(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.
Alex Faedo (SP, Detroit Tigers) Age: 22, Level: AA
The former Florida University star and 18th overall pick from 2017, Faedo 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. He started the week on Sunday with a mediocre performance in which he went 4.2 innings and gave up 3 ERs while striking out 3 batters. He returned to the mound on with a vengeance on Friday as he threw 7 innings of 1 run ball, striking out 10 against 0 walks, and allowing just 3 hits. His season ERA now sits at 3.96 for the season over 116 innings pitched split between A+ and AA, and he has racked up 105 strikeouts against 33 walks along the way. His 12.2% swinging-strike rate at AA is above-average and suggests that his swing and miss stuff is legit, but he’s had a real HR problem at the level with 15 allowed over 55 innings pitched which has led to an inflated 6.09 FIP. He should be trending down on prospect lists heading towards the off-season but he has the skill-set to bounce back.
Tyreque Reed (1B, Texas Rangers) Age: 21, Level: A
An 8th round selection from 2017 out of Itawamba CC in Mississipi, Reed has been quietly putting up quality numbers as a professional in the Rangers organization. He ranked among the league leaders last year in the Arizona Rookie League with a .350/.455/.617 line over 145 PAs that was worth a crazy 183 wRC+, but hasn’t been quite as notable this year with a current .272/.343/.502 line over 344 PAs all at Single-A that has been worth a 139 wRC+. He did have one of the best games of his professional career on Monday in which he went 4 for 5 with 1 HR and 5 RBIs. This performance is a continuation of his success in the second half of the season as he has put up a .306/.380/.559 line with 10 HRs and 1 SB since the all-star break over 186 ABs. His 13% swinging-strike rate for the season is below average and supports a poor 27.3% strikeout rate. Both numbers have been trending in the right direction in the 2nd half though and if that continues, he has the power to be of interest going forward in deep dynasty leagues.
MacKenzie Gore (SP, San Diego Padres) Age: 19, Level: A
Continuing with the discussion of 2017 MLB draft prospects, this time the 3rd overall selection. Gore came into the 2018 season full of helium after a truly dominant HS career followed by a terrific professional debut in which he dominated the Arizona Rookie League over 7 starts. Many thought he could force his way into the discussion for the top overall pitching prospect this year, but he simply hasn’t been as effective this year and when you add in three separate trips to the DL now this season, I think it’s fair to say that he hasn’t quite met expectations in 2018. His latest start came on Monday in which he threw 3.2 innings while striking out 4 batters against 2 walks, while allowing 6 hits and 4 earned runs. His season ERA now sits at 4.45 over 60.2 innings pitched, and he has picked up 74 K’s against 18 BB’s along the way. Those 74 strikeouts are supported by an impressive 15.9% swinging-strike rate which would rank 2nd best in the Midwest League if he had enough innings to qualify. Also notable is his 3.25 FIP and 3.18 xFIP which both suggest that Gore has been unlucky to date to have a 4.45 ERA at this point. Overall, don’t get fooled by the ERA, his skills are still very evident and he should still be considered among the very best pitching prospects in the minors.
Otto Lopez (2B, Toronto Blue Jays) Age: 19, Level: A –
In recent years, we’ve seen players like Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez, and Jose Altuve succeed thanks to a combination of athleticism, high-end contact skills, and quality baseball IQ. Very quietly, the Blue Jays may have found a player in that mold in Lopez who is succeeding in Short-Season Vancouver as a teenager in a league that is mostly made up of recent college draftees. His week was highlighted by games on Tuesday and Wednesday, in which he went a combined 4 for 8 plus 2 walks and a SB. His season batting line at A- now sits at .309/.386/.443 with 3 HRs and 12 SBs over 172 PAs and is supporting it with an even 11% walk and strikeout rate. In terms of percentile rank in the Northwest League this year, Lopez’s walk rate ranks in the 77th percentile, strikeout rate ranks in the 96th percentile, ISO ranks in the 79th percentile, BAPIP ranks in the 72nd percentile, and his wRC+ ranks in the 94th percentile. His percentile ranks stand out, even more, when you compare his numbers to other 19-year-old prospects at that level going back to when Fangraphs has data (2006) as he ranks no worse than in the 82nd percentile in any stat, and notably ranks in the 97th percentile in terms of wRC+. Oh, and his current 5.6% swinging-strike rate is crazy elite! His across the board production while being young for the level makes him an intriguing deep league option in dynasty leagues.
Rico Garcia (SP, Colorado Rockies) Age: 24, Level: AA
A 30th round selection from the state of Hawaii in 2016, Garcia put himself on the map this week with a dominating performance in which he threw 8 innings of shutout ball, striking out 10 batters against 2 walks, and allowing just 2 hits. Garcia now has an impressive 3.04 ERA for the season over 157 innings pitched. His 155 strikeouts against 37 walks highlight a combination of swing and miss stuff along with solid control. His 13.5% swinging-strike rate at A+ and 13.4% at AA are both well above-average and would rank 1st in both the California League (A+) and Eastern League (AA) if he had enough innings to qualify. Notably, his FIP and xFIP are worse than his actual ERA, largely a result of a HR problem, and suggest that Garcia has been fairly lucky to date so keep that in mind if investing in him. He’s also notably a pitcher in the Rockies system which is a tough gig no matter how talented, and I would say that only makes him relevant in the deepest of dynasty leagues at this point.
Estevan Florial (OF, New York Yankees) Age: 20, Level: A+
The Yankees likely top position player prospect, Florial has had a 2018 season that has pushed the importance of patience as he dealt with a Hamate injury that required surgery in May. He has since returned to action and really had a nice run over the last few weeks in which he’s been making more contact and having quality at-bats. He notably had a big game on Tuesday in which he went 3 for 3 with a HR plus a walk. He now has a .253/.363/.360 batting line at A+ for the season with 3 HRs and 8 SB (10 CS though). He is supporting that line with the best contact skills in his minor league career that include a 25.2% strikeout rate and 12.8% swinging-strike rate, and he also is continuing to fuel a strong OBP thanks to an impressive 14.4% walk rate. The lack of power is the curious part of the equation, he’s got plenty of raw power with most evaluators giving him 60 grades, but his 48.6% groundball rate and 24.6% flyball rate are limiting his HR upside currently. He may be pushed down prospect lists slightly over the off-season, but his tools are ones to believe in for fantasy purposes and a 2017 Domingo Santana type of season represents his upside.
Alec Hansen (SP, Chicago White Sox) Age: 23, Level: A+
It’s been a wild couple years for Hansen on the baseball field! He entered 2016 as one of the very top-ranked pitchers for the 2016 MLB draft before struggling to find his command and falling to the White Sox in the 2nd round, then making adjustments as a professional that led to dominating results including a minors leading 191 strikeouts last year as he ascended 3 levels of baseball. This year, he missed the first two months of the season with forearm tightness and since returning, he hasn’t been able to find any semblance of control and recently was demoted to A+. His most recent outing came on Thursday in which he went 4 innings while striking out 4 batters against 5 walks, and allowed 2 hits and 1 ER. The control has been a major issue all year, and for the season he actually has 49 walks compared to 46 strikeouts over 44.2 innings pitched that has led to 5.84 ERA. This is a lost year for Hansen, and he has moved down prospect lists accordingly.
Yusniel Diaz (OF, Baltimore Orioles) Age: 21, Level: AA
Acquired as the big-name prospect in the return for Manny Machado, Diaz has had a slow start in his Baltimore Orioles minor league career so far. He’s hitting just .233/.331/.388 over 118 PAs at AA Bowie and been worth a mediocre 104 wRC+. He did have an impressive game on Monday though in which he went 2 for 5 with a HR that pushed his season HR total to double digits for the season. Interestingly, since the trade, his numbers at AA have gone in the wrong direction as his walk rate is down, his strikeout rate is up, his swinging-strike rate is up, and his ISO is down slightly too. Note that small sample size factors apply here. Overall, I’ve never been the highest on Diaz as a fantasy asset, his power is limited by a poor flyball rate and a lot of GB contact, and he’s never been an efficient baserunner which is highlighted by 28 SBs against 34 CS in his minor league career. I see a guy that can is maybe a .270 hitter with 15 HRs and 5 SBs with that being a slightly optimistic projection and I’m not sure how valuable that is in a lot of leagues.