Ray’s Ramblings: June 24th

Written by: Ray Butler

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Spending the week in Middle and East Tennessee, grabbing a few Southern and Appalachian League looks while beginning to piece together my 2019 midseason top-200 prospect list. More details on that soon…

  • I finally get my first live look at Jesus Sanchez this week. It should be quite the time.

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In my eyes, Sanchez seems to kind of get lost in the shuffle amongst elite outfield prospects in the game. I ranked the 21-year-old 34th in my preseason top-200 prospect list, and graduations, injuries and Sanchez’s performance for Double-A Montgomery seem to suggest he’ll be ranked even higher in the midseason edition. The outfielder is slashing .286/.351/.433 with 8 home runs and 5 stolen bases thru 265 plate appearances (65 games) this season. He boasts a 8.7 BB%, 20.8 K%, .339 BABIP and 31.5 Hard%. In an industry that hangs its hat on volatility and constant, drastic changes, Sanchez has been extremely consistent throughout his prospect career. I fully expect the 21-year-old to be ranked amongst the best prospects I’ll see in-person throughout the 2019 season. I’ll be sure to tweet an open face at-bat if possible.

  • Don’t you dare look at the season-long numbers, but Luis Garcia (the Nationals’ version) has quietly had a great June. In 18 games this month, the 19-year-old is slashing .325/.346/.390 with 4 XBH and only 11 strikeouts in 81 plate appearances. Of course, the .735 OPS in June is still below average, but we’ll take what we can get after he posted a .529 OPS and .483 OPS in April and May respectively. You’re going to read several versions of this during #MidseasonProspectListSZN, so allow me to get ahead of the pack: The Nationals were too aggressive with Garcia this season. And perhaps there are underlying reasons none of us know about, but I feel pretty confident in saying the teenager should have began the regular season at High-A Potomac. And yeah, the holistic 2019 numbers are ugly, but I’m not sure the lack of output should tarnish Garcia’s prospect standing too much. And the season-long OPS, bless its broken soul, is actually more than 100 points higher versus left-handed pitching than right-handed pitching. Unless we were wrong about the tools from the outset, patience will pay off here. Just prepare yourself to watch Garcia in Double-A for the foreseeable future.
  • Some disturbing trends for Andrew Benintendi this season…

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A dive into the advanced analytics isn’t great, either (h/t Baseball Savant).

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An even deeper dive leaves us with a rather simple hypothesis: Benintendi has regressed as a player from 2018 to 2019. The average exit velocity and Barrel% is up, but their hypothetical benefits have been offset entirely by a horrific performance when faced with non-fastballs. Here’s one more table to hammer the latter point home (h/t Baseball Savant).

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If salt in the wound is your kind of thing, the Whiff% and Chase% have both taken steps in the wrong direction (he’s also swinging more in general this season). Even the sprint speed has decreased by more than a foot per second (27.7 Ft/s last season, 26.6 Ft/s this season).

I don’t know what to tell you.

We all covet players like the 2018 version of Andrew Benintendi: .290/.366/.465 with 103 R, 16 HR, 87 RBI and 21 SB with a 16.0 K% (122 wRC+). But the lack of elite power also means there’s less margin for error when things go awry, and that’s what we’re witnessing thru three months of the regular season. I’d like to think there may be an underlying injury that’s negatively effecting Benintendi’s play, but that can’t account for the increase in Barrel% and average exit velocity. Maybe he’s about to go en fuego for a few weeks and everything will level off? Get better soon, Andrew. I roster you everywhere.

  • 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, a charity founded by Braden and Hunter Bishop to fight Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also 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!
  • Just passing along Evan White‘s recent success. He’s currently sporting a 22-game hitting streak. During that time, the 23-year-old is slashing .374/.408/.633 with 7 home runs and an 18.3 K%. For the season, the first baseman is slashing .298/.361/.480 with 9 home runs, a 21.8 K% and 128 wRC+. White is elevating the ball more this season than in 2018, but it’s resulted in an increase in LD% instead of FB%. Hopefully, the launch angle will continue to optimize and he’ll tap into more of his raw power. For what it’s worth, White’s current .175 ISO would be his highest mark since a 55 plate appearance sample of Short Season ball back in 2017. The first baseman will almost certainly be promoted to Triple-A Tacoma (where he’ll join future big league teammate Jake Fraley) relatively soon.
  • Bryse Wilson currently finds himself in prospect purgatory within keeper and dynasty leagues. He still holds prospect eligibility, but he’s had unsuccessful big league opportunities. If you’re a keeper or dynasty league player, Wilson is almost certainly rostered in your league but doesn’t currently hold tremendous value. But with Mike Foltynewicz’s recent demotion, Wilson appears to be a prime candidate to perhaps recapture a role at the big league level.

In my eyes, Wilson really has one path to becoming a viable, big league starting pitcher: he has to trust his slider. The 11.1 IP at the MLB level means this isn’t yet a reliable sample, but here’s the right-hander’s pitch usages as a member of the Braves’ staff.

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Fastball/changeup doesn’t really cut it as a starting pitcher at the big league level anymore. I think the ideal usage for Wilson would look something like 55% fastball, 20% slider and 25% changeup. One could even argue it should be 50/25/25 or 50/20/30. I’m hopeful the Braves give the 21-year-old an opportunity later this week, and I’m even more hopeful the pitch usage we’ll witness has taken a step forward in diversity.

  • Last summer, prospect obsession Eddy Diaz stole 54 bases in 51 games worth of Rookie Ball in the Dominican Summer League. The 19-year-old has moved up to the Pioneer League (advanced Rookie Ball) this summer, but the wheels remain intact and dangerous. In only eight games, Diaz has already swiped six bases. Of equal importance, the middle infielder (he’s seen time at both second base and shortstop so far this season) is slashing .289/.341/.500 with 6 extra base hits in 41 plate appearances. He remains without a professional home run in 429 career plate appearances, but that’s hardly a red flag for a player with a ton of development (both physically and at the plate) on tap in the near future. Studying Diaz’s brief track record led me to two big-picture questions I would love to dive deeper on: 1) what percent of prospects spend three consecutive summers at the varying levels of Rookie Ball? 2) of those prospects, what is the success rate? If you know of a relatively easy way to research these topics, feel free to let me know. It should also be noted that an appendectomy in March *might* have hindered the infielder’s chances of making an early season debut with Low-A Asheville. But gut tells that’s likely not the case, but it’s worth pondering regardless. Anyways, Diaz made the tail-end of my top-200 prospect list this preseason, and I assume that’s about where he’ll end up on the midseason edition.
  • If you haven’t gotten around to it yet, make sure you check out last week’s Ramblings. The article includes thoughts on Jesús Luzardo, Bobby Bradley, Esteury Ruiz, Scott Kingery, Isan Diaz, Ian Desmond, Zack Collins and MUCH more. Check it out here!  
  • There’s no better time than the present to introduce Kevin Alcantara to the site’s archives. He’s 16-years-old, so feel free to keep scrolling, redrafters. But if you’re a dynasty league player, it’s time to make a mental note of the outfielder, who signed for approximately $1 million in last summer’s international signing class. A native of the Dominican Republic, Alcantara stands 6-foot-6, 190 pounds. He’s extremely athletic for his frame, and scouts think there’s at least an average change he sticks at centerfield throughout his professional career. He’s currently evaluated as a plus runner, but smart money is on the 16-year-old losing a step at some point as he fills out his gigantic frame (with his athleticism, there’s a chance he’ll still be able to steal bases once he reaches physical maturation). Fangraphs currently labels Alcantara with 50-hit and 60-raw future tools, not to mention a 45 FV label that leaves him ranked above heralded prospects like Everson Pereira, Anthony Seigler, Roansy Contreras, Luis Gil, Clarke Schmidt and Luis Medina. In nine Dominican Summer League games this summer, Alcantara is slashing .237/.348/.368 with four extra base hits, two stolen bases and a 19.6 K% in 46 plate appearances. He’s half a decade away from the big leagues (at least), but Alcantara should certainly be on your radar moving forward.
  • Earlier this week, we broke ground (publicly, anyways) on our extensive research utilizing cluster analytics to uncover unheralded prospects in the lower levels of the minors. Our own Tyler Spicer is pioneering this research, but I’m going to be diving into some of our more interesting findings from time to time in the Ramblings. Joey Cantillo jumped off the page at us in our initial, Low-A pitcher clustering. The 19-year-old has been ridiculously good in his full season debut, striking out 34.8% of the batters he’s faced while posting a 1.96 ERA in 55.0 innings pitched in the Midwest League. He’s 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, so there’s no size issues to speak of. The southpaw features a high-80s to low-90s fastball, an above average changeup and commands both pitches very well. Cantillo throws a curveball as his third offering, but he currently utilizes the pitch sparingly in games. Someone in the Padres’ organization deserves a gigantic raise. Why? Cantillo was selected in the 16th round (!) of the 2017 MLB Draft. A native of Hawaii, he signed for just over $300,000 in lieu of honoring his commitment to the University of Kentucky. Wowzers. Now granted, any pitcher with a good changeup and above average command can find success against Low-A offenses. However, we think Cantillo has the athleticism and projection to eventually add velocity to a fastball that he already locates well. With further refinement of his curveball, the 19-year-old really has a chance to become a viable pitching prospect within the prospect community. Cantillo should be squarely on your radar moving forward; you could begin seeing his name pop-up on prospect lists by the end of the 2019 season. If you’re interested in reading about how Cantillo rose to prominence in the conversations we have here at P365, check out this article on evaluating low-level prospects by utilizing cluster analysis.
  • At long last, it appears we’re finally close to the big league return of Dinelson Lamet. The right-hander has now made five rehab starts throughout the past month, posting a 6.16 ERA (don’t @ me, the FIP is 4.19) with a 32.9 K% and 8.9 BB% in 19.0 IP between High-A Lake Elsinore and Triple-A El Paso. Most recently, the 26-year-old twirled 5 innings of one run ball, striking out 8 and walking 1 in the process. But truth be told, the numbers don’t really matter. Once the Padres believe he’s ready, Lamet will have a spot in San Diego’s rotation. That should be within the next two weeks, so you’re quickly running out of time to stash him in your redraft leagues. I first touted Lamet all the way back in January of 2018, basically claiming he was ‘continued development of a third pitch’ away from becoming a fantasy ace. Eighteen months later, that still holds entirely true. I suspect the right-hander will lean heavily on his deadly fastball/slider combination as he reacclimates to the big league level before further incorporating a curveball or changeup heading into 2020. I suspect Lamet is already rostered in most keeper and dynasty leagues, but if your redraft rotation needs help down the stretch of the regular season, Lamet could be your answered prayer. I grabbed him for $7 FAAB in TGFBI Sunday night.

Have a great week!

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Featured image courtesy of photographer Brian McLeod and MiLB.com

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