(Photo by Icon Sportswire)
New to Pitcher List, we are going to be doing a weekly prospect roundup that is designed to keep you informed on what is happening down in the minor leagues that is relevant for your dynasty leagues. I’ll be talking about who is hot, which top prospects are struggling, underrated guys that are producing to keep an eye on, or anything that may have caught my eye in general.
Hans Crouse (SP, Texas Rangers) Age: 19, Level: A-
A righty with big-time stuff including an upper 90’s fastball and a wipeout breaking ball, Crouse has been nothing but dominant his entire minor league career to date. That dominance continued this week in which he had 7 shutout innings start where he struck out 11 batters against 0 walks, and only allowed 1 hit. This performance pushed Crouse’s season ERA down to 2.21 over 20.1 innings pitched, and he’s added 26 strikeouts against 7 walks along the way. It’s a fairly small sample size still, but his 2.62 FIP and 3.13 xFIP rank 1st and 4th best respectively in the Northwest League, His .129 batting average against also ranks 1st and when combined with an above-average 11.7% swinging-strike rate that ranks in a tie for 8th best in the league, you can see how difficult he is to square up for opposing hitters. He should be considered an interesting sleeper in medium-sized dynasty leagues.
Michael Chavis (3B, Boston Red Sox) Age: 22, Level: AA
Chavis was considered one of the top prospects in the Red Sox system entering the year after a 2017 season in which he hit .282 with 31 HRs, but he, unfortunately, lost out on the 1st half of the minor league season due to an 80 game PED suspension. He recently returned to action and hit his first two HRsof the season on consecutive days including one on Monday and Thursday. For fantasy owners that have stuck with him, this is encouraging to see him start to get back on track towards rebuilding his prospect stock. To date in 2018, he has posted a .219/.359/.521 line with 2 HRs and a 14:7 strikeout to walk ratio over 39 PAs split between A- and AA. If you believe in the skillset, this is probably the last time to buy low on him in dynasty leagues.
Francisco Morales (SP, Philadelphia Phillies) Age: 18, Level: A-
Morales was one of the top pitchers in the 2016 international amateur market, and he signed for $900,000. Upon signing, he’s been pushed aggressively in terms of assignments and he’s handled them all effectively. He started his 2018 season at Low-A Williamsport where he is currently posting a 3.68 ERA with 24 strikeouts against 12 walks over 22 innings pitched. He contributed to that solid ERA this week with a 5 inning performance in which he allowed just 1 ER and allowed just 5 hits. His swing and miss stuff is high-end and that’s highlighted by a well above-average 16.2% swinging-strike rate that ranks 1st in the New York-Penn League which is especially impressive considering that Morales is 3.6 years younger than the league average. He should be on radars in deeper dynasty leagues as an upside lottery ticket.
Joey Bart (C, San Francisco Giants) Age: 21, Level: A-
Keeping with the short season Low-A discussion, one of the biggest stories out of that level has been the most recent #2 overall pick, Joey Bart, who has gone on a power binge to start his professional career. This week, Bart had a HR in 4 consecutive games spanning from Sunday to Wednesday and for the season, Bart is now up to 6 HRs in just 61 PAs. His slash line to go along with those HRs is now .281/.328/.667. He is showing a lack of patience with just a 3.2% walk rate and is striking out frequently with a 26.2% K rate on the season, both of which are of concern going forward. It’s a small sample though and professional debuts after long NCAA/HS seasons aren’t always the best gauge of true skills. He remains one of the higher upside catching options in dynasty leagues.
Ian Anderson (SP, Atlanta Braves) Age: 20, Level: A+
Anderson, who is pictured above, was the 3rd overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft has quietly been putting together his best professional season to date, and it’s been impressive enough to see him climb many mid-season top prospects lists recently. Anderson had another strong start this week, going 6 innings, striking out 8 batters against 3 walks, and allowing 5 hits and just 1 earned run. This performance lowered Anderson’s ERA on the season to 2.85 over 82 innings pitched. He has racked up 102 strikeouts against 35 walks along the way and ranks among the league leaders in the Florida State League in numerous categories. Both his 2.60 FIP and 2.98 xFIP rank 2nd best in the Florida State League, his 29.4 K% ranks first, and his 13.8% swinging-strike rate ranks first among qualified pitchers. He’s clearly been one of the very best pitchers in the circuit and I expect him to receive a promotion in the 2nd half at some point to AA.
Kevin Smith (SS/3B, Toronto Blue Jays) Age: 22, Level: A+
A 4th round pick a year ago, Kevin Smith has been making a name for himself in prospect circles with strong performances throughout the season. Smith continued to shine this week with three 2 hit performances including two 2 for 4 days with a HR. His season batting line now sits at .327/.380/.580 with 16 HRs and 16 SBs in 379 PAs split between A and A+ ball. He seems to be well on his way to a 20/20 season which only a handful of players accomplish in a given year in the minors. He’s supporting that power/speed combo with solid contact skills including a 16.2% K rate at Single-A Dunedin with a slightly above-average 9.3% swinging-strike rate. The contact skills haven’t looked as great at A+ Lansing as he’s posted a 27.4% K rate along with a below-average 15.9% swinging-strike rate. Overall though, his season has been a strong one and he should be on radars in medium-sized dynasty leagues and above.
DL Hall (SP, Baltimore Orioles) Age: 19, Level: A
The Orioles first round pick from 2017, Hall has quietly put together a very impressive season to date and is currently in the midst of a long stretch of allowing 0 ERs. Hall continued that stretch with a 6 inning gem on Wednesday in which he struck out 8 batters against 0 walks, and allowed just 2 hits. That performance pushed Hall’s consecutive starts without allowing an earned run streak to 4, a stretch that covers 19.2 innings pitched. Over that stretch, Hall has struck out 21 batters and walked 7. His season ERA now sits at 2.54 over 60.1 innings pitched and he has added 57 strikeouts against 29 walks along the way. Do note that his 4.24 FIP and 4.31 xFIP suggest that Hall has been lucky to achieve a 2.54 ERA for the season, and that’s despite an above-average 12% swinging-strike rate. Walks have been the issue to date, but his recent stretch may have him trending up.
Corey Ray (OF, Milwaukee Brewers) Age: 23, Level: AA
Another 1st round pick, Ray was the 5th overall pick out of Louisville back in 2016. Ray had a tough start to his professional career only being an above-average hitter at one stop before this season (101 wRC+ in 2016 at A+ so barely). He has seemingly found a successful formula this year, showing more patience and hitting for more power which has led to a strong 127 wRC+ at AA. He notably had a massive game on Wednesday, going 3 for 5 with 3 HRs and 4 RBIs. His season slash line now sits at .247/.339/.483 with 16 HRs and 23 SBs. That power/speed upside is what makes him so interesting to us fantasy players as if he can hit enough to get to it, he could be a star. He’s still struggling with contact as he’s currently got a 27.4% K rate and is supporting that with a very much below-average 16.1% swinging-strike rate. Still, the growth he’s shown this year has him trending up and he may have rebuilt a lot of his value again in dynasty leagues.
Dakota Hudson (SP, St. Louis Cardinals) Age: 23, Level: AAA
The 34th overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft, Hudson has quickly risen through the minors and seems to be on the cusp of the majors while in the midst of another strong season. Hudson didn’t have his best start this week, only going 4 innings, striking out just 2 batters against 1 walk, and allowing 6 hits and 2 hits, and it actually raised his season ERA to 2.42. What is notable is that Hudson continued his ability to generate groundball outs with a 5:4 ratio between GBs and FBs in the game, and for the season Hudson has a 57.6% groundball rate which leads the Pacific Coast League. That groundball rate has largely been the root of Hudson’s success as a minor leaguer, and he’s actually never produced less than a 57% groundball rate in his minor league career. For reference, only one player in the majors has a higher groundball rate than Hudson’s 57.6% in AAA which is Clayton Richard with a 57.9% mark. Hudson pairs that heavy groundball approach with a roughly average 10.6% swinging-strike rate which gives him multiple ways to get guys out and overall I think Hudson could be a quality sleeper in all formats once he reaches the majors.
Keibert Ruiz (C, Los Angeles Dodgers) Age: 19, Level: AA
One of the top prospects in the Dodgers organization, Ruiz received an aggressive assignment to AA to start his AA season and he has held his own as one of the very youngest players in the league. Ruiz notably had an impressive performance this week on Thursday in which he went 3 for 4 with a HR and 4 RBIs plus a walk. Ruiz’s slash line for the season now sits at .247/.313/.390 with 9 HRs, and his supporting that line with a 5.8% walk rate and 7.3% strikeout rate. Overall that has been worth a slightly below-average 89 wRC+, but remember that he’s 4.9 years younger than league average and the fact that he’s striking out so little and showing well-above-average contact skills highlighted by a 7.1% swinging-strike rate. Learning how to impact the ball more consistently will be the next step and that should come with more physical maturity and experience. In terms of fantasy baseball, not many catching prospects have as high as a floor as him and he should be considered one of the premier options for the position in all formats.
Hans Crouse is a right handed pitcher
Thanks for catching that! Fixed
Adam. I picked up a couple of youngsters you might keep an eye on for your column — Yusniel Diaz, Tulsa, AA and Alex Kiriloff, Minnesota A ball.