Written by: Ray Butler
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- If you missed the tweet on Saturday night, @Prospects365 is now a Wander Samuel Franco fan account. Following a horrific 1-4 outing on Sunday, the 17 year old is now slashing .386/.427/.694 with 6 HR, 3 SB and a spectacular 7.4 K%. The deep-end of the prospect world has basically been going bananas over Franco the past week, all while dreaming of where the teenager could possibly rank on lists at the end of the regular season. It’s likely that some of Franco’s numbers aren’t totally sustainable for the remainder of the regular season, but they don’t have to sustained in order for the hype-train to be full steam ahead even in generic prospect circles by the start of next season. Already highly-touted when he signed with the Rays last summer for $3.85 million, we’ve always known Franco was a plus hitter with an advanced approach, especially for his age. What we didn’t expect was the development of in-game power so quickly. He’ll likely debut in full season ball next season as an 18 year old, where he could cement his status as a notable prospect across-the-board. The nephew of both Erick and Willy Aybar, Franco certainly has the pedigree that makes you confident in his outlook moving forward. This video via follower @TobiasWooX and tweeted by @MRodProspects alone should be enough to stir your emotions. Jump on board early. I conservatively ranked Franco 179th in my midseason top 200 list. Something tells me he might get a bump by the end of the regular season.
- I’ve already forgotten the score of the Futures Game, and you shouldn’t remember it either. The game’s not built for box score scavengers. It’s not worth you being disappointed in prospects you roster if they don’t shine in a two or three at-bat sample. Heck, it’s good to simply have some of your prospects invited to the game in the first place. What I do care about in the Futures Game are 1) the takeaways of scouts from pre-game batting practice, and 2) the in-game moments. Eloy Jimenez officially introduced himself to the general prospect world at the Futures Game in 2016 with a towering home run and a phenomenal defensive play in right field. The ‘moments’ are important in the realm of individual prospect perception. There were ten home runs in Sunday’s Futures Game, so the ‘moments’ abound. Even general baseball fans who watched the game know who Yusniel Diaz (2 HR) is now. They’ll remember Seuly Matias, Peter Alonso, Taylor Trammell, Luis Alexander Basabe, Danny Jansen and Ke’Bryan Hayes. Who didn’t enjoy Buddy Reed being mic’d up and his in-game interview? How about Hunter Greene hitting 103 mph on the stadium radar gun? It’s the individual moments that are the main takeaways from each season’s Futures Game. Sunday’s game was great.
- Speaking of moments from the Futures Game, how about our boy Taylor Trammell? The 20 year old entered the game in the 5th inning, and the rest is history. In his first at-bat, Trammell crushed a 438 foot solo home run off Indians RP prospect Kieran Lovegrove over the right-center fence. In his final at-bat, the Reds farmhand smoked a triple off Braves prospect Touki Toussaint that hit the top of the fence in center field. With a 2-2, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI performance, Trammell was named the Most Valuable Player of the Futures Game. It’s certainly a noteworthy accomplishment, and one that I take pride in since detailing Trammell’s emerging stardom in February. More than five months later, the 20 year old is slashing .295/.394/.421 with 6 HR and 16 SB in High-A, with a Futures Game MVP to boot. A promotion to Double-A Pensacola should be in-store relatively soon, and I’m hopeful a spectacular performance amongst the top prospects in baseball will jump-start Trammell’s counting stats as we hit the home stretch of the minor league season. Our Twitter follower count has grown exponentially since my piece on Trammell was published, so if you’re a new arrival, make sure you take a look. I ranked Trammell 11th in my midseason top 200.
- Mike Matheny’s termination as manager of the Cardinals was long overdue. I probably don’t have to tell you the reasons behind that statement because they’ve grown increasingly obvious over time, but I will give my two cents on the direction the organization should take in the immediate future. When the Matheny news broke on Saturday night, the first name I saw mentioned as a hypothetical replacement was Joe Girardi. Folks, that hire would be catastrophic. The Cardinals are currently an organization whose big league talent-level is incapable of winning the World Series. The Cardinals are currently an organization whose farm system lacks the star-power to boost their big league club to the level of the Cubs, Braves, Dodgers, Astros, Red Sox or Yankees. From a record standpoint, they’re too good to #tearitdown and rebuild but not good enough to truly contend. The Cardinals are lukewarm. Mired in mediocrity. Fractures abound within the organization, mostly thanks to Matheny’s old school, distant mentality that often alienates young players (as detailed by Mark Saxon here). As the league’s contenders continue utilizing analytics to steer in-game and player acquisition decisions, the Cardinals have steered in the opposite direction under Matheny’s direction. Not only was the now-unemployed manager not in-tune with cutting-edge baseball ideas and analytics, but Matheny wasn’t even in-tune with his own clubhouse. When Girardi was fired as the manager of the Yankees in November, GM Brian Cashman stated the main reason for new direction was Girardi’s “connectivity and communication” issues with players. Consequently, Cashman eventually hired Aaron Boone, a candidate whose best attribute might be the way he connects and interacts with his players. So can the Cardinals, an organization currently void of the talent-level necessary to genuinely compete for a World Series crown whose clubhouse is already splintered due to Matheny’s actions and distance, afford to hire another old-school manager who’s not known for his close-knitedness with players? Of course not. A changing of the guard needs to occur. Impending free agents should see the Cardinals’ new manager as a positive in their decision-making process. Young players already in the organization should feel empowered to be themselves. At this point, hiring a master-tactician seems like a middle-of-the-road priority in St. Louis. It would be icing on the cake, of course, but head coaches in professional sports don’t have to be spectacular game mangers. They do, however, have to be spectacular people managers. Let’s hope John Mozeliak makes this realization before he hires the Cardinals’ next manager.
- If you haven’t read it already, my #MidseasonTop200 composite list has been published. 200 prospects, more than 20,000 words. You can read it here.
- The overall numbers since being promoted still aren’t excellent, but Angels OF prospect Brandon Marsh is beginning to figure out High-A. In the last month, Marsh has slashed .309/.416/.489 as a top-of-the-order fixture for Inland Empire. The counting stats aren’t eye-popping, and there’s some swing-and-miss in the profile, but the arrow seems to be pointing up for the 20-year-old outfielder. He’ll likely be a 21 year old in Double-A next season. I ranked Marsh 39th in my midseason top 200, and he made my prospect obsession list this spring.
- Bobby Dalbec is back, and he’s been insanely good lately. After a 2-2, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB game on Sunday, the third baseman is slashing .265/.377/.583 with 23 HR and 78 RBIs this season. He’s walked in 13.9% of plate appearances and struck out in 30.6% of plate appearances, both of which are substantial improvements from last season. It’s hard to get too excited when you realize we’re discussing a 23 year old in High-A, but Dalbec really has made some notable improvements this season. His wRC+ for the season is 157, and unless the performance falls off a cliff between now and the end of the regular season, it’s feasible Dalbec will be included in the discussion for the top prospect in the Red Sox farm system headed into 2019.
- Noted prospect guru and Prospects 365 staff writer Marc Rodriguez recently released his midseason top 100 dynasty prospect list. Marc is one of my most-trusted follows in the prospect world, so make sure you read his work.
- Brewers OF prospect Corey Ray is now slashing .245/.341/.476 this season for Double-A Biloxi…. with 16 home runs and 27 stolen bases. The ghastly strikeout rate from last season has decreased by four percent. If anything, the BABIP might be a little low. You see the disparity between the AVG and OBP, but holistically, Ray is performing similarly to the first round pick he was drafted to be in 2016. I ranked Ray 123rd in my midseason prospect list.
- Been asked why I ‘inexplicably’ ranked Justus Sheffield 61st in my midseason top 200. “It’s way too low.” “Everyone else is higher on him than you!” First, you should know that I don’t reference any other prospect list as I create my own. I talk to fellow prospect list creators Ralph Lifshitz, Connor Kurcon and Marc Rodriguez constantly. I admire and respect their lists, but I don’t use them to steer my own rankings. Quite frankly, that wouldn’t be fair to you as a reader. Shifting to Sheffield; as I’ve already mentioned, I’m turned off by the spotty command that’s led to a BB/9 north of 4.00 this season. The ERA for the season is fine, but a .267 BABIP-against suggests some regression may be in store. Despite that, I still consider Sheffield a top 70 prospect in baseball. I don’t really understand how ranking a prospect 61st could be perceived as an insult, but here we are.
- We’ve finally made it to the All Star break, so it seems appropriate to update my preseason predictions for surprising and disappointing teams this season. The Phillies, my top pick to outperform their projected win total, *should* cruise to OVER 75.5 wins. My Orioles and Giants predictions are in good shape, but my Nationals, Rays and Padres predictions aren’t looking too promising. I’d take a 3-3 record that includes a multi-unit winner.
- Prospects ranked from #101-200 on my #MidseasonTop200 list that I’m super excited to monitor between now and the end of the regular season: Shane Baz, Ezequiel Duran, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Adonis Medina, William Contreras, Sean Reid-Foley, George Valera, Everson Pereira, Nathaniel Lowe, Nick Neidert, Oneil Cruz, Francisco Morales, Jarred Kelenic, JoJo Romero, Dustin May, Yasel Antuna, Nolan Gorman, Wander Samuel Franco, Kristian Robinson and Hans Crouse.
- I’ve set sail on my next large-ish project for the site, with a focus on dynasty league fantasy baseballers. It’ll take awhile to complete, but I’m already excited to share it with you. Have a great week!
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Featured image courtesy of Minor League Baseball