Prospect Profile: Matt Foley – New York Mets

20479058_1571487289561964_337400875448270848_n(1)Written by Mark Firkins  Photos from Instagram

I was looking for something motivational in the new year. Inspirational quotes, books, websites, and tweets are everywhere. What I needed was a personal connection, a baseball player, and the perfect name to tie it all together for me. I found all of that in Matt Foley. Matt Foley is a player who I briefly met in 2016 in Batavia NY. He may not have known it, but our brief interaction that night has always meant something to me. His name, while maybe more famous for comical reasons, motivated me to start writing again and receive this opportunity with Real McCoy Minors, for which I am so grateful.

I admit it. I laughed when I saw Batavia’s lineup on June 22, 2016. I admit to chuckling again when the starting lineup was announced and the Batavia Muckdogs First Baseman took his place and warmed up on the field. I admit, I embarrassed my daughter, made my two sons, my wife and a couple of dozen other fans behind us laugh. I couldn’t help myself. When the PA annDRW4ImnV4AA-TqAouncer delivered the name “Matt Foley – 1st Base” I did my best impression of Saturday Night Live’s beloved Chris Farley character – Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker. I received a brief ovation from the crowd. The real Matt Foley on the field, shook his head, put his face in his glove (laughing as well) and I said to him “I’ll bet you never heard or seen that before, huh?” I believe his response was something to the tune of “not since this morning” then he tossed his warm up ball to my youngest son.

My family and I attend 15 to 20 Batavia Muckdogs games each season. We prefer to sit above the visitors’ dugout on the first base side. Each season we pick a player to be our favorite, pay a bit more attention to, and cheer a little extra loud for. This is the player we’re hoping that one day will find his way to the majors. It took us all of three seconds to decide, Matt Foley was going to be our guy that season. I was so determined to be his biggest fan that I was going to buy a checkered sports coat and show up at the games as the Foley Fanatic. Unfortunately, June 22, 2016 was the last time we saw Matt play in Batavia, as he was reassigned by the Miami Marlins to their Gulf Coast League affiliate the next day.

21372894_1742734566023818_3176788267181801472_nMatt Foley was drafted in the 40th round (1,196th overall) in 2015 by the Miami Marlins. In three minor league seasons, he has played for three organizations (Marlins, Braves, and Mets). He has spent most of his time in the Gulf Coast League for these clubs. His stat lines In 51 career games show he is batting .254 (33 for 130), with 7 doubles, 7 RBI, and 1 home run. Drafted as a Catcher, Matt has also played, First Base, Left and Right Field, and DH.

So what do I find motivating about Matt Foley? Just like the SNL character Matt Foley tried to be an inspiration (he did at least make us laugh), Matt Foley the baseball player, truly has motivation on his path and dream to the big leagues. He played his collegiate career at Rhode Island College, a Division III school.  He obviously caught the attention of pro scouts in his junior year when he won The Little East Triple Crown, batting .453 with 53 hits, 10 doubles, 3 triples, 11 home runs, and 45 RBI. He registered a .872 SLG, .515 OBP, and a .988 FPCT behind the dish. He wants to prove he was worthy of a draft pick. He wants the chance to play more and at his natural position. The Mets are giving Matt that opportunity.

QN2RacExLook beyond his overall career MiLB numbers and you’ll see that in 2017 for the GCL Mets, Matt had his breakout season. This is where you’ll find his extra base hits, a .290 AVG, .347 OBP, a perfect 1.000 FPCT behind the plate, threw out 43% of those attempting to steal a base on him, and oh yeah, MOTIVATION. His last tweet toward the end of his 2017 season reads: “Been proving them wrong ever since the day they decided to give up on me..don’t sleep on me #ComebackSZN” and from instagram “months ago you could’ve said that the dream was over for me…but now look at me..flying home knowing I still get to fight another day. Don’t sleep on a kid with motvation and a opportunity #comebackszn”. Matt will be back with the Mets and report to spring training soon. He’s optimistic about starting a new season and looking to build on the success he showed last summer. As a 40th round pick from a smaller school, he is motivated to work even harder than the other players in camp. Matt is hoping to get the reps and opportunity to play at a higher level this year.

Life in the minors is not glamorous. The bus rides are long. The hotels are not 5 stars. The food and nutrition are adequate at best. Matt Foley knows this and continues to improve his game, work hard, and keeps trying to climb the baseball ladder. Matt knows that while baseball, the minor leagues and the road to the show are hard, it’s better than “living in a van down by the river!”  Keep on motivating us Matt!

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster for more MLB prospect news and updates. Also, check out our graphing page on Instagram. Thanks!

Battery Mates: Logan Ice/Triston McKenzie

maxresdefaultWritten by Mark Firkins  Photos by MiLB.com

Welcome to my newest segments here at Real McCoy Minors. Each piece will feature players and prospects from an organization playfully categorized by their position on the field. Featured articles will be titled:

Battery Mates – Pitcher/Catcher combos

Flashing the Leather – Shortstops and Second Basemen

Hot Corner – Third Basemen

7, 8, & 9 – Outfielders

Scoop and Stretch – First Basemen

Call to the Bullpen – Relief Pitchers

Tools of Ignorance – Blue chip prospect Catchers

These quick reads will provide plenty of information and statistics about some fine up and coming players from a variety of leagues and levels. Let’s get the game started with Battery Mates!

Logan Ice – Catcher (Cleveland Indians)

668681Logan was drafted out of Oregon State, in the second round (72nd overall) of the 2016 Draft. He played for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (NY PENN League) in 2016 and the Lake County Captains (Midwest League) in 2017. He’s the textbook definition of a defensive backstop. Excellent at blocking balls in the dirt, a powerful and accurate arm throwing to second, and a hard worker, who’s perfecting his game calling skills and handling of the pitching staff.

Despite a .198 and .228 batting average, Ice is a player who knows it’s important to just get on base and score. He posted a respectable .329 and .320 OBP, featuring a stellar 15% walk rate. While not known for his power, Logan did hit 11 home runs, 10 doubles, with 42 RBI this past season for the Captains.

Logan could fit two different profiles of a catcher.  He could be an excellent backup, maybe out of the Chris Gimenez mold. Or, perhaps he’s more of a Roberto Perez and could play a larger role for the big league club.

Triston McKenzie – Pitcher (Cleveland Indians)

663474A 1st round draft pick (42nd overall – competitive balance pick) by the Tribe in the 2015 draft. A tall and lanky right hander, Triston has some of the best stuff among starting pitcher prospects in the Indians farm system. His arsenal of pitches features a fastball in the mid 90’s, a curveball with tight spin that produces plenty of strikeouts, and a deceptive changeup.

Drafted out of high school, McKenzie has matured nicely and has ascended the Indians system, going from the Arizona Rookie League in 2015, Mahoning Valley (NY PENN League) and Lake County (Midwest League) in 2016, and Lynchburg (Carolina League) in 2017.

In 238 innings pitched, he has amassed the following impressive stat lines: 19-12 record, 2.68 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 307 strikeouts, and has kept opposing batters below the Mendoza line. With such remarkable numbers like that, it was a no-brainer for him to be awarded Carolina League Pitcher of the Year for 2017.

Currently the number two prospect in the Indians system, the potential is there for McKenzie to develop into a frontline starter. The Indians will challenge him this season, probably placing him at High A Lynchburg to start, but likely promoting him to AA Akron (Eastern League) and possibly AAA Columbus (International League) should he continue to meet and exceed the organization’s expectations.

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster for more MLB prospect news and updates. Thanks!

The Next Wave of Top Prospects: American League

1200px-American_League_logo.svg

Written by Ben Wilson

I have highlighted one prospect from each AL team for deeper dynasty leagues that are on the verge of garnering more attention. This list looks at minor leaguers who were taken pre-2017 draft but are still eligible for this season’s minor league dynasty drafts. The accompanying NL installment will be out soon.

Jhon Peluffo, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

The 20-year old Colombian hurler has bounced between the rotation and bullpen, but was deemed a starter after May this past summer and found success after his transition to the rotation in the Sally League. Peluffo brings strikeout intrigue as a starter and promising control given his developmental level. This makes him an interesting dynasty target. I asked a reputable source who covers the Orioles who mentioned Peluffo to me as a name to watch in the system. While the Orioles have had mixed results developing reliable SP’s of late, Peluffo could make the organization stick with him in the rotation with added patience moving forward.

Lorenzo Cedrola, OF, Boston Red Sox

In a very short time, the Dombrowski-headed club has taken some steps back in minor league organizational rankings due to some big name MLB pitching acquisitions. But Cedrola, a 19-year-old outfielder out of Venezuela, is a name to watch for Boston. A converted SS, Cedrola is a quick athlete who will contribute in all categories except HR power. It won’t be long before Cedrola is a household name across the game.

Aaron Bummer, LHP, Chicago White Sox

In such a strong farm system it is hard to find a hidden target but Bummer may be that guy. With a 70-grade fastball from the left side that hits high 90’s, Bummer has the chance to be an 8th or 9th inning option for the rebuilding White Sox. He debuted at the end of the 2017 season in the MLB for 22.1 IP, compiling 17K and only allowing 13 H, but also had 13BB. He is one to keep an eye on if your league counts holds due to his likely MLB role.

Luke Wakamatsu, SS, Cleveland Indians

A switch-hitting SS with big league pedigree in the family (son of former big leaguer and current coach Don Wakamatsu), Luke is a good name to highlight on your draft sheet if he is available. Drafted in 2015 in the 20th round, Wakamatsu is a good defender at SS for a 6’3” prospect and he hits for power. The Indians have quite a track record of developing switch hitters (Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Mejia), and Wakamatsu has the skills to be the next in that line for the Tribe.

Gregory Soto, LHP, Detroit Tigers

Soto put together a truly dominant minor league campaign with 124 IP between West Michigan (A) and Lakeland (A+), earning him the organization’s pitcher of the year award. Soto put together an impressive 12-2 record in 23 starts, with a 2.25 ERA, yielding only 97 H and 65 BB against 144 K. Soto is one of my favorite new arms on my radar. He could make a 2019 debut in the Tigers rotation.

Jorge Alcala, RHP, Houston Astros

The defending World Series Champions are flush with intriguing pitching prospects, and the 6’3” Alcala may be one of the more impressive of the bunch. An International Free Agent signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, Alcala’s calling cards are his high heat fastball and above average slider. In 199.2 IP as a professional, Alcala has a 2.93 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 22.7% K rate. After his promotion to A+ in 2017, he allowed only 55 hits in 78.1 IP. He worked 5+ innings in 10 of his 16 starts after his promotion, allowing more than 2 BB in only 5 of those starts. I asked a reliable source who covers the Astros who said that his performance this past season may have transcended him above sleeper status; he’s bound to be one of the big movers industry-wide, so grab him if he’s available in your league.

Nicky Lopez, SS, Kansas City Royals

For those that might not have known Lopez before he busted out this year in the AFL, we surely know him now for his .383/.433/.568 performance in 90 AB’s in Arizona. Lopez is hardly an unheralded talent, as his debut season in 2016 was impressive. Though not a power hitter, Lopez is an adept contact hitter with a disciplined approach: he put together 36BB/23K during 70 games at A+, earning a promotion to AA. Lopez has the ability to transcend his utility role prediction and become a top of the order SS for the Royals.

Trent Deveaux, OF, Los Angeles Angels

Deveaux was an international signing by the Angels this past summer out of the Bahamas. He has some serious speed, with tags of anywhere from 70-80 grade. Though he has not begun his professional career yet for the Angels, Deveaux has the chance to develop into a Victor Robles type profile in center field: an outstanding defender with blazing speed, line drive power, and solid makeup. The Angels are very high on Deveaux, and it will be exciting to see what type of talent the Angels have found in Deveaux as he plays in the US.

Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Minnesota Twins

Signing out of Venezuela in 2015, Graterol impressed with a blazing fastball for a 16 year old once he came stateside. After Tommy John surgery wiped out his 2016 campaign, Graterol returned to the mound this past summer and continued to put up very good performances in rookie ball. The Twins have no reason to rush Graterol but he has the makings of a very nice rotation arm, or at the very least, a triple-digit hurler out of the bullpen.

Luis Medina, RHP, New York Yankees

It is hard to stay a quiet name in the Yankee farm system flush with talent, but Medina is not too far off from being the next big name for the Bombers. Somewhat slight of build now, Medina can nonetheless pump electric offerings and pile up strikeouts. Many lists coming out this off-season are starting to feature Medina in the Yankees top 10, so hop on the Medina train if it hasn’t left the station in your league yet.

Will Toffey, 3B, Oakland Athletics

Toffey breaks my rule on this list for being drafted this past summer, but I wanted to highlight him because he reminds me so vividly of the Moneyball draft prototype Oakland hitter. Originally drafted by the Yankees, Toffey chose to play college baseball at Vanderbilt instead. The Orioles drafted him in 2016, only he didn’t sign there again. Finally, he landed in Oakland as a 4th round pick. Toffey is lauded for his excellent plate discipline and character, while scouts bemoan his power for a corner infield position. Toffey has a track record of success in the Cape Cod League, and perhaps can shift off of 3B defensively to calm the skeptics of his power. I will track Toffey closely since I really like his profile as a disciplined left-handed hitter and it doesn’t hurt that he was drafted previously by some of the game’s best minor league systems.

Mike Ford, 1B, Seattle Mariners

I highlighted Mike Ford as a possible Rule 5 pickup from the Yankees previously on this site and sure enough, Jerry Dipoto pounced on the on-base machine. Ford hit 20 HR and sported a .404 OBP between AA and AAA in 2017. He will likely play at least on the strong side of a platoon with Ryon Healy, and he can contribute this year to the big club. It also seems he has moved ahead of Dan Vogelbach in the Seattle system for 1B/DH, where they share a strikingly similar offensive profile.

Joe McCarthy, OF/1B, Tampa Bay Rays

The strong hit-tool, high OBP lefty is similar to Toffey in that their profiles don’t quite possess the requisite power that teams demand of their 1B/LF/RF positions. However, it is impossible to ignore that McCarthy is a talented hitter, one of my favorites of late. McCarthy possesses above average speed, good enough for 57 SB in his first three professional seasons, at an 81% success rate. Further, his 90 BB in 127 games at AA this year put his OBP at a superb .409. If McCarthy can find a 10-15 HR power stroke, he can be a valuable addition to the Rays as a dynamic 2 hitter at his peak.

Kyle Cody, RHP, Texas Rangers

The tall (6’7”) righty is a solid looking arm in the Rangers system. Cody has three above average offerings and can bring the fastball into the mid 90’s. He worked 6+ innings in 12 of his 23 starts this season, which is an encouraging sign of his future durability. While being able to limit his walks, Cody is an arm that should continue to gain excitement in Texas as he continues his development.

Edward Olivares, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

While Vladimir Guerrero Jr. grabbed much of the headlines in Lansing and Dunedin this year, Olivares put together a great campaign in the Blue Jays low minors, swatting 17 HR, 27 2B, 10 3B, to go along with 20 SB (69% success rate) and 93 R. Olivares is just 21 years old and possesses an intriguing blend of power and speed. He saw a majority of his time in CF and RF defensively this year, but has all of the makings of an athletic outfielder wherever he ultimately lands on the field. 

*Addendum: Olivares was traded to the San Diego Padres on January 6, 2018, four days after the original publication date.

Please follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for more MLB prospect news and updates. Thanks!

real-mccoy-shopify-logo

Highlighting Cleveland Indians Prospect Nolan Jones

Jones-1100x789Written by Mark Firkins  Photo by Joe Simon

Jose Ramirez, Yandy Diaz, Giovanny Urshela, Erik Gonzales, Mark Mathias, Nolan Jones… The Cleveland Indians have a very good problem. They have a lot of good, young talent at 3rd base. Nolan Jones is the youngest of the bunch at only 19 years old, and he just finished his 1st season of professional baseball with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Single A – NY PENN League). Jones was drafted in the 2nd round (55th overall) out of Holy Ghost Prep School in Bensalem, PA in the 2016 draft. A Shortstop in high school, he was shifted to 3rd base upon signing with Cleveland. At 6’ 4” – 185 lbs, his size and physique make him a natural fit for the position.

Nolan’s bat speed and smooth swing allow him to make hard contact. His raw power, while impressive, should also improve as he adds even more strength to his large frame. He enjoyed a fine 1st professional season at the plate batting .317, with 18 doubles, 3 triples, 4 home runs and 42 RBI. A disciplined hitter who earning 43 BB but also struck out 60 times. Nolan Jones played 62 games at 3rd base for Mahoning Valley last summer. He possesses excellent arm strength and makes accurate fluid throws across the field from the hot corner. This was his 1st season playing a new position and also playing professional baseball. He did commit 22 errors, however he has the potential and tools for success at 3rd base and to be an above average defender.

I had the pleasure of seeing Nolan perform at his finest this past season. Between August 2nd and September 4th he went on an offensive tear, raising his batting average from .252 to .313. In the 9 games I saw him play, I witnessed him go 22 for 39, with 9 doubles and one home run – a monster of a home run that easily traveled 400 + feet! On August 30, 2017 in a game versus the Batavia Muckdogs, Nolan smacked a pitch in his 1st at bat in the 1st inning that cleared the batter’s eye fence in deep Left Center field by at least 10 feet; a blast that traveled so far that it landed on the neighboring T-Ball field of the adjacent Little League complex next door to Dwyer Stadium.

As stated, the Cleveland Indians have a good supply of young 3rd basemen in their system. There are question marks where their breakout star Jose Ramirez will play everyday in 2018 (3rd or 2nd base). Yandy Diaz was given a taste of MLB last season and will be given a chance to compete for that position this spring. Giovanny Urshela has been in the Indians plans a few years now. He has impressive defense and has experimented as an infield utility man. Erik Gonzales is most suited as utility player (one who can also play OF). Urshela and Gonzales are out of options, adding an interesting twist to their futures with the Indians. Mark Mathias (a 3rd round 2015 Indians draft pick) just completed his 2nd season in the minor leagues and has advanced from Single A, NY PENN League to AA Akron, but still a few years away from being MLB ready.  

Nolan Jones is next in that impressive line. He currently ranks as the Indians #5 prospect. The 2018 season should see him advance to high A Lake County (Midwest League) or Lynchburg (Carolina League). Improvements in his defense are to be expected but it will be Jones’ bat and offensive output that will eventually earn his way to the big leagues.

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster for more MLB prospect news and updates. Thanks!

 

Two Up, Two, Down: Venezuelan Winter League Update

logo-lvbp-4

Written by Ben Wilson  Photos by MiLB.com

Two Up

Nate Orf, 2B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers

Current Winter League Team: Tiburones de La Guaira

644337When setting out to construct a baseball team (particularly a minor league team), you need players who will put the team above himself and dawn different gloves when needed. Orf is proof of that, having the unique distinction of playing all 9 fielding positions in one game. Primarily playing 2B (612.2 Inn), RF (243.2 Inn), and 3B (99.1 Inn) this past season for AAA Colorado Springs, Orf really stood out on the offensive side of things, where he blasted 9 HR in the last two months of the season.

I had the distinct pleasure of being on a Twitter thread with a few talented writers (who are all a highly recommended follow: Ralph Lifshitz @ProspectJesus, John Calvagno @SALNotes, and Luke Siler @The_Luke_Siler) who dug a little deeper into Orf’s second half performance. Ralph observed that Orf slashed a robust .341/.429/.627 in the second half to go along with his 9 HR, while playing in some unfriendly-neutral HR parks. Luke recognized his 48% fly ball rate to 6.5% swinging strike rate, putting him in elite MLB company with names like Justin Turner, Matt Carpenter, and Anthony Rendon. John looked at his .187 ISO, which puts him in the above average to great range for his offensive and extra-base hit output. We were excited to look through these numbers and reach out to Orf himself. Orf was gracious in responding (really appreciate it, Nate!), and kind and humble in our praise: he credits working with swing guru Rick Strickland (@SwingRehab) on making some swing changes and seeing such positive results. (As a side note: numerous MLB hitters have worked with Strickland on revamping their swing, most notably this year, Matt Adams of the Cardinals/Braves put together a heck of a year from his work with Strickland).

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 8.16.30 AM

Orf played great down in Venezuela (he wrapped up his tenure just a short time ago), where he put up an impressive .337 AVG to go along with a substantial .451 OBP. With nearly as many BB (14) as K (15), Orf primarily batted out of the 2-hole in the lineup. While Orf did not get selected in the Rule 5 draft as some thought he might, he has the tools and makeup to be a versatile contributor for the Brewers, and a guy that is willing to do his part to help the team win. Plus, he has an 80-grade name. Kudos to Nate for his hard work, and here’s hoping for his continued success!

Rangel Ravelo, 1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals

Current Winter League Team: Cardenales de Lara

592660The 25-year-old Cuban-born first baseman/corner outfielder has played in the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, and now St. Louis Cardinals minor league systems. Originally drafted by the White Sox as a 6th round pick in 2010, Ravelo was traded to Oakland, along with Marcus Semien, in the Jeff Samardzija deal in December 2014. Ravelo has historically been a high OBP, lower K hitter with a blush of power. While Ravelo has put together some excellent performances in the minor leagues through his professional career, he does not possess the game-changing power that many teams ask of in their first base/corner outfield profile. This is rather unfortunate, since Ravelo has done nothing but be a solid contributor, producing a cumulative .297/.365/.428 through 8 minor league seasons and 675 games. The Cardinals are golden at finding players that peak a little later on in their careers (see, Jose Martinez), and Ravelo’s .395/.455/.565 performance through 124 AB for the Cardinales (wonder if the team placement was a coincidence) is certainly worthy of more attention.  

Two Down

Omar Bencomo, RHP, Free Agent (2017: Miami Marlins)

5149232017 saw Omar begin the year pitching for his native Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. In three relief apperances, Bencomo surrendered 9 H and 4 ER, with 4BB and 8K over 7.1 IP. After the WBC, Bencomo pitched in the Miami Jeter’s Marlins system at the AA and AAA levels, pitching primarily as a starter. While the K rate this past year took a significant jump upwards from prior years, Bencomo still surrenders quite a bit of contact. Hopeful to latch on with another organization, the Venezuelan league has been unfortunately tough for Bencomo during his 12 starts, where he has a 4.76 ERA, 1.51 WHIP while allowing 83 H in 64.1 IP. It has been a lot of innings for the soon to be 29 year old right-hander this season, and Bencomo is a name to keep an eye on as a spot starter, long relief or organizational depth candidate.

Alberth Martinez, OF, San Diego Padres

Current Winter League Team: Navegantes del Maglianes

594021Martinez shot through the Padres system as a 20 year old back in 2011. Playing primarily in rookie ball, he also appeared in a few AAA games that season. However, Martinez’s development has somewhat stalled since then, peaking at the AA level. Approaching his 27th birthday next month, Martinez has put together a reasonable output in the Venezuelan league, with 6 HR and 12 2B to go along with .282/.314/.452 through 47 games (177 AB). He has also chipped in a perfect 4-4 in SB attempts, going along nicely with his minor league career percentage of 71% (68 SB in 96 attempts). The concerning part of Martinez’s profile is his low OBP profile, where he has a K rate north of 20% with only 9 BB in Venezuela. Hence, he is hitting 9th in the Navegantes lineup these days. He did have 4 RBI (3 with 2 outs) in a recent rout of the Tiburones, and here’s hoping that he can move up in the lineup, and in the Padres system this year.

 A Bonus Notable Performer:

Freddy Garcia, RHP, Tigres de Aragua

150119The 41-year-old finesse hurler has opened my eyes for his studly Venezuelan league performance. “The Chief” has a sterling 2.06 ERA, and 31K/3BB in 39.1 IP (9 G, 7 GS). While Shoehi Ohtani has grabbed much of the international pitching attention these days, Garcia is a wonderful pitching story in his native Venezuela right now. A 2x All-Star, the 15-year MLB veteran last pitched with the Atlanta Braves in 2013. 

Please follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for more MLB prospect news and updates. Thanks!

Highlighting Cleveland Indians Prospect Kyle Nelson

DCTB-glUAAABriyWritten by Mark Firkins  Photo by UCSB Baseball

The Cleveland Indians rely heavily on their ability to scout, draft, and develop players in their farm system. Being a small to mid sized market in MLB, it is crucial to Cleveland’s success and future to nurture, develop, and prepare their minor league talent for their eventual trip to the show.

Kyle Nelson, Lefty Relief Pitcher, is exactly the type of talent the Indians are looking for. They one day expect him to pitch out of the Progressive Field Bullpen.

Nelson pitched his collegiate career at the University of California Santa Barbara. He was definitely the top arm out of the UCSB Bullpen. In 2014-15 he led the team in appearances with 25. In 36 innings pitched, he posted a 3-1 record, 2 saves, 32 strikeouts and a miniscule 0.75 ERA. 2015-16 saw his workload increase and the results stayed impressive. He made 33 appearances, pitching in 74.1 innings of relief. His record was 7-2, 10 saves, 87 strikeouts, and a 2.18 ERA. In 2016-17 Kyle pitched in a starting role. He made 15 starts for the UCSB Gauchos. He pitched to the tune of a 6-4 record over 87.1 innings, with 69 strikeouts and a 4.53 ERA.

Kyle Nelson definitely was a player the Indians saw a lot of when they were scouting fellow UCSB Pitcher Shane Bieber (drafted by Cleveland in 2016). Nelson was drafted in 2017 in the 15th round and made his professional debut with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the NY-PENN League.

Kyle pitched exclusively out of the Scrappers bullpen and made 19 game appearances. He threw 29 innings of solid relief with a 3-2 record, 4 saves, 2.48 ERA, and impressive 40 strikeouts.

Nelson is a hard throwing fastball pitcher with an excellent slider. I had the opportunity to see Kyle pitch 7 times at three different venues this past summer; Eastwood Field, home of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Dwyer Stadium (Batavia Muckdogs) and Falcon Park (Auburn Doubledays). One of the benefits of viewing games at the NY-PENN League level is being able to get up close to the field and action. You can roam the small stadiums baseline to baseline, and get a different view. You hear the chatter in the dugouts and bullpens. You can for a moment, stand behind the home plate seats, get a peek at the radar gun, pitching charts, stat sheets and perhaps, catch a glimpse at what the parent team is looking for.

Kyle steadily hit the radar gun in the mid to upper 90’s, hitting 97 mph several times with his fastball. Keeping batters guessing, he mixes in a slider that slows down to the low and mid 80’s. He was dominant against left handed hitters, striking out 18 and keeping them to a .154 batting average. Right handed hitters didn’t fare much better, striking out 22 times and hitting only .214

Kyle impressed the heck out of me during the 5 times I saw him pitch between August 18th and September 5, 2017. In those 5 appearances he pitched 7 innings, striking out 15, and gave up 0 earned runs. During the August 18th game, he faced 7 batters, striking out 6, all on only 22 pitches!

With his blazing fastball, tricky slider, and ability to get batters from both sides of the plate out, Kyle reminds me of Andrew Miller, another dominant Lefty relief pitcher the Indians currently rely heavily on.

The Cleveland Indians are the type of team that traditionally doesn’t use match up pitchers. They look for players who can be used as weapons. They look for players who get the job done, regardless of what side of the mound they throw from. If Kyle continues his current pattern of play, he will be the type of pitcher the Indians can depend on in the future.

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster for more MLB prospect news and updates. Thanks!

Two Up, Two, Down: Dominican Winter League Update

beisboldominicano

Written by Ben Wilson  Photos by MiLB.com

Two Up, Two Down is a new feature here at Real McCoy Minors that takes a look around the minor leagues to identify prospects outside of the biggest names and highest rankings whose recent play on the field warrants our attention. We all know someone like Braves OF prospect Ronald Acuña has done other-worldly things this year in the minor leagues, so this feature instead brings other names from the edges and into the spotlight. This is not a deep dive by any means, but quick hits on guys who should see some change in their rankings industry-wide based on their performance.

Two Up

Franchy Cordero, OF, San Diego Padres

Current Winter League Team: Leones del Escogido

FranchyCan’t spell Franchise without Franchy! Ok…not quite, but Franchy is playing great in the DR these days. He’s putting up offense to the tune of .318/.389/.470, and he’s second in the league in hits (42), and total bases (62). Franchy played 30 MLB games this past season with San Diego and the K rate was a little high, but I attribute that to a small sample. Franchy does have some swing-and-miss to his game, but he also has some sneaky pop and can be a 15 HR, high doubles and triples hitter at the MLB level. He also greatly improved his SB percentage this year at AAA, and he’s trending in the right direction in many ways during a critical period of his development. While many think Franchy has 4th OF potential, I think he can be better than that: a good starting LF with game-changing athleticism, albeit with a lower AVG and serviceable OBP.

Jorge Yabiel Lopez, SP, Milwakee Brewers

Current Winter League Team: Aguilas Cibaenas

Jorge LopezThrough 9 Dominican League starts, Lopez has put together a solid 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, with 36 K and 12 BB in 50 IP. The Puerto Rican right-hander has compiled a respectable minor league career since being picked in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. Entering 2016, he appeared on Baseball America, MLB, and Baseball Prospectus’ Top 100 prospect lists. Now entering his age 25 season, Lopez began transitioning to a bullpen role last season, where he put up 7 SV while still making 13 starts at AA. Given the new trend of multiple-inning middle relievers cropping up around baseball, Lopez could be an interesting name moving forward for the Brew Crew in a starter/reliever mold. He has demonstrated enough control and strikeout ability to be a valuable commodity, and may reward the Brewers for being patient with him like they were with Jimmy Nelson.

Two Down

Jose Leclerc, RP, Texas Rangers

Current Winter League Team: Gigantes del Cibao

Jose LeclercA pure reliever, Leclerc’s bugaboo has been the free pass throughout his professional career. With a four-seam fastball that tops out at 97mph, Leclerc generates plenty of swing-and-miss stuff, while mixing in a diverse arsenal of a splitter, changeup, sinker, curve, and cutter. Leclerc’s 2017 K rate of 11.8/9 IP at the MLB level was impressive, albeit at the expense of 40 BB in 45.2 IP. Leclerc has 11 BB in 13 IP so far for the Gigantes, while allowing only 3 hits and 3 ER. If Leclerc can figure out how to throw a higher percentage of strikes, he can be a clear part of the Rangers late inning mix. Otherwise, it is hard to envision a role beyond middle relief if he can’t wrangle in some of the erratic tendencies. He will be 24 years old on Opening Day, and will look to have a strong Spring Training with the control to break camp with the big club again this year.

Miguel Andujar, 3B, New York Yankees

Current Winter League Team: Gigantes del Cibao

Miguel AndujarAndujar currently does not have an extra base hit in 57 at bats for the Gigantes, but playing in 130 games between AA and MLB is a reasonable explanation for the lower offensive output. That being said, Andujar is coming off of a strong 2017 that has seen his stock rise considerably. A good contact, low K hitter at a premium position, Andujar looks destined for a bright future under the bright lights in the Bronx. Given the Yankees glut of talent on the infield, and with super-prospect Gleyber Torres with the clearest path to 3B time in New York, I wonder if Andujar has a future in the outfield: his plus arm would play very well there. While there are some that are currently placing Andujar in the top 25 prospects in all of baseball, I think his position uncertainty, and reliance on the hit tool given his overall offensive profile, leaves some questions about his ultimate future. I saw a “Hank Aaron wrists” comparison for Andujar on Twitter, which again, makes me stop and process the hyperbole of that statement. I most certainly like Andujar as a top 100 prospect, but wonder if the strength of the New York Yankees farm system should cause us to take pause on the quick ascent through top 100 lists across the industry.

Other Notables:

Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox

Current Winter League Team: Gigantes del Cibao

Top prospect Eloy is doing very Eloy things in the Liga de Beisbol Dominicano. He’s among the league leaders in HR despite playing in about half as many games as everyone else, and hitting at a robust .368/.443/.676 overall. Look out light towers in the South Side of Chicago circa late 2018.

Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Detroit Tigers

Current Winter League Team: Toros del Este

Jeimer has been slighted a bit in prospect circles by having many above average tools with none that project as elite, but I think that’s an unfair assessment of this talented young man. Candelario has consistently demonstrated a good ability to get on base, and play solid defense at the hot corner. As a switch hitter, I am a big fan of Candelario and project that he will be among the better 3B in all of baseball. The Tigers picked up a great guy for their rebuild.

Julio Borbon, OF, Mexican League

Current Winter League Team: Tigres del Licey

Remember Julio? The former first round pick of the Texas Rangers last played in the majors with Baltimore in 2016, and has 9 XBH in 63 AB in the DR. Borbon played very well in the Mexican League this past year, putting together .365/.426/.469 in 90 games to go along with 20/27 SB. At 31 years old, Borbon can help out a MLB team putting together that kind of production as a LF/CF backup, and I hope he signs on with a club this winter.

Please follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for more MLB prospect news and updates.

 

Highlighting Miami Marlins Prospect Thomas Jones

Thomas-Jones-2016-tdpWritten by Mark Firkins  Photo by Baseball America

In the small city of Batavia, New York, MLB prospects are being grown. The NY-PENN League gives young players drafted by the Miami Marlins their first taste of professional baseball.

The Marlins must have really been impressed with Thomas Jones’ athleticism, as they went above slot to draft him out of Laurens High School (South Carolina) in 2016. An equally good football player, Thomas had offers from several Division I colleges to play safety. He could have developed into a more mature baseball player at baseball-famed Vanderbilt University, which he committed to as a center fielder. However, when the Marlins came calling with their number three pick (84th overall), Jones signed and joined the organization.

Thomas Jones, outfielder, made his debut in the Marlins organization in June 2017, and is growing into the player they expect him to be.

Jones appeared in 66 of the 75 Batavia Muckdogs’ games this past season. On the offensive side, he batted .181 with 10 doubles, four triples, and two home runs — all areas that no doubt will improve with maturity. He has a tall (6’ 4”), powerful frame, and as he sees more pitches, his quick swing will add to his power and boost his average.

Thomas has good wheels and will be disruptive on the basepath. What he lacked in offense this past season he more than made up for with his defense. He played 54 games in center, seven in right, and five in left. He owned a .982 fielding percentage, committing only four errors in his first season of minor league ball. With his speed, he easily covers the gaps in center. With his arm strength and accurate throws, he could easily adapt to all three outfield positions.

Jones’ defensive play and athleticism can be compared to Marquis Grissom, Coco Crisp, or Dexter Fowler with his quickness, energy, and alertness.

On June 26, 2017 (early in the season for the NY-PENN League), Thomas Jones and the Batavia Muckdogs played in one of the most thrilling games I have ever witnessed at the minor league level versus the West Virginia Black Bears.

The scene: 0-0 game in the bottom of the 10th, bases loaded, two outs, full count, the winning run 90 feet away, off and running with the pitch. Thomas Jones is up to bat. The pitcher releases the ball. Thunder, lightning, and heavy raindrops fill the night sky.

This night does not end with a heroic grand slam. It does not end with a drive to the left-center gap nor on a bloop single to shallow right field to win the game. In a game that was truly seconds away from being delayed by stormy weather, Thomas Jones watched a low inside pitch spin by him for ball four, and he triumphantly sprinted to first base with a walk-off walk. The Muckdogs mobbed Jones at first base. The celebration looked as if the World Series had just been won on what was now a soggy and muddy Dwyer Field.

This game was a classic pitchers’ duel that saw both starters go six scoreless innings and match each other pitch for pitch. A game where each team’s bullpen was equally impressive. A nail biter game that went into extra innings yet only took 2 hours and 19 minutes to decide a winner.

The starting pitcher that night was Sam Perez, the Marlins’ fifth-round pick in 2016 (and featured in a previous post). He tossed a gem, striking out three, allowing just three hits over six scoreless innings, and needing only 60 pitches to get through his portion of the night.

Thomas Jones will be 20 on December 9, 2017, giving him plenty of time to develop into the outfielder the Miami Marlins expected with that number three pick. The city of Batavia, that fateful night in June, and Jones’ athletic abilities all contributed to his growth this past season.

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster for more MLB prospect news and updates. Also check out our EBAY store for Minor League team sets and autographed rookie cards. Thanks!

Highlighting Notable Unprotected Rule 5 Eligible Players

1280px-MiLB_logo.svgWritten by Ben Wilson  Photos by MiLB.com

In the wake of last week’s 40-man roster deadline, a large number of minor leaguers are left in limbo between making it to the major leagues with another organization through the Rule 5 Draft on December 14, or returning to the organizations that left them unprotected. The key with the Rule 5 Draft is that players must remain with their new big league club for the 2018 season or be returned to their former team. This means that players who have made it to the higher minors (AAA or AA) are more likely to be drafted than low minors players, though there are always exceptions. We highlight notable unprotected minor league players below.

 Kohl Stewart, SP, Minnesota Twins

Highest Level in 2017: AAA

Age on Opening Day 2018: 23

Kohl StewartThe fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Stewart was a frequently seen name on many top 100 prospect lists in 2014 and 2015. As Stewart has ascended through the minors, he probably has not missed enough bats and walked a few too many for Minnesota’s liking. Stewart is still just 23, has a cumulative minors ERA of 3.10 in 462 IP, and has done a good job of keeping the ball in the yard. He can help a team right away in 2018 by providing some innings through starts, spot starts, and long relief. Sounds like a profile that can be useful, of course, for quite a few teams. Given the pedigree and track record, expect Stewart to go early in the Rule 5 draft. I’m sure a team like the Marlins, who are looking for young arms in their impending fire sale, will be hoping Stewart falls to them.

 Mike Ford, 1B, New York Yankees

Highest Level in 2017: AAA

Age on Opening Day 2018: 25

Mike FordFord is an interesting name for teams in need of a LH bat in the 1B/DH mold who can get on base and provide some pop. Ford has more BB than K at every minor league stop outside of his A ball debut back in 2013. Last season was especially notable for Ford, where he put up 94 BB/72 K and a .404 OBP in 124 games between AA and AAA. Ford also chipped in with 20 HR and 24 doubles, and could be a strong-side platoon option in either league, or pinch hitter in the National League. Ford has also played a little bit of 3B in the minor leagues (57 innings), and could shift there in a pinch. Seems like a good fit for a team like the Rays, who will surely lose Logan Morrison this offseason.

 Jonathan Davis, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

Highest Level in 2017: AA

Age on Opening Day 2018: 25

Jonathon DavisOn the one hand, Jonathan Davis was a bit of a surprise that he wasn’t protected by Toronto. He was the leadoff hitter on the Peoria Javelinas AFL championship team this past weekend, a proven OBP guy, has stolen bases at over 70% success rate in his professional career, provide a touch of pop, and can play all three OF positions. On the other hand, given that the Blue Jays are pretty set in the OF with Kevin Pillar, Teoscar Hernandez, Anthony Alford, and Ezequiel Carrera for depth, Davis might have just been a name that is squeezed out in Toronto. Maybe it even tips the Blue Jays hand in their attempts to try and acquire a big name outfielder like JD Martinez this offseason. I like Davis to latch on to a wild card hopeful team as an often-seen fourth outfielder type, or to take over in CF for Lorenzo Cain if he moves on from Kansas City via free agency.

 Ryan O’Hearn, 1B/OF, Kansas City

Highest Level in 2017: AAA

Age on Opening Day 2018: 24

 Ryan O_HearnSpeaking of Kansas City, many of the things that are written about Mike Ford apply to Ryan O’Hearn. O’Hearn has more power and also more swing-and-miss than Ford, a touch less OBP prowess, and the added benefit of both corner outfield positions on defense. O’Hearn throws left handed, so he won’t be the next Don Mattingly to contribute at 3B like Ford can (Mattingly, as a bit of trivia, is the last LH to start an MLB game at 3B, and did so in three-game August games against Seattle in 1986). Ok, so they’re actually a bit different! I like a team for O’Hearn that has a bunch of RH hitters who need some injury-protection like the Los Angeles Angels, where O’Hearn can back up Albert Pujols (DH), CJ Cron (1B), and Justin Upton (LF). Given the left-handed power haven that is in Brew City, the Milwaukee Brewers could be a fit for O’Hearn’s talents, especially if they trade OF Ryan Braun at some point in the winter. It’s too bad that the Royals didn’t protect him since he would be a good fit with his home organization too with LH bats Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakus testing the waters of free agency.

 Wes Rogers, OF, Colorado Rockies

Highest Level in 2017: A+

Age on Opening Day 2018: 24

 Wes RogersAt the outset of the article, I explained that a majority of minor leaguers taken in the Rule 5 draft are those at either AAA or AA, but the speedy Rockies prospect has peaked at A+ in his pro career. This is a bit deceiving, though, since it is unusual for a player like Rogers to spend two straight full seasons and nearly 250 straight games playing at A+, meaning he could have easily gotten a cup of coffee at AA and it would be a different conversation. With Rogers, the calling card is the lightning speed, where he had 70 SB (85% success rate) last season and 43 SB (83% success rate) the year prior. The extra-base hitting this past season proved to garner Rogers some attention, as he swatted 37 doubles, 7 triples, and 9 homers in 123 G playing for the Lancaster JetHawks. Originally drafted by the Red Sox out of high school in 2012, I like Rogers to be selected by Boston for the Rule 5 draft. While Dave Dombrowski is saying that Bryce Brentz will be the team’s fourth OF, Brentz is solely a corner OF. There is much to shape out in the Boston OF this winter, but I like Rogers to return to the team that originally drafted him.

Other Notables (Alphabetical):

BJ Boyd, OF, Oakland

Trevor Clifton, SP, Chicago Cubs

Lewin Diaz, 1B, Minnesota Twins

Brad Keller, SP, Arizona

Jason Martin, OF, Houston

Travis Ott, SP, Tampa Bay

Andrew Pullin, OF, Philadelphia

Adam Ravenelle, RP, Detroit

Franmil Reyes, OF, San Diego

Jhoan Urena, CI, New York Mets

Please follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for more MLB prospect news and updates. Also check out our EBAY store for Minor League team sets and autographed rookie cards. Thanks!

cropped-cropped-real-mccoy-shopify-logo.jpg

Two Up, Two Down: AFL Wrap Up

arizona-fall-league-copyWritten by Ben Wilson  Photos by MiLB.com

Two Up, Two Down is a new feature here at Real McCoy Minors that takes a look around the minor leagues to identify prospects outside of the biggest names and highest rankings whose recent play on the field warrants our attention. We all know someone like Braves OF prospect Ronald Acuña has done other-worldly things this year in the minor leagues, so this feature instead brings other names from the edges and into the spotlight. This is not a deep dive by any means, but quick hits on guys who should see some change in their rankings industry-wide based on their performance.

Two Up

Eric Filia, OF, Seattle Mariners

596107To say that the exciting Mariner had a brilliant AFL is an understatement: Filia finished the Fall league season hitting .408/.483/.605 and batting in the cleanup spot for the championship Peoria Javelinas team. Sandwiched between two premier Braves RH bats in the lineup (3B Austin Riley and OF Ronald Acuña), the LH batting Filia brought an approach at the plate that was brimming with confidence: I compared the feel and stance in the box to Nick Swisher and Carlos Gonzalez on Twitter during Saturday’s title game. In the outfield, Filia wrangled two impressive highlight plays: first robbing Washington OF Victor Robles of extra bases with a full-length dive in the right-center gap, than going back to the wall to take extra bases away from Houston OF Kyle Tucker.

Even though Filia is outside of most top 100 prospect lists, the 25-year-old former 20th round pick was in discussion for the league MVP among the game’s top-flight prospect names. Filia’s performance is not unheralded, though: it comes as a culmination of two very solid professional seasons. Among the most impressive areas: the very low K rate for his career (7.5%) and BB/K rate (105 BB/64 K), reflecting a highly polished approach. Finally, on top of being a stand-up player on the field, Filia was a stand-up guy too, winning the sportsmanship award in the AFL for “unselfishness, hard work, and leadership” (Perry Cohen, MLB.com). Filia has been an on-base machine and a good run producer, and there is every indication that he can be a productive big league bat and dirt dog for the Mariners in the future.

Sean Murphy, C, Oakland Athletics

MurphWe continue our glorification of the AL West by highlighting a really talented young backstop in Murphy. Murphy impressed in the AFL for the Mesa Solar Sox by getting on base at a .413 clip and for his defensive nuances as a catcher. All indications are that the Athletics have their catcher of the future in Murphy: he is lauded for his pitch framing skills and gunning down would-be stolen base attempts at a 33% rate through his professional career. What impresses me most is his fundamentals behind the plate, particularly for a tall (6’3”) catcher. He has soft hands as a receiver which help get more called strikes (he goes to the spot instead of tracking pitches, thereby avoiding pulling them out of the zone), and the pop positioning is textbook. As a hitter, Murphy’s comps to organizational mate 3B Matt Chapman are pretty apparent, albeit with slightly less power. Even though he did not hit a HR in the AFL (it is not unreasonable to suggest that playing over 100 games behind the dish this year took a toll, either), he hit 13 HR to go along with 18 doubles in 98 games between A+ and AA ball and earned a spot on the Cal League All-Star squad in the process. MLB analyst and former MLB GM Dan O’Dowd compared Murphy to former Seattle Mariner All-Star C Dan Wilson during the AFL title game broadcast, which would certainly be a positive outcome for Oakland in Murphy. While Oakland will certainly be patient with Murphy’s development, the foundation is a strong one to build on for the catcher.

Two Down

Henry Owens, P, Boston Red Sox

596064The path has been on an unfortunate decline for the 36th overall pick in the 2011 draft. Owens has seen time with the big club in Boston, making 11 starts in 2015 and and 5 starts in 2016. Though no longer prospect eligible, the 25 year old Owens has had mixed results in the high minors. The control has all but abandoned him the last two seasons, where he has served up 101 BB in 159.2 IP in 2016 (MLB and AAA), and 115 BB in 126 IP in 2017 (AAA and AA). On the positive, both the K numbers and hits against numbers are quite good. However, a pitcher with trouble finding consistent command is hard pressed to find a spot in the rotation or bullpen. While the Red Sox may hope that the 6’6″ lefty becomes an Andrew Miller type reliever, they still have time in that regard: Miller’s became a full time reliever in his age 27 season with Boston. 

In the AFL, he has been victimized by the long ball, serving up 5 HR, and overall allowing 21 ER in 21.1 IP. I wonder if the AFL was the organization’s barometer to see how he would respond to the challenge of good minor league competition. If that is the case, Owens future in Boston remains very much up in the air.

Bobby Bradley, 1B, Cleveland Indians

656252The big bopping prospect for the Indians has always impressed with raw power in the minor leagues, and finished this past season with 23 HR for the Akron Rubber Ducks (AA). He cut his K rate from 30% in 2016 to 22% in 2017, but the AFL has been a different story for Bradley. In 74 AB for the Glendale Desert Dogs, he has piled up 32 K (43% K rate) and only 2 BB. The triple slash of .230/.260/.365 has left quite a sour taste in our mouths coming off of the 2017 campaign that saw positive progress in his game, and an improved athletic physique according to reputable evaluators. It will be interesting to see if Bradley’s recent performance will affect what Cleveland does with their 1B situation: free agent Carlos Santana is already garnering great interest from suitors, and they will likely want to avoid putting a fielding glove on Edwin Encarnacion in and past his age 35 season.

Please follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for more MLB prospect news and updates. Also check out our EBAY store for Minor League team sets and autographed rookie cards. Thanks!