Ray’s Ramblings: July 1st

Written by: Ray Butler

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Everybody loves a good giveaway, right?

And how about a story within a story to start your July? If you’re a redraft fantasy player, these stash lists from staff writer Adam Ehrenreich are a fantastic resource. This article was also published today, so make sure you give it a read and get ahead of your league mates! For what it’s worth, I think his ‘honorable mention’ has a chance to be just as productive as anyone inside his top-10 for the rest of the season…

Let’s make this month the best of the 2019 season.

  • HAPPY DYLAN CEASE WEEK! It’s long awaited, so I’ll keep this short and sweet as we prepare for his MLB debut on Wednesday. Less than two seasons ago, opinions were split on whether Cease would ever pan-out as a starting pitcher. The command was spotty (11.3 BB%, 4.24 BB/9 in 2017), there was no reliable third pitch and the mechanics weren’t overly clean or repeatable. Flash forward to today, and the 23-year-old has changed the mind of most of his naysayers. The command isn’t perfect, but it’s improved (10.2 BB%, 3.63 BB/9 last season). Cease’s third pitch (a changeup) has developed to the extent the right-hander can throw it in any count with effective outcomes. Lastly, the right-hander tweaked his mechanics prior to last season, and he’s thrived with a more simple, repeatable delivery the past 15 months. One more note: don’t put too much stock into the 2019 numbers. Charlotte is a hitter-friendly park, and Cease has been utilizing and sequencing his changeup more often than usual in preparation for a big league debut. The .370 Triple-A BABIP this season won’t carry over to the South Side, but I’d love if the 54.9 GB% did. Regardless, there’s really no redraft format in which Cease shouldn’t be rostered. A strikeout or more per inning with a 3.50-3.75 ERA should be the expectation ROS. I’d like to think I was a little early on the Cease hype, ranking him 44th last midseason. He ranked 32nd on my top-200 list this preseason.
  • Jo Adell is a man amongst boys in the Southern League right now. Debuting on May 24th after a hamstring and ankle injury during Spring Training delayed the start of his season, the 20-year-old is setting fire to opposing pitchers thru 26 games. In 114 plate appearances over the last month, the outfielder has slashed .364/.427/.616 with 5 home runs and 4 stolen bases between High-A (rehab assignment) and Double-A. I’d like to think those are amongst some of the best offensive numbers in the entire minor leagues, and the statistics since returning to Double-A are even better than the season-long slash numbers. Anyone who tells you Adell isn’t a top-5 overall prospect in baseball right now is either lying or knows something I don’t. Imagine this likely fact: had Adell avoided injury and posted these numbers over the course of the entire season to this point, there’s a good chance the 20-year-old would already be in Triple-A and knocking on the door of a big league call-up. Instead, a promotion to the Pacific Coast League at some point this summer seems likely with a big league cup of coffee in September not out of the question. At this pace, I don’t see how the Angels keep him off their active roster on Opening Day 2020. What’s the MLB ceiling, you ask? One of the very best players in baseball. The strides Adell has made since being drafted in 2017 are nothing short of remarkable, yet he should continue to improve. Wowzers.
  • 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!
  • Yonny Chirinos was a steaming pile of poop on Friday versus the Rangers. He had no semblance of command for most of his outing. He doubled his season-high for walks in a single appearance. Yet, he still found a way to post a quality start. The final line? 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K. If you roster Chirinos, it’s basically what we’ve come to expect this season from the 25-year-old. It’s never going to be elite: the right-hander is a sinker-baller with very limited (or hidden) strikeout upside (21.0 K% in 2019). But dependability is a hell of a drug amongst a pitching landscape that’s been largely horrific this season, and that’s exactly what Chirinos has been. Each of his three offerings (sinker, slider and splitter) have posted undoubtedly positive pitch values according to Fangraphs. For the season, the right-hander has posted a 3.10 ERA and 2.0 BB/9. For fantasy purposes only, he’s also accrued 7 wins and 8 quality starts (72.7 QS%). There is a little disparity between his BAA (.213) and XBA (.265), so don’t be surprised if the .234 BABIP regresses a bit before the end of the regular season. Even if that happens, Chirinos still figures to be a valuable asset both to the Rays and our fantasy pitching staffs down the stretch of the regular season.
  • P365 staff writer Tyler Spicer has quickly proven his viability amongst evaluators throughout the prospect world. Not only has he spear-headed our dive into the cluster analyzation of prospects, but he also published this article on Miguel Vargas this preseason. Not only did Tyler suggest Vargas warranted as much hype as fellow Cuban prospect Victor Victor Mesa, but he also predicted Vargas would be a big riser in the prospect world this season. Mesa and his 58 wRC+ have been largely forgettable this season; Vargas has not. The 19-year-old is now slashing .318/.394/.438 with 3 home runs and 8 stolen bases in 317 plate appearances in Low-A. That’s with a 11.4 BB% and 13.6 K%. Yeah, the power output (or lack thereof) might furrow your brow to a certain extent, and the third baseman’s 18.7 Hard% gives some validity to those concerns. But Vargas 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. He’s also 2.2 years younger than his average competition in the Midwest League. At some point—perhaps sooner rather than later—Vargas is going to tap into more of his raw power in game settings. I assume the Dodgers will work with the teenager on sacrificing a little of his on base ability in order to increase the damage he can do every time he swings the bat. The 135 wRC+ this season is only a sign of things to come in the future, and a very hitter-friendly California League awaits Vargas (maybe) later this season. The batted ball and statistical profile will change within the next 12-24 months, but Vargas should remain an ascender whose upside is much higher than the power numbers from this season would suggest.
  • Found this recent nugget on Jesse Chavez extremely interesting….

Chavez has broken enough hearts that someone definitely saw ‘Jesse Chavez’ above and decided to scroll down to the next write-up, but the truth is the 35-year-old has been extremely solid this season. Now stretched out and capable of logging substantial innings in each outing, Chavez has a line of 17.1 IP, 14 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 18 K in his last three appearances (two starts, one appearance behind an opener). I play in four fantasy leagues, and I currently have 100% exposure to the right-hander. A lot of that is because the price tag was practically free, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little optimistic about the 32.2 CSW% I witnessed Sunday versus the Rays and their solid offense. I wish the Rangers would tinker with his usage a little, but if nothing else we can ride the wave and dump while we’re in the black. Wild that prospects who are more than half Chavez’s age will make my midseason top-200 list.

  • If you haven’t gotten around to it yet, make sure you check out last week’s Ramblings! It includes notes and thoughts on Jesús Sanchez, Andrew Benintendi, Luis Garcia, Bryse Wilson, Evan White, Joey Cantillo, Eddy Diaz, Kevin Alcantara, Dinelson Lamet and more. Check it out here
  • Rodolfo Castro was a name that quickly rose to prominence in our initial cluster analyzation research. The middle infielder possesses a ton of power, already swatting 16 home runs in 284 plate appearances as a 20-year-old between Low-A and High-A. To that point, Castro is sporting a 39.0 Hard% thru the first three months of the regular season. He’s also swiped six bases. The foundation has been laid. The on base numbers are much less spectacular: Castro is slashing .249/.306/.518 with a 6.7 BB% and 25.7 K%. Everything mixed together, the numbers are good for a 131 wRC+, which is eye-opening for any offensive player who’s spent time in the Florida State League to reach that number. Good friend and prospecting guru John Calvagno has scouted the infielder and seems to have liked what he saw in his first look. A couple more things are relevant here: first, Castro is a switch hitter, so there’s potential to be platoon-proof. He’s been much better from the right batter’s box than the left so far this season. Defensively, the reports are positive; there’s a strong chance he’s able to stick up-the-middle at second base or shortstop throughout his professional career. Keeping these things in mind, Castro should maintain a decently-high floor in real life while also receiving an ample amount of time and patience to reach his offensive ceiling (which is what we care about in the fantasy world). If the 20-year-old can find a way to eventually develop an average hit tool, he’s a shoe-in top-100 prospect. He’s currently 2.4 years younger than his average competition in the Florida State League.

Speaking of John, this happened last week…

I had the opportunity to meet and talk to John for about an hour at an Appalachian League game in Greeneville, Tennessee. Having known and interacted with him thru social media on countless occasions over the last two years, I can honestly say John is one of the most humble, hardworking people in the prospect world. Make sure you’re following him at @SALNotes on Twitter if you’re not already, and check out his site too.

  • It’s official #EricSogardSZN, friends. I honestly can’t believe it’s come to this, but dang it if Sogard hasn’t been borderline spectacular this season. If I threw out a .310/.378/.512 slash with 9 home runs and 6 stolen bases in 233 plate appearances and asked you who I was describing, Sogard would probably be the 576th player you guessed. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s hard to make sense of these ‘gains’. The statcast data certainly isn’t too endearing…

Screen Shot 2019-07-01 at 1.29.50 AM

The 33-year-old is elevating the ball more this season than any other season of his career, and even though he’s also hitting the ball harder than he ever has (85.3 mph average EV), his Exit Velocity still ranks in the bottom 9% of all MLB hitters. The 20.3 Hard% is in the bottom 1% (!!!!!) of all MLB hitters. Upon this discovery, I legitimately double-checked to make sure I was on Sogard’s Savant player page and not someone else’s. Seriously… how much longer is this output (a 136 wRC+) (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) sustainable with such horrendous supporting analytics? Probably not much longer, but I did add a share for $16 FAAB in TGFBI on Sunday. Probably as prudent as buying a pair of sunglasses in the Caribbean, but I’ll ride the wave of eliteness (because that’s what Eric freakin’ Sogard has been so far this season) from my Middle Infield slot until it fades. One more thing: EricSogardStatcastData might be the most uncrackable computer or account password in the history of the universe.

An aside to end the first July 2019 edition of the Ramblings… 

Before we shut it down for the week, I’d like to share with you one of the first important lessons I ever learned in the prospect world. With Ronald Acuña Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. recently being named to the 2019 Home Run Derby, I’ve found myself reminiscing more than usual. 2017 was the birth year of Prospects 365, and Acuña Jr. was the first prospect I ever fell in love with. Ever. And I was head-over-heels.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve likely seen my recent daily updates on Brennen Davis, a 19-year-old outfield prospect for the Cubs who’s ascended industry ranks at light-speed throughout the past month. I’ve vocalized my hesitance to tweet daily updates on any prospect, mostly because that designation is near and dear to my heart. Why? The only other prospect I ever tweeted daily updates on was Acuña Jr.

Acuña’s box scores from High-A Florida in the early months of the 2017 season became appointment research for me, and I learned a lot about rate stabilization throughout the spring and summer. When Acuña Jr. was promoted to Double-A Mississippi in May, he departed the Florida State League with a 6.3 BB% and 31.7 K%. Standing alone, those rates are terrifying. To some, they’d be cause for omission on top prospect lists or interest all together.

But Acuña was only 19, which was 3.8 years younger than his average competition in the FSL. He had also accumulated only 171 full season plate appearances prior to his High-A debut. Lastly, Acuña posted a 135 wRC+ in his 126 plate appearances with the Florida Fire Frogs, totaling 3 home runs and 14 stolen bases in just 28 games. So what’s the moral of the story?

Even today, strikeout and walk rates help drive the statistical facet of my prospect evaluations. They also drive a portion of the questions VIP members send me in my DMs on a weekly basis. They’re important—but they don’t tell the whole story. As we continue to find new ways to evaluate prospects here at P365, we love to see teenagers who post similar K and BB rates over the course of a summer or regular season. However, over time, I’ve learned to not completely discard a young prospect when they strikeout more or walk less than we’d like, even if the rates appear harmful.

I’m currently going through this with Kristian Robinson, who was my breakout prospect pick this preseason. He’s only accumulated 67 Short Season plate appearances this season (which is far from a “stable” sample), but he’s currently sporting a 29.9 K%. If I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, I’d be in panic mode right now. Asking myself where it all went wrong. Instead, I’m choosing to evaluate the situation as a whole rather than predominantly focusing on the negative parts: Robinson (who’s only 18-years-old and 2.8 years younger than his average competition in the Northwest League) is slashing .322/.388/.458 with a home run and 4 stolen bases in 15 games, which is good for a 151 wRC+. Not to mention, the strikeout rate is trending in the correct direction (3 strikeouts in his last 26 plate appearances). He’s going to be fine (as is Rodolfo Castro and the poor batting average you read about above), and I legitimately believe that.

If you’re new to a deep keeper league, dynasty league or prospect evaluation all together, keep this message near and dear. Believe me, I had to make several mistakes to learn this lesson. I ‘missed’ on prospects to learn this lesson. Whether you’re struggling to get past a young prospect’s strikeout rate, walk rate or inadequate slash numbers, simply remember that the flaw is only part of the story. Strike up a conversation with a scout or evaluator on social media who’s seen that prospect in person. Read as many first-person reports as you can get your hands on. Make sure you see the whole picture from a statistical standpoint. Heck, it might help you get your hands on the next Ronald Acuña.

Have a great week!

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Featured image courtesy of photographer Laura Wolff and the Charlotte Knights

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