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2018 Viva El Birdos Top Prospect List, Part Three: #20-11

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The second installment of VEB’s big annual prospect list.

Milwaukee Brewers v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

#20: Jonatan Machado, OF

5’9”, 155 lbs; Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 21 January 1999; Signed 2016 (Cuba)

Level(s) in 2017: GCL Cardinals

Notable Numbers: 139 PA, .323/.381/.435, 136 wRC+, 5.8% BB, 9.4% K, 8/10 SB

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Jonatan (in spite of his name seemingly having been changed to ‘Jonathan’ at milb and FanGraphs, I’m sticking with ‘Jonatan’, because that’s what his name actually is, so far as I can tell), Machado was the biggest investment the Cardinals made in the 2016 international signing period, as he inked a deal worth $2.35 million, which should tell you something of the organisation’s belief in his bat, his legs, and his desire to make it.

The thing is, Machado is not the sort of physical specimen one expects to see when looking at the very tippy-top of the international signing pool. You look at the player who gets the most money out of any given class, and you expect to see broad shoulders, long frames, huge power potential. You expect to see Jorge Soler. Luis Robert. Those kinds of projection monsters. You really don’t expect to see a kid at 5’9” and barely over 150 pounds getting the big bonus in a team’s signing group.

And therein lies the risk with Machado. He’s small. He looks strong for his size, at least to me, but strong for 5’9” and 155 is very different from strong for most professional baseballers. He’ll get bigger and stronger, but he is always going to be limited in terms of power, just by the fact he’s a small player. There are other risks that flow from that lack of strength, as pitchers might eventually decide he’s not enough of a threat to keep them out of the strike zone, and simply work over the middle with impunity. The walk rate falls apart, the power isn’t there, and you’re left with a Dee Gordon type, which certainly isn’t a terrible thing to have, but Dee Gordon types are not guarantees to turn into Dee Gordon. There’s a reason you just don’t see that many players with that skillset in the big leagues these days.

However, Jonatan Machado has one thing that no one can take away from him, and something that very, very few players in baseball can outdo: he has absolutely phenomenal hands. One of my favourite old scouting tropes is that of the player swinging a magic wand, rather than a bat, and Machado fits into that kind of category. He can spray the ball to all parts of the field, has enough bat speed to turn on anything on the inner half, and just generally shows those kinds of Jon Jay hitting skills that are so hard to scout until the player arrives and just produces. For much of his first season on U.S. soil, Machado was running a strikeout to walk ratio right around 1:1, with both sitting in the 6-7% range. He seemed to wear down a little late in the year, or maybe just hit a short rough patch, and the overall numbers took a small hit. Overall, though, he basically did exactly what you would want to see from a player of his type.

Hitting isn’t the only tool Machado brings to the table, even if it is the most impressive. He’s a 65-70 grade runner, and it plays both in terms of outstanding range in center field and on the bases. The stolen base just isn’t a huge part of the game these days, and definitely not within the Cards’ minor league system, as the Redbirds tend to be one of the more conservative baserunning organisations, I think, but Machado has the potential to be prolific and efficient enough to legitimately effect the game with his baserunning. An above-average centerfielder, a consistent stolen base threat, and a plus-plus bat control wunderkind makes for a hell of an intriguing package, even if it looks small at first blush.

If he’s good, it will look like: I already mentioned both Jon Jay and Dee Gordon as players who fall into the same category as Machado, but there are others I could bring up. He’s very similar to Magneuris Sierra, only with (I believe), an even better hit tool and better instincts on the bases. I could bring up Juan Pierre, so overrated by broadcasters and underrated by sabermetricians. Probably my favourite version ever of what Jonatan Machado could be, though, is Brett Butler, the leadoff hitter to end all leadoff hitters (non-Rickey division, that is), of my childhood. Butler had elite, elite plate discipline, though, which makes him a tough comp. Machado could have that kind of ability to cover the plate and control the zone, but I have to admit that is an absolute pie in the sky best-case scenario.

#19: Scott Hurst, OF

5’10”, 175 lbs; Bats/Throws: Left/Right

DOB: 25 March 1996; Drafted Rd 3 2017

Level(s) in 2017: State College (SS+)

Notable Numbers: 242 PA, .282/.354/.432, 136 wRC+, 9.1% BB, .370 BABIP, 6/10 SB

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Remember, a handful of years ago, when it seemed like the Cardinals just couldn’t find any centerfielders? The system was lousy with corner outfield types, the big league club was relying on latter-career Jon Jay to hold down the fort in center, and it just didn’t seem like the Redbirds scouted the sort of athletic qualities that lend themselves to playing the rangiest position on the field.

Well, those days are long gone by this point, as the Cards have center field candidates galore, even if some of them have some question marks next to that CF designation. They’re not all slam dunks, but if you look at the system right now we could list something like seven players appearing in this top 30 who should be capable of playing center at a reasonable or better level in the big leagues. That number would be eight, had not Magneuris Sierra been moved.

Scott Hurst falls squarely into that emerging demographic of Cardinal draft focus, as a somewhat undersized, but athletically gifted, center field candidate. He was actually the club’s first pick in the draft this year, a result of Dexter Fowler and hacking penalties, and for where the club selected him, in the mid-late third round, I think they may have come away with a really nice player.

Hurst missed a lot of time his first two seasons at Cal State Fullerton with a back/spine injury, and was in danger of falling through the cracks considering how loud the tools were coming into college. He got healthy in time for his junior year, though, and posted a .994 OPS and 1:1 K:BB ratio this spring for the Titans. His name jumped back into high-mid round consideration (I had him in a spreadsheet from 2014, but didn’t write him up), and the Cards gambled with their first pick, trying for some upside to compensate somewhat for their lack of early selections.

As far as tools go, Hurst is as loaded for bear as nearly any player in the system. He’s fast and rangy in the outfield, probably a 60 on the speed and 55 on the glove, and I think he stays in center long-term. He has an absolute rocket arm, being clocked over 100 mph multiple times on throws from the outfield. Probably a 70 grade there. If he develops further defensively, he could be a real impact player in center field, I believe. He moves to a corner, though, and the bat suddenly has to carry way more of the load.

And what about that bat? Well, it’s good, but comes with question marks. The missing two years of baseball in his college career add some risk to his offensive profile, I believe, but at his best Hurst has wonderful zone discipline and roughly average raw power. He struck out more than I would have liked in his pro debut, but that K number also elevated toward the end of the season, suggesting some fatigue setting in or adjustments from pitchers.

My favourite thing about Hurst, bar none, is his batting stroke. If every player swung like Scott Hurst, the world would be a better place. Well, except for pitchers, who would live in a dystopian nightmare of gap doubles and slashing liners to the opposite field. Beautiful balance, full leg kick, pretty much ideal hand load and bat path for me. He doesn’t have quite enough of an uppercut that I want to peg him as a flyball approach guy, but the swing should generate hard contact in the air at an above-average rate, I believe.

Hurst is a risky player, having missed time already and lacking ideal size. But the physical gifts are substantial, and I think the payoff, if he develops, could be as well.

If he’s good, it will look like: How about Andrew Toles as a multidimensional athlete who makes things happen with all of his physical abilities? Toles is more of a true burner than Hurst, but otherwise I like the comp.

via The Prospect Pipeline:

#18: Alvaro Seijas, RHP

6’0”, 185 lbs; Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 10 October 1998; Signed 2016 (Venezuela)

Level(s) in 2017: Johnson City (Short Season)

Notable Numbers: 63.1 IP, 4.97 ERA/3.60 FIP, 62% LOB, .393 BABIP, 21.9% K, 6.9% BB

So, what’s so great about this guy?

The surface numbers on Seijas in 2017 were not all that impressive, as he got knocked around for an ERA near 5.00 in the Appalachian League. He was torched for a batting average on balls in play close to .400, though, and suffered a brutal strand rate as well. Now, it’s possible there’s something going on with Seijas out of the stretch, tipping his pitches or struggling with command, and maybe he’s more prone to missing over the plate, rather than out of the zone, and those two things will prove to be lasting issues. Absent any hard evidence, though, I think we have to assume the peripherals are the more important stats to look at for now.

And those peripherals, while not eye-popping, paint a much rosier picture for Seijas, as he put up a 15% K-BB%, indicating an ability to both miss bats and pitch inside the zone. He’s still listed at 5’8” most places, but I’m told he’s more in the six foot even range. Still probably what would be considered undersized, but not to the degree he was at sixteen entering pro ball.

Seijas has a strong one-two punch with a fastball in the 92-95 range, and if pressed I would guess it’s one of those high-spin jobs, because hitters don’t seem to get great swings at it, even when he’s pitching up at the top of the zone. The pitch tends to be flat due to Seijas’s shorter stature and drop and drive delivery, but it’s deceptive and hard to square up. Lots of popups, that sort of thing. Probably his best pitch, though, is an overhand curveball with excellent depth that he spins out of more than you’d like to see, but will also throw a couple every outing that turn a hitter inside out. When he commits to the curve and drives through it with power, it’s a 65 grade offering. When he tries to baby it, though, it loops, hangs, and generally gets killed.

He throws a decent changeup, but it’s really nothing to write home about. Well, unless you like to write postcards with the caption, “Hey Everyone, saw a below-average changeup today. Wish you were here. xoxo” In which case, hey, write home about it all you want.

Seijas doesn’t have a particularly deep repertoire, but his two best pitches are good enough to keep him moving up the line for now I think. Relief work could certainly be an option down the road, and gun to my head that’s probably what I would peg as his most likely future. Also, you really shouldn’t put guns to people’s heads just to get prospect writeups. I know these aren’t always on time, but violence isn’t the answer.

If he’s good, it will look like: If Seijas can stay in the rotation, working at the top of the zone, he could end up looking something like Mike Fiers, which admittedly would have been a more exciting comp a few years back. If he moves to the ‘pen, maybe he gains a couple ticks on the fastball, leans on the curve more heavily, and can have something like the Scot Shields career.

#17: Oscar Mercado, OF

6’2”, 175 lbs; Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 16 December 1994; Drafted Rd 2 2013

Level(s) in 2017: Springfield (Double A)

Notable Numbers: 523 PA, 114 wRC+, .348 BABIP, 13 HR, 38/57 SB (66.6%)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Oscar Mercado was pretty much off the prospect radar this time last year, as a failed shortstop prospect who had been drafted originally on the strength of his glove and had really never hit at all. Him advancing as far as High A ball was more inertial that performance-based, if we’re being honest. A move to center field midway through the 2016 campaign allowed him to showcase his wheels, but losing the premium of playing shortstop was a tough pill to swallow.

A funny thing happened, though, this year at Springfield. Mercado improved. For what was basically the first time in his professional career, Oscar Mercado actually made some significant strides. His body has finally started to fill out, which certainly seems to have helped with his quality of contact, and he went from an extremely mistake-prone shortstop to being an easy plus defender in center, capable of allowing his natural speed to work, rather than fighting footwork and inconsistent hands in the dirt. The confidence with which he played the outfield seemed to bleed over into his hitting, as well, where for the first time he actually began to drive the ball a bit.

Now, there are still big question marks surrounding Mercado’s bat. In spite of what looks like a very solid home run total for the season, he hit the majority early on, in what looks now like a flukey run of power, and then mostly spent the rest of the season just making moderately better contact than he had in the past, rather than looking like latter-career Franklin Gutierrez all of a sudden.

The strikeouts jumped up for Mercado, as well; he went from a 14% K rate in 2016 to a 21.4% strikeout rate this year. That’s worrisome for a player who still doesn’t have a ton of power. His swing is still geared toward chopping down at the ball — though not as bad as it used to be — and I have a hard time seeing him really upping the power numbers to a great extent with the way he swings the bat currently.

All that being said, the speed, arm, and glove are all plus or better; you could probably put a 65 on his speed, which is his best tool. He can chase balls down in the outfield like few fielders you’ll see, and he’s gotten steadily better in terms of fundamentals and instincts since making the move. Mercado’s presence and profile actually helped make Mags Sierra more available in trade, I believe. He needs to be more strategic in how he attempts to use his speed; early on in his career he was swiping bases at both a prolific clip and a phenomenal success rate, but this season his stolen base percentage fell below that 70% line where stolen bases aren’t really adding much value. It’s worrisome to see how many incredible minor league basestealers have come up to the big leagues and found out just how good major league clubs are at shutting down the running game, and Mercado got a taste of that in 2017.

If he’s good, it will look like: Remember a moment ago, when I invoked late-career Franklin Gutierrez to make a comment about Mercado’s offensive profile? Well, the early career version of Gutierrez actually isn’t a bad comp for Mercado’s future, I don’t believe; the guy who BABIPs his way to league-average hitting lines sometimes, but is mostly sitting a couple ticks below that, but makes a real difference by chewing up real estate in center field. Mercado isn’t as extreme a player as Billy Hamilton, but he offers a substantial amount of baserunning potential, which Gutierrez actually never really did.

via minorleaguebaseball:

#16: Austin Gomber, LHP

6’5”, 235 lbs; Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 23 November 1993; Drafted Rd 4 2013

Level(s) in 2017: Springfield (Double A)

Notable Numbers: 143 IP, 3.34 ERA/4.10 FIP, 23.7% K, 8.6% BB

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Austin Gomber just keeps on moving up the ladder of the organisation, one rung at a time. He did receive a late-season promotion to Double A in 2016, but for the most part it’s been methodical, one level per season advancement. Not flashy, not amazing, but solid, dependable improvement.

And that’s really in keeping with the way Gomber pitches, in fact. He’s not flashy, he doesn’t strike out the world (though his K rate this year was very solid), he doesn’t have pyrotechnic stuff. But Austin Gomber just keeps on getting outs, and he keeps on moving closer to St. Louis.

The arsenal for Gomber is solid and diverse, if unexceptional. He works off a fastball that’s a touch below-average in terms of velocity, sitting 89-90, but he locates it well and delivers it on a steep plane from a high arm slot. His curveball is probably his best pitch, and at its best I could see putting a 60 on it. Overall, though, it’s more like a 55. He throws an average changeup and what looks to me like a little cutter, as well, and both are right around average, maybe 45-50 as far as grades, but he mixes up what he’s doing well enough that everything plays together.

The only real concerns for me with Gomber are a home run rate that spiked this year in Springfield, and the fact he walked more hitters this season. Presumably, those two things go together; Gomber attacked the zone with impunity at Peoria and Palm Beach, both tough parks in which to hit, but worked away from contact more often in the Texas League’s smaller stadiums. Low-velocity pitchers always carry some risk that they simply can’t work within the zone as effectively as the guys with bigger stuff, but hopefully Gomber’s smarts and ability to mix pitches will help him avoid those troubles in the future. He’s extremely deceptive, hiding the ball behind his body for a long time, but that also makes his arm very late, and for me increases his risk of injury.

If he’s good, it will look like: Gomber isn’t all that different from Tyler Lyons, though his breaker doesn’t defy physics the way the Cards’ current best reliever is able to. The ceiling for Gomber is probably a #4 starter, but as backend rotation guys go, you could certainly do a whole lot worse.

via minorleaguebaseball:

#15: Yairo Munoz, SS/INF

6’1”, 165 lbs (nuh-uh), Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 23 January 1995; Signed 2012 (Dominican Republic)

Level(s) in 2017: AA/AAA in the Athletics’ system

Notable Numbers: 140 wRC+ in AA, 86 wRC+ in AAA, sub-5% BB both stops, .215 ISO AA, .125 ISO AAA, 16.9% K rate both levels (weird)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Yairo Munoz was one of the two prospects the Cardinals received in return for sending Stephen Piscotty back home to the Bay Area, and in most circles you’ll find him the more highly-regarded of the two. Not here at VEB Industries, however. Here, we have serious concerns about Munoz’s ultra-aggressive approach at the plate and future position, though we’re still appreciative of various aspects of his game as well, certainly.

What Munoz brings to the table right off the bat is above-average bat to ball skill, and began this season to show some notable damage on contact as well. He’s filled out significantly over the last couple seasons (seriously, that 165 number is ridiculous, even by listed baseball height-weight standards), and has gotten substantially stronger in the process. What he showed this season at Double A Midland is basically the best version of what he could be: a hacker at the plate, but one who just killed everything he hit and forced pitchers to respect him.

As little as Munoz walks, he’ll probably never have a very high on-base percentage, and while his swing looks like it should produce lots of flyball contact, he actually hits the ball on the ground significantly more than you would prefer to see from a player with his bat speed. He hits from an extremely widespread stance, and doesn’t incorporate his lower half into his swing as much as I would like.

As far as non-bat tools go, Munoz runs well, a tick above average, and has a tremendous throwing arm that makes him a natural fit for the left side of the infield. I have concerns about his ability to play shortstop, though that’s primarily what he’s played thus far in the minors. For me, he profiles better at third, but the bat would have to play up a bit more. It’s possible Munoz ends up fitting best as a ‘tweener utility infielder, one whose contact and power could make him very valuable.

If he’s good, it will look like: Honestly, watching Munoz reminds me most of Aledmys Diaz. Both play shortstop, though I’m not sure either one should. Both have natural bat to ball skills and bat speed that translates into surprising pop, and both have serious deficiencies in terms of approach at the plate. Diaz in 2016 was obviously a more patient hitter than he’s shown at other times, but Munoz has really never looked like anything but a hacker. I need to see Munoz more before I really come down hard one way or the other on his defense and approach, though.

via rkyosh007:

#15a: Zac Gallen, RHP

6’2”, 190 lbs; Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 3 August 1995; Drafted Rd 3 2016

Level(s) in 2017: Palm Beach (High A), Springfield (Double A), Memphis (Triple A)

Notable Numbers: 25.6% K (PB), 27.1% K (Mem), 4.48 FIP (Spr), 147.2 total innings

Here’s where Zac Gallen would have ranked on this list, were he still a member of the Cards’ organisation. He was moved in the Marcell Ozuna deal, though (actually probably the player I was most upset to see go, if I’m being honest), and as such I’m not going to spend a ton of time covering him.

Gallen works with an average-ish fastball, 90-93, which he spots very well, and complements it with one of the best changeups in the whole system, a 65+ offering that drops like a forkball when he’s really on. He throws an average cutter and curveball, and is smart about mixing them. If he sounds like a right-handed version of Austin Gomber, that’s not completely offbase, though I think the overall quality of Gallen’s stuff is a cut above Gomber’s, with the change especially standing out as a true plus or even plus-plus pitch.

As a starter, Gallen was probably limited to a #4 profile, maybe a #3 if things really came together for him. My personal feeling, though, was that his stuff would play out of the bullpen in such a way that he could be a dominant force. Strictly a gut feel thing for me, but watching him I just imagined him in that suddenly all the rage fireman role that several teams have gone to, and striking out the world with that changeup. I like the Ozuna trade overall quite a bit (though I don’t think it’s as bad for the Marlins as some of the national people have made it out to be), but it hurts me to lose Gallen.

#14: Dylan Carlson, OF

6’3”, 195 lbs; Bats/Throws: Switch/Left

DOB: 23 October 1998; Drafted Rd 1 Supplemental 2016

Level(s) in 2017: Peoria (Low A)

Notable Numbers: 451 PA, 101 wRC+, 11.5% BB, 25.7% K, 18 years old

So, what’s so great about this guy?

As you can see, Dylan Carlson had an okay season at Peoria. He was a shade better than a league-average hitter, he drew a lot of walks, he struck out more than you’d like at that level, and he didn’t hit for a ton of power, with just a .107 ISO. By pretty much any reasonable standard, one would say that Dylan Carlson was fine, but did not dominate, and never really put up the kind of numbers a player should if he’s going to appear on top prospect lists.

Here’s the thing about that phrase, ‘reasonable standard’, though: it goes both ways. If it’s fair to look askance at a player’s numbers and ask why he deserves to be ranked where he is, then it’s also fair to use that context to override the pure numerical reality of things. Dylan Carlson had a perfectly fine, average sort of year in Peoria, in the Midwest League, where it’s cold in the spring and very few of the ballparks are really all that hitter friendly.

And for every single day of that season where he was perfectly fine, just nothing super special, Dylan Carlson was eighteen years old. Playing at a level teams are extremely hesitant to send college juniors directly after the draft.

In other words, Carlson is ranked as much for his precociousness as his production at this point.

Of course, age isn’t the only thing he has going for him. He’s already a very dangerous left-handed hitter, capable of punishing mistakes that catch too much of the plate. His approach at the plate is outstanding. The swing and miss this year was a little concerning, but a 12% walk rate helps out a whole lot when it comes to keeping an OBP up. He has plus raw power from both sides of the plate, in addition to that natural feel for the zone and patient approach. Offensively, the ceiling is very high for Carlson.

The bad news on that front is that, well, he sucks at hitting from the right side. The swing is ugly, the approach is worse, he swings and misses a whole lot more, and he doesn’t show anywhere near as much power potential. It’s much too early to suggest he should give up switch-hitting, but it’s certainly something to watch. Developing two swings can be tricky, which is probably the main reason why switch hitters are still the exception, rather than the rule, in spite of how useful it is to always possess the platoon advantage.

On the defensive side, Carlson looks to be a very solid defender in a corner outfield spot. He’s got a strong enough arm for right, and the Cardinals have even tried him a bit in center, though that’s not a realistic spot for him, particularly long term. He looked slightly heavy and soft his senior year of high school, but was leaner and stronger this season, it seemed.

Personally, while the Cardinals seem inclined to give Carlson every chance in the world to play the outfield, I’m a big fan of him at first base. He certainly moves well enough to stick in left or right, but he had some of the more remarkable footwork I think I’ve ever seen from a high school kid at first base prior to the draft. Moving a guy down the defensive spectrum in the minors generally isn’t done unless the player just can’t handle a give spot, but I would love to see Carlson move to first full time. I think he’ll be a fine defender in the outfield. At first, with his arm and the way he moved around the bag, I think he could be something special.

If he’s good, it will look like: I made the same comp last year, and I’m sticking with Lance Berkman as the idealised version of what Dylan Carlson could be someday.

via 2080 Baseball:

#14a: Magneuris Sierra, OF

5’11”, 170 lbs; Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 7 April 1996; Signed 2013 (Dominican Republic)

Level(s) in 2017: Palm Beach (High A), Springfield (Double A), St. Louis

Notable Numbers: 86 wRC+, .417 BABIP (StL)

I think we all know plenty about Magneuris Sierra by this point, having watched him slapfight his way past pitchers and right into the hearts of Cardinal fans for big chunks of the summer. He was moved as part of the Marcell Ozuna deal at the Winter Meetings.

Sierra ranks right along Dylan Carlson for me as a prospect, and in an interesting way for much the same reason. In the same way that Carlson earns his spot for the precociousness of his talent, playing at a level far above his head and staying afloat, Sierra survived a premature promotion to the big leagues at barely 21 years old, and never really looked overwhelmed or out of place.

The good with Sierra: the glove is legit, and the speed should allow him to do special things in the outfield and on the bases as he improves his ability to read pitchers and situations.

The bad with Sierra: he hit the baseball about as weakly as a person physically can this past season, surviving entirely on unsustainable batted-ball luck to keep his offensive numbers up. Now, there’s something to be said for an ability to serve soft liners into no-man’s land, but at some point a hitter incapable of driving the ball is not going to continue to be successful. Period.

Sierra showed some slight power potential at the lowest levels of the system, and he’ll need to rediscover and develop that modest pop if he’s going to be a successful major league hitter. His defense and secondary skills are good enough he shouldn’t have to clear that high a bar, though. Overall, I don’t consider the loss of Mags to be a huge blow to the Cards’ system.

#13: Delvin Perez, SS

6’3”, 175 lbs: Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 24 November 1998; Drafted Rd 1 2016

Level(s) in 2017: Johnson City (SS), Gulf Coast League

Notable Numbers: 13.3% BB, 15.6% K, .226 BABIP, .039 ISO (all JC), 10% BB, 20% K, .294 BABIP, .119 ISO, 94 wRC+ (GCL)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

There’s really no way around it: 2018 was a very, very disappointing season for Delvin Perez. The Cardinals made him their first round selection in 2016 after he tested positive pre-draft for a performance-enhancing substance and fell from a top five or ten slot to pick 22. There was lots of moralising from Harold Reynolds and others over the Cardinals rewarding an extremely poor kid from a rough part of Puerto Rico who dared to step outside the lines to try and improve his draft stock for the only guaranteed payday he could count on, ever. It was unpleasant.

More relevantly, though, was the concern that Perez, who had been an athletic marvel and draft consideration for at least a couple years, had never really shown much in the way of functional strength or an ability to gain weight up until the point when he was believed to have started taking PEDs. Sure, plenty of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds have trouble gaining weight and strength, but it was still a concern that the growth he showed from 2015 to ‘16 might have been chemically enhanced.

Well, consider that concern unalleviated, as Perez has yet to add even an ounce to his desperately skinny frame, and simply looked physical overmatched at Johnson City early in the season. It’s unfortunate there isn’t some easy way to suddenly add 25 pounds of good weight to a person’s frame, but that’s exactly what Perez needs.

Defensively, he still has exquisite tools, with a 70 grade throwing arm and range close to that which could make him a spectacular shortstop down the road. He’s a 65, maybe even 70 runner, as well, and should be able to add quite a bit of size before he starts compromising that speed.

The one real promising sign for Perez offensively this year was the fact he maintained a solid plate approach even when he wasn’t making an impact on the ball whatsoever. He was making terrible contact at Johnson City, but was walking over 13% of the time and running close to an even K:BB ratio. He struck out a bit more in the GCL, seemingly trying to be a bit more aggressive to generate some power, but still posted a walk rate in the double digits.

The bottom line for Perez is this: he’s going to have to get stronger. Some of the ingredients are still there for him to be a truly great player, but he is simply underdeveloped physically. I’m not ready to write him off, obviously, keeping him right here along with other prospects who have proven far more already in pro ball than Perez, simply because the ceiling could still be so high. But he’s much further away than I think most of us realised, and a lot of what he needs is only going to come — or not — with time.

And also pizza. And ice cream. And maybe a nice reuben now and again.

#12: Max Schrock, 2B

5’8”, 180 lbs; Bats/Throws: Left/Right

DOB: 12 October 1994; Drafted Rd 13 2015

Level(s) in 2017: Athletics’ Double A

Notable Numbers: 457 PA, .321/.379/.422, 128 wRC+, 7.4% BB, 9.2% K, 78 FFA (Fringe Five Appearances)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Max Schrock is a hitting machine.

#11: Jo-

Alright, alright, I’ll give a little more information on Maximillian Schrock (almost certainly not his real name), before moving on.

I think most of the readers of this blog are probably also quite familiar with FanGraphs, and probably at least somewhat familiar with that site’s resident bohemian dilettante Carson Cistuli. Well, Max Schrock just happens to maybe be Cistuli’s favourite player, ever since he predicted Schrock would win an MVP award based on, well, some fairly interesting criteria.

Preposterous suggestions by walking nervous tics aside, there is a lot to like about Schrock’s offensive profile, to the point I like him more than Yairo Munoz, in spite of Munoz possessing much more in the way of outwardly, immediately visible physical tools.

What Schrock brings to the table in spades, to a degree few other players can, is a pure ability to make contact with a baseball on something resembling the barrel of the bat. He has a simple, efficient swing without a ton of load, and simply puts the bat on the ball. His approach is beautiful and intelligent, as he manages to make said copious amounts of contact without being overly aggressive. Max Schrock is one of the best pure hitters in the minor leagues.

Now, for the downside: Schrock is 5’8”, shows very little power, and while he looks solid at second base, he isn’t the kind of athletic specimen, say, Jose Altuve is, who obviously provides the most current awesome-small-second-baseman point of comparison. Schrock also doesnt’ swing from the heels and still make contact like Altuve or Dustin Pedroia, the previous awesome-small-second-baseman point of comparison. So while Schrock has one of the best feels for hitting you’re likely to see anywhere, he still has the feel of a somewhat limited ceiling.

However, when considering the upside of a player like Schrock, it’s also important to recognise that, in the current environment of baseball, offensive ceilings seem to be much more fluid than ever before. After all, the Max Schrock profile is essentially the Jose Martinez profile, meaning if you were looking for a specific type of player to try and make the contact-for-power tradeoff, it would be a player exactly like Martinez and/or Schrock. Of course, the fact Jose Martinez is almost a foot taller than Max Schrock is a complicating factor when trying to compare their physical tools.

It’s an open question how much power Max Schrock is ever going to show, and absent truly elite defense (which he has not, to this point, displayed), he’s always going to get dinged for a limited upside. But the longer I’ve done this, the more and more convinced I’ve become that natural hitting talent can trump a whole lot of other concerns, and that’s the thing Schrock possesses in the greatest quantity.

If he’s good, it will look like: I don’t know. The good version of Freddy Sanchez, maybe? Chuck Knoblauch is probably too optimistic, even for me, so I’ll stick with Sanchez.

via rkyosh007:

#11: Jose Adolis Garcia, OF

6’1”, 180 lbs; Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 2 March 1993; Signed 2017 (Cuba)

Level(s) in 2017: Springfield (Double A), Memphis (Triple A)

Notable Numbers: .285/.339/.476, 124 wRC+ (Spr), .301/.342/.478, 110 wRC+ (Mem)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Adolis Garcia was the reigning MVP of Cuba’s Serie Nacional when he defected. Admittedly, Cuban professional baseball at the moment is not what it was even a handful of years ago, before a mass exodus of top players to the U.S. robbed the island of much of its best talent, but even so, that should give some idea of the sort of all-around game Garcia possesses.

He stepped right into Double A and seemingly didn’t miss a beat, putting up solid numbers after a moderate layoff. He moved up to Triple A and did the same, although his approach while playing for Memphis left much to be desired in terms of aggression versus patience. Then again, when a player is hitting the ball well, it’s hard to fault them overmuch for not not swinging the bat.

Garcia has excellent bat speed, and a natural ability to hit the ball with power to the opposite field. Even in a world where pullside power in the air has become such a huge deal to an entire class of hitters, that natural stroke to drive the ball up the middle and to the opposite field, without selling out to try and yank everything, is, I believe, a huge deal. His aggression at the plate leads to a less than ideal K:BB ratio, but he’s not prone to excessive swinging and missing, and when he contacts the ball good things generally happen.

Beyond just hitting, Garcia offers a dynamic package of tools and skills in all facets. He’s a plus runner, capable of holding down center field at a good level, has a strong, accurate throwing arm, appears both heady and speedy on the bases, and just in general does a little bit of everything. He’s a remarkably well put together athlete, and while there were concerns about his ceiling when he first came over from Cuba, I think at this point those concerns look increasingly odd. I’m not saying he’s necessarily going to be a star, but Adolis Garcia has an ability to contribute in multiple ways on multiple fronts. There’s something to be said for that.

The biggest concern for Garcia is the plate approach; we’ve seen plenty of very talented hitters short-circuited by an overly aggressive approach playing into the hands of opposing pitchers. For much of the summer at Double A, Garcia was running excellent strikeout to walk numbers, but his approach seemed to degrade the longer he played, and he was very aggressive in Memphis. Obviously, there is both a layoff and an adjustment period to consider, so what Garcia does when he takes the field in 2018 will tell us a lot about the type of player he could be. He’s not the youngest prospect, nearing his 25th birthday after having played so successfully in Cuba, so the clock is somewhat ticking.

If he’s good, it will look like: I can see a little bit of Brian Jordan in Garcia’s all-around athletic ability, though I’m not sure Adolis is quite that level of freak athlete. Still, given my fondness for those early-90s Cardinal outfields of Jordan, Bernard Gilkey, and Ray Lankford, that’s where I go mentally when I consider the shape of Garcia’s game.

via minorleaguebaseball:

And that’s that, folks. One more long-ass list to go. Hope everyone had a good Christmas, and I’ll leave you with a non-classic I heard for the first time just last week on KDHX, featuring the voice of Thurl Ravenscroft, better known as the singer of novelty songs such as “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”, and “The Headless Horseman”, and, of course, the voice of Tony the Tiger.

via Rockin’ Chick: