Digging for Diamonds 2022: Round 2
The name of the game is getting in early. Right? Is there a better feeling than finding a player you believe in, and watching him succeed? I know it’s the part of playing dynasty baseball I enjoy most, and I’d wager that most of you enjoy it as well. So, welcome back to Digging for Diamonds. An article series based entirely on finding prospects outside the TDG’s top 100 prospects that we present for your satisfaction. We think they’re worthy of your hearts and minds, and spill ours to share about their potential. However, we do need something in return.
Here’s the deal. We’re looking for this season’s best under-the-radar prospect, but we want your help. Each week a few writers will present you with a case as to why a particular player needs your attention. Your job is to vote on which prospect has piqued your interest the most.
You get a bunch of prospect info, we get some bragging rights. Deal? Make sure to vote in the poll at the end of the article. We’ll announce who moves on in the next article.
Now, let’s dig in.
Evan Carter, OF Texas Rangers
Age: 19, Highest Level: High-A
Analysis by Ken Balderston
While not an unknown prospect, Carter ranked as the 183rd best prospect on our preseason top 200 prospect list, and most other industry lists have him ranked well outside the top 100. Lack of looks due to the shortened 2020 season and not participating in showcase events had kept Carter off many radars pre-draft, and though he was drafted in the second round out of high school, he did sign an under-slot deal. So yes, he fits our Digging for Diamonds profile.
Carter has an ideal but projectable 6’4” 190 lbs build, and brings an athletic swing, modest power with potential for more, and above-average speed with good base-stealing ability to the table. There were also reports that Carter lead all 31 Rangers at the instructs camp in 2020 in walks, while also hitting .304 with a .913 OPS, prompting the organization to push him with the aggressive assignment to A ball in 2021. Despite the lack of reps prior to 2021, Carter showed fantastic plate discipline in his first taste of pro ball. He managed to walk 34 times in 32 games despite being one of the youngest players at level (18 at the time), and offset it with a modest 20% strikeout rate, yes, a 28:34 K:BB ratio. While he didn’t light up the league in terms of rotisserie scoring stats, showing advanced plate discipline while being young for the level is an excellent indicator of future success.
In the box, Evan’s left-handed swing is simple in setup and balanced through the zone. He attacks with his hands and makes good use of his back and shoulders to tap into his power. He’s already physically strong but certainly has the frame and time to add weight and possibly more power without compromising athleticism or speed. The hit tool has the potential to be plus but likely to settle in at above average, while the in-game power could be league average, with the potential to be above average. Follow this up with plus defense in centerfield, a position he’d only move off if his arm doesn’t play, and above-average speed with good base-stealing ability, and you have a potential 5 category player in roto leagues.
Carter will begin the 2022 season in High A Hickory, another aggressive assignment at 19 years old. This is such an aggressive assignment I wouldn’t be discouraged if he struggled but given his plate discipline and hit tool potential, I think we’ll see him hold his own to begin, then show improvement while spending the entire year at the level. Despite his age and relative inexperience, he’s already being fast-tracked by the organization, with many outlets that follow the Rangers whispering Carter may be one of the steals of a very strong 2020 FYPD. If your league rosters 200 prospects or more, three’s a good chance Carter is already rostered. I’d still check in on him as the scouting profile far outweighs what a glimpse of the stat line suggests, and he could be a quick riser up any and all prospect lists come midseason.
Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Colorado Rockies
Age: 20, Highest Level: AA (2022)
Analysis by Patrick Magnus
Ezequiel Tovar is a middle infielder with an exciting skill set who has been pushed with some aggressive minor league assignments. The $800,000 international signee from 2017 might turn into a player well worth the investment by the club and someone worth putting on your watchlist at the bare minimum.
Tovar isn’t exactly a patient hitter. In Rookie ball, he managed double-digit walk rates, but that has seen a sharp decline. In his 469 plate appearances in 2021, he waked a mere 3% of the time. Don’t mistake his lack of free passes for an inability to hit though. One thing that Tovar does extremely well isn make contact. Last season he paired a 12.5% strikeout rate with that abysmal walk rate. That’s not quite David Fletcher territory, but it’s close and I think he could be just as good a hitter. Don’t believe me? Don’t take my word for it, Fangraphs has a 60 future hit tool slapped on Tovar.
Since his signing in 2017, the Rockies have been challenging Tovar with some pretty tough assignments. Take a look at his age in comparison to the competition he’s been facing.
Level Age Difference
R PION -3.6
There are two ways to look at this. First, the Rockies are extremely confident in their young shortstop and believe Tovar can compete against players with a greater amount of experience. Second, the Rockies are not giving this young player time to truly develop his skillset at each level. Given the Rockies recent track record with developing hitters, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that both may be true.
Though the assignments have been daunting, Tovar has mostly performed. His stint in the AFL was, in a word, ugly. However, his 2021 campaign in High-A was prolific enough to earn him a spot in the MiLB All-Star Game. Despite a lackluster AFL stint, he earned an invitation to Spring Training in 2022. He did not waste that opportunity.
He hit 3 bombs, batted .550, and had an OPS of 1.650 in 20 plate appearances. He’s started AA blazing hot as well. Small samples abound here, but I believe we have a player here who is off just about everyone’s radar with a pretty fun ceiling. He also has been pretty successful on the base paths, as he had 21 bases in High-A and was only caught 4 times in his All-Star season. The Rockies had him run a bit in Spring as well, so this hit-tool could come with double-digit pop and steals.
Overall, this is a really interesting profile. Some additional good news, though less relevant to dynasty, is that he’s an absolute defensive wizard at short, and most scouting reports think he will stick at the position. Tovar isn’t without flaws, and he wouldn’t be in this piece if he was. However, If he replicates his High-A season in Double-A, he’ll be on someone else’s dynasty roster. That’s why I’m bringing him to your attention now, and that’s why he deserves to be this week’s diamond.
Hayden Wesneski, SP, New York Yankees
Age: 24, Highest Level: Triple-A
Analysis by Andrew Jurewicz
If you follow fantasy baseball Twitter you might have seen this pitch stun some folks. That’s the quickly rising prospect for the New York Yankees, Hayden Wesneski, and who’s a name that I’m shouting to add him to your dynasty squads before it is too late! Being a season ticket holder for the Yankees Double-A team, Somerset Patriots, I got to see Wesneski pitch a couple of times over the course of the 2021 season where he held his own overall going 8-4 with a 4.01 ERA and 9.98 K/9 ratios. He received a promotion to Triple-A late last year and is back at it there again this year recently throwing five scoreless innings for two hits with 4 strikeouts on his April 6th start vs. Syracuse Mets.
The 24-year-old Wesneski found himself as a top ten prospect for the Yankees on Baseball America’s organizational rankings heading into this year after a productive 2021 season throwing for 130.1 innings between High-A to Triple-A; the 6th most across all affiliated minor league teams. An aggressive pitcher that attacks hitters, the righty features mid-90s fastballs with movement (93-97 4S FB and 90-95 2S FB) as part of the 5 different pitches he’s throwing from a three-quarters arm slot with a wide release point. His other pitches, slider, curveball, and changeup round out the group and Fangraphs gives the slider a 60 grade. Overall he’s’ seen as having above-average control and command of his pitches which should give him the confidence to throw them at any time.
One of the criticisms I’ve seen is that he can often get into trouble with his pitch sequencing to batters. I’d assume that the Yankees are aware of this as well and something that they work to get ironed out as he continues his development in his third professional season. So there’s an opportunity to become an even better pitcher!
So far Wesneski is off to a good start in 2022 at Triple-A and is showing a lot of promise. Don’t be surprised if you see him push into top 100 rankings at some point during the year if he continues to get the job done. Patrick and Ken both have done a fine job with diamond selections this week, however, this is the diamond that’s going to shine the brightest! Go stash Hayden Wesneski right away!