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Monthly Prospect Update: Infielders, April 2019

Each month, The Dynasty Guru will provide a prospect update, including 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 April, TDG reviewed early assignments, injuries, and notable rankings movement for infielders, outfielders, and pitchers. Since then, several notable prospects exceeded rookie limits and others arrived in the majors. As this update only reviews performances for one month, please note this bright, flashing warning: SMALL SAMPLE SIZE!

Notable Catcher Prospect Performances

The Rising Catcher Prospect

Alejandro Kirk, Toronto Blue Jays. Prior to the season, I picked Kirk as a potential breakout prospect. Last year, he impressed in the Appalachian League, hitting .354/.444/.558 with an incredible 21-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio and just 5.1% swinging strikes. Now in pitcher-friendly Low-A Midwest League, Kirk has not slowed down, slashing .310/.432/.521 with a crazy 6-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio and just 5.8% swinging strikes. The video below shows a bomb hit by Kirk on April 24th. Notably, you can visualize his squat, Astudillo-like stature. While his size is problematic, his hit tool is potentially special.

The Major League Catcher Prospect

The Graduate: Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays. This year has not been kind to Jansen. Not only did he struggle during spring training (.268/.302/.341), but his first month has been a disaster (.182/.267/.242). In addition, there is no reason for optimism in his underlying numbers. Jansen has simply been bad. Of course, the season has only just begun, and young catchers necessarily require patience. Obviously, in dynasty leagues, he is a hold, but in redraft, especially shallower formats, it may be time to cut him loose.

The Graduate: Willians Astudillo, Minnesota Twins. On Saturday, Astudillo suffered a left hamstring injury. Prior to the injury, he only received part-time playing time despite a strong start (.327/.340/.531). True to his profile, he has only struck out, and walked, once. In fact, his swing rate (63.3%) is highest among all major leaguers with at least 20 plate appearances. Luckily, he also makes a boatload of contact (91.4%). Astudillo is an interesting, fun player, finding success in an unorthodox way; however, without more playing time, his fantasy impact is questionable.

The Graduate: Grayson Greiner, Detroit Tigers. While Greiner likely is a backup catcher, he is currently starting for the Tigers. Thus far, he is hitting for some power (.153 and 17.6% HR/FB), but boasts a poor 22-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 13.6% swinging strikes. Jake Rogers is the future in Detroit, and he likely will arrive later this season. For now, Greiner provides value in two-catcher formats or deep leagues.

Francisco Mejia, San Diego Padres. As expected, Mejia is sharing catching duties with Austin Hedges. At the moment, he is only receiving two starts per week and he is not doing much with his playing time (.146/.205/.220). Unsurprisingly, Hedges is also struggling at the plate. Patience is a must for all Mejia owners in dynasty.

Others of Note:

  • Tomas Nido, New York Mets
  • Michael Perez, Tampa Bay Rays

The Good

Zack Collins, Chicago White Sox. Ever since the White Sox selected Collins tenth overall in the 2016 MLB Draft, we have waited for his double-plus raw power to translate to games. It may be finally happening. This year, he is hitting for immense game power (31.6% HR/FB and .348 ISO). Further, he continues to practice extreme patience, seeing 4.35 pitches per plate appearance. Still, Collins looks the part of a three-true-outcome player with strikeouts or walks in nearly 50% of his plate appearances. This profile is a valuable fantasy contributor akin to Yasmani Grandal.

Luis Campusano, San Diego Padres. Like Kirk above, I detailed Campusano as a possible breakout prospect. So far, he is thriving in the California League (.357/.427/.500 with 26.3% line drives), hitting cleanup for a strong Lake Elsinore lineup. However, Campusano still has a ground ball-heavy profile (49.1%) with too much swing-and-miss (15.4% swinging strikes).

Sam Huff, Texas Rangers. Over the last 10 games, Huff has hit 8 home runs! On the year, he has a ridiculous 54.5% home run-to-fly ball ratio. He possesses legit, 70-grade raw power, emanating from a strong and large 6’4″ and 230-pound frame. Despite his power show (.500 ISO and 12 home runs), Huff is an all-or-nothing hitter. Concerningly, he has suffered 32.9% strikeouts and 20.2% swinging strikes.

Others of Note:

  • Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers (.271/.405/.508)
  • Andrew Knizner, St. Louis Cardinals (.329/.397/.414)
  • William Contreras, Atlanta Braves (.329/.394/.447)
  • Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics (.324/.402/.459)
  • Austin Allen, San Diego Padres (.324/.416/.541)
  • Ivan Herrera, St. Louis Cardinals (.268/.404/.537)
  • Riley Adams, Toronto Blue Jays (.295/.456/.492)
  • Deivy Grullon, Philadelphia Phillies (.393/.441/.656)
  • Yermin Mercedes, Chicago White Sox (.442/.482/.615)
  • Dom Nunez, Colorado Rockies (.311/.456/.711)
  • Tres Barrera, Washington Nationals (.350/.400/.517)
  • Chase Vallot, Kansas City Royals (.250/.342/.578)
  • Willie MacIver, Colorado Rockies (.325/.398/.625)

The Bad

Ronaldo Hernandez, Tampa Bay Rays. To start the season, Hernandez went 2-for-28 with 9 strikeouts. Since then, he rebounded slightly before the Rays placed him on the temporary inactive list due to a family matter. The Florida State League is often an unforgiving place for hitters, so expect some struggles for Hernandez. Regardless, he remains one of the promising offensive talents at catcher.

MJ Melendez, Kansas City Royals. On Opening Day, Melendez went 0-for-4 with 4 strikeouts, and he has not improved much since then (.138/.260/.262). In fact, his swing-and-miss issues (42.3% strikeouts and 23.9% swinging strikes) have challenged teammate Seuly Matias. Melendez has a lightning fast bat, which generates huge exit velocities and potential plus or better raw power. However, contact issues may inhibit his ability to tap into that power.

Andy Yerzy, Arizona Diamondbacks. Over his last 9 games, Yerzy is hitless (0-for-32 with 13 strikeouts)! No bueno!

Others of Note:

  • Keibert Ruiz, Los Angeles Dodgers (.243/.288/.311)
  • Bo Naylor, Cleveland Indians (.209/.303/.284)
  • Meibrys Viloria, Kansas City Royals (.123/.240/.138)
  • Will Banfield, Miami Marlins (.180/.242/.279)
  • Jacob Nottingham, Milwaukee Brewers (.214/.302/.321 with 39.7% strikeouts)

Additional Catcher Prospect Notes

  • Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants suffered a fractured left hand on April 15th. The injury likely will sideline him until June.
  • Payton Henry, Milwaukee Brewers has enjoyed a mixed start to the season, hitting .284/.340/.484 with 5 home runs, but also with a scary 41-to-4 strikeout to walk ratio!

Notable First Base Prospect Performances

The Rising First Base Prospect

Kevin Cron, Arizona Diamondbacks. If not for Christian Walker, Cron likely would be all the rage right now. After obliterating Triple-A last year (.309/.368/.554), he is performing even better this year (.352/.442/.807), including a three-home run game on April 25th! A massive 6’5″ and 245 pounds, he understandably has big raw power, often earning plus grades. Further, he is a solid, steady hitter, and he has made a lot of progress utilizing the whole field (42.9% contact to center). A fly ball-heavy approach likely will limit his batting average, but should allow him to tap into a lot of his raw power. The big issue for Cron is his defense, which is a liability and likely limits him to first base. However, he is a bigger, stronger, and, arguably, better version of his brother, C.J. If he receives an opportunity, Cron should make some serious noise.

The Major League First Base Prospect

The Graduate: Daniel Vogelbach, Seattle Mariners. One of my top potential impact prospects, Vogelbach has finally broke through in the majors with a massive start to the season (.310/.462/.732). His profile has not changed too much since last year. It may be just a matter of being unlucky versus lucky. In fact, his expected stats are nearly identical (.260 xBA and .486 xSLG in 2018, .264 xBA and .531 xSLG in 2019). However, Vogelbach has big power with exceptional plate discipline. Even if his numbers regress to .260 BA and .480 SLG with strong OBP, he is a fantasy force.

The Graduate: Rowdy Tellez, Toronto Blue Jays. A trade of Kendrys Morales opened up a starting spot for Tellez and he has capitalized on his opportunity with a power display (.234 ISO with 25% HR/FB). Notably, he has made a ton of hard contact (48%) with some long home runs. Meanwhile, he has struggled with contact (31.4% strikeouts and 15.4% swinging strikes). Nevertheless, Tellez should settle into a productive role with .250/20+ upside.

Pete Alonso, New York Mets. The preseason 15th overall fantasy prospect, Alonso has made good on his lofty ranking so far, hitting .292/.382/.642 with 9 home runs. His considerable strength and bat speed generate enormous 70-grade raw power to all fields. A late-count hitter (4.41 pitches/plate appearance), however, Alonso likely will always rack up plenty of strikeouts (28.5%) and walks (11.4%), and, at times, resemble a three-true-outcomes slugger.

Nate Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays. The most recent call-up (April 29th), Lowe impressed in Triple-A, hitting for power (.243 ISO) and contact (5.5% swinging strikes!) while exhibiting patience (18.9% BB). He is a complete hitter, with both his hit and power tools potentially playing above-average-to-plus. Despite uncertain playing time for the crowded Rays, Lowe should be owned in all formats.

Others of Note:

  • Mike Ford, New York Yankees

The Good

Roberto Ramos, Colorado Rockies. The Rockies assigned Ramos to Triple-A despite a mixed half-season performance in Double-A last year (.231/.320/.503). This move likely was to clear space for Tyler Nevin and Colton Welker at Double-A. However, Ramos is meeting the Triple-A challenge (.293/.384/.561). Power is his clear and obvious calling card, as he possesses huge, 70-grade raw power. However, his hit tool remains questionable (28.3% strikeouts and 14.8% swinging strikes). Regardless, Ramos is a solid speculative add in deeper fantasy leagues as a potential impact bat this year.

Ibandel Isabel, Cincinnati Reds. An extreme power-hitter, Isabel arguably possesses as much raw power as any prospect in baseball. Already, he has amassed 7 home runs with a staggering 50% home run-to-fly ball ratio. His performance in Double-A is noteworthy as he is now in a more age-appropriate league facing more advanced pitching. Of course, Isabel continues to struggle with contact (42.2% strikeouts and 25.3% swinging strikes). Still, he is a fascinating player to follow.

KJ Harrison, Washington Nationals. The Nationals quietly acquired Harrison and Gilbert Lara (below) from the Brewers for Gio Gonzalez. At the time, he was a failed catcher with plus raw power potential languishing in Low-A. Since a full-time move to first base this year, the former Oregon State star has took off (.413/.476/.640). His performance earned him a promotion to High-A on April 26th. Still just 22 years old, Harrison has plenty of time to turn around his career.

Others of Note:

  • Josh Ockimey, Boston Red Sox (.246/.402/.565)
  • Will Craig, Pittsburgh Pirates (.265/.357/.542)
  • Curtis Terry, Texas Rangers (.276/.308/.609)
  • Dermis Garcia, New York Yankees (.298/.358/.571)
  • Drew Ward, Washington Nationals (.293/.352/.622)
  • Taylor Jones, Houston Astros (.303/.368/.652)

The Bad

Nick Pratto, Kansas City Royals. Like several top hitting prospects for Wilmington (Melendez, Matias, and Hicklen), Pratto has struggled mightily in High-A (.160/.269/.198). His second-half progress last year (.364/.443/.650) has yet to translate. Over his last 12 games, he is 4-for-37 with 16 strikeouts.

Edwin Rios, Los Angeles Dodgers. Forever on the cusp of the majors, Rios is doing himself no favors this year in Triple-A (.221/.256/.349). His plate discipline issues may be a fatal flaw (30-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio), relegating him to quad-A hitter status.

Others of Note:

  • Evan White, Seattle Mariners (.214/.292/.286)
  • Brent Rooker, Minnesota Twins (45.9% strikeouts)
  • Gavin Sheets, Chicago White Sox (.207/.286/.293)
  • Reynaldo Rivera, Detroit Tigers (.129/.217/.242)
  • Samir Duenez, Kansas City Royals (.181/.226/.229)

Additional First Base Prospect Notes

  • Brendan McKay, Tampa Bay Rays no longer plays the field, limited to designated hitter. In addition, he continues to struggle at the plate (.200/.275/.222), while he flourishes on the mound. The two-way player dream may be fading.
  • Grant Lavigne, Colorado Rockies has yet to take advantage of tiny dimensions of McCormick Field (326L, 386LC, 373C, 297R). When he does, watch out!

Notable Second Base Prospect Performances

The Rising Second Base Prospect

Josh VanMeter, Cincinnati Reds. The former fifth round pick is officially breaking out in Triple-A. In 72 fewer games, he already matched his home run output (11) in Triple-A last year. On the year, he is hitting .358/.446/.758 with nominal swing-and-miss (7.4% swinging strikes). Long a well-regarded hitter, VanMeter is finally putting it all together. However, he is a poor defender, albeit with experience throughout the infield and in left field. Whether VanMeter receives an opportunity in Cincinnati is uncertain given the middle infield depth on the 40-man roster. Nonetheless, he is worth a speculative add in deeper leagues.

The Major League Second Base Prospect

The Graduate: Garrett Hampson, Colorado Rockies. In typical Rockies fashion, the organization signed a veteran (Daniel Murphy) to block its young stars. As such, Hampson has played a utility role for most of the season. When Murphy suffered an injury, he failed to capitalize on his increased playing time. Now, he is back to the bench. Hampson is a better hitter than he has shown so far, suffering an uncharacteristic amount of strikeouts without his normal excellent discipline. Given his role, he is likely pressing. Once he settles, he provides an intriguing blend of speed and pop.

The Graduate: Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays gave Lowe the Scott Kingery treatment, signing him to a six-year contract extension in March. Unlike Kingery, Lowe is thriving in his rookie season (.289/.350/.567), playing primarily against right-handed pitchers. Although his performance is solid, he has suffered a worrying amount of swing-and-miss. In fact, Lowe is second only to teammate Avisail Garcia in swinging strike rate (19.4%). Currently, he is surviving on a boatload of hard contact (32.8% line drives and 46.6% hard contact). Expect his .385 BABIP to regress.

Luis Rengifo, Los Angeles Angels. Since his promotion on April 25th, Rengifo has received everyday playing time at second base, with David Fletcher shifting to a utility role. Consequently, his starting role may be more permanent, rather than as an injury-replacement for Zack Cozart. Rengifo should provide a little of everything: hit, power, and speed. However, he lacks a standout tool and, ultimately, like Fletcher, profiles as a utility infielder.

The Good

Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers have received terrible production from Travis Shaw and Jesus Aguilar, while Hiura has dominated Triple-A (.318/.351/.682). The only blemish on his superb start is a poor 30-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio, as he is occasionally too aggressive and expands the zone given his excellent bat-to-ball ability. However, his lightning-quick bat and elite barrel-control make up for holes in his approach. It is only a matter of time before he makes his major league debut.

Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies. Prospect fatigue and the arrival of Garrett Hampson have caused many to overlook Rodgers. In his return to Triple-A, he is finding little resistance (.315/.390/.609). Notably, his occasional plate discipline issues appear temporarily remedied as he has already walked 11 times (10.5%). Given the presence of Trevor Story in the majors, Rodgers has received the majority of his playing time at second base (74.1%). Meanwhile, Ryan McMahon and Hampson are struggling. As such, Rodgers may be arriving very soon . . .

Luis Urias, San Diego Padres. Few hitters are as white hot as Urias, who is 14-for-37 with 6 home runs in 8 games since his demotion back to Triple-A. Unfortunately, it does not appear the injury to Fernando Tatis Jr. opens the door for him to return to the majors. Still, his power outburst is a pleasant development. Indeed, Urias already has one less home run (7) than he hit at Triple-A all last year!

Cavan Biggio, Toronto Blue Jays. While Vladimir Guerrero Jr. understandably garners a ton of attention, Biggio has been even better so far in Triple-A. His fast start (.361/.495/.625) is reminiscent of his start at Double-A last year. Impressively, he continues to exhibit a patient approach (21.5% walks) while limiting swing-and-miss (17.2% strikeouts and 8% swinging strikes).

Others of Note:

  • Vidal Brujan, Tampa Bay Rays (.302/.371/.384 with 14 stolen bases)
  • Xavier Edwards, San Diego Padres (.347/.417/.403 with 8 stolen bases)
  • Omar Estevez, Los Angeles Dodgers (.385/.449/.564)
  • Adam Hall, Baltimore Orioles (.354/.453/.456 with 11 stolen bases)
  • Jalen Miller, San Francisco Giants (.270/.349/.500 with 5 home runs and 6 stolen bases)
  • Kean Wong, Tampa Bay Rays (.352/.452/.507)
  • Gabriel Cancel, Kansas City Royals (.284/.356/.568)

The Bad

Jahmai Jones, Los Angeles Angels. Last year, Jones transitioned full-time to second base and, understandably, struggled for much of the year at the plate. This year, he has returned to Double-A and continues to struggle (.136/.228/.148). In 22 games, he has just 1 extra base hit. Further, Jones has hit nearly everything on the ground (61.5%) to the pull-side (59.3%). As his issues persist, it begs the question whether his bat is what we thought it was. In shallow leagues (∼100 prospects), it is time to move on if a better prospect is available on waivers.

Esteury Ruiz, San Diego Padres. Drawing comparisons to Alfonso Soriano, Ruiz has immense offensive upside, but a raw, aggressive approach, which is causing some serious growing pains in High-A. Thus far, he is hitting just .218/.258/.276 with 34.7% strikeouts and 19.7% swinging strikes. On the bright side, Ruiz has already swiped 10 bases!

Others of Note:

  • Isan Diaz, Miami Marlins (.226/.301/.344)
  • Tyler Frank, Tampa Bay Rays (.154/.286/.173)
  • Daniel Brito, Philadelphia Phillies (.170/.267/.189)
  • Bret Boswell, Colorado Rockies (.174/.245/.279 with 35 strikeouts)

Additional Second Base Prospect Notes

  • Yunior Severino, Minnesota Twins suffered a broken left thumb on April 11th.

Notable Third Base Prospect Performances

The Rising Third Base Prospect

Ty France, San Diego Padres. A former 34th round pick, France made his major league debut on April 26th, after a scorching hot start to the season in Triple-A (.423/.500/.885). Last year, he enjoyed a mini-breakout repeating Double-A (.263/.349/.448), which continued upon his promotion to Triple-A (.287/.382/.532). Prior to the season, I noted, “[h]is newfound game power along with strong plate discipline make him a dark horse to hit his way into meaningful playing time.” I never expected his performance thus far this year. Indeed, his Triple-A performance is bonkers, including 44.4% line drives and a 60% home run-to-fly ball ratio! Now, after the injury to Fernando Tatis Jr., France likely will receive regular playing time at third base. With a strong showing, he could carve out a long-term role with the Padres similar to Franmil Reyes last year.

The Major League Third Base Prospect

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays. The Man. The Myth. The Legend.

Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox. If you think Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s power is impressive, then watch this:

Chavis has received regular playing since arriving in the majors, with most of his starts coming at second base. Surprisingly, he is not a butcher at the keystone. Meanwhile, his bat has impressed with expected big power (.313/.436/.625) and swing-and-miss (16.2% swinging strikes). Of course, his 10-game debut has been better than anticipated, but temper long-term expectations. While his power is legit, his hit tool is below-average. With that said, Chavis very well could hit .250/25+ and be a similar producer to Dan Uggla, which has a ton of value. He should be owned in all formats.

Others of Note:

  • Kelvin Gutierrez, Kansas City Royals

The Good

Nolan Gorman, St. Louis Cardinals. In his debut last year, Gorman posted a .223 isolated slugging percentage in Low-A. In the last 13 years, only Fernando Tatis Jr. hit for as much power at 18 years old in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. This year, he has returned to Low-A, where he has been a man possessed, hitting .325/.389/.650 with 8 home runs. A note of warning, however, Gorman has suffered elevated swing-and-miss (25.6% strikeouts and 15.2% swinging strikes). Whether his hit tool holds up as he climbs the ladder will be worth monitoring. Speaking of climbing the ladder, it is time to see if the cavernous parks in the Florida State League can hold Gorman.

Alec Bohm, Philadelphia Phillies. To start the year, the Phillies assigned Bohm to Low-A, an extremely unaggressive assignment. In fact, Baseball America pointed out, “Twenty-three college position players were selected among the top-10 picks in the last nine drafts, Bohm, who went to Wichita State, is the only one to start his career in low Class A.” Well, he certainly responded to the lack of respect, obliterating Low-A (.367/.449/.590) and earning a promotion to High-A on April 30th. Since Bohm is an advanced college hitter, his performance in Low-A is not a surprise. However, it is noteworthy given his struggles in his debut last year.

Jose Caballero, Arizona Diamondbacks. A seventh round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft out of JUCO, Caballero fell through the cracks despite a strong track record in professional ball, including a .292/.378/.468 performance last year. Now, he is the minor league leader in stolen bases (16). Caballero lacks any standout tools, but he is a smart, instinctual player who makes an impact in many facets of the game. Ultimately, he is a potential average hitter with some pop and above-average speed.

Others of Note:

  • Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles (.300/.327/.520)
  • Colton Welker, Colorado Rockies (.356/.400/.552)
  • Jonathan Ornelas, Texas Rangers (.339/.418/.508)
  • Lucas Erceg, Milwaukee Brewers (.274/.387/.581)
  • Diosbel Arias, Texas Rangers (.337/.398/.435)
  • Zach Green, San Francisco Giants (.284/.407/.597)
  • Dylan Busby, Pittsburgh Pirates (8 home runs, .428 ISO)
  • Juan Martinez, Cincinnati Reds (.313/.418/.478)

The Bad

Hudson Potts, San Diego Padres. Now in 46 games at Double-A, Potts is hitting a paltry .174/.260/.279 with 68 strikeouts (35.4%). Still just 20 years old, however, he remains one of the youngest players in the Texas League. Give him some more time to adjust.

Kevin Maitan, Los Angeles Angels. Most of Maitan’s career belongs in this section, from his involvement in the Braves’ international scandal to his persistent weight problems. Despite his struggles, he received an assignment to full-season Low-A, where he is hitting just .169/.244/.208 with one extra base hit.

Others of Note:

  • Mark Vientos, New York Mets (.227/.310/.307)
  • Sherten Apostel, Texas Rangers (.181/.263/.278)
  • Austin Listi, Philadelphia Phillies (.081/.256/.113)
  • James Nelson, Miami Marlins (.169/.200/.281)

Additional Third Base Prospect Notes

  • Isaac Paredes, Detroit Tigers has received most of his playing time at third base (65%).

Notable Shortstop Prospect Performances

The Rising Shortstop Prospect

Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays. How can Franco rise any higher? Once Guerrero Jr., Tatis Jr., Jimenez, and Robles graduate, he will be the top fantasy prospect. Arguably, he already is. At just 18 years old, Franco is tearing up the Midwest League, hitting .311/.393/.568 with 3 homes, 4 stolen bases, and just 3.8% swinging strikes!

The Major League Shortstop Prospect

Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres. At just 20 years old with no experience above double-A, Tatis Jr. was a surprise addition to the Padres’ active roster. Already, he is well on his way to a 20/20 (or better) season, hitting .300/.360/.550 with 6 home runs and 6 stolen bases. With that said, he has experienced some luck, with .381 BABIP, .225 xBA, and .436 xSLG. Further, Tatis Jr. still has concerning swing-and-miss tendencies (28.8% strikeouts and 15.6% swinging strikes). However, he is a special talent, and his power/speed are legit, including a top 20 sprint speed (4.15 HP to 1B).

Carter Kieboom, Washington Nationals. With the injury to Trea Turner way back on April 2nd, it took the Nationals over three weeks to finally call-up Kieboom. This delay is even more surprising given his hot start in Triple-A (.379/.506/.636). Presumably, he is here to stay, likely to shift to second base upon the return of Turner. Kieboom profiles as a potential special hitter, with an above-to-plus hit tool and above-average game power. In addition, he may have the best hitter’s name in baseball, and, already, it is wildly employed in puns:

Cole Tucker, Pittsburgh Pirates. Much fanfare followed the promotion of Tucker on April 20th. At the time, he was victimizing Triple-A, hitting .333/.415/.579 with 3 home runs and 5 stolen bases. Then, he homered in his first game! Over those first 14 games, he hit one less home run (4) than he did all last year. With a tall and lean 6’3″ frame, Tucker has promised power potential forever. Has it finally arrived? Unlikely. Regardless, he is a solid hitter with enough pop to develop into a double-digit home run threat. The main draw is his speed and aggressive base running, which has generated 87 stolen bases over his last 266 games.

Others of Note:

  • Richie Martin, Baltimore Orioles
  • Thairo Estrada, New York Yankees
  • Ildemaro Vargas, Arizona Diamondbacks

The Good

Jorge Mateo, Oakland Athletics. He’s backkkk! After an abysmal performance in Triple-A last year (.230/.280/.353), Mateo is on a roll so far this year, hitting .352/.397/.546 with 6 triples and 7 stolen bases. Most importantly, his swing-and-miss is way down from 27.3% to 18.1% strikeouts and from 13.3% to 10.6% swinging strikes. Few players possess his 80-grade speed, especially when paired with some pop.

Nicky Lopez, Kansas City Royals. Lopez is a carbon copy of David Fletcher. Like Fletcher, he exercises exceptional plate discipline (3-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio), makes a ton of contact, and rarely swings and misses (3.4% swinging strikes). In addition, Lopez has a modicum of power which is currently playing up in Triple-A (.346/.436/.494) and above-average speed. This makes for a useful fantasy player in deeper formats with regular playing time.

Gilbert Lara, Washington Nationals. Like KJ Harrison above, Lara is enjoying a renaissance year after the trade to the Nationals. A former high-profile international free agent, he has yet to find his footing in professional ball. Well, not until this year. In Low-A, Lara is hitting .320/.346/.550 with 5 home runs. With well-regarded power, he is far from a flash in the pan; however, his aggressive, ground ball-heavy (56.1%) approach promises regression.

Others of Note:

  • Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers (.308/.341/.500)
  • Jordan Groshans, Toronto Blue Jays (.342/.429/.507)
  • Tyler Freeman, Cleveland Indians (.289/.426/.447 with 8 stolen bases)
  • Brice Turang, Milwaukee Brewers (.333/.441/.440)
  • Willi Castro, Detroit Tigers (.337/.422/.465)
  • Terrin Vavra, Colorado Rockies (.321/.424/.519 with 7 stolen bases)
  • Aramis Ademan, Chicago Cubs (.278/.426/.500)
  • Edmundo Sosa, St. Louis Cardinals (.338/.370/.515)

The Bad

Royce Lewis, Minnesota Twins. The Florida State League can tame even the best hitters. In fact, since moving to the FSL last summer, Lewis has hit just .240/.316/.351 with an inefficient 11-for-19 stolen bases in 69 games. This year, he has over twice as many infield flies (11) as line drives (5). Ouch.

Jeremy Eierman, Oakland Athletics. The former college standout has been the second worst hitter in the California League (39 wRC+). Unfortunately, Eierman’s below-average hit tool may not allow him to make good on his power/speed upside.

It has not been a good month for Luis Garcia’s . . .

Others of Note:

  • Luis Garcia, Washington Nationals (.239/.268/.261)
  • Kevin Smith, Toronto Blue Jays (.200/.253/.318)
  • Luis Garcia, Philadelphia Phillies (.190/.258/.250)
  • Wenceel Perez, Detroit Tigers (.194/.257/.224)
  • Yu Chang, Cleveland Indians (.151/.224/.226)
  • Chris Seise, Texas Rangers (31-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio)

Additional Shortstop Prospect Notes

  • Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays broke his left hand on April 22nd.
  • Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates suffered a fractured foot on April 27th.
  • Following an aggressive assignment to Double-A, and a strong start (.293/.388/.483), Nico Hoerner, Chicago Cubs suffered a bruised hand on a hit-by-pitch on April 23rd.
  • Jeter Downs, Los Angeles Dodgers has played all but one game at shortstop this year.
  • Nick Gordon, Minnesota Twins remains in extended spring training as he recovers from acute gastritis.
  • Much has been made of the aggressive assignment of Hoerner, but fellow 2018 draftee Owen Miller, San Diego Padres also received an assignment to Double-A, where he is performing well (.286/.358/.418).

Jesse Roche's 2019 Prospect Series

11/5/18Top 600 Dynasty League Players, Fall Preview
11/12/182019 Top 40 Fantasy Catcher Prospects
11/19/182019 Top 30 Fantasy First Base Prospects
11/26/182019 Top 30 Fantasy Second Base Prospects
12/3/182019 Top 40 Fantasy Third Base Prospects
12/10/182019 Top 70 Fantasy Shortstop Prospects, Part 1
12/17/182019 Top 70 Fantasy Shortstop Prospects, Part 2
12/24/182019 Top 140 Fantasy Outfield Prospects, Part 1
12/31/182019 Top 140 Fantasy Outfield Prospects, Part 2
1/7/192019 Top 210 Fantasy Pitching Prospects, Part 1
1/16/192019 Top 210 Fantasy Pitching Prospects, Part 2
1/21/19Upon Further Review: Notable Grade Changes
1/28/192019 Top 500 Fantasy Prospects
2/11/192019 Top 100 Upside-Only Fantasy Prospects
2/20/192019 First Year Player Draft Rankings
3/11/192019 Impact Prospects
3/18/192019 Breakout Prospects
4/1/19Prospects Breaking Camp
4/3/19Monthly Prospect Update: Infielders, March 2019
4/4/19Monthly Prospect Update: Outfielders, March 2019
4/5/19Monthly Prospect Update: Pitchers, March 2019
4/22/19Scouting Report: Grayson Rodriguez
4/29/19Scouting Reports: Delmarva & Greensboro
5/2/19Monthly Prospect Update: Infielders, April 2019
5/4/19Monthly Prospect Update: Outfielders, April 2019
5/8/19Monthly Prospect Update: Pitchers, April 2019
5/10/19Top 200 Fantasy Prospects, May 2019
5/27/192019 MLB Draft: Top Fantasy Prospects
6/3/192019 MLB Draft Live Observations
6/5/19Monthly Prospect Update: Infielders, May 2019
6/6/19Monthly Prospect Update: Outfielders, May 2019
6/7/19Monthly Prospect Update: Pitchers, May 2019
6/10/19Top 200 Fantasy Prospects, June 2019
6/17/192019 Short Season Assignments: DSL, PIO, NWL & NYP
6/24/192019 Short Season Assignments: AZL, GCL & APP
7/1/19Monthly Prospect Update: Infielders, June 2019
7/3/19Monthly Prospect Update: Outfielders, June 2019
7/5/19Monthly Prospect Update: Pitchers, June 2019
7/8/192019/2020 First Year Player Draft, Rounds 1-2
7/12/19Top 600 Dynasty League Players, July 2019
7/15/192019/2020 First Year Player Draft, Rounds 3-4
7/22/192019/2020 First Year Player Draft, Rounds 5-6
7/29/19Short Season Breakout Prospects
8/7/19Monthly Prospect Update: Infielders, July 2019
8/8/19Monthly Prospect Update: Outfielders, July 2019
8/9/19Monthly Prospect Update: Pitchers, July 2019
8/12/19Top 200 Fantasy Prospects, August 2019
8/19/19Scouting Report: Seth Corry
9/11/19Monthly Prospect Update: Infielders, August 2019
9/13/19Monthly Prospect Update: Outfielders, August 2019
10/4/19Top 200 Fantasy Prospects, September 2019

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

Next, 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 five-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.

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