McLovin’ It

Underage-ers playing well above age. Some you know, some you may not.

(Bonus points if you can name the player Mr. Carter used for his “fake id” above.)

A little over two weeks into the MiLB season and we’re getting more looks at young prospects given big opportunity. Age vs age of competition can tell us a lot about a player’s skill level, especially for teenagers, and how the organization values the talent. As I mentioned last week, the first thing I’ve been diving into this season is the physical development of young prospects hidden away during prime developmental years, and players making stateside debuts. Let’s take a look at some underaged players given a chance to drive in the fast lane. Some will prove to be fakes, but some won’t.

 

How Young is Young?

 

The average age of triple-A players currently rostered is 27.6, double-A is 25.2. We will be focusing on single-A players here, but let’s note some exceptionally young prospects in the upper levels. Wander Franco 20.2 years old (7.4 years younger than level), Simeon Woods-Richardson 20.6 (4.6), CJ Abrams 20.6 (4.6), Riley Greene 20.6 (4.6), Bobby Witt Jr. 20.9 (4.3), Daniel Ozoria, Twins triple-A, 20.7 (6.9), Jose Guzman, Angels’ double-A, 20.7 (4.5), Yenci Pena, Rangers’ double-A, 20.8 (6.6) and Ramses Malave, D’Backs’ triple-A, 20.7 (6.9) are all 1st percentile age at their levels.  Ozoria and Guzman are getting regular playing time, Pena has a few at-bats, and Malave is a catcher yet to appear.

Breaking down the lower levels, there is less discrepancy between average age from league to league than I expected, as that seemed to be the case pre-realignment:

High A 23.7 years old Low A- 22.4 years old
East 23.9 East 22.4
West 23.7 Southeast 22.3
Central 23.6 West 22.3

*I understand the age of some international prospects is questioned, but we’ll put that fun discussion aside for now and focus on what we see.

 

18-Year-Olds in Full-Season Ball

 

There are currently eight 18-year-olds in full-season. We will take a look at the five hitters, saving the three pitchers, Eury Perez (Marlins), Rafael Ohashi (Blue Jays), and Yordi Richard (Cardinals) for another day.

 

Evan Carter, OF, Down East (Rangers A-)

18.7  (3.6 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 48 PA, .458 OBP, .782 OPS, 5 SB, 22.9 BB%, 33.3 K%

10% Fantrax ownership

 

 

The young pop-up draftee, thrusted into an aggressive full-time lead-off assignment for the Woodies, is making things happen. There’s almost been a tennis-like quality to his two weeks whereupon poor pitching may be dampening his chances to produce. Sometimes you need the opponent to play at a certain level to heighten your play. The good news is he hasn’t dropped to their level, taking his walks and doing his job getting on base. Carter has shown his speed potential but is yet to produce a lot of hard contact.

Update: Carter hit his first HR Tuesday night (5/18):

 

 

Carter’s using a slightly different stance than glimpsed in some workout videos this offseason, a little more closed now. The breaking balls, particularly from righties down and in have given him troubles and will continue to be a focus as he works finding balance in the box. Carter is putting in the work and has shown the ability to up his game as competition improves, as an amateur and now a pro. If this continues to be the case, he has a chance to be a big-time prospect. The buzz is starting to catch up and he’s transitioned to low-A better than many of his prep draft mates the first few weeks.

 

Speaking of draft mates and…

 

…other significantly young for their level prospects with bigger names…

Marco Luciano is already showing some signs of improvement from a rough start.

Julio Rodríguez, Francisco Álvarez, Luis Matos, Gunnar Henderson, Ronny Mauricio, Michael Harris Jr., and Noelvi Marte are showing readiness for promotion, making work of the competition.

Orelvis Martinez, Aaron Bracho, Brayan Rocchio, and Luisangel Acuna, have been “meh” to right-where-they-should-be. Acuna has glimpsed some exciting moments, but I still question his defensive home and true offensive upside.

Joining Carter as 2020 draft prep bats debuting in full-season…

Robert Hassell has been extremely impressive, producing gaudy numbers.

Pete-Crow Armstrong, who has not, nor will have a broadcasted game given the current Low-A Southeast league’s schedule, has put up some numbers in a small 32 PA sample, but alas, my eyes haven’t been on him. UPDATE: nor will anyone’s as he’s having torn labrum surgery.

Zac Veen and Drew Romo have been hitting three and four for Fresno most days, and Romo has looked like the better bat at the moment. Veen is struggling with breaking balls, putting huge swings on a lot of them, but pretty standard stuff for a powerful high schooler jumping right into Low-A. Romo has looked more in control of the strike zone and more polished overall player, relatively speaking.

Austin Hendrick is putting some production together after some first week’s growing pains.

Nick Yorke, Ed Howard, Jake Vogel, Tyler Soderstrom and AJ Vukovich are adjusting to their aggressive assignments. Soderstrom more comfortable than the rest. AJV has 3 HRs on 6 hits. At one point it was 3 HR on 3 hits. He’s looking like a developing young slugger usually does.

Other than Hassell wow-ing, the rest is pretty much to be expected, not changing my narrative on anyone too much, but there is one 2020 prep bat surprising me in a positive way and making me eat a little crow, maybe…Jordan Walker. The 18-year-old has been putting up grown-man numbers and is one of the youngest players in all of full-season. Unfortunately, along with fellow draft mate Masyn Winn and young-for-level teammate Patrick Romeri, I haven’t been able to see them. The first, and maybe only look will be when Palm Beach visits Bradenton from May 25th to May 30th.

 

Anxiously Awaiting These Looks:

 

Livan Soto, SS, Tri-City (Angels A+)

20.9  (2.8 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 54 PA, .827 OPS, 2 HR, 2 SB, 13.0 BB%, 29.6 K%

1% Fantrax ownership

 

Soto was one of the youngest players in 2019 full-season ball. He was also an NRI this spring who did not appear in a spring training game. Clearly, the Angels are interested in what they have here and so am I. June 8th-13th he’ll be in Hillsboro and we can finally check in on the 2021 version.

 

Diowell Burgos, OF, Jupiter (Marlins A-)

20.3  (2.0 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 51 PA, .937 OPS, 2 HR, 19.6 BB%, 25.5 K%

1% Fantrax ownership

 

Burgos was one of my B-Side prospects to watch this year and he’s been Jupiter’s cleanup hitter, DH’ing and playing some right field. Checking in to see him and another young prospect Victor Mesa Jr. June 22nd-27th when they visit Bradenton, the only place to see any Low-A Southeast teams. Burgos’ bat seems to be transitioning well from 2019 in the GCL. I suspect we find a much stronger Burgos.

 

Misael Urbina, OF, Fort Myers (Twins A-)

19.1  (2.2 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 21 PA, .829 OPS, 2 SB, 19.0 BB%, 9.5 K%

16% Fantrax ownerhip

 

Urbina is making his stateside debut after playing in the DSL in 2019. Urbina has garnered buzz but unfortunately, he won’t make his MiLB.tv debut until August 10th-15th.

 

Back To The 18-Year-Olds

 

Robert Puason, SS, Stockton (A’s A-)

18.7  (3.6 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 1 for 25 with 17 Ks (58.6 K%) and 4 BB

27% Fantrax ownership

 

The A’s surprisingly assigned the highly touted 2019 J2 signee to low-A to start his pro career. It looks to be too much at this point, at least after a few weeks of playing part-time hitting at the bottom of the lineup. My only real takeaway is I’ve never seen him run:

 

 

OK. Getting some video of him putting a ball in play wasn’t easy. Kidding aside, it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of this assignment plays out. I’m not doubting the talent, but the readiness.

 

Bryan Buelvas, OF, Stockton (A’s A-)

18.9  (3.4 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 38 PA, .820 OPS, 2 HR, 15.8 BB%, 34.2 K%

6% Fantrax ownership

 

Buelvas on the other hand is showing more capability at this level. Buelvas has been hitting in the two-hole and doing some things:

 

 

Woulda loved to give you something more exciting but his HRs weren’t televised and this was his hard-hit ball I saw. The power/speed upside is there and we’ll get plenty of looks during his first full season.

 

Alexander Mojica, 3B, Bradenton (Pirates A-)

18.8  (3.5 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 39 PA, .783 OPS, 2 HR, 10.3 BB%, 23.1 K%

8% Fantrax ownership

 

Mojica made his stateside debut in a colossal fashion. My guy Bryan Davidson (his video much better) saw in-person and may or may not know the whereabouts of said baseball, rumored to have found a body of water far far away:

 

 

My lord that is some power. The ball went over all that. Mojica is listed 6’1″ 195 lbs. I’ll take the over. Mojica this young and this big will be a thing to watch, but for a kid going from DSL to Lo-A, batting mostly three-hole, holding his own (.246), there’s enough to get excited about. Slugger? Hitter? Both? We will get a full season to start answering some of that.

 

Roblin Heredia, C, Palm Beach (Cardinals A-)

18.8  (3.5 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 16 PA, 5 for 13 in 4 games with 5 Ks 2 BB

Not yet in Fantrax player pool

 

Heredia is another young Venezualan catching prospect getting praise from his organization. Jumping from DSL to Lo-A and catching a few times a week, add another very young prospect to watch when Palm Beach visits Bradenton.

 

The Gieger Counter’s Beeping:

 

To be a part of this dig, the prospect needed to be under 21 and around 3 years+ younger than the competition. Justin Filteau in Pitcher List’s Data Science Team built an amazing tool to help harvest and watch all such players. There are a lot of players in this demographic but the following are the ones getting some action on my needle, and/or some new faces impressing.

 

Malcom Nunez, 3B, Peoria (Cardinals A+)

20.2  (3.4 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 45 PA, .740 OPS, 1 HR, 3 SB, 11.1 BB%, 17.8 K%

6% Fantrax ownership

 

Talking about wanting to see physical development, Nunez has me unexpectedly excited. Nunez caught prospect buzz after hitting .415 in the DSL, sparking some, including yours truly to take some blind swings at the young hitter. In my case, I spent some decent draft capital on him. Excitement has waned since coming stateside, looking a little heavier and sluggish (not in a good way), struggling to produce as some had hoped. The young Cuban started getting the reputation of being more swinger than hitter. Well, he’s worked on the body and the K rate may be headed in a better direction, not that his 21.1% was a deal-breaker during his first Peoria stint in 2019. But the more fit Nunez is a version I’m into and my man has stolen 3 bases?!?! He’s been making some plus defensive plays as well. Is there a new power/speed threat in the Cardinals’ organization? I kid, but check it out:

This home run was against a young Mexican pitching prospect (who I always have some odd attraction to for unfounded reasons), Victor Castaneda:

 

 

Nunez needs to work on the headfirst slide, but hey, baby steps:

 

 

 

Euribiel Angeles, 2B, Lake Elsinore (Padres A-)

19.0  (3.3 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 59 PA, .577 OPS, 2 HR, 0 SB, 6.8 BB%, 22.0 K%

0% Fantrax ownership (but I got one share)

 

Angeles is precisely the kinda prospect I wanted to find early in 2021. Angeles is making the jump from DSL to full-season stateside, wasn’t highly touted, and per the very few reports I heard on him from 2019, he came with questions about power. Well, as you can see, he’s got some strength that may have been lacking, especially in the lower body. With 2 HRs already this young season and several other well-struck balls like the one below, the Padres seem eager to push him, I’m eager to see why. Recently turned 19 and manning a full-time role at the top of the lineup, he’s in the party. Angeles has been batting 2-hole behind Hassell.

 

 

Yohendrick Pinango, OF, Myrtle Beach (Cubs A-)

19.0  (3.3 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 44 PA, .518 OPS, 6.8 BB%, 13.6 K%

2% Fantrax ownership

 

Pinango is another prospect I only heard things about going into this season and saw brief glances on social media, but again, another physically impressive young ballplayer. Another jump from DSL to full-season and one of my B-Sides, the looks haven’t disappointed. He’s showing the ability to hit to all fields and there should be some power numbers coming. He’s athletic, seems to move well in right with a strong arm. He’s been aggressively put into the 3-hole, DHing at times as well. Excited to watch this young man’s season.

 

 

 

Maikol Escotto, SS, Bradenton (Pirates A-)

19.0  (3.3 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 41 PA, .905 OPS, 17.1 BB%, 24.1 K%

6% Fantrax ownership

 

Part of the return for Jameson Taillon, Escotto too is jumping from DSL to full-season. Listed 5’11” 180 lbs, Escotto may not be where some others are physically but the draw here is the hit tool. He is currently off to a scorching hot start during his debut, 12 for 34, mostly from the 5-hole on. Although they swapped Escotto and Mojica 5/18, he’s more than caught my attention looking in on this league. While he runs well, he hasn’t stolen a base, nor attempted one that I’ve seen, but there could be 5-tool upside here depending on future power. I’ll be watching plenty of Bradenton this season.

 

 

Jose de la Cruz, OF, Lakeland (Tigers A-)

19.4  (2.9 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 47 PA, .430 OPS, 10.6 BB%, 51.1 K%

2% Fantrax ownership

 

de la Cruz gets a mention as another player making a jump from the DSL. Numbers have been rough so far but he’s a physically impressive kid. Throw him in the Puason pile and we’ll see how this progresses or doesn’t in 2021. For now, he’s getting full-time run in Lakeland and had some nice ABs 5/18 including this RBI single:

 

 

Isn’t Bradenton just awesome? Best CF camera in the minors.

 

Jose Tena, SS, Lake County (Cleveland A+)

20.2  (3.4 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 40 PA, .904 OPS, 3 HR, 2 SB, 2.5 BB%, 20.5 K%

1% Fantrax ownership

 

Tena is jumping from AZL to Lake County and has arguably been the most productive hitter the last few weeks in a lineup with Rocchio and George Valera. Getting some 3-hole run of late and hitting .293, the physical growth is starting to match the raw skill set. Tena’s put up three three-hit games already. Small in stature, there may be more pop in the bat these days, and some 5-tool upside exists.

When things are going well these land off the end of the bat:

 

 

And here’s an example of some of the pop Tena’s growing into:

 

 

Cleveland is absolutely loaded with talent at the lower levels and the best so far this year has been…

 

Jhonkensy Noel, 3B, Lynchberg (Cleveland A-)

19.8  (2.6 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 49 PA, .985 OPS, 3 HR, 2.0 BB%, 12.2 K%

6% Fantrax ownership

 

Another B-Side, another Cleveland 2019 AZL prospect doing things in full-season. Noel won Low-A East Offensive Player of the Week to open the season and hasn’t slowed down. There has been lots of hard contact and not a lot of swing and miss. There’s also been some physical growth. Noel is gaining buzz, and deservedly so. Will he be able to maintain this kind of output as we move along? Hard to doubt it when all you’ve seen from this version is hit after hit. He is off to a fantastic full-season start and he may be more hitter than the slugger tag given by some.

 

 

 

Carlos Rodriguez, OF, Wisconsin (Brewers A+)

20.4  (3.2 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 53 PA, .773 OPS, 1 HR, 3 SB, 18.9 BB%, 20.8 K%

2% Fantrax ownership

 

Rodriguez has intrigued since signing out of Venezuela in 2017 with his high contact skills. A .320 hitter over his first two pro seasons, the question has been the ability to hit for extra bases. It’s early but four of his ten hits have been just that. Here’s an oppo triple:

 

 

And in his next AB, he got it over that wall…we think…gotta love minor league broadcasts sometimes (it was a HR):

 

 

Too small a sample size, but Rodriguez’ K rate has jumped along with the extra bases. Coincidence? We will have plenty of looks to find out. It’s hard for me to discount the young hitter, especially while watching the MLB team with the best record in baseball doing it in part of two-strike hitting, and Rodriguez has a chance to develop into a special one. I hope he stays on that track, XBHs or not.

 

Some other under-agers I’ve tuned in on

 

Ezequiel Tovar Update and Some Drama

19.8  (2.5 years younger than league)

Thru 5/17: 53 PA, .876 OPS, 2 HR, 3 SB, 3.8 BB%, 11.3 K%

1% Fantrax ownership (go get him deep leaguers)

 

Last week I gushed on Tovar’s newfound strength, he belted a home run the day the piece ran and another a few days later, matching his career total:

Last Wednesday:

 

Off Brandon Pfaadt:

 

Tovar walked em off later that night too:

 

 

The next day this happened after a Visalia player was HBP in the top half.  First pitch of AB:

 

 

And then the next AB, first two pitches:

 

 

 

The second AB may have been Bobby Ay’s control problems, but it’s hard to say that was the case with Deyni Olivero the first go-’round. As I postulated, Tovar is asserting himself as the alpha on this Fresno team and whether it was the walk-off, the first inning HBP or a combo there off, Visalia seems to think so too. Tovar was pulled later in this game while Fresno hung a 14 burger on ’em and sat for the first time all season the following day. Proactive move to avoid a dust-up? Either way, Tovar has been my favorite watch of all the “underage-ers” this young season. And the next series against Visalia is circled.

When thinking about the next round of top prospects to be, chances are we just saw some of them. The experience gained by some of these players will parlay into an ascending player. Some will get stuck. But we are getting a better sense of who may go which way every day of the minor league season. So awesome to have it back.

Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter @ IG)

Nate Handy

Nate enjoys picking up the prospect scraps, turning over rocks to share what muddy treats he can find. Residing high up the Rocky Mountains with his wife and children, trying to stay cool, getting a broader view. A fan of the underappreciated, overlooked and disregarded. A true mud person trying to make informed mistakes.

  • Avatar Justin says:

    Keep these articles coming all season long! Can’t get enough reports on premium low level minors guys. For dynasty purposes this stuff is gold.

    • Nate Nate says:

      Appreciate it Justin. Trying to hustle. Lots to see. Looking at some guys in upper levels this week. Maybe more subtle gainers than getting talked about a lot right now. 🤷

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