Ray’s Ramblings: August 8th

Written by: Ray Butler

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Despite #MidseasonProspectListSZN being in the rearview mirror, last week was one of the most traffic-filled weeks for the site this year. Why? Quality and quantity. The Ramblings covered everything from Bo Bichette’s big league debut to Kristian Robinson to Tucker Davidson. Staff writer Shelly Verougstraete published her July prospect team of the month. Staff writer Trevor Powers published a piece on the mechanics and analytics of new age hitting. Staff contributor Will Scharnagl published a piece on pitch usage and spotlighted a few relievers who could become elite with a small adjustment. I promise these are well worth your time if you haven’t already checked them out.

  • He took a little while to get going, but Clarke Schmidt has been absolutely electric for close to three months now. Since May 20th: 41.0 IP, 26 H, 10 ER, 14 BB, 52 K. That’s good for a 2.20 ERA, 2.63 FIP, 32.5 K%, 8.8 BB%, 0.98 WHIP, .181 BAA and .267 BABIP in eight starts. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of those outings. Perhaps we should have expected a little bit of rust from a pitcher entering his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery (Schmidt allowed 23 earned runs in his first six starts), but the 23-year-old has recaptured the growing hype as the season has progressed. The right-hander was featured in a preseason article I published on ‘finding the 2019 version of Chris Paddack’, and I would later go on to say that out of any pitcher who fit the profile, Schmidt had the best chance to soar-up prospect lists this season. The ascension hasn’t quite happened yet, and it’s important to note the right-hander is old for the Florida State League. Despite this, Schmidt could flirt with top-100 lists by the end of the season if he maintains the current run he’s on. The groundball percent ranks near the top amongst all minor league pitchers, which provides us with a comfortable floor in case the K% drops following a promotion to Double-A. There’s mid-tier SP3 upside here, though an uptick is always possible as the right-hander continues to distance himself from TJ rehab.

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  • If you roster Lance Lynn in a keeper league, what’s your plan for him? I ask that for a very specific reason. If your thought process begins and ends with a quick look at his Fangraphs page, it would be fairly easy to assume that his current 2019 campaign is somewhat of an anomaly. A career-best WHIP, K%, BB% and FIP in his age-32 season? Some hot words that usually describe these types of seasons: career year. Fluke. Unsustainable. If this is your line of thinking and your league only allots for a certain amount of keepers, you’re probably planning on cutting bait at the end of the season. But there’s more to this story.

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I love the uniqueness of Lynn’s profile. Pitching at the big league level is slowly trending towards throwing your best pitch more than your other pitches (what a weird concept), and that almost always means throwing your fastball less. That’s not the case for Lynn, though, who’s utilized an elite spin rate fastball (plus a cutter and sinker variation) for a whopping 83.4% of his pitches this season. Opposing batters are hitting .215 versus the fastball and .208 versus the cutter, which has helped propel Lynn to the top-tier of several indicative and predictive metrics (including fWAR and pCRA, to name a couple). It’s also fun that the right-hander’s fastball has accrued a pitch value of 16.9 (making it the 4th-best fastball amongst qualified pitchers in the majors) despite an average velocity of 94.0 mph (which is 20th best amongst qualified pitchers in the majors). He’s doing it rather quietly (and while pitching at a launch pad of a home park), but Lance Lynn is one of the best starting pitchers in the MLB. This isn’t debatable. A valid case can be made that Lynn is deserving of the 2019 AL Cy Young. If the decrease in BB% is here to stay (5.7% this season, 8.8% career), this certainly seems sustainable. Barring injury, I’ll be happily keeping Lynn this offseason and expecting positive returns next season. You should too.

  • I recently put the cherry on top of a very successful midseason prospect listrelease. Along with the list, I published an article discussing the prospects who narrowly missed the list. I also introduced you to the prospects you didn’t recognize from the list. Some great prospect content there, if I do say so myself. Give it a read or four. 
  • The most requested player for this week’s Ramblings. Let’s talk about Aristides Aquino. The big league sample is awful small, but it’s also amazing: .438/.471/.813 with 2 home runs in six games since being promoted. Those numbers can go belly-up in a hurry because it’s been such a short stint, but no one can poke holes in Aquino’s Triple-A performance this season. In 78 games (323 plate appearances), the 25-year-old slashed .299/.356/.636 with 28 home runs and 5 stolen bases (7.1 BB%, 25.1 K%, .321 BABIP, 142 wRC+). A 31.9 minor league Hard% is well above average, and a pull-heavy approach (53.0%) makes me think he’ll continue to hit for plenty of power at the big league level. It also makes me think the AVG and OBP may suffer thanks to a relatively low BABIP (especially if he mimics the 43.3 FB% he posted while in Triple-A). I’ve had several conversations regarding Aquino with folks this season, whether it be Rudy and Shelly Verougstraete in Cleveland last month or with scouts who are grinding away in the International League. Last season it was a near-consensus that Aquino was either an OF4 or a player who bounces back and forth between the big leagues and Triple-A. So what changed? Hello, Mike Petriello.

Both the stance and swing are noticeably different, and the stance especially makes me think his vision and pitch recognition has probably improved from last season to this season. Aquino suddenly possessing an MLB-average hit tool would mean the skill progressed from a 30 to a 50 in less than a season, which is an awfully hard sell until we accrue a much larger sample. It’s much easier to wrap your head around the 25-year-old now boasting 40-hit and 60 (or 65) raw power tools, which would give him a chance to profile as an everyday corner outfielder for a Cincinnati team that can suddenly afford to give everyday at-bats to the Dominican Republic native (especially since there are reports floating around that Aquino has clocked triple-digits on throws from the outfield). From a fantasy standpoint, I think an upside outlook is something like a right-handed Joc Pederson. Maybe Franmil Reyes with a better AVG and better defense? Make sure you let the noisy sample quiet down a little bit before you do something drastic in order to acquire him, but buy-up those ground level shares while you still can.

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  • From the “don’t worry about what the numbers say” department, Gabriel Rodriguez was recently promoted from the Dominican Summer League to the Arizona League, which is a huge step for a 17-year-old prospect, especially in the middle of the summer. I featured Rodriguez in this article discussing the ‘who?!’ prospects from my midseason top-200 list. Scouting the stat line here would mean you might completely miss out on a prospect who’s been labeled by scouts as one of the most exciting players who hasn’t yet reached full season ball. Evaluating a prospect who’s so young means attempting to predict the future more so than labeling what already exists, so a projectable 6-foot-2, 175 lb. frame is a good starting point. The swing still appears incredibly raw, but you can tell he’s widened his stance from last season (pre-signing) to this season. The Indians will continue to work with Rodriguez through each stage of his offensive development, and their recent track record suggests the shortstop is in good hands. The current expectation is that the 17-year-old sticks in the middle infield, and playing at a premium position will certainly help boost his overall value. If you play in a league that rosters 150-200 prospects, Rodriguez should already be rostered. If he’s not, fix that. If your league rosters prospects but is a bit shallower, you might be able to wait until next spring to make this acquisition. I imagine Rodriguez will rank somewhere between the #115-130 mark on my postseason prospect list, so evaluate him accordingly.


  • A brief blurb on Michael Harris, who’s been a cluster analysis darling since we plunged into the Gulf Coast League. Everything about this profile: the counting stats, the rates, the age, it all becomes infinitely more intriguing when you consider the fact Harris was a two-way player in high school. Heck, a lot of scouts evaluated him as a future impact pitcher at the college and professional levels. But after he was drafted by the Braves in the third round of this summer’s MLB Draft, it was immediately decided Harris would develop as a position player. The 18-year-old has played 27 games in the Gulf Coast League since being drafted, and he hasn’t disappointed. In 105 plate appearances, Harris is slashing .354/.410/.510 with 2 home runs and 5 stolen bases. Just as impressive, the outfielder has walked at a 7.6% clip while striking out in only 16.2% of his plate appearances. For a prospect who just began primarily focusing on hitting, those numbers are impressive. The defensive tools certainly boost the profile from a real-life perspective, but I’m wondering what the fantasy-relevant skills will look like once Harris becomes polished as a position player, especially since he’s a switch hitter. 50-hit, 55-raw, 50-speed is probably the most likely outcome (which, combined with his defensive tools, means he’d be an everyday player), but there’s a non-zero chance this profile evolves into 55-hit, 60-raw, 50-speed. That would mean Harris would eventually appear on top-200 prospect lists, and you currently have a chance to buy-in at the ground floor. This should be a fun prospect to watch develop over the next few seasons.

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Featured image courtesy of photographer Mark LoMoglio and the Tampa Tarpons

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