Some of you may remember Adi and his contributions he made to Baseball and Brews last season, and I’m please to now introduce him as a permanent staff writer for Baseball and Brews. Part of Adi’s contribution moving forward will be a weekly Friday piece on Prospects and Pitchers to help everyone keep an eye on good arms and good farms.
Take it away, Adi.
Friday, April 13, 2018
By Adi Vishwanath
BASEBALL IS BACK! Winter is over and I can bid farewell to my seasonal depression, just kidding my depression is year-round and it snowed in New York last week.
I wanted to thank Josh, and the academy, for taking a chance on me last season and graciously allowing me to be a regular contributor this season!
This season the plan is to have an article every Friday morning. This week’s installment is what we’re calling Prospects and Pitchers. Every other week I will take a look at a few top pitching and hitting prospects, how they’re progressing, an ETA to the majors and as always, the perfect beer to watch your illegally streamed blacked out baseball games.
So, let’s get this party started.
(Not included in this list are folks already in the majors and Acuna, since his ownership rate is well over 50%. If he is available in your league, PICK. HIM. UP. He is going to be called up in mid-April and he is going to smash. We’re talking a potential 20/20 guy. Bellinger last season kind guy.)
Gleyber Torres (SS, NYY)
Where he played in 2017: AA, AAA
Minor-league stats: .287 (202 AB), 7 HR, 34 RBI, 7 SB. .863 OPS, 30 BB, 47 K
Torres originally signed with the Cubs for $1.7 million. He tore up the Cubs minor league system before being traded to the Yankees as the key piece in the Aroldis Chapman trade in 2016. He capped that year by becoming the youngest MVP and batting .403 in Arizona Fall League and was pushing for a big league promotion last summer at age 20 before injuring his non-throwing elbow in a play at the plate, requiring Tommy John surgery that ended his 2017 season in mid-June. Torres has exceptionally quick hands that allow him to excel from the right side of the plate and make plays in the field. Always an advanced hitter for his age, he recognizes pitches well, uses the entire field and has improved his walk and strikeout rates in each of his seasons in full-season ball. He makes adjustments easily and also has hit for more power each year as well as he has gotten stronger, projecting as a hitter who can contend for batting titles while providing 20-plus homers annually. And although the Yankees acquired Neil Walker and Brandon Drury during spring training, it’s still possible that Torres could make his way up to the big leagues this season. He will start off the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and play an equal amount of time at shortstop and second base.
Eloy Jimenez (OF, CWS)
Where he played in 2017: A+, AA
Minor-league stats: .312 (369 AB), 19 HR, 65 RBI, .947 OPS, 35 BB, 72 K
Jimenez suffered a mild strain of his left pectoral muscle in late March and has been on the shelf since. He will participate in extended spring training games next week at Double-A Birmingham. The White Sox are expected to take it slow with their prized prospect. Eloy was the top-rated international prospect during the 2013-14 signing period. Like Torres Jimenez signed with the Cubs for $2.8 million out of the Dominican Republic. After crushing the Midwest League (SLG .532, and OPS .901) and won the Class A circuit’s MVP award at age 19 he was traded to the White Sox in July part of a four-prospect package for Jose Quintana. Despite missing the first six weeks of 2017 with a bone bruise on his right shoulder, he posted better numbers and kicked his game up a notch further (.348/.405/.635 in 47 games) after being traded. EJ benefits from massive raw power drawing comparisons to Stanton. He recognizes pitches well, makes savvy adjustments, doesn’t try to do too much and is making progress with his plate discipline. Though Jimenez may not offer much beyond his bat, he still can become a superstar. As he has gotten bigger and stronger, he has slowed and now has below-average speed.
Nick Senzel — (3B, CIN)
Where he played in 2017: A+, AA
Minor-league stats: .321 (455 AB), 14 HR, 65 RBI, 14 SB, .905 OPS, 49 BB, 97 K
One of the best, if not the best, third base prospects in baseball, Senzel has double-digit power and steal potential with a high average. Splitting time between High-A and Double-A last year, Senzel hit 40 doubles and 14 HR with a .321 average while stealing 14 bases. Senzel uses a combination of strength, bat speed and an advanced approach at the plate to be an extremely dangerous hitter from the right side of the plate. He makes consistent hard contact, doesn’t strike out a lot and draws walks, which points to a future of hitting over .300 and perhaps competing for batting titles. The Reds currently have Eugenio Suarez as their third baseman, but if he is injured or traded we will likely see Senzel in the majors this season. When he does arrive, he should be considered as a top-20 third baseman almost instantly.
There isn’t much more for Senzel to prove at the Minor League level, with the prevailing thought he could compete in the big leagues in the very near future. Some more reps at the upper levels certainly won’t hurt, but he should be ready when the call comes.
Francisco Mejia (C/DH, CLE)
Where he played in 2017: AA, MLB
Minor-league stats: .297 (347 AB), 14 HR, 52 RBI, 7 SB, .835, 24 BB, 53 K
Major-league stats: .365 (63 AB), 2 HR, 8 RBI, .873 OPS, 2 BB, 6 K
ETA: July or injury to Edwin Encarnacion
One of the best prospects in the Indians farm system, switch-hitting Mejia has the ability to generate hard contact from both sides of the plate. Though his approach is aggressive, Mejia generates consistently hard contact to all fields thanks to his advanced bat-to-ball skills and outstanding barrel control. His physical strength and bat speed generate sneaky raw power, especially from the left side, and he’s tapped into it more regularly as he’s climbed the ladder. Mejia followed up a 2016 season that included a 50-game hitting streak with a .348 batting average in his first 52 games, but then he slumped to .228 over his final 40. The Indians are pretty happy with their current tandem at catcher with Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez and are set at the DH with E5. The Outfield could be his best route to the big leagues, as the team’s corner outfielders are a collection of mediocre or injury-prone players such as Lonnie Chisenhall, Michael Brantley, and Brandon Guyer.
Alex Reyes – (SP STL)
Where he played in 2017: Did not play — injured
Major-league stats in 2016: 46IP, 1.57 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 52K
Currently, on the 60 Day disabled list, this move guarantees that Reyes won’t pitch in a big-league game at least until late May. The 23-year-old is steadily working his way back to full health after undergoing Tommy John surgery last February.
Reyes has already made his mark in the big leagues, posting a 1.57 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 52 strikeouts in 46 innings of work spanning five starts and seven relief appearances. There is a bit of an unknown in terms of what Reyes will look like when he his returns, but he brings one of the most electric fastballs among all pitching prospects. He was easily hitting triple digits before the elbow injury and sat in the mid-to-upper 90s with ease. That and a plus upper-70s curve would be enough for a bullpen gig, but his 88-90 mph changeup gives him a third above-average offering. The only negative for Reyes has been his command, and he will have to keep his walk rate relatively in check to reach his potential as a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Michael Kopech (SP, CWS)
Where he played in 2017: AA, AAA
Minor-league stats: 2.88 ERA, 1.17 WHIP (134 1/3 IP), 11.5 K/9, 4.4 BB/9
ETA: June if his changeup improves.
Kopech was one of the four prospects the Sox got for Chris Sale in the great 2016 White Sox fire sale. He has the fundamentals to be an uber successful pitcher, crazy breaks on his slider and triple digit fastballs. But, he still has a long way to go to be successful in the Majors. His changeup and command both need work. Kopech’s final two appearances in major-league camp didn’t go so well, 12 ER in 2.2IP but there were signs early on that he’s getting a feel for the changeup. If the organization sees improvement in both the changeup and command at Triple-A Charlotte, Kopech could be up with Chicago at some point in mid-May, which would delay his service-time clock and limit the number of innings he throws in the chilly Midwestern spring. Best known for hitting 105 on the radar gun that one time, Kopech has recently learned to dial it back a little with devastating results. After issuing 6.1BB/9 in his first 16 starts, he issued 1.9BB/9 with a 1.29 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 11.4K/9. Scary stuff. Kopech signed for $1.5 million as the 33rd overall choice in the 2014 Draft. His missed a bunch of time his first two seasons in the minors. He got suspended for 50 games in 2015 after testing positive for a banned stimulant and missed a few months when he broke his pitching hand in a Spring Training fight with a teammate in 2016.
Walker Buehler (RP, LAD)
Where he played in 2017: A+, AA, AAA, MLB
Minor-league stats: 3.45 ERA, 1.10 WHIP (88 2/3 IP), 12.7 K/9, 3.1 BB/9
Major-league stats: 7.71 ERA, 2.04 WHIP (9 1/3 IP)
ETA: By All-Star Break
Buehler was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to start the season. He dazzled in his Cactus League debut this spring, striking out seven batters over four scoreless innings, and walking only one. This comes in stark contrast to his September 2017 call up to the majors where he posted a 7.71 ERA over 9.1 innings. Buehler has an arsenal that features a 98-mph fastball and a devastating curveball. Buehler…Buehler…Buehler…Buehler was always expected to open the year in the minors barring an injury to the Dodgers’ starting rotation. The highly-regarded prospect could earn a promotion by the All-Star break barring injury to the starting five and his performance at Triple-A.
Victor Robles (OF, WAS)
Where he played in 2017: A+, AA, MLB
Minor-league stats: .300 (430 AB), 10 HR, 47 RBI, 27 SB, .875 OPS, 37 BB, 84 K
Major-league stats: .250 (24 AB), .766 OPS, 0 BB, 6 K
ETA: After the All-Star Break or if Eaton gets injured again (so….very soon)
Robles is a stud in every meaning of the word. Does he mash? Yep, he batted .324 with three homers and 11 stolen bases in 37 games with Double-A Harrisburg. Is he a strong defensive player? You betcha, strong arm, crazy speed. Is he also an upright support in the wall of a building to which drywall is attached? Eh, the jury’s still out. Robles’ best tool is his defense, which drops him a little in Fantasy-specific rankings but he more than makes up for it in OBP. In his sprint, through the minors, he has received accolade after accolade, including:
The youngest everyday player in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League
Midseason All-Star honors in the South Atlantic League
All-Star honors in Carolina League in 2017
And he hasn’t even played an inning of Triple A ball yet!
With an outfield as stacked as the Nats have its hard to see Robles get every day at bats when he does get called up. Robles possesses off-the-charts athleticism as well as strong strike-zone judgment.
Luiz Gohara (SP, ATL)
Where he played in 2017: A+, AA, AAA, MLB
Minor-league stats: 2.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP (123 2/3 IP), 10.7 K/9, 3.2 BB/9
Major-league stats: 4.91 ERA, 1.36 WHIP (29 1/3 IP), 9.5 K/9, 2.5 BB/9
Gohara had a rough start in the in his call up to the majors, accumulating a 4.91 ERA over roughly 30 innings. When he’s on though, he’s got the goods. Acquired from the Mariners last winter, Gohara has quickly emerged as one of the best pitching prospects in Atlanta. His five-start trial down the stretch doesn’t appear special at first glance, but he had a strike percentage and swinging strike percentage on par with Kershaw, Sale, Kluber and Max Scherzer. During his time with the Mariners Gohara had shown glimpses of his tremendous potential, albeit without consistency. He was one of the hardest-throwing lefties in baseball in 2017, firing into the triple digits regularly while comfortably sitting at 96-98 mph. The Braves acquired Gohara in January and he cruised through three levels of the Minors and up to the big leagues in 2017. This season Gohara continues to make steady progress as he works his way back from a sprained ankle. Gohara didn’t get stretched at all this spring, so he’ll essentially need to go through his own spring training before being ready to join the Braves, which will likely take until the end of April or beginning of May. At this point, it’s still unclear if he’ll immediately join the Braves’ rotation upon activation.
Willy Adames, SS, Rays
Where he played in 2017: AAA
Minor-league stats: .277 (506 AB), 10 HR, 62 RBI, 11 SB, .776 OPS, 65 BB, 132 K
Willy was acquired from the Tigers in the 2014 Trade Deadline blockbuster that sent David Price to Detroit. Though considered a prospect whose production has never reflected the hype, Adames had made steady, if incremental, improvement. He hit .303 with a .844 OPS over the final three months of the 2017 season. Adames has shown a combination of strong bat speed and patience at the plate that consistently produces hard, line-drive contact and a knack for working deep counts nets him plenty of walks and fueling his on-base skills. Adames seemingly has little left to prove in the minors after slashing .277/.360/.415 with 10 home runs and 11 steals across 578 plate appearances with Durham last season, so the Rays’ top prospect may not be in store for a lengthy stay at Triple-A to begin the 2018 campaign.
Citrus Redacted – Westbrook Brewing
My first beer recommendation of the 2018 season is Citrus Redacted by Westbrook Brewing. I’ve really been into strong citrus flavored IPA’s it might just be my subconscious hoping for warmer weather. The beer has a hazy orange color and has a light foamy head. It is an imperial IPA so it does pack a punch on the alcohol content front weighing in at 8.5%. The smell of this beer was intoxicating. A mixture of hops, grapefruit, and orange. The taste was pretty similar to the smell with strong notes of orange and a bright note of piney hops.