Ray’s Ramblings: May 7th

Written by: Ray Butler

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  • It didn’t take long for Eloy Jimenez to make his mark in the Southern League this season. After a 2-3 game on Sunday, Jimenez is now slashing .319/.347/.652 with 15 R, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 16.0 K% and 5.3 BB% in only 17 games this season. For giggles, that pace would lead to a 57 HR, 181 RBI full-season performance in AA. Eloy Jimenez is very good. If he’s on the field, his floor is an eventual OF3 who smacks close to 30 HR for your fantasy team. The ceiling is quite the spectacle, with the thought of .300 AVG, 35-40 HR seasons not at all out of the question. The risk with Jimenez is the durability; the outfielder has missed portions of all three seasons of his full-season minor league career with various injuries. Of course the organizations he’s played for (Jimenez was traded from the Cubs to the White Sox last season as the anchor in the Jose Quintana trade) have been uber-cautious with Jimenez’s health, but the injuries are slightly worrisome nonetheless. I ranked Jimenez fourth in my 2018 top 200 prospect list with the thought that the right fielder will be an elite asset even if he spends a little time on the disabled list each season (of course, Jimenez could absolutely be a victim to poor injury luck, and he simply needs time to prove his durability). The ETA with the Dominican Republic native is a little tricky. The White Sox obviously aren’t playoff contenders this season, which means they can afford to wait as long as they’d like before promoting Jimenez to the big leagues. I do expect Chicago to promote Jimenez to AAA Charlotte relatively soon (so Jimenez and Michael Kopech will hypothetically be teammates), but I’m not anticipating anything more than a cup of coffee in the big leagues during the last few weeks of the 2018 regular season, though it would still mean he and Kopech would likely both be big leaguers by season’s end. That also means Jimenez will likely compete for an everyday starting job with the White Sox next season. I roster the slugger, so I hope my ETA for him proves to be too conservative. In my experience, it’s best to be super-conservative on prospect-ETAs then hope to be pleasantly surprised. Here’s to hoping he’s hitting no-doubters at Guaranteed Rate Field ASAP as possible.
  • Sticking with White Sox prospects, I can’t help but think Dylan Cease isn’t too far away from a promotion to AA Birmingham. Following a 6-inning outing on Sunday, Cease is now sporting a 1.95 ERA with 42 strikeouts and 14 walks in 32.1 IP this season. From reports I’ve seen, Cease has been working hard to incorporate his changeup and slider more often in sequences this season. If you’ve ever watched him pitch, you know Cease possesses an elite fastball and a plus curve, which has led some to believe the 22-year-old might be best suited in the bullpen. Continuing to polish his third and fourth offerings would not only quiet those who think he’d be better off as a reliever, but it would also allow Cease to become a complete pitcher. Cease narrowly made the top half of my 2018 top 200 prospect list; I know it’s not breathtakingly fun to roster a 22 year old who’s pitching in High-A, but we’re talking about a pitcher who’s already undergone Tommy John surgery who could be knocking on the door of a big league debut this time next season. I remain cautiously bullish on Cease.
  • Your ‘every so-often’ Taylor Trammell update: .287/.396/.489 with 19 R, 3 HR, 12 RBI and 3 SB. He has 17 strike outs and 17 walks in 111 High-A plate appearances this season. The approach/plate discipline numbers continue to be drool-worthy, and his .324 BABIP would easily be the lowest mark of his career (I’d like to think that means the AVG and OBP might improve even more over time). The wRC+ and wOBA are both notably higher than last season’s marks. I know the home runs and stolen base numbers aren’t too gaudy yet, but #patience. I’d rather the slash numbers be what they are with the counting stats he’s accumulated than a .225/.325/.400 slash with a few more home runs and stolen bases. Everything will fall in place. Read my preseason thoughts on Trammell’s emerging superstardom right here.
  • Make sure you read last week’s version of Ray’s Ramblings. I discussed Pete Alonso, Joe Dunand, Austin Riley, Mac Williamson, Seranthony Dominguez, Leody Taveras, Zac Lowther, Sixto Sanchez and Alex Faedo.
  • If you’re looking for an off-the-radar pitching prospect with lots of upside who’s fairly close to making his big league debut, Enyel De Los Santos may be your guy. De Los Santos has been electric in 25.1 IP for AAA Lehigh this season, striking out 33 and walking 11 while posting a microscopic 1.07 ERA. The 22 year old features three above average pitches: a mid-90s fastball, a sharp slider and a continually-improving slider. De Los Santos has an imposing presence on the mound and a cross-body delivery. He’s not currently on the Phillies’ 40-man roster, but director of player development Joe Jordan recently said considering De Los Santos for a spot in the big league rotation ‘wouldn’t be getting ahead of ourselves’. Last week, I added the Dominican-native to the list of non-top 200 prospects to keep an eye on. If you’re looking to stockpile young arms who have a chance to make a big league impact this season, De Los Santos should be squarely on your radar. The strikeout upside is certainly there.
  • Speaking of off-the-radar pitchers with upside, Brusdar Graterol certainly seems like a name that can be added to the stable of big time pitching prospects in the Twins organization. Prospect GIFs recently tweeted some of Graterol’s highlights, and oh my goodness they are filthy. Graterol is a teenager until August and is pitching for Low-A Cedar Rapids. His arsenal features three pitches that scouts consider potentially-plus, including a high 80s slider and a fastball that touches triple digits. His delivery is quite low-effort, at only 19 years old, Graterol should continue to develop strength as he matures physically. There’s no prospect more volatile and risky than a young pitcher who’s years away from factoring into the big leagues, but luckily for you, adding Graterol to your fantasy roster shouldn’t be too costly. For now. If you’re looking for a ceiling, I’ll snicker before offering a #3 SP ceiling. Just know that I generally don’t believe in offering ceilings on teenage pitching prospects, and his floor is undoubtedly a pitcher with electric stuff who doesn’t pan out. There have been thousands of those guys in the history of baseball. It’s definitely okay to be very excited about Graterol. Heck, I’m excited too. Just please be cautious.
  • It’s certainly looking like Juan Soto’s 2018 performance will be one for the ages. He’s been a recent topic of conversation on Prospects 365, so make sure you give our work on the rising star a look.
  • Franchy Cordero is showing signs of making an adjustment that a lot of baseball minds thought he was incapable of making. Cordero has reached base safely in 10 consecutive games. That in itself is an accomplishment, but the next part is even more mesmerizing: In that stretch, Cordero has walked eight times. A more conservative approach has helped raise Cordero’s triple slash to .272/.352/.519 in 92 plate appearances. The 10.9 BB% would be his highest walk rate in his full season professional career. His improved patience hasn’t led to his season-long strikeout rate becoming acceptable, but it’s slowly trending in the correct direction. With the physical talents that Cordero possesses, this is an important development.
  • I know Shane Bieber has been one of the most talked-about pitching prospects so far this season, but consider me slightly skeptical. If I’m rostering a pitching prospect, it’s because I see quite a bit of upside. Does Bieber carry a lot of upside? That question carries a complicated answer, but it depends on who you ask and what you look for in a pitcher. Bieber’s curveball is considered by some as a plus pitch, but the one true plus skill the right hander possesses is the elite 70-grade command. The tiny walk rate is awesome, and it suggests a well-polished pitcher. That’s because Bieber is a well-polished pitcher. However, I think the right-hander’s statistical ceiling is that of Kyle Hendricks: A low ERA, low-walk pitcher whose strikeout limitations cap his ceiling. If you can grab Bieber for free or cheap? Fine. Do it. Bieber will likely be an above-average major league starting pitcher someday. If it costs an arm and a leg to acquire Bieber? I’m passing. The upside just isn’t what I look for in a pitching prospect (a position/slot that inherently carries a lot of risk). He’s also not on the Indians’ 40 man roster, which clouds his ETA a bit (though a 2018 debut doesn’t feel completely out of the picture). Just like Hendricks, Bieber will likely be a better real-life player than fantasy asset. The team name options are endless, though.
  • At long last, it appears Lazarito ‘Lazaro’ Armenteros will finally make his full-season debut this week. If this name already means something to you, you probably know that Armenteros has gained somewhat of a cult following since signing with the Athletics as a 17 year old for $3 million in 2016. For those of you who haven’t already heard of the outfielder, how does 60 grade raw power and 60 grade speed sound? Before he ever takes a swing in full season ball, it *feels* like Armenteros will be a star if he simply makes contact with the ball often enough. Early in his professional career, pitch recognition (especially offspeed pitches) will be absolutely crucial. Armenteros has a tendency to get caught on his front foot (often suggesting that a player is expecting to be thrown a fastball), and when that happens, the strikeouts pile up. Nicknamed ‘The Cuban Bryce Harper’, Armenteros certainly carries some heavy expectations into his full season debut with the Low-A Beloit Snappers. If you currently roster Armenteros, don’t let a slow start get your hopes down. If Armenteros is available in your league, keep close tabs on his performance over the next month or two. One thing is for certain: Lazaro Armenteros is one of the more polarizing prospects outside of my current top 200.
  • The variance between Dustin Fowler in an AVG league and Dustin Fowler in an OBP league continues to scatter his value. He’s currently slashing .314/.339/.466 in AAA Nashville, which is acceptable regardless of the format of your league. The walk rate is a microscopic 4.0%. The strikeout rate is also low (12.9%), which tells me that Fowler is MLB-ready, but the Athletics aren’t currently in a situation that necessitates promoting him. I ranked Fowler as the 95th-best prospect in baseball in my preseason top 200 prospect list, but in an OBP league, Fowler’s ceiling is somewhat limited. He is MLB-ready, now he just needs an opportunity. Here’s to hoping he becomes a .300 AVG everyday MLB outfielder.
  • There is currently a major league-ready infielder in AAA who’s batting .374 with 4 HR and….. are you sitting down? A 4.0 K%. It’s unbelievable, really. I’m talking about David Fletcher, a 23-year-old middle infielder in the Angels system who’s on the cusp of a big league debut. Fangraphs recently included Fletcher amongst the most compelling fringe prospects in baseball, which is especially intriguing when you consider the success rate of ‘Fringe Five’ prospects. Both of those articles are well worth your time. I’m always looking for oddities and anomalies to keep an eye on in the prospect world, and Fletcher certainly fits that bill. With Ian Kinsler underperforming, Angels fans are calling for Fletcher to be promoted to Anaheim. The power so far this season is uncharacteristic of Fletcher, but if you’re looking for the definition of a safe floor, the middle infielder is exactly what you’re looking for. I’m not running to add him in a shallow keeper league, but dynasty players should be aware of the numbers he’s posting in AAA Salt Lake.
  • I’ve never owned a single share of Billy Hamilton stock, and I never plan to. One of the fantasy baseball maxims I live by is to never overspend on speed, and Hamilton’s performance so far this season is exactly why. He’s walking more, but his AVG (heading into Sunday) is below the Mendoza Line. He’ll never be a power threat, and he’s only swiped five bases in 32 games played this season. He’s scuffled so much this season that even Reds’ beat writers have taken a swing at predicting who could eventually replace Hamilton as the every day center fielder in Cincinnati (hello, Taylor Trammell). As advanced analytics continue to prioritize the importance of getting on base at a steady rate, I suspect Hamilton’s value will continue to diminish. It wouldn’t surprise me to eventually see the speedster become a Jarrod Dyson-in-Kansas City type player: a spot starter whose speed is utilized in late-inning situations regularly.
  • Brendan Rodgers was a prospect obsession of mine coming into the regular season, so I’m monitoring his progress constantly. Rodgers is now slashing .298/.336/.519 in AA Hartford with 13 R, 6 HR, 22 RBI and 4 SB. The walk rate (which I’ve been closely watching) is 5.3%. He’s struck out in only 21.1% of his plate appearances. On a larger scale than the aforementioned Dustin Fowler (because Rodgers is a better player), the walk rate will speak volumes to the type of ceiling Rodgers possesses at the big league level. A walk rate north of 5% is actually an improvement compared to his numbers a few weeks ago, and I hope it continues rising.
  • A rolling list of prospects who did not make my preseason top 200 prospect list BUT are worthy of adding or keeping an eye on in keeper league formats (in no particular order): Jeisson Rosario, Corbin Martin, Daulton Varsho, Lazarito Armenteros, Griffin Canning, Anthony Kay, Bryce Conley, David Fletcher, Jose Suarez, Gerson Garabito, Josh Lowe, Jonathan Hernandez, Shane Bieber, Tirso Ornelas, Brandon Waddell, William Contreras, Austin Beck, Jasseel De La Cruz, Tony Santillan, Zac Lowther, Jalen Beeks, Chris Paddack, Cionel Perez, Connor Wong, Yasel Antuna, Trey Supak, Michael Hermosillo, Joe Dunand, Nathaniel Lowe, Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, Khalil Lee, Gabriel Arias, Esteury Ruiz, Enyel De Los Santos, Alexander Canario, Ezequiel Duran, Tyler Stephenson, Brusdar Graterol, Austin Allen, Oscar de la Cruz, Bo Takahaski. Feel free to ask me about any of these guys any time!
  • Ready for my hot take of the week? I coach high school baseball, and I couldn’t care less if a hitter sprints to first base on a batted ball. Want to know what I would care about? One of my fantasy players rolling an ankle or suffering a serious, non-contact knee injury while sprinting to first on a groundout to the shortstop. Sometimes, it’s best to live to fight another day. Have a great week!

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