As a fairly recent college graduate, 2013 is my first baseball season working a full-time job. Let me reaffirm what most of you already know: it sucks.
It’s harder to watch baseball now. It’s harder to read about baseball now. And above all else, it’s hard to attend baseball games now. For someone who loves going out and seeing minor leaguers, that’s a tough pill to swallow.
But on Friday, July 5, I took advantage of the rare long weekend granted to me and traveled to Portland to see the Sea Dogs take on the Rock Cats in a matchup that showcased four of the Top 100 Fantasy prospects in baseball.
The trip didn’t work out quite as perfectly as I had hoped: Miguel Sano, the game’s biggest draw, didn’t start, which led to an impressive profanity-laced tirade by me that I’m fairly sure had my girlfriend questioning my sanity. Garin Cecchini, who has questions about his future defensive home, didn’t play the field, which also frustrated me. And the Twins started non-prospect Pat Dean, when I had been praying to the gods that Alex Meyer would miraculously come off the DL and earn the start.
But still, I saw four new Top 100 prospects with my own eyes. And that’s pretty cool.
Here’s how their respective Fantasy values have changed in my eyes.
Garin Cecchini (3B, BOS)
Since I only saw Sano take one at-bat, Cecchini is the player I was most impressed with from my trip to Portland. He’s bigger and more athletic than I thought, with a thicker lower half and broad shoulders, and it’s easy to see why some scouts put a 55 or 60 on the future power tool. At the plate, Cecchini has a quiet setup and a beautiful swing, accelerating quickly through the zone and demonstrating natural bat-to-ball ability. He stings baseballs on a line right now, and I didn’t see much more than gap power at present.Unfortunately I didn’t get to see Cecchini play third base – he DH’d for Portland on Friday – so I can’t judge whether he’s likely to stay at the position long term. He didn’t strike me as a fast-twitch athlete, though, and it’s safe to say that the absurd stolen base totals he posted in the low minors won’t translate to the majors. If his base running instincts are truly superb, I think he’ll top out at 15 swipes or so a season in his youth.
Cecchini went 2-for-4 with a double, and one of the outs he made was on hard contact. I left the game very impressed with him, and I think I had him underrated a bit heading into the season. From a Fantasy perspective, Cecchini won’t be a star but he’s going to threaten for a .300 average in the majors in his prime, and there’s the potential for him to turn into a 15-homer, 15-steal threat as well. The profile is sexier at third base, of course, but if he does move to the outfield, it doesn’t make him much worse than Nick Castellanos. He’s a surefire Top 50 guy for me now.
He also wears high socks and is handsome.
Miguel Sano (3B, MIN)
As I lamented above, Sano wasn’t in the starting lineup on Friday, which made me as sadface as sadface can be. But I was at least able to catch a glimpse of him as a pinch-hitter, and it’s not hard to see what all the fuss about.
Miguel Sano is an enormous human being. Even though he’s just 20 years old, he was among the most physically mature players on the field and I was not prepared for how strong he’d look in person. Like Cecchini, I obviously didn’t get to see Sano play defensively at third base, which is a bummer, but it’s easy to understand why many think he’ll outgrow the position.
Sano’s one at-bat came against Ranaudo, and it was a battle. Sano worked the count to 2-0, then took what appeared to be a pretty good pitch to hit for a strike, which was puzzling. The count ended up at 3-2 and Ranaudo then got Sano to swing and miss on an elevated fastball that was probably a bit high and out of the zone. The entire ballpark tensed up when Sano came to bat, as he hit a go-ahead pinch-hit homer the night before.
As you can tell, I didn’t get a great look at Sano so I won’t change my ranking on him one way or another. But his size and physical maturity did impress me, and when I add that to the footage of his swing path that I’ve seen, predicting some 40-homer campaigns in the future almost seems conservative. He’s going to be a Fantasy beast even if he ends up in the outfield or at first base.
Eddie Rosario (2B, MIN)
I’ve long considered Rosario one of the most interesting prospects in the minors because of his unique combination of tools, and he’s one of the players I was most excited to see last weekend. After watching him bat in the two-hole for New Britain and man second base for 9 innings, I can safely report that I’m just as confused by him as I was before.
Let’s start with the positive: Rosario has bat speed. He stings the ball really well for someone of his stature, and he had no problems with Portland’s pitching staff on Friday night, going 3-for-5 with a double and showcasing above average speed on the bases. I am not a fan of the way he sets up at the plate, with an awkward crouch that looks like it would upset his timing on breaking pitches, but it’s hard to argue with the results. It’s worth nothing that all three of Rosario’s hits came on fastballs.
While Rosario played second for the Rock Cats, he was never truly tested at the position in the game I saw. He fielded one routine grounder and looked fine serving as the cutoff man and covering the base, but I didn’t really get to evaluate his glove, hands or arm. Overall, I’ve heard that his defense at second base has been subpar this season and that he may need to move back to the outfield. With Aaron Hicks manning center in Minnesota, it’s likely that Rosario would need to move to left field.
That would put a pretty big dent in Rosario’s value, as I see him as more of an everyday player than an absolute star. I do love the pop coming from someone of his size, and he’s going to surprise people by routinely hitting 12-15 homers a year at the major league level. If he can learn to better translate his speed to base running acumen he’s a threat to swipe 15 bags per season as well. From a Fantasy point of view, that’s a nice player at second but a bench option as an outfielder, so a good amount of Rosario’s value is indeed tied up in his future position. He’s a Top 100 guy for me, but near the back end of such a list.
Anthony Ranaudo (SP, BOS)
Before heading to Portland, I was faced with a dilemma: try and see Ranaudo on Friday or Matt Barnes on Saturday? Before the season began, this wouldn’t even have been a question. That I actually opted for Ranaudo over Barnes speaks volumes as to how far the former LSU product has come this season.
Ranaudo’s stat line from Friday night is very reflective of the pitcher I saw: good, but not dominant. He went seven innings and allowed two earned runs, striking out three, walking three and allowing four hits. Ranaudo was wild to start the game as he couldn’t control a fastball that sat 91-92, but he regained composure from the second inning on and impressed me with this ability to repeat his delivery and use consistent arm speed to deliver different pitches.
Unfortunately, none of those pitches really stood out to me. The curveball was probably his best weapon, and he proved able to both bury it in the dirt and throw it for strikes when needed. It’s a grade 60-65 pitch. The fastball peaked at 94 and while it had some giddy-up it appeared mostly straight, although I didn’t have a tremendous view of home plate. I’d give it a grade 55. And the changeup was used sparingly, more to keep hitters off guard than to truly generate outs. I’ll give it a grade 45-50.
Overall, I definitely saw a major league starter in Ranaudo, but one who perhaps is more likely to settle into the No. 3 or 4 spot in a good rotation as opposed to a No. 2 slot. That’s terrific given that many had written him off before the season, but is a bit disappointing from a Fantasy point of view. Like Rosario, he’s a Top 100 guy, but probably near the end of that list.