas Rangers (Low-A Hickory)
Once a candidate to be the first-overall pick in the 2015 Draft, Matuella underwent Tommy John surgery shortly before the draft, similar to recent Nationals call-up Erick Fedde in the 2014 Draft. Matuella fell a bit further than Fedde did, to the top of the third round, but still received a healthy $2 million signing bonus from the Rangers. Matuella missed the remainder of 2015 recovering and them had a setback on rehab in 2016 that cost him nearly all of that season. He pitched poorly in short stints to open 2017, but has worked his way back as the season has went along.
In a look last week, Matuella looked every bit the high first-round prospect that he once was. His fastball sat a pretty consistent 94-97, and he maintained his velocity into the sixth inning, the first time he’s pitched that deep as a pro. He featured a hard change as his primary offspeed pitch, and it flashed plus with manipulation to both arm and glove sides. Unlike many low-minors pitchers who tip their change by casting it, or adjusting their arm speed or slot, Matuella’s came out at the same angle and speed as his fastball, which combined with his huge frame and extension gave hitters little time to react. He also worked in a handful of curves, which had a nice shape but got a bit loopy at times. He mostly was trying to drop them in backdoor, but did flash the ability to bury to a lefty as a chase pitch. It’s very encouraging to see him healthy and throwing the ball this well, and we hope it continues moving forward. —Jarrett Seidler
Eguy Rosario, 3B/2B, San Diego Padres (complex-level AZL)
Rosario is listed on the AZL Padres website at 5-foot-9 and a comically light 150 lbs. He has a mature build with developed upper-body strength, nearly to the point of being barrel-chested. The muscle mass doesn’t impact his athleticism much, as he’s quick on his feet and has natural glove skills in the infield which play well at both second and third base. He has a strong enough arm to be average or better at the hot corner and plus at the keystone. He’s shown a feel for the barrel in the AZL after struggling to make much meaningful contact across 50 games in the Midwest League to start the year. Considering he’s still a few weeks away from his 18th birthday, it’s impressive in its own right that San Diego was willing to have him open the season in A-ball. His bat speed is average, but he could prove to hit for some power given his strength. He’s aggressive in the box but he’s shown the ability to pick up spin and has a good feel for the strike zone. I don’t have a full sprint home-to-first time, but he’s deceptively quick. It may grade out as average speed before too long given his build, but he’s an aggressive, heads-up runner who should add value on the basepaths. There’s a lot to like about Rosario, and it’s easy to see how his broad package of skills could develop into a big league utility infielder, and if the power continues to develop there’s room for an impact major leaguer with some defensive versatility. —Matt Pullman
Greg Deichmann, RF, Oakland Athletics (short-season Vermont)
Higher picks, especially college bats, are expected to perform well in short-season ball. That’s been exactly the case so far for the Athletics 2017 second-round pick, Greg Deichmann. The former LSU Tiger comes from the SEC, so he’s been already playing at the highest level of amateur baseball for most of this year. The outfielder has translated that experience to his first stint as a pro by hitting .333 and slugging .614 in 16 games in the New York-Penn League. Deichmann looks much more mature and developed than your typical rookie ball player. He’s a large, defined man at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, which helps yield plus raw power at just 22 years old. He has strong hands and more than enough upper-body strength to drive balls to all fields. He doesn’t have plus bat speed quite yet, and his hands are a bit stiff through the zone, which will most likely keep his power from projecting to plus game utility. His approach also needs some seasoning as he chases too many pitches because of his confidence in trying to drive any type of pitch.
Still, Deichmann’s mature body and experience makes you think that he’ll work his way through the Athletics system relatively quickly. He profiles well as a right field-only type of power prospect who will hit for a fringy average and more than typical home run numbers. He’s a deceptive athlete for his larger frame and has enough bat control/raw hitting ability to make himself into a potential major league regular thanks mostly to his above average power potential. He’s definitely one to watch to see how quickly he can climb levels during his first full professional season in 2018. —Greg Goldstein
Quinn Brodey, OF, New York Mets (short-season Brooklyn)
Evaluating short-season prospects is particularly difficult. Most of the players are quite raw and never end up making the big leagues. Statistics can also be quite deceiving. A casual fan may see Brodey’s .254/.320/.325 slash line through 30 games and quickly dismiss him. However, it’s not an accident that the Mets just drafted the 21-year-old from Stanford in the third round. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds with a strong, athletic frame, he is relatively mature physically. He possesses a clean and direct swing with some lift from the left side and displayed a decent approach during this past week’s series at Lowell. While his hit tool definitely has average-or-better potential, his power potential is more ambiguous. His strength should give him a chance for average power, which will hopefully begin to manifest in games as his approach further improves.
Brodey played both left and center field during the Lowell series but is likely better suited for left long-term. He did not appear uncomfortable in center, and his footwork and routes were fine. This assessment is primarily based on his merely fringe-average speed. Power development would be more crucial, though, if a permanent move to left ultimately transpires. All things considered, Brodey could realistically make a big-league roster by the end of this decade at the earliest. His ceiling is likely a second-division regular. —Erich Rothmann
Beaty is not a name you are going to find on many top prospect lists; I actually have yet to find him on a single one. But that may change, as Beaty has quietly been one of the best, if not the best hitter on the Dodgers Double-A affiliate in Tulsa. In his first taste of Double-A baseball Beaty has shown great control of the strike zone, has hit over .300 and has knocked 12 homers in 84 games. The question with Beaty is where will he fit in on defense. He has shown a willingness to play as many positions as possible, originally being drafted as a catcher, he has logged innings all four corner positions and even an inning at second base. Being able to play all over the field has great value for his future as long as he is able to be on the right side of average at those spots, though reports indicate he’s more of a first baseman than anything else. At the plate is where he has really begun to make a name for himself. Batting from the left side, Beaty hits the ball all over the park, even showing some power the opposite way. Starting in a relaxed, Matt Stairs-like stance, with his hands down low, he is forced to move dynamically with the pitcher to hit, which can be great in creating a rhythm at the plate. Moving out of the stance he employs a small leg kick, synced up with the bat loading up and back, where he does a nice job of creating some nice angles with the upper body and getting on plane with the incoming pitch. If he can learn to create some better loft on pitches lower in the zone and really fight to get them into the air, we could have a real guy on our hands. It’s possible that Beaty maxes out as a quad-A type, but the overhauled swing has produced results thus far, and he could turn into more than that if the changes (and defensive flexibility) sticks. —Derek Florko
Mark Vientos, 3B, New York Mets (complex-level GCL)
Projection. That is your first thought when you see Vientos, the third-youngest draftee in this year’s draft behind Padres’ LHPs Joey Cantillo and Noel Vela. He is about his listed height and weight at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds with a good frame for muscle. Vientos’ actions are athletic and he moves well, though he is weighed down by his long legs. Overall, I like the body, and it will age fine as he matures.
As for the tools, there’s plenty to like as well. The athleticism plays in the infield, and though the defense is not great, it is solid. He can make the routine play and has a strong arm to make throws from deep in the hold. The Mets have run him out to short, where he shows questionable range; the kind of range that is better suited for the corners. His legs simply get in the way of being rangy and fluid. He will need to work to get his feet in the proper position, but Vientos should be solid at third. While not a speedster, he runs well for his size, and is alert on the basepaths.
The kid projects well offensively, too. Though there is swing and miss presently, and probably in the future as well, the swing is loose and quick. He makes hard, loud contact to the gaps with moderate leverage. Vientos, with improvements on pitch recognition and better use of his base, will hit to above-average power without sacrificing too much of the hit tool. Even with the projection, there is not as much raw talent you would see in some 17-year-olds. Most of the projection is in the growth of the body, rather than in a skills-based capacity, simply because Vientos can leverage his tools quite well at this age, leaving the impression he will be a solid third baseman providing a good offensive profile. —Javier Barragan
Jairo Beras, RHP, Texas Rangers (Low-A Hickory)
Yep, you read that right—former bonus baby toolshed outfielder Jairo Beras is now a pitcher, as we’ve hit on a few times in the Minor League Update and Weekly Wrap. As the prospect team’s resident pitching conversion enthusiast, I was very much hoping to get a look this weekend, and Beras took the mound on Friday night, though it took a minute of asking around in the scout section to confirm it was him due to an unannounced jersey switch. He’s very, very raw, with simple mechanics he has trouble repeating and only the vaguest sense of feel and command. But he also ran it up to 98 with what looked like no effort, mostly sitting 94-97. He threw a total of four offspeed pitches, and some were legitimately difficult to classify, but he ended his outing with a Bugs Bunny change that corkscrewed the batter. As he picks up additional experience, this should start to smooth out, and he could thrive under the right coaching. Since I don’t cover complex leagues, I rarely see a player at this raw a stage of development, and the delta here is as huge as any player you can imagine, from an elite MLB reliever a few years down the road to a guy that never makes it out of A-ball.
Texas faces a puzzling decision with Beras this offseason. His conversion to pitching was at least in part a happy accident, the result of a more standard position player pitching appearance where he happened to flash huge, just like he did for me this weekend. He’s a long way away from having it figured out yet, and he’s only pitching an inning or two once or twice a week right now as he transitions. But because of the first career as a hitter, he’s going to be Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason unless the Rangers add him to the 40-man. And once they do that, the option clock starts running and Beras only has three minor-league seasons to get it all together. —Jarrett Seidler
Kyle Cody, RHP, Texas Rangers (Low-A Hickory)
We will work backwards and start with the comp, because it's an interesting intellectual exercise to me. If I told you a pitcher reminded me of Mike Pelfrey would you take that as a good thing or a bad thing? Big Pelf has made 250 starts in the majors. He’s made over $40 million playing baseball. But he's seen as a bit of a disappointment relative to his draft status. Cody meanwhile was a sixth-round priority senior sign for the Rangers in 2016. At Cody’s age, Pelfrey already had a year of MLB service time under his belt. But like the former ninth-overall pick, he is a tall, strapping righty, with a bowling ball of a mid-90s fastball that features late arm-side run and some feel for a hard, sinking change. He’s far too good for this level, even considering that Texas tends to be more conservative with arms than they are with bats. There are some warts here; he will lose the fastball arm-side and up, despite a simple, compact delivery (sometimes badly—he went straight to the screen a few times as he tired), although the overall command profile is okay. His breaking ball is a little bit of a rolling 11-5 thing, but that doesn't really hurt the Pelfrey comp. Cody will be 23 soon, but you don't need to allow for much projection here, he's already most of the way to a back-end major league starter. Given that, you’d take Mike Pelfrey’s career, no? —Jeffrey Paternostro