Written by: Ray Butler
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Very excited to have staff writer Dylan Matthews join me for this week’s Ramblings. You should definitely be following him at @dmattprospects on Twitter, and make sure you check out his work on Brennen Davis, Dean Kremer, Bryce Bush and his start-up dynasty league.
Let’s get to it.
Ray: It might be impossible to verify, but it might be suffice to say that no one in the minor leagues has gotten off to a hotter start than Luis Robert. In his first 18 plate appearances (four games), the outfielder is slashing an unconscious .529/.600/1.118 with 5 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 1 2B, 3 SB, 5 K and a walk. That’s insane. Robert is in the process of showing us just how good he can be when everything’s rolling (and he’s healthy), and a few more weeks of elite production should force a promotion to Double-A. The 21-year-old ranked 35th in my 2019 top-200 prospect list, though he’d likely be ranked in the top-10 if we solely evaluated raw tools. We all know Robert’s injury history is quite checkered, so proving durability in 2019 might be just as important as the number output we witness in the coming months. Either way, if this is the Luis Robert break out we’ve all been waiting for, he’ll (hypothetically) be a top-10 prospect by midseason.
Dylan: Will this finally be the year that Robert puts together a healthy season? The tools have been backed up by solid numbers throughout his MiLB career, but injuries have always slowed his rush to Chicago. Off to a blistering start in 2019, Robert is batting .529 with 3 home runs through 17 ABs. I think, with a clean bill of health, we will finally see the prospect many of us dreamed about. If the hit tool can get to average or even slightly above average, we’re going to see a full-fledged star. Robert grades out similarly to his future teammate Yoan Moncada, with the main question surrounding the toolkit being the ability to put the ball in play. Some 20 HR/20 SB seasons await the outfielder, and a core group of Moncada, Jimenez and Robert is a force to be reckoned with on the South Side.
Here’s the video of Robert destroying yet another helpless baseball for a home run.pic.twitter.com/bJvzmZgTjG
— Winston-Salem Dash (@WSDashBaseball) April 7, 2019
That sound though…..
Ray: When heralded 18-year-olds are aggressively given full season assignments to begin a new season, it’s not exactly fair to expect the moon and the stars from the get-go. Instead, we simply hope they don’t look overmatched. ‘Fitting in’ is just fine as they familiarize themselves with the daily grind of a minor league baseball season. It’s awfully early, but it’s looking like Julio Rodriguez might be the exception to that rule in Low-A West Virginia. After a 3-5 performance on Sunday, Rodriguez is now slashing .471/.500/.647 with 3 R, 3 RBI, 3 2B, 3 K and a walk in his first 18 plate appearances of the season. The outfielder will play the entirety of the 2019 season as an 18-year-old, and at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, the physical projection here is astounding. I ranked Rodriguez 117th in my latest prospect list, and it appears he’ll be ascending before the midseason version. Industry pal John Calvagno got to see the outfielder in person this past weekend. Playing alongside Jarred Kelenic, who I’m extremely high on, and Logan Gilbert, Mariners fans have a lot to be excited about in the low minors.
Dylan: Rodriguez has one of the prettiest swings in the minors and is one of the toolsiest prospects in baseball. Standing at 6’3 and weighing around 180 lbs., I expect Rodriguez to fill out more, making the power numbers jump. The hit tool is good enough to ease any concern that Rodriguez won’t make enough contact to be a star. I personally believe that Rodriguez is going to contend to be the top overall prospect in baseball by 2020, and I stated as much in my bold predictions for the 2019 season. The West Virginia Power also features Jarred Kelenic, but I fully expect Rodriguez to show that he’s the best prospect on the team. From a comparison standpoint, I legitimately think Rodriguez will rival current White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez.
— Julio Rodriguez (@J_RODrodiguez44) February 21, 2019
Ray: Along with Rodriguez, another 18-year-old who tore it up in the first series of the 2019 MiLB regular season was Nolan Gorman. The third baseman is slashing .500/.579/.813 with 6 R, 3 RBI, 3 2B, 1 3B, 5 K and 3 BB thru his first 18 plate appearances (four games) at Low-A Peoria this season. We all know the power is prolific (and the third baseman’s carrying tool), but my eyes will be on the contact rate this season. As simple as it may be, tracking Gorman’s AVG is actually one of the best things a dynasty player can do as the teenager begins to ascend the Cardinals’ farm system. The 18-year-old ranked 30th in my 2019 top-200 prospect list.
Dylan: Gorman lit the world on fire last summer when he dismantled Rookie Ball after being drafted. He eventually popped 17 home runs in 63 games between the Appalachian League and Low-A Peoria, batting a respectable .291 in the process. Looking ahead, the third baseman will be more valuable in OBP leagues than AVG leagues due to a surplus of swing and miss in the offensive profile. He is going to be a Three True Outcome player who hits for a lot of power and walks enough to be very valuable. Gorman currently struggles with spin, but that should improve as he continues to progress. Monitor the strikeouts this season, but the arrow should be trending up for a young slugger who has already flashed his XBH expertise. Hopefully the hit tool will be better than Joey Gallo’s, but that seems to be a reasonable comp.
Nolan Gorman RBI double, part of a 4 for 4 day. (4/5/19) pic.twitter.com/cwM70e5As6
— Prospect Gifs (@prospectgifs) April 6, 2019
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Ray: Was really intrigued by this tweet from Eno Sarris re: Hoerner in a question we were tagged in about an MiLB fantasy draft:
Spent some time with him in the fall and this summer, and dude is listening to the right people and has a ton of power that he’s starting to unpack now that he’s out of Stanford… and starts with tons of contact, should stay on infield.
— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) March 19, 2019
That’s right in line with my write-up on the 21-year-old in my recent top-200 prospect list. However, one of my only regrets from the prospect list is that I didn’t rank Hoerner more aggressively. In my opinion, I ranked him closer to the 55-hit, 50-raw, 55-speed middle infielder he was drafted as than the 55-hit, 55-raw, 55-speed middle infielder we should see this season. If I reranked today, he would definitely be inside my top-100. Oh well, it’s a lesson learned. Smart money was always on Hoerner beginning the season in Double-A (he did), and he’s slashed .250/.400/.333 in 15 plate appearances (three games). It should be a big year for the 21-year-old, and that’s why he made my 2019 prospect obsession list. As I’ve stated several times, despite the fact Hoerner was drafted last summer, a big league debut this season is not out of the question.
Dylan: Hoerner has a shot to do exactly what a lot of people inside the prospect community hoped he would do: reach the big leagues by the end of the 2019 season. The shortstop was one of my personal favorite prospects coming into this season, and being placed in Double-A is an obvious sign the Cubs are very bullish on him. The tools aren’t necessarily as loud as other prospects, but Hoerner will play in the middle infield and hit around .300 with 15-20 home runs and 15-20 stolen bases annually. That’s a cornerstone player. Expect the Cubs to push him and potentially bring him up by late summer.
Nico Hoerner with a bomb just left of center. pic.twitter.com/RpBwag2eGk
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) July 15, 2018
Make sure you’ve checked out last week’s Ramblings, with thoughts on Cody Bellinger, Clarke Schmidt, Yonny Chirinos, Ryan Mountcastle, Frankie Montas, Rafael Devers, Matt Shoemaker, Yoan Moncada and Spencer Turnbull. Read it here.
Ray: Adams has given us a full-send ‘freakishly raw, freakishly athletic’ output in the first four full season games of his career (Low-A Burlington): .231/.375/.462 with 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 1 SB…. and 8 strikeouts in 16 plate appearances. ‘Tis the nature of the beast when evaluating a prospect with tools as raw (and mighty) as Adams’. The 19-year-old and Jo Adell are separate prospects who should be treated as such, but watching the latter’s development and ascension in a short amount of time makes it easy to be optimistic about Adams’ outlook as well. I ranked the 80-speed outfielder 88th in my latest top-200 prospect list, and the microscopic sample we’ve seen in just four games shows us just how volatile prospects with this archetype can be. This ride will be bumpy but rewarding.
Dylan: If you like speed, you’ll like Adams and the next prospect in this article too. As he matures, the speed may tick down a bit, but the outfielder is undoubtedly a tremendous athlete to say the least. Still extremely raw, Adams has a ceiling as high as anyone in baseball. The swing currently needs work in order for the 19-year-old to become a more consistent player. However, if (when?) the hit tool progresses, you’ll be looking at a player whose worst tool grades at 50. Heck, he could turn into the player everyone wanted (and still wants) Byron Buxton to be. As a bonus, I’d like to think that Brennen Davis is Jordyn Adams-lite as a prospect.
Wondering where the prospects on your dynasty league team started their 2019 campaign? I created an article with over 350 notable prospect placements, covering just about anybody on the radar of prospect circles. Check it out here.
Ray: Another 80-speed guy, Edwards is slashing .278/.350/.278 with 2 R, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K and a stolen base thru 20 plate appearances in Low-A Fort Wayne. From what I’ve seen and read, Edwards’ swing can be categorized as a bit ‘slappy’, which isn’t the worst thing for a switch hitter who possesses elite speed. It might, however, cap his fantasy ceiling as he progresses through the minor leagues and potentially impacts the Padres’ big league roster. Despite that hypothetical pessimism, I ranked the shortstop 74th in my latest top-200 prospect list. In his write-up, I stated that ‘a Dee Gordon who walks more’ is a realistic fantasy comp for Edwards. A month later, I wholeheartedly stand by that.
Dylan: Xavier Edwards’ swing reminds me a bit of Mookie Betts, though the former obviously possesses much less pop (but more speed). The hit tool is advanced, and the base stealing prowess is certainly there to match the jaw-dropping, 80-grade speed. Edwards hit .346 across two Rookie League levels last summer and went 22 for 25 on stolen bases! Bet on the athlete, and in this particular case, an athlete who is blessed with a plus hit tool and plus-plus speed. You’re looking at a player who can hit around .300, walk enough to be an impact player in OBP leagues and steal 30+ bases perennially without breaking much of a sweat.
Xavier Edwards is FAST pic.twitter.com/qDs9eAKco5
— madfriars (@madfriars) March 16, 2019
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Featured image courtesy of photographer Ben Sandstrom and MiLB.com