Minor League Road Trip

BrodWritten by Mark Nikolov  Photo by MiLB.com

A recent trip to Hartford exposed me to a few minor league baseball games. The Yardgoats have a very strong team with quite a bit of talent. Here are some player notes:

Sam Hilliard (40 man roster) – Defense is improved. Got his AVG. up to .315, OBP is sitting at .383 and increased speed is very much apparent.

Garrett Hampson (40 man roster) – Very hard working player. He was promoted to AAA during my visit. Power has improved from last season. Defense is plus at shortstop and second base. Has picked up a fanbase in Hartford because of the huge effort he displays. on the field.

Yonathon Daza (40 man roster) – All of his tools seem to be developing except for perhaps his arm. He uses an open stance right now. Saw him hit a LF bomb while I was in Connecticut. He’s much more relaxed at the plate.

Brendan Rodgers (40 man roster) – He’s showing improved power. Saw him go left center with no problem. His defense is still somewhat relaxed. He played 3B, SS and 2B while I was there. He should get the call this year.

Peter Lambert (40 man roster) – Still pitches low to mid 90s. Had a good performance against New Hampshire while I was there. He should finish off the year with very good stats.

Graphing Notes

s-l300Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – After the first game he signed for about 25 graphers (autograph seekers). Some of the graphers got aggresive but security did a good job keeping them calm. From my view it looked like he was signing 2-3 items per person.

Bo Bichette – Bo was signing his usual 1 per. He was in a rush to leave the stadium but he still signed for everyone that approached him. I’ve picked up some of his signed cards last year from Nick Thiel but I doubt we will pick up much more for our eBay store. His initals can be easily copied and we suspect that there might be counterfits out there.

Brendan Rodgers – I didn’t see him sign for anyone but I imagine he is still 1 per. Last season I was able to obtain several autographs from him with the help of a teammate. I was planning on asking him about his favorite non-profit so that a percentage of the signature can go to charity. Next time I get a chance to speak with him I’ll get that information.

For more minor league player news and graphing information check us out on twitter at @REALMcCOYMINORS. Below is a video of Oscar Gonzalez. He’s an up and coming prospect from the Indians farm system.

Prospect Profile: Yonathon Daza – Colorado Rockies

daza960_tyywsk15_h9k34fkcWritten by Mark Nikolov Photo by MiLB.com

Yonathon Daza is a name that Colorado Rockies fans are becoming more and more familiar with. Last season in the California League, Daza was named a post-season All-Star after hitting .341 for the Lancaster JetHawks. He was also named MiLB.com organizational All-Star, not just for his spectacular play at the plate, but also for his leadership abilities that led the JetHawks to the Cal League Championships.

Since last season, Daza has not taken a break from baseball and the results are paying off. In 2017, he got an opportunity to showcase his talents in the Arizona Fall League. He performed well in the Fall League and had an even better showing in Major League Spring Training. In 16 game appearances, Yonathon was 8-21 at the plate with two doubles, a triple and two stolen bases. His K/BBs were identical at 1:1.

This season Daza will be playing for the Hartford Yard Goats along with other organizational top prospects such as Brendan Rodgers, Sam Hilliard, Brian Mundell, Peter Lambert and Garrett Hampson. If past performance is any indication of future success, the Yard Goats should have a good chance at winning the Eastern League this year. Aside from the guys mentioned above, Jesus Tinoco, Chris Rabago, Wes Rogers and Mylz Jones are some other talented players to keep eyes on.

You can expect more of the same results from Yonathon Daza in AA this season. Hartford is a tougher hitting environment than Lancaster, though that shouldn’t affect Daza all that much. The guy can flat out hit! You can expect him to bat over .300 again over the course of the season, with a good chance of capturing the Eastern League batting title like he did in California.

Be sure to follow @REALMcCOYMINORS on Twitter for more MLB prospect news and updates. Also, check out our eBay store for Minor League team issued sets and autographed cards.



Written by Ben Wilson and Mark Nikolov

Pick 1 (Mark) Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH, Los Angeles Angels

OhtaniIf you have the chance to get Ohtani in a weekly league that will reward you for both his pitching and hitting stats, you MUST draft him. The numbers that he could put up are potentially massive. He’s already flashed ace stuff in Spring training, with a fastball that hits between 92-97 mph. If he stays healthy and manages to get everyday at-bats in the Angels lineup, he might score more fantasy points than Mike Trout.

Pick 2 (Mark) Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves

Acuna Jr.Acuna is an absolute phenom. At only 19 years of age, he has excelled at every level of the minors. He was named 2017 Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America and MVP of the Arizona Fall league. Recently, he’s been tearing the cover off of the ball in Spring Training. If he doesn’t start off the season in Atlanta, he’ll get his big league call sooner than later.

Pick 3 (Ben) Victor Robles, OF, Washington Nationals

img451Victor Robles is an impressive ballplayer. An athletic outfielder with elite speed, Robles has the makings of an true fantasy star. Robles’ ability on the field is special, but what sets him apart are his leadership skills and intangibles to help a ballclub win games. If he adds more game power into his already formidable offensive profile, look out!

Pick 4 (Ben) Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox

Eloy Light Tower PowerLight-tower power is an accurate description of this big time baseball talent. Jimenez is one of the premier power bats in all of the minor leagues, but he is also a well-rounded hitter with strong on-base ability. He played very well in 2017 after being traded from the Cubs and has a chance to blossom into one of MLB’s elite, middle of the order run producers.

Pick 5 (Mark) Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays

2016 Bluefield Jays Rookie Ball - V Jr. 1st MiLB team setVlad Jr. has the most advanced hitting approach of any teenager on the planet. He should continue to hit for average and power in 2018 and beyond that. His plate discipline is unreal: 76/62 BB to K ratio in 2017. Once He gets called up to Toronto he will have the benefit of playing in a launching pad ballpark. May not stick at third base in the bigs but will still be a very valuable fantasy asset nonetheless. Roster him now and reap the benefits in 2019.

Pick 6 (Mark) Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros

img571A left handed hitter with all five tools. Power is underrated. Will be playing in what could be the best lineup in baseball. Tucker didn’t tear up the Arizona Fall League (only hit .213) but he didn’t need to. The AFL is not meant to be super competitive. It’s simply a prospect league where MiLB players go to get more exposure and work on maybe one particular aspect of their game. His true potential has become apparent in spring training, where he has hit extremely well against major league pitching.

Pick 7 (Ben) Gleyber Torres, 2B/3B, New York Yankees

2016 Myrtle Beach Pelicans - Gleyber TorresMany people had Torres ranked in the top two before he succumbed to Tommy John surgery last June. Torres could very soon be the next great Baby Bomber to grace The Bronx. With the recent trade of Starlin Castro for Giancarlo Stanton, Torres may break into the majors as a middle infielder. His versatility will ensure that his talented right handed bat finds its way into the Yankee lineup for years to come.

Pick 8 (Ben) Nick Senzel, 3B, Cincinnati Reds

Senzel MugThe 2016 number two overall pick, Nick Senzel, could make a swift MLB impact similar to that of 2015 second overall pick, Alex Bregman. Senzel radiates talent and baseball acumen, has a knack for hard contact and on-base skills, and is an adept baserunner. With the announcement that the Reds will increase his positional versatility, Senzel may make himself a tremendously valuable asset in dynasty leagues, similar to a Kris Bryant.

Pick 9 (Mark) Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado Rockies

2015 Brendan Rodgers Bowman Chrome ASIA Black RefRodgers was the most talented offensive player in the California League in 2017. He has an aggressive approach at the plate (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a young hitter) but needs to develop a bit more patience. Started 2017 on the DL with a wrist injury. Should be able to rake in Coors Field if he stays healthy. Draft him with confidence in your dynasty league(s).

Pick 10 (Mark) Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres

img587Petco Park, or as some call it “the Grand Canyon”, is anything but a hitter friendly ballpark. Nevertheless,Tatis Jr. has tremendous upside after putting up excellent numbers in 2017. He hit .278 with a .379 OBP, 22 HR and 32 SB. Also, the Padres farm system is loaded right now. So he should be surrounded by some serious talent for years to come. This should equate to more at bats, more runs, more RBIs and more stolen bases. At only 18 years of age, the sky’s the limit for Tatis.

Pick 11 (Ben) Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays

2017 Lansing Bo BichetteBichette slashed a mighty impressive .362/.423/.565 between Low A and Advanced A in 2017. He also compiled a staggering 59 extra base hits in 110 minor league games between A and High A. While his offensive results this past season are undeniable, Bichette’s only questions are how he will handle higher level pitching and what will be his ultimate defensive home?

Pick 12 (Ben) Willie Calhoun, OF, Texas Rangers

img513Calhoun has proven himself as a true high-average and power threat, while limiting strikeouts across the highest levels of minor league competition. He popped 32 HR between the Dodgers and Rangers AAA affiliates, as well as securing his first big league HR this past season. While he was traded from the Dodgers for Yu Darvish at the deadline, the deal may go down as “The Calhoun Trade” when all is said and done.

Pick 13 (Mark) Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox

KopechKopech is a fast ball pitcher with a lot of upside but he also comes with a lot of risk. He’s had some issues with self discipline in the past (broke his hand punching a water cooler in A ball). There’s also the possibility of Tommy John with the kind of high velocity he throws with. The reward probably outweighs the risk at this point but you never really know with starting pitchers. Pick him up if he slips in your draft or let someone else take the risk.

Pick 14 (Ben) Francisco Mejia, C/3B, Cleveland Indians

img195Mejia is on my short list of prospects that I would build an IRL team around, though Mejia is certainly profiling as a heck of a dynasty player too. A switch hitter, with a cannon for an arm, Mejia has the makings of a perennial All-Star who will contend for numerous batting titles. Once he gets some more polish at 3B to start next season (where he got his feet wet at the hot corner during the AFL), Mejia will transition seamlessly into the big league lineup starting in mid-2018 as both a 3B and dynamite catcher. If the Indians do decide to move him permanently from behind the plate due to his offensive talents, let’s hope his career of other catching converts has more of a Josh Donaldson trajectory, than say, a Pablo Sandoval one (although, early career Panda, especially in the postseason, is not a bad place to be).

Pick 15 (Ben) Royce Lewis, SS/OF, Minnesota Twins

668904Lewis had a fantastic debut season after claiming the top overall draft spot in the 2017 draft. Given his exceptional athleticism, hit and on-base profile, and base-stealing prowess, Lewis has the chance to be a high impact bat as either a SS or CF at the big league level. With a patient approach, and eye-popping hit tool, the power should continue to develop as he adds strength to his projectable frame. To top it off, his amiable personality makes it easy to see that he can be the face of the Twins a few summers from now. To read more on Royce Lewis, check out Mark’s article of the young star from earlier this off-season, published on this site.

Pick 16 (Mark) Ryan McMahon, IF, Colorado Rockies

img577McMahon was one of the best hitters in the minor leagues in 2017. Between AA Hartford and AAA Albuquerque, he hit .355 with a .403 OBP, 20 HR and 11 SB. He’ll be the starter at first base for the Rox at some point in 2018. Get him on your team before this happens! Coors Field has always been a hitter’s haven and Colorado has one the best run producing lineups in baseball. What more do you need to be convinced of McMahon’s future potential? Ralph Lifshitz @ProspectJesus is calling him a dark horse candidate for NL Rookie of the Year. P.S. – word has it that Ralph will be dropping a top 200 prospect list soon!

Pick 17 (Mark) Austin Hays, OF, Baltimore Orioles

Austin HaysNo other player accelerated through the minors with the same amount of success as Hays did last year (with the exception of Ronald Acuna). He should continue to hit for power and average at the major league level. He’ll also benefit from playing in one of the best hitters’ parks in baseball and in a lineup that can produce a lot of runs. He’s not a five tool guy but he does have a bit of speed. Hays and Willie Calhoun could be competing for AL Rookie of the Year.

Pick 18 (Ben) Lewis Brinson, OF, Miami Marlins

Lewis BrinsonA tall, lean athlete, Brinson boasts one of the most impressive set of tools in the minor leagues and could be a serious power-speed threat with some more seasoning. While the short 2017 MLB debut was uninspiring, Brinson has a bright future in Miami and as a potential future building block in dynasty leagues. A clear path to MLB playing time this year with the Marlins boosts his ranking.

Pick 19 (Ben) Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Alex ReyesLike Torres, Reyes was a surefire top prospect before yielding to Tommy John surgery. Of course as a pitcher, Reyes presents us with a bit more pause, but before the injury there was sure a lot to be excited about. Boasting filthy stuff and three dynamite offerings, Reyes has the chance to be a top of the rotation force after regaining his form post-surgery. As an added bonus, the Cardinals organization has a good track record of developing pitching, which helps make Reyes a worthwhile investment to build a pitching staff. Given the volatility of pitching prospect outcomes, Reyes possesses as dynamic talent as any that will play an important big league role in the future.

Pick 20 (Ben) Walker Buehler, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

WalkerWith the strength of the Dodgers minor league system, it is a testament to the kind of talent that Buehler possesses in his right arm that he tops their organizational prospect lists. Buehler has big K stuff, and the ability to flat-out dominate on the mound. After recovering from Tommy John surgery, Buehler soared through the minors this past year (A+ to the MLB) by piling up 125 K against 31 BB in 88.2 IP. Like the Cardinals, the Dodgers have a track record of developing impact pitchers, and Buehler looks like a special arm. The Dodgers dream that he can be the #2 behind Clayton Kershaw, and at the very least, he will be an electric high-leverage reliever. It may take some time to crack the Dodgers rotation; but once he does, the NL will have their hands full.

Pick 21 (Mark) Scott Kingery, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies

Scott KingeryFive tool second basemen are pretty hard to come by and Kingery has shown all five tools at the highest level of the minor leagues. The Phillies are high on this guy and you should be too. Cesar Hernandez is a great second baseman but there are injury concerns with him. If Hernandez goes down and Kingery is given the opportunity to shine in 2018, he might run with it. Playing in the same lineup as Rhys Hoskins makes his stock even more appealing. Dan O’Dowd from MLB Network compares him to Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins.

Pick 22 (Ben) Taylor Trammell, OF, Cincinnati Reds

TrammellI feel like one of the most common questions this season in dynasty was, “who will be the next Ronald Acuna?” As Mark accurately called Acuna a phenom, the question really means to address which young, athletic outfielder possesses the offensive tools to fly up rankings and project as a five category contributor in fantasy circles in the future? Trammell is as good a bet as Florial, Jones, and Sanchez (all appear below) to be in that discussion. Given Trammell’s 15 HR potential and high 2B, 3B, and SB profile, the comp I hear most with Trammell for offensive output is Starling Marte, which is a great outcome to hang your hat on developing an OF 1-2 profile. If for some reason Trammell is not owned in your league, you should snatch him up immediately. An incredible athlete, Taylor will be a fun player to watch terrorize the minor leagues, and soon enough, the NL central.

Pick 23 (Mark) Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros

img730Whitley has, arguably, the highest ceiling of any pitcher on this list. After making the jump to Double-A at the age of 19, he’s already received comparisons to Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. He would’ve made our top 10 if he hadn’t failed a recent drug test. There is concern that the MLB will keep going after him. The league tends to target guys when they smell blood. Again, as with Kopech, the risk is high but the reward could be much higher.

Pick 24 (Mark) Willy Adames, SS, Tampa Bay Rays

Willy AdamesAdames got off to a slow start in Durham last season but he finished off strong. In over 500 AAA at bats he hit .277 with a .360 OPB, though he did strike out a lot. He has above average power potential with decent speed as well. His batting average has gone up consistently every year in the minors since 2013. Tropicana Field, however, is not a hitter friendly ballpark. Willy will have to continue to improve on his bat to ball skills at the MLB level. His best tool is his defense, which is plus plus. This should give him the opportunity to play as the Ray’s starting shortstop on opening day.

Pick 25 (Mark) Miguel Andujar, 3B, New York Yankees

Miguel AndujarJohn Sickels @MinorLeagueBall has speculated that Andujar might not have the defensive skill set to stick at third base. However, the way he’s been raking this spring, I don’t see how the Yankees can keep him out of their everyday lineup. Even with the recent acquisition of Brandon Drury, Andujar’s spectacular offensive profile is just too good to leave on the bench. Look for him to be a mainstay in the Yankees lineup, whether it be at 3B, 1B or DH.

Pick 26 (Ben) Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals

img464Hailed as the “Dominican Bryce Harper,” the sweet-swinging lefty sure has some thunder in his teenage bat. As a side note, part of the exercise of digesting such grand statement around prospects is seeing what is actually real: with Soto, the Nationals believe they have a guy here with a ceiling at least that of Victor Robles, if not quite Harper. If not for two injuries (hamate bone and ankle), Soto would have logged some more developmental innings. But with that, comes this relatively conservative ranking for Soto: injury free, there’s no reason to believe the numbers wouldn’t have put him in the top 15, and a little more noise around his name to boot. Speaking of Harper, if he leaves the nation’s capital for “greener pa$ture$” (aka zillionaire land), Soto has all of the talent to become an impact bat in his stead, albeit probably not quite a top 2 bat in MLB like Bryce.

Pick 27 (Ben) Triston McKenzie, RHP, Cleveland Indians

663474The lanky 6’5”, 165 lb righty, affectionately nicknamed “Sticks,” has dazzled the minor leagues. While Triston doesn’t exactly look the part of a physically imposing hurler you’d see on a Wheaties Box, McKenzie’s nasty fastball-curveball-changeup combination has befuddled hitters in his professional career. For such a prolific strikeout pitcher (32.8% K rate in 238.1 IP), the control has been really impressive. Some talent evaluators wonder how his frame will hold up with a big league SP workload, but I say the results speak for themselves: McKenzie should be considered among the highest ceiling pitching prospects in the minors. Those that invested historically in slighter frames (Pedro Martinez, Tim Lincecum, Marcus Stroman) surely scoff at those skeptics; and given McKenzie’s performance, you should too.

Pick 28 (Mark) Jahmai Jones, OF, 2B Los Angeles Angels

img545Jones was impressive last year in the Midwest and California Leagues. He hit a combined .282 with a .348 OBP, 14 HR and 27 SB. Not bad for a 19 year old. The thing that scouts like the most about him is his strong work ethic. If he continues to succeed in AA, he should be able transfer that success to the majors. Go after him now before his stock price is out of reach.

Pick 29 (Mark) Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Mitch Keller Bowman 1stThe Pirates have had a reputation for grooming talented young pitchers and Keller is their best prospect. Apparently his curveball is more of a ground ball inducing curve rather than a swing and miss pitch. If he can improve on that his fantasy appeal becomes much more attractive.

Pick 30 (Ben) AJ Puk, LHP, Oakland Athletics

AJ 1Taken 6th overall in the 2016 draft, Puk put together a blistering 2017 campaign that saw him climb all the way up to AA Midland for 64 IP. The strikeout stuff is certainly there for Puk to be a frontline starter (24.5% K rate in 157.2 IP), and the “control issues” are more of the “spotting stuff in/out of the zone” variety versus walking guys. Puk is as high-end a pitching prospect as you can get of the group mentioned so far, with the added left-handed bonus. I like Puk more and more with each passing day, and this ranking may someday be too conservative.

Pick 31 (Ben) Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers

img490The UC Irvine standout and former member of Team USA became the 9th overall draft pick this past summer, and the Brew Crew most definitely found a pure hitter in Hiura. Huria obliterated rookie ball to the tune of 4 HR and 18 RBI while slashing .435/.500/.839 in his first 15 professional games. The Brewers aggressively pushed him to A ball, where he found similar success through 27 games. Though there are thoughts that he will move off the dirt to the outfield as he continues his development, Hiura can hit wherever his ultimate defensive position happens to be. He has a fast track to the major leagues with the level of polish and high profile experiences he has already.

Pick 32 (Mark) Alex Verdugo, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

2015 Great Lakes - Alex Verdugo 1st MiLB team setVerdugo started off last season as one of the youngest players in AAA. In a full season for the Oklahoma City Dodgers, he hit .314 with an impressive .389 OBP. The Dodgers seem to be experts at grooming prospects and in Alex’s case they’ve certainly done everything right. I’ve been following Verdugo’s progress since his first season in Rookie Ball and he’s exactly the kind of player I want to roster in dynasty leagues. He plays above his age level. He’s in a great system. His hit tool is plus plus. He has some speed. All he needs to do is increase his power, something he already worked on in AA by adding a toe tap to his batting stance.

Pick 33 (Mark) Estevan Florial, OF, New York Yankees

MiLB: AUG 18 FSL - Fort Myers Miracle at Tampa YankeesFlorial is one of the hottest prospects in baseball right now. Ironically, at this time last year few people even had him on their radar. Even prospect guru John Calvagno @SALNotes admitted that he underestimated this guy. Last season he hit .298 with a .372 OBP, 13 HR and 23 SB. He followed that up with a good showing in the Arizona Fall League. His AFL coach gave him very high praise, mentioning him as a future big league All Star. Once he gets called up he should benefit from batting left handed in Yankees Stadium.

Pick 34 (Ben) MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres

Gore-242x300The third overall pick of the 2017 draft landed Gore, a high school lefty, atop one of the game’s strongest farm systems. With four solid offerings and advanced feel for them already, Gore is a poised competitor who has the makings of a big time ace. The 6’3” southpaw has had legitimately unbelievable performances as a high schooler heading up to draft day; and his first taste of rookie ball was very promising for the Padres, where he compiled a 1.27 ERA, 34K/7BB, and allowed just 14 H in 21.1 IP. While the Padres have no reason to rush him, Gore will continue to emerge as one of the brightest young arms in all of baseball.

Pick 35 (Ben) Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

SixtoThe Phillies have one of the most exciting and electric arms in the minors in Sixto Sanchez. At 19 years old and hovering around 6’0”, Sanchez sizzles the fastball in the upper 90’s to go along with above average control. Though there is some thought he may be a high leverage reliever in the future given his size, and with only a respectable curve and change to this point, Sanchez has still impressed with his quick pace and competitiveness on the mound. While he lit up A ball, his ascent to High A in Clearwater was underwhelming. Though he had just five starts, Sanchez racked up 4 losses and his ERA (2.41 to 4.55) and WHIP (0.82-1.30) jumped significantly after the transition. The K and BB rates were similar at both stops, but nonetheless, Sanchez and his 80-grade name has flown up lists in prospect land.

Pick 36 (Mark) Jordon Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels

img701Adell hit .325 in 222 at bats last season in Rookie Ball. Then he really turned it up a notch in Orem, where he hit .376 with a .411 OBP. With his five tool capabilities, Adell has a very high ceiling. Add in his high character profile and his future becomes even more appealing. Pick him up now in dynasty leagues and track his progress in the minors.

Pick 37 (Mark) Michael Soroka, RHP, Atlanta Braves

SorokaSoroka doesn’t pitch with the same amount of velocity as some of the other Atlanta prospects. He’s more of a spot pitcher. He ranks higher than Gohara because of the success he had in AA at only 19 years of age. Gohara will help you more this season but Soroka should pay higher dividends if you can be patient and stash him.

Pick 38 (Ben) Franklin Barreto, SS, Oakland Athletics

BarretoBarreto is an exciting hitting prospect, who some have soured on due to his rough debut against MLB pitching in 25 games in 2017. Still just 21 years old, Barreto flashes a good blend of power-speed while playing in the middle infield. While second base seems his likely fielding destination in the majors and he is a bit of a free swinger, there is plenty to like with him.

Pick 39 (Ben) Jorge Mateo, SS/OF, Oakland Athletics

2015 Charleston RiverDogs - Jorge Mateo 1st team setMateo is a true speedster who can impact the game with his wheels on the bases, but can also hold his own in the box. Acquired from the Yankees as the top prospect in the Sonny Gray haul, Mateo had 57 SB and also swatted 12 HR between A+ and AA in 2017. Mateo gets on base enough to warrant him as a top-of-the-order hitter; and as speed becomes more elusive in the fantasy landscape, Mateo may be a valuable asset who can deliver that unique category while still contributing across the board.

Pick 40 (Mark) Keibert Ruiz, C, Los Angeles Dodgers

Keibert MiLB photoRuiz may not have a lot of power but his hit tool is off the charts for a player his age. He has been “en fuego” thus far in spring training and is now easily considered to be the second best catching prospect behind the highly touted Francisco Mejia. He’s another guy that you want to have on your roster right now and track his progress throughout the year. Look for him to start the year off in AA Tulsa.

Pick 41 (Mark) Luis Robert, OF/1B, Chicago White Sox

RobertThe White Sox paid an enormous amount of money to sign Robert and he’s surrounded by a lot of talent in the White Sox farm system. He is currently getting comparisons to big league teammate Yoan Moncada. This can either be a good thing and a bad thing. Perhaps we won’t know until after this season. What worries me about the comparison is that Robert might fit the mold of better athlete than baseball player. He does draw a lot of walks and I’m always encouraged by guys with good plate discipline. So for right now I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Pick 42 (Ben) Luiz Gohara, LHP, Atlanta Braves

GoharaIn just one year, Gohara went from a decent prospect acquired from the Mariners, to a rotation building block for the rebuilding Braves. Gohara is a big-bodied lefty with a hard fastball/slider combination that has proven to pile up strikeouts. Gohara impressed as a September call-up last season by showing advanced feel on the mound, and proved that he has massive upside as a big league starter.

Pick 43 (Mark) Jesus Sanchez, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

JesusSanchez was named the number two prospect in the Rays organization by Prospects 1500 and I like the aggressive ranking. Projected as a number two hitter in the Rays lineup, Sanchez is another guy that should be surrounded by some very talented players – i.e. Willy Adames, Jake Bauers, etc. Draft Sanchez now and just be patient.

Pick 44 (Mark) Carter Kieboom, SS, Washington Nationals

img731Kieboom got off to a great start last season until he was hit with the injury bug. He came back healthy toward the end of the season and picked up right where he left off. His stats are encouraging. The injuries are not. Nevertheless, he ranks this high on our list based on his offensive potential in a system that produces a lot of talent.

Pick 45 (Ben) Leody Tavares, OF, Texas Rangers

LeodyThe Rangers’ minor league switch hitting center fielder is a can’t miss, high ceiling prospect. At just 19 years old, Tavares can impact the game with all five tools. He has been a fast mover since signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, rarely being outmatched while consistently being one of the youngest at his respective level. Tavares has the blueprint of a speedy, impact bat at the top of the lineup. Playing his home games in Arlington will only add to his future HR projections.

Pick 46 (Mark) Michel Baez, SP, San Diego Padres

micWhen Ralph Lifshitz says he’s taking a guy in all his leagues, I’m paying attention. Baez performed well last season in both the summer and the fall. His K/BB rate was particularly impressive. The Friars are on the up and up right now. Baez could be in a very good predicament in the coming years, pitching in an ideal ballpark with a team that will give him good run support. I’m not as high on Baez as others are but I’m not going to miss the boat on him either.

Pick 47 (Mark) Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds

2013 Dayton Dragons - Jesse WinkerThe biggest question surrounding Winker in fantasy baseball circles is: can he hit for power at the major league level? The good thing, for him, is that the hitting environment in Cincy could facilitate that, even if the answer is “no.” Winker is too good of a hitter not to succeed. If the power isn’t there right away he’ll have time to develop it.

Pick 48 (Mark) Jake Bauers, OF/1B, Tampa Bay Rays

2015 Bowman Chrome Jake Bauers autoBauers might not win a starting job out of spring training this year but I’m still a fan of his. His offensive profile is very intriguing. He has a tendency to strike out, but he also takes a lot of walks and runs the bases really well. In AAA last year he stole 20 bags and was only caught three times. His power is still developing and we could eventually see him hit 20 plus homers a year in a full time role. Hitting conditions can be rough in Tropicana Field but Jake’s talent and potential are too good to ignore. If he starts the year in the minors again make sure to track his progress and add him to your roster BEFORE he gets called up. If he can hit .280 in AAA and continue to do everything else well, that should be a good indication that he’s the real deal.

Pick 49 (Mark) Austin Riley, 3B, Atlanta Braves

img729Over the past year Austin Riley has been up and down on prospect lists. We like him as a top 50 guy because of his encouraging performance in the minors last year. In AA Mississippi, he not only improved his batting average and K/BB ratio but he also continued to show advanced power (8 HR in only 178 AB). Riley followed up the regular season with a spectacular showing in the AFL. For further reading, check out this article that Ben wrote this past November. After receiving an invite to big league camp Riley seems to be holding his own there at only 20 years of age. Once he gets the call, we expect him to thrive in Atlanta’s lineup and new ballpark for years to come.

Pick 50 (Ben)  Monte Harrison, OF, Miami Marlins

MonteFinally demonstrating his five-tool talents during a fully healthy season, Harrison generated plenty of excitement, particularly during the Arizona Fall League. Boasting loud, athletic tools, Harrison was one of the top prospects sent from the Brewers to acquire Christian Yelich. If Harrison’s hit tool approaches his others as he advances through the minors, he will be a future All Star.

Follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for more MLB prospect news and updates. Also, check out our eBay store for Minor League Baseball cards and autographed photos. You can also click or press on any of the cards pictured above to make a purchase. Thanks for checking out our top 50 list.

Flashback: Stockton Ports vs. Modesto Nuts – July 28, 2017

PortsWritten by Brian Bice

I have always wanted to get a lineup card. I have seen people at Banner Island Ballpark with ones from previous games getting them autographed. I have never been lucky enough to get one from a coach or manager. Towards the end of the season I was at a Modesto Nuts game and in the team store they were selling game-used lineup cards. They were $25 and the proceeds went to the charity fund. I thought it was a decent price, but I didn’t think much about buying one until I noticed one detail: they were autographed by the Nuts players. This was a deal I couldn’t pass up.

I looked through the cards to find ones where they played Stockton. I found a couple and settled on the one from Friday, July 28th. I wasn’t at that game, but it turns out that I was at the game the next day. I went with this card for 2 reasons. The first is that Sheldon Neuse, Oakland’s No. 13 prospect, went 3 for 5 and hit his first 2 home runs in the Athletics organization. Neuse had come over from the Washington Nationals with Blake Treinen and Jesus Luzardo in the Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson trade on July 16th. The other reason is that Seattle’s No. 1 prospect, Kyle Lewis, is on the lineup card (on the bench) and he autographed it.

As you can see, I have since framed the lineup card with some autographed cards of some players on the Ports. I don’t think I am going to get the Ports players to sign the lineup card. At this point it will be too difficult. Many of them will likely not be on the team next year.

Please follow Brian Bice on Twitter @bicemusic  and check out our eBay store at http://stores.ebay.com/realmccoybaseball

nuts-ports-line-up-card-0728*This article originally appeared on www.elephantfarm.wordpress.com

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


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!


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


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!