Ray’s Ramblings: April 15th

Written by: Ray Butler

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It’s still extremely early, but sample sizes are beginning to look a little less fluky and a little more reliable. I promise I want to cover a lot of MLB topics and players in the Ramblings this season, but I feel like there’s just so much ground to cover in the prospect world right now. Because of that, I’m hoping the Ramblings isn’t the only article I get around to publishing this week.

Let’s get your week started right.

  • Despite a .293/.369/.534 slash with 20 home runs and a double-digit walk rate as a 20 and 21-year-old in Double-A and Triple-A last season, Yordan Alvarez was one of the more volatile prospects throughout baseball this offseason. And let’s not kid ourselves—a lot of the volatility, at least perceptually, was created by his placement in Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel’s 2019 top-100 list on Fangraphs. As always, Fangraphs’ prospect lists couldn’t care less about my fantasy team, or yours. Their lists rank prospects according to real-life value, and Eric and Kiley have long been two of the most highly-respected evaluators in the prospect industry. Their stance re: Alvarez is quite simple: He’s so poor defensively that he’s bound to become a first baseman or DH-only at the big league level, thus limiting his real life value. It doesn’t, however, limit his fantasy value. At worst case scenario, the 21-year-old becomes a Utility-only player (a la Khris Davis and Nelson Cruz) that pays a little bit of an ADP tax each season once he’s a big leaguer. Alvarez isn’t much of a stolen base threat despite being athletic for his size, but the 55-hit and 70-raw tools are enough to make him a top-20 prospect in my eyes. The early returns this season have been absolute flames: .344/.488/.969 with 9 runs, 6 home runs and 12 RBI thru 42 plate appearances in ten games. That seems good. At this point, Alvarez seems like an injury away from debuting in the big leagues; he’s also arguably passed Kyle Tucker as the Astros’ top prospect (in fantasy circles, anyways). Manager A.J. Hinch likes to use the DH-slot to give his regulars consistent ‘rest’, but Alvarez receiving consistent playing time at first base or designated hitter at some point this season isn’t too hard to imagine (especially if Tyler White remains around the 80 wRC+ mark). The 21-year-old’s time appears nigh.
  • What were you doing when you were 18 years old? Humblebrag: I batted fifth on my high school baseball team and set the school record for reaching base via hit by pitch in a single season. Yikes. Ronny Mauricio is far better at baseball than I could ever dream of being, and he’s spending his age-18 season becoming comfortable in full season ball with the Low-A Columbia Fireflies. After a four hit game on Sunday, the teenager is now slashing .368/.400/.395 with a double and 3 RBI thru 39 plate appearances. The shortstop’s fingerprints were all over my preseason content, ranking 111th in my top-200 prospect list, being included in my prospect obsession list and being the topic of one of my prospect bold predictions. The at-bat anxiety is what you’d expect from someone so young playing full season ball (he has 10 strikeouts and only 1 walk), but the on base ability is already impressive. I really believe the switch-hitter is on the cusp of becoming one of the most notable prospects in baseball, though it wouldn’t surprise me if, with his wiry frame, we’re a season away from seeing much power output. I can’t express this enough: even if your deep keeper/dynasty league only rosters ~100 prospects, you should really take a hard look at adding Mauricio. I don’t really see an outcome in which you regret it.
  • If you haven’t done so already, you should really grab a Prospects 365 t-shirt. A small portion of proceeds will be donated to 4MOM, and it’s a fantastic way to support a site that works tirelessly to enhance your baseball and fantasy baseball experience. All purchases come with free shipping. Snag yours today!
  • Want a dangerously-small sample that will still excite you? Gavin Lux is slashing .500/.556/.500 in nine (LOL) plate appearances versus left-handed pitching early this season. Yes, it’s microscopic. Miniscule. But why’s it noteworthy? As noted in more detail in my top-200 prospect list, Lux struggled against southpaws in High-A and Double-A last season. Figuring to spend most of his 2019 campaign in Tulsa (Double-A), Lux improving versus LHP is the key to his prospect status ascending to the next level. It would only take a handful of outs against left-handers for the aforementioned slash numbers to plummet, but I’d be lying if I said the early-season production didn’t catch my eye as I was checking the Tulsa box score recently. In 40 total plate appearances, the 21-year-old is slashing .378/.425/.595 with a home run, a double, two triples, 7 runs scored and 6 RBI thru eight games. There’s a reason I ranked him as a top-50 prospect despite his shortcomings versus lefties. Sustained success when facing southpaws should lead to the infielder becoming a top-25 prospect by the end of the 2019 season.
  • I have a lot of thoughts on the first few weeks of the MLB season, I just haven’t had the time to publish them yet. I’m hoping to relinquish that notion later this week, and I’m beginning to work on a ‘Samples Worth Worrying About’ piece focusing on both active players and prospects. In the piece, I’ll take a look at a handful of early-season struggles I’m legitimately concerned about. Very excited to complete it and get it to you.
  • Along with the samples piece I’m hoping to publish this week, I’ll also begin working on a write-up on my first live look of the season. Conditions were far from optimal, but I got some nice video and notes on Taylor Trammell, Daulton Varsho, Jose Siri, Tyler Stephenson, Pavin Smith and Ibandel Isabel. The first of many live looks I’m hoping to get this season. Should come your way by the end of the week. Here’s some Taylor Trammell open face to wet your beak until then.
  • Including Nate Pearson in this piece about the candidates to be this season’s Chris Paddack was basically cheating, and I said as much in the article. But the right-hander has basically been unbeatable thru his first three starts of the season, notching 17 strikeouts and posting a 0.75 ERA in 17 innings pitched. Perhaps equally important, Pearson has only walked one batter (0.50 WHIP). These are the envisioned numbers that caused the fireballing right-hander to rise 41 spots in my top-200 prospect list from last spring to this spring despite only logging 1.2 IP during the regular season a year ago. I was recently asked about a possible promotion on Twitter, and I responded by saying that, at this rate, I’d expect Pearson to be promoted to Double-A New Hampshire ‘before my summer break’. Our last day of school is May 16th, so I’m thinking he’ll get the nod within the next month. It all hinges on sustained durability, but I still wholeheartedly agree with the comp I made for Pearson in my prospect obsession list earlier this spring.
  • I teamed up with staff writer Dylan Matthews in last week’s Ramblings. We discussed Luis Robert, Nolan Gorman, Julio Rodriguez, Nico Hoerner, Jordyn Adams and Xavier Edwards. Robert is now slashing .475/.512/1.025 in 43 plate appearances this season. He hasn’t walked much because he’s hit everything he’s seen, but he’s struck out at only a 20.9% clip. It’s still super early, but that’s a 5.5% decrease from his strikeout rate last season. Make sure you check out last week’s Ray’s Ramblings.
  • Our Dylan Carlson flag planting is off to a fantastic start in 2019. Thru 11 games (47 plate appearances) the 20-year-old is slashing .310/.353/.619 with 9 runs, 2 home runs, 10 RBI and a stolen base in Double-A. Also of note, he’s only struck out at a 14.8% clip while walking at a 10.6% rate. It’s hard to poke holes in what the outfielder has done early this season, especially when you consider his youth at the Double-A level. The 20-year-old is a prospect obsession of mine this season, and I’m hoping his first 50 plate appearances is just the tip of the iceberg of a full-blown breakout season. I feel excellent about the outlook here.
  • I don’t often regret including/not including players or prospects on the various lists I publish, but I kind of regret not including Kevin Gowdy in this list of pitching prospects with the potential to be 2019’s Chris Paddack. A former 2nd round pick in 2016, Gowdy’s professional career has been headlined by injuries. The summer he was drafted, the right-hander only made four appearances in Rookie Ball due to injury. He missed a large chunk of the 2017 season due to ‘various injuries’. Then, in August of that season, it was announced he needed Tommy John surgery. Because of the timing of the operation, Gowdy missed the remainder of 2017 and the entirety of last season. Now seemingly healthy and finally ready to return to competition, the right-hander has already made two starts this season. The results? 7 innings pitched, 3 hits, 2 runs, 6 walks and 9 strikeouts (nice) for Low-A Lakewood. Of course the Phillies are restricting his pitch count as he eases back into things, and the early walk rate is understandable after being away from competition for two whole seasons. But Gowdy has the pedigree, frame and arsenal to become a notable pitching prospect, especially when you consider he’s still only 21 years old. Tracking the right-hander’s progress should be a lot of fun this season; with good health, I imagine Gowdy could be in-line for a promotion to the Florida State League and High-A competition sometime this summer. Make sure he’s on your watch lists moving forward, as he could be a big riser in 2019.

Lastly but not leastly, our Trevor Powers had the opportunity to witness greatness this past Sunday. We should be within a month of Vlad Jr. officially becoming a big leaguer. 



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Featured image courtesy of photographer Jim Redman and MiLB.com

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