Breakout Prospects: Berrios, Nimmo, Williams and Renfroe

Time for another look at some fresh names that are thriving in the minor leagues. This week we will examine several players who made it onto the Midseason Top 50 lists published by Baseball Prospectus and/or Baseball America this week despite not being considered consensus Top 100 prospects prior to the season. There were several other players who met the same criteria but I have already written about them in prior columns (links below).

Jose Berrios — Starting Pitcher, Minnesota Twins

The 2012 1st round pick from Puerto Rico put up a solid season in Low A ball last year with a 3.99 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 103 innings along with 40 walks, although in the second half he lost a lot of steam that degraded his stuff and depressed his overall season stats compared to his stellar first half rates. But it was good enough to get him ranked this Spring at #75 on the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Prospects, #93 by FanGraphs, #90 by MLB.com and #102 by The Dynasty Guru, but he wasn’t ranked by Baseball America or ESPN. He kicked his game up a notch here this year in the High A Florida State League where he put up a 1.96 ERA with a fantastic 109:23 K:BB ratio in 96 innings. He was promoted to Double A last week and managed to give up 5 runs in 5 innings in his first start, although he only gave up 3 hits. That bump from High A to AA is considered the biggest jump in baseball, so we could find out really quickly just how good the 22 year old Berrios really is. He gets a lot of velocity from his smallish frame. His fastball averages about 94 mph. He also sports a plus slider, a good curveball and a solid changeup.  About a month ago I traded Berrios to ESPN’s Chris Crawford for Michael Lorenzen in the #TDGX experts’ league, so of course Berrios has been on an epic hot streak ever since. Yikes. My trade doesn’t look quite as good as it did at the time, although Lorenzen also made the BP top 50 list just a few slots behind Berrios so I am still happy with the deal. Verdict: Top 40 Prospect. Potential #3 starter.

Brandon Nimmo — Outfielder, New York Mets

Nimmo was taken as the 13th overall pick in the 1st round back in 2011 but he is still only 21 years old. His prospect stock was once quite high then fell way down and is now heading skyward once again. Nimmo grabbed a lot of attention the first two months of the season as he put up a High A slash line of .322/.448/.458 for a .906 OPS, but he only had 4 home runs in 275 plate appearances. That is not good enough to endear him to fantasy owners despite the gaudy batting average and the 9 stolen bases. Nimmo is a patient hitter with good pitch recognition and it shows in his excellent 50:51 BB:K ratio. Since being promoted to Double A last month he has struggled somewhat, posting a .189/.333/.351 slash for a .684 OPS. That move to AA is a big jump so in fairness we must give the player some time to adjust to the elevated level of competition. Nimmo went unranked on all the preseason lists except for Keith Law’s, where he was ranked #92. Due to his good 1st half of this year Nimmo made it on to the back end of both the BP and BA Top 50 Midseason lists, but he is a better real life prospect than fantasy prospect. Much of his prospect value comes from his defensive chops in centerfield, and we don’t really care about that in the fantasy world. Nimmo doesn’t hit for much power at all and he likely never will. He is a contact hitter who will put up good batting averages and On-Base Percentages, but he won’t hit home runs and he is not a very good base stealer either. If you have Nimmo on your roster I would advise advertising his newfound prospect shine while you shop him around for a better fantasy prospect. Verdict: Top 50 real life prospect, but not a Top 100 fantasy prospect.

Nick Williams — Outfielder, Texas Rangers

Still only 20 years old, Williams was a late 2nd round pick in 2012. He is a tall lefty swinger who projects to hit for power and average, although strikeouts could be his downfall. He put up a .293/.337/.543 slash line with 17 homers in 276 ABs last year in Low A ball, which is quite nice. But he struck out 110 times and only walked 15 times. You can get away with that kind of poor plate discipline and pitch recognition in the low minors, but in the upper minors craftier pitchers with better command will eat you alive unless you improve those skills. The problem is that those two skills are very difficult to master and have derailed many promising careers. This year in High A ball Williams has continued right where he left off last year, putting up a .320/.373/.535 slash for a .908 OPS but with a poor 81:15 K:BB ratio that needs to improve. Williams has been especially hot of late. Williams has great bat speed and bat control that offer the tantalizing potential of an elite major league hitter — but only if he makes great strides in reducing the whiffs. Prior to the season Williams went unranked by ESPN, FanGraphs and MLB.com but he did scratch his way onto the tail end of the BP, BA and TDG lists. BP ranked him at #46 on their new midseason list last week but he did not make the BA list. I am bullish on Williams as a fantasy prospect and would put him comfortably inside the top 40. I believe in his swing and his talent. If the pitch recognition develops we could be looking at a future top 10 prospect and All Star caliber major league hitter. Verdict: Top 40 fantasy prospect. Good chance of becoming a very good hitter in a very friendly ballpark = fantasy stud. Buy him.

Hunter Renfroe — Outfielder, San Diego Padres

Despite being drafted just last year (13th pick of the 1st round), Renfroe is not a young prospect. He is already 22.5 years old. He had a decent debut season in Rookie and Low A ball last year, putting up a combined .767 OPS with only 6 homers and a lot of strikeouts. But this year he has picked up his game with a .906 OPS and 19 long balls in 325 at-bats, mostly in the offense friendly High A California League and most recently in Double A. He is built solidly at 6’1″ and 210 pounds. He projects for plus power that should be the primary skill in his bat. He can crush fastballs of any velocity but has not shown much ability to hit breaking balls yet. He is likely to struggle to hit for AVG throughout his career. He is going to be a high-strikeout masher, and that will be a problem considering he is going to play half his games in Petco Canyon where home runs go to die as harmless fly ball outs. Prior to this season Renfroe was ranked #74 by our Bret Sayre, #80 by Baseball America and #94 by ESPN’s Keith Law but was unranked by Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and MLB.com. Verdict: Renfroe is a solid Top 50 prospect, but unless he gets traded to another team I don’t recommend that our readers pay too much to acquire him. 

If you missed these previous breakout prospect articles be sure to check them out:
Breakout Prospects: Binford, Thompson, Ramsey, Taylor, Severino and Vargas
Breakout Prospects: Winker, Norris, Bell, Hader, Coulter and Lorenzen
Breakout Prospects: Betts, Gallo, Harvey, Lively, McMahon and More

If you have any questions about these prospects or any other players ask them in the comments below. I will reply promptly and some of the other TDG writers may join the discussion as well.

Nick Doran writes all kinds of cool stuff about the game’s ultimate flamethrowers at Blazing Fastball and will answer your baseball questions on Twitter @BlazingFastba11.

5 comments on “Breakout Prospects: Berrios, Nimmo, Williams and Renfroe

  1. Nate says:

    I don’t know what more needs to be said about Williams. He’s a top 5 prospect for TEX on virtually every list out there, and then he responds with this. Based on his numbers alone I would have to guess he has tremendous bat speed, a skill that can’t be taught.

    PS- Watch out for AZ prospect Andrew Velazquez. Elizalde and Mejias-Brean are two of my favorite obscure prospects, but Velazquez is the one that’s special.

    • Nick Doran says:

      Williams does have elite bat speed. He has great tools and a knack for barreling up the baseball, just needs to develop pitch recognition and plate discipline.

      Thanks for the good suggestions for players to watch.

      Velazquez is having somewhat of a breakout year, especially in the stolen base department. He has 40 already this year. He is quite short and likely won’t ever hit for much power though and has a long way to go to reach the majors.

      I am familiar with Elizalde and Mejias-Brean because of my Reds fandom. Both are definitely guys to keep an eye on. I especially like Mejias-Brean’s bat. Good power, contact, eye and discipline. Future major leaguer for sure. Sebastian Elizalde also has a nice bat, but has a longer road to the majors. I like both of these guys.

      • Nate says:

        My best guess is all 3 of the fringe guys we mentioned will start ’15 in AA, perhaps AAA for SMB. Velazquez has attacked the gaps extremely well, putting up an amazing triples number; upwards to around 12-13 and will also likely get double digits in HR as well. He’s definitely no slap-hitter, as he’s doing this in crazy-pitcher friendly Midwest League. Insane walk total as well. He and Elizalde, SMB all tremendous on base skills, and that’s a one way ticket to the bigs, but without power Logan Forsythe is the projection you’re looking at, and that needs to show up for Seth. its been absent since his promotion. Velazquez has Rafael Furcal written all over him I think. Elizalde a crazy situation, showing off his toolsy skill-set.

        Oh yeah! This is supposed to be about Nick Williams! Lol but yeah, high hopes for him. 2-4 with a SB last night. He just keeps hitting.

  2. Nate D says:

    Berrios is barely 20, not 22. If he continues to K everyone in AA we could see a Stroman or Ventura like hype train start up next spring. Lorenzen is a nice prospect but where is he going to pitch? The Reds rotation is stacked. I’m holding onto Berrios in dynasty, even if he struggles in AA initially he’s got plenty of time to make adjustments.

    • Nick Doran says:

      The Berrios hype train is fully engaged. I like him a lot as a prospect but his 6 week long hot streak may have him a bit over-hyped right now. I tend to be a bit cautious with Twins pitching prospects as well. The Twins have some oddball pitching philosophies (pitching to contact etc) that scare me away. Again, Berrios is a really good prospect but I am not going all-in on him right now.

      The Reds have Cueto, Latos and Leake who will all be free agents after next year. Alfredo Simon is not really a long term option. I think there will be room for both Stephenson and Lorenzen in the Cincy rotation come 2016. I can see why you would prefer Berrios over Lorenzen, but to me it is a close call.

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