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System Sundays: Top Prospect List Supplemental #1

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Three additional scouting reports which must be written.

St. Louis Cardinals v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

I’m not actually planning on writing other supplements to the VEB Top Prospects List; however, given that I wasn’t actually planning on writing this one, I figured I should number it just in case I need to come back around and pick up another player or players that I feel need to be written up.

Anyhow, the reason for this supplemental is to add in a couple players that, for one reason or another, slipped through the cracks. The first, Ivan Herrera, I meant to put on the second just-missed list, then forgot. The second, Adolis Garcia, I am rather embarrassed to admit I completely forgot about through the whole process. He probably would have placed somewhere down near #30, as I have major concerns about his game at this point, but he still should have been on the list. I’m honestly not sure how I completely managed to forget about him, seeing as how I wrote him up last year, but I literally didn’t even realise I had forgotten him until someone in the comments mentioned him on a recent post.

As for the third, Daniel Poncedeleon, I believed he had lost his prospect status due to days on the roster, rather than innings pitched. However, it appears he’s still under the service time limit, and thus retains rookie eligibility, and should have been included as a ‘prospect’. Apologies for the oversight; keeping track of who does and does not have the innings or at-bats to exceed rookie limits is one thing, but trying to track down exact days of service is much more of a pain. So anyhow, here are three additional scouting reports for players who need them.

Ivan Herrera, C

6’0”, 180 lbs; Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 1 June 2000

Acquired: IFA 2017

Level(s) in 2018: Gulf Coast League, Springfield (Double A)

Relevant Stats: 130 PA, .348/.423/.500, 160 wRC+, 8.5% BB, 15.4% K, .409 BABIP (GCL)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

First things first: don’t let that Double A experience of Herrera in 2018 fool you; he was called up to Springfield strictly as an emergency measure when the Cards’ Texas League affiliate found itself desperately short on catchers for a game or two. Herrera appeared in two games, came to bat five times, struck out twice, and basically told us absolutely nothing about his game. Herrera will return to a much, much lower level to begin 2019, with just how low telling us a lot about what the Cardinals think of his ability.

The good with Herrera is that he’s a catcher who can really hit, and those are always going to be in demand. The bad is that there is some question about whether he sticks behind the plate or not, which is, of course, almost always the case with extremely young catching talent. To his credit, Herrera looks like a better bet than many eighteen year old kids to stay at catcher; it’s just always a complicating factor.

The peripherals for Herrera are very good, but maybe not top prospect worthy. Good walk rate, but not exceptional. Good contact ability, but not Tony Gwynn. Still, those numbers are good enough to lay the framework for an offensive contributor when said contributor shows such a knack for barreling up the ball. In two seasons of pro ball, Herrera has twice posted a batting average on balls in play over .400. Now, the glass half empty view on those numbers would obviously be that they’re unsustainable, and so the regression monster is coming for Herrera. However, extremely high BABIPs in the minors can also occasionally indicate a player who is simply outhitting the competition, and from what I’ve heard (take this with a grain of salt because I have barely seen Herrera with my own eyes), there is a lot of signal along with the noise in this case. This is a hitter who creates a lot of the sort of contact that typically turns into hits, and into damage, and while the power is still relatively modest for now, as he grows and matures there’s at least the chance of plus power, if not a guarantee of loft.

As for the defense, Herrera has solid catching tools, including a strong throwing arm and some real hop in his legs. I always cop to the fact I feel very little confidence in my ability to really drill down on catcher defense, but Herrera looks relatively quiet in his receiving on the half dozen or so pitches I think I’ve actually seen, and for what it’s worth I have one very strong opinion on the positive side of the ledger. I also have one other, much less sanguine opinion, so it’s not a slam dunk.

The risk is the same as always for young catching talent; if Herrera can’t stay behind the plate the bat doesn’t necessarily play that well anywhere else, or at least not at the positions to which he could conceivably move. Still, a kid with this natural a stroke and a better than a coin flip chance of remaining a catcher long term is a very exciting asset, and I could easily see Herrera shooting up in prominence by this time next year should he come out and perform again in 2019 the way he has so far in his professional career. The Cardinals could maybe try to push him aggressively to Peoria to start the year just in order to have him playing in full-season ball rather than waiting, but for my money I think it much more likely he opens in extended spring training and then heads off to Johnson City or State College once short-season ball gets going.

via Deportes 360:

27 12Adolis Garcia, OF

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

DOB: 2 March 1993

Acquired: IFA 2017

Level(s) in 2018: Memphis (Triple A), MLB

Relevant Stats: 428 PA, .256/.281/.500, 95 wRC+, 22 HR, 7:1 K:BB ratio (Mem)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Okay, so after much consideration — read: about three minutes — I have decided to slot Adolis Garcia in at number 27.5 on the big list, right after Max Schrock and right ahead of Jonatan Machado. It sort of makes this run of three players the All Disappointing Team of 2018, as all three guys came into the season with major hype of one type or another, and all three struggled in some way or another that severely undercut the level of excitement surrounding each.

You know, there’s a lot of talk whenever the subject of Tyler O’Neill comes up that he could be just another Randal Grichuk. That’s obviously the view from those skeptical about Bro’Neill’s skills translating at the major league level; basically every high-strikeout slugger the Cardinals bring along for awhile is going to get Grichuk as a downside comp. However, if you want to see what a Randal Grichuk-type player really looks like, it’s not Tyler O’Neill, who posted an 11% walk rate in Triple A this past year at age 22. No, the guy you’re looking for is Adolis Garcia, who is as tooled up as any player in the system, with plus wheels and a monster throwing arm and big time raw power, but was so constrained by his poor plate approach in 2018 that he managed to both slug .500 and be a below-average hitter, not the easiest combo to pull off.

It’s a shame Garcia appears to have such a complete lack of on-base skills, because the rest of the physical package is remarkably impressive. He’s capable of playing above-average defense in center field, has the aforementioned cannon for an arm, and could easily put up 20/20 seasons annually if he got on base often enough to steal more bases.

And, yes. He fell down rounding third in one of the biggest games of the year in 2018. It sucked.

Garcia finds himself heading into 2019 in one of the worst situations he could probably find, as a right-handed hitting outfielder in the high minors of the Cardinals’ system. There are a whole lot of other organisations where a guy with his combination of physical tools might very well get a long look for at least a fourth outfield job, with the low OBP hopefully offset by all those secondary abilities he shows in such quantities. In this organisation, though, such a flawed player who also hits from the right side is just going to have an extraordinarily tough time really pushing for any kind of big league opportunity whatsoever.

And let’s face it: a three and a half percent walk rate is tough to carry pretty much anywhere.

via Sports in 30:

8 12Daniel Poncedeleon, RHP

6’4”, 185 lbs; Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 16 January 1992

Acquired: Amateur Draft 2014, 9th Round

Level(s) in 2018: Memphis (Triple A), MLB

Relevant Stats: 3.75 FIP (Mem), 3.34 FIP (StL), 26.9% K (Mem), 23.5% K (StL)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Well, since every story about Daniel Poncedeleon has to start with the obvious, we might as well just go ahead and acknowledge right off the top that it’s amazing he’s pitching at all, was nearly killed by a line drive, and it’s all very inspirational. All of that stuff is true, but at a certain point treating Poncedeleon like a Rudy or something is to not give him the credit he deserves for being a very intriguing MLB-ready arm, which he is. So let’s just move on to the that.

The 2018 season was a really fascinating one for Poncedeleon, as in addition to coming back from the head injury that nearly ended his career the year before, he also made major changes to his repertoire, nearly all for the good to my eye. In the past, Poncedeleon had thrown primarily a sinker, and it was just okay. In 2018, though, he ditched the sinker in favour of a much better four-seam fastball which he had always had but had never really featured all that much. The four-seamer was the biggest boon for his strikeout rate, as hitters just didn’t get much wood on the pitch most of the time. The pitch isn’t exceptional as far as velocity goes, sitting about 94, but it has above-average spin and some deceptive quality that just seems to make it allergic to bats.

Poncedeleon also appears to have scrapped a bad slider he used to throw, though it’s also possible the previous bad sliders were actually just bad cutters that fooled the observer, in this case me. If that’s the case, then he actually just tightened up the cutter significantly, and began going to it as his primary offspeed pitch. He throws a curveball, or did in the minors, but we saw very little evidence of the pitch in the majors for whatever reason. His changeup had always appeared below-average to me in the minors, but it looked much better when I saw him pitch in St. Louis, so I would probably bump the pitch up a half grade or so from where I would have had it in the past.

All of which is to say, Daniel Poncedeleon has a bunch of pitches, changed his usage pattern of said pitches in 2018, and then altered things even more at the big league level. The fastball I’d stick a 55 on, and the cutter I would say the same. The curve would probably get an average grade from me, and the changeup, which I would have had a firm 40 on this time in 2017, is now a 45 or even a 50 based on what I saw in the majors. He has multiple weapons, enough to start, but my favourite version of Poncedeleon is probably working out of the bullpen and leaning heavily on the four-seam/cutter combo to generate lots of swings and misses. Whereas a guy like Austin Gomber I feel benefits from utilising his full complement of pitches and is probably best suited for a rotation spot, I want to see Poncedeleon boiled down to his two best pitches just to see how it looks. He still has the other pitches in his back pocket, obviously, but that one-two punch to my eye could be good enough to make him a shutdown reliever if things play up coming out of the ‘pen.

via MLB: