Written by: Ray Butler
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Creating my prospect lists is a pain-staking process. I’d like to think I’m as meticulous, well-researched and open-minded as anyone in the prospect industry. That often leads to a creation and completion process that extends well past a month, as my midseason list did.
With my #MidseasonTop200 now released, the plan is to publish a few pieces focusing on some of my personal takeaways from the list. Some new flags planted, some profiles that are taking a turn for the worst, stuff like that.
First, I want to dive into some prospects who narrowly missed the cut. My money is on at least three of these players (listed in alphabetical order) making the end-of-season edition of my top-200…
As always, thanks to Minor Graphs for helping me paint a picture.
Michael Baumann, SP, BAL. Age: 23
You actually need to thank Baumann, whose recent no-hitter was the inspiration for this article. You see it statistically, but the right-hander is a completely different pitcher this season than in year’s past. Instead of sitting in low-90s with the ability to touch 96 or 97, Baumann is now consistently hitting 93-95. He topped out at 97 in the ninth inning of the no-hitter. I dinged his early-season performance because he was a 23-year-old performing well in High-A, but mimicking those numbers for the remainder of the season in Double-A would really cause his stock to skyrocket. I need the LOB% and BABIP to normalize before I declare that the case. It should also be noted that Baumann carries some of the same mechanical traits as Ian Anderson, who I currently find myself lower on than most people in the industry. Regardless, it’s easy to be optimistic about Baltimore’s new player development personnel and philosophy when evaluating Baumann’s gains this season.
Willi Castro, SS, DET. Age: 22
A little ‘sneaky 2019 stash’ flavor for this list, Castro continues to post numbers that should eventually lead to his promotion to Detroit sooner rather than later. It’s not monumental by any stretch of the imagination, but Castro’s current .142 ISO is the second highest mark he’s posted in his minor league career, trailing only the .238 ISO he accumulated in a 114 plate appearance sample in Double-A after being traded to Detroit’s organization last season. It’s never easy to predict, but I think the 22-year-old could eventually fall into the category of players who hit for more power at the big league level than was suspected following a sizable minor league sample. If his current skills translate to the big league level, Castro will be an 8-10 HR, 20 SB player who won’t hinder your fantasy team in the strikeout, AVG or OBP department. Once the Tigers deem him fully-read (which is probably what it would take for a promotion, since they’re not contending), the 22-year-old should supplant the mixture of Jordy Mercer, Harold Castro and Niko Goodrum at shortstop. If you play in a super deep or AL-only league, consider stashing Castro for the home stretch.
Wander Javier, SS, MIN. Age: 20
If you follow prospects closely and understand the theory of rate stabilization, you probably kept a close eye on Javier’s strikeout rate during late June and early July. I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting for it to drop. It never did. It currently sits at 30.1%, but the .158/.255/.259 slash (thru 157 plate appearances) isn’t too savory either. What’s worse, the .217 BABIP seems to be more of a product of Javier’s pull-heavy approach (52.3%) than bad luck. The walk rate is a healthy 10.2%, so perhaps the 20-year-old is simply a little too passive right now. Despite the shortstop not making my midseason list, he certainly remains on my radar (for many different reasons) moving forward.
Shane McClanahan, SP, TB. Age: 22
For all the questions surrounding McClanahan that eventually caused him to drop in last season’s MLB Draft, the southpaw is doing his best to quiet those concerns this season. Perhaps most surprisingly, the walk rate has shrunk tremendously since being promoted from Low-A (13.9%) to High-A (3.0%). We need to see it for quite a while longer, but things certainly seem to be trending towards McClanahan remaining in the rotation at least through the early stages of his professional career. The pre-2019 track record and early-season walk rate while in Low-A kept him off my midseason list, but I’d consider him a favorite to land on the end-of-season edition if he maintains his current efficiency and success.
Parker Meadows, OF, DET. Age: 19
Immense talent and potential that hasn’t quite clicked yet. That’s Parker Meadows, who’s posted an 88 wRC+ in 83 Low-A games this season. A poor 13.0 Hard% is likely the main reason why the outfielder has posted a .289 BABIP despite possessing plus speed with an Oppo% (37.9%) that’s higher than the Pull% (36.4%). Still, it’s likely the batted ball luck improves a little before the end of the regular season. I don’t mind the 25.3 K% too much for a prospect who’s so raw, so there seems to be some arrows pointing up for a 19-year-old with plus raw and speed with above average defensive skills. For a prospect you should currently be able to acquire for next-to-nothing, the reward here could certainly be outstanding.
M.J. Melendez, C, KC. Age: 20
I’ll never give up on you, M.J. Melendez. Perhaps I should have seen this coming. Instead of taking the 30.3 K% last season as a warning sign, I was hopeful the 20-year-old’s strikeout rate would decrease this season in High-A, much like Royals’ farmhand Khalil Lee’s did last season. Instead, the K% currently sits at 37.4%, and Melendez is slashing only .177/.279/.343 thru 77 games. The plate discipline has reportedly been subpar to say the least, and that’s likely the main culprit of the catcher’s 80 wRC+ this season. I still believe Melendez has a high ceiling and potential to someday hold fantasy relevance in mixed leagues, but it was simply impossible to include him in this list after evaluating the output this season and speaking with people who have seen him live. Maybe there’s brighter days ahead?
Cal Raleigh, C, SEA. Age: 22
It’s hard to put too much stock into college catchers raking at anything below Double-A, but Raleigh has been impressive this season (especially after skipping Low-A) nonetheless. Now promoted to Double-A Arkansas, the 22-year-old will have the opportunity to validate the 136 wRC+ he posted in 82 games in the California League. There’s definite risk that Raleigh eventually becomes the low-AVG/high-HR catcher that’s become the archetype amongst most MLB catchers, but I’d like to think there’s a little more in the tank here.
Drew Rom, SP, BAL. Age: 19
A cluster analytics darling, Rom has utilized above average offspeed offerings and superb command to post outstanding numbers in Low-A Delmarva this season. With a new player development department clearly leading to improvements (and a velocity bump) with pitchers like Michael Baumann (who I discussed above), one can only wonder if Rom is next in line to find another gear with his fastball velocity. If 89-90 somehow turns into 92-93 (which is obviously a lot to ask), Rom won’t only be a top-200 prospect; he’ll knock on the door of top-100 lists. For now, the southpaw is one of my favorite dynasty targets in the #201-250 range on prospect lists.
Matt Tabor, SP, ARZ. Age: 21
Before you read anything I’ve got to say on Tabor, you should check out this piece on the right-hander from Baseball Farm’s Alex Jensen. Alex has been beating the Matt Tabor Drum for quite a while now, and with good reason. Truth be told, the reports I got on the right-hander don’t really line-up with the 21-year-old’s recent performance. The fastball velocity is up, which is really important when evaluating Tabor’s profile specifically. That alone brings some validity to the gigantic strikeout spike we’ve witnessed from the right-hander in 2019 (18.2 K% last season, 32.5 K% this season). Maintaining this growth once he’s promoted to the hitter-friendly Cal League will be absolutely paramount for Tabor’s prospect standing, but for now, consider him my 201st-ranked prospect.
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