Pitching Prospects and Teammates: Cameron Mingo & Alex Royalty

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Written by Mark Firkins

Baseball is said to be a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a sport whose season begins in February with spring training and the fall classic now ends in November. However, any fan of the minor leagues knows that summer and the season goes by way too quick. This is especially true if you’re a fan of and follow the NY PENN League. Their season begins in mid June, ends Labor Day, and plays 75 games. While the season may be short, the talent and play on the field is excellent. Most players are fresh from the June MLB draft and/or promoted from the parents club Rookie Leagues; The Arizona, Appalachian, or Gulf Coast Leagues.

With 14 teams in 3 divisions, you’re bound to catch the same teams and players with regular frequency. I have been fortunate to attend 24 NY PENN League games so far this season, 14 of them featuring the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Cleveland Indians). My faithful travel companion and youngest son Travis (14) is usually by my side at these games. He’ll act as my score keeper, second pair of eyes, and someone knowledgeable to bounce ideas off of. Without telling each other we decided to each pick out a few players that impressed us, pay a little more attention to, keep notes on and compare our findings. After our 8th or 9th Scrappers game we shared our findings. Amazingly, as if we read each others minds we each had picked two of the same players.

Even more remarkable, our notes and comparisons were unbelievably similar for these two players. We each chose Pitchers, Cameron Mingo (RHP) and Alex Royalty (RHP).

Here’s what we found together:

Cameron Mingo pitched for Princeton in the Ivy League and was signed by the Cleveland Indians as an undrafted free agent in August 2016. In his 2 seasons he has pitched in the Arizona, NY PENN, Midwest, and Eastern Leagues (rookie to AA level). He has logged 140 innings pitched, a 4.00 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 89 strikeouts, and rarely gives up the long ball.

He features a sinking fastball that regularly sits in the low 90’s and one that registers plenty of ground outs. Mixed with a slider and curve ball, Cameron keeps plenty of batters off balance and guessing at his offerings.

At 6′ 4″ and 185 lbs. Cameron is a lean figure on the mound. The first time I saw his pre game bullpen warm ups and then in game action, there was something about him that was all too familiar to me. Not surprising, as sometimes I feel we share a brain, Travis had the same reaction. Cameron’s stance on the mound, arm angle, wind up from the stretch, delivery and stature on the field is remarkably similar if not identical to Indians Pitcher, Josh Tomlin. Coincidence? Maybe. However Josh Tomlin is the Indians longest tenured player, well respected in the organization, and even shared the bullpen and played with Cameron in Mahoning Valley in 2017 when he was on a rehab assignment there. While I’m sure it’s more of a coincidence, being compared to Josh Tomlin can only be viewed as high praise.  I can certainly see Cameron filling and playing that same role in the Indians organization.

Alex Royalty was drafted in the 8th round this past June. A college product from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, Alex earned many collegiate honors including the 2017 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Pitcher of the Year and 2018 CAA All Tournament Team.

Drafted in June and after a brief 4 game appearance in the Arizona League he was promoted to the Scrappers. He has started 5 games in the NY PENN League, and is on a relatively low pitch count for now as he gets stretched out and prepared for longer appearances later in August and the fall. Through 5 games he has pitched 15 innings (exactly 3 innings each game), owns a 2.40 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 16 strikeouts.

Travis and I once again compared notes and again, wrote down the same thing, curveball. Alex heavily relies on and uses the curveball to get hitters out. We saw him pitch a few weeks ago on July 22nd. He logged three innings, threw 47 pitches total, 38 which were off speed and/or a variety of curveball. While I’m not an expert at identifying pitches, I was definitely able to tell the difference in some of Alex’s. He throws the classic straight curve that breaks down and away from right handed batters. He throws the 12-6 curveball that features plenty of top spin and breaks from the batters shoulders to ankles. Alex also featured a slightly faster pitch with excellent tailing action that I assumed to be a slider.

After his exit in the 3rd inning Alex headed for the bullpen along with Scrappers pitching coach Jason Blanton. I wandered down to that area of the field to see what he might be doing after his impressive start. After some arm and leg stretches, Alex and coach Blanton each held a ball, compared grips, and the coach appeared to be showing him something with his legs. Alex then threw 15 more pitches in the bullpen. I was able to hear the pitching coach tell him what to throw and yell out “knee up!” telling him to get his left knee/leg higher in his wind up. Of the 15 bullpen pitches thrown? You guessed it, curveballs.

Travis and I have viewed plenty of other players from many teams that we each have notes for, ideas on and plan on collaborating together for future articles. I always tell him, every one of these players we see has a story, has a dream, has something to offer to the game of baseball, and one day, one of them will make their MLB debut, and we’ll be able to say, we saw them play in the NY PENN League. Cameron Mingo and Alex Royalty are the boys of summer that we remarkably found similarities together for this article. A pitching style and comparison to an established Major League pitcher belongs to Cameron. An impressive, hooking curveball graces Alex. As summer winds down and Labor Day is only a few short weeks away, our chance to see some of the games youngest talent is unfortunately coming to an end. Have Travis and I possibly spotted future MLB players in our corner of the baseball world? As we do for every minor league player we’re fortunate enough to see in action, we certainly hope so.

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

Spring Time in AAA Rochester

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Rochester-Red-WingsWritten by Mark Firkins Photos by MiLB.com

“Baseball, it happens every Spring.” I’ve seen that phrase on posters, social media posts, and captioned on photographs with beautiful blue sky, green grass, and Rawlings baseballs lying lazily somewhere near a base line of a freshly prepared spring training field. To me, that phrase means a little bit more. Living in Western New York, near the shore of Lake Ontario, winter hangs around a little longer. We get teased by some mild weather days in March, only to be brought back to reality by a fresh round of snow and ice the next few days. Then the process repeats, sometimes until April (even May, don’t laugh, I have experienced snow on Mother’s Day).

Like a lot of baseball fans, I stare at the calendar and count down the days until opening day of baseball season. I live for that opportunity to sit outside and watch live baseball again. For me, that day comes around the first weekend in April. That’s when my hometown Minor League team, the Rochester Red Wings begins play. As stated, Rochester weather in April can be fickle. I’ve been to opening day in my winter gear and sat through snowflakes. I’ve gotten sunburn in shorts and T-shirts on those rare summer-like days. I’ve been to a game in every type of weather in between. The Red Wings have an excellent opening day promotion, their 50 degree guarantee. If the opening pitch temperature is under 50 degrees, your ticket is good for a free admission to any other game in April or May. I have received that “free” ticket offer at a 90% rate.

The Red Wings are the AAA affiliate (International League) of the Minnesota Twins, one step away from Major League Baseball. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a lot of great Twins prospects and MLB stars. Denard Span, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, Francisco Liriano, Johan Santana, and Byron Buxton are some of the more notable alumni of the Red Wings.

The Minnesota Twins do an admirable job of drafting and developing their players. They are also very wily on recognizing players put on waivers from other organizations, claiming them, and unearthing their success. While I’m excited to see the entire team in action soon, I am especially intrigued to see the following players in a Red Wings uniform.

John Curtiss – Relief Pitcher

John CurtissWith his tall 6′ 4′ frame, downward angle, and fastball that ranges 95-98 mph, it’s clear that the back-end of the bullpen is where Curtiss’ future lies. He has also developed a slider that’s a true out pitch that misses bats. In 2017 Curtiss spent time in AA Chattanooga and AAA Rochester. In 49 innings pitched he posted a 2-0 record, 1.28 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, kept opposing batters to a minuscule .135 AVG, and converted 19 of 20 save opportunities.

The Twins added some quality veteran arms to their bullpen for the 2018 season (Addison Reed, Fernando Rodney, and Zach Duke) which will allow Curtiss to experience a full season at AAA and/or get ready for his call to Minnesota. It wouldn’t be any surprise if John Curtiss one day is the Twins valuable set up man or even closer.

LaMonte Wade – OF

LaMonte WadeWhen a 9th round pick continually performs at every level he’s assigned to, you have to take notice and start believing that this player is legit. Drafted in 2015, Wade has played his way up the Twins Minor League ladder. In 3 seasons of minor league ball, Wade has posted a .295 AVG, with 44 doubles, 12 triples, 24 home runs, and walks more than he strikes out. He has good bat speed that translates into a high average.

The Twins want to teach Wade to leverage the ball more, add a little extra power and some home runs. He has decent speed and can play all three outfield spots. LaMonte Wade could be that surprising player who can become an everyday guy; best suited for left field or be a solid, productive fourth or platoon outfielder.

Zack Littell – Starting Pitcher

Zack LittellZack Littell is the type of pitcher that maybe you call “in demand”. He’s been traded twice, first from his original team the Mariners, then to the Yankees after the 2016 season. The Yankees then traded him to the Twins for Jaime Garcia at the trade deadline in 2017.

Littell features an average fastball in the low 90’s. He also throws a flashy curveball as his secondary pitch and has developed a quality change up for a third offering. Zack’s success is largely due to his ability to get ahead early in the count and show good command. He mixes his pitches well and produces a lot of ground balls.

The past two seasons Littell has pitched extremely well at the AA level. In 2017 he posted an outstanding 19-1 record, 2.12 ERA, and 1.12 WHIP. Littell rarely gives free passes as shown by his 2.2 walks per nine innings ratio thus far in his minor league career. The Twins are no doubt excited to have Littell in their system for a full season and knocking on their big league door someday soon.

Frontier Field will soon be open. The sights, sounds, and smells of the ballpark will fill the air. Baseball will be played at 1 Morrie Silver Way and Spring in Rochester will officially begin.

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

Highlighting Minnesota Twins Prospect Royce Lewis

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20170617_bjh_2463-1392x928Written by Mark Nikolov Photo by MLB.com

I remember watching the 2017 MLB Draft live online and thinking that Hunter Greene or Brendan McKay would go number one overall. Apparently the Twins were strongly considering McKay but, in a late decision, they went with Royce Lewis. I was somewhat surprised but mostly intrigued. After doing some research it became clear to me why Minnesota couldn’t pass on Lewis. It’s always good to have a plan but the Twins have shown that spontaneity can also pay off.

In 2016 Lewis made quite a name for himself by taking home the MVP award at the Under Armour All-American Game in Chicago. He followed that up with another MVP performance at the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego. He impressed every single MLB scout in the country with those two performances.

Royce continued to impress scouts in his senior year at JSerra Catholic High School in California, where he hit .388 with 4 HR, 35 R and 25 SB. He also had an astounding on-base percentage of .569. After the season Lewis was selected as the Gatorade California player of the year for his accomplishments on the field.

Lewis has been outstanding since joining the Twins organization. In Rookie Ball he hit .271 with 15 SB and 3 HR in 36 games. He continued to show extraordinary patience at the plate with a .390 on-base percentage. Royce got the call to Single-A in the middle of August and continued to shine. In his first game with the Cedar Rapids Kernels he went 4-5 with two runs scored and an RBI. After playing 18 games with the Kernels Lewis finished with a .296 BA, .363 OBP, 3 SB, 1 HR and 10 RBIs.

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Aside from being one of the most polished 18 year old baseball players on the planet, Royce is genuinely a nice guy. Recently I wrote him a letter congratulating him on his success and he sent me back a personalized autograph! It was the first time I had ever written a ball player and I didn’t expect to get anything back. I was so excited! It goes without saying that I am already a huge fan of his and it’s going to be great watching him further develop in the minors.

For more MLB prospect news and updates follow us on Twitter at @REALMcCOYMINORS. Also, check out our eBay store to purchase minor league team issued sets and PSA graded rookie cards. Thanks!

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Highlighting Atlanta Braves Prospect Austin Riley

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14324205_301186486903509_4217507877121215496_oWritten by Ben Wilson Photos by Scott Greenwald

Overview: Drafted in the 1st Round (41st Overall), Atlanta Braves third base prospect Austin Riley has opened eyes during the 2017 Arizona Fall League. Scouts have been divided on Riley as a prospect since his professional debut, citing his dubious hit tool due to a long swing (K rate of 25.1%) and below average defense. However, Riley has done all he can in 2017 to silence those critics. The aggressive Braves farm philosophy of promoting their bright prospects has helped him. He put up a .900 OPS through 48 games at Double A Mississippi this past season. In the AFL, Riley has batted out of the second and third spots on a loaded Peoria Javelinas team. He has put up an impressive triple slash of .302/.362/.698 with 12 extra-base hits (and he currently sits second in the league in HR with 6) through 15 games.

With any first round draft pick, it is natural to assume a high level of expectation. Riley is just 20 years of age, so we also have to be realistic to expect a certain level of adjustment along his development. After all, 12 HR in 60 games in his 2015 rookie season is a solid accomplishment. Riley is currently a fringe top 100 prospect across baseball. Though without a sure fit at 3B long term (1B or LF remains in play), the depth of 3B overall across baseball, and questions with the hit tool, he remains on the fringes of the prospect ranking spotlight. Guys like Miguel Andujar, Michael Chavis, and for some, Lucas Erceg, are favored over the Braves third bagger. Despite stuffing the stat sheet in Arizona, there are still mixed reviews from reputable evaluators on his ability to catch up to elite velocity and higher level pitching.

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Riley’s performance in the second half of the MiLB season, and in the AFL, make him a candidate for a major league call up next year. His adjustments at the plate, while still using a whole-field approach and flashing plus raw power in game situations, have people understandably excited. Eyewitness accounts have him looking like a big leaguer the way he carries himself on the field. Riley has a strong build, particularly through the lower half, and a body that looks like he can hold up over a major league season.

Riley is aided by the fact that the names at 3B from the 2017 Atlanta Braves were deeply unimpressive, except for the selfless positional transplant of superstar Freddie Freeman (to the rejoice of fantasy baseball managers everywhere with his increased position eligibility). With little standing in Riley’s way (apologies to the 9 third baseman who suited up for Atlanta this year), Atlanta wants to make it work for him given his recent success and first round pedigree.

Verdict: I like Austin Riley as an average to above average regular at 3B in a stacked Atlanta Braves lineup, with a debut in the middle to end of 2018. While he may not bat second or third like he does for Peoria, there is still plenty to be excited about if he is a sixth or seventh hitter in Atlanta. 25 HR to go along with around .270 AVG and .320 OBP seems like a possibility for Riley, and the Braves would probably love that. Given his stat line, and the similar first round compensation pedigree out of high school, someone like Nicholas Castellanos is a reasonable comparison. Like the 25 year old Castellanos, maybe we will wonder five years from now if Riley belongs at 3B, and if he will ever truly blossom into the hopeful first round star. However, what could really transform Riley to a star is continued positional development at 3B, and making sure the bat gets on the ball more often. These could push his numbers to upwards of 30 HR in a high water year. He might not be a superstar, but there are plenty of things to make you want to get on the Riley train. Get on board!

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!

No Stalling for Cody Stull

cody-stull-photo-1Written by Mark Nikolov  Photo by unknown

Cody Stull was drafted out of Belmont Abbey College by the Oakland Athletic’s in 2014.  This past season he moved up the Minor League ranks faster than any other player in the MiLB perhaps.  I recently got a chance to speak with Cody and talked to him about his recent success.

Real McCoy:  “This past season you moved up three levels in the A’s farm system.  To what do you attribute that achievement?”

Stull:  “I attribute it to hard work.  The A’s have also done a great job surrounding me with some really good pitching coaches.  All of my coaches have helped me improve my performance in single-A, AA and AAA.  I’m very grateful to them for that.  Being able to get lefties out is always a good way to move up in the system too.”

Real McCoy:  “Last season you put up great numbers in the California League, a league that is known for being a hitters league: 65 Ks in 61 IP with only 14 BBs and a 1.61 ERA.  Do you think you can repeat those numbers or put up even better numbers this upcoming season?”

Stull:  “I think so.  I think that there’s always more opportunities to get better.  Now that I’ve added a curveball into my pitching arsenal that should only help me get better.”

Real McCoy:  “Nice!  In an article written by 27 Outs Baseball last season Eddie Pannone mentioned that you have a low 90’s fastball and a good changeup.  He also said that you were working on your breaking ball.  Can you tell me about the success you had with that pitch last year?

Stull:  “Sure, my breaking ball helped me open up the zone a little more.  It eventually turned into a cutter and I’ve had success with that pitch as well.”

Real McCoy:  “I found an article written in January of 2013 by coastalplain.com that described you as a ‘fan favorite’ when you were playing for the Gastonia Grizzlies.  Here is a direct quote from that article ‘Cody has tremendous character and is the kind of person that you always want in your club.’  Do you agree with that statement?

Stull:  “Yeah.  I always want to be known as the guy that people want to be around.  I try to keep a good positive atmosphere when I’m around other teammates.”

Real McCoy:  “I noticed that you and Max Schrock follow each other on Twitter.  What can you tell me about him?

Stull:  “I got to know him for a short period of time when he was in Midland.  He is a true competitor.  He hits everything when he’s at the plate.  It seems like the guy never gets out.  Having him behind you on defense is great because there’s a good chance he is going to make a play on every ball that comes his way.”

Real McCoy:  “What was it like growing up in Matthews, North Carolina?”

Stull:  “It was nice.  Matthews is a small town surrounded by some other small towns and there’s a lot of baseball in our area.  Richie Shaffer and a few other Major League guys are from there.”

Real McCoy:  “Last question, what are your goals for this upcoming season?”

Stull:  “I want to stay on the same path that I’m on right now as far as numbers go.  That should help me advance to the MLB and hopefully I can make an impact there as well.”

Cody seems like a really good guy.  He has a positive attitude and he knows a lot about baseball.  I’m guessing he studies the game all day and probably in his sleep as well.  I missed my first opportunity to interview him because of a scheduling error on my part.  So I’m very thankful he gave me a second chance to speak with him.  I wish nothing but the best for Stull and I hope to see him pitch at Rickey Henderson Field one day.

Please follow Cody Stull on Twitter @LHP1814 and also check us out at @REALMcCOYMINORS for more prospect interviews and videos.

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Article by Eddie Pannone from 27 Outs Baseball found here

Oscar Gonzalez is a Man among Men

oscar-gonzalez-twitter-photoWritten by Mark Nikolov  Photo by ZacharyLucy.com

Oscar Gonzalez started playing baseball at the age of five in the Dominican Republic.  At 16 he signed with the Cleveland Indians for $300,000.  Life is good for this young man.  He just celebrated his 19th birthday and he’s looking forward to competing at the next levels of Minor League Baseball.  Last year in Rookie Ball he was named MVP of the AZL league and recently he was named to the Indians top 30 prospect list by MLB Pipeline.  I get the feeling that there will be many more accolades and achievements to come for Oscar.

After having signed with the Tribe in 2014, Ben Badler of Baseball America had this to say about Oscar: “[a]t 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Gonzalez stands out for his arm strength and righthanded power potential and will be a right fielder. He trained with Wason Brazoban, a Dominican singer who’s pop song “En Un Solo Dia” peaked at No. 47 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart.”

Sam Robinson of Knuckleball also praised Oscar in an article he wrote this past August.  “Gonzalez collected 44 hits in 40 games and hit .303/.342/.566 for the Arizona Indians in the early-stage developmental league.” said Sam.   “Gonzalez doubled his home run total from last season despite accumulating 123 fewer plate appearances,” he continued.  “In 155 in 2016, Gonzalez blasted eight home runs and added 12 more extra-base hits (10 doubles) to his resume.”

I recently spoke with Oscar and he told me the he hasn’t taken much of a break from baseball since August.  He did have minor surgery on his wrist following the season but he has made a successful recovery.  He’s already in Arizona, training and preparing for Major League camp.  I expect that he will start off the season in Class-A with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.  Though with all the hard work he’s been putting in, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the call from Lake County at some point during the year.

Oscar has strong family ties and he is deeply religious.  He comes from a family of six brothers and sisters.  He has fond childhood memories of time spent with his family in his hometown of San Cristobal.  One special moment that he shared with me was his signing day in July 2014.  “It was a very special day that I was able to share with my family,” he said.  “I give thanks to God and to the Cleveland Indians for giving me the opportunity to play professional baseball in my home country and in the US.”

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Please follow Oscar Gonzalez on Twitter at @OscalluisG and check us out as well at @REALMcCOYMINORS

Gerson Moreno is a Man with a Plan

gerson-moreno-sick-ass-photo-better-colorWritten by Mark Nikolov  Photo by unknown

At a very young age Gerson Moreno devoted his life to the game of baseball.  When he was only 5 years old his father, Mateo, noticed his son had talent for the sport.  It was at that time that his father developed a plan for him.  His plan eventually turned Gerson into a professional athlete and the man he is today.  I believe it’s safe to say that Moreno has made his father proud.  He’s currently playing in the Detroit Tigers Minor League farm system and he has a bright future ahead of himself.  In 2015, he helped the West Michigan Whitecaps win the Midwest League Championships.  Then just this past year, he was named as a mid-season All Star for the Whitecaps.  He just recently graduated college.  Oh, and he also can throw a 100 mph fastball.

In a recent conversation I had with Gerson, he mentioned that he had a great time playing for the Whitecaps.  “Everything went really well in West Michigan,” says Moreno…“2015 was a great year for me.  That was when I started throwing the ball really hard.  Everyone on the team stepped up for us and we won a Championship.”

Moreno is a firm believer in hard work.  He credits his faith in God for all of his success.  “I’ve spent many years with the Lord.  I put God first in my work and in everything I do,” he added.  When I asked Moreno about his relationship with the Tigers organization he mentioned that they’re a hardworking organization.  For that he is very grateful.  “They have been very helpful and responsive anytime I’ve needed anything,” he said of his current team.  Gerson has enjoyed all the hard work because “the results have been rewarding.”  When asked about his goals for 2017, he told me that he wants to work even harder than he did last year.  He hopes to start off the season in AA and make his way to the MLB one day soon.

Gerson has a bright future ahead of him and others have noticed.  On March 2, 2016 Mark Anderson of Scout.com talked about “his impressive fastball between a pair of A-ball levels in Connecticut and West Michigan.”  Then recently, only a few days ago, FoxSports.com reported a full story on Moreno’s performance from this past season (see here).  In “[o]ver 23 appearances with the White Caps, Moreno was simply dominant.  In 25 innings, the prospect turned in a 1.08 ERA and 11 saves while striking out 9.7 batters per nine frames.”  Ben Rosener, a writer for FanSided via Motor City Bengals, suggested that Moreno “could develop into a mainstay in the Detroit Tigers bullpen.

Gerson seems to be a strong, intelligent and confident young man.  He knows where he’s going and he knows what he has to do to get there.  I don’t anticipate anything getting in the way of his Major League aspirations.  Luck can only get you so far.  In the end hard work is what prevails.  During this offseason Moreno has been working hard to maintain the velocity on his fastball.  He’s also putting a lot of time into his slider.  Only time will tell us what his ceiling will be as a player.  Though I suspect that with the help of God, his family and close friends, his father’s plan will reach fruition.

Please follow Gerson Moreno on Twitter – @GreidyMo and check us out at @REALMcCOYMINORS

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Albert Abreu is… “The Centerpiece”

albert-abreu-photoWritten by Mark Nikolov  Photo by unknown

Albert Abreu is a high velocity pitcher in the Yankees farm system.  Some people in the media have labeled him as “the centerpiece” of the recent trade involving Brian McCann.  This was the trade that sent Abreu and Jorge Guzman to New York from the Houston Astros this past November.  Mostly known for his power fastball, Albert is an interesting prospect because he has a full arsenal of pitches.  Aside from his fastball, Abreu has a strong curveball, a slider and a changeup.  His current nickname is “Bebo”, an affectionate name that his mother gave him at birth and has stuck to this day.  Perhaps “The Centerpiece” will catch on as another nickname once he cracks the MLB roster.

In an article written by Jason Burke in March of 2016, Albert was heralded as an MiLB breakout candidate “with a fastball that averages between 93-96 miles per hour, but can touch 99.”  Recently, Albert told me that he wasn’t satisfied with his performance when he first started with Quad Cities this past year.  A look back at his stats showed a very high strikeout rate but also a high ERA.  Halfway through the season he stepped up his work ethic and made adjustments.  As a result, he allowed only 6 earned runs in his last 10 outings while still producing a high K rate.  His improvements landed him a spot playing for Lancaster in the hard hitting California League.  In his first appearance he threw 3 Ks in 3 IP allowing only one walk, 1 hit and 0 ER for the W.

Albert will be in Major League camp this spring and should start next season with the Tampa Yankees.  When I asked him if he had any New Year’s resolutions he told me that his goal for this year is the same as his goal from last year and the year before that.  He wants to play in the Major League.  I think all of his aspirations will eventually come to fruition.  However, at least one more season in the MiLB should do him a lot of good.  Currently Albert is 21 years old and he has a lot of baseball left in his future.  I’m guessing the Yankees will exercise caution bringing him up.  This should work out well for him and for his future team.

Similar to the other prospects that I’ve interviewed thus far, Abreu seems to have strong family ties.  He spoke to me of his mother, Cristellia, as someone who has been very supportive in his baseball career.  Albert also relies heavily on his faith for guidance.  He’s a devout Catholic and he attends church services regularly.  Outside of baseball, Albert spends a lot of time hunting birds (something we later had a laugh about).  The closest I’ve ever come to bird hunting was in this video game on Nintendo: www.youtube.com

When I asked Albert what his feelings were when he found out he’d been dealt to the Yankees, I wasn’t surprised by his response.  He told me that he was “a little bit frustrated.”  I can imagine it would be difficult to change teams even at the Minor League level.  You have to get used to new teammates, new coaches, a new location, etc.  I think that initially he was caught by surprise, but now he’s fine and he’s very content with his new organization.  One has to believe the Yankees are happy with Albert as well.  They gave up Brian McCann and a big chunk of cash to get him and Jorge Guzman.  They call Gary Sanchez the “Sanchize” in New York, but Albert Abreu will always be remembered as the “Centerpiece.”

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Thanks for reading my article! For more prospect news and player interviews follow us at @REALMcCOYMINORS

*Jason Burke’s article can be found at www.scout.com