Archive for December, 2018

2018 MLB Development Review

Posted: December 31, 2018 in Uncategorized

I have changed my ratings approach.  Why?  Because I wanted to.

The reason is I was spending too much time making a case for players who hit .280/.360 with gap power.  After five years of engaging in my chosen activity of rating the minor league systems of all 30 MLB teams, I grew weary of searching for reasons to find above average AAA players who rarely saw the light of day, much less created production, at the big league level.

My offensive search is now confined to guys who jump up as obvious (to me) candidates to reach the concrete structures found in 30 locations in the U.S. and Canada.  My pitching results offer pitchers with sub-1.00 whips and without a base on balls problem, meaning less than 3 walks per 9 innings pitched.  I no longer separate starters from relievers having endured my brain exploding when average to poor MLB teams suffering from a lack of pitching talent decide in early July to take a long groomed closer and attempt (with pure disaster) to transform him into a #5 starter.

I still rate catchers separately from the other everyday positions.  Toss rates (throwing out baserunners to the unclean) of 33% or better get my attention.  If a catcher hits .250/.325, be happy.

Finally, I will list my top 10 hitting and pitching prospects for each league.  You are welcome.

A.L. East

Boston:  Finally, other than Tzu-Wei Lin, talent arrives in Pawtucket.  Michael Chavis, Esteban Quiroz and John Ockimey arrive to form a pool of late 2019 talent along with the aging (in baseball terms) Cole Sturgeon and Tony Renda.  Once the Sox take the inevitable offer for Blake Swihart, Oscar Hernandez (44% toss rate) finally gets a shot in Boston.  Pitching development is pathetic.  Only six guys made the cut.  I’m not a Jalen Beeks believer.  Travis Lakins and Matthew Gorst have a better chance than Mr. Beeks.

Baltimore:  How bad can a baseball operation become?  Three guys with offensive production found my attention.  No more.  Two catchers at the A+ level have decent toss rates.  One hits (Daniel Fajardo) and one does not (Stuart Levy).  However, pitching prospects are found in Jay Flaa, Luis Gonzalez, Branden Kline and Zach Pop.  The goal is not to rush these guys to a bad Baltimore team in 2019.  Wait.

NYY:  Ryan McBroom has the best chance of staying in the Bronx for a half-dozen years or so.  Devyn Bolasky is a stud in the making, but not until 2020.  Francisco Diaz (56% in AA and 39% in A+ and he hits!) is a prime candidate for Brian Cashman to rush and ruin given the catching circus that is Gary Sanchez.  If Mr. Diaz can spend a full year in AAA, the outcome is more likely to be a success.  The pitching available in 2019 is good and plentiful.  Erik Swanson, Mike King (especially), Stephen Tarpley, Luis Cessa and Domingo Acevedo should all see time in the Bronx this coming season.  However, eight guys who pitched in A+ ball in 2018 are the ones to watch.  Yeah, too many to name, but the 2019 NYY Trenton team should lead all AA teams in whip, era and wins.

Tampa:  Brandon Lowe, Austin Meadows and Nathaniel Lowe should be Tampa bound after spring training.  Rene Pinto (A+, 47% toss rate and he hits) is the catcher of the not too distant future.  Pitching rated almost as deep as NYY.  Colin Poche, Hunter Wood and Diego Castillo arrive in 2019.  Benton Moss, Brock Burke and Yoel Espinal are not far behind, though better served in 2020.

Toronto:  Yep, Vlad, Jr. is that good.  As good as Dad?  No.  But, he is bound for Canada this coming season.  Harold Ramirez and Jonathan Davis need a couple hundred ab in AAA before leaving later in the 2019 season.  Broke Lundquist and Cullen Large are two guys to watch make their way through A+ ball and beyond.  Albert Mineo is the best of 3 rated catchers.  Justin Dillon is the Jays’ best pitching prospect.  Jose Fernandez and Sam Gaviglio are likely to join him in Toronto.

A.L. Central

White Sox:  Eloy Jimenez has the same amount of potential as Vald, Jr.  However, the White Sox quickly run out of 2019 help.  Most of the talent is AA bound.  Luis Gonzalez (A+/A) and Laz Rivera (A) shine in a shallow pool.  Seby Zavala (AA, 38% and hits with power) probably endures a rush job to Chicago in 2019.  The best of the pitching prospects are Ian Hamilton, Brandon Brennan, Colton Turner and Jimmy Lambert.  We all know the White Sox need as much help as the Orioles.

Cleveland:  They make trades for younger players for a reason:  They don’t have any ready AAA talent.  Granted, 2019’s AA team will feature Ernie Clement and Jorma Rodriguez, but the drop off is steep.  Adam Plutko, Ben Taylor, Shane Bieber and Evan Marshall all get a chance to pitch near Lake Erie this coming season.

Detroit:  The Tigers are getting better fast.  Ronny Rodriguez highlights a group including Jacob Robson, Will Maddox, Daniel Woodrow, Issac Paredes (potential plus) and Willi Castro (see Mr. Paredes).  Jake Rogers likely overtakes Grayson Greiner given his 56% toss rate at AA last year.  But, he’s not an everyday catcher in Detroit until more offensive talent arrives.  Pitching, less AA, rated well.  Johnny Barbator, Drew Verhagen, Hunter Cervanka and Blaine Hardy bid for innings pitched in Detroit during 2019.

K.C.:  Generally, ugh.  However, Jecksson Flores and Nicky Lopez probably help in Kansas City this coming year.   The Royals suffer from AAAA development (the old joke about too good for AAA, yet nothing happens in the majors).  This organization is thin.  However, look forward to the 2020 arrival of Xavier Fernandez (AA, 41% and hits).  Speaking of catching, why did Royals management rush Meibrys Viloria from A+ ball to K.C. last year?  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  The best pitching prospects spend 2019 in A+.  Not a lot of ready talent except for Jake Newberry.

Minnesota:  Zander Wiel and Nick Gordon leave spring training with the big club.  The Twins have a boat load of talent headed to AA and  A+ ball in 2019.  Alex Kirilloff, Luiz Arraez, Royce Lewis and Jordan Gore are among the names to watch.  Wynston Sawyer is as good an immediate catching prospect as Francisco Diaz and Xavier Hernandez.  The Twins are the deepest A.L. club with eight quality defensive catching prospects.  Pitching offers no more than three 2019 candidates:  Alan Busenitz, Cody Stashak and Andrew Vasquez.

A.L. West

Angels:  Taylor Ward gets his full-time chance in 2019.  Bo Way probably arrives in early August after the Angels discover hiring Brad Asmus was a mistake.  Joe Hudson (39%) is a 2019 ready catching prospect who can also hit.  Jeremy Beasley is far and away the best pitching prospect in system.  Maybe Greg Mahle sticks next season.  The rest of the talent, unlikely to offer significant help, is 2020 bound.

Houston:  Loaded.  I know Kyle Tucker, J.D. Davis and Tyler White all had time in Houston last year, but I consider them primarily AAA talent waiting for a 500 ab season in The Bigs.  Taylor Jones (AA) and Yordan Alvarez (AA) join the talent fight in AAA this coming season.  Garrett Stubbs gets a chance to catch (45% and a productive bat)) in Houston in 2019.  James Ritchie (34% and said bat) needs to wait a year.  While thinking “The rich get richer”, may I present the Astros pitching development.  Wind.  Tumbleweeds.  Crickets.  Except for Ryan Hartman and Corbin Martin, their best is two to three years away.

Oakland:  Two guys are ready and two guys are due for a post-July 31 arrival.  Ramon Laureano and Dustin Fowler make the club during spring training.  Eli White and Luis Barrera arrive late summer.  Then, not much.  Season Murphy (33% and he hits) is the best catching prospect, but he needs a full year in AAA.  Jonah Heim (A+, 40% and hits) is right behind him.  2019 AAA pitching will develop well with the arrival of Ben Bracewell, Parker Dunshee, Jesus Lazardo and John Gorman.

Seattle:  Given the extensive player movement during the off-season, Dan Vogelbach makes the team after a good spring.  Joey Curletta is the next best bet, but later in the year.  Pitching development is horrible.  Maybe Williams Perez and Andrew Moore help in 2019.  I could not find ten pitching prospects system wide.  I found eight.  Of which four are a bit of a stretch.  Boo.

Texas:  Their offensive development resembles Seattle’s pitching “development”.  Less Hunter Cole, not much.  Five guys in AAA need to prove they are not AAAA captives.  Pitching offers Ricardo Rodriguez, Reed Garrett, Tyler Wagner and Brady Feigi (one to watch).

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Is the above a cool break or not?  I’m impressed.   You are jealous.

N.L. East

Atlanta:  Michael Reed should play permanently in Atlanta.  Sal Giardina will join him.  Alejandro Salazar, Luis Marte and Austin Riley (the best of this trio) will begin the year in AAA, and may enjoy the sight, sound and sweat of Atlanta late summer.  Four pitchers likely enjoy the big league in 2019:  Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Bryse Wilson and Corbin Clouse.  After years of decline, the Braves have rediscovered the value of player development.

Miami:  Austin Dean and J.T. Riddle have potential plus.  Peter Moony and Justin Twine should assist the Fish in slowly moving away from mediocrity.  Tomas Telis (52%) and Austin Nola (37%) are quality catching prospects.  Miami is loaded with outstanding pitching from AAA to A ball.  Joe Gunkel, Trevor Richards, Pablo Lopez and Jeff Brigham will become permanent residents of Miami in 2019.

NYM:  Jeff McNeil plays all of 2019 in Queens.  Luis Guillorme and Kevin Kaczmarski join Mr. McNeil.  Peter Alonso does not spend all of 2109 in AAA.  However, the Mets are thin in offensive development especially in AA and A+ ball.  Tim Peterson, Jacob Rhame and Daniel Zamora will complete the Mets’ 2019 pitching staff.

Philly:  Joey Menses makes the jump to the Bigs in 2019.  Austin Listi might, though he most likely arrives in 2020.  Much like the Mets, Philadelphia struggles to develop a deep pool of offensive talent in the minors.  Cole Irvin, Ben Lively (no more AAA demotions), Brandon Leibrandt, Tyler Gilbert and Austin Davis have major league ability.  Much like the Marlins, the Phillies are loaded with quality prospects from AAA to A ball.

Washington:  Rafael Bautista is the best guy in the Nats system.  Hunter Jones and Alec Keller arrive in Washington during 2019.  After these three, offensive talent thins quickly at the AAA and AA levels.  Spencer Kieboom (48%) gets another chance to stay in 2019.  Kyle McGowin, Trevor Gott and Austin Williams are the top three pitching prospects.

N.L. Central

Cubs:  Evidently, Theo Epstein does not enjoy the work involved in developing home-grown talent.  After Victor Caratini, the wait will be long for Roberto Caro (A ball in 2018).  Notable offensive production is difficult to find in the Cubs’ minor league system.  Thankfully, two catching prospects are close.  P.J. Higgins (39%) and Jhonny Pereda (38%) can both throw and hit.  Kyle Ryan and Randy Rosario have the best chance of pitching in Chicago.  The Cubs do a better job of developing pitching than hitting.

Cincinnati:  Three players deserve the long look.  Brandon Dixon, Nick Senzel and Brian O’Grady.  Dilson Herrera is also worthy.  Lucas Sims and Austin Brile are the top two pitching prospects.  Alex Powers and Joel Bender are a year away.

Milwaukee:  Orlando Arcia makes a permanent move to Milwaukee in 2019.  Dylan Moore may join him.  Certainly no later than 2020.  Nate Orf, Ji-Man Choi and Maurcio Dubon all see time in Cincy this coming year.  Christian Betancourt (44% and a solid bat) makes the case for shedding the AAAA label in 2019.  Pitching talent is difficult to find.  Two years from now, maybe Zack Brown and Jon Olczak arrive.

Pittsburgh:  Jason Martin is the best in system, but he likely spends next year in AAA.  Kevin Kramer, Kevin Newman and Jose Osuna get some time in Pittsburgh next year.  Raul Hernandez (50%) is the best of four catchers at least two years away.  Pitching help likely arrives in 2020.  Eduardo Vera, Cam Vieaux, Scooter Hightower and J.T. Brubaker all need full year in AAA.

St. Louis:  Ramon Urias and Randy Arozarena have the talent to exit AAA after their first 200 abs in 2019.  Rangel Ravelo and Tyler O’Neill make the team during spring.  Giovanni Gallegos and Tyler Webb improve the pitching staff.  Jack Flaherty gets a look.

N.L. West

Arizona:  Juniel Querecuto stays in Arizona 2019 forward.  Ildemaro Vargas, Socrates Brito, Kevin Chacon, Christian Walker and Cesar Puello create a lot of choice for Arizona management in putting together 2019’s team.  The majority of the pitching talent arrives to AAA next year.

Colorado:  With an asterisk, consider Josh Fuentes, Raimel Tapia and Mike Tauchman joining the big club.  Why the asterisk?  The Rockies’ AAA team is located in sky-high Albuquerque.  No major league pitching prospects were found at the AAA level.  Two at AA meaning Peter Lambert and Logan Cozart are unlikely to arrive in 2019.

L.A.:  Alex Verdugo, Edwin Rios, Andrew Toles and Connor Joe hopefully find a place to play in L.A. as 2019 begins.  Will Smith (39% and hits) is the only catcher of note.  Sadly, the Dodgers don’t excel at creating pitching talent with the same success as offensive talent.  Andrew Istler and Caleb Ferguson are the most likely to live in Smog Land in 2019.

San Diego:  I do not understand all the joy and praise aimed at San Diego’s minor league system.  I find their efforts average and not near as good the past few years.  Franmil Reyes should make the team during spring.  Luis Urias joins him.  Travis Jankowski gets one last chance.  No, I’m not a Fernando Tatis, Jr. fan.  He’s overrated.  Francisco Diaz needs ab.  Lots of ab as he handles the pitching staff.  Jacob Nix and Brad Wieck stay in San Diego the entire year.  Logan Allen, Chris Paddack, T.J. Weir and Trevor Frank arrive no later than 2020.  I do find the Padres much better at developing pitching than everyday players.

San Francisco:  The struggle is real.  The struggle continues.  Management needs to be dunked by angry water polo players.  These guys think thin is thick.  Austin Slater, Alen Hanson and Miguel Gomez all get a chance to stay in San Francisco.  Same with Ronnie Freeman (41%) and Trevor Brown (37%).  Derek Law and Ray Black make the pitching staff in 2019.  Dan Slania, Dillon McNamara and Dusten Knight need AAA time.

Top-10 A.L. Hitting Prospects

1. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr (Blue Jays,  AAA/AA).

2. Ryan McKenna (Orioles, A+).

3. Jarren Duran (Boston, A).

4 (tie). Devyn Bolasky (NYY, AA).

4 (tie). Cole Sturgeon (Boston, AA).

5. Alex Kirilloff (Twins, A+/A).

6. Nathaniel Lowe (Rays, AA/A+).

7 (tie).  Kevin Smith (Jays, A).

7 (tie).  Michael Helman (Twins, A).

8. Eloy Jimenez (W. Sox, AAA/AA).

9 (tie). Taylor Ward (Angels, AAA).

9 (tie).  Brandon Sandoval (Angels, A+)

10. David Fletcher (Angels, AAA).

Top-10 A.L. Pitching Prospects

1. Brendan McKay (Rays, A).

2. Justin Dillon (Jays, AA).

3. Gus Varland (Oakland, A+).

4. Justin Ferrell (Astros, A+).

5. Mike King (NYY, AAA/AA).

6. Brady Feigi (Texas, AA).

7. Zac Lowther (Orioles, A).

8. Blaine Hardy (Tigers, AAA).

9. Patrick Sandoval (Astros, A+).

10. Michael Peoples (Cleveland, AA).

Top-10 N.L. Hitting Prospects

1. Juan Yepez (St. Louis, A).

2. Alen Hanson (Giants, AAA).

3. Justin Twine (Miami, AA).

4. Randy Arozarena (St. Louis, AA).

5. Roberto Caro (Cubs, A).

6. Dylan Moore (Brewers, AA).

7. Juniel Querecuto (Arizona, AAA/AA).

8. Jeff McNeil (NYM, AAA).

9. Rafael Bautista (Nationals, AAA).

10 (tie).  Michael Reed (Braves, AAA, AA).

10 (tie).  Travis Janksowski (Padres, AAA).

Top-10 N.L. Pitching Prosepcts

1. Steve Villines (NYM, A+).

2. Giovanny Gallegos (St. Louis, AAA).

3. Austen Williams (Nationals, AAA).

4. Tyler Webb (St. Louis, AAA).

5. Kyle McGowin (Nationals, AAA).

6. Clayton Andrews (Brewers, A+).

7 (tie). Kyle Keller (Miami, A+).

7 (tie). Walter Borkovich (Braves, A+).

8 (tie).  Addison Ross (Phillies, A).

8 (tie).  Robbie Gordon (St. Louis, A).

9. Trevor McGill (Padres, A+).

10. Chris Paddack (Padres, AA).

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The promising start of 6 – 1 crumbles to 7 – 6.  Four consecutive losses.  The fourth was an absolute butt kicking courtesy of the Ohio Bobcats, 27-0.  The Aztec offense imploded.  We resembled a fourth grade effort at building a papier-mache volcano project gone horribly wrong.  Crap was everywhere with nothing to show.  The game’s end shutout provides emphasis for areas to improve in 2019.  Offense, offense, offense and, um, let’s see, offense.

Rocky and Jeff need to reconsider their commitment to pound and ground given the fact that once Juwan Washington was injured three of the next four games featured SDSU rushing totals of less than 200 yards.  His first game after recovering from his injury also featured  a game total of less than 200 yards . . . as did the next two games as well.  Pound and ground?  More like slap and tickle.  This unimpressive result lies at the collective feet of the offensive line and to a lesser extent the tight ends.  Certainly, injury played a part, but which season does injury not play a part in the journey of an offensive line?  Mike Schmidt has much to fix next year during spring and summer ball.

Perhaps a more balanced offense would contribute to an improved offensive line.  Yet, I have doubts that Ryan Agnew is “the guy” for 2019.  A completion percentage of 51.6% does not create an abundance of confidence.  Granted, Christian Chapman’s 89 passing attempts given to Mr. Agnew might generate an improved completion rate and a sizable increase of his 1,651 total yards passing.  However, might implies might not.

Given the stellar years of Kahale Warring and Parker Houston at the tight-end spots, I trust coach Horton will continue to incorporate passes in their general direction.  I congratulate coach Hunkie Cooper for offering a strong three-deep on each side of the quarterback group of wide receivers during 2018.  At last, we have receivers who can stretch the field after catching the football.  Let’s stretch more often in 2019.

Returning to the running game, I feel the need to abandon the fullback as permanent partner of Mr. Washington.  How about a dual running back set more offensive snaps than not?  Also, I am unconvinced that Chase Jasmin is the #2 back.  I lean towards Chance Bell.  He runs with more abandon and inflicts pain on those attempting to tackle him.

2018 sputtered to an offensive close of 187 passing yards per game and a very un-Aztec 161.7 rushing yards per game.  Feeble, pale, unsteady.  More proof?  All four MWC losses were single digit.  By 4 to Nevada, 3 to UNLV, 9 to Fresno and 1 to Hawaii.  17 points total.  Our offense could not find 18 more points.  What about the seven wins?  The 14 point difference against Sacramento State provided the only double-digit win of the season.  “Single digit” was the Aztec offense nickname and a ready title for a convention of underachievers.  If “single digit” doesn’t motivate, what will?

As for the 2018 defense, less the first (Stanford) and last (Ohio) games of the season, the SDSU defense held their end of the bargain.  Sure, the defensive backfield can improve, but the front three and linebacking crew were outstanding.  When the opposition is held to an average of 334.6 total yards per game accented with allowing an average of only 3 yards per carry, the defense creates hope.  Also, how many head coaches and offensive coordinators (especially) would give a body part for a defense that allowed an average of 22.2 points per game?  Big-12 coaches would offer wives and children for that chance to win.  Frankly, I’m not sure how Rocky improves on giving up less than 231 passing yards per game and less than 104 rushing yards per game.  Though, he will try.

May spring and summer ball create the return of an Aztec offense that blows past 400 yards per game, one way or the other.