Monthly Prospect Update: Infielders, June 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.
At the beginning of June, TDG reviewed May performances for infielders, outfielders, and pitchers. In addition, TDG updated the Top 240 Fantasy Prospects, including 2018 MLB draftees. Since early June, several notable prospects exceeded rookie limits and others arrived in the majors. In addition, June saw the start of short season leagues! As this update only reviews performances for one month, please note this bright, flashing warning: SMALL SAMPLE SIZE!
Notable Catcher Prospect Performances
The Major League Catcher Prospect
The Graduate: Chance Sisco, Baltimore Orioles. Shortly after accumulating over 130 career at-bats, Sisco received a demotion to Triple-A. Although he was far from terrible in the majors (92 wRC+ and 0.5 WAR), he could use regular playing time in the minors. The last place Orioles have no real incentive to continue to allow Sisco to accrue service time in a lost season. Nevertheless, he remains a promising bat at a bleak position in which he showed significant gains defensively this year.
The Graduate: Tom Murphy, Colorado Rockies. The annual fantasy tease, Murphy is back in the majors after demolishing Triple-A (.289/.359/.642 with 16 home runs). With legit, plus raw power, he could do serious damage in Coors Field. Further, Murphy appears to be receiving regular playing time for the Rockies. With power and playing time, he is a tremendous option for a catcher-needy fantasy team.
Francisco Mejia, Cleveland Indians. Following an abysmal start (.178/.236/.276), Mejia turned his season around in late May. After stringing together a 10-game hitting streak from May 26th to June 8th, he received a brief, one-day promotion. Upon his return to Triple-A, Mejia truly caught fire, with 10 multi-hit games over his last 13 (24-for-53). For the month, he is hitting .420/.434/.642, raising his season line to a respectable .265/.313/.408. Expect Mejia to return to the majors later this summer.
Ronaldo Hernandez, Tampa Bay Rays. This year, Hernandez is building upon his strong performance in the Appalachian League last year (.332/.382/.507). This past month, he has been on fire, blasting 9 home runs over 18 games (.358/.394/.821)! In addition to his stellar bat, Hernandez is a promising defender with a strong arm. A top 240 prospect (214), he likely will crack the top 200 in July. Grade Change: power tool increases from 45 to 50.
Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers. Entering the Double-A All-Star break, Smith hit home runs in four straight games, and seven total for the month (.281/.370/.641). A former first round pick in the 2016 draft, he initially was a defense-first prospect with questionable power. Last year, Smith experienced a power breakout (.216 ISO) due to an altered stride, and, lately, he is showing the newfound power is no fluke.
Others of Note:
- Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics (.308/.387/.600)
- Austin Allen, San Diego Padres (.329/.379/.620)
- William Contreras, Atlanta Braves (.329/.387/.459)
- Jake Rogers, Detroit Tigers (.268/.386/.607)
- Yermin Mercedes, Chicago White Sox (.306/.424/.551)
Keibert Ruiz, Los Angeles Dodgers. After an impressive start (.293/.343/.459), Ruiz struggled over his last 21 games, going 14-for-75 with just 3 extra-base hits. Still just 19 years old until July 20th, he remains one of the youngest players in the Texas League. Positively, Ruiz continues to impressively limit swing-and-miss, and only stuck out 9 times during his slump.
Connor Wong, Los Angeles Dodgers. Like fellow Dodger Ruiz, Wong has fallen upon hard times. An explosive April performance (.319/.395/.708) is now a distant memory. After amassing 41 strikeouts in May, Wong limped to a .143/.250/.143 line in June, with no extra-base hits and 25 more strikeouts. On the year, he now has 95 strikeouts (36.8%)!
Others of Note:
- Sicnarf Loopstok, Cleveland Indians (.128/.246/.277)
- Meibrys Viloria, Kansas City Royals (.176/.276/.294)
- Tomas Nido, New York Mets (.182/.196/.236)
- Jose Trevino, Texas Rangers (.143/.143/.143)
- Max Pentecost, Toronto Blue Jays (.190/.215/.206)
- Chase Vallot, Kansas City Royals (.100/.280/.150)
Additional Catcher Prospect Notes
- Daulton Varsho suffered a fractured hamate bone in his hand and may require surgery.
- Raudy Read returned from an 80-game suspension.
Notable First Base Prospect Performances
The Major League First Base Prospect
The Graduate: Ronald Guzman, Texas Rangers. Guzman closed May on a tear, going 13-for-36 with 4 home runs. Since then, he regressed, hitting just .207/.319/.293 in June. On a likely rebuilding Rangers roster, Guzman should continue to receive regular playing time. Standing at 6’5″ and 225 pounds, he has significant raw power, though it plays down in games. In addition, Guzman is a better hitter than his .227 batting average suggests. Ultimately, he should settle as a average fantasy performer with potential for more if he more consistently taps into his raw power.
Jake Bauers, Tampa Bay Rays. After toiling in Triple-A for nearly one-and-a-half seasons, Bauers finally received a promotion to the majors. Since he arrived, he has performed well, displaying a patient, advanced approach (.284/.407/.537). Bauers is a line drive hitter with borderline-average game power and enough speed to contribute a handful of stolen bases. With the state of power in the majors, he could seriously surprise.
Nathaniel Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays. The older brother of Josh Lowe, Nathaniel continued mashing upon his promotion to Double-A this month (.355/.438/.645 with 5 home runs). A patient hitter, he is finally tapping into the enormous raw power generated by his 6’4″ and 235 pound frame. With further performance in Double-A, Lowe likely will crack the top 200 (207).
Roberto Ramos, Colorado Rockies. Following a huge May performance in High-A (.345/.439/.762 with 9 home runs), Ramos has not slowed down in June. Starting the month in High-A, he hit .316/.435/.614 with 4 home runs before a promotion to Double-A last week. Like Lowe, Ramos is lighting up Double-A, with two home runs in each of his first two games! The transition from hitter-friendly Lancaster to neutral Hartford is often a difficult one for Rockies hitters. So far, so good for Ramos.
Ibandel Isabel, Cincinnati Reds. The Reds quietly acquired Isabel in an early season trade with the Dodgers. The big slugger hit 28 home runs in High-A last year, but with 172 strikeouts (35%). This year is more of the same for Isabel, with 16 home runs already, including 10 home runs over a 10-game stretch earlier this month. With the massive, 70-grade (or better) raw power comes tons of strikeouts, including 35 this month and 79 this year (37%).
Connor Joe, Los Angeles Dodgers. A former competitive balance selection in 2014, Joe fell off the radar of many after a disastrous 2017 performance in Double-A (.222/.319/.340). Traded twice late last year, he landed with the Dodgers. This year, Joe was the best hitter in Double-A Texas League (.304/.425/.554). Last week, the Dodgers promoted him to Triple-A. Splitting time between first and third base, Joe joins teammate Edwin Rios as another intriguing corner infield bat blocked by a loaded Dodgers roster.
Others of Note:
- Edwin Rios, Los Angeles Dodgers (.347/.386/.600)
- Chad Spanberger, Colorado Rockies (.232/.293/.598 with 8 home runs)
- Brandon Wagner, New York Yankees (.338/.451/.662)
- Sean Bouchard, Colorado Rockies (.338/.393/.600)
Nick Pratto, Kansas City Royals. The 14th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Pratto purportedly had an advanced hit tool with power potential. Thus far, his hit tool has not been as advertised. In Low-A South Atlantic League, Pratto is struggling, with 87 wRC+ and 83-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Recently, he turned in an empty June performance (.203/.259/.243) and has not hit a home run since May 24th.
Gavin Sheets, Chicago White Sox. Another first round pick in the 2017 draft, Sheets hit 21 home runs for Wake Forest last year. Like other former Wake Forest sluggers, he is under-performing in professional baseball. Since turning pro, Sheets has just six home runs over 114 games, including just 2 home runs this year. This past month was another disappointing, powerless showing (.264/.310/.321).
Others of Note:
- Sam Travis, Boston Red Sox (.239/.271/.261)
- Ryan O’Hearn, Kansas City Royals (.192/.277/.329)
- Jake Adams, Houston Astros (.145/.243/.274 upon promotion to High-A)
Additional First Base Prospect Notes
- Brendan McKay is on the disabled list with right oblique tightness.
- Peter Alonso is off to a strong start in Triple-A (.270/.386/.541), including a three-home run game on June 23rd.
- The power drought of Josh Naylor continues, with just two home runs since May 1st.
- After Mason Martin struggled mightily in Low-A, the Pirates demoted him to extended spring training. Now, in the Appalachian League, he is off to a blazing start (.357/.455/.893 with 4 home runs).
Notable Second Base Prospect Performances
The Major League Second Base Prospect
The Graduate: Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees. Although his slugging pace understandably slowed in June, Torres is still impressing at the plate (.289/.347/.548). Notably, he is making tons of hard, quality contact, ranking 24th in barrels per plate appearance. Meanwhile, Torres’ approach has deteriorated a bit (53-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio) and he suffers a fair amount of swing-and-miss (14.2% swinging strikes). Nonetheless, he is a special bat with above-average or better hit and power tools.
Others of Note:
- Luis Guillorme, New York Mets
Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers. The ninth pick in the 2017 draft is living up to the hype. Following Hiura’s dominant May performance in High-A, the Brewers promoted him to Double-A. Since his promotion, he is hitting .353/.402/.553 with 2 home runs and 6 stolen bases. A plus, gap-to-gap hitter, Hiura has above-average raw power and enough speed to tack on some stolen bases. With the Brewers sitting atop the NL Central with little middle infield production, it is possible Hiura finds his way to the majors later this summer.
Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays. After a sluggish start in April, Lowe has not stopped hitting. A strong May (.316/.440/.561) and start to June (8-for-18) forced a promotion from Double- to Triple-A. Since arriving in Durham, Lowe showcased his power, blasting 6 home runs over his first 16 games (.281/.361/.641). A promising hitter with a questionable glove, he has seen time at both second base and left field.
Kevin Kramer, Pittsburgh Pirates. An overlooked prospect, Kramer has performed well all year in Triple-A. Since May 28th, he started tapping into his power, hitting 7 home runs, while his slash line improved from .256/.324/.393 to .278/.339/.498.
Luis Arraez, Minnesota Twins. Last year, Arraez was 5-for-13 in his first three High-A games at just 19 years old. Then, a day before his 20th birthday, he tore his ACL. Entering this year, Arraez was a career .338 hitter, including .347/.386/.444 in Low-A Midwest League in 2016. Not until early June did everything start to click for him at the plate. Since June 5th, Arraez is 36-for-80 (.450/.471/.650) with 12 multi-hit games.
Others of Note:
- Garrett Hampson, Colorado Rockies (.360/.410/.467 with 7 stolen bases)
- Luis Rengifo, Los Angeles Angels (.337/.444/.542 with 8 stolen bases)
- Bret Boswell, Colorado Rockies (.323/.357/.505)
- Gabriel Cancel, Kansas City Royals (.347/.398/.480)
- Brett Netzer, Boston Red Sox (.382/.417/.494)
- Angelo Mora, Los Angeles Dodgers (.400/.486/.533 in Triple-A)
Max Schrock, St. Louis Cardinals. Following a blazing start in Triple-A (.348/.397/.446 through May 5th), Schrock cooled considerably. This past month, he hit just .239/.273/.310, seeing his season line fall to .280/.322/.362. When the hits are not falling for Schrock, he is extremely uninspiring, with little power or speed.
Others of Note:
- Jonathan Arauz, Houston Astros (.140/.157/.260 in High-A)
Additional Second Base Prospect Notes
- Gifted with injuries throughout the Dodgers infield, Breyvic Valera failed to capitalize on his chance to seize a role (.172/.273/.172).
Notable Third Base Prospect Performances
The Major League Third Base Prospect
The Graduate: Christian Arroyo, Tampa Bay Rays. Splitting time between second and third base, Arroyo is performing well (.264/.339/.396). Although unspectacular, Arroyo is a potential plus hitter with modest pop.
The Graduate: Hunter Dozier, Kansas City Royals. With the return of Lucas Duda and the impending return of Jorge Bonifacio, playing time for Dozier is about to dry up. Unfortunately, he has not really impressed with the significant look he received thus far (.231/.291/.377).
Others of Note:
- Brandon Dixon, Cincinnati Reds
Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles. Last year, Mountcastle impressed in High-A Carolina League before disappointing upon his promotion to Double-A. Most concerning, he only walked 17 times all season, including just 3 times in 39 games in Double-A. This year, Mountcastle suffered a hairline fracture in his right hand during spring training and did not return to Double-A until May 10th. Since then, he is displaying much improved patience. In fact, he is only 3 walks away from his 2017 total in 82 less games! Further, Mountcastle is hitting for average and power (.300/.366/.500), and on a roll lately (17-for-39 over his last 10 games).
Rylan Bannon, Los Angeles Dodgers. A steady, elite performer all season, Bannon is finding little resistance in High-A California League. Yesterday, his 9-game hitting streak ended despite reaching base 4 times (3 walks and a hit-by-pitch). This month, Bannon is hitting .303/.459/.618, and hitting .298/.411/.585 with 17 home runs on the year. A promotion to Double-A likely is forthcoming.
Taylor Ward, Los Angeles Angels. This year, the Angels moved Ward from catcher to third base. Possibly due to the defensive switch, his bat finally came to life. Like Bannon, Ward has hit well all year, dominating Double-A (.345/.453/.520). Consequently, at the beginning of June, the Angels promoted him to Triple-A. There, Ward has kept hitting, hitting for power, and contributing on the bases (.329/.391/.561 with 4 home runs and 5 stolen bases).
Others of Note:
- Hudson Potts, San Diego Padres (.288/.398/.548)
- Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates (.300/.386/.560)
- Nolan Jones, Cleveland Indians (.325/.422/.506)
- Jean Carlos Encarnacion, Atlanta Braves (.316/.325/.557)
J.D. Davis, Houston Astros. With Evan Gattis and Yuli Gurriel struggling, the Astros promoted Davis in mid-May. Unfortunately, he was unable to hit himself into a larger role. When both Gattis and Gurriel heated up, the Astros demoted Davis back to Triple-A. Since his demotion, he has struggled (.216/.293/.311).
Others of Note:
- Cristian Santana, Los Angeles Dodgers (.188/.204/.385 with 30-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio)
- Dermis Garcia, New York Yankees (.173/.244/.347)
- Wladimir Galindo, Chicago Cubs (.176/.228/.230)
- Gilbert Lara, Milwaukee Brewers (.180/.190/.213)
Additional Third Base Prospect Notes
- June was a bad month for elite third base prospects.
- The Blue Jays shutdown Vladimir Guerrero Jr. due to a strained patellar tendon in his left knee suffered on June 6th.
- Meanwhile, Nick Senzel is out for the season with a torn tendon in his right index finger.
- Finally, Austin Riley suffered a sprained PCL in his right knee on June 3rd and is still out of action.
- The Royals trade one Kelvin (Herrera) for another (Gutierrez).
Notable Shortstop Prospect Performances
The Major League Shortstop Prospect
Willy Adames, Tampa Bay Rays. In late May, the Rays briefly promoted Adames for three games. Less than three weeks later, he returned to the majors, receiving regular playing time between shortstop and second base. Thus far, Adames has performed poorly (.220/.277/.339) and, notably, is striking out a lot (38.5%). The rebuilding Rays are surprisingly competitive and, should he continue to struggle, the Rays may turn elsewhere.
Franklin Barreto, Oakland Athletics. Like Adames, Barreto briefly appeared in the majors in late May before returning in mid-June. Since his return, he is either making loud contact (.306 ISO) or striking out (40%). Despite is small 5’10” frame, Barreto generates plus raw power and gets to a lot of it in games. Unfortunately, his power-based, aggressive approach eats into his hit tool, resulting in plenty of swing-and-miss. Further, Barreto is playing exclusively at second base in the majors after receiving the majority of his starts there in Triple-A.
David Fletcher, Los Angeles Angels. With Zack Cozart landing on the disabled list, the Angels promoted Fletcher to provide infield depth. Prior to the promotion, he was enjoying a breakout year in Triple-A (.350/.394/.559), nearly doubling his career power output across the board. Ultimately, Fletcher may be little more than an utility infielder, but his performance this year provides hope for more.
Others of Note:
- Yairo Munoz, St. Louis Cardinals
- Tzu-Wei Lin, Boston Red Sox
Carter Kieboom, Washington Nationals. Following Kieboom’s dominant May (.391/.458/.576) and June (.327/.410/.635) in High-A, the Nationals promoted him to Double-A. Over his first seven games in the Eastern League, he is hitting .321/.345/.500, including a home run in his debut. Kieboom possesses potentially above-average hit and power tools with the defensive chops and athleticism to stick at shortstop.
Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates. Tall (6’6″) and lean (175 pounds), Cruz already has plus raw power with projection remaining for more. Incredibly, the Pirates continue to play him at shortstop where his long limbs clearly do not fit long-term. Indeed, Cruz already has 24 errors with below-average range. However, none of that matters if he continues to hit, including a .380/.418/.630 line in June.
Nicky Lopez, Kansas City Royals. A pure hitter and excellent defender, Lopez is the prospect everyone hoped Kevin Newman would become. Last fall, he enjoyed a breakout performance in the Arizona Fall League (.383/.433/.568). Thus far, Lopez keeps hitting in Double-A (.331/.397/.416 with a 23-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio). Although he is not the sexiest option in fantasy due to his limited power, he could surprise with high batting averages and some stolen bases.
Others of Note:
- Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres (.304/.389/.456 with 7 stolen bases)
- Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies (.282/.367/.526)
- Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays (.301/.343/.505 with 9 stolen bases)
- Miguel Hiraldo, Toronto Blue Jays (.388/.457/.613)
- Tommy Edman, St. Louis Cardinals (.371/.402/.449 with 10 stolen bases)
- Taylor Walls, Tampa Bay Rays (.342/.433/.579)
- Eddy Diaz, Colorado Rockies (26 stolen bases in the DSL)
Yu Chang, Cleveland Indians. Last year, Chang blasted 24 home runs in Double-A Eastern League (.241 ISO), while also striking out 134 times (26.4%). This year, his power dried up (just 5 home runs and .139 ISO), but the strikeouts remained (26.4% again!). Meanwhile, this past month, Chang’s struggles compounded, hitting just .233/.274/.322 with 33 strikeouts (34.7%).
Others of Note:
- Nick Gordon, Minnesota Twins (.242/.255/.341)
- Andres Gimenez, New York Mets (.200/.274/.347)
- Anderson Tejeda, Texas Rangers (.232/.275/.316)
- Leonardo Rivas, Los Angeles Angels (.200/.297/.263)
- Luis Almanzar, San Diego Padres (.132/.197/.221)
Additional Shortstop Prospect Notes
- The Rays aggressively assigned 17-year-old Wander Franco to the Appalachian League, where he is the second youngest player.
- Gavin Lux suffered a hamstring injury on June 12th.