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Palm Beach Season Preview

What can we expect from High-A this year?

Minor League Baseball: Florida State League-All Star Game Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is finally, finally back. I have to admit I’m so irrationally excited for first pitch in Milwaukee that it’s hard to wrap my head around a minor league article today. It feels more than a bit awkward too, knowing that the long offseason freeze is nearly over and I’m...digging into minor league rosters? But hey, minor league content is why they pay me the big bucks, so we press on.

Minor League Opening Day is April 4th. Full rosters usually drop a day or two before that, so while we don’t know exactly who will open the season in Palm Beach, we can reasonably speculate based on where everyone ended 2018. Austin Ward did the same on Tuesday with his eye on Peoria. Palm Beach is a tricky roster to try and project, given how the power-sapping environment of the Florida State League can alter player development paths. Here are some players I’m most excited to follow this year.

Elehuris Montero

How can you not be enamored with Montero’s breakout 2018? He burst on the scene at Peoria, slashing .322/.381/.529 across 103 games touring the Midwest League circuit, before moving up to Palm Beach and keeping pace as a 19 year old. He’ll play the entire season at 20 years old this year, and it’ll be interesting to see where the organization starts him. He got his feet wet at High-A and posted a 110 wRC+ in 24 games, but didn’t blow the doors off the place. He could start the year back at Roger Dean, but theres definitely the possibility that the club fast tracks him to Springfield.

Luken Baker

Baker is a candidate to start the year at Peoria, but he’ll certainly be in Palm Beach by years end. The slugger out of TCU performed reasonably well in his pro debut, posting a 123 wRC+ on the back of solid bat-to-ball skills and a high walk rate. The power was a bit lacking, especially for a player of his profile, but not all that concerning considering he was playing so deep into the summer after the college season. There’s little margin for error in his immobile, right-right, first-base only profile, but he’s sure gonna hit.

Johan Oviedo

Oviedo has been one of the more maddening prospects in the system since being signed in 2016. His stuff has waxed and waned throughout the season in each of his three campaigns this far, making it tough to scratch out exactly what level of hurler we’ve got on our hands here. On good days he’ll bump 97 on the gun and flash a pair of above-average secondary offerings. On bad days, like much of early 2018, he’ll sit in the more pedestrian 90-94 range and his secondaries will lack crispness. The good news is his stuff ticked up at the end of 2018 and he ended the season on a high note. There’s a mid-rotation ceiling here if he irons out the inconsistencies in his stuff, with more than enough time to figure things out.

Juan Yepez

Ah yes, the return for Matt Adams. The infielder was a big-bodied corner-only candidate when he was acquired, but reports since then indicate that he’s remade his body and improved his conditioning. Long term he’s still first-base only in my eyes, but there’s a much better shot he’s more than organizational fodder at this point. Yepez raked out of the gate in 2018, slashing .415/.462/.596 en route to a speedy promotion to Palm Beach. Upon reaching High-A, everything fell apart. His plate discipline went in the opposite direction, the power evaporated, and the results were more what you’d expect from Delvin Perez than a from guy with legitimate 60-grade raw power. He’s still just 21, and will likely get another shot at solving the Florida State League this year. He could get pushed to Springfield to avoid another trip through Roger Dean, but the abundance of first-base only types bouncing around the high-minors right now makes me think he’ll have to prove what he can do at Palm Beach first.

That’s enough minor league baseball for now. We’ve got big league action on the way!