With 120 teams and 5,000+ players spread through four levels (not to mention the Dominican Summer League and the renamed Complex leagues in Arizona and Florida), keeping up with minor league performances can be difficult. If you wait until end-of-season wrap-ups, a breakout prospect may no longer be available. You can scout stat lines all year, but that can be tedious, and it’s difficult to keep an eye on every tweet of a new highlight. But fear not, intrepid dynasty league manager: Welcome to Pitcher List’s MiLB Player and Pitcher of the Week!
This is a weekly column where I’ll select one hitter and one pitcher who performed outstandingly in the prior week. Not only will you get a name, but also we’ll dive into what powered their results and where their future value stands.
Player of the Week: OF Alexander Canario, CHC, AA
Stats: (7 games) 8-21, 4 HR, 2 doubles, 7 RBI, 6 runs, 4 SBs
Hidden among the young Cubs OF prospects, Alexander Canario is less toolsy than Kevin Alcantara or Brennan Davis while also being less of a pure hitter like Pete Crow-Armstrong. But that hasn’t kept him from making the necessary adjustments over the past month and a half, leading him to his best period at the Double-A level so far.
As part of the return for Kris Bryant last season (along with Caleb Kilian), Canario should’ve already been used to being slightly overlooked by other outfielders in his org, as he was typically ranked behind Heliot Ramos and Luis Matos in the Giants system. But his strength and speed while being able to play either corner OF spot was a bright spot for Chicago.
Beginning the new year where he left at High-A South Bend, Canario put up great counting stats but some worrying underlying ratios, particularly a 35% K rate in 100 PAs. Nevertheless, the Cubs promoted him in early May, and as you might imagine, it was a disaster to start. In his next 100 PAs, Canario batted .191/.240/.394 with a 33% K rate against a 5% walk rate. Double-A pitchers were able to take advantage of an over-eager approach that often left Canario in pitchers’ counts and at the mercy of better secondaries than he’d previously seen.
But as the season has progressed, Canario has begun to refine his approach enough to get to more pitches in his zone and do damage. Since June 7th, he has 10 HRs and 11 doubles to go with 6 stolen bases. The triple slash: .273/.349/.609. Oh and that pesky K rate? Down to a very respectable 23% with an 11% walk rate.
Things are currently trending up for Canario and with Nelson Velasquez yet to make an impact at the big league level, Brennan Davis still injured, and PCA still a couple of years away, the runway could be clearing for Air Alexander to take flight. Remember that it took Christopher Morel a few years of toiling in the minors before busting out at the big league level.
Redraft managers: remember the name for next year in case you might need a 4th or 5th OF for cheap power + steals. Dynasty folks: He might be available in 14T leagues and would be worth a stash in my estimation.
Honorable Mention: OF Will Benson, CLE, AAA
Stats: (6 games) 8-22, 3 HR, 2 doubles, 6 RBI, 7 runs, 2 SBs
There are two different ways you typically see dynasty managers handle the back end of their minor league slots: Either they add very young, very toolsy lottery ticket types OR they pounce on older players, less projectionable but closer to the big league. Benson is a perfect example of the latter. At age 24, he’s in his 6th pro season after being drafted in 2016 from high school. He’s shown substantial speed (5 of the 6 seasons in double digits for stolen bases), good power (70-grade raw power/60-grade FV game power per FanGraphs), and an above-average eye for walks (lowest walk rate was 12% in 2016 as an 18-year-old).
This doesn’t mean that Benson is without his warts. His strikeout rates in previous seasons were astronomical and his hit tool, in general, has always been viewed as fringe at best. It’s no wonder that he’s been labeled more as a “high risk, high reward” candidate than as a top-end prospect for most of his career.
But something has clicked this season. His SwStr percentage is at 8.5%, his K rate is an extremely manageable 22% and his matured approach hasn’t sacrificed his power at all, as he’s collected 16 homers at the halfway point of the season. Add in his 16 stolen bases (2 away from his career high) and Benson is in some rarified air. How rare?
Here’s the list of players Benson’s age or younger that have at least 15 homers, 15 stolen bases, and a K rate under 25%:
|Team||Name||Level||Home Runs||Stolen Bases||K Rate|
Pitcher of the Week: SP Zach McCambley, MIA, AA
Stats: (1 start) 6.2 IP, 1 ER, 2 hits, 2 BB, 11 Ks
McCambley is among the phalanx of pitching prospects within the Miami farm system. At this point, you can throw a rock and hit a Marlins pitcher who has at least one interesting pitch in their arsenal. For McCambley, it’s always been his curveball, grading out between 60 and 70 depending on the scouting outlet. His fastball has been solid if unremarkable and he’s been missing a consistent third pitch to give him a conventional starter’s repertoire as his change-up leaves a lot to be desired.
That said, he’s shown the capacity to generate swings and misses enough that most evaluators see him having value as a reliever at a minimum. McCambley’s command is the other big obstacle to easily projecting him as an MLB starter. His walk rates have always trended high and this season he’s also hit 10 batters along with 10 wild pitches.
But in this start, everything seemed to click into place as he set a season-high in innings pitched (6.2) and pitches thrown (102).
McCambley’s delivery has been described as “high effort” and I’d think you’d agree, the herky-jerky nature coming out of the stretch doesn’t bode well for repeatability or for efficient use of his body’s energy over time. However, if he can find consistency with that power curve to left-handed batters, his ceiling rises a bit even if he’s not the most efficient strike thrower.
He could become a multi-inning guy out of the Marlins bullpen that can reliably face hitters from either side of the plate and get strikeouts. You don’t need to make room for him right now but file the name away. As the Marlins (hopefully) turn competitive, he could be a key piece of their bullpen.
Honorable Mention: P Inohan Paniagua, STL, Low A
Stats: (1 start) 8 IP, 1 ER, 1 hits, 0 BB, 8 Ks
There seem to be three pitchers that seem to be mentioned repeatedly when reading evaluations of the Cardinals farm. One is Gordon Graceffo, who we highlighted in a previous POTW column. The second is Tink Hence who will likely be featured here sooner than later. The last is Hence’s teammate, Paniagua.
Paniagua has impressed with his mix of stuff and his ability to limit hard contact with a .96 WHIP. X-stats say that he seems to be overperforming his FIP but the K rate is above 25% (which is a personal preference of mine) and the walk rate is 6%.
He’s also proven to be quite durable, already sitting on 99IP with 11 of his 17 starts going at least 6 innings. Paniagua is on my longer watchlist and I’ll be watching his progression through the second half of this season.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)