Written by: Ray Butler
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- I tweeted this recent truth about Cardinals 3B prospect Nolan Gorman….
After demolishing the Appalachian League in 167 plate appearances, the 18-year-old was (surprisingly?) promoted to full-season ball. The stats following the promotion don’t mean nearly as much as the experience itself, but prospectors are certainly salivating over the third baseman’s 17 home runs in only 243 plate appearances across two levels. At this pace, it’s likely that Gorman will at least reach High-A Palm Beach next season as a teenager, with a chance to play in Double-A before the end of the season certainly not out of the picture. If you know much about Gorman, you know the 70-grade raw power will always be the calling card. What remains to be seen, though, is whether the hit tool will ever develop to the point that the third baseman can maximize his offensive potential. Fangraphs currently labels Gorman with a league-average future hit tool, though it seems he’s off to a good start in terms of eventually exceeding that evaluation. As will become a pattern of mine, I conservatively-ranked the 2018 draftee 178th in my #MidseasonTop200. It’s safe to say he’ll receive a bump in the postseason edition, though I can’t swear he’s suddenly top 100 material. I actually imagine there will be a ton of variance for Gorman in postseason lists, with some normalization occurring at some point during the third baseman’s first full season of professional ball. Despite this, I imagine the price tag to acquire Gorman (if he’s already rostered in your league) this offseason will be close to that of a top 50 prospect, making it somewhat a risky proposition for someone so young.
- Jason Woodell recently called Rays 2B prospect Vidal Brujan ‘the best kept secret in baseball’, and with a recent power surge backing the notion there’s some major untapped power in his offensive profile, he may be right (in the prospect world, anyways). Between stops in Low-A and High-A, the 20-year-old has slashed .326/.410/.469 with 9 home runs and 54 (!) stolen bases this season. He has 63 strikeouts and 61 walks in 519 plate appearances. Are you not entertained? Brujan has an above-average hit tool and plus speed. From a fantasy standpoint, the reluctance with the second baseman has always been the lack of power potential. On the surface (especially considering his 5’9 155 lb. frame), the hesitance is warranted. But then you watch the swing, featuring lightning-fast wrists and a timely weight transfer. Following a home run on Sunday, Woodell (who witnessed the blast) compared Brujan to a ‘pint sized Jesus Sanchez’. Just watching the open-faced comparison, you can see the resemblance. Now, Brujan will likely never threaten the 30-HR mark. He may never even reach 25 home runs in a season. But 55-raw power seems like the correct grade here, making 18-20 home run seasons quite doable. The second baseman will make his prospect list debut for me this postseason, and he could very well begin the 2019 season in the Southern League with Double-A Montgomery.
- This past week, White Sox SP prospect Dylan Cease was shut down for the remainder of the 2018 season. Based on the luck Chicago’s farm system has had this season, one would bet the right-hander suffered an injury worthy of ending his season, right? Wrong. The White Sox simply want to avoid overworking Cease, who transformed himself into one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball this season. In 124 IP, the 22-year-old struck out 32.5% of the batters he faced, posting a 2.40 ERA and 2.91 FIP with a 10.2 BB% to boot. The final numbers are a huge step-forward for Cease, who was viewed as a decent bet to eventually transition to the bullpen at the beginning of the 2018 season. Some still believe he’s better suited as a high-leverage reliever, but tweaks to his mechanics and increased-reliance and effectiveness of his changeup easily allow me to believe in his potential as a rotation fixture. And you probably don’t care anything about this, but I consider Cease’s success after being promoted to Double-A this season a personal triumph of mine, since I aggressively-ranked Cease 44th in my midseason top 200 prospect list. He’ll likely rank around that position in my postseason rankings, though it’s important to remember the right-hander is not yet a finished product. If he starts the 2019 season the same way he finished this season, he could be a big leaguer by next summer.
- Staff writer Marc Rodriguez made his Ramblings debut last week, and he did not disappoint. It features Michael Kopech, Stephen Gonsalves, Jazz Chisholm, Ronaldo Hernandez, Tony Santillan and Malcom Nunez. Check it out here.
- Backtracking to underrated Rays prospects, Nick Solak has never received the respect he deserves in prospect circles. Yes, he’s 23-years-old and in Double-A, but the second baseman is in the midst of a 19 home run, 21 stolen base campaign in which he’s slashed .280/.380/.453 with a double-digit walk rate. The hit and speed tools are both above-average (if not plus), and the home run output this season suggests Solak possesses a power tool better than what he’s been given credit for. As a matter of fact, I think it’s likely the 23-year-old is a 55 hit/55 raw power/55 speed prospect, though some would argue he’s a 60/55/60 player. I also find it interesting that Solak has started 55 games in the outfield this season, which obviously increases his versatility and improves his path to big league playing time. Statistically, I don’t see why Solak’s big league ceiling can’t resemble that of Whit Merrifield, with the positional similarities making it an obvious comp.
- .272/.352/.435. 210 plate appearances. 6 home runs. 10 stolen bases. 17 years old. Let’s talk about Diamondbacks outfield prospect Kristian Robinson. I was bullish on Robinson this midseason, ranking him 185th in my #MidseasonTop200. I don’t think it’s debatable that Robinson is one of the best athletes in all of baseball. A physical specimen at 6’3 190 lbs., Robinson possesses 70-grade raw power and 60-grade speed. The sample we’ve received from the teenager this summer certainly won’t slow the excitement surrounding the teenager. In all likelihood, he’ll debut in full season ball next season as an 18-year-old, where he’ll have a chance to become a fixture in even the most generic prospect circles. You know the motto around these parts: Take chances on athletes. That means you should be willing to stick your neck out on Robinson, whose acquisition price should be fairly cheap this offseason. I consider it almost likely the outfielder will be a top 100 prospect this time next season, so you might consider acquiring stock before you have to break the bank to do so.
- Don’t look now, but Phillies OF prospect Mickey Moniak seems to be making some strides in the Florida State League. After a horrendous first half, Moniak is slashing .276/.327/.459 with 4 home runs and 2 stolen bases in 202 plate appearances since July 1st. That’s good for a 121 wRC+. Granted, those numbers aren’t exactly spectacular. And even with some strides being made, the sad truth is Moniak will likely never be a fixture in the fantasy baseball world. But don’t make the mistake of thinking there’s not big league potential here. I haven’t said it in awhile, so allow me to refresh your memory: Prospect development is almost never linear. Growth can appear in nearly an infinite amount of ways in baseball, and while we shouldn’t yet be writing home about the progress Moniak has made in the FSL this season, we also shouldn’t write him off as a bust. Remember that the outfielder only turned 20 in May. Let him cook. #Patience
- I’m not sure my heart is ready to handle finding room to love two Luis Garcia’s in the prospect world. You already know the Nationals’ version, the 18-year-old shortstop currently finding success in High-A who nearly cracked my top 100 this midseason. But the Phillies’ Luis Garcia is beginning to make waves too, slashing .369/.433/.488 with 1 home run and 12 stolen bases in 187 plate appearances in Rookie Ball this summer. Also a shortstop like his identically-named counterpart, Garcia is already considered an above-average defender with the offensive potential to someday be a highly-touted prospect. For now, we get to admire Garcia’s minuscule 11.2 K%, which is certainly an outlier compared to most Rookie League position players (and Garcia is 2.7 years younger than his average competition). The 17-year-old’s offensive prowess will develop as Garcia himself develops physically. For now, let’s consider the shortstop a top 400 prospect with a chance to make a meteoric jump over the course of next season. Depending on the depth of your league, he should perhaps already be rostered.
- The Yankees seemingly grow pitching prospects on trees, and Deivi Garcia might be the next pinstriped arm to emerge from the depths of the prospect world. The 19-year-old was recently promoted to High-A, where he’s posted a 1.59 ERA and 31.4 K% in four starts. For the season, Garcia (who began the regular season in extended spring training) has a 35.2 K% and 2.70 FIP in 63.1 IP. With a slight build (5’10 163 lbs.), Garcia will remain a high-risk of eventually moving to the bullpen, which would obviously diminish his fantasy value. The sometimes wild, always high-effort delivery furthers the notion he’ll someday make an impact from the bullpen, though we’ll see over time how he factors into the Yankees’ long-term plans. For what it’s worth, with his current approach and stuff, I’d wager Garcia becomes a multi-inning swing man in an above average bullpen. In the fantasy world, the right-hander is currently an extreme risk, high-reward option only worth acquiring if ~300 prospects are rostered in your league.
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Featured image courtesy of Minor League Baseball and photographer Tracy Proffitt