(Photo by Cliff Welch/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.
Kyle Wright (SP, Atlanta Braves) Age: 22, Level: AAA
The former Vanderbilt star and 5th overall pick from 2017, Wright has had an up and down year in 2018, but his most recent start may have been one of his very best as a professional in total. On Monday, he threw 7 innings of shutout ball while striking out 8 against 1 walk, while allowing just 1 hit. This was just his 3rd career start at the AAA level, and he may have proven that he is up to the challenge. He now has a 3.59 ERA for the season split between AA and AAA, and he has picked up 124 strikeouts against 49 walks over 128 innings along the way. Wright notably has maintained a strong groundball rate throughout his minor league career including a 54.5% mark at AA and 47.8% at AAA in the small sample size of 3 starts. When you combine the high groundball tendencies with an above-average swinging-strike rate of 11.8% for the season, it becomes easy to see why he is so highly regarded as a prospect. He should be on radars in all dynasty leagues at this point and should have a good chance to see action in the majors next year at some point.
Vidal Brujan (2B, Tampa Bay Rays) Age: 20, Level: A+
A switch-hitting 2nd baseman with intriguing fantasy skills, Brujan was signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2014 for a mere $15,000. He’s since returned a lot of value on that small investment by the Rays and now may be pushing top 100 overall prospect status thanks to a breakout 2018 season that includes a .323/.409/.447 batting line with 6 HRs and 49 SBs over 489 PAs split between A and A+ that has been worth an impressive 147 wRC+. Perhaps most impressive about that batting line is that it comes with an even 11.9% strikeout (supported by an above-average 6.5% swinging-strike rate) and walk rate which shows how advanced his contact skills and mastery of the strike zone are. He was especially hot this week, notching 3 multi-hit efforts including a 2 for 3 day on Monday with a HR plus a walk, and then followed it up with a 3 for 6 day on Tuesday that included a SB. Consider him a breakout prospect and one to watch in medium to deep sized dynasty leagues.
Patrick Sandoval (SP, Los Angeles Angels) Age: 21, Level: AA
A left-handed starter who was an 11th round pick by the Houston Astros that was recently acquired as part of the Martin Maldonado trade, Sandoval is quickly making an impression with his new team as he is yet to allow an earned run in all 4 of his starts in the Angels organization. His most recent outing came on Thursday in which he went 4.2 innings, striking out 6 batters against 3 walks, and allowing 3 hits and 0 ERs. Also, note that this was Sandoval’s first career start at the AA level. For the season, Sandoval now has a 2.10 ERA with 124 strikeouts against 24 walks over 107.1 innings pitched across 3 levels. He notably has produced elite swinging-strike rates this year with a crazy 15.8% mark for the season which ranks 4th best in the minors among those with at least 100 innings pitched. The swing and miss stuff is largely is a result of a high-spin rate curveball that is his best pitch. The rest of his repertoire isn’t as notable and many scouts project a back of the rotation starter or even a strong lefty out of the bullpen which means he’s likely only relevant in deep dynasty leagues.
Alex Kirilloff (OF, Minnesota Twins) Age: 20, Level: A+
Elite prospects like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez may be the big stories in the minor leagues this year, but quietly Kirilloff has been dominating this year himself and notably has been the minor’s best hitter in terms of OPS over the last 30 days with a 1.172 mark that far exceeds the 1.094 mark of the 2nd place hitter who I’ve talked about before in this column, 3B Elehuris Montero. Kirilloff had a hit in every game this week except Friday, and unfortunately that 0 for 2 day ended a 14 game hit streak. Still, it was another impressive week for Kirilloff as he managed 2 multi-hit efforts including a 2 for 5 day with a HR on Tuesday and then followed it up with a perfect 4 for 4 day on Wednesday. He is now hitting an incredible .351/.394/.587 for the season with 17 HRs and 3 SBs and is supporting it with a 6.6% walk rate and 15.9% strikeout rate. That has been worth a 174 wRC+ which ranks 5th best in the minors among qualified batters playing in full-season ball. He should be highly valued in dynasty leagues at this point and should be on all radars!
Eric Pardinho (SP, Toronto Blue Jays) Age: 17, Level: ROK
Considered the top pitching prospect from the 2017 international amateur class, the Blue Jays were able to sign Pardinho for $1.4 million. He received an aggressive assignment this year as a 17-year old being sent to the Appalachian League which along with the Pioneer League forms the 2nd lowest rung of the North American minor league system. Despite being 3.7 years younger than league average, Pardinho has been among the league’s best pitchers, and that continued this week with perhaps his best game as a professional. He threw 7 innings of shutout ball, striking out 6 batters against 0 walks, and allowing just 1 hit. He now has a 2.93 ERA with 57 strikeouts against just 13 walks over 46 innings pitched. I mentioned he has been among the league’s best pitchers, well his 31% strikeout rate ranks 2nd best, his 23.9% K-BB rate ranks 2nd best, his .200 batting average against ranks 2nd best, and his 15.4% swinging-strike rate ranks 4th best. He’s far away from the majors and there’s a lot of development time left, but his upside may worth the investment now if you can afford to be patient.
Mark Vientos (3B, New York Mets) Age: 18, Level: ROK
Vientos was a 2nd round pick of the Mets from 2017 out of prestigious American Heritage HS in Florida that has produced a number of major league players. After an up and down first professional season last year, Vientos has taken a step forward in 2018 and quietly has been among the better minor league hitters in the 2nd half of the season. He started his week off on the right foot with a 1 for 3 day at the plate with a HR plus 2 walks on Sunday. The rest of his week was much less notable with just 1 hit but he did manage an even 5 walks against 5 strikeouts throughout the week which highlights his plate discipline growth that has been a large part of his growth this year so far. Last year he walked at just a 7.1% rate, this year he’s up to a very strong 12.3% mark while also managing to cut his strikeout rate from 21.8% to 15.6% and supporting it with an improved 11.4% swinging-strike rate. The result is a season that has been worth a 131 wRC+ which ranks 15th best in the Appalachian League while being 2.3 years younger than league average.
Denyi Reyes (SP, Boston Red Sox) Age: 21, Level: A+
Reyes has been one of the biggest breakout stories in the Red Sox system this year as he continues to dominate lower level hitters with his 4 pitch mix and advanced control. His most recent outing came on Thursday in which he went 7 innings, striking out 6 batters against 1 walk, and allowing 4 hits and 2 ERs along the way. That start pushed his streak of starts with 3 ERs or less to 21 games this season, and that really highlights how consistent that Reyes has been all year. His season ERA now sits at 1.97, and he has racked up 137 strikeouts against just 15 walks over 141.1 innings pitched so far split between A and A+. His swinging-strike rates of 13.1% at single-A and 11% at A+ are above-average and 2.8% walk rate is elite and ranks 3rd best among qualified pitchers playing full-season ball. Scouting reports don’t support his success as he doesn’t have a plus pitch in his repertoire and so he should really only be on radars in very deep dynasty leagues at this point.
Colton Welker (3B, Colorado Rockies) Age: 20, Level: A+
Welker was a guy I anticipated having a big 2018 season as he started his year at A+ Lancaster which is one of the best hitting environments in all of the minor leagues. For reference, Lancaster’s ballpark has received a 1.254 hit rating, 1.829 HR rating, and 1.438 runs rating and 1.000 is considered neutral. Getting back to Welker, he has taken advantage of the hitting environment to post a .332 batting average for the season including a .378 mark at home, but he has not hit for much power at all with just a .153 ISO and only 11 HRs over 465 PAs. That contact over power trend continued this week with 2 impressive multi-hit performances including a perfect 4 for 4 day on Tuesday and a 3 for 4 day on Thursday plus a walk. His season line now sits at .332/.387/.484 and he has supported it with an 8.8% walk rate and 20.2% K rate that has been worth a 134 wRC+. He’s one to watch in dynasty leagues, especially if he ever figures out how to get to more of his power as he has the contact skills to be successful, especially with the possibility of Coors Field as his future home park.