Written by: Ray Butler
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- Before we get going, some housekeeping items: My midseason top 200 prospect list is beginning to trickle out. The first version was released yesterday, featuring my #181-200 prospects. You can click right here to read it.
- Also, I’ve been so busy creating new content for the site that I nearly forgot to do a 2000 follower giveaway. Clink the link right here and follow the directions in order to participate. A winner will be picked later this week!
- It’s flown under the radar for a couple of reasons, but what Yordan Alvarez has done in Double-A as a 20 year old is top five storyline in the minor leagues this season. In 128 plate appearances, Alvarez is slashing .304/.378/.545 with 7 HR and 29 RBI. The walk rate is comfortably in double digits. The strikeout rate is lower than 20%. Other than the earth-shattering performance of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in AA this season, Alvarez’s sterling performance has slipped between the cracks to an extent because he missed more than a month of game action after taking a HBP in the hand/wrist area in early May. Alvarez is back and obviously healthy now, and he should be primed for a superb summer. An interesting note: at one point, most evaluators assumed Alvarez would shift to first base defensively. He still might, but it’s interesting that he’s started EVERY game he’s played this season in left field. Something to keep in mind moving forward. Here’s a GIF of two opposite-field bombs from Alvarez earlier this season, courtesy of @prospectgifs. I ranked Alvarez 66th in my preseason top 200 prospect list, but he’ll get a nice bump in the midseason version.
- You hardly ever see a pitcher get promoted from High-A to Double-A without a (at least temporary) decline in performance, but Dane Dunning seems to be an exception this season. After striking out a hilarious 31.6% of the batters he faced while posting a 2.59 ERA in 24.1 IP at High-A to begin the season, Dunning has struck out 26.8% of batters (10.0 K/9) while posting a 2.78 ERA in 58.1 IP in AA Birmingham. Equally impressive to those numbers? Dunning hasn’t given up a home run since being promoted, and he’s posted the ERA despite allowing a .333 BABIP. The 6’4 right-hander is already 23 years old, but he’s quietly ascended to being one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. He hasn’t posted a K/9 less than 10 at any stop throughout his full season career, and I’d love to see him get a shot at AAA Charlotte before the season’s over. As a big leaguer, I think Dunning is a steady #3 SP who will be a staple in your fantasy rotation. The right-hander ranked 112th in my preseason prospect list, but he’ll be moving up in my midseason top 200 list.
- If you haven’t already, make sure you check out last week’s version of Ray’s Ramblings. It was a star-studded lineup, featuring thoughts on Fernando Tatis Jr., Jo Adell, Keston Hiura, Jonathan Loaisiga, Brandon Marsh, Jahmai Jones, Justus Sheffield, Luis Urias and wayyyyy more. Read it right here.
- Speaking of pitching prospects finding their way in Double-A, I continue to like what I’m seeing from Bryse Wilson. In five of his eight starts since being promoted to Mississippi, Wilson has allowed three or fewer earned runs. In the other three starts, the right-hander allowed a combined 17 earned runs. The Double-A ERA thru 39.2 IP won’t impress you (5.90), but you don’t have to look far to find the underlying numbers (3.62 ERA, 4.14 xFIP) that might suggest what’s to come. Oh, it’s kind of important to remember that Wilson is all of 20 years old. The comparison might seem lazy, but I genuinely do see some similarities to what Wilson has done this season and what Mike Soroka accomplished last season. In his past two starts, Wilson has 13 IP, 13 H, 4 ER, 5 BB and 14 K. That’s good for a 2.77 ERA with north of a strikeout per inning. I think Wilson’s numbers will continue to normalize over his next handful of starts (the BABIP against, GB% and LOB% are still quite abnormal/unfavorable compared to his career numbers). There’s some development remaining, of course, but I think Wilson eventually settles into the middle of the Braves’ rotation. I ranked Wilson 91st in my preseason top 200; as is a common theme in this article, the right-hander will ascend in my midseason version.
- I guess the theme of these Ramblings is ‘prospects flying under the radar who are killing it’, because Carter Kieboom fits that mold as well. I had dreams of Kieboom and Juan Soto rising through the ranks together, but Soto obviously had other plans. Kieboom’s been fantastic this season, slashing .298/.386/.494 with 48 R, 11 HR and 46 RBI. The walk rate is 12.6%, the strikeout rate is 17.5%. He’s still 20 years old and probably ready for a promotion to AA Harrisburg. Kieboom likely would have been ranked much more favorably this preseason had he been healthy throughout last season, but it presented a buy-low window for fantasy baseballers who believed in Kieboom’s 55-future hit tool and 60-future raw power. I expect the shortstop’s stock to skyrocket when midseason prospect lists are published (cough cough), so if you have aspirations of rostering him in your fantasy league, you better make that happen ASAP. I aggressively ranked Kieboom 88th in my preseason top 200 prospect list. Prepare for another aggressive ranking in my midseason list.
- The site has been lit lately. I even published a piece in the middle of last week, when I debated Seuly Matias vs. Khalil Lee. It’s currently one of the more interesting questions in the prospect world, and it epitomizes a Royals system that seems to improve by the day. You can read that piece right here.
- Another subtheme of this week’s Ramblings is ‘Pitching prospects who are finding their footing in Double-A’, because that’s certainly where we’re at with Justin Dunn. He’s only made two starts with Binghamton, but it’s safe to say that the right-hander’s surface numbers are better than how he’s actually performed so far. In 13 IP, Dunn has a 0.69 ERA, 3.51 FIP and 4.38 xFIP (see?). He’s struck out 12 and walked eight. Dunn (who I’m glad I included in my preseason top 200 prospect list) has been a bit of a sensation this season; after an extremely lackluster 2017 season, the right-hander has rebounded in 2018 to the tune of 58.2 IP, 63 K and a 1.99 ERA between High-A and Double-A (with a 3.05 FIP to boot). So what’s changed? According to Jason Woodell (@JasonAtTheGame), who’s actually seen Dunn pitch in person this season, it’s been the development of his changeup that’s supplanted Dunn back into the spotlight of pitching prospects (you can watch Jason talk more about Dunn right here). He’s throwing it in all counts, which is critical especially against left handed hitters. With the possibility of the Mets being deadline sellers seemingly increasing by the day, it’s a possibility that Dunn finds his way into the big league rotation by sometime next season. The slider will always be Dunn’s calling card, and I beg you to watch it in Woodell’s video below (also, check out Dunn’s lower half. Thicc). The 22-year-old right hander has bad processed/good resulted his way to a 0.69 (nice) ERA thru two Double-A outings. I can’t wait to see what the numbers look like once he settles in.
- A goal of mine is to become more in-tune with Rookie League ball, Summer Leagues and players to keep an eye on at those levels each season. A few worth monitoring this season (in no order): Ezequiel Duran (NYY), George Valera (CLE), Alexander Canario (SF), Kristian Robinson (ARZ), Miguel Hiraldo (TOR), Luis Medina (NYY), Anthony Garcia (NYY), Lenyn Sosa (CHW), Kevin Maitan (LAA, he’s actually looked great so far), Everson Pereira (NYY), Eric Pardinho (TOR), Christopher Navarro (COL), Eddie Hernandez (ARZ), Rainer Nunez (TOR), Franklin Garcia (COL), Wander Samuel Franco (TB), Hagen Danner (TOR), Marcos Gonzalez (CLE). I know I’m missing a ton, but this should get us started. I’m hoping to have enough time in the coming weeks to really dive into the meat and potatoes of Rookie Ball. The best way to find tomorrow’s tomorrow’s stars.
- The prospect world simply doesn’t appreciate Danny Jansen enough. Offensively speaking, Jansen is absolutely ready to be an everyday big league backstop. He’s slashing .297/.408/.469 with 4 HR, 4 SB and a 12.7 K% thru 212 plate appearances in Triple-A this season. As a matter of fact, Jansen has struck out only 27 times this season. He’s walked 26 times. Jansen (ranked 140th in my preseason top 200 prospect list) might not ever be a Gold Glove candidate at catcher, but how much offensive productivity must be wasted to milk as much of Russell Martin’s contract as possible? Martin is currently slashing .168/.314/.310 this season. Thru 188 plate appearances. He’s striking out in more than a fourth of his plate appearances. Yikes. What’s more? Martin is currently signed thru the 2019 season, and he’s owed a handsome $20,000,000 next season. So the absolute worst case scenario is Jansen wasting away in the minor leagues until 2020 (hey, can we ever trust the Jays to do the right thing?). The best case scenario is Toronto selling any and every possibly-valuable piece they’ve got, and moving on from any excess weight thereafter. That would mean Jansen sees a lot of big league playing time this September, then entering the 2019 regular season as a prime candidate for every day action. It’s almost a certainty that, at some point, Jansen is worthy of being someone’s every day fantasy catcher in your league. Let’s hope Toronto does the right thing and it happens sometime well-before 2020.
- Remember when the catcher position was nearly entirely barren on prospect lists? You had to stretch quite a bit just to fit three or four catchers on a top 200 list. Well, no more. Reports of the death of the catcher position in fantasy baseball have been greatly exaggerated, and there’s no better case-in-point than looking at Ronaldo Hernandez’s numbers so far this season. Hernandez began his professional career as a 17 year old (!) for the Rays, and he’s finally getting a shot at full-season ball this season. He hasn’t disappointed. Thru 224 plate appearances this season, Hernandez has slashed .307/.353/.530 with 10 HR and a 16.1 BB%. For giggles, he’s added four stolen bases (don’t expect the speed to factor-in long term). According to Fangraphs, Hernandez possesses a 50-future hit tool and 55-future raw power. Based on the fact he’s hit over .300 in three consecutive seasons (2016 and 2017 in Rookie Ball, 2018 so far in Low-A), the 50-future hit tool seems extremely conservative. As you know, catching prospects can be extremely volatile with tricky ETAs. I certainly don’t suggest rushing to add Hernandez is anything other than dynasty leagues. I do, however, think Hernandez is a current top 200 prospect (you’ll read about him soon) with a chance to potentially be an impact-bat positionally in the big leagues.
- 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, Ronaldo Hernandez, Bubba Thompson, 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, Miguel Hiraldo, 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, Francisco Morales, Julio Pablo Martinez, Joe Dunand, Pedro Avila, Oneil Cruz, Randy Arozarena, Micker Adolfo, Jazz Chisholm, Kristian Robinson, Dillon Tate, Edwin Rios, Bryan Mata, Freddy Peralta, Luis Garcia, Nathaniel Lowe, Marcos Diplan, Dennis Santana, 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, Freudis Nova, 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! Note: This list will be completely overhauled and updated at the conclusion of my #MidseasonTop200 release.
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Featured image courtesy of South Side Sox