Ray’s Ramblings: April 22nd

Written by: Ray Butler

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If you missed the fun we had last night, I released an all-MLB version of Ray’s Ramblings last night at the start of Sunday Night Baseball. Inside, I discuss Matt Chapman, Julio Urias, Matt Strahm, Marcus Semien and Daniel Vogelbach. You should check it out.

  • I keep waiting on Drew Waters to hit anything resembling a wall in his development, but he just keeps getting better. He hit his first home run of the season on Sunday, bringing his slash for the season to .333/.389/.515 in 72 plate appearances. He’s already up to 10 extra base hits in just 15 games. The 20-year-old was aggressively assigned to Double-A Mississippi to begin the 2019 season, making his home ballpark one of the more pitcher-friendly stadiums in the minor leagues. For whatever it’s worth, the current 30.6 K% is far from optimal for a player who could be a consensus top-50 prospect by midseason. While Waters is an aggressive hitter who’s not known for passivity, I’m more-than-happy to chalk up the early, high strikeout rate to inexperience; the outfielder only accrued 133 plate appearances in High-A last season. Now, he’s facing even tougher competition at the Double-A level. I fully anticipate the strikeout rate decreasing and normalizing around the 25% mark (or thereabouts) as Waters continues to familiarize himself to the way he’s being attacked by opposing pitchers. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the fact he’s also increased his walk rate from 5.8% last season to 9.7% to this point in 2019. Don’t, for one second, think that’s an unimportant nugget. While he’s yet to attempt a steal this season, Waters has all the makings of a five-tool monster. I ranked the switch hitter 53rd in my 2019 top-200 prospect list, and barring injury, Waters is a sure bet to continue his ascension in the midseason version. He is also a prospect obsession of mine this season.
  • The search for this season’s Chris Paddack is ongoing. Nate Pearson is the obvious early favorite, posting a line of 14 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 20 K in his first four starts of the season (get that man to Double-A, by the way). But I ranked him 75th in my 2019 top-200 prospect list, so his success was expected and should come as no surprise. The pitcher from the article I’ve been most impressed with? Chris Rodriguez. Here’s an excerpt from his write-up in that article.

There are a plethora of reasons Rodriguez remains a great buy-low option heading into the 2019 season. First and foremost, the injury (a stress reaction in his back) that caused Rodriguez to miss the entirety of the 2018 season had nothing to do with his elbow or shoulder. Next, Rodriguez arguably has the best stuff of any pitcher (excluding Nate Pearson) on this list. Finally, despite missing an entire season of development versus competition, the right-hander is still only 20 years old. To me, those are all ingredients for a reemergence in 2019.

Back and fully healthy, Rodriguez has made three starts in High-A so far this season. It’s obvious he’s on a pitch count, but the output has been delicious nonetheless: 9.1 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 13 K. I’ll do the math for you—that’s a 1.07 WHIP and 0.00 ERA. For a 20-year-old pitching in the Cal League after missing an entire season of competition, that’s pretty impressive. Rodriguez made the VIP portion of my 2019 prospect list (meaning I ranked him in the unreleased #201-250 portion), but he could be a big riser between now and midseason. Because of Paddack’s light speed ascension throughout the prospect world, believe me when I say I’ll be watching Rodriguez’s next start like a hawk. If you’ve got an uber-quick trigger finger, now’s the time to scoop him in deep keeper and dynasty leagues.

  • 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!
  • Another VIP prospect list inclusion lighting it up so far this season? Grayson Rodriguez. The numbers are video game-like: 16.2 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 6 BB, 28 K in three starts. That’s a 0.54 ERA. At 6’5, 220 lbs., the right-hander is built like an outside linebacker. With a four pitch arsenal advanced beyond his years, hitters in the South Atlantic League have simply been overwhelmed and overmatched. It would be lovely to see Rodriguez and DL Hall hook-up and progress through the Orioles’ system together, but with Baltimore not contending for the foreseeable future, they might be content keeping Rodriguez, who was their first round pick (11th overall) last season, in Low-A for the majority (if not all) of the 2019 season. Regardless, the 19-year-old has looked like a future top-tier pitching prospect early this season. Make sure he’s squarely on your radar moving forward.
  • Vidal Brujan is off a hot start in the Florida State League, slashing .321/.391/.393 with 8 stolen bases in only 64 plate appearances (15 games) early this season. Just about everything looks ‘in-line’ when comparing the 21-year-old’s numbers early this season to his 2018 statistics except for the walk rate, which has dropped to 7.8% in the first month after finalizing at 11.5% last season. Again, it could just be a symptom of a small sample size. Brujan ranked 56th in my top-200 prospect list for this season, largely thanks to his ghastly 55 stolen bases (and .321/.391/.393 slash) in 2018. The bat-to-ball skills are obviously phenomenal, but the second baseman will need to eventually elevate the ball more (56.5 GB% so far this season) if he’d like to maximize his raw power. If he’s content with his current offensive profile, he’ll still hold legitimate mixed league value as a big leaguer someday.
  • Three prospects whose starts I’m a little exasperated about: Jazz Chisholm, MJ Melendez and Esteury Ruiz. Let’s work our way through these:
    My mentions have been filled with concerns over Chisholm, who’s slashing just .122/.271/.388 with a 35.6 K% in his first 59 plate appearances this season. Thankfully, I believe there’s light at the end of this tunnel. It should be noted the 21-year-old already has four home runs and two stolen bases this season, and microscopic .083 BABIP suggests Chisholm has been largely unlucky throughout the first month of the season. Also of importance: the shortstop is currently playing in the coldest conditions of his career (he’s playing in Jackson, Tennessee right now after beginning last season in Visalia, California). Don’t scoff at that; for a Bahamian-born prospect, playing conditions in April certainly matter. Of course I wish Chisholm’s 60 PA sample was better, but I think good things are right around the corner for the 21-year-old—just don’t be surprised if the strikeout rate normalizes close to 30.0%. Also, I’ll get my first live look at Chisholm this weekend. He made my prospect obsession list for the 2019 season and is currently my 91st-ranked prospect.
    For as bad as Chisholm has been throughout the first month of the season, Melendez has somehow been far worse, slashing .103/.217/.179 with a jaw-dropping 47.8 K% (!!!!!!) in his first 46 plate appearances. The catcher has 0 home runs and only 3 extra base hits in 13 games. I’m certainly not panicking yet (you shouldn’t either), but the .222 BABIP (.327 last season) doesn’t necessarily suggest a gigantic turnaround is in store without other factors improving as well. For Melendez, it’ll be the plate discipline. According to scouts who have seen the 20-year-old live this month, he’s expanding the zone and swinging at a lot of pitcher’s pitches. Call it early-season-angst, call it shaking off the rust. Whatever it is, it must improve for Melendez to match the 128 wRC+ he posted in Low-A last season. The catcher is currently my 86th-ranked prospect; like Chisholm, Melendez made my prospect obsession list.
    Ruiz is included in this trio for different reasons than Chisholm and Melendez. Unlike the aforementioned pair, Ruiz’s slash numbers aren’t eye-poppingly bad: .250/.303/.300. Don’t get me wrong: that’s not good. But those numbers are a walk in the park compared to Chisholm’s and Melendez’s. Unfortunately, that’s just about where the good news ends for Ruiz. He’s struck out in 35.8% of his 67 plate appearances and has only mustered 3 XBH (0 home runs) in 15 games. Even worse, the .405 BABIP suggests the 20-year-old’s slash is a little on the lucky side (the BABIP was over .500 earlier last week but has already begun to regress). Let’s say the BABIP stabilizes at .375, which would be 30 points higher than the .345 mark he posted last season. What will the slash look like then? With below average defensive skills, Ruiz’s bat must carry his performance and outlook. The leash is a little bit shorter thanks to that fact, so the next couple of months will be important for the 20-year-old’s standing on prospect lists throughout the industry. He is currently my 92nd-ranked prospect.

No panic here. But it can’t always be sunshine and rainbows in the prospect world, right?

  • Here’s some Jose Siri open face I recorded around a week ago. Does the stance remind you of the same player it reminds me of?


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Featured image courtesy of photographer Jerry Klime and MiLB.com

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