Archive for the 'MLB' Category

The Hoisting of the White Flags Tarnishing Pennant Races

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

It used to be that when you entered spring training almost every team had hopes that they could compete in the pennant race. That was then. This is now. A new building block has been created for creating playoff caliber teams. It is called tanking.

Baseball tends to be a copycat league. Ever since the Cubs built the blue print of tanking and building up through high draft choices created by 100 loss seasons, other teams have followed. The Astros won the World Series last year using that blue print. Now there are a number of other teams who are following the blue print.

What is the harm in this approach? Major league baseball has at least 11 of their 30 teams going through a rebuilding process. This will result in few pennant races and probably at least three 100 win teams who spend their day beating up on those teams that would have 100 losses if there were not so many other poor teams in a rebuilding stage. This will result in a drop in attendance and a lessoning of interest in a season that many already feel drags on too long.

The teams in the rebuilding process are: Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Oakland Athletics, Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres. A couple of those teams are in the final stages of their rebuilding effort and could be more competitive. In other words, you will have perhaps five expansion teams and six weak teams battling for the first round pick.

Other teams who probably should rebuild because their rosters are so weak with a number of players ready to become free agents in a year: Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants.

This leaves only 14 teams who have some hope of competing in the playoff race. More teams will be out of the playoff race before the season starts than teams who have slight hopes of a playoff season. This has also created a thin market for free agents. If you have no interest in competing for a playoff spot, why would you choose to spend a lot of money to sign a free agent? You may look for a bargain player that you hope to trade later on once he proves his worth. Taking on a high salary is out of the question. Some agents have misread the free agent market. There may not be enough teams in the market willing to bid for the available free agents out there.

Next year myworld sees the Baltimore Orioles and perhaps a couple other teams to be added to the tank brigade. It makes no sense to spend a large salary on a mediocre team. Cut salary, finish at the bottom, collect some revenue and then in three to four years use that savings to sign free agents. By then the collective bargaining contract will expire, the players will be pissed by the lack of signings and you can see discontent entering the bargaining process. So not only will major league baseball have sagging attendance, but they will have some angry ballplayers upset with the money tanking owners are making because of low salaries at the expense of a number of players forced to sign minor league contracts, or sitting out the season because of a lack of offers.

Trouble awaits.

Reds Are in the Final Stages of Rebuilding Process

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

The Cincinnati Reds are in the final stages of their rebuilding process. This means they have traded all their viable, healthy veteran players for prospects and now are in the process of waiting for those prospects to develop. Some of them have already reached the Reds. Others will filter through this year. The Reds hope it will only take a couple more years before these prospects give the Reds a playoff run.

The best of the bunch is their 2016 first round pick Nick Senzel. While he played some shortstop in college the Reds felt his larger frame would do better at third base. At short he would just be an ordinary defender while at third he could become a gold glover. That thinking has shifted as the Reds are considering the idea of giving him an opportunity to play short. The loss of Zack Cozart to free agency has opened up a position for a younger player, thought to be Jose Pereza. Senzel has some good power for a shortstop but normal for third base. He also has the ability to hit for average, hitting .340 in 57 games at AA. This would be an upgrade over Peraza, who has more speed but very little power. Last year Senzel spent his whole season playing third base so some AAA tuning at short would be ideal before they throw him out to the major leagues.

The Reds have been waiting for Cuban prospect Alfredo Rodriguez to develop into a major leaguer. His defense is major league quality but his bat is a bit short, with very little power to even spray the gaps. He was 23 when he played in High A ball but his slugging percentage was only .294. The 2018 season will see him in AA where he is just a phone call from the major leagues, but if his bat fails to even slice the ball through the gaps it will be hard to see him get the call. The Reds were hoping he would be the shortstop of the immediate future, but now doubts have clouded his status.

The Reds dished out a $5 million bonus on another Cuban shortstop defector last year. He signed too late to play any games last year. On the Cuban national team he played second base but the Reds think he has the arm to play short. He has the speed to cover ground and the arm to make a line drive throw to first deep in the hole. The bat is a bit of a mystery but it is not expected to show a lot of power.

Alex Blandino was a first round pick of the Reds in 2014 as a shortstop. His stock has dropped as his bat has struggled to make an impact and his below average defense has forced a move to second base. Last year his .270 batting average in AAA, combined with his .444 slugging has brought a little spark to his prospect status. At 26 years of age his time is now to reach the major leagues.

The Reds minor leagues is stocked with outfielders, led by the toolsy Taylor Trammell. The 2016 first round supplemental pick had the speed to steal 41 bases at Low A. It will also allow him to cover a tremendous amount of real estate in centerfield. His arm is solid for right field. Last year the power began to show with 13 homeruns and 77 RBIs. The 2017 season should see him as a run producer in High A.

Jesse Winker should see a platoon role with the Reds next year. Last year he slugged seven homeruns in 47 major league games, slugging .529. The lefthanded hitter did not hit badly against lefthanders in AAA (.280) but struggled in the major leagues (.120). His defense is very below average so if he is not hitting and being a productive part of the lineup he does not belong in left field. Like Kyle Schwarber his best bet may be to be traded to an American League team where he can DH.

Jose Siri had a breakout season power wise for the Reds last year in the lower minor leagues. The Dominican hit a career high 24 homeruns in Low A while also stealing 46 bases. He did have the propensity to swing and miss (130) without drawing a lot of walks (33). This doesn’t seem to have hurt his batting average (.293). The speed and power are there to make him an impact player. First he must rise up the Reds minor league system, beginning his 2018 season in Low A. This puts him at least two years from the major leagues.

The Reds have been waiting a long time for slugger Aristedes Aquino to pan out. His speed allows him to play centerfield, but it does not allow him to be a prolific base stealer. His arm is one of the best in the Reds system so right field may be his final spot. The power in his bat has combined for 40 homeruns the last two years, but last year his average dropped to .216. His ability to make contact suffered last year (145 whiffs) dropping him down the prospect ladder. With their outfield surplus in the minor leagues the Reds may be wise to keep him at AA to begin the 2018 season.

Phil Ervin, the Reds 2013 pick has virtually disappeared from the prospect radar. He did make his major league debut last year, hitting .259 with three homeruns. His speed has garnered double digit stolen bases but his power has failed to materialize. His best bet would be to make the Reds as a fourth outfielder who can play all three outfield positions.

The top pitching prospect in the Reds system, who many teams thought about drafting as a shortstop, is Hunter Greene. The Reds had him play shortstop and pitching, making three starts early in his season and finishing his time at short. Because of the demands of throwing at short and the two different throwing motions the Reds felt it was too risky to use him as a two way player. At 6′4″ the first round 2017 draft pick can hit triple digits with ease with his fastball, sitting in the high 90s. What is scary is that this velocity could tick up as his body matures. His secondary pitches need more consistency since he did not need them much pitching against high school hitters. The Reds may keep him in extended spring before promoting him to Low A around May,

The Cuban Vladimir Gutierrez also has a plus fastball that reaches the mid-90s. He left Cuba in 2015 so it has been two years since he last pitched. Despite his velocity he was very hittable in High A (.267) with a strikeout rate of only 8.21. When he pitched in Cuba he was used out of the bullpen so his secondary pitches are a bit undeveloped. Last year he started 19 games, working 103 innings. Next year he will put those innings to work in AA.

Tyler Mahle had a breakout season last year. The seventh round 2013 pick was virtually unhittable in AA (1.59 ERA and .190 opposition average) in 14 starts. This earned him a promotion to the Reds where he pitched well (2.70) in four starts but suffered with his command with close to five walks per nine innings. His fastball sits in the low 90s but can ride towards the plate in the mid-90s. At 6′4″ he has a good pitcher’s frame. With a good spring the Reds hope he can earn a spot in their rotation to start the 2018 season.

Rookie Davis was the big acquisition in their trade of Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees. His stuff appears to be very pedestrian with a less than awe inspiring fastball despite his 6′5″ frame. The Reds called him up last year for six starts and he was assaulted for a 8.63 ERA. He was also punished for seven homeruns in just 24 innings. At best the Reds can hope for a back end of the rotation starter or an arm that can be used in the bullpen.

Myworlds Top100 Prospects - 50-41

Friday, February 16th, 2018

Big volleyball tournament this weekend. May be our last post until Tuesday so we thought we’d whittle the Top 100 list today.

50. Jake Bauers 1B/OF (Rays) 4.36 - A sleeper pick not drafted until the seventh round of the 2013 draft, Bauers shows patience at the plate walking 70 plus times at the plate the last two seasons. His power has yet to show at the plate but he has been one of the younger players in the league level each year he is promoted. The power could come as he matures. In the meantime it sits at .412, which is not acceptable for a first baseman. He is an above average defensive player at first base but the Rays put him in the outfield for 24 games to increase his versatility. His below average arm and minimal speed makes him a liability in the outfield when that glove could be used at first base. The Rays appear to be in a rebuilding mode so with a good spring Bauers could see significant time at first base in 2018.

49. Michael Baez RHP (Padres) 4.38 - The Cuban professional league is noted for their lack of flame throwers on the island. That is because most of them have defected for a shot in the major leagues. Baez is one of those players. The Padres signed him for $3 million after seeing his fastball touch the high 90s and sit in the mid-90s. His secondary pitches need to develop more consistency (slider, curve and change) but that should come with time. Prior to signing him the big criticism was his inability to find the plate. That did not seem to be a problem in his first season stateside, walking only 8 in 59 innings while striking out 82. He also gave up 8 homeruns so he needs to learn throwing one ball to walk a batter to take one base is better than throwing down the middle and watching the hitter circle the bases. The 2018 season should see him pitch in full season ball.

48. Anthony Alford OF (Blue Jays) 4.62 - Another athletically gifted player who played football in college while he dabbled in baseball has now chosen to focus on baseball. It was expected that his tools would allow him to climb the ladder fast to reach the major leagues but Alford has had trouble staying healthy. The power and speed are there for him to make an impact offensively, possibly becoming a 30/30 player. Defensively he covers major real estate in center field, though his arm is best suited for left if he had to find another outfield position. He made his major league debut last year but broke his wrist five games later. A good spring could see him crack the Blue Jays opening day roster, but they may prefer to begin his season in AAA where he has only accumulated 12 at bats.

47. Cal Quantril RHP (Padres) 4.98 - Another son of a major leaguer finding himself on the Top 100 list. His father Paul was a reliever in the major leagues. Currently Cal is a starter who sits in the upper brackets of the low 90s with his fastball. What makes his fastball more devastating is an excellent change that keeps hitters off balance. Last year he seemed a little more hittable with AA hitters tagging him for a .296 average and his whiff rate falling down to 7.2 per nine innings. Same side hitters were particularly cruel hitting .336 against him. The Padres drafted him in the first round of the 2016 season despite Tommy John surgery preventing him from pitching an inning during his junior year at Stanford. Expect him to start the 2018 season in AA and with success getting a shot at the major leagues.

46. Luis Urias SS/2B (Padres) 5.1 - Normally players start as shortstops and move to second base. Luis started at second base and showed he had the arm to play short. His bat has minimal power but he can spray the gaps. The potential is there for him to hit consistently north of the .300 barrier with the speed to take extra bases. That speed appears to be lacking when attempting to steal. In his last three years he has been thrown out 37 times with only 33 stolen bases. The skills are there for him to be a middle infield type utility player if he doesn’t make it as a starter at one of the positions. Career wise he draws more walks (153) than whiffs (135) a rarity in this day and age. After his success at AA Luis will start the season at AAA with a major league calling just around the corner.

45. Kyle Lewis OF (Mariners) 5.2 - Kyle was expected to be a special player but a devastating knee injury at the end of his debut year limited him to just 49 games last year. When playing in the Arizona Fall League his participation was cut short because of concerns with the knee. The 2016 first round pick was the Baseball America College Player of the Year with the potential to be a five tool player. Last year he only saw 21 games in the outfield so it will be interesting how his knee has impacted his speed and ability to cover ground in center. The arm is solid enough to shift to right. The Mariners skipped him to High A after 11 rehab games in Rookie ball last year. That should be where he starts his 2018 season. If the knee proves healthy he could be moved up quickly.

44. Jack Flaherty RHP (Cardinals) 5.42 - The possibility exists for the 2014 first round pick to make the starting rotation with a good spring. Jack started five games for the Cardinals last year with minimal success. Poor command (4.22 walks per nine) and a .284 opposition average resulted in a 6.33 ERA. The 6′4″ righthander has the ability to hit the mid-90s with his fastball with complementary secondary pitches that should make him successful as a starter. Jack was dominating at AA (1.42 ERA) and AAA (2.74 ERA) so his major league struggles could be attributed to acclimating his stuff to major league hitters.

43. Ryan McMahon 3B/1B/2B (Rockies) 5.46 - The Rockies second round pick in 2013 played third base in his early years in the minor leagues. With Nolan Arenado entrenched there that position seems off limits. The Rockies have tried him at second and first. At second his defense is shaky but his bat could make up for his defensive struggles. He is better defensively at first base but that position is a bit crowded with other possibilities. The Rockies had to find a position for him after he hit .374 with 14 homeruns in 70 games, producing a 1.023 OPS. That got him a callup to the majors where he struggled (.158) in a brief 19 at bat major league debut. A good spring could see him win a job with the Rockies but his best bet is to go to AAA as depth and get a callup when needed.

42. Leody Taveras OF (Rangers) 5.48 - We wrote about him yesterday in the top Dominican prospect list so the following is just a cut and paste from that list. Leody has the defensive tools to be a gold glove centerfielder with a strong arm and lots of speed to cover a wide area of green. His bat should produce but Leody still has not matured into his body yet, a teenager playing at Low A. When he fills out he could become a 20/20 player, making enough contact to fill the leadoff role but also having the power to hit in the three spot. The Rangers will show patience with him, promoting him to High A next year. Ranger fans will probably have to wait until 2019 for a major league September callup and then 2020 to see him in the starting lineup more regularly.

41. Franklin Barreto SS/2B (Athletics) 5.58 - The Athletics hope Barreto makes an impact since he was one of the players they acquired from the Blue Jays for Josh Donaldson. The other players the Athletics acquired in the trade, Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin have fallen short in their return. Barreto made his major league debut last year and hit just .197 in his 25 games. He does show the ability to hit for pop and has shortstop tools but could move to second in deference to Marcus Semien. Last year he made 18 errors in 83 games at short, a little too erratic for major league purposes. His lifetime minor league average is .292 which is where he should hit once he gets more acclimated to major league pitching. A good spring could see him on the Athletics roster in a utility role but expect him to be depth at the AAA level.

Top Dominican Prospects in American League

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

You can see the 2017 list at the link at the end of this blog. The only graduates from the list were Rafael Devers, the number 3 prospect and Reynaldo Lopez at number 7. A couple players dropped off, number two Francis Martes, number eight Francellis Montes and number nine David Paulino. That leaves five repeaters and five new players added to the list, one of whom appeared on the National League list last year.

1. Eloy Jimenez OF (White Sox) - Eloy was the fourth top Dominican prospect from the National League list last year. He climbs to the top with his trade from the Cubs to the White Sox. The expectation is that when Eloy is ready he will come with 30 plus homerun power. Last year he hit 16 at High A between the two franchises, but really took off at Winston Salem with a .346 average and a .682 slugging. This resulted in a promotion to AA where his hitting continued with three more homeruns and a .353 average. A below average arm may make his best fit left field. His legs lack the speed for center, though they are adequate running the bases. Expect him to start the 2018 season in AA and if he continues to rake the White Sox will find room for him in their outfield.

2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 3B (Blue Jays) - His father was voted into the Hall of Fame this year. Everyone wants to compare him to his father. The arm is not as strong and he lacks the propensity to swing at everything as his father did. There was some question as to whether he could hang at third but he seemed to dispel those rumors showing average defense. He may not carry his father’s power, but the power is beginning to emerge with 13 homeruns between Low and High A. He has also shown patience at the plate with a 76/62 walk to whiff ratio, evidence that he has the same ability to make contact as his father, he just waits for better pitches to hit. This will benefit him as he rises up the minor league ladder, hitting AA in 2018.

3. Francisco Meija C (Indians) - Last year Francisco made a name for himself with a 50 game hitting streak and a .342 average. The numbers were not quite as glamorous as last year but he still hit .297, .352 against lefthanders. That got him a promotion to the major leagues where he struggled with a .154 average in 13 at bats. He has an arm that can stop a running game but needs to work on some of the other subtleties of the catching game, i.e. framing pitches, calling the game and preventing passed balls. He did show some power last year with 14 homeruns and a .490 slugging percentage. Since he did not play any AAA last year the Indians may start him there but if Yan Gomes continues to struggle with the bat Francisco could be called up. The Indians also worked with Francisco a little at third base, which could be another option to get his bat in the lineup and leave Gomes behind the plate.

4. Willy Adames SS (Rays) - He was at the top of this list last year but fell not because he had a bad year but the three above him had good years. Willy has the tools to play short for the Rays in 2018 and could fill that position with a good spring. His bat will hit for decent power, hitting at the lower ends of the double digits in homeruns. The gaps will be peppered with his line drives resulting in about 40 doubles per year. If he made better contact he could fit at the top of the order but he may be better suited in the six or seven slot. The Rays acquired Adames from the Tigers back in 2014 in the David Price trade and may finally be getting some reward for it four years later.

5. Leody Taveras OF (Rangers) - The first real new player on the list since Jimenez appeared on the National League list. Leody has the defensive tools to be a gold glove centerfielder with a strong arm and lots of speed to cover a wide area of green. His bat should produce but Leody still has not matured into his body yet, a teenager playing at Low A. When he fills out he could become a 20/20 player, making enough contact to fill the leadoff role but also having the power to hit in the three spot. The Rangers will show patience with him, promoting him to High A next year. Ranger fans will probably have to wait until 2019 for a major league September callup and then 2020 to see him in the starting lineup more regularly.

6. Jorge Mateo SS/OF (Athletics) - The trade from the Yankees to the Athletics resurrected his career. Forced to be moved from short to second with the acquisition of Gleyber Torres and not being promoted to AA put a dent in his prospect status. He came to life in AA with Oakland hitting .292 with a .851 OPS. Jorge has sneaky power with the potential to hit in the double digits. He has yet to come close to his 82 stolen base year of 2015 but he was 13 for 16 in just 30 games at Midland. The Yankees had given Mateo some centerfield time but with Midland Mateo played all his 30 games at short. He could begin the 2018 season in AAA but a good spring would make it tempting to put him on the major league roster in a super utility role, i.e short, second and centerfield.

7. Jesus Sanchez OF (Rays) - Jesus has the potential to be a special player on offense. Coming into the 2017 season he carried a .332 average in the Dominican and Rookie Leagues. He got his first exposure to the full season league and hit .305. The power also began to show with 15 homeruns and a .478 slugging. Jesus has the speed to play center and the arm to move to right. The offense would be better served if his production could stay in center. Next year he will begin the season in High A with a promotion to AA if he should continue to rake.

8. Miguel Andujar 3B (Yankees) - The Yankees have choices for third base. With the trade of Chase Headley they could move Gleyber Torres there or Andujar. Torres may provide better defense but his natural position is shortstop. Andujar made 17 errors there between two levels and will have to reduce that number if he wants to make camp there. Torres is also recovering from arm surgery and may need some time in AAA to strengthen his arm. Andujar has the power for the position. blasting 16 homeruns last year with 82 RBIs. For a power hitter he made solid contact hitting over .300 at both AA and AAA, including a .571 average in a seven at bat trial with the Yankees. A good spring should earn Andujar a trip north with the Yankees as their starting third baseman.

9. Albert Abreu RHP (Yankees) - The Yankees have a couple of arms with flash rising up their minor leagues who hit the radar in triple digits. Albert is one of those arms sitting in the mid to high 90s. His secondary pitches are still inconsistent but he did a better job of finding the strike zone last year. Albert can overwhelm hitters with his heat but as he rises up the minor leagues his change and slider/curve need to improve for him to be successful as a starter. Last year at High A the opposition hit him at a .252 clip with 8.13 whiffs per nine innings. At the lower levels hitters were in the low .200s with more than 9 whiffs per nine innings. The Yankees could start Albert in High A to begin the season with a mid-season promotion to AA once he finds success.

10. Domingo Acevedo RHP (Yankees) - Another Yankee arm that slices the plate in triple digits, sitting in the mid to higher 90s. Domingo also has a plus change but needs to find a consistent breaking pitch. Domingo is a little more advanced than Abreu, starting last season at High A and jumping to AA before finishing with two starts in AAA. His best work was at AA (2.38 ERA). Control was a problem for him in AAA with 8 walks in 12 innings and in the Florida State League lefthanders seemed to tag him pretty well (.316). An improvement in his slider could change that. Acevedo could see some time in the Yankees rotation next year if he has success in AAA, where he should start the 2018 season.

Red Sox Prospects Trimmed for Playoff Runs

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

The Red Sox have a few promising prospects at the lower levels. The depth appears to be a little thin. Trades of Top 100 prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech debited their farm system. They were also penalized by MLB for usurping the international signing caps by pooling prospect salaries to get under the salary cap (on paper giving lessor prospects with the same buscone more money to sign the high level prospect to a below minimum salary bonus). The penalties have now limited the Red Sox ability to sign quality international players. A quick look at their top prospects shows a lack of international players, something they were noted for in year’s past.

The top prospect is perhaps Jay Groome, their first round pick in the 2016 draft. He is a left handed pitcher who stands 6′6′ with a mid-90s fastball and hard breaking curve ball. Character issues dropped him to the Red Sox. His large frame makes throwing strikes a challenge but he gets a lot of swings and misses (11.77 k’s per nine innings in Low A). He is still a couple years away from providing any contribution to the major league club so the Red Sox will have to be patient with his development.

Tanner Houck is another big dude to add to the Red Sox pitching staff. The 2017 first round pick stands 6′5″ with a mid-90s fastball that can click in the high 90s. His secondary pitches still need a lot of work but he still missed a lot of bats with his limited repertoire (10.07). The Red Sox limited his starts to less than three innings per start because of his college workload but he should begin the 2018 season in Low A. His large frame should allow him to eat a lot of innings if he can develop his other pitches.

Myworld likes Mike Shawaryn because he is a Maryland Terp. He is not overpowering with a low 90s fastball but his slider and change are plus pitches. The Red Sox were able to wait until the fifth round to draft him in 2016. In Low A he dazzled with 13.16 whiffs per nine innings and limited the opposition to a .222 average. A promotion to High A saw his walk numbers increase (3.87) while his swings and misses decreased (10.07) but he still limited the opposition to a .232 average. Next year he will see AA and how he does could determine his major league future.

The two best hitters could occupy the corners for the Red Sox in the next couple years, though Rafael Devers will be tough to beat out. Michael Chavis hits for power, combining for 31 homeruns between High A and AA last year. His defense at third is still a question mark, which could make for a crowded first base. He lacks speed to move to the outfield and not be a defensive liability. Sam Travis has a sweet righthanded bat that lacks power. This is not a good recipe for first baseman in the major leagues. His defense is above average, but with so many players competing for this spot the Red Sox could prefer more power. Like Chavis, Travis lacks the speed to move to the outfield and still be a defensive asset.

The only other position player worth noting is Tzu-Wei Lin who the Red Sox signed out of Taiwan for $2 million. They may have overpayed for him. His power is non-existent and his arm is a bit light to play shortstop full time. Lin does have some speed, but it does not result in stolen bases. He peppers the gap using that speed to turn a single into a double. Expect him to fill a utility role for the Red Sox with minimal offense expected from him. He filled that role for part of the season last year.

Myworlds Top 100 Prospects - 60-51

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

We’re halfway there. So much more to write about after this, finishing up the team’s prospect lists, the mlb predictions and the top ten prospects from various countries. At some point we will get to all of it, but first finishing up the Top 100.

60. Yadier Alvarez RHP (Dodgers) 3.66 - The Dodgers have hung on to Alvarez after paying him a $16 million bonus in 2015 as a 19 year old. That is a lot of money for a pitcher who could not make Cuba’s 18 and under team because he could not find the plate. He did hit triple digits with his fastball and that was the start of the Dodgers attraction. They have him starting but he will probably end up in the bullpen because of undeveloped secondary pitches and his struggles finding the plate. He walked 6.82 hitters per 9 innings in his seven AA starts. There is still some time to improve his secondary pitches and be more consistent in finding the plate so the Dodgers will continue to use him in the rotation at AA to start the 2018 season.

59. Jay Groome LHP (Red Sox) 3.66 - Jay dropped to the Red Sox after some character issues scared teams away, allowing the Red Sox to make him their first round pick in 2016. At 6′6″ the lefty has a blazing fastball that hits the mid-90s with a plus curveball, traits teams seek for their ace in the rotation. He only pitched seven innings in 2016 so his big test came in Low A where he got 11 starts. He had trouble finding the plate (5.08) and retiring righthanders (.287) leading to an ugly 6.70 ERA. The Red Sox could give him a repeat of Low A to begin the 2018 season with an early season promotion to High A if he can find the plate more often.

58. Nick Gordon SS (Twins) 3.8 - The son of Tom “Flash” Gordon and the half brother of Dee Gordon lacks the speed of Dee but could have a better bat. Like Dee his power is minimal and his fielding at short needs to be more consistent. Last year he committed 19 errors in just 104 games at short. The Twins gave him some second base time as this could be his position of the future. The lefthanded hitter struggled against lefties last year (.174) and for someone who lacks power he swings and misses too much (134 whiffs in 122 games). A utility role could be in his future, especially if he continues to struggle against lefthanded pitching. The 9 homeruns he hit last year were almost double what he hit his first three years so some moderate power could be developing as he matures. The Twins could use him in 2018 for their playoff run but they will start him in AAA and wait for the perfect opportunity.

57. Jesse Winker OF (Reds) 3.88 - The 2012 supplemental first round pick of the Reds carries a mean stick but his best defensive position is probably at designated hitter. The power seemed to finally appear in the major leagues last year after he was limited to five homeruns in 191 AAA games. He slugged 7 in his 47 games with the Reds. Despite his below average defense in left field this could give him a platoon opportunity against right handed pitching. Jesse could only hit .120 against major league lefties, but even in AAA his batting average against lefthanders was 40 points lower than righthanders. If Jesse wants to find his name in the lineup the bat will have to produce to justify his limited defense in leftfield, and this includes hitting for power. The 2018 season should see him in a platoon role in left field. How long he keeps that role depends on a productive bat.

56. Alec Hansen RHP (White Sox) 4.08 - The 6′7″ right hander was a second round pick in 2016 out of Oklahoma. The college drafted pitcher with the high 90s fastball and mid-80s slider started the season in Low A and finished it in AA, having some success at each level. In Low A he limited the opposition to a .207 average with over 11 whiffs per nine innings in his 13 starts. High A did not phase him either with over 12 whiffs per nine innings and a .203 opposition average in 11 starts. In AA he was a bit more hittable (.333) but still struck out more than 14 hitters per nine innings in his two starts. For a tall starter he seems to find the plate well. Expect him to start the 2018 season in AA with a promotion to the White Sox if a need arises. The White Sox have a plethora of quality pitchers they can call on in the minor leagues to fill their rotation so Alec may have to bide his time.

55. Chance Adams RHP (Yankees) 4.12 - The 2015 fifth round pick has been a bit of a surprise for the Yankees. At 6′0″ his height could be a durability issue in the rotation, but he throws in the mid-90s with a wicked slider resulting in a breakout 2016 season (13-1, 2.33 ERA). That excellence continued last year in AA (1.03 ERA) and AAA (2.89 ERA). In AAA he limited the opposition to a .197 average in 21 starts. The Yankees have a number of potential starters in the minor leagues who they can use in their rotation so a good spring could get Chance an opportunity.

54. Taylor Trammell OF (Reds) 4.14 - An athletic outfielder who was the high school football player of the year in Georgia, Taylor decided to play baseball when the Reds drafted him as a supplemental first round pick in 2016. Taylor has blazing speed that will allow him to cover the outfield grass in center, but a below average arm which could limit him to left. His power began to show last year with his 13 homeruns and .450 slugging percentage in Low A. He also flew around the bases for 41 steals and 10 triples. The speed and patience to take a walk exists to fit in a leadoff role but as his power grows he could slide into the three hole. Taylor will try to build on his 2017 success in High A in 2018.

53. Justus Sheffield LHP (Yankees) 4.24 - Lefthanded pitchers who stand only 5′10″ are not frowned on as much as righthanders, especially when they hit mid-90s on the radar. The 2014 first round pick can also retire hitters with his slider and change, giving him three solid pitches for the rotation. Last year in AA he had some troubles retiring righthanded bats (.276) and his whiff rate was disappointing (7.91). The Yankees may find a need for him in the bullpen in 2018 to retire lefthanded hitters before fitting him in the rotation. Eventually he could fill a role as a three starter.

52. Jorge Mateo SS/OF (Athletics) 4.3 - The Yankees acquiring Gleyber Torres moved Jorge from the shortstop position while with the Yankees. He also had some disciplinary issues when he complained about not being promoted to AA. This resulted in a disappointing 2016 season where the Yankees eventually traded him to the Athletics for Sonny Gray. Returning to shortstop seemed to put some spice back in his bat, though the speed in his legs to steal over 80 bases in 2015 has yet to return. Jorge has some sneaky power that could get him into double digits with homeruns. The speed in his legs will turn some singles into doubles and doubles into triples. If he could find his stolen base speed Jorge could be an impact player, though he did steal 13 bases in 16 attempts in 30 minor league games with the Athletics. If the shortstop job is filled the Athletics could move him to centerfield, where his speed would play well there. Expect him to start the season in AAA with a major league callup in midseason a possibility. The Athletics have more holes in their positions than the Yankees.

51. Keston Hiura 2B (Brewers) 4.32 - The Brewers 2017 first round pick has an excellent bat. His defense is a question mark as a injured arm (sprained ulnar ligament) limited him to DH while playing college. The injured wing healed enough for him to play three games at second base, which could be his position in the majors (played outfield in college prior to the injury). The bat is what will separate Hiura, possibly batting title contention. He hit .436 in a 15 game debut in rookie ball and then .333 in 27 games in Low A. His power now is more geared toward the gaps but as he develops he could be a 20 plus homerun hitter who also hits north of .300. His 2018 season could start in High A with more time playing second base.

Myworld’s Top 100 Prospects - 70 - 61

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

The continuation of myworld’s top 100. To recap, this is not really my Top 100 list but a combination of Top 100s put together by Baseball America, MLB.com and other top 100 lists with the rankings scored (10 for number 1 and 0.1 for number 100). You can see the complete list of top 100 rankings used on the rankings 100-91.

70. Dylan Cease RHP (White Sox) 2.86 - The Cubs could use some pitchers. They did draft Dylan in the sixth round of the 2014 draft. Tommy John surgery in high school dropped his draft status. When he recovered his fastball was hitting triple digits and sitting in the mid-90s. Rather than wait for him to develop the Cubs traded him for Jose Quintana, a pitcher they needed now to get them into the playoffs. Dylan lacks quality secondary pitches that could call for his use out of the bullpen. He did start 22 games at Low A, 13 for the Cubs and 9 for the White Sox. His command was a little spotty, walking about 4 hitters per nine innings, but he got a lot of swings and misses and limited the opposition to a .220 average. Next season he should begin it at High A. The White Sox have a host of pitchers at the upper levels so they can be patient with Dylan to allow him to eat up innings.

69. Kevin Maitan SS/3B (Angels) 2.98 - The Braves originally signed Kevin for $4.25 million. Before he played a game he made a number of Top 100 lists. After a year in the minors his prospect status has dropped. The Braves lost him to free agency to the Angels as punishment for their cheating on their international signing caps. Maitan has lost some prospect status as his lower body has gotten thicker, limiting his range at short and forcing a move to third. His bat is still considered top notch. He played in the rookie leagues last year with spotted success but one has to remember he was a high school kid playing against athletes who had graduated from high school or college. The 2018 season should be his first season of full season ball where he will play as an 18 year old. As his body fills out the power will begin to show. At least the Angels hope so.

68. Jo Adell OF (Angels) 3.04 - Adell was the first round pick of the Angels in 2017. An athletically gifted talent, he has the speed to play center, the arm to fit in right and a bat that can hit for both average and power. He rises to the top of what once was a thin Angels prospect list. In high school Adell hit 21 homeruns and struck out 7 times. Adell had more swings and misses once he started in the rookie leagues (49 whiffs in 49 games) but his batting average (.325) and power (.532 slugging) still shined through. The 2018 season he should start the year in the full season league. With Trout getting older he could move Trout back to left field in a few years if his tools continue to develop.

67. Austin Riley 3B (Braves) 3.14 - The Braves drafted Riley with the supplemental first round pick in 2015. Riley is noted for his power bat where he matched his 20 homer production of last season. His fielding could improve where his stiff hands committed 20 errors in 127 games, 13 of those errors occurring in 47 games at AA. The lack of consistency makes the move to first an option, but that position is occupied by Freddie Freeman. Third base is where they could use more immediate help but Austin may still be a couple years away. First he has to improve his ability to make contact (124) which could improve his ability to hit for a higher average. Last year he only played 48 games in AA hitting .315. If he continues that success he should see AAA by mid-season and maybe the Braves for a September callup.

66. Jesus Sanchez OF (Rays) 3.22 - Jesus is a five tool outfielder from the Dominican. The Rays only paid $400,000 in 2016 to sign him. He has hit .323 or greater in his first two minor league seasons. The power was restricted to the gaps until last year when he broke out for 15 homeruns, his first year in double digits. The speed exists to play center and the arm is strong enough to play right. Stolen base speed is absent. The 2018 season will see him play in High A. The rebuilding Rays expect to see him in the outfield in 2019.

65. Christian Arroyo 3B (Rays) 3.32 - Arroyo was a first round pick of the Giants way back in 2013. The Giants traded him to the Rays in the Evan Longoria swap. Originally a shortstop it was determined he did not have the range for that position. The 2018 season will see him start at third base for the Rays but it is still suspect he will hit for the power needed for the position. In an injury plagued 2018 he hit .396 in 25 games at AAA. That led to a quick promotion to the majors where he slugged a couple early season homeruns but then saw his average drop to .192. The Rays have an open spot at the position for Arroyo to lose for the 2018 season.

64. Ian Anderson RHP (Braves) 3.34 - The Braves 2016 first round pick, Ian is just one in a slew of pitchers who are first round picks, many of whom started for other organizations who the Braves acquired in a trade in their rebuilding effort. The rotation could be pretty crowded once the bell rings for Ian to compete for a starting rotation spot. Ian brings three quality pitches to the mound, a fastball that sits in the low 90s that can hit mid-90s, a potential quality curve with good break and a plus change. Those are tools that will fit him in the middle of most rotations but the Braves have a large crop of quality pitchers who have number one starter stuff. Last year Anderson started 20 games in Low A, did not allow a ball to travel over the fence, finished with a 10.95 K per nine innings and limited the opposition to a .232 average. Those kind of numbers earn him a promotion to High A next year.

63. Carson Kelly C (Cardinals) 3.42 - Considered the catcher of the future for the Cardinals, once Yadier Molina decides to hang them up. Defensively he is considered to be one of the top minor league catchers in the game with a strong arm and the ability to handle a pitching staff. The big question mark for Kelly was whether his bat would be enough to justify putting him in the starting lineup. Last year he hit .283 with a .459 slugging in AAA, making good contact in his at bats. Promoted to the majors for his second year he again hit under .200 (.174). The 2018 season should see him be the back up catcher for Yadier and possibly be his replacement in 2019.

62. Estevan Florial OF (Yankees) 3.66 - One of the few players born in Haiti, which made it difficult providing major league teams with documents supporting his age. The multi-tooled athlete has the five tools to be a premium outfielder. The Yankees outfield is already crowded but Estevan is still a few years away. His speed allowed him to steal more than 20 bases and his power bordered slugging .500 with 13 homeruns and an average over .300. His tools could make him a 20/20 player and if can stay in the middle of the diamond that will make him a valuable commodity, whether in the major league lineup or as a trade piece. For the 2018 season he should begin the season in High A with a quick promotion to AA once he achieves some success.

61. Chance Sisco C (Orioles) 3.66 - The Orioles second round 2013 pick is noted more for his bat than his defense. The Orioles have been patient with him, finally giving him his major league debut last year where he hit .333 with two homeruns in 18 at bats. His arm is not strong enough to stop a running game so a pitching staff like the Orioles who put a village on base will be hurt by a team with speed. The 2018 season should see him start with the Orioles. Showalter will have to pick his opportunities to suit up Sisco behind the plate.

Rays Low Budget Requires Development of Prospects

Friday, February 9th, 2018

Baseball would like people to believe there is parity in the major leagues. The Rays are evidence this is not the case. The Rays can’t spend like the Dodgers or Yankees and must rely on the development of prospects to be competitive. This means for every four years they are battling for the playoffs there are another four years in which they crash to the basement. The current Rays are in the process of crashing to the basement as the trade of Evan Longoria is evidence.

The Rays have been known for developing top pitching prospects. Once those pitching prospects are two years away from free agency they are put on the trade market. Their best pitching prospect is Brent Honeywell, who is following in the footsteps of Blake Snell. This should be his year to pitch for the Rays since this is his fourth year in the minor leagues. The pitch that gets the most publicity is the screwball, but Brent does not throw the pitch that often. He relies on a mid-90s fastball, a plus change and a cutter to retire hitters. After 24 starts in AAA his 11.06 whiffs per nine innings indicates his readiness for the major leagues.

Jose Deleon was a top Dodger prospect traded to the Rays for Logan Forsythe. With AAA and major league experience under his belt for the 2016 season many expected him to be in the rotation by mid-season last year. Arm problems delayed the start of his season until May and he could never find a groove with his pitches. The Puerto Rican righthander has a nice assortment to choose from, with a mid-90s fastball, excellent change and an effective slider. He did get three starts in AAA, striking out 10.5 hitters per nine innings, but lefthanded hitters seemed to have their way with him (.417). This should be the year he sees significant time in the Rays rotation if he can address his ineffectiveness against left handed hitters.

Myworld really likes Ryan Yarbrough after we saw him pitch in Durham. His stuff is not overpowering but he stands 6′5″ with a fastball that touches the mid-90s. He also throws strikes, gets his share of swings and misses and retires lefthanded bats (.217) which could make him useful out of the bullpen if the starting rotation gets crowded. It is hard to think three rookies would fill the Rays rotation in 2018 so expect the Mariners fourth round 2014 pick to start the season in AAA.

Ryne Stanek has an electric arm that shoots fastballs across the plate in triple digits. He pitches out of the bullpen because of his lack of quality secondary pitches and struggles with command. He’ll turn 27 in July so the time for him to make the major league bullpen is now. Last year he got 21 appearances, struck out a lot of hitters (13.05) but also gave up a lot of hits (.317) with six of them carrying over the fence. When you walk over five hitters per nine innings you can not afford to give up hits or your ERA sky rockets to 5.85.

The Rays seem to have a strong collection of position players. They hope a couple of them will join them in Tampa for the 2018 season. Christian Arroyo was a number one pick of the Giants in 2013. The Rays traded Evan Longoria to acquire him. His range is not strong enough to play short and his power is not frequent enough to play third. Injuries limited him to 25 games last year but he did hit .396 in AAA. In four seasons he has yet to hit double digits in homeruns.

Willy Adames could be their starting shortstop in 2018. He was acquired from the Tigers in the David Price trade. His average seems to float around .270 with the potential to hit 10 to 15 homeruns per year. His defense will be solid with a strong arm. The Rays believe he will develop more power as he matures. Myworld expects him to be the Rays starter at short to begin the 2018 season.

Brendan McKay is an interesting potential two way player. As a first baseman he has decent power that should consistently hit in the .300 neighborhood. As a pitcher he has an excellent curveball to go with a low 90s fastball. Many feel he could become a better pitcher if he focused in that area. The Rays only had him hit last year but next year he will be in the full season league and the Rays could squeeze him in the rotation in between first base or DH assignments to see what they have.

Jake Bauers is another slugging left hand hitting first baseman. He was acquired from the Padres in the Will Myers trade. Currently his power is restricted to the gaps, with just 13 homeruns resulting in a .412 slugging percentage. His lack of speed would make him a liability on defense if moved to the outfield. Jake is another rookie who could see playing time by mid-season.

Jesus Sanchez is a toolsy outfielder who in two seasons of rookie ball hit .332. Last year was his debut in full season and he continued to live in the .300 neighborhood (.305). He has power, speed, the ability to hit for average and a strong arm, all the requisites of a five tool player. The centerfield job should be his in a couple years.

Lucius Fox was signed by the Giants out of the Bahamas and included in the Evan Longoria trade. His $6 million bonus was the highest for a player not from Cuba. His glove is smooth with the ability to play a premium shortstop, his legs are fast with 30 plus potential stolen base speed, but his bat is still a question mark. He will not hit for power and if he does not take a lot of walks he will fit best in the number 8 spot in the order, number 9 in the American League.

Adrian Rondon was a player the Rays spent a big bonus on ($2.95 million). He was a shortstop when he signed but last year spent all his time at third base. The bat was supposed to be special with lots of power, but it has been slow to develop. As he gets promoted he is still one of the younger players in the league. Last year he only hit .221 with a .330 slugging, numbers unacceptable for a corner infielder. The Rays have to hope the power develops.

Garrett Whitely was a first round pick in 2015. The Rays have been less successful in the draft now that they are picking lower in the draft. Garrett has the speed to play center and flashed a little bit of power with 13 homeruns last year, his career high. If his glove can fit in center that power will play. A little less swing and miss in his bat could see his average climb above the .250 mark.

Myworld’s Top 100 Prospects - 80 - 71

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Below is our top prospects from 80-71.

80. Yordan Alvarez OF (Astros) 2.34 - The Dodgers originally signed Alvarez in 2016 as they restocked their farm system with Cuban players, paying him a $2 million bonus. Soon after they traded him to the Astros for Josh Fields, not much of a return for a player with that bonus. The Astros have used him at both first base and left field. His bat is what will get him to the major leagues. At 6′5″ his lefthanded bat began showing some power at Low A with a .360 average, 9 homeruns and a .658 slugging in 32 games. The power was not as great after being promoted to High A (.393) but he showed no difficulty hitting lefthanded pitching (.355). It will take an excellent spring to start the season higher than A ball but at 20 years of age the Astros can be patient with him.

79. Adrian Morejon LHP (Padres) 2.38 - He was the Cuban version of Luis Ortiz except he won the 15 and under MVP in the World Cup in 2014. A couple years later he left Cuba providing the Padres an opportunity to sign him for a $11 million bonus. At 6′1″ he does not have an intimidating presence, but his fastball can reach the mid-90s and at 19 he already has a degree in pitching with a good curveball and change. He made his major league debut last year with seven starts in short season ball (3.57) and six more in low class A (4.23). He had his way with lefthanded hitters dropping their averages below .200 but righthanded hitters had their way with him hitting him close to .300. He needs to find a pitch that is more effective against right side hitters. It would not surprise myworld if he starts the 2018 season at Low A and getting promoted once he achieves success. Don’t expect him to be anything more than a mid-rotation starter.

78. Stephen Gonsalves LHP (Twins) 2.4 - Gonsalves is a lefty like Morejon but at 6′5″ he has a much larger frame. Despite his height he does not throw as hard as Morejon, but he can hit the mid-90s. Command and a quality change are the secrets to his success. He limits the walks, hits the corners and finished with a quality 2.68 ERA in AA. AAA was a bit of a struggle with righthanders assaulting him at a .350 clip in four starts. Another year in AAA would be good with a mid season promotion on the horizon. The fourth round pick of the 2013 draft had a career 2.13 ERA and limited the opposition to a .195 average entering the 2017 season. He knows how to miss bats and limit quality contact despite his lack of premium velocity.

77. Jon Duplantier RHP (Diamondbacks) 2.48 - Jon was a third round pick in 2016 but not because of a lack of talent but a concern for health. He missed the entire 2015 season for Rice because of shoulder injuries. After he was drafted he was limited to just one inning because of elbow issues. The 2017 season saw a break out season with his mid-90s fastball and quality curveball sifting through minor league bats for an ERA of 1.39 between Low A and High A. The last pitcher with an ERA that low in the minor leagues was a pitcher by the name of Justin Verlander. He struck out 12.36 hitters per nine innings in 12 starts at High A. At 6′3″ and 225 pounds if he can stay healthy he will be an innings eater. The 2018 season should see him start at AA and if he remains as dominant as last season expect a mid-season promotion.

76. Mickey Moniak OF (Phillies) 2.56 - The Phillies made him the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. He is one of those outfielder’s who may not have the range to fit in center or the power to earn a corner spot. The speed is good but it is not burner speed and will not accumulate stolen bases. What one has to hope for is his baseball instincts will inflate his stats and he will become a better player than his skills. His numbers were not eye popping in Low A (.236) with only a .180 average against lefthanders. He has the makings of being a fourth outfielder. The Phillies hope a stint in High A will lead to improvement with greater strength and more experience.

75. Tyler O’Neil OF (Cardinals) 2.58 - Tyler is a strong kid drafted by the Mariners in the third round of the 2013 draft. The Mariners traded him to the Cardinals where he hopes to crack one of the outfield spots. There is good power in his bat where he slugged 31 homeruns last year. He has the potential to hit 30 plus homeruns consistently in the major leagues. His difficulty in making contact (151 whiffs) will keep his average at around .250 or below. A solid arm will make him a fit in right but with his bulky frame he may be a better fit in left. A good spring could see him traveling north with the Cardinals but myworld expects him to start the season in AAA.

74. Matt Manning RHP (Tigers) 2.64 - A second Tiger who could eventually fit in their starting rotation making the Top 100. Matt was a first round pick of the Tigers in 2016. At 6′6 with a fastball that can come across the plate in the high 90s can prove intimidating to hitters. His secondary pitches could use some improvement but he has the potential for a plus curve and solid change. In his debut season in 2016 at Rookie level play he struck out 14.6 hitters per nine innings. Manning continued to rack up the K’s in the New York Penn League (9.72) and Low A (13.25). A little trouble with his command in Low A saw his ERA climb (5.60) but hitters still had difficulty making hard contact (.209). Manning should start the 2018 season in Low A with a quick promotion to High A once he achieves some success.

73. Jorge Alfaro C (Phillies) 2.78 - Jorge was a top prospect for the Rangers for a number of years. The Colombian was traded to the Phillies for Cole Hamels in 2015. Injuries have dogged him and stalled his ability to make quick advances up the ladder. The 2016 season saw him get a September callup. The 2017 season saw him take a more extended role with the Phillies, hitting .318 with 5 homeruns and a .514 slugging. He has a power bat and his defense is good enough to stay behind the plate. His big issue is whether his lack of patience (16/113 walk to whiff) will result in prolonged slumps in the major leagues. Expect him to win the starting catching role over Cameron Rupp for the 2018 season.

72. Michael Chavis 3B (Red Sox) 2.8 - Chavis was the Red Sox first pick in the 2014 draft. He plays the same position as Rafael Devers with a weaker bat. His defense is not strong enough to justify putting him at third over a superior bat. His bat does carry some pop as his 31 homeruns last year showed. He also cut down on his strikeouts which helped him hit for a higher average. The Red Sox could move Devers to first or try Chavis in left field. Both moves would help the offense but sacrifice some defense. Chavis will spend one more year at AAA as the Red Sox try to figure out what they will do with him. The best solution may be to use him as trade bait to acquire a veteran pitcher for a playoff run.

71. Blake Rutherford OF (White Sox) 2.82 - The Yankees selected Rutherford in the first round of the 2016 draft. With a surplus of outfielders they traded him to the White Sox for Todd Frazier, who became a free agent after the 2017 season. After more exposure to him there was concern his defense was a better fit for left field because of a weak arm. The lack of power in his bat made that a cause for concern. Those concerns may have been confirmed after a wasted year least year where he only hit two homeruns and slugged .349 in Low A. The positive spin is he hit lefthanders better than righthanders so the struggle may be an aberration. The question is whether the White Sox repeat him at Low A or give him a promotion to High A and hope he produces.

Rangers Saddle Up to Restock Farm System

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

The Rangers have traded a number of prospects over the years to get veteran players for their playoff runs. Also, prospects have failed to pan out such as number one prospect Jurickson Profar, who was stalled by injuries but still has not met the potential for a player considered the top prospect in baseball a couple years ago. The upper brackets of their minor league system seems a bit bare. In the past the Rangers have been noted for their international signings, but that has been relatively quiet. Below is their rather small list of prospect hovering at the upper echelons of their system.

Willie Calhoun may be their top prospect from an offensive standpoint. They acquired him from the Dodgers where he played second base. His defense at second was poor so he has now settled in left field. DH may still be the best position for him. His short, squat frame does not run well making it difficult for him to cover a lot of ground. His arm is also a bit weak. What his 5′8″ frame can do is slug balls over the fence. Put him in the lineup and expect 30 plus homeruns. After a slow start he still finished the minor leagues with 31 homeruns. Last year he hit 27. Expect him to play LF/DH for the Rangers in 2018 with Rookie of the Year candidacy in sight.

A little further down in the system is the more talented Leody Taveras. The Dominican has the glove and speed to play an excellent centerfield with an arm to fit in right. His speed should allow him to steal 20 plus bases per year as he did last year but he still needs to work on improving his jumps. The bat lacks the wallop of Calhoun but at 6′2″ inches his frame could pack on a few more pounds of muscle. Leody will start the season in High A and in September of this year will turn 20. The Rangers can still wait for his development.

Bubba Thompson was the Rangers 2017 first round pick. An athletically gifted player who played quarterback for his high school, Bubba has the potential for five tools. He has centerfield speed and a rightfielder’s arm. Improving his bat on ball contact would up the average (.257) but this was his first year of minor league baseball. He should start the 2018 season in Low A. How he adjusts to pitchers as he rises up the minor leagues will dictate the quality of his hit tool.

The Rangers made Carlos Tocci a Rule V selection. Formerly a top prospect of the Phillies, he is still young at 23. His glove is good enough for centerfield but his bat has always been a bit soft. His career slugging average coming into the 2017 season was .327. Last year he sprayed a few balls into the gap to slug .398, but still only hit two homeruns. What made him attractive to the Rangers was his career high .362 OBA and .307 average for the year. The Rangers must keep him on the roster all year or offer him back on waivers to other teams.

Ronald Guzman is a 6′6″ plodding first baseman who is too slow to fit in the outfield. In 2016 he seemed to break out of a power outage with 15 homeruns. Last year his power took a small step backwards with just 12 homeruns and a drop in slugging percentage (.434). If Guzman hopes to play first base his power needs to start developing. His defense at first is too sketchy to support any lack of pop he provides at the position.

Andy Ibanez was a heralded Cuban middle infielder given a $1.6 million bonus. The Cubans played him at second base because of his lack of range for short. The problem with Ibanez is his lack of one overpowering tool. He lacks the range to be a quality defender at second, is absent the power to be a slugging third baseman and is too slow afoot to steal a lot of bases. So while he does a number of things well, they could fall short of major league quality. His best bet may be to make the roster as a utility infielder, though they would still need another player to back up short.

On the pitching front Yohander Mendez may be their most talented arm. The lefthander from Venezuela is not overpowering, sitting in the low 90s with his fastball. His best pitch is a change that elevates the velocity on his fastball. He doesn’t get a lot of swings and misses because he lacks a quality secondary breaking pitch. That could keep him in the bullpen where he pitched seven games in a September callup for the Rangers (5.11). With a good spring he could crack the back end of the rotation or become the lefthanded arm coming out of the bullpen.

Cole Ragans was their first round pick in 2016. His fastball also sits in the low 90s but he gets a lot more swings and misses with the pitch, striking out 87 batters in just 57 innings. His secondary pitches still need to be refined along with his improvement in command (37 walks) but he is set to debut in the full season leagues in 2018. The lefthander will hope to end the season in High A.

Hans Crouse was a second round pick in the 2017 draft. He was unhittable in his debut, limiting the opposition to a .109 average with a 0.40 ERA. His fastball hits the radar in the high 90s but sits in the mid-90s, the best velocity for Rangers pitchers in the minor leagues. He pitched for the United States Under 18 national team. Expect Hans to start the 2018 season in Low A.

A pitcher who could see some action in the majors this year is Connor Sadzeck. His lack of control and absence of secondary pitches makes the bullpen the best choice for him. At 6′7″ the ball rains down on the hitters, making it difficult for them to make contact (10.67 whiffs per nine innings). The bullpen also limits his requirement to face a lineup a second time in the order. A thin bullpen gives Connor a chance to go to Texas with the club if he has a good spring.