Written by: Ray Butler
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Things have been a little slow on my end, but I’m back with a vengeance with what I believe to be one of the best Ramblings of the year. Before we dive in, I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to some recent, strong work by our staff writers. James Schiano recently outlined the league-wide rise of the slider and the hitters who are benefitting the most because of it. Trevor Powers unloaded on the Nationals’ lack of bullpen development and discussed problems around the league with developing relievers. Both pieces are well worth your time.
Now strap yourself in…
- Allow me to blow your mind with a 2019 comparison that surprised me as I was creating it…
For added context, here’s a few more nuggets: Player A is 20 years, 5 months and 4 days old. Player B is 20 years, 7 months and 11 days old. Both are switch hitting outfielders with tools to spare. Player A is one of the most hyped prospects in all of baseball. Player B is flying severely under the radar and is fairly unheralded in general prospect circles. Drew Waters and Dylan Carlson: more like the Spiderman meme than you’d think. My affinity for Waters is well-documented: he ranked 53rd in my preseason prospect list, he made my 2019 prospect obsession list and I’ve already covered him once in the Ramblings this season. But I’ve been banging the Carlson drum for awhile too, ranking him 222nd in the VIP portion of my prospect list. Like Waters, Carlson also made my prospect obsession list. Unlike Waters, Carlson was the focal point of one of my prospect bold predictions for the 2019 season. So far, so good. The table above is not to make the case that Carlson is the superior prospect to Waters. By most (if not all) accounts, he’s not. Waters is much more raw offensively than Carlson, but the former also projects better and scouts I’ve talked to believe he’s just tipping the scale of what he’ll someday be capable of on a baseball diamond. Those are qualities that can’t be quantified by simply looking at box scores and a season-long stat line.
With that being said, the case can be made that no prospect has done more for their status early this season than Carlson, who, by all accounts, is enormously polished offensively for his age (he’s currently 3.8 years younger than his average competition in the Texas League according to Baseball Reference) and is no slouch athletically either. I’m not so sure Carlson hasn’t already jumped into the top-100 prospect discussion, but even if he hasn’t, it’s likely he’ll be their by the end of the regular season. The outfielder actually had a higher OPS as a RHB last season (.851 versus .690 as a LHB), but the opposite is true so far in 2019 (.957 as a LHB versus .680 as a RHB). Either way, it appears Carlson should be platoon-proof throughout most of his career as a hypothetical big leaguer (his 10.7 SwStr% is ranked just outside of the top-30 in the Texas League. Waters, for comparison, has a 16.9 SwStr%, which ranks as 7th worst in the Southern League). Carlson doesn’t currently elevate the ball often enough to post elite power numbers (28.0 FB% this season compared to 42.7 GB%), and his 28.4 Hard% in 230 plate appearances is only slightly above average (h/t Rotowire). But the 20-year-old is making it work, and making it work to an extent that he’s quickly becoming one of the more intriguing outfield prospects in all of baseball. Here’s the spray chart thru 51 games this season.
The Cardinals will have an endlessly-interesting decision to make as the trade deadline approaches. If they continue to flop and opt to sell, Carlson’s emergence as a top-tier prospect will likely make it easier to move a player like Marcell Ozuna or Dexter Fowler to a contending team in need of a corner outfielder. If they’re buyers (currently the much more likely choice of the two), rebuilding teams will almost certainly ask about Carlson in negotiations. Either way, we should get a gauge on just how much St. Louis covets their up-and-coming outfield prospect throughout the next month. I look forward to aggressively ranking Carlson in the midseason edition of my top-200 prospect list. Buy, buy, buy.
- 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!
- Speaking of buying and aggression, allow me to set the stage for my next write-up this week:
1) after much speculation, this is now officially a david fletcher stan account
2) he should be starting in 12 team fantasy leagues vs. LHP
3) with 2B/3B/SS/OF eligibility, i’ll be keeping him in my 12-team home league
— Prospects 365 ⚾️ (@Prospects365) June 2, 2019
We’ve known what David Fletcher brings to the table for a while now: genuinely elite contact skills that come with limited power and moderate stolen base upside. But if you distribute what the utility player has compiled so far this season to 600 plate appearances, the 25-year-old would finish with 11 home runs and 14 stolen bases to pair with a .316/.371/.449 slash. Those aren’t superstar numbers, mind you, but I’ve long advocated that, regardless of format, your fantasy baseball bench needs to consist of two things: positional versatility and a floor that won’t lose you head-to-head matchups. This is where things get really appetizing for Fletcher, who currently sports eligibility at second base, third base, shortstop and the outfield. He’s also struck out in only 6.1% of his plate appearances (8.0 BB%), which means he won’t kill you in category leagues that include offensive strikeouts. As a player you don’t have to depend on on a daily basis, Fletcher’s archetype is the apple of my eye in a 7×7 categories league like my home league (I also roster the 25-year-old in TGFBI). Brad Ausmus is slotting Fletcher at leadoff versus left-handed pitchers (in true Ausmus fashion, the utility player has actually been much better against RHP), meaning he bats directly in front of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. He’s currently on pace to score 84 runs this season, but that number will likely continue to ascend with additional plate appearances from the one-hole. Fletcher is currently available in 34% of Fantrax leagues. If that includes your league, consider remedying that ASAP as possible.
- Kyle Muller walked a combined 21 batters in his first five starts of the season (19 IP). That was good for a 25.0 BB% and 9.95 BB/9, for those of you dying to know. In his six starts since, the southpaw has walked only 14 batters in 40.1 IP (10.9 BB%, 3.12 BB/9). The immense, early season struggles are still casting a shadow on the season-long numbers, but the pitcher I was head-over-heels in love with this preseason is slowly beginning to creep through the clouds. In 59.1 total IP this season, Muller boasts a 1.97 ERA, 1.15 WHIP (which is wild when you consider the early-season issues), and 28.2 K% (the 5.3 BB/9 is bad but continues to descend). His induced 12.4 SwStr% ranks 9th amongst qualified pitchers in the Southern League. In a farm system chalked full of upper-echelon arms, Muller’s viability serves as a dark horse within the group. The walks in April may still damper the left-hander’s season-long surface stats two months from now, but make no mistake about it: the 21-year-old is definitively cementing himself as one of the very best pitching prospects in the sport. I’m really hoping to get a live look before he’s promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett.
Braves LHP Kyle Muller’s offspeed is really on tonight. Changeup and curve both getting plenty of swinging strikes. ERA down under 2.00 on the year. Where do you think he ranks amongst top LHP prospects in the game? Top 10? #ChopOn @Prospects365 pic.twitter.com/SKMX2CYBFM
— tyler j. spicer (@tylerjspicer) May 27, 2019
- It’s been a little while, but make sure you’re up to date on the most recent Ramblings. It includes thoughts on the top pitching prospects in baseball, Yordan Alvarez, Gavin Lux, Daulton Varsho, Tyler Freeman, Andrew Heaney, Chris Bassitt, Daniel Johnson and more! Read it here.
- With the school year ending, a beach vacation last week, live looks from the Southern League and a baseball camp in Georgia this week (I’m actually typing this from a school bus on a five-hour trip), I haven’t had the time to update my MLB Draft prospect list that was originally published in February. Instead, I’ll do my best to tweet as much insight on players this week during the draft as I can before diving into content creation re: the MLB Draft as soon as things slow down for me a little bit. Here’s a few quick thoughts to set the stage for what’s always a fun week in the baseball world:
- The Orioles drafting any player other than Adley Rutschman would be a debilitating mistake, with one minute exception (I’ll get to that momentarily). I get the aura surrounding Bobby Witt Jr.: he has the upside of a five-tool monster who could someday resemble something like Trevor Story. He also has the floor of a flawed, 2 WAR player whose hit tool hinders his other offensive tools an unfortunate amount. Rutschman could be the best player on the Orioles by 2021. It’s a no brainer for me. “Don’t overthink it,” a wise man once said. The exception to this notion would be teams knowing something about Rutschman’s medicals that the public doesn’t. Were this the case and the backstop isn’t selected 1st-overall because of it, the story would rock the baseball world on draft day.
- As Alex Jensen recently noted on Twitter, Brett Baty and Kody Hoese are critically important prospects in this draft. Both are serious candidates/contenders to be selected at underslot value in the first round, and it’s possible that both are off-the-board within the first ten overall picks. If that happens, the rest of the first round will become complete chaos. Should be fun to watch.
- I’m a Mississippi State grad, but I really think Ethan Small will be an underrated pick in the 40-50 range this week. The fastball doesn’t possess premium velocity, but it’s a high-spin pitch that the southpaw commands extremely well. The changeup and curveball don’t possess elite movement, but both pitches play up thanks to Small’s unaltered arm speed and extension. The mechanics are deceptive, and the 22-year-old can slow or quicken his delivery to mess with a hitter’s timing. With two strikes, the left-hander elevates his heater with ease which has played a key role to Small accumulating 160 strikeouts in 96 IP (16 starts) this season. Barring injury, I’d like to think the southpaw should begin the 2020 season no lower than High-A regardless of which organization selects him. If things break right, Small could be a factor at the big league level sometime in 2021.
I’d also like to promote the work of some of my industry friends who have worked their tails off to give you an edge on this year’s draft class. The guys at Prospects Live are in the process of releasing their final MLB Draft prospect list; you can read their #1-50 prospects here and their #51-100 prospects here, and there will be more to come from them before the Orioles are officially on the clock Monday night. Baseball Farm’s Alex Jensen has quickly emerged as one of the authoritative voices of the MLB Draft on #BaseballTwitter, and he recently published his final mock leading up to this week’s draft. It’s extremely thorough and well done. 2080 Baseball recently released their final top-125 draft list. Rotowire’s James Anderson recently dropped his top-30 dynasty league prospects from the upcoming draft. ESPN’s Keith Law recently released an updated version of his mock draft ($), and I believe he’s releasing one more prior to Monday night. These are high-quality, well-researched articles and lists that you should be all over as you begin preparing for 2019 first year player drafts. Let me know if I’ve missed a good one!
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Featured image courtesy of photographer Lance Carter and MiLB.com