Ray’s Ramblings: June 4th

Written by: Ray Butler

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  • Sixto Sanchez has been on an absolute tear the past month. In his past five starts combined, Sanchez (my 18th-ranked prospect this preseason) has 25.2 IP, 15 H, 2 ER, 4 BB and 29 K. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a 0.70 ERA and 0.74 WHIP. More impressive than the numbers, I think, is how Sanchez has gone about his business lately. Evaluator Jason Woodell (@JasonAtTheGame, follow him immediately) witnessed Sanchez’s 7-inning complete game shut out on Sunday against the Florida Fire Frogs, and I discussed Sanchez’s recent hot streak with him. “(Sanchez’s) sequencing was awesome,” Woodell said. “(He) used offspeed early and often to generate weak contact. He is becoming a pitcher.” The 19 year old currently sports a 2.51 ERA with 45 K in 46.2 IP this season with High-A Clearwater. Might it be time for a promotion to AA Reading, which would serve as a concrete challenge for the flamethrowing right hander? “I haven’t seen all his starts and I know he’s been pitching better of late,” Woodell said. “But for me, this start (on Sunday) is the start that declares he is ready for a challenge.” The upside of rostering Sanchez in a deep keeper/dynasty league is obvious. It always has been. But in my write up on Sanchez this preseason, I alluded to the pitching prospect being fairly risky, especially when you consider his youth and ETA relative to the price of acquisition. But as Sanchez continues to post elite numbers and his development continues (relatively soon, hopefully) to AA Reading, the less risky Sanchez becomes. Not risk-free, mind you, but less risky. With Alex Reyes and Walker Buehler recently graduating from prospect consideration, Sanchez will likely be a consensus top 3-4 pitching prospect when midseason prospect lists are released. I’ll always evaluate teenage pitching prospects extremely cautiously, but I’m becoming more optimistic about the Dominican Republic native by the day. You can watch 60 seconds of Sixto Sanchez-cutups from his complete game performance on Sunday right here. Make sure you’re sitting down before you click. (Via @JasonAtTheGame)

2080 Baseball (@2080ball) is a fantastic resource if you’re looking for prospect insight, scouting reports and insight into yearly draftees. I’ve befriended a few of their evaluators, and I recently discussed a few prospects with John Eshleman (@2080_John) that my followers have been wanting me to write about.

  • He may not get the hype of fellow Padres pitching prospects Michel Baez and Adrian Morejon, and he may slide under the radar thanks to the ‘volcano of hot talent lava’ of the Padres system in general, but Logan Allen is an upper-echelon pitching prospect. Pitching for AA San Antonio as a 21 year old, Allen has a 3.24/3.55/3.80 ERA/FIP/xFIP slash in 66.2 IP so far this season. A 6’3 left-hander, Allen was traded to San Diego as part of the return in the notorious Craig Kimbrel trade in 2015. He’s done nothing but raise his stock since moving systems. “(Allen) is an underrated athlete,” Eshleman, who has evaluated Allen in person, said. “I love four pitch guys.” Eshleman projects Allen as a #3-4 MLB starter, and you can read his full report on Allen right here. Allen has averaged around a strikeout per inning throughout his minor league career, but how does his stuff project at the big league level? “(A strikeout per inning) is a lot to ask, but I can him in that 8-9 K/9 range,” Eshleman said. “I projected the fastball and slider as plus pitches, so it would fit.” I ranked Allen 96th in my top 200 prospect list this preseason, and I would imagine he’ll get a bump in my midseason version. That’s right, we’re talking about a clear-cut top 100 prospect who goes largely untalked about due to the other rockstars in the Padres farm system. Use this to your advantage.
  • The other prospect that John and I recently discussed on-record in Indians 3B prospect Nolan Jones. I ranked Jones 145th in my preseason top 200 prospect list, and he’s slashing .239/.355/.394 with 21 R, 6 HR and 24 RBI in 183 Low-A plate appearances (heading into Sunday, 6/3) so far this season. Jones is striking out at an inadequate 29.5% clip, but Eshleman didn’t seem too concerned about Jones’s plate approach after watching him in person earlier this season. “I like his bat,” Eshleman said. “I saw enough plate discipline to project an average hit tool.” Eshleman noted that he’s tabbed Jones with 50 hit, 55 game power and 60 raw power grades. While he’s only hitting .239 so far this season, Jones does sport an attractive 15.3 BB%. If those numbers remain constant throughout Jones’s professional career, there will be some variance between the third baseman’s value in AVG leagues and OBP leagues. But Eshleman voiced another concern regarding the young 20 year old. “I’m less concerned (with the hit tool) than I am with his ability to stick at third base,” Eshleman said. “His footwork concerns me at third.” Eshleman noted that if Jones were to ever transition away from the hot corner, it would likely be to first base. From a fantasy standpoint, Jones might actually carry more value as a .250 AVG/.340 OBP/25 HR first baseman than possessing those same numbers at the hot corner (first base in the fantasy world kind of stinks all of a sudden). From a developmental standpoint, the Indians have no reason to hurriedly move Jones from one corner of the infield to the other. Cleveland will likely exhaust all options as developing Jones at third base before shifting him to first base. I’ll likely move the 6’4 left-hander down a little bit in my midseason top 200 prospect list, but Jones still has plenty of viability. You can watch an open-side shot of Jones’s swing (along with a few of John’s notes) right here. Make sure you follow John at @2080_John and 2080 Baseball at @2080ball.
  • The last version of Ray’s Ramblings was only published this past Wednesday, so make sure you check it out. It includes thoughts on Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Shane Bieber, Willie Calhoun, Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Jalen Beeks, Bryse Wilson, Cristian Pache, Seuly Matias, William Contreras, Starling Heredia, Jhailyn Ortiz and George Valera. Check it out!
  • It’s wild that any top 20 prospect could become relatively boring while posting numbers near their already-sterling standard, but I feel like that’s where we’re at with Mitch Keller. Keller pitched north of 30 innings for AA Altoona during the homestretch of last season, and he’s in the process of repeating the level during the first half of the 2018 regular season. Thru 60 IP this season, Keller has posted a 3.60/4.05/3.62 slash an 8.3 K/9. The strikeout numbers have worsened when compared to his AA numbers from last season, and it’s beginning to become more apparent that Keller may be a solid high-floor big league pitcher instead of a right-hander with spectacular upside. I’d like to see his plus-(plus?) command play to its potential; Keller is walking 3.3 batters per nine innings (it would be the first time Keller has walked more than three batters per nine innings since rookie ball in 2015). The lack of publicity for Keller’s early season performance presents a little bit of a buy-low (I guess?) opportunity if you’re looking for it, just know that, as we gain a large sample against AA competition, Keller’s outlook more closely resembles that of Mike Soroka than Forrest Whitley.
  • A bi-weekly Taylor Trammell update: Thru 199 plate appearances, Trammell is slashing .298/.412/.476 with 30 R, 6 HR, 22 RBI and 5 SB. He’s walking at a 15.0% rate while striking out at a 20.1% rate. Anyone who’s watched Trammell play this season has noted his advanced plate approach, above average baseball intelligence and plus baseball instincts. He was recently named a Florida State League All-Star, and some suspect he’ll be promoted to AA Pensacola shortly after the All-Star game. Remember, I wrote in detail as to why I thought Trammell would be a big mover on prospect lists this season. I aggressively ranked him 23rd in my preseason top 200 list, and I suspect he’ll get a slight bump in my midseason update. I’m excited about the development we’ve seen thru the first 200 plate appearances of Trammell’s 2018 season. You should be excited too.
  • I don’t prefer to discuss my personal fantasy baseball experiences too often, but sometimes, I think an acquisition I make gives you insight into the way my mind works, especially when I can give you the details. Just over a week ago, I traded my A.J. Puk for Scooter Gennett. It’s a classic keeper league/dynasty trade. A contending team (me) acquires a viable active player from a non-playoff team (my opponent) for a prospect with plausible upside. I’ve been a fan of A.J. Puk (my 24th-ranked prospect this preseason) since I watched him pitch for the University of Florida. I acquired Puk in a trade I actually wrote about right here, and despite the monstrous left-hander recently undergoing Tommy John surgery, I still believe Puk can someday be a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. But with Puk facing a long rehab following surgery, it’s almost a certainty he won’t be a factor in the big leagues until sometime in 2019 (Puk will be 24 years old next season). My team is built to compete right now, and my starting rotation features impact-arms who are relatively young (Carlos Martinez, Andrew Heaney, Nick Pivetta, Tyler Skaggs, Julio Teheran, Joe Musgrove, Alex Reyes (ugh) and Julio Urias are all younger than 28 years old). While I completely expect Puk to eventually be a top 30-40 SP in the big leagues, Scooter Gennett provides my team with an every day starter right now, and his three-position eligibility (2B/3B/OF) is quality that pairs well with my roster construction. If you’re still not a believer in Gennett, consider that in his last 600 plate appearances (spanning from June 2017 to right now), Gennett is slashing .310/.356/.534 with 31 HR, 105 RBI and 91 R. I know, I was surprised too. What’s more, a lifetime .233 hitter versus LHP, Gennett is hitting .367 versus southpaws in 62 PA this season. Dude’s a self-made star who’s evolved from a fantasy afterthought (and real-life role player) to a middle-of-the-order force. Maybe he falls off the face of the earth and I lose this trade, but I suspect Gennett will play a large role in my team’s destiny this season. I’ll also probably keep him as my starting 2B heading into next season, with Whit Merrifield becoming a super-utility player for my team.
  • I’ve been tweeting stat lines for Jonathan Hernandez throughout most of the 2018 season, and he’s been among the #dynasty prospect names (listed at the bottom of each Ramblings) to keep an eye on for over a month now, but let’s dive into the details here. He’ll turn 22 in July and he’s pitching in High-A, but Hernandez has posted a 1.66/2.91/2.33 pitching slash in 54.1 IP so far this season. What’s more, he’s struck out 36% (12.1 K/9) of batters he’s faced in 2018. From an arsenal standpoint, Hernandez features a plus, high 90s fastball and a plus slider. His repertoire is completed with a curveball graded as average and a changeup graded as potentially above-average. From a tactical standpoint, Hernandez often utilizes his fastball high-in-the-zone to generate swings and misses. A dynamic fastball, paired with a sexy slider and a curveball and changeup that can be thrown for strikes, Hernandez has multiple paths to get batters out (opposing hitters are currently batting a salty .162 vs. Hernandez this season). At 6’2 and with a four pitch arsenal, Hernandez should remain in the rotation throughout his professional career (though his fastball/slider combination would be mesmerizing out of the bullpen). Hernandez was included in Fangraphs’ most-recent of Fringe 5 Prospects list, and while he’s unlikely to be included in most industry top 100 lists, I’m certainly a fan of the right-hander and will be following him closely for the foreseeable future. A promotion to AA Frisco should be in his near future.
  • As of now, there are twelve 2018 draftees in my midseason top 200 prospect list pool. Draft week is always one of the most exciting weeks of the season around the prospect community. While I don’t think there’s much in the way of ‘oh my gosh sell the farm for this guy’ talent in this draft class, there’s some solid value to be found nonetheless. I can’t wait to really begin piecing together the many intricate puzzle pieces that any prospect list consists of.
  • Gavin Lux is 1) intriguing and 2) underrated. That’s a dangerous combination in fantasy baseball (especially PROSPECT fantasy baseball) circles. The 2018 version of Lux has been quite different than the 2017 version. In 501 Low-A plate appearances last season, Lux slashed .244/.331/.362 with 7 HR and 27 SB (for what it’s worth, to me, Lux posting a .288 BABIP last season despite possessing 60-grade speed means he was a bit unlucky over the course of the entire season). Those numbers mean different things depending on your league format. But check out his numbers so far this season: Thru 228 High-A plate appearances, Lux is slashing .318/.404/.530 with 7 HR, 7 SB and a K% under 20 percent. That’s more like it. His 2018 BABIP is currently sitting at .381, which may regress a bit but isn’t too outrageous for a prospect who possesses plus speed while playing at the High-A level. Lux is 6’2 and an above average athlete, so might he be tapping into hidden power this season? Mechanically speaking, Lux’s approach features a mostly-upright stance with a fairly-high leg kick. There is some bat wrap as he begins his swing, but to this point, Lux’s athleticism has allowed him to get the bat to the ball on time nonetheless. Even if he can’t match the HR-output from his first ~230 plate appearances for the rest of the season, a 12 HR/20 SB season by a middle infielder would be quite notable, especially since Lux hasn’t been included on many prospect lists to date (stay tuned). If Lux’s slash falls off, there’s still a really good chance he bats .250/.330/.425 (that seems like a worst case scenario). A .330 OBP/12 HR/20 SB season from a 20-year-old middle infielder in High-A is noteworthy, and I think there’s a chance Lux far exceeds those numbers this season. In my opinion, Lux (a 2016 first rounder) should be owned in any league in which ~175 prospects are owned.
  • 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, Matt Thaiss, Zac Lowther, Jalen Beeks, Keegan Akin, Sean Murphy, Chris Paddack, Cavan Biggio, Cionel Perez, George Valera, Connor Wong, D.J. Peters, Telmito Agustin, Gavin Lux, Nick Neidert, M.J. Melendez, Buddy Reed, Calvin Mitchell, Yasel Antuna, Ranger Suarez, Drew Waters, Jeter Downs, Bobby Dalbec, Trey Supak, Michael Hermosillo, Julio Pablo Martinez, Joe Dunand, Pedro Avila, Oneil Cruz, Randy Arozarena, Micker Adolfo, Jazz Chisholm, Dillon Tate, Bryan Mata, Luis Garcia, Nathaniel Lowe, Marcos Diplan, Logan Shore, Kevin Smith, Dakota Hudson, Ryan Helsley, Trevor Rogers, Will Benson, Genesis Cabrera, Khalil Lee, Gabriel Arias, Esteury Ruiz, Jorge Alcala, Nick Margevicius, Spencer Howard, Jeren Kendall, Pablo Lopez, Edgar Arredondo, Enyel De Los Santos, Alexander Canario, Ezequiel Duran, Forrest Wall, Ramon Rosso, Mario Feliciano, Tyler Stephenson, Tyreque Reed, Brusdar Graterol, Vladimir Gutierrez, Austin Allen, Anderson Tejeda, Oscar de la Cruz, Bo Takahaski, Mike Shawaryn. Feel free to ask me about any of these guys any time!

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Featured image courtesy of Minor League Baseball

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