Ray’s Ramblings: July 31st

Written by: Ray Butler

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  • Eloy Jimenez is a big league player who’s currently stuck in Triple-A thanks to flaws in the current MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement. After posting a ridiculous 153 wRC+ in 228 plate appearances earlier this season, the 21-year-old has somehow found a way to take his game to another level since being promoted to Triple-A, where he’s currently slashing .396/.443/.729 (good for a 222 wRC+). The outfielder has 18 home runs in 335 total plate appearances this season, and he should easily top his career high mark (19) in the category. Checking boxes, indeed. The truth is, if the White Sox were in the thick of the playoff hunt, Jimenez would already be batting in the middle of the order for the South Siders. But because Chicago is currently 37-68 and already 20.5 games behind division-leader Cleveland, general manager Rick Hahn and other front office decision-makers have the luxury of not fully-challenging Jimenez until it makes the utmost financial sense to promote him to the big leagues. I know you’re surprised that overwhelmingly rich entities (the White Sox, whose current payroll is north of $71 million) are currently allowed to withhold well-earned money from its mostly-powerless assets for the sole-betterment of said entity, but that’s the current landscape of Major League Baseball. Players must demand better when the current CBA expires in 2021. Also, Eloy Jimenez is certainly looking like the future .300 AVG/30 HR big leaguer I projected him to be this preseason. I also ranked Jimenez as the 2nd-best prospect in baseball this midseason.
  • After a promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday, Braves pitching prospect Kyle Wright is just one call away from a big league debut. From the outside looking in, you may wonder what Wright’s accomplished this season to warrant a promotion: A 3.70 ERA, 22.5 K% and 3.5 BB/9 don’t exactly scream ‘ready for a new challenge’. But the truth is, scouts who have watched Wright pitch in-person this season have left drooling over the stuff and the mound presence. And since he was drafted with the fifth overall pick last season, it was basically understood that Wright would be a fast-mover in the minor leagues, regardless of whether or not the stats were spectacular. He’s almost certainly outpitched his numbers, and the 5.33 ERA when pitching at home (his Double-A home field is a undoubted pitcher’s park) is certainly peculiar. I’m not sure he’ll ever post the gaudy strikeout numbers needed to play as the #2 SP that some people label his future as, but Wright is going to be a solid, upper-echelon mid-rotation starting pitcher for the next decade. As far as the outlook for the remainder of this season goes, while he’ll continue to start games in Triple-A Gwinnett until further notice, I think there’s an outside chance he finishes the season in Atlanta’s bullpen. Wright’s stuff would excel in a bullpen role, and it’d be a great way to break a future fixture in to the big leagues. The right-hander ranked 41st in my midseason top 200 prospect list.
  • If you missed it, make sure you check out last week’s version of Ray’s Ramblings. They include thoughts on Fernando Tatis Jr., Keston Hiura, Luis Garcia Adonis Medina, Kevin Smith, Nick Madrigal, Ryan Mountcastle and more. Read it here.
  • Call it my hot take of the week, but I’m convinced Kolby Allard has more upside than most people suspect. As Kyle Wright moved up to Triple-A on Monday, Allard was officially promoted to Atlanta, where he’ll make his major league debut on Tuesday against the Marlins. At only 20 years old, Allard’s profile seems obvious: A low-ceiling, high-command starter who’ll always be solid but never spectacular. But despite never pitching at a level in which he wasn’t at least three years younger than the average age, Allard has never posted an ERA higher than 3.18 over a full season (and he posted that number last season for Double-A Mississippi. He was 5.2 years younger than his average competition). The lifetime K/9 sits at 8.2, but he hasn’t actually posted more than eight strikeouts per nine innings since 2016. Limited upside, right? But I’m interested to see just how well the stuff plays as Allard, ya know, nears his mid-20s and beyond. The command is obviously above average. The curveball and changeup are both above-average. I think even if the fastball only grades as league average, Allard will eventually strike out 8-9 batters per nine innings. Heck, maybe he’ll even strike out a batter per inning at his peak. The profile will never be top-of-the-rotation worthy, but Allard will be a solid #4 SP or low-end #3 SP throughout his career. The southpaw ranked 88th in my midseason top 200 prospect list.
  • And while we’re on the subject of promotions, Jo Adell may run out of levels to climb by the end of the 2018 season. At only 19 years and 3 months old, Adell was promoted to Double-A Mobile on Monday. The promotion marks the third different level the outfield prospect has played in this season, which is no small feat for any prospect, much less a teenager. I’m still slightly worried with the walk and strikeout rates (which we’ll really get a good look at in Double-A), but the 18 HR and 13 SB with a .300 AVG at his age speak for themselves. We’re talking about a budding star. I think there’s a chance Adell struggles in his first bout with Double-A pitching, but even decent numbers at the level between now and the end of the season could lead to Adell being ranked inside the top 5 overall prospects in baseball next preseason. A freak athlete, the outfielder should continue contributing in all categories throughout the early stages of his professional career.
  • In his last 38 plate appearances, Seuly Matias has 7 strikeouts. Of course that’s not a terribly big sample size, but the outfielder has 4 home runs with a .371 AVG and .421 OBP during that span. The strikeout rate in those ten games is 18.4%, which is interesting for obvious reasons. Perhaps something to keep an eye on moving forward……
  • In case you missed it this past week, I finally made my podcast debut. I was invited to join the 80 Grade Podcast with hosts Connor Kurcon and Rhys White, and we had an absolute blast. We discussed the glaring differences in our midseason prospects list, adjustments we would make if we could go back and rearrange, prospects we expect to make the next editions of our lists and near-future breakouts. I haven’t counted, but I’d be willing to bet 50 (or more) prospects were discussed in this podcast. Links to the podcast can be found here.
  • I had tons of requests to write about Josh Naylor this week, and I’m always happy to discuss a prospect with the elite plate approach that Naylor possesses. More walks than strikeouts this season in Double-A? Check. A batting average north of .300 with an on base percentage north of .400? Check. Seventy-grade raw power that’s beginning to manifest itself in game action? Check. I love every bit of it. I’ve mentioned it a couple of times already, but it bears repeating once more because so many people don’t realize this: Naylor has played more than twice as many games in left field this season as he’s played first base. If you’re just realizing this, that means you’re also realizing that Naylor isn’t nearly as blocked at the big league level as you thought he was (don’t get me started on Eric Hosmer, though). I know the body gives some evaluators pause (especially when assessing how well he’ll age), but we’re talking about a current 21-year-old who’s still getting better. I’m not nearly as worried about the frame as most people are. Maybe the plate approach makes me naive, I don’t know. But I do know that if the season ended today, I’d find a spot for Naylor inside my top 100 prospects. For now, the outfielder ranked 104th in my midseason prospect list.
  • If you’ve somehow missed it (or you’re a new reader), make sure you check out my midseason top 200 prospect list. It’ll give you an idea of where I stand on the top prospects in baseball, and each included prospect has a blurb included with their ranking. Two hundred prospects, twenty thousand words. You know how we get down.
  • Alexander Canario is making me feel things. In his first eleven games in Rookie Ball this season, the 18-year-old outfielder struck out in 29.6% of plate appearances and slashed .200/.333/.244 in 54 plate appearances. Since then, Canario has gone down swinging in only 18.2% of plate appearances. In that stretch, he’s slashed .340/.462/.566. Notice the disparity between the AVG and OBP in the aforementioned slash lines? That’s because Canario has a 15.8% walk rate in 24 games this season. In Rookie Ball. As an 18 year old. That alone makes my ears perk up. Then we notice that scouting reports grade Canario with 55-future hit, 60-raw power and 55-speed. Then we realize he’ll likely debut in full season ball next season at 18 years old (he’ll turn 19 next May). Buy, buy, buy. Canario ranked 150th in my midseason top 200 prospect list, so I’d like to think I’ve been on him from the get-go. Depending on how the rest of the 2018 season plays out, Canario might knock on the door of the top 100 next preseason.
  • How about an under-the-radar, 18-year-old prospect who’s on the rise? He only has 136 plate appearances between Rookie Ball and Short Season play this season, but Tigers shortstop prospect Wenceel Perez is a name to remember moving forward. Perez is slashing .341/.404/.472 with 3 home runs and 4 stolen bases in 30 games played this season; equally important, the teenager has a modest 13.2 K% and impressive 9.6 BB% so far. Remember, any numbers that suggest anything resembling a decent plate approach in non-full season ball is certainly noteworthy, so the rates Perez has posted thus far have been impressive. From a tool standpoint, Perez is a switch-hitter who possesses gap-to-gap power that currently translates to more singles and doubles than home runs, but at only 5’11, 170 pounds as an 18 year old, there’s still some physical development left to go. Reports suggest he’s shown more pop from the right side than the left side so far, but the bat-to-ball skills seem legit regardless of handedness. Perez is a 60-runner, which will pair well the fact he puts the ball in play consistently. It certainly appears Perez is athletic enough to stick at shortstop (and he possesses the defensive tools to remain at SS) for the long-haul, which will help his stock as he continues to develop. For now, I’ll throw 60-future hit, 50-future game power and 60-speed grades on Perez’s fantasy-relevant tools. He’ll likely make his full-season debut in 2019 for the Low-A West Michigan Whitecaps.
  • Along with my midseason prospect list, staff writer Marc Rodriguez recently published his midseason top 100 dynasty prospect list. M-Rod is as well-versed in the prospect game as anyone I care to know, so make sure you give it a read.
  • What I’m about to say is sure to shock you. Sitting down? Listen to this: The Padres have another rising prospect. This time it’s Luis Patino, an 18-year-old in full season ball who’s stifled Low-A hitters thru 56.1 IP this season. The right-hander has struck out 30% of the batters he’s faced in his full season debut, posting a 2.92 xFIP along the way. In a vacuum, he’s been even better lately, allowing only one earned run total in his last four outings (19.2 IP) with 26 strikeouts to boot. When you watch the right-hander, the athleticism jumps off the screen at you. The agility will hopefully combat the high-effort delivery to keep Patino in the rotation long-term. From an arsenal standpoint, the 18-year-old features an already-plus fastball that sits 93-95 mph and tops out closer to 97 mph. The slider is his second dynamic pitch, and most scouting entities think it’ll eventually become a plus offering. The changeup is certainly a work in progress, but Patino’s athleticism makes it easy to believe the pitch will eventually develop to average or better. There’s a ton to like about the profile, especially when you consider the substantial projectability. I’m hopeful Patino is not done growing yet (he’s currently listed at 6’0, 192 lbs.), because the athleticism and emerging arsenal makes me think we may have a future #3 starting pitcher on our hands.

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Featured image courtesy of photographer Jerry Espinoza and Minor League Baseball

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