Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres (Double-A San Antonio)
Fernando Tatis Jr, just promoted to Double-A, has generated significant – and deserved – attention for his record-setting season as an 18-year-old in Low-A. He paced Fort Wayne to the playoffs, and will now join a Double-A club that will also be in the playoffs. Tatis Jr. has great body language and always seems to be at the center of a conversation with teammates or coaches in the dugout. He stands out on the field for his long build and legs and has projection through the upper half and shoulders. He clocked in at 4.25 to first base, just at above average for a right-handed batter, which will tick down a bit as he fills out. What won’t tick down is his effort, as he runs hard with energy and perceptive baserunning instincts (e.g. anticipating passed-balls, taking an extra base).
In the field, Tatis showed strong ability with short hops and glove transfers, and his arm is more than enough for shortstop with carry/velocity on-line to first base, though a scout mentioned his need to shorten his arm action as he advances. He is a big target at short and moves well for his height. He’ll stay at short until the body projection limits his range and potentially forces a move to third. In South Bend, he hit five consecutive BP homers to left field/left-center field with balance, showing backspin and lift to center and pull-side. He hit line drives in BP, too, but his swing, power, hard contact and backspin led to the homers– i.e. he’s not selling out for it. Double-plus raw power projection is within reach. Low-A pitchers were either walking him, generating whiffs on well below average sliders low and away (he had 8/9 sw/strikes on sliders in one game), or making mistakes with fastballs and sliders that he took advantage of. His bat speed, even on foul balls, is evident (see 3:20 in video above), and his swing has lift to it.
Tatis Jr. is very much 18 and that shows at the plate when he faces sliders; he gets long in the back with the bat and gets out in front and off-balance. He showed that he has the wrist strength to eventually hold up on those pitches as he checks up his swing. The spin recognition on sliders is not there right now, but most 18-year-olds would have problems with that if put in Low-A. We are a few years, if not more, away from the hit tool becoming an actual concern. Tatis has a medium stride and an angled leg kick (in BP, too) that he sometimes shortens into an abbreviated toe tap, and he showed an ability to draw walks against poor control. In my viewing, he laced doubles to left field/left-center field and right field. He has obvious power potential that is showing with his 21 homers and a .239 ISO to date. Tatis is likely an above-average regular with a definite chance for more. He should be up for the challenge in Double-A and will see the types of sliders he needs to see in order to adjust. — Will Siskel
Corey Ray, CF, Milwaukee Brewers (High-A Carolina)
Corey Ray is a premium athlete, and he has many skills baseball teams value highly. Unfortunately, at present, hitting does not appear to be among them. Because Ray is a 60 runner with a 55 glove in CF and enough arm to stick, he will not need to hit a ton to be a regular. But after several summer looks and conversations with scouts, Ray is getting FV 45 grades, providing big-league value as a fourth outfielder who can play all three outfield spots and run. Yes, there is some raw power in there, but his current problems at the plate preclude him from tapping into it.
Ray’s swing has some length, and I’ve regularly seen him be late on fastballs up in the zone. There is some noise in the hands that he has cleaned up a bit since May, but he is still late on fastballs and not often impacting the ball. Ray does not engage his lower body with any force when swinging, leading his swing “from the top” with his hands, shoulders, and arms. He’s had some success this way thanks to his incredible wrist strength and plus bat speed, muscling some gappers and homers. However, his “handsy” swing also leads to lots of roll-over grounders to the right side and soft-to-medium contact to the left, where he has shown an ability to punch balls through the six-hole. As the quality of arms he faces improves, Ray will need to engage his legs and backside to create leverage and make hard contact, in addition to shortening his swing.
It is still only Ray’s first-full season, so he has time. His eye is good and there’s some barrel control, so if he figures something out with his swing, his upside remains substantial. However, a fourth outfielder outcome is more likely at present. — John Eshleman
J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, Houston Astros (Short-Season Tri-City)
The Astros selected Bukauskas 15th overall in this year’s amateur draft out of UNC. They likely will not own a pick that high again for a long time, so they were fortunate to wind up with a player who easily could have gone in the top-10. In his first 10 professional innings, Bukauskas has allowed just three runs and has struck out nine batters. The keys to his success are his potentially plus or better fastball and plus slider. The fastball sat 92-95 against Lowell and reached 98 in college. It displays some late sinking action and generates swings-and-misses when thrown up in the zone. His mid-80s slider showed impressive tilt while generating multiple swings-and-misses at Lowell. However, his command of the offering is presently more inconsistent than that of the fastball.
The clear third pitch is the changeup, which flashes average to above average thanks to late fade. In addition to his inconsistent changeup, the two primary reasons for a possible future shift to the bullpen are his below-average height (listed at 6’ and 196 pounds) and relatively high-effort delivery. With this height discussion in mind, the delivery concern is probably more significant. Even so, his fastball-slider combination gives him a floor of a high-leverage reliever, and he still has a chance to develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter. — Erich Rothmann
Brandon Wagner, 1B, New York Yankees (Low-A Charleston)
Wagner, a sixth-round pick out of Howard College in 2015, is currently in the middle of an under-the-radar breakout season with the Yankees Class-A affiliate in Charleston. At six feet 200ish pounds he may not look like your typical first baseman, but he can swing the bat. Wagner has shown he can control the zone, and is leading the Sally in OBP thanks in part to his 13.5% walk rate. He currently profiles as more of a line-drive hitter than a true power threat, as he’s posted a pretty impressive 26% line-drive rate and hit them to all fields. Once he gets out of the power-suppressed South Atlantic League, hopefully some of these doubles can turn into homers.
Performance aside, the main reason to believe in Wagner is his swing. Because it is so quick and efficient, he can wait until balls are deep in the zone before he makes a decision. It’s fun to watch. His movement starts with a leg kick through which he is able to load into his back side, with a slight coil of the hips. This sets him up to move and land very athletically, and as soon as his front foot comes to the ground, his swing is already up to full speed. A lot of minor league hitters have a two-piece type swings, where their front foot gets down and then they look to swing, creating inefficiency. Not so with Wagner.
Wagner creates some really good angles with his upper body and gets to a good “palm up, palm down” position deep in the zone. This puts him on plane for a very long time, creating a large margin for error and giving him the ability to adjust to off-speed pitches. His swing is in good shape and he should hit as he continues to move up the minor-league ladder. The real question is whether he’ll be able to move off first or hit for enough power to stick at the cold corner. — Derek Florko
Touki Toussaint, RHP, Atlanta Braves (Double-A Mississippi)
The narrative is that the Braves stole Toussaint from the Diamondbacks midway through the 2015 season. Then, they transformed him back into the prospect he had been when he was Arizona’s first-round (16th overall) pick in the 2014 draft by letting him use all of his pitches.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Toussaint still has a potential repertoire to be excited about. He throws his fastball 91-94 (he topped out at 95) and can run the four-seam variety in on righties and have his two-seamer drop out of the zone at its best. He also throws an inconsistent change at 82-84 that has good depth and fade when he can find it. His signature curveball (78-82) wasn’t a consistent offering in this view.
But while the stuff is enticing, Toussaint still can’t repeat his delivery consistently. He pitches from the stretch at all times to try and mitigate his inconsistency, and his delivery is compact and without a lot of effort. Most often, he delivers from a high three-quarters slot, but he can sometimes lose his angle and subsequently detract from his stuff, especially the curve. While Toussaint’s BB/9 has been better this season, it’s still much too high at 3.6 and as he has faced better hitters, his BABIP has seen a significant jump. Batters are laying off when he executes and waiting for the inevitable mistake, and it’s working.
The optimist will say that Toussaint is still quite young, having just turned 21 in June, but he is now in his third full pro season and the problems he began with are still quite prominent. It may be time to realize that Toussaint is not a future starting pitcher, and if there is no improvement in consistency or command, he could max out in a middle relief role. — Scott Delp
Tomas Nido, C, New York Mets (Double-A Binghamton)
As we all like to say here, “catchers are weird,” and that also applies to Nido. A 2012 eighth-round pick, Nido is a six-foot, 210-pound catcher who made a name for himself last season when he slashed .320/.357/.459 in a full year in High-A. However, the jump to Double-A has been a bit of a challenge for the 23 year-old, at least offensively. Nido is not hitting poorly per say, posting a solid .250 batting average with seven homers in 89 games in the Eastern League. But just by watching Nido for a few games, you can see some noticeable flaws in terms of his ability to make consistent solid contact against major league-caliber stuff.
On the positive side, Nido has the bat speed to catch up to plus velo. He’s also very physical in the box, using a lot of effort and a heavy load in order to get power behind the swing. You could see the raw power in his stroke in batting practice, as he was consistently hitting balls out, even to the deepest parts of the park. But the high effort in his swing makes Nido unhinged at times as he pulls his head and body fairly frequently in his attempt to drive the baseball. He’ll also drop his hands, which makes his already leveraged swing a bit longer to the ball, and he frequently gets under pitches right in the middle of the zone. His approach could improve, but Nido looks to be a high-strikeout, low-average power hitter for the position long-term.
Still, that’s a projection that can work its way out to be starting caliber if the catcher profiles to stick at catcher in the bigs, and I’m confident that Nido can. Physically, his frame works well behind the plate, but he also flashes quality athleticism, moving side-to-side well enough to keep wild pitches in front of him. The arm is above-average too, as he’s capable of throwing balls on a rope to second base. I got him with pop times in the 1.95-2.05 range in this series. He’s inaccurate at times, but not a liability with runners on base. Overall, the defense and the power give him starting potential, but the lack of consistency at the plate makes it more likely he’ll find a role as a quality backup/platoon option. — Greg Goldstein
Brett Siddall, OF, Oakland Athletics (High-A Stockton)
The son of Blue Jays radio broadcaster Joe, Siddall was drafted in the 13th round in 2015 after a monster junior season for Canisius. He continued to bang in the desert after signing, but struggled in full-season ball last year and again this spring before bursting into flame and charging all the way to the second-best OPS in the Cal League at present. He’s a chiseled, physically mature athlete with strength throughout his frame and flashes of explosiveness. He moves well in left field, taking confident and fairly direct routes on balls in each direction. The arm’s more than enough for left, with velocity if not exceptional carry, and looked the part for right-field utility.
He’s an aggressive hitter in the box, swinging frequently though staying around the zone in these looks. It’s a quiet setup, and he stores energy with solid balance during the load process, creating torque to drive the baseball. He wasn’t always consistent with his stride length, and there were some issues syncing his timing after launching the barrel on a few swings. But I like how the upper half works, and he generates above-average bat speed with quality leverage off his backside. It’s an extremely pull-happy swing and approach at present, and lifting balls to the pull side is very definitely his game. There’s more work to be done, but I can see a path to above-average game power built on reasonable contact rates. And if that happens he’s got a future as a corner outfield bat on someone’s bench. — Wilson Karaman
Jonathan Machado, CF, Cardinals (Complex-level GCL)
Machado’s best tool is his feel for wood. He has good hand-eye coordination, allowing him to hit the ball where it is pitched. It is so good that he can stand in the back of the batter’s box, shuffle to the front of the box mid-windup and still drive the ball to any part of the field. His approach and knowledge of the zone are advanced, too, as he takes his walks and knows the pitches he can turn on. He has fair leverage in his swing as well as some pop, but with his size—true to his listed 5’9, 155 lbs—his power is mainly to right field, his pull side. His frame doesn’t offer much projections, but the 18-year-old will thicken naturally and should have an athletic, even build.
Despite barely running hard 90s, he is a solid runner and has good instincts on the basepaths that will allow him to rob bags even when he slows a tick. If he could only showcase it more … Defensively, he mans centerfield solidly with easy reads. The range is not superb, but with his average speed he can run down all regular plays. The arm is fringe, yet accurate.
The risk with Machado, aside from the normal performance risks associated with facing better talent, is his makeup. An Example; he started the season on the active-suspension list—his roster status was “active” while he conspicuously missed two exact weeks—for “mala costumbre”, which translates to “bad manners.” Moreover, he has shown negative body language and does not give full effort on every play, once registering a roughly six-second home-to-first time on a groundball single to right field. As you might guess, his focus waivers pitch to pitch. If everything clicks, and the make-up does not hurt his production/development, he has the makings of a major league regular with a good hit tool, fair power and solid defense in either center or left at the top of the lineup. — Javier Barragan
Bailey Falter, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies (Low-A Lakewood)
As we start winding down the MiLB season, our Ten Packs start to consist of top prospects who we’re getting late looks on (often due to promotions) and emptying our notebooks out for guys who deserve a write-up but perhaps didn’t have the greatest writing hook to sink into. Falter is distinctly the latter for me; he’s spent the entire season pitching very well for Lakewood, and he’s a prospect, if not a particularly interesting or great one. But he’s had the misfortune of pitching in a loaded Lakewood rotation containing three-to-five more interesting pitchers at any given time, and therefore he’s gotten lost in the shuffle.
Falter is a common archetype in the minors, a six-figure bonus polished prep lefty with a big old breaker and some projectability left. He’ll usually sit 89-92 with occasional readings up to 94, already up a small tick since being drafted, and he possesses a loopy overhand curve that gets a lot of chases at the level. He has above-average command of both pitches, for the level. Given that the fastball is a bit flat and the change is more or less a show-me pitch, Falter’s likely projection for a MLB role is pretty easy: lefty specialist. But he’s tall and skinny and still in Low-A, so it’s possible that he picks up some velocity and a third pitch, in which case he’d project out to a potential mid-rotation starter.
To be frank, advanced lefties like this with a shot at a real future do litter the minors. Falter isn’t even the only one of this kind in his own rotation—Nick Fanti is a little smaller and a little more advanced, but just about everything in the second paragraph applies to him, too. And they’re pretty much all a good third pitch or a grade or two of fastball (or both) away from being, well, Joey Wentz, just like all the “95 and a slider” guys are just a third pitch and a grade or two of command away from becoming something more. If more guys starting from here had good MLB careers, we’d have to reevaluate these prospects as a group, but they just don’t. —Jarrett Seidler
Kevin Merrell, INF, Oakland A’s (Short-Season Vermont)
Merrell is enjoying a very successful 2017 rookie campaign in professional baseball, slashing .320/.362/.424 thus far. The 33rd overall pick out of USF by Oakland, Merrell is a very athletic middle infielder. As a former track standout in high school, he shows a plus-plus speed tool. While his arm grades out near average, Merrell’s speed may be better suited for an outfield role in the future. Offensively, he is a selective hitter at the plate. He isn’t afraid to work deep counts and uses an adjustable swing to cover the strike zone. While he doesn’t possess much power, Merrell has an innate ability to make contact. His speed and contact-oriented bat are big reasons as to why Oakland should be excited about this prospect. — Justin Coleman
Craig Goldstein, Married, Baseball Prospectus (Short-Season Hawaii)
A “the sum of the parts is greater than the whole” guy, Goldstein (Craij) impressed this weekend, showcasing all of his tools. His 70-grade face played well with his fitted black tux and striped pants, and while it’s a high-maintenance body, it shouldn’t limit him to DH in the near term. A clear leader in the field, Goldstein developed a good working relationship with his batterymate, a former first-round pick overflowing with talent. Most scouts were just there to see her. When the priest called him “Greg,” Craij addressed the matter privately and did not air his grievances to the media.
Although I went into the game with low expectations regarding Goldstein’s liver—other scouts gave it a 30—it played up in my showing, even in extra innings. Goldstein kept his composure throughout the weekend series, even when his groomsmen attempted to break him. He also played through an injury, a cut on his left middle finger that didn’t seem to impact his play in the field. Goldstein’s appetite remains his carrying tool, and he put in work both at the rehearsal dinner and during the reception. He did almost forget the rings, but no one is perfect.
Overall, it’s easy to see Craij excelling at the next level thanks to his compassion, charm and the genuine joy he seemed to derive from his successful weekend series. We’re awfully happy for him. — Ben Carsley
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