7, 8, & 9 – The Outfield

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TribeWritten by Mark Firkins Photos by MiLB.com

Will Benson – OF (Cleveland Indians)

Will BensonThe Indians were definitely targeting Benson’s offensive abilities when they drafted him with their #1 pick (14th overall) in 2016. The 19 year old has everything that scouts drool over.  A 6′ 5″  – 225 lb – powerful build. A combination of bat speed and physical strength that translates into raw power from the left side of the plate. The ability to pull the ball to the short corners of RF. And, for as tall as he is, the rare combination of speed and agility.

In his Pro debut season in 2017, Will Benson played for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in the NY-PENN League. It was definitely a tale of two seasons for Will. In his first month of the season, from June 9th – July 16th, his slashline was .169/.244/.296 – However, from July 17th – September 6th, Benson raked to the tune of .275/.399/.575

Benson connected for just one home run in his first month but smashed nine over the final months to lead the NY-PENN League with 10. Like all young hitters Benson struggled with strikeouts, swinging and missing almost 30% of the time. He did make up for that by walking 16% of the time as well.

The Indians can take their time with Benson and allow him to develop his hitting. He may be a project, but all the ingredients are there for Benson to develop into a middle-of-the-order hitter. Some scouts and reports view Benson as the most exciting teenage prospect the Tribe has had since Grady Sizemore, with the potential to become a 30 home runs/20 stolen base player.

Conner Capel – OF (Cleveland Indians)

Conner CapelCleveland’s 5th round pick in 2016, Conner Capel showed scouts everything they wanted to see – speed, alertness, versatility, power, and instinct. On the offensive side, Capel’s bat heated up as the weather did in Northeast, Ohio. Assigned to Lake County of the Midwest League in 2017, Conner overcame a slow start and improved with each month throughout the season showing impressive tools. In June he was deservedly named Midwest player of the week for going 12-25 with 3 home runs, 2 doubles, a triple, and 8 RBI’s. He finished the season with 22 home runs, 61 RBI’s, .478 SLG, and led the Indians farm system in runs scored with 73.

Capel showed he could hit the ball out of the deepest part of the parks with his clean, left handed swing, strength, and bat speed. While his climb in power resulted in more strikeouts, he showed maturity in recognizing spin and making plenty of hard contact.

Capel has above average speed and strong instincts which identify him as an ideal baserunner and defender in center field. He swiped 15 bases for the Captains and was always a threat to score anytime he got on base. He has the arm strength to play any OF spot and saw time in all OF positions in 2017, playing 26 games in LF, 24 in CF, and 67 in RF.

The 2018 season could be a big year for Capel as he’s expected to debut with the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats of the Carolina League. If he continues to make strides in his development, Capel can continue to surge up the Indians prospect rankings.

Mitch Longo – OF (Cleveland Indians)

Mitch LongoMitch Longo is from Mayfield, Ohio – not too far away from Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians. Drafted in the 14th round in 2016, Mitch has done nothing but torture minor league pitching. In his two minor league seasons he has batted to the tune of a .349 AVG, with a .411 OBP, 29 doubles, and 43 RBI’s.

In 2017 he played his first full season at Lake County – Midwest League, where he posted a .361/.431/.530 clip and earned a late season call up to High A Lynchburg, where in 5 games he went 9-16 and scored 8 runs. Add to all that the fact that he has a decent K/BB rate of 1.52, stole 20 bases in 21 attempts, and suddenly you have a very impressive and exciting 14th round pick.

What’s Mitch’s secret to his fast start in the minor leagues? An open batting stance that creates leverage on the ball and a swing that stays over the whole plate and in the strike zone. This allows him to cover both sides of the plate and use the entire field. There’s a little pop in his bat, though it’s mostly to the gaps and not over the fence. Longo has all the tools of a leadoff hitter. He hits for high average, he’s fast, he doesn’t strike out a lot, and he draws walks.

Longo’s speed also suits him well in RF, where he played all of his games defensively last season. He has good arm strength and is a natural fit for the position. Longo got a taste of High-A Lynchburg at the end of last season, and he figures to start there again in 2018. If he continues to hit and run, he could be in Double-A at some point in 2018. And once you make it to Double-A, you’re just one phone call away from the majors, which for Mitch is almost home.

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster. Also, check out our eBay store for Minor League Baseball cards and autographed photos. Thanks!

 

Early Spring Training Roundup

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Written by Ben Wilson  Photos by MiLB.com

Baseball is back! The first week of Spring Training games is in the books, and already there are plenty of 2017 minor leaguers who are putting up impressive performances out of the gates here in 2018. I will highlight some of the top performers across the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.

Rogelio Armenteros, RHP, Houston Astros (Spring Training: West Palm Beach, FL)
Rogelio ArmenterosFor a team that goes seven solid starters deep at the major league level, Houston’s AAA rotation should feature the strong arm of Armenteros in 2018. Along with other highly talented young arms Francis Martes and David Paulino, Armenteros should not be overlooked as a premium young talent in his own right in the minor leagues. Through two spring outings and one start, Armenteros has 5 IP, allowing 1 R, 3 H, and putting up 9 K and only 1 BB. Armenteros features a low 90’s fastball, two breaking balls, and an excellent changeup. His good control and durable build signal a rotation future for the 23 year old Cuban, and a call up to help defend the World Series title in Houston at some point this season.
 
Miguel Andujar, 3B, New York Yankees (Spring Training: Tampa, FL)
Miguel AndujarIn December, I wrote about Andujar’s struggles in the Dominican Winter League. That seems like a long time ago now. Since the calendar has turned to March, Andujar is sizzling at the plate this Spring: 6 hits in 14 at bats, including 4 home runs and a double. With Gleyber Torres looking more like the everyday 2B for the Yankees, Andujar is playing for a shot to start at the hot corner in the Bronx. Newcomer Brandon Drury provides insurance for both top prospects, but Andujar is as hot as they come in the batters box right now. The energy in his swing is exciting here in the early going for the Yankees! If you don’t believe me just ask @PeoplezPen.
 
Franchy Cordero, OF, San Diego Padres (Spring Training: Peoria, AZ)
FranchyCordero is coming off of a stellar 2017 season at AAA, capping it off with an MVP award playing winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. Cordero is picking up right where he left off so far in the Cactus League, swatting 2 HR and 2 doubles in 13 at bats. Though he has 5 strikeouts, the Padres have an intriguing power-speed bat in Cordero that looks ready to contribute at the major league level. With the team’s signing of Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers will slide to LF, further complicating the already crowded OF picture for Cordero to emerge as an everyday option this season. The Padres may need to make some trades to clear space for Cordero, but his loud play for the better part of the last calendar year makes it hard to ignore his potentially bright future playing in San Diego in short order.
 
Greg Allen, OF, Cleveland Indians (Spring Training: Goodyear, AZ)

Greg AllenSpeedster Greg Allen profiles as a top of the order hitter and an excellent outfield defender. Similar to both Armenteros and Cordero, Allen is also blocked positionally in the big leagues. Nearly 25 years old, Allen played primarily for the Akron Rubberducks (AA) in 2017, swiping 24/26 bases (92%) in 76 total games. In 388 career minor league games, Allen has gotten on base at a stellar .379 clip. In 7 Cactus League games so far, Allen has 8 hits in 15 at bats, including 2 doubles and 1 triple. He also has 5 runs and 5 RBI. With incumbent LF Michael Brantley questionable for opening day, Allen could have an opportunity to begin the season in Cleveland. Regardless of where he starts the season, Allen should be among the first OF considered to be called up from the minor leagues, especially with his switch-hitting ability and all-around exciting skill set.

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! Thanks!

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

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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

Tools of Ignorance

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Orioles-Wallpaper

Written by Mark Firkins Photos by MiLB.com

Baltimore Orioles Catching prospects Chance Sisco, Alex Murphy, & Austin Wynns

Andy Etchebarren in the 60’s & 70’s, Rick Dempsey in the 80’s, Chris Hoiles in the 90’s, and Matt Weiters in the 2000’s. The Baltimore Orioles always seem to have a decade long plan at Catcher that produces offensively, has good defensive tools, earns the respect and has a good rapport with their pitchers.

The Orioles must have been looking to find that future long-term backstop in their 2013 draft when they picked 4 catchers through 10 rounds. The Orioles selected Chance Sisco in the 2nd, Jonah Heim in the 4th, Alex Murphy in the 6th, and Austin Wynns in the 10th. Jonah Heim was traded to Tampa in 2016 to get Steve Pearce back. That leaves Sisco, Murphy, and Wynns as their top home-grown catching prospects.

Chance Sisco – Catcher

Sisco

Currently ranked #1 on the Baltimore Orioles prospect list and #45 overall by MLB.com, Chance Sisco has done everything to impress offensively. Through five minor league seasons he has batted .311, with 98 doubles, 25 home runs, and 206 RBI’s. A lefty hitter, with a fast, level swing that makes a lot of quality contact. Sisco has excellent discipline at the plate and utilizes the whole field, as displayed in his very notable 98 doubles. While there is a little over the fence power, he has shown at all minor league levels that he will most likely hit for average and take a walk, as shown in his .390 OBP.

There are minor concerns with Sisco on defense. Passed balls and errors were an area where he had some troubles earlier in his career. Improvements is his blocking, receiving, and game calling have lessened that issue. The area of defense that needs the most improving is his ability to throw base runners out. While Chance has an accurate arm, it may not be the strongest or fastest getting the ball down to second base. Would be runners advanced at a 70% success rate. Working with and learning from former catcher and current O’s coach Einar Diaz, who in his playing days threw out runners 51% of the time could be exactly what Chance needs. At only 23 years old he’ll have plenty of opportunities to do just that.

Alex Murphy – Catcher

Murphy

Alex Murphy grew up in Monrovia, Maryland, not far away from the Baltimore Orioles minor league affiliates, and within an easy day trip to Camden Yards. It was a dream come true and an opportunity for him to chase his goals and dreams. A chance to be like Steve Johnson and Steve Clevenger and play for his hometown Orioles.

A big, strong, right-handed batter, with good bat speed and power to all fields, is how most scouts and Orioles staff have described Alex Murphy. In his five minor league seasons he shows a .251 AVG, 84 doubles, 35 home runs, 172 RBI’s, and a .331 OBP. Alex has shown a spike in power over his past two seasons, hitting 27 of his 35 homers in 2016 and 2017. Murphy is the guy you want up to bat with RISP. He hits .327 when there’s a chance for an RBI. Defensively, Alex is solid. He owns a career .988 FPCT and throws runners out at a 40% rate. He shows decent ball blocking skills and has few inconsistencies.

During instructional league workouts Murphy was asked “what do you think you need to improve on?” Like most of his game thus far, his answer? “Consistency, not getting too high or too low with hitting, try to stay in that middle plateau all season. Same with catching. Stay solid behind the plate.”

Murphy played some first base in 2016 and 2017 and there may be some plans for him to play there more in the future. Alex is fine with that, “anyway to get to the big leagues is the way I look at it.”

Austin Wynns – Catcher

Wynns

Of the three catchers mentioned so far, Austin Wynns is the only player with collegiate experience, playing for Fresno State. While his offensive numbers don’t exactly jump out at you, they are admirable. Through his five minor league seasons, he has posted a .269 AVG, with 79 doubles, 20 home runs, 169 RBI’s, and a .336 OBP. He may not be the catcher who will hit 20 homers, but he is a smart, structured hitter and will get the job done.

Wynn’s greatest asset is behind the plate. He owns a remarkable .994 FPCT, rarely lets a ball get by him, throws out 48% of runners attempting to steal, and knows how to call games. At age 27, Austin definitely has the maturity over most of his minor league teammates. It also makes him a leader on the field and in the clubhouse. Young pitchers love having him behind the plate. This is not just a guy flashing fingers and signals, he reads the hitters and is making decisions on the next pitch.

Although he has played most of his career no higher than AA, the Orioles must see value and a future for Austin, as they protected him from the Rule 5 draft last November and added him to their 40 man roster.

Former star catcher Matt Weiters departed after the 2016 season. The O’s split catching duties between Wellington Castillo and Caleb Joseph in 2017. Castillo was a 1 year deal and is now with the White Sox. The Orioles traded the Brewers for one time SF Giants (2nd round pick in 2011) prospect Andrew Susac. Caleb Joseph would appear to be the O’s top catcher in 2018. The question is who among these others will fill and learn the role of MLB back up catcher until it’s their time?

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster and check out our eBay store at http://stores.ebay.com/realmccoybaseball. Thanks!

Scoop & Stretch – Highlighting First Base Prospects from the Cleveland Indians

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DF_uzCRW0AMRmvdWritten by Mark Firkins  Photo by Lianna Holub

North-East, Ohio. A hot bed of Cleveland Indians baseball. Within a 2 hour drive of Cleveland you have 4 of their 6 MiLB affilliates; AAA – Columbus Clippers, AA – Akron Rubber Ducks, A – Lake County Captains, and A – Mahoning Valley Scrappers. A drive to these ballparks will find you traveling through the Rust Belt and Steel Mill towns, Amish Country, a beautiful mix of old architecture and modern design, and cities that have reinvented themselves and are once again thriving.

I have had the pleasure of taking a road trip through this part of Ohio every summer for 35 + years now from my home in Western NY. I never tire of the scenery, landmarks, ballparks, and great baseball I am treated to at any one of the stops I make. This past summer was no different as I visited Lake County and Mahoning Valley (along with Cleveland, many, many times)

Emmanuel Tapia – 1B (Cleveland Indians)

642268At 6′ 3″ – 215 lbs, Emmanuel Tapia is a powerful figure that looks more like a linebacker than baseball first baseman. The Indians signed “Manny” as an International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2013. He has acclimated and grown within the Indians system playing through their Dominican Summer League, Arizona Rookie League, Mahoning Valley – NY PENN League, and the 2017 season at Lake County – Midwest League.

Raw power and an extremely hard swing are the best ways to describe Manny’s approach to the plate. He led the Midwest League in home runs (29) and RBI’s (71) in 2017. Though, he unfortunately led the league in strikeouts as well with 180 (in 461 AB). As stated, Tapia is a big, strong player, who no doubt can hit the ball far. There is plenty of room for growth if he can minimize the strikeouts, add some base hits & average, and take some base on balls when offered. He is certainly capable of more average. In past seasons he has hit as high as .315 (2014) and .286 (2015). Manny is patient with himself and knows this is a process. He knows he needs to learn to put himself in a better position to hit.

Originally a Left Fielder in the Dominican Republic, Tapia was shifted to and is still learning first base. A dedicated, hard working player, he is one of the first players to the field every day. He works with the coaches and takes extra fielding practice any chance he can get. 2017 Lake County Captains manager, Larry Day, was quoted often saying “Manny is making steady progress as a first baseman, he’s eager, he’s such a hard worker.”

With the excitement of his powerful hitting and progress at fielding, it will be interesting to see where the parent club, Indians, place Tapia to start 2018. A start at Lake County again or an advance to Lynchburg of the Carolina League? We’ll soon find out as spring training approaches.

Ulysses Cantu – 1B (Cleveland Indians)

668784A 6th round pick out of Boswell, Texas High School in the 2016 draft, Ulysses Cantu is an interesting player for the Indians. Cantu was drafted as a Third Baseman.  However, little opportunity to play or develop there exists, as the Indians are well stocked with other third base prospects at all levels (see my previous post about Nolan Jones).

Cantu is a 6′ righty, first baseman, which may not be the ideal profile. The Indians no doubt looked at Cantu’s bat tools first. He has good balance at the plate, manages the strike zone, recognizes pitches and rarely gets fooled. Cantu’s swing is quick and compact. He squares the ball up on the barrel with ease. Ulysses is incredibly strong (he trains cross-fit) and above average power can be seen in his bat.

The Indians are most likely concentrating on developing Cantu as a hitter first and will worry about where he fits in defensively later. Third base is his natural position and where his size fits him best. He does have experience in high school as a catcher and the Indians could possibly explore that, but that might take a toll on his bat.

Cantu played the 2017 season for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (NY-PENN League). He played 53 games at his new position, first base, and posted admirable numbers. On defense, he posted a .987 FPCT – converting 457 out 463 chances and was on the receiving end of 39 double plays. He hit 53-209 at the plate for a .254 AVG, with 10 doubles, 4 home runs, 25 RBI, and 17 BB.

Ulysses Cantu is still a very young player. He’ll turn 20 in May 2018. There’s plenty of upside in all aspects of his game. The hits, average, and power will all increase as he continues to see more professional pitching. Patience and time will find him a defensive home or even a future as a DH.

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster and check out our eBay store at http://stores.ebay.com/realmccoybaseball. Thanks!

The Next Wave of Top Prospects: National League

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Written by Ben Wilson

I have highlighted one sleeper prospect from each NL team for deeper dynasty leagues that are on the verge of garnering more attention. This list looks at minor leaguers who were taken before the 2017 draft, but are still eligible for this season’s minor league dynasty drafts. The accompanying AL edition was published previously on this site.

Jhoan Duran, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

The 6’5” right-hander out of the Dominican Republic just turned 20 years old, and has been in the Diamondbacks system since 2015. Duran has a lively mid 90’s fastball, with the heavy sink and late movement that makes the offering play up even more. While his curveball and changeup are still works in progress, Duran has been able to limit walks by showing decent control: in his first taste of Low A, he was able to maintain a 1.19 WHIP in 51.1 IP. If Duran can develop more consistency with his changeup, he will see his K numbers rise significantly to play off his excellent fastball.

Jean Carlos Encarnacion, 3B, Atlanta Braves

An exciting 20-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Encarnacion is generating some buzz in early 2018 in deep dynasty leagues. By being attached to one of baseball’s most prominent farm systems, Encarnacion is in a great environment for his tools to develop. Encarnacion has shown signs of hitting for average as well as power, while flashing some useable, situational speed on the bases. Encarnacion has the arm and athleticism to stick at 3B. Encarnacion has some wrap to his swing and a very low walk rate; but after smoothing it out with continued development and refining his approach, he has all the makings of a very solid MLB player for the Braves.

Charcer Burks, OF, Chicago Cubs

Taken in the 9th round of the 2013 Draft out of Richmond, Texas, Burks has climbed steadily through the Cubs system and reached both AA and the Arizona Fall League in 2017. Burks has been praised for his on base approach and high character, and he found some over the fence power this season. While Burks will not become a prolific HR hitter, he does possess good strength, and a small leg kick in his right handed swing which helps generate extra base hit power. Burks may have the speed to steal 20 bases as a regular at the highest level, but needs to refine his technique since he was successful at a 57% clip at AA (16SB, 12CS).

Michael Beltre, OF, Cincinnati Reds

With Taylor Trammell (LF), Jose Siri (CF), and Michael Beltre (RF), the Dayton Dragons had one of the most toolsy outfields in the minors in 2017. A switch hitter, Beltre can both cut down his swing and slap the ball the other way, or sell out for pull side power. Watching tape of Beltre, I am reminded of Jose Reyes and Corey Patterson respectively in those situations. Beltre has the ability to take a walk, but can sometimes be overly patient, hence his higher K numbers. He has an impressive foundation of tools and is a name to watch among a bright crop of prospects in Cincinnati.

Breiling Eusebio, LHP, Colorado Rockies

If you look past the “Colorado pitcher thing,” Eusebio is a compelling pitching prospect that I am really excited about. Eusebio primarily boasts a dynamic fastball and curveball (11-7) combination, with both offerings currently above average at present. Eusebio has an athletic presence on the mound, and looks the part operating from a high-handed set position. With a groundball generating arsenal, Eusebio should not be an overlooked name in Colorado.

Caleb Ferguson, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Speaking of compelling left-handed pitching prospects, Ferguson really came on this year in the Dodger system pitching at A+ Rancho Cucamonga. In 24 starts and 122.1 IP, Ferguson compiled a 2.87 ERA, with 140K/55BB. Still just 21 years old, Ferguson fell in the draft in 2014 due to Tommy John surgery, but has been steadily developing since. Ferguson has a simple delivery and a sturdy build in his 6’3” frame. If he takes a comparable step forward this year, Ferguson will not be available for very long in most dynasty formats.

James Nelson, 3B, Miami Marlins

Nelson is a talented all-around player in the Marlins system. Initially drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 18th round, Nelson passed on signing and was taken instead by the Marlins just a year later and three rounds earlier. Nelson’s play on the field this past season was undeniably impressive, as he was selected to the All Star team in A ball. Nelson sets up at the plate from the right side with a slightly open stance and low hand position with a medium right elbow lift. While he put up 106K/26BB in 102 games in 2017, Nelson has been an excellent contributor and has the ability to develop into an exciting 3B regular in the big leagues.

Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers

The 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft from Hawaii has had some struggles in his early years, but really figured some things out this past season at High A Carolina. Consistently putting up good K numbers in the minors due to a wicked fastball-slider combination, Medeiros has been working on mechanical adjustments to his arm slot, which has contributed to his mixed results. He has a bit of a “Bumgarner sling” to his delivery, but Medeiros has the pure stuff to be a starter with a high leverage relief fallback from the left side. He certainly has the draft pedigree to take the next step in his development, and hope that the Hawaiian lefty can continue to build on his growth from his strong showing this year.

Corey Oswalt, RHP, New York Mets

Oswalt has been around for a few years in the Mets system, as he was a 7th round draft pick in 2012. Spending 2017 at AA Binghamton, Oswalt compiled a 12-5 record, with a 2.28 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 119K/40BB in 134.1 IP. Oswalt has the makings of an innings eater at the back of the rotation, as 17 of his 24 starts in 2017 were 6+ IP. Oswalt uses his 6’5” frame and strong lower half in his delivery of his four-pitch mix. Given the Mets proclivity for pitching injuries at the big league level, Oswalt should have a bag packed ready to get the call in Queens as soon as mid 2018.

Victor Arano, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Arano was acquired from the Dodgers back in 2014, and has seen time in both the rotation and bullpen. Converted to a full time reliever in 2016, Arano’s already solid stuff played up as electric out of the pen. Arano even saw 10.2 successful big league innings in 2017, whiffing 13 and allowing on 4 free passes with a 1.69 ERA. I talked to a talent evaluator about why they like Arano for dynasty leagues, citing the “precarious Phillies closer situation” and “high digit heat” as attractive parts of Arano’s profile. If Arano can break camp with the Phillies this spring, he has the talent to work his way into high leverage opportunities in short order.

Jason Martin, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Martin moves into the Pittsburgh system in the last few days as one of four players shipped from Houston to Pittsburgh in the Gerrit Cole deal. Martin was a potential Rule 5 pick when he was left unprotected by Houston, and seems that his time ending in Houston was inevitable. Given the Astros deep farm system, the Pirates gladly pounced on the opportunity to acquire the talented Martin.  He has solid tools across the board, as he swatted 18 HR and swiped 16 bases across 125 games at the A+ and AA levels. Standing at 5’11”, Martin is a bit of a tweener in his ultimate outfield home due to his arm and offensive production, but he can contribute to the big league picture as soon as 2018 in a 4th OF role.

Jordy Barley, SS, San Diego Padres

There are multiple candidates for the San Diego sleeper highlight, but Barley stands out as a talented teenage shortstop. One of Barley’s best tools is his speed, but he has a solid hit tool already and plays the game with high energy. He has a quiet setup in the box and a small double toe tap, but uncorks an explosive, full body swing. While fellow San Diego SS Gabriel Arias may be grabbing attention from his loud play in Australia, Barley is yet another name to circle in the San Diego system flush with prospects.

Sam Wolff, RHP, San Francisco Giants

Wolff has yet to throw a pitch in the Giants system, as he was involved in a trade package in December from the Texas Rangers organization for LHP Matt Moore. Wolff sports a fastball that can touch 100 out of the bullpen, where he became a full time reliever in 2017. The 26 year old should work his way into the San Francisco bullpen picture at some point in the near future, and his control will need to set him apart from a handful of other right-handed flamethrowers in the high minors in their system.

Alvaro Seijas, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

According to pictures that Seijas posted on Twitter a couple of days ago standing next to the 5’11” Yadier Molina and the 5’9” Kolten Wong, Seijas definitely appears to be taller than his listed 5’8”, perhaps closer to Molina’s height than Wong’s. Given this conservative height listing to date, fewer people are as high on this interesting righty as they should be considering his big stuff from the mound. At 19 years old and billed as undersized to this point, Seijas is still getting every opportunity to be a starting pitcher for the Cardinals and has impressed with his body of work so far. His long arms and athletic presence on the mound are only the beginning of his pitching profile, as he has a very promising future in a system that has had high levels of developmental success with pitchers.

Taylor Gushue, C, Washington Nationals

Gushe is a switch-hitting catcher who spent a majority of this past season at High A, while earning an end of year promotion to AA. Gushue also was a member of the 2017 Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, playing behind Oakland’s Sean Murphy and Chicago Cubs’ Ian Rice. Gushue mashed 18 HR’s playing for Potomac in the Carolina League, where he was tied for second in the league in that category. Gushue also showed patience at the plate, putting together 41 BB in 91 G. The solidly-built Gushue is worth a look in deeper two catcher formats, as the 24-year-old catcher has enough to be an offensive-first backup as a floor.

Make sure to check out the AL Deep Dynasty Sleeper Edition here.

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

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Flashing the Leather – Highlighting SS/2B Prospects Royce Lewis and Nick Gordon

sportsSlammers_confessor_Lara_signs_with_Minnesota_Twins_t750x550Written by Mark Firkins  Photos by MiLB.com

The Minnesota Twins have one of the most dynamic 1-2 punches of middle infielders who can handle balls hit up the middle, as well as use their bats and speed.

Nick Gordon – SS/2B (Minnesota Twins)

624503Does the last name and position look familiar? That’s because this is Dee Gordon’s younger brother and oh yeah, his father Tom pitched his way to 138 Wins and 158 saves in his MLB career.

A 1st round draft pick by the Twins in the 2014 draft, Nick has progressed through the Twins farm system in perfect steps. He has advanced his way through Rookie Ball in Elizabethton (2014 – Appalachian League), Cedar Rapids (2015 – Midwest League), Ft. Myers (2016 – Florida State League), and Chattanooga (2017 – Southern League).

Through 4 MiLB seasons he carries a very consistent .281 AVG. Like his brother, he slashes the ball down the lines or into the gaps for plenty of extra bases, 81 doubles and 25 triples so far. While not known for his power, he showed a little bit of extra pop in his bat in 2017 by connecting on 9 HR. A patient and disciplined hitter as well, drawing 53 BB at AA Chattanooga last season and 126 thus far in career. Certainly capable of stealing bases, he has swiped 68 over his four seasons in the minors.

Gordon has played the majority of his games at SS but has played 2B as well (a permanent shift to second could be in his future). He is a quick and slick fielding player with excellent range and a strong arm. Errors have been a bit of a concern as he has committed 69 and carries a .960 FPCT. However he has turned an impressive 253 double plays in 373 starts.

With Jorge Palonco most likely to serve as the Twins SS in the future and veteran 2B Brian Dozier eligible for free agency after this season, it would seem that Nick Gordon’s call to the Twins would come as a second baseman.

Royce Lewis – SS (Minnesota Twins)

668904Another 1st round pick by the Twins with very high expectations, Royce Lewis was the top high school position player in the 2017 draft. He has all the tools worthy of a #1 pick, especially his bat.

He started his pro career with the Gulf Coast Twins last summer and played 36 games at Shortstop. He carried a .271 AVG, walked more times (19) than he struck out (17), of his 36 hits 9 went for extra bases, and stole 15 bases in 17 attempts. His defense in rookie ball was excellent, converting 124/128 chances.

He was promoted to the Twins Midwest League affiliate, the Cedar Rapids Kernels on August 12th and made quite the impression in his first game. He went 4-5 at the plate with one RBI, one stolen base, and scored twice. He appeared in 18 games for Cedar Rapids, playing SS in 17. He finished the Midwest League season going 28-71 (.296 AVG), with two doubles, a triple and a home run. His defense stayed right in line with his GCL numbers, converting 77-80 chances.

He is extremely athletic on both sides of the ball. While he may not profile as a home run guy, there is plenty of extra base ability in his swing, sending line drives into the gaps, then using his speed to take extra bags, as well as steal them. There is no concern with his glove, it’s his arm and throwing accuracy that needs to be watched. Of his seven errors, six were throwing.

Royce Lewis is a young and exciting player to keep your eye on. The Twins will be patient, yet not afraid to challenge their #1 pick. The 2018 season will most likely see Royce start at Cedar Rapids. If he continues his impressive all around play a trip to Fort Myers in the Florida State League would be in order.

“It’s (shortstop) a premium position. I can show my leadership skills, take control of the game. It’s what I love about it. I want to play the position Derek Jeter played. Except I want to be Royce Lewis.” – Orange County Register

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

Prospect Profile: Matt Foley – New York Mets

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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

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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!

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