Ray’s Ramblings: August 13th

Written by: Ray Butler

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  • How about a story within a story?!?!?! Moments ago, Prospects 365 published staff writer Adam Ehrenreich‘s top 20 prospects for the remainder of the regular season. Remember: This list is not a typical prospect list or dynasty league prospect list; instead, it focuses on hypothetical fantasy value in redraft leagues for the remainder of the 2018 season. You can read Adam’s list right here.
  • More than a month ago, I ranked Andres Gimenez as the 45th-best prospect in all of baseball. My love and adoration for the teenage shortstop prospect is well documented. And the more I think about it, the more I see a little bit of Ozzie Albies in Gimenez’s statistical profile and outlook. Potentially a very young major league player, Gimenez possesses more raw power than most people give him credit for. He doesn’t walk often. He’s an obvious stolen base threat. As a 19-year-old in 2016, Albies slashed .292/.330/.440 with 9 home runs, 21 stolen bases, a 20.1 K%, 6.3 BB% and a 112 wRC+ in 618 plate appearances between stops at Double-A and Triple-A. At the same age this season, Gimenez has slashed .287/.355/.428 with 6 home runs, 32 stolen bases, a 19.1 K%, 6.3 BB% and a 124 wRC+ in 430 plate appearances between stops at High-A and Double-A. The numbers aren’t identical, but the similarities are obvious, and the argument could be made that Gimenez is more-accomplished at this point of his career than Albies was as a 19-year-old rising prospect a couple of seasons ago. Of course, Albies home run explosion in April and May of this season was both unpredicted and spectacular (those he’s only managed 5 home runs total in the past two months). I’m not saying Gimenez will have 20 home runs by August 12th perennially as a big leaguer, but I am saying there’s untapped thunder in his bat. Scouts gush over Gimenez’s ability to make in-game adjustments at the plate against opposing pitchers, and I’m hopeful it eventually leads to an increased walk rate. Regardless, I think there’s stardom in Gimenez’s future, perhaps as early as the middle of next season.
  • Admittedly, I wondered why so many people wanted to read about Colton Welker this week. Then I looked at his recent numbers, which say the third base prospect is slashing an otherworldly .455/.552/.591 with a 20.7 BB% thru 29 plate appearances in August. Geez! Shifting back to the season-long numbers, I was certainly hoping (and somewhat expecting) Welker to be much closer to the 20 HR-mark at this point of the season than the 11 home runs he’s posted at High-A Lancaster. On the surface, Welker’s slash numbers are fantastic: .323/.381/.477. Then you notice the .387 BABIP, which seems unrealistically high for a corner-infielder with 40-grade speed (hello, California League). I’m a little mad at myself for ranking Welker so high in my #MidseasonTop200 (48th), and I’ll re-evaluate the inflated numbers are big league log-jam in Colorado before ranking the third baseman at the end of the regular season. Don’t get it twisted: Welker is very good. He’s a top 100 prospect. He’s almost certainly a top 75 prospect. But there’s a few things working against the 20 year old’s statistics and outlook, and they’re important to consider when evaluating Welker’s place amongst the best prospects in baseball.
  • The improvements Taylor Widener has made since being traded from the Yankees organization to the Diamondbacks are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Statistically, the right-hander has increased his strikeout rate by five percent. The walk rate has dropped by more than two percent. The ERA? Down from 3.39 last season to 2.49 this season. FIP and xFIP? They’ve improved, too. Widener’s development and sustained improvements have landed the right-hander near the top-tier of pitching prospects in baseball, and he’ll certainly be included in my top 200 prospect list at the end of the regular season. The fastball/slider combo is certainly Widener’s bread-and-butter (right-handed hitters are batting .168 versus the 23-year-old this season), but improved command is the main ingredient that’s steered the right-hander’s rise to prominence. It’s been very under-the-radar, but Widener and Jon Duplantier have quietly become one of the best pitching-prospect duos in the minor leagues this season.
  • High-A was always going to be a huge challenge for Braves OF prospect Drew Waters, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen in the outfielder’s first 51 plate appearances at the level. The 19-year-old is slashing .229/.275/.292 for the Florida Fire Frogs, with no home runs and one stolen base in 11 games. It’s early, obviously, and there’s absolutely no reason to panic. This was always going to be a huge part of Waters’ process. Sit back, relax, and let the Braves organization continue developing the teenage, five-tool prospect. Atlanta is developing a reputation for aggressively-promoting their prospects, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Waters open the 2019 regular season back in High-A. The at-bats the outfielder will see versus pitching in the Florida State League will be absolutely invaluable to his development, and a near-season’s worth of plate appearances at the level will really paint a clear picture of what can be expected from Waters both as a prospect and as a future big leaguer.
  • Let’s talk about the Rookie League’s Kingsport Mets, the current home of both Luis Santana and Mark Vientos. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: At such an infantile level of competition, I value plate discipline and approach far more than any counting stat. Despite only turning 19 last month, Santana certainly has uncanny plate discipline for a Rookie League hitter. Double digit walk rate? Check. Single digit strikeout rate? Check. If context clues aren’t your thing, that means Santana has walked more times than he’s gone down swinging. In a 210 plate appearance sample. The three home runs and seven stolen bases are nice. The .341/.443/.443 is, of course, drool-worthy. It goes without saying that the second base prospect is one to watch moving forward, and he’ll certainly be considered for an inclusion in my postseason top 200 prospect list. Despite Santana’s recent accomplishments, Vientos is probably the calling-card of the Mets’ Appalachian League affiliate. A second-round pick last season, the 6’4 third baseman has already posted 9 home runs with a .305/.384/.527 slash in 190 plate appearances. At only 18-years-old, Fangraphs has already graded Vientos with 55 game power and 60 raw power. The site grades the third baseman with a 45-hit tool, and Vientos’ full season debut in 2019 will go a long ways in determining the validity of that evaluation. For as miserable as it currently is to be a Mets fan, there really are some high-upside youngsters who could team up with Peter Alonso, Andres Gimenez, Justin Dunn and David Peterson to form an above-average farm system as early as next season.
  • If you haven’t done so already, make sure you take a look at last week’s Ray’s Ramblings. It includes thoughts on Victor Robles, Elehuris Montero, recently-promoted Cedric Mullins, Josh James, Forrest Whitley, Sixto Sanchez, Luis Robert, Khalil Lee, Nathaniel Lowe and more! Check it out here.
  • I’ve never been high enough on Hudson Potts. Recently promoted to Double-A despite being only 19 years old, the Padres third base prospect is slashing .277/.349/.489 with 17 home runs. The raw power is so, so real. I do have legitimate concerns about the hit tool. There will always some swing-and-miss in Potts’ approach, so the 8.6 BB% (which hopefully continues to rise) will likely make him a better option in OBP-leagues than AVG-leagues throughout his career. Double-A will obviously be a huge challenge for Potts, and he’ll almost assuredly start the 2019 season at the level. It’s important to remember he’s only 19, and I’m hopeful the hit tool eventually develops to near-league average. Here’s to hoping I give Potts his well-earned props in the future.
  • So if you haven’t noticed, I’ve been a little more quiet on Twitter lately. Between school starting back and football season well underway, a lot of my free time is spoken for. I won’t be able to tweet out nightly stat lines and home run alerts as frequently as I normally do, but I promise to try as often as life allows me to. Even Ray’s Ramblings is hard to squeeze in with Sunday afternoons and evenings being dedicated to lesson plan and weekly-opponent preparation, but I haven’t omitted an edition yet and don’t currently plan to. Bear with me! Have a great week!

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Featured image courtesy of Minor League Baseball and photographer Buck Davidson

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