So here's our annual (is it annual? Whatever...) post-draft system look. We added a couple of bright lights and various votive candles in the draft - what does the system look like now? How are last year's draftpicks doing? How's our top-20? Do we have anyone we can trade for a bowl of sushi and some Pez?
We're coming up on the lower level All-Star games, so there's a decent sample to look at. Here's the system at a glance. Or maybe a linger, since I'm not terse today. Sorry for the verbiage - hope the three of you who read it enjoy it.
New draft picks:
Alex Jackson: RH Ryan Klesko / Michael Cuddyer type
Gareth Morgan: Juston Upton / Michael Choice
Austin Cousino: hopefully LH Austin Jackson (with some work)
And assorted Dominic Leone / Blake Beavan types. Short-season leagues are starting soon and that's where most of this year's draftpicks will start off, but we're talking about this year's production so I'm not talking about any of those players here (either the new draftpicks or the kids who already debuted last season). First up, the Midwest league. How goes our lowest full-season level?
Clinton top 3 hitting prospects:
Austin Wilson: .290/.375/.505/.880, 4th in the MWL in homeruns (9), .5 batting eye, 18.9% K rate (both fine), 42.1% XBH rate (very good). His swing is noticeably more compact, and he says he's thinking less and getting out of his own way at the plate. The last couple weeks it's definitely looked like that, and it becomes easier to hit in the MWL in warmer weather. Things are looking up for the athletic phenom who has never hit like his tools say he should - until now. Finally being healthy this year after last year's arm injury is probably helping too.
Tank O'Neill: We drafted last year's best Canadian prospect (and in the process saw enough of this year's, Morgan, to draft him as well) and Tank did not disappoint in the early going. OPSing over .800 and did it during the cold weather (he's Canadian, it's nothing he hasn't seen before). He's slowed by injury right now and has missed the last 3 weeks, but his .260/.340/.460 line was more than satisfactory for a cold-weather teen in full-season ball. 12 BB: 37 K isn't great yet, and his 27.4% K rate could use some improvement, but for a raw Canuck he looked sharp in the early going. Definitely one to watch.
Marcus Littlewood: our tall prep SS from 2010 is now our tall catcher from 2014. He's 22 now but his hitting is much improved (.280/.375/.440 with a .75 eye). His receiving skills are improving and he's thrown out 33% of baserunners even. He's splitting time at catcher with Christian Carmichael (same age, C from Hawaii who got popped for a 50-game substance ban a couple years ago). Christian is also doing well but he's not the primary catcher and just had a 5-for-5 day to boost his line a bit (hence him just getting a mention). Littlewood's catching conversion seems to be a reasonable success thus far, and now we'll see whether he can take a full-time gig and put up some numbers.
---others to mention---
Joe DeCarlo (2012 2nd round teen, now 20) is slowly crawling out of the grave at Clinton after losing half of last year to injury and striking out 37% of the time in Pulaski. .315/.410/.605 in his last 10 games, but after a BRUTAL April he's still OPSing just .667. Very raw Northeast kid, so I just wanna see him get plenty of plate appearances and stay healthy, see what happens.
Corey Simpson is the same age as DeCarlo but has a year less in the system. He's having DeCarlo's year from last season, basically: nice power in BP, whiff-tastic nothing in games (8BB:62K in 156 PAs - 40% K rate). Scary.
Reinheimer, the SS with no power, is hitting like a SS with no power. .280/.345/.340 with .55 eye and 21-for-26 in steals already. He's starting off a bit like Chris Taylor but less stick... which is exactly what I thought when we drafted him.
Ian Miller is the CF version of Reinheimer. Both college guys, Ian is 16-for-18 in steals, .5 batting eye, .270/.330/.350 line... Neither guy is likely to be anything, but both are glove men so they don't have to do a lot to be in the conversation.
I left out the C Carmichael and utility guy Zach Shank (23 yo draftee from 2013 from Marist College, hitting .305/.375/.440) as afterthoughts. Most of the hitters in Clinton are not doing anything special, but the MWL makes good hitters look pretty average, especially if they're young. Which is why O'Neill is a lot of fun to see, and Wilson needs to keep doing what he's doing. So far the bats we want to look good, do.
Clinton top 3 pitching prospects:
Edwin Diaz - 3.40 ERA in 55.1 IP, 9 hits / 8.5 K / 4 BB per 9. Just a 20 year old RH from Puerto Rico (two years younger than level), has a fastball he can rush up in the mid-90s (but controls better in the low-90s) and is getting better break on his offspeed stuff (slider and change). Still a rail out there, but he's added a few needed pounds and even if he'll never be stout he can be like Chris Archer who we just saw with the Rays. He had better control last year in the Appalachian League, but he's a work-in-progress. Only a couple of outings this year where he's gone more than 5 IP, and several where he's under 4. The guy is still unfired clay, but he has the makings of a really good pitcher. Just gotta bring it out...
Lars Huijer - or as Spec calls him, The Dutch Master. 3.80 ERA in 54.2 IP, 7.5 hits / 6.5 K / 3.5 BB per 9. He began the year in the pen but they just can't keep him out of the rotation. He's 20, just like Diaz, but has a little better control of his offspeed stuff. From the Netherlands, we landed him for a $170k signing bonus a couple of years ago. Throws 88-91 last I heard but at 6'4 and 215 he's got projection. FB / slider/ change guy mostly.
Emiliano Pagan - college kid this time, bullpenner, but he's got a nice 91-94 mph fastball with a nice offspeed game. He just got lit up, but is still K'ing 9 per while walking 2.5 and giving up just 8 hits per 9. A nice 7th inning guy in the making.
---others to mention---
Carlos Misell - I don't think Carlos is a starter, but they're playing him there right now. 6 K / 2.5 BB per 9 and he's holding his own in the rotation (3.70 ERA) but with a decent fastball, a slider/slurve that seems pretty tough and and a good changeup I think if he can get an extra foot on the heat by moving to the pen he could be a nice option there. Probably won't happen at Clinton but likely by AA.
Thyago Vieira - RH 21 year old from Brazil. He's pitching out of the bullpen and is still having trouble with walks (6 per 9 right now) but his fastball is 92-96 - if he could throw his slider or change with any sort of accuracy or plus effect he might have something. Right now he's a one-pitch guy who needs work, but is still intriguing in a Yoervis Medina kind of way.
I also still have hope for Eddie Campbell, but until he gets his walks under 6 as a starter there's no real reason to worry about him. He's like Tyler Blandford from the '09 draft (I know, who?) - that guy never got his walks together, but Eddie still has some time.
Clinton Verdict (TL:DR version starts here):
- two plus hitters (Wilson and O'Neill) with a defensive player (Littlewood) making a little more noise this year than last
- Diaz is the only front-line arm at the level, but Huijer is still making progress, and there are several bullpen options
Moving up a level, we get to High Desert. This year's hitters in the Desert aren't actually doing quite as well as some previous year's, stat-wise, but stats are a tough way to judge anybody at Adelanto anyway. There's still some talent there, even after the promotions of players like Kivlehan and Pizzano.
High Desert top three hitting prospects:
DJ Peterson - .305/.360/.540/.900, .35 eye, 41.4% XBH rate. Righty DJ started off April a little slowly, with a smidge of injury and the recovery from getting hit in the face and busting his jaw last year. But the last 6 weeks he's been OPSing .980 or so, and it's LHP that is dragging his line down (.735 OPS vs LHP, .935 vs righties). He's still not playing great outside of High Desert, which could concern some folks, but I'm not worried about it. He's starting to walk more too - his college coach talked about how he goes through phases where he wants to hit everything instead of taking his walks, but that he remembers eventually. Looks like we're getting to that point. So far, so good.
Jabari Henry - power-hitting RH outfielder who's on-base skills still seem under-rated. The guy walks at a 14% clip for his career, and .275/.390/.560/.950 is a pretty nice line, home-park effects or not. His 51% XBH rate is unsustainable but lovely, and his power isn't really changed by leaving Adelanto thus far. He's a year older than DJ but having a power hitter with a .75 eye and over 100 points of patience for his career is a very pleasant thing. Curious to see how he does in Jackson later, since I'm not sure he hits enough breaking balls to keep it up at a level where they throw em better - but I wanna find out.
Gabriel Guerrero - Vlad's nephew is still holding his own. .325/.370/.470/.840 is a nice line unless you're hitting in the best batter's park in a hitter's league, and your average is a bit propped up by a BABIP over .400. Still, Gabe is just 20 years old and is 11-for-13 in steals, though his .3 batters eye isn't helping him get on base more to take advantage of his surprising speed. I'm surprised he hasn't hit more doubles, but like I said: only 20, and not demolishing a hitter's league yet, is still a good place to be. He's ahead of the schedule I had in my head for him, and I'm fine with them slowing him down and letting him take another lap around the Cal League to get his line-drive rate over 13%. He needs to see more pitches.
---others to mention---
Tyler Marlette - righty Catcher who is still learning the nuances of the game, but has a nice pull swing and a great arm behind the plate. He's just 21 and isn't exactly pounding the Desert to dust (.270/.330/.440) but his eye is a steady .5 and he's not K'ing too much (18%). He looks almost exactly like he looked last year at Clinton, he's just missing a couple of doubles and singles. Lots of potential in the young backstop. Let's take our time with him.
Aaron Barbosa has a .400 OBP as a center-fielder, he just can't hit for singles or doubles. Just 2 of his 32 hits are for extra bases (!). He's an odd duck, and his quick promotion from the MWL means the Ms like him - but when 2/3 of your hits are squibs on the ground it's gonna be hard to get a lot of XBHs. Or hits at all. He projects for zero power ever, so I dunno that he's gonna get to put that batting eye and OBP skill to use without a significant swing change/improvement.
High Desert top 3 pitching prospects:
Matt Brazis - funny to start this off with a bullpenner, but Brazis is everything we'd hoped he'd be when we drafted him as a reliever out of Boston College two years ago. He had a lot of heat and a nasty breaker, but couldn't stay healthy. So far, he's been healthy, and he started off his Mariners career crushing short-season and the MWL. He ran into some trouble in the Cal League last year, but most pitchers do. On a do-over, he's been nasty. 7.5 hits / 10.5 K / 2 BB per 9 with an ERA under three is nothing short of phenomenal in that park and league. He's back on track for a bullpen tryout in Spring Training, and I expect him to get promoted to AA after the All-Star nods are given out.
Jochi Ogando is still having trouble maximizing his size and stuff. He was a basketball player in the Dominican so didn't grow up with the game, weirdly. 10 hits / 7.5 K / 4.5 BB (And that 4.5 is an improvement). He was walking 9 per when the Ms had bumped him OVER High Desert to Jackson, but he simply wasn't ready for the competition. He's doing better in the Cal League and as long as he can get the hang of the park and harness his 95 MPH stuff and control that offspeed, he's got a good shot to stay interesting. A project worth undertaking.
Tyler Pike is one of my favorite players, but the guy has GOT to stop walking people. He still has his three pitches and his 88-92 mph fastball as a lefty, and he's just 20, but the promise of a guy who can control those three pitches is currently just a dream. He's overthrowing and trying to do too much. He had a hand in a combined no-hitter thrown IN High Desert, which is great, but not enough. He was 5th in the Cal League a couple weeks ago with a .219 BAA, and giving up 8 hits per 9 as a starter there is terrific. But almost 7 walks per 9 against 8.5 K won't get it done. When he jumps that plateau he'll be right back on track as a MOR starter - but he's got to clear it. Maybe he just needs to get out of the Desert...
---others to mention---
Grady Wood - everything I said about Brazis, I'll say about Wood. In college the righty was a starter, actually, but throwing basically sidearm as he does we put him immediately in the pen and he was great. Had a little trouble with the Cal League last year (walks mostly, like Brazis) but this year he's throwing peas. 8 hits / 11 K / 2.5 BB per 9, ERA under 3, and getting better angle on his pitches to boot. Lookin' good for future pen work, and a personal favorite of mine.
Dylan Unsworth - nothing about Sharkie has changed, except he's getting POUNDED with hits in the Cal League, which happens. 7.5 K / 1.5 BB is his style, but 12 hits per 9 is unsurvivable, hence his ERA above 6. I dunno how far Dylan can go without an out pitch, but his style was never gonna look good in Adelanto. I keep hoping for him to be able to make something of his remarkable control, but he's gonna be a long shot. Still, pitchers are hard to predict. Learn a new pitch, change a grip, get 10% better at something and the whole world changes. Still keeping an eye on him.
High Desert Verdict (TL:DR version starts here):
- Peterson is still the jewel of the level, but Henry and Guerrero are good OF options.
- Kivlehan and Pizzano being promoted took a couple of decent prospects out of the level, but catcher Marlette is still worth watching.
- Most of the pitching talent skipped HD (as usual) and the talent that is here is struggling as expected in the environs, a couple 'penners aside.
Part two for the upper minors will be along in a bit. Like, tomorrow maybe. But right now, the major takeaway: the hitters who need to be doing well in the low minors for our system to be strong are doing so, and our raw young arms are still raw and young. No major changes in young pitching so far, just learning curves to be climbed.