Written by: Ray Butler
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Several quick hits this week. Will also cover a few active players, but to my eye, each prospect I’m discussing this week will be moving up on my midseason prospect list. If you missed it, I profiled Cubs outfield prospect Brennen Davis earlier this week. The sample size is growing, yet the slash line isn’t diminishing. As I clearly stated in the article, there’s a real chance we’re dealing with a premium prospect here. Make sure you give the profile a read if you haven’t gotten around to it yet.
- If you’re still a skeptic, allow my eyes to tell you: Cristian Pache is a DUDE. Thru 56 games this season, the 20-year-old is slashing .287/.342/.489 with 7 home runs and 7 stolen bases in 244 plate appearances. Nearly four years younger than his average competition in the Southern League, the future Gold Glove outfielder is far from a finished product at the plate. He’s still aggressive, but he’s made genuine, positive strides since last season. Because of this, some of his at-bats have positive outcomes that weren’t possible last season. The eye is better, but the mechanics and movements are still geared towards hitting fastballs and struggling versus well-executed offspeed (though he punishes mistakes, as you’ll see below). But Chipper Jones said it best last season: the glove and defensive skills would compete for awards at the Major League level right now. At the time of Jones’ quote, Pache was playing in the Florida State League with High-A Florida. The same holds true now, and it probably means the 20-year-old will debut in Atlanta before his offensive skillset is fully ready. This next part will make you nervous, but hear me out because I promise it’s not as bad as you’ll probably make it out to be. At the big league level, I could see Pache taking a similar offensive path as Amed Rosario. Let’s paint a picture. An an extremely underaged hitter with an aggressive approach? Check. Defensive skills advanced beyond his years? Check. Accruing MLB at-bats despite the offense not being fully ready? Check. Josh Donaldson and Nick Markakis may or may not be back in Atlanta next season (both are unrestricted free agents at the conclusion of the 2019 season). Depending on Pache’s offensive progression between now and the end of the regular season, the outfielder could either break camp with the Braves in 2020 or be promoted within the first few weeks of the regular season (I’d say that’s an optimistic outlook, but it’s not impossible). Regardless, it’s likely Pache plays a sizable role in Atlanta next season. Drew Waters shouldn’t be too far behind him. Allow me to end this write-up with a word of caution: Pache’s offensive skillset is really going to test your patience in keeper and dynasty leagues. Once he’s called up, are you going to be okay holding an 80-90 wRC+ player on your active roster until 2022 or so? That’s at least somewhat likely here. But if you’re patient and choose to ride Pache through the thin, the thick looks something like a .280 AVG/25 HR/25 SB player who hits towards the top of one of the best lineups in the National League. Pache will be worth the wait; the only question will be whether you’re willing to let the chickens come home to roost or if you’ll cut bait prematurely.
🚨 CRISTIAN PACHE GOES BOOM 🚨 pic.twitter.com/Tn2RoeiCaZ
— Prospects 365 ⚾️ (@Prospects365) June 11, 2019
- Let’s get the bad out of the way first. Jake Fraley is a 24-year-old playing in Double-A. He’s a left-handed hitter, and his .237/.293/.263 slash versus southpaws (.556 OPS and 0 home runs in 38 at-bats) this season make him susceptible to hypothetically being platooned at the big league level someday. We good? Now let’s talk about the positives, because there’s a ton of them. Fraley is destroying right-handed pitching to the extent that, despite the poor numbers versus LHP, his season-long slash is .333/.402/.576 with 11 home runs and 14 stolen bases in 54 games. Analytically, nothing jumps off the page at you as to why this break out is occurring. There are minimal increases in the 24-year-old’s FB% and Pull% from last season to this season, but those gains certainly don’t scream at you like the power output has this season. Rotowire has Fraley’s Hard% at 28.9%, which is slightly above average but not elite. I don’t know. The outfielder is a safe bet to debut in my midseason prospect list, but figuring in his age, level and susceptibility to like-handed pitching, I’m not so sure he’ll be ranked as aggressively as he has been on other sites and lists. Consider Fraley a *very* cautious buy in keeper and dynasty leagues for now.
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- Allow my man M-Rod to set the stage for this next write up….
Alek Thomas is up to .311/.401/.508 with 6 HR, 5 SB. Big time Benintendi vibes from him.
— MRod (@MRodProspects) June 9, 2019
I love how Andrew Benintendi has become the archetype of ‘undersized player with an above average hit tool and underrated power and speed’. A few games later, Alek Thomas is now slashing .302/.390/.492 with 6 home runs and 6 stolen bases in 232 plate appearances for Low-A Kane County. Preseason VIP member probably remember my thoughts on Thomas from my most-recent prospect list, where I ranked the 19-year-old 215th in the #201-250 portion of the list. Needless to say, he’ll debut within the top-200 this midseason. The reports I’ve read are glowing, and basically speak to an underaged player executing professional at-bats beyond his years. The game power is also more advanced than its perception this preseason, and it’s likely Thomas has either ascended or will soon ascend to a class of prospects in the 55-hit, 55-raw, 60-speed range. That’s useful, eh? M-Rod was all over the outfielder this preseason, including him in his ‘All-Hype’ prospect team. I figure Thomas will be a big-mover on prospect lists across the board this midseason.
After Diamondbacks prospect Alek Thomas hit a 3-run homer, his father Allen, who’s a part of the White Sox staff, refused to acknowledge it.
But Alek made sure he got a reaction out of him 😂 pic.twitter.com/3RmjJJreGW
— ESPN (@espn) March 21, 2019
- Zac Gallen has captured most of the ‘Marlins pitching prospect’ headlines this season, but Edward Cabrera has been dynamite for High-A Jupiter. Thru 9 starts, the right-hander is sporting a 2.27 ERA with 60 strikeouts (32.6 K%) in 47.2 innings pitched. Those numbers are quite notable, especially when you consider his performances prior to this season.
Kiley recently saw Cabrera and had him 94-96, flashing a plus power curveball, and featuring a sinking, low-90s changeup that sounds like more of a glorified two-seamer. His control has improved and he’s working more consistently to his arm side and at the bottom of the zone when it makes sense to. That alone has helped his stuff play better, even though he hasn’t seen an uptick in breaking ball quality or anything like that. Several Miami arms (Cabrera, Zac Gallen, Pablo Lopez, and Elieser Hernandez to name a few) are having strong starts, perhaps a sign that the new player dev group in Miami is starting to get its footing.
If you’re a Marlins fan, that excerpt is what you like to see. Based on all the reading material I was able to get my hands on, the next feasible step for Cabrera is to improve his changeup. There needs to be a larger disparity between the velocity of the pitch and the velocity of his fastball; increasing the viability of his changeup and maintaining his improvements in command would go a long way in making Cabrera one of the very best pitching prospects in all of baseball. As a 21-year-old who isn’t seemingly close to a big league debut, Cabrera has plenty of time to tinker with the pitch. As it stands, the fastball and curveball are obviously a dynamic duo that is terrorizing hitters in the Florida State League. I would love to see the right-hander get a shot at Double-A before the end of the season, but it’s hard to argue with how the Marlins have developed him throughout the past six months.
- If you haven’t given it a click yet, make sure you read last week’s Ramblings. Thoughts and notes on Dylan Carlson, Kyle Muller, David Fletcher and the MLB Draft are included. Read it here.
- Two old heads who are currently lighting it up: Todd Frazier and Howie Kendrick. No, I’m not punting the final write-up of the week. These two dudes are putting fantasy offenses on their back lately. In his last 35 plate appearances, Frazier is slashing an unconscious .357/.471/.714 with 3 home runs and 10 RBI (14.7 BB%). Kendrick has been underratedly superb all season, but in his last 45 plate appearances, he’s slashing .425/.442/.800 with 4 home runs and 14 RBI (.375 ISO and 11.6 K%). I’ve added and inserted Frazier as my starting third baseman in a 14-team H2H league (if nothing else than to ride the hot streak), but I’m even more interested in Kendrick. Elite fantasy baseball benches consist of players who possess multi-position eligibility, and the 35-year-old can be slotted at first base, second base and third base for the remainder of the season. I’m not claiming either of these guys will hoist your fantasy team on their shoulders and carry you to a fantasy championship in September, but they’re certainly playing a critical role right now and will likely be able to fill holes during partial slates. I’m starting either over a player like Matt Chapman in daily leagues until Chapman begins to show sustained signs of life.
- On Monday, it was announced that Kristian Robinson was assigned to Short Season Hillsboro, who opens their season this Friday (06/14). The assignment is a little disappointing because reports I’ve read suggest Robinson could currently hold his own against full season pitching, but I also can’t blame the Diamondbacks for handling such a young, dynamic, toolsy prospect ulta-conservatively. And who knows, Robinson could very-well finish the regular season at Low-A Kane County after a brief stint in Short Season ball. Either way, I’m just glad we’ll finally get to do a little stat line scouting on the 18-year-old after a long wait. Robinson was my breakout prospect pick for the 2019 season, so I’m fully expecting him to obliterate opposing pitching in the Northwest League. Let’s get this bread, K-Rob.
- Julio Rodriguez made his long-awaited return Monday night, going 1-2 with a double and two walks after missing nearly two months with a hairline fracture in his wrist. The party was delayed a bit, but the 18-year-old has officially continued his ascension to the very top of prospect lists. Depending on how aggressive the Mariners choose to be, Rodriguez could finish the season with Jarred Kelenic at High-A Modesto. Regardless of the level he plays at, it’s likely the teenager completes his full season debut as a top-50 prospect throughout the prospect industry. I imagine he’ll accomplish that feat in my midseason top-200. Stay healthy and rake, Julio.
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Featured image courtesy of photographer Ed Gardner and MiLB.com