Digging for Diamonds: Round 4
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.
Round 1: Victor Acosta, SS, San Diego Padres
Round 2: Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Colorado Rockies
Round 3: Felix Valerio, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
Alex Binelas, 3B Boston Red Sox
Age: 21, Highest Level: High-A
Analysis by Ken Balderston
There have been many prospects getting off to a hot start in 2022, many of them profiled here in Digging for Diamonds, but one that still remains available in some of my leagues is Alex Binelas. Drafted in the third round of this past FYPD by the Brewers, Binelas was included with Jackie Bradley Jr. in a deal to the Red Sox for Hunter Renfroe. There were whispers at the time maybe the Sox were selling high on Renfroe, or maybe they wanted a better defensive player in JBJ. But now it’s looking quite possible Binelas was underrated this offseason by the fantasy industry and was in fact the target of the trade.
Standing 6’3” and 225 lbs, you can probably guess power is the big tool in Alex’s game. In both full seasons of college ball at Louisville, Binelas produced slugging percentages over .600 and ISO% over .300. The trend translated to pro ball, in his first taste of A ball last summer after being drafted, he slugged .636, with an ISO of .322. Now in High A Greenville, Alex is being ‘challenged’ to a .583 SLG, and .285 ISO. The swing requires very little movement but contains huge raw power thanks to his large physique. It’s quick to the ball and carries at least average bat speed.
Binelas’ approach will need some work, but also carries some patience as seen in his 25.5% strikeout rate and 18% walk rate. He makes solid contact though, with a 24% line-drive rate no doubt helping his average stay at .280, despite the relatively high strikeout rate. So far at High, A Binelas has impressed, with a .429 wOBA and 165 WRC+. All these numbers add up to what looks like a legitimate power hitter.
With many prospects putting up eye-popping numbers in the minors this year, Binelas seems to be slightly overlooked. But 7 home runs and 16 RBI in only 23 games is nothing to scoff at, and if he’s freely available in your league rostering 200 prospects or more, you might want to take a shot on him.
Alex Rameriz, OF, New York Mets
Age 19, Highest Level: A
Analysis by Patrick Magnus
The New York Met’s top international signee in 2019, the Dominican hailing outfielder, Alex Rameriz, seems to be clicking. Initially touted as a player with “advanced hitting skills and knowledge of the strike zone,” Quotes from MLB offer a pretty generic old-man scouting analysis for why the Mets signed Ramirez:
“What we liked about him was he was a young man who’s athletic,”
“He’s a lean-built outfielder. His body’s going to fill out really well. He’s a big kid, a lean, athletic looking kid who’s going to develop physically — the type of ideal body that we like.” – Special Assistant to the General Manager Omar Minaya 2019 MLB
Not a lot to glean from that politician’s non-speak, but a lot of the terms we like are there. Generally speaking, scouts seem unanimous in their excitement about Ramirez’s potential ceiling. A power/speed outfielder with the athleticism to stick in centerfield and an arm that could help with a shift to a corner if needed.
Ramerizes’ swing gave scouts some pause after a rather unimpressive Low-A debut. In 2021 during his tenure in the Low-A Southeast league, he slashed .258/.326/.384 with a discouraging 31.1% strikeout rate. Reports from places such as MLB Pipeline before the start of this season were enamored with his “tools” but concerned with his “long-levered swing that hinders his ability to make consistent contact.”
The thing to keep in mind about that strikeout rate is that Rameriz was the second-youngest player in the league. He was nearly three and half years younger than the average age of his competition. The assignment to Low-A was a lot to ask of the 18-year-old. He’s repeating that same assignment in 2022, but the difference is night and day.
He’s started the season with a 12-game hit streak, and while he only has 3 homers (all coming in May), he’s had an absurd amount of multi-hit games with plenty of hard contact. He is doing everything to dispel the concern about his ability to make “consistent” contact. I’ve seen that he does swing out of his shoes on most of the at-bats, but he seems to be using his hands to make much more of it this year. Equally as promising as his 20.5% strikeout rate this year is that he’s cut down on the groundballs. He’s seen an increase in his flyball and line-drive percentages. That’s huge considering the groundball percentage topped 53% in 2021, and his launch angle hovered around six. If he continues, we could see more of this.
Source: MiLB Ramirez Homers for the Mets
There’s no doubt that Ramirez will be inside the top 100 of every prospect list this time next year. If he’s somehow available on waivers in your league, it’s definitely time to snag him. Time trade for him? Perhaps if there’s a sleepy manager in your league, but your best bet might be later this year. As I said, he goes all out on just about every swing. I’m willing to bet we see some of those swing-and-miss tendencies when he adapts to a higher level of pitching, only to adjust again after enough exposure. Regardless, he’s well on his way to being a top 100 prospect and well-deserving of your vote for this round’s diamond.
Royber Salinas, SP, Atlanta Braves
Age: 21, Highest Level: High-A
Analysis by Andrew Jurewicz
Is 2022 the year of breakout pitchers for the Braves organization? Everyone knows about Kyle Wright and what he’s done at the big league level, however, I’m here to shed some light on another breakout brewing in their minor league ranks with Royber Salinas. Why should we pay attention to that name you ask? He struck out 52 batters in 23.2 innings of work at Low-A for an eye popping 19.77 SO/9 rate along with a 1.52 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. Does that get your attention? Good! With his early season success Salinas has earned a promotion to High-A Rome to be tested at the next level.
Unfortunately, his first High-A start on May 7th wasn’t as great as one would hope, only facing 6 batters (3BB/1K) and getting tapped for 4 earned runs. Wait, let’s try that again…how about coming out firing for a win on May 11th for 5 shutout innings with 10 strikeouts!
An under the radar 2018 international signing out of Venezuela, Salinas is presently listed at 6’3” and 205 lbs, though from watching some video I’d believe he’s heavier than his listed weight. Featuring a mix of four pitches coming from a high release point in his delivery, his mid-90’s fastball stands out as the best pitch but the secondary offerings aren’t too shabby either. When I dug deeper with some video review from Low-A outings I got excited seeing how often he was generating swinging strikes effectively located that fastball high in the zone where hitters can’t catch up to it. High two strike fastball…one of my favorite out pitches! Here’s a nice clip to check out for your own opinion.
Royber Salinas is the guy you’re going to want as this week’s diamond! I’ll admit I’m very intrigued with what he’s shown so far in 2022 but also how he’s been performing as a professional since debuting in 2019 looking like he’s got a knack for pitching as well as K/BB rates trending in the right directions every year. Kinda wished he struck out Binelas when he had the chance to prove a point for this piece but walked him instead in the clunker of a debut. He’ll get another shot at it soon enough!