Two Up, Two, Down: Venezuelan Winter League Update

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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).

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!


Two Up, Two Down: AFL Wrap Up

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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, 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!

Highlighting Miami Marlins Prospect Sam Perez

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DFi7ZnPXoAAOXrRWritten by Mark Firkins  Photo by

Batavia NY. Birthplace of the NY-PENN league. A short season, summer, A baseball league where many of the game’s youngest talent get their first taste of professional baseball. The place where Matt Carpenter, Carlos Carrasco, Lance Lynn and many other fine players honed their craft on the road to the majors. Sam Perez, a pitcher in the Miami Marlins organization, hopes to add his name to that list of graduates of this league and one day make it to the show as well.

28981008040_222506496f_bPerez brought an impressive resume with him from Missouri State University. In 2015 as a junior, he pitched out of the Bears bullpen, posting a 9-1 record with a 3.31 ERA in 27 relief appearances and struck out 62 in 68 innings of work. As a senior in 2016, he finished his collegiate career with a perfect 8-0 record, striking out 112, logging 91 ⅓ innings and a school record of 36 relief appearances.

Drafted in the 5th round out of Missouri State in 2016, Sam was assigned to Batavia that summer. In his first season with the Muckdogs Sam split time between a starting and relief role. In 16 games he pitched 48 innings, striking out 36, and an admirable 3.54 ERA.

In 2017 Perez briefly climbed the minor league ladder, starting the season for the Greensboro Grasshoppers of the South Atlantic League. He pitched 33 innings of relief over 17 appearances. Sam posted an uncharacteristic 6.21 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Maybe it was the higher caliber of hitters he faced, perhaps a mechanics or delivery issue, or imaginably the earlier start to the season.

DGu8JEqUQAAyyMZHe was reassigned to Batavia in June and the trip back to Western NY was just what the doctor ordered. Sam returned to his split role of starter and reliever and pitched his way to an impressive season. The NY-PENN league is a 75 game season that runs from late June to Labor Day. Perez appeared in 31 of those games, starting in 14 and relief in 17. He logged 77 ⅓  innings, posted a 4-2 record, 53 strikeouts, and an impressive 2.21 ERA. He was honored by being named to the NY-PENN League All Star Game.

In his first two professional seasons, Perez’s style was to pound the strike zone low with his fastball. A two seam fastball with movement that averages in the low 90’s but can hit the radar gun at 95 on occasion. He compliments that fastball with a curve and change that keeps opposing hitters off balance and can make knees buckle.

Given his ability to eat innings and pitch in high leverage situations, Sam should have a bright future with the Marlins. In 2018, Perez could potentially see a full season at higher A baseball and one that should also define his role going forward. Conceivably, he is one of the next Muckdogs alumni to add his name to the Batavia Wall of Fame.

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 High School All-American Brice Turang

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Brice-Turang-Area-Codes-1Written by Mark Nikolov  Photo by D1Baseball

Brice Turang was recently chosen as the number two high school baseball player in the country by Baseball Americabut if it were up to me I would list him at number one. Nothing against currently ranked number one prospect Ethan Hankins. Hankins is a tremendously talented pitcher and I think he’ll be a great professional player if he stays healthy. Turang is just slightly ahead of him because of his baseball pedigree and his phenomenal hit tool.

Back in September, I had the opportunity to watch Brice play at the Area Codes Baseball Games in Long Beach. His presence there created a large buzz. Every time he came up to bat, the level of volume and intensity in the stands increased. He was very confident at the plate and he had a calm approach, even with all the scouts looking on and the fans cheering and roaring. His bat to ball skills surpassed those of any other player at the showcase.

After one of the games I got the chance to speak with Brice’s father – Brian Turang.  Brian was a major league outfielder drafted once by the Brewers in 1987 and again by the Mariners in 1989. He’s very enthusiastic about the game of baseball. In our short conversation we mostly talked about bat brands and performance tools. Brice was using a wooden Tucci Limited bat that was pretty light. Brendan Rodgers also hit with a TL bat when he played in the California League this past year.

img530Graphing Notes: Brice is currently two per so don’t try to put a full nine board in front of him. Instead, I would encourage you to purchase one or two nice looking cards (maybe something numbered) and try to get those signed. One thing I’m learning about graphing is “quality is better than quantity.” The less you ask someone to sign, the better looking signature you’re going to get. It makes more sense to go home with a piece you really like as opposed to a full page of chicken scratch.

Fantasy Outlook: It’s not too early to talk about Brice Turang in your fantasy baseball circles. Yes, he’s still in high school and he signed up to play for LSU following his upcoming season. However, Baseball America is speculating that the Philadelphia Phillies will draft him with the third overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft. If he goes that high in the draft it is likely that he’ll go to a major league team and end up in Rookie Ball next year.

When I examine prospects for dynasty baseball the first thing I consider is the hit tool. Power is something that can be improved on with age, speed usually is not. Turang doesn’t steal a ton of bases but I’m not concerned about that. A lot of young speedsters end up with hamstring injuries at the major league level and injuries on your fantasy baseball roster can sabotage your season. I expect Brice to continue to hit well in his senior year and sign with an MLB club in 2018. He could have the same amount of success that Royce Lewis had this past season in the minors, minus the stolen bases. If he does end up with the Phillies or another team with a hitter friendly ballpark, his doubles will turn into home runs sooner than later.

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Highlighting Minnesota Twins Prospect Mitch Garver

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mitch-garver-e1510886724257.jpgWritten by Mark Firkins  Photo by

It’s often said that the easiest path to the Majors is being a decent hitting, defensive minded catcher. Ask any ballplayer and they will all tell you, there is no easy path. Hard work, dedication, patience, a willingness to learn, passion, sacrifice, perhaps a lucky break and a willingness to learn some more are the real reasons. Mitch Garver, the Minnesota Twins number 23 prospect, seems to fit that description perfectly.

A true blue chip prospect, Mitch was drafted in the 9th round out of the University of New Mexico in 2013. Garver has climbed the organizational ladder in perfect progression. Starting at rookie Elizabethton in the Appalachian League in 2013, he has advanced to Cedar Rapids (Midwest League 2014), Fort Myers (Florida State League 2015), Chattanooga (Southern League 2016), Rochester (International League 2017) and earned his cup of coffee at Minnesota late in the 2017 season.

A catcher by trade, and most likely where his future lies, Garver has also filled the roles of 1st Base, Left Field, and with a .271 career batting average, DH on occasion.

As a catcher, Garver certainly has the tools to be behind the plate every day. He commits few errors, manages the pitching staff admirably, and has an accurate arm, throwing out 31% of runners at AAA this past season and 36% over his MiLB career thus far.

On the offensive side, Mitch had a career year at the plate. In 88 games for the Rochester Red Wings he batted .291 along with 17 HR and 45 RBI. A very disciplined hitter who grinds out at bats and has a keen eye, as shown by his 50 BB this season and 249 over his 5 years in the Twins farm system. Though traditionally a pull hitter, he fine tuned his approach this past season and learned to go opposite way more frequently without losing any power.

Garver made his MLB debut on August 18th and played sparingly in 23 games, behind established starting catcher Jason Castro and veteran backup Chris Gimenez.  Following a similar pattern like he did in Rochester, he played catcher, 1st base, LF and DH. In 46 AB he batted .196, with one double, 3 triples, and 6 BB.

Mitch was honored with International League Player of the Week in July 2017, and deservedly so. On July 9, 2017, on the aptly titled Superhero day, Garver marveled the Rochester crowd, slugging three HR in one game, a Frontier Field record. While the HRs were impressive and a sight to see, it was Mitch’s impersonation of perhaps Superman that day in his 1st at bat. The exit velocity on that HR was 109 mph. To put that in perspective, Aaron Judge (Yankees), this year’s Rookie of the Year and American League HR leader, averaged 97.2 mph exit velocity on his home runs..

On October 18th Garver was awarded the Minnesota Twins Player of the Year. Honored with the Sherry Robertson Award, Garver will return to Target Field in Minneapolis on January 18 for the BBWAA diamonds award dinner with the hopes of staying there.

Veteran backup catcher Chris Gimenez has elected for free agency. Jason Castro is signed through the 2019 season and proven himself a reliable and durable backstop who’s fair with the bat. It would only make sense that decent hitting, defensive minded Mitch Garver’s path to a steady role with the Twins has arrived.

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 San Diego Padres Prospect Luis Urias

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Luis-Urias-2017-bmWritten by Ben Wilson  Photo by Baseball America

Overview: Like many of the Arizona Fall League’s Peoria Javelinas, 2B/SS Luis Urias, a prospect in the San Diego Padres system, is currently garnering a good amount of attention. Signed out of Magdalena de Kino, Mexico as an international free agent in 2013 (coincidentally, just a 4.5 hour drive from his current AFL team in Peoria), Urias is known throughout minor league baseball as an impressive contact hitter. Since his professional debut in 2014, his ability to put the ball in play and get on base has earned him numerous minor league accolades, including league All-Star appearances in 2016 and 2017, and the Cal League Most Valuable Player award in 2016.

After putting together another impressive 2017 season over 118 games in San Antonio (Texas League, AA), Urias is getting on base at a Joey-Votto-esque .452 clip in the AFL, with 13 walks against 5 strikeouts through 15 games. Urias’ BB/K numbers in the AFL are hardly a surprise, since he has finished each of his four professional seasons with more walks than strikeouts (153 BB to 135 K in 1529 PA overall). His ability to put the bat on the ball, take a walk, and avoid striking out, is the recipe for an exciting prospect. Considering Urias has always been among the youngest players at each stop in his development, the San Diego Padres may have unearthed a shining gold doubloon that will surely find his way to the San Diego middle infield in the future.

The hit tool for Urias is nothing short of sterling, and among the best in minor league baseball. It is shocking that Urias has had such little fanfare before mid-season and the AFL. Luis Urias would be more of a household name if any of his other tools were anywhere near the level of his hit tool.

What we can say at present is that power is not currently showing up in Urias’ game. The HR totals are very low: he has 9 HR across 1529 professional plate appearances. It is not entirely unusual for a 20 year old who is 5’9” to only put the occasional ball over the fence. After all, Urias is a line drive hitter, and was able to put together 20 doubles, 4 triples, and 3 HR in 118 games in San Antonio this year. At this point, many evaluators wonder if the power will ever translate to 10 HR at the major league level.

So then, he must at least have blazing foot speed, right? Well, not exactly. Urias has had mixed results stealing bases so far in his professional career. While SB numbers alone never tell the whole story of a prospects speed, players who have a carrying speed tool make it pretty apparent against low minors pitchers and catchers. Urias’ current high water mark for SB in a season is 10 (against 6 CS), which he racked up in 2014 rookie ball. Urias stole 7 SB in 442 AB this season, roughly 12 successful steals in an 162 game schedule. As a point of comparison, his organization mate in San Diego, Cory Spangenberg, had 11 SB in 444 AB this past season with the Padres. When Spangenberg was rising through the San Diego system as a first round prospect, he was hailed for his speed, amassing 111 SB in 400 minor league games. In Urias’ 347 career minor league games, he has only 33 SB. Of significance, Urias has also been caught stealing 37 times.

Verdict: People see a diminutive 2B and say, “maybe he can be Jose Altuve or Dustin Pedroia!” Right off the bat, I’m not quite ready to make a comparison to Jose Altuve. In the other case, Pedroia’s minor league triple slash .307/.392/.452 is somewhat similar to Urias’ .310/.396/.391, and Pedroia was somewhat of a late bloomer in the stolen base department, tallying 11 SB over 272 total minor league games. However, I think the power and speed will fall well short of Pedroia’s 20 HR/20 SB prime production. The most common MLB comparison for Urias these days seems to be Colorado Rockies 2B DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu has been a successful major league player with a highly developed hit tool, who’s best year to date in 2016 saw him hit .348/.416/.495 with 104 R, 11 HR, and 11 SB. Given Urias’ youth and exciting hit tool, he could produce a triple slash in that neighborhood, but he will have difficulty scoring that many runs if he hits in the bottom of the lineup like he is doing right now in Peoria. If Urias develops to his full potential, he can be a prototypical early 2000’s number two hitter in the mold of a Mark Loretta or a Placido Polanco: a perennial .315-.325 AVG hitter with both excellent bat control and on-base acumen, and a peak of 15 HR/10 SB. He is not in the “new vogue” profile of a number two hitter such as Kris Bryant.

If I were San Diego GM A.J. Preller, I would be very excited to know that I have Urias developing in my organization. I am personally very excited to see Urias succeeding in Arizona right now, and he will likely be an exciting pro to watch grow into his own in San Diego. Given the impressive hit tool, someday we may even call Urias “Señor Padre!” Ok, so it’s not an 80 hit tool like the great Tony Gwynn, but a couple of 200 hit seasons (with 150 singles) are certainly not out of the question for a player of Urias’ hitting caliber.

Dynasty Outlook: As a GM of a dynasty team, I would pass on Urias. I rostered him for a few months this season, picking him up in mid-April in a league that rosters around 500 players overall. After holding him for a majority of this season, I ultimately cut bait with him because of his high floor/low ceiling profile. Another GM picked him up about a week later after his mid-season climb up rankings lists, but I think ultimately the lack of power and lack of speed makes him an uncertain dynasty roster piece in the future. I predict he will not rank above the 15th best 2B at his MLB peak in most mixed league dynasty formats, meaning that other guys deserve your attention over Urias. I much prefer Ozzie Albies and Willie Calhoun (both of whom I acquired this year), along with Scott Kingery and Keston Hiura. (Note: Calhoun and Hiura may not ultimately wind up with 2B eligibility down the road). For leagues that have middle infield slots, Urias may be worth keeping a close watch on just to see if he develops any more power or speed, but don’t go out of your way to clear a roster spot for him. If you currently roster Urias, it would be a good idea to hold him through the winter, and see if you can trade him in April given the hot AFL performance. I love Urias as a “real life” player, but not for my dynasty squad.

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!