Ray’s Ramblings: April 16th

Written by: Ray Butler

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  • Let’s start off with a personal gripe of mine. The past two seasons alone, I’ve lost Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez, Jimmy Nelson, Julio Urias, Dinelson Lamet, and A.J. Puk to long-term injuries. Triston McKenzie would be included in this list, but I traded him a week before it was announced that he would begin the season on the DL due to forearm discomfort. The ceiling of that group is somewhere near Mount Everest. I feel like pitching is becoming more-and-more volatile every season, and my future roster-construction decisions will be made with that in mind.
  • Speaking of Dinelson Lamet, if you feel as though I owe you an apology for hyping Lamet in this piece from January, I’m sorry. For what it’s worth, I still believe Lamet would have broke out this season. The curveball looked great during Spring Training. Andy Green and A.J. Preller threw around the term ‘potential rotation ace’ when evaluating Lamet’s outlook in media sessions. At the time I published my hype piece, Lamet’s ADP was around 220. On Opening Day, it was closer to 200. Good process, poor result. As it goes.
  • With Lamet now out of the picture for my fantasy squad, the margin for error in the backend of my rotation has shrunk exponentially. Luckily, I really think I’ve found something with both Tyler Skaggs and Nick Pivetta. Both were mentioned amongst waiver wire options in Ray’s Ramblings from last week, but I’d like to elaborate here. Obviously the sample is small, but so far, Skaggs’ strikeouts and GB% are up. The BABIP is around Skaggs’ career average. The LOB% will regress a little, but there are certainly signs that Skaggs will be useful this season. His curveball usage continues to increase as he moves further-and-further away from Tommy John surgery, and that 12.7 SwStr% sure is lovely.
  • Nick Pivetta’s stock is also trending upwards thanks to increased curveball usage. Pivetta’s usage jump is even more drastic: he’s throwing the curveball 11% more so far this season compared to last season. Honestly, Pivetta’s numbers look even-more forreal than Skaggs’. Not only is he throwing his offspeed pitches more, but Pivetta is reaping the benefits of increased movement with the pitches. Skaggs and Pivetta slot as my SP8 and SP9 (I’m honestly not sure which is which yet), so I’ll utilize them in favorable matchups until the sample becomes larger and more concrete.
  • Something that I failed to elaborate on (purposely) in my Yoan Moncada article was the potential impact of the other pieces involved in the Chris Sale trade. We all know about Michael Kopech. In my top 200 prospect list that was published this preseason, I claimed that Kopech is the only pitcher in the minor leagues that has the potential to be a genuine, bonafide #1 SP in the major leagues. I completely stand by that notion now. Luis Alexander Basabe was disappointing last season, but he’s not that far removed from the 12 HR/25 SB campaign he posted in 2016. He’s also off to a blazing start this season in High-A Winston Salem. There’s big time potential there. Even if Yoan Moncada never quite reaches his full ‘face of the game’ potential, the White Sox undoubtedly received other difference makers when they traded Chris Sale to Boston.
  • No prospect has swung it like Josh Naylor has swung it so far in AA San Antonio. Ready for this? As of Saturday, Naylor was slashing .467/.514/1.100 in 35 plate appearances. Let me do the math for you: that’s a 1.614 OPS. Naylor has 6 HRs and 13 RBIs; he’s scored 8 runs and stolen a base. It’s also nice to see the 20-year-old posting these numbers with a 11.4 BB% and 14.3 K%. Those rates will never kill you. Naylor has long been tabbed with elite, 70-grade raw power, but coming into the 2018 regular season, he’d never hit more than 12 home runs in any season. He’s well on his way to lapping that number this season. Also worth mentioning: Naylor is slated to play quite a bit of left field for AA San Antonio this season. He’s surprisingly athletic when you consider his 5’11 250 pound frame, and with Eric Hosmer patrolling first base for the Padres for the foreseeable future, Naylor might officially shift to the outfield if he shows he can handle it. Regardless, Naylor appears to be recementing his status as an intriguing prospect.
  • The Phillies are 9-5 thru their first 14 games, which is a nice start to my multi-unit prediction I made in this post. Gabe Kapler didn’t exactly get off to a smooth start as a big league manager, but morale seems to have improved drastically since the bullpen fiasco during the first series of the season. The Phillies and Braves are both overachieving early this season; if it can be sustained, the NL East would likely be the most underrated division in baseball. We knew the division would eventually be a force to be reckoned with, just maybe not this soon. If the Braves can remain relatively-close to their current pace until Ronald Acuna gets promoted, watch out. And of course we’re months and months away from a hypothetical victory lap, but a 9-5 record is much better than a 5-9 record early in the season.
  • I tweet about Taylor Trammell quite often, but when I opened the floor up last night and took requests for players or prospects you would like me to discuss this week, Trammell’s name was mentioned multiple times. First and foremost, if you’re wondering why he’s so popular on Prospects 365, look no further than right here. Thru 11 games and 38 at-bats for High-A Daytona this season, Trammell is slashing .289/.413/.526 with 11 R, 2 HRs, 6 RBI, 8 BB, 6 K, and 1 SB. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t fairly ecstatic about his start, but I also recognize awesome small samples at the start of the season can diminish quickly. I will say that the Tortugas have often batted Trammell third in their order so far this season (second some as well), so the outfielder’s stolen base opportunities have been few and far between. Don’t let it discourage you–Trammell still possesses plus speed. Also.. more walks than strikeouts is always muy bueno. I’ll continue to keep you updated on his stats as the season progresses.
  • Julio Urias’s throwing program hit a roadblock around ten days ago when…. he had a tonsillectomy. Information is currently so scarce on the left-handed prodigy because he’s not with the Dodgers on an everyday basis and, quite frankly, not a focal point of beat writers’ interests right now. On April 3rd, Urias posted a video on his Instagram account of him throwing from around 120 feet. He’s reportedly had absolutely no setbacks during his recovery and rehab. The Dodgers remain on message saying that Urias is expected back before the end of the regular season. Personally, I’m being ultra-cautious and not expecting him to play a role on my fantasy team until next season. I’ve had that mindset since before Opening Day. I have no inside information, I just think the Dodgers won’t push the issue with someone so valuable to their future well-being. Urias should begin throwing off a mound relatively soon; I roster him in my fantasy league, so I’m constantly checking for updates and hints on progress he makes on his road back. I’ll certainly tweet any information I see or hear.
  • Rays prospect Josh Lowe is off to a fantastic start for High-A Charlotte: .364/.436/.667 with 11 R, 2 HRs, 8 RBIs and 4 SBs. The BABIP obviously won’t stay at .400, but the 20-year-old’s numbers could dip slightly and still remain amazing. The pedigree is certainly there: As a high school senior from Marietta, Georgia, the Rays selected Lowe was 13th overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. When he was drafted, most folks viewed Lowe as an athletic third baseman. The Rays organization, however, viewed Lowe as a centerfielder (which speaks to his athleticism), and the position change took place prior to Lowe beginning full season ball last season. Physically, Lowe wreaks of athleticism. He was a little lanky when he was drafted, but he’s filled out quite nicely since entering the Rays organization (the disparity between Lowe’s game power and raw power speak to the notion that he’ll grow into his power throughout the early stages of his professional career). Mechanically, the Rays have tinkered with Lowe’s stance since drafting him (Lowe’s stance has opened quite a bit since high school). I’d be willing to bet the alteration was in hopes of allowing Lowe to see the ball better out of the pitcher’s hand (something has obviously clicked so far this season: Lowe has a 17.9% K-rate after striking out in 28.4% (yikes) of plate appearances last season). From time-to-time, Lowe gets himself into trouble by selling out too early on offspeed pitches (he loses his lower half by shifting his body weight to his front foot too early, leaving his arms to flail at the ball once it crosses the plate). I haven’t seen any film on him so far this season, but the early statistical returns are certainly encouraging. Sustaining a lower strikeout rate is absolutely paramount for Lowe. As he continues to develop, I see potential to be a 15 HR/25 SB centerfielder (if anything, I might be slightly conservative on the HR projection); however, there’s a chance that contact issues always hinder him (reminiscent of a player like Bradley Zimmer). For now, he’s certainly a player to snatch up in a dynasty league, and there’s a chance he’ll be worthy of an add in deep keeper leagues by the end of the regular season.
  • Your weekly Ten Pack of under-the-radar players worthy of your consideration as you prepare your mind for waiver wire moves this week (in no particular order): Franchy Cordero, Vince Velasquez, Trevor Williams, Keynan Middleton, Bud Norris, Yangervis Solarte, Andrew Heaney, Jose Pirela, Kurt Suzuki, Chris Stratton
  • Dynasty prospects worthy of adding or keeping an eye on (in no particular order): Jeisson Rosario, Corbin Martin, Daulton Varsho, Griffin Canning, Anthony Kay, Bryce Conley, Jose Suarez, Gerson Garabito, Josh Lowe, Jonathan Hernandez, Tirso Ornelas, Brandon Waddell, William Contreras and Jasseel De La Cruz.
  • Weekly hot take time: From here on out, each new major league stadium built should have a retractable roof. I don’t care if it’s not organic and it diminishes the uniqueness of each ballpark. Something must be done to combat postponements early in the season, even if it happens one stadium at a time. Have a great week!

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Featured image courtesy of Minor League Baseball

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