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Monthly Prospect Update: Infielders, April 2018

Each month, The Dynasty Guru will provide a prospect update that includes notable performances (good and bad), assignments, promotions, trades, injuries, and suspensions. Most importantly, the monthly update will examine prospects with increasing and decreasing fantasy value, from the elite to the obscure.

April saw the beginning of the 2018 minor league season in full-season leagues. Since the beginning of April, several notable prospects exceeded rookie limits and others arrived in the majors. As the season is less than one month old, please note this bright, flashing warning: SMALL SAMPLE SIZE!

Notable Catcher Prospect Performances

Since the publication of the 2018 Top 40 Fantasy Catcher Prospects, Spring Training and the first month of the season are in the books.

The Major League Catcher Prospect

The Graduate: Jorge Alfaro, Philadelphia Phillies. With 57 at-bats this year, Alfaro now has 180 at-bats, exceeding MLB rookie limits. Thus far, he has struggled with contact, striking out 27 times (43.5%). When Alfaro does make contact, it is often loud. He is 12th in average exit velocity (94.9 mph) and boasts an impressive 46.7% hard hit percentage. Continued patience is necessary as he possesses the raw tools for an impact bat.

Chance Sisco, Baltimore Orioles. This year, Sisco is splitting time with Caleb Joseph and, as expected, he is sitting against all left-handed pitchers. Sisco is striking out at an unsightly pace (40%) with great success on ball in play (.458 BABIP) despite some weak contact. Nevertheless, his current line (.255/.364/.383) is not far from his expected performance. Most importantly, Sisco is holding his own behind the plate with 7 caught stealing on 14 attempts.

Others of Note:

  • Victor Caratini, Chicago Cubs
  • Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins
  • Tomas Nido, New York Mets

The Good

Andrew Knizner, St. Louis Cardinals. Through April, Knizner is the top hitter in Double-A Texas League, hitting .417/.485/.600. Further, he continues to limit strikeouts (7.4%) and use the whole field. Grade Change: hit tool increases from 50 to 55. As such, Knizner jumps fellow Cardinals catcher Carson Kelly in the rankings and into the top 125 overall.

Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics. Last year, Murphy found little success upon his promotion to Double-A. In his return to the level, he discovered his footing. Murphy is hitting for tons of power, leading the league in doubles (12) in addition to 3 home runs. With above-average raw power, he could realize average game power. Grade Change: power tool increases from 45 to 50, moving Murphy into the top 200 overall.

Austin Allen, San Diego Padres. Overshadowed by teammate Josh Naylor, Allen is quietly matching Naylor’s performance. Building upon his second-half domination from last year (.309/.362/.574 with 17 home runs), he already has 8 home runs while slashing .365/.419/.776. The power is legitimate and, unlike many power-focused prospects, he manages his swing-and-miss (15.1%). Grade Change: power tool increases from 50 to 55, moving Allen into the top 200 overall.

Connor Wong, Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers catcher making the most early season noise is not who you may think. The best hitter in High-A California League, Wong paces the league in home runs (8), slugging percentage (.750), and line drive percentage (31.7%). Meanwhile, he already has 4 stolen bases, after tallying 26 his last year in college. The power outburst, however, has come with plenty of strikeouts (35.1%). Grade Change: power tool increases from 45 to 50.

Others of Note:

  • Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays
  • Daulton Varsho, Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Tyler Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds
  • Tom Murphy, Colorado Rockies
  • M.J. Melendez, Kansas City Royals
  • Garrett Stubbs, Houston Astros
  • Miguel Amaya, Chicago Cubs
  • Seby Zavala, Chicago White Sox

The Bad

Francisco Mejia, Cleveland Indians. Mejia is struggling in his first taste of Triple-A (.195/.239/.299) while splitting time between catcher (10 games) and left field (7 games). The defensive uncertainty may be starting to take its toll, but his poor performance likely is due to bad luck and the small sample size.

Jake Rogers, Detroit Tigers. Thus far, Rogers is playing the part of a defensive-minded catcher. He has yet to record an extra-base hit and already has 21 strikeouts (32.3%).

Chase Vallot, Kansas City Royals. The once-promising slugger is 4 for 59 with 35 strikeouts (50%!).

Others of Note:

  • Raudy Read, Washington Nationals (80-game suspension)
  • Jose Trevino, Texas Rangers
  • Riley Adams, Toronto Blue Jays
  • K.J. Harrison, Milwaukee Brewers

Additional Prospect Notes

  • Taylor Ward, Los Angeles Angels moved from catcher to third base this year. Despite hitting the cover off the ball (.400/.506/.543), he is struggling in the field with 4 errors and poor range.
  • Daulton Varsho is displaying power (3 home runs), speed (5 stolen bases), and patience (11 walks). Most importantly, he is impressing behind the plate with 11 caught stealing, no passed balls, and quick actions.

Notable First Base Prospect Performances

Since the publication of the 2018 Top 34 Fantasy First Base Prospects, Spring Training and the first month of the season are in the books.

The Major League First Base Prospect

Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies. After a strong spring, McMahon made the Rockies’ Opening Day roster. A part-time player, he has not taken advantage of his limited playing time, hitting just .180/.317/.200 in 50 at-bats with 22 strikeouts (36.7%).

Ronald Guzman, Texas Rangers. The Rangers called up Guzman as soon as enough service time elapsed to prevent him from accumulating a full-year. He should see plenty of playing time against right-handed pitchers, especially with Adrian Beltre hitting the disabled list.

Others of Note:

  • Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Garrett Cooper, Miami Marlins

The Good

Peter Alonso, New York Mets. Since the All-Star break last year, Alonso has been unstoppable. Between High-A and Double-A last year, he hit .324/.390/.596 with 16 home runs. Back in Double-A this year, Alonso continues to destroy baseballs, slashing an incredible .403/.500/.778 with 7 home runs. As of this writing, he has hit a home run in four straight games. In addition, Alonso continues to limit strikeouts (17%) and draw walks (15.9%). Grade Change: hit tool increases from 45 to 50, moving Alonso into the top 100 overall.

Josh Naylor, San Diego Padres. Naylor, Austin Allen, and Fernando Tatis Jr. form a powerful trio for Double-A San Antonio. Always possesses plus raw power, Naylor is starting to tap into it more in games this year. Reportedly, the Padres worked with him to generate more out of his lower half. So far, the results are very good (.374/.448/.681 with 7 home runs). Further, Naylor has more walks (13) than strikeouts (11). Grade Change: hit tool increases from 45 to 50 and risk decreases from 40 to 45, moving Naylor into the top 100 overall.

Darick Hall, Philadelphia Phillies. Criminally underrated everywhere, Hall simply continues to hit lots of home runs. Last year, he paced the South Atlantic League with 29 home runs, earning MVP honors. This year, Hall is already up to eight in High-A (.265/.358/.590).

Others of Note:

  • Chad Spanberger, Colorado Rockies
  • Cavan Biggio, Toronto Blue Jays
  • Nathaniel Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays
  • Juan Yepez, St. Louis Cardinals

The Bad

Bobby Bradley, Cleveland Indians. After performing well in Double-A last year (.251/.331/.465 with 23 home runs), Bradley returned to the Eastern League. This year has not gone nearly as well. Thus far, Bradley is hitting a paltry .133/.224/.253, including a 0-for-23 spell in mid-April.

Pavin Smith, Arizona Diamondbacks. Many considered Smith a quick mover as an elite college bat. After a promising debut last year, he is struggling in High-A this year, slashing .160/.276/.307. On the bright side, Smith is hitting for more power (3 home runs, .147 ISO) and has extremely bad luck on balls in play (.158).

Daniel Vogelbach, Seattle Mariners. A second straight early-season major league opportunity wasted by Vogelbach (.204/.317/.352). If he cannot manage to hit major league pitching with authority, he has no place on a major league roster as he is a terrible defender.

Casey Gillaspie, Chicago White Sox. Closing in on two years removed from his breakout 2016 season, Gillaspie continues to circle the drain. This year, he only has 3 extra-base hits (all doubles) and 33 strikeouts (37.1%), leading to a lowly .213/.270/.250 batting line in Triple-A.

Others of Note:

  • Rowdy Tellez, Toronto Blue Jays
  • Josh Ockimey, Boston Red Sox

Additional Prospect Notes

  • Brendan McKay, Tampa Bay Rays is the other notable two-way player. To start the year, the Rays conservatively assigned him to Low-A. So far, he is not hitting for much power, but piling up the walks (15 or 28.3%). Meanwhile, on the mound, he has a 15-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 9 innings.
  • In other Rays news, Jake Bauers has played every single game at first base this year.
  • Edwin Rios, Los Angeles Dodgers remains in extended Spring Training with an undisclosed injury.
  • The Reds recently acquired Ibandel Isabel in a trade with the Dodgers for Ariel Hernandez. Isabel has huge 80-grade raw power, mashing 28 home runs in High-A last year, and is off to a strong start. Unfortunately, he also struggles with contact, with strikeout rates over 30% throughout his career.

Notable Second Base Prospect Performances

Since the publication of the 2018 Top 32 Fantasy Second Base Prospects, Spring Training and the first month of the season are in the books.

The Major League Second Base Prospect

Scott Kingery, Philadelphia Phillies. After an electric Spring Training performance, Kingery surprisingly received a six-year extension and made the Opening Day roster. A super utility man, he has received playing time (and now fantasy eligibility) at every position except catcher and first base. Even though he is not quite living up to the massive early season expectations, he is performing admirably in his first taste of major league baseball.

Others of Note:

  • Alex Blandino, Cincinnati Reds

The Good

Garrett Hampson, Colorado Rockies. No longer in the hitter-friendly confines of High-A Lancaster, Hampson, nonetheless, continues to hit and, most importantly, run. Joining Brendan Rodgers in Double-A, he surprisingly has more extra-base hits than his powerful teammate. Additionally, he is displaying excellent plate discipline (7-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio) and is a perfect 12-for-12 in stolen base attempts.

Shed Long, Cincinnati Reds. Last year, a slow start (4-for-45) and a wrist injury derailed Long’s Double-A debut. This year, he is having little trouble with Double-A pitching, hitting .365/.434/.486 with 29.8% line drives.

Max Schrock, St. Louis Cardinals. Entering the season, Schrock was a .324 career hitter. Now, following a month in Triple-A, he raised his career line to .325, after hitting .337/.385/.427. All Schrock does is hit, while limiting swing-and-miss (4.8% swinging strikes) and sprinkling in some pop and speed (4 stolen bases). Grade Change: hit tool increases from 55 to 60, moving Schrock into the back of the top 200.

Breyvic Valera, Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers quietly acquired Valera from the Cardinals on April 1st. This year, he is building off his breakout 2017 season (.314/.368/.450), hitting .373/.459/.549 in Triple-A. Like Schrock, Valera is an extremely high contact hitter, rarely swinging and missing (1.9%). With uncertainty and injuries riddling the Dodgers’ infield, it will not be long until Valera receives an opportunity.

Others of Note:

The Bad

Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers. Although Hiura is showing signs of life lately (8-for-19 in last 5 games), he is underwhelming this year (.238/.301/.333). In addition to struggling at the plate, he has yet to play a single game in the field. Clearly, the Brewers are not confident in his arm health.

Luis Garcia, Washington Nationals. The Nationals aggressively assigned 17-year-old Garcia to Low-A, making him the youngest player in the South Atlantic League. So far, the assignment has overwhelmed the youngster. Garcia is hitting just .198/.255/.220 with 1 extra-base hit and 7 errors in 22 games.

Others of Note:

  • Daniel Brito, Philadelphia Phillies
  • Luis Arraez, Minnesota Twins

Additional Prospect Notes

  • Jahmai Jones, Los Angeles Angels is transitioning to second base from center field and already has five errors in thirteen games.
  • Tool grades for Esteury Ruiz, San Diego Padres changed from 50 to 45 hit and from 50 to 55 power. These changes do not impact his ranking too much, though they do move him into the upside-based top 100. So far, Ruiz is holding his own in Low-A (.269/.329/.436 with 3 home runs and 5 stolen bases).

Notable Third Base Prospect Performances

Since the publication of the 2018 Top 36 Fantasy Third Base Prospects, Spring Training and the first month of the season are in the books.

The Major League Third Base Prospect

The Graduate: Brian Anderson, Miami Marlins. Since Anderson’s strong start through April 10th (.317/.462/.488), he has fallen back to earth, going 11-for-57, including a 2-for-24 mid-April slump. Notably, he is among the league leaders in soft contact (25.7%). Given his patience (12 BB%), Anderson is providing some value in on-base percentage leagues, but otherwise, he is an empty performer.

The Graduate: Colin Moran, Pittsburgh Pirates. The other graduate, Moran is faring better. The Pirates are handling him with kid gloves, sitting him against left-handed pitching and primarily batting him 7th. As a result, Moran is performing well, slashing .288/.363/.425 with 28.1% line drives. As a fantasy option, however, he is better left for deep leagues.

Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees. Early season injuries to Aaron Hicks and Billy McKinney expedited Andujar’s promotion. Since arriving on April 1st, he received nearly everyday playing time and ran with it, hitting .300/.313/.588 with 16 extra-base hits. Despite his success, Andujar is overly aggressive, among the league leaders in swing percentage (52.9%). Regardless, he makes enough contact (and often hard) to offset his swing-happy approach. Grade Change: power tool increases from 50 to 55.

Others of Note:

  • Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Texas Rangers

The Good

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays. Despite being the youngest player in Double-A Eastern League, Guerrero likely is the best player. So far, he has a hit in all but three games this year, leading to a .373/.433/.560 line. The only blemish on his excellent start is the lack of home runs. As of this writing, Guerrero has not hit a home run in his last 14 games.

Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves. Since arriving in Double-A last year, Riley has not stopped hitting. This year, he is slashing .310/.363/.619 with 15 extra-base hits. In addition, Riley continues to show improvement in the field, with just one error. The prior concerns regarding his hit tool and fielding ability are fading into the past.

Colton Welker, Colorado Rockies. As noted prior to the season, “[i]t will be exciting to watch Welker in the whirling air of Lancaster this year,” and, in Lancaster, he is hitting .400/.491/.600. On the road, however, Welker is also performing well (.243/.378/.486).

Rylan Bannon, Los Angeles Dodgers. Entering the 2017 draft, Bannon’s defensive ability was his calling card. In fact, Baseball America stated: “Bannon doesn’t project to have anything more than fringe-average power in pro ball, but that may be enough thanks to his defensive chops. Bannon is a plus defender at third base, equally adept coming in on balls, ranging to his left or guarding the line.” Since turning pro, however, he flipped the script. Last year, he impressed in the Pioneer League (.336/.425/.591), but he was a polished college bat in a hitter-friendly Rookie ball league. This year, the Dodgers assigned Bannon to High-A and he is displaying far more than “fringe-average power” with 8 home runs, including 3 on April 18th. Meanwhile, he already has 10 errors in just 20 games.

Others of Note:

  • Travis Blankenhorn, Minnesota Twins
  • Cristian Santana, Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Taylor Ward, Los Angeles Angels
  • Elehuris Montero, St. Louis Cardinals

The Bad

Sheldon Neuse, Oakland Athletics. An impressive Spring Training performance had Neuse on the national radar. The Athletics then aggressively assigned him to Triple-A, placing him on the cusp of a potential promotion. Since then, Neuse is struggling as badly as almost any hitter in the Minors, slashing just .143/.235/.171 with only 2 extra-base hits and 26 strikeouts (32.1%).

Others of Note:

  • Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox (80-game suspension)
  • Jake Burger, Chicago White Sox (torn Achilles, out for season)
  • Christian Arroyo, Tampa Bay Rays
  • Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Jomar Reyes, Baltimore Orioles
  • Kelvin Gutierrez, Washington Nationals

Additional Prospect Notes

  • Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds has played the majority of his games at second base, where he has impressed.
  • James Nelson, Dermis Garcia, and Matt Beaty have yet to play in a game with minor injuries.
  • The Athletics designated Renato Nunez for assignment and the Rangers claimed him off waivers. Although he possesses big power, his questionable hit tool and poor defense likely will limit his opportunities.

Notable Shortstop Prospect Performances

Since the publication of the 2018 Top 58 Fantasy Shortstop Prospects Part 1 and Part 2, Spring Training and the first month of the season are in the books.

The Major League Shortstop Prospect

The Graduate: J.P. Crawford, Philadelphia Phillies. Prior to landing on the disabled list with a right forearm strain, Crawford provided very little offensive production. Other than two home runs, he hit a punchless .188/.246/.328 without even showcasing much patience (just 4 walks).

Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees. Overshadowed by the arrival of Ronald Acuña, Torres has had an excellent start to the season and is receiving regular playing time at second base for the Yankees. Between Triple-A and the majors, he is hitting .333/.379/.462 with a heavy dose of line drives (26.2%).

Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Toronto Blue Jays. The emergence of Gurriel led the Blue Jays to demote the slumping Devon Travis. Now, Gurriel is receiving nearly everyday playing time at second base, with a handful of starts at shortstop. Those desperate for middle infield help could do worse than Gurriel, who can provide average power.

Others of Note:

  • Tzu-Wei Lin, Boston Red Sox

The Good

Willy Adames, Tampa Bay Rays. Adames is one of the hottest hitters in the minors. Over his last 10 games, he is 16-for-36 with 2 home runs and he hit for the cycle on April 23rd. With the Rays playing better than expected, Adames could be the next top prospect to receive a promotion.

Nick Gordon, Minnesota Twins. Returning to Double-A, Gordon is once again hitting the cover off the ball (.345/.363/.536). After leading the Southern League in line drive percentage last year (28%), he already has 20 line drives (26.7%).

Kevin Smith, Toronto Blue Jays. A fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft, Smith displayed intriguing power (8 home runs) and speed (9 stolen bases) in his debut last year. This year, he already has 3 home runs, 16 extra-base hits, and is a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts.

David Fletcher, Los Angeles Angels. Prior to this year, Fletcher hit for very little power, with just 7 home runs over 1,242 plate appearances. This year, he already has 2 home runs, as well as 8 doubles and 3 triples. A high contact hitter, Fletcher also only has 3 strikeouts (3%) and is among the minor league leaders in swinging strike percentage (2.3%).

Others of Note:

  • Franklin Barreto, Oakland Athletics
  • Isaac Paredes, Detroit Tigers.
  • Mauricio Dubon, Milwaukee Brewers
  • Lucius Fox, Tampa Bay Rays
  • Joe Dunand, Miami Marlins
  • Jasrado Chisholm, Arizona Diamondbacks

The Bad

Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres. Although he is starting to heat up, Tatis has struggled thus far, hitting .185/.240/.348) with 32 strikeouts (32%). As the youngest player in Double-A Texas League, his slow start can be forgiven. Remember, last April, Tatis similarly hit just .230/.313/.345 with 29 strikeouts in Low-A.

Jorge Mateo, Oakland Athletics. Before yesterday (2-for-4 with a triple), Mateo was on a 3-for-45 skid with 0 stolen bases.

Tyler Wade, New York Yankees. Like Vogelbach, Wade’s major league opportunities may be starting to dry up after another squandered trial (3-for-35).

Others of Note:

  • Ryan Vilade, Colorado Rockies
  • Yasel Antuna, Washington Nationals
  • Willi Castro, Cleveland Indians
  • Gabriel Arias, San Diego Padres
  • Jose Garcia, Cincinnati Reds

Additional Prospect Notes

  • Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles suffered a broken hand in Spring Training and remains out.
  • Domingo Leyba, Arizona Diamondbacks continues to recover from ongoing shoulder issues.

Please feel free to post comments, questions, or your own observations!

On Wednesday, the Monthly Prospect Update will explore outfield prospects. Stay Tuned!

Follow me on Twitter @jaroche6

The Author

Jesse Roche

Jesse Roche

Jesse is an attorney, currently residing in Greensboro. An avid fantasy baseball player, Jesse has experience in a diverse range of leagues, including head-to-head, rotisserie, points, and simulation. Jesse is a four-time website-wide champion at Benchwarmer Baseball and a repeat champion of a dynasty league with John Sickels at Minor League Ball. With a specific interest in baseball prospects, Jesse plans to provide in-depth analysis of up-and-coming stars accessible to all league sizes and types.

4 Comments

  1. […] provides an infielder prospect update that includes notable performances (good and bad), assignments, promotions, trades, injuries, and […]

  2. Kevin
    May 3, 2018 at 11:43 am

    Thank you for the awesome read Jesse. Quick question….what do you think of Keibert Ruiz’ performance so far in AA?

    • May 3, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the article, Kevin!

      In general, catching prospects are overrated in fantasy leagues. Most major prospect sites rank catchers highly based upon defensive ability and positional value. For example, Joey Bart is the top catcher in the 2018 MLB Draft and may even be a top 5 pick. However, his hit tool is regularly graded as at best a 45 and his game power is at best a 55. On the other hand, his defense is above-average and, therefore, he is highly regarded. In fantasy, though, a 45 hit/55 power bat at catcher only goes so far.

      With that said, I omitted Ruiz from my top 100 overall for this very reason. Catchers provide limited value. This year, Ruiz is performing admirably in Double-A as one of the youngest players at the level (.266/.301/.380). His aggressive, high contact approach means he does not maximize his opportunities, walks very little (just twice), but limits strikeouts (8.4%). Meanwhile, he is an excellent defensive catcher. Ruiz has a high floor (he is almost certainly a big leaguer at some point), but his ceiling is more limited than you would want from a top prospect. Could he develop into something similar to Salvador Perez? Yes. Is an upside of Salvador Perez (50/55 hit and 45 power morphing into 45/50 hit and 50/55 power with age) that great? No. Ruiz is still a nice fantasy prospect, but a far better real-life prospect.

  3. Alex
    May 3, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    That was an awesome read. Ideally one could look at box scores, game summaries and articles, but having a fine summary as you’ve written really helps with getting a general idea of how players are doing and promoting trade/waiver ideas. Big thanks!

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