AL East Rookie Report
We’re getting to the point in the season where the sample sizes are enough to sound alarms or make significant moves on guys. It’s always interesting to take a look back at certain high profile rookies and younger players and see how they are doing compared to our pre-season expectations.
I’m going to break this down into a six part series and go division by division and check out how much my stock on a prospect or rookie has changed and why.
Obviously we have to lead off with the big man himself, Aaron Judge, here right?
In my pre-season breakdown of the Yankees farm system, which can be found here, I ranked Judge second in the system behind only Gleyber Torres. I wrote that he could be a potential steal with his ADP outside of the top 300 picks and has a shot at being a top-25 OF despite maybe only hitting .230 but hitting 25 bombs. I forgot to add the part where I said he would hit 25-homers before the All-Star break. Whoops.
All joking aside Judge has been a godsend to fantasy owners so far as we approach the middle of June with his ISO still sitting at .354! He’s posting his highest walk rate since High-A and doing so while finally tapping into that power potential. It’s strange to say this but with one more homer Judge will tie his career high total for any level in his professional career. Ha.
Obviously the power potential was always there with him since he’s built like an NFL defensive end but he’s made the necessary adjustments to get his strikeout totals (easily the biggest concern entering the year) down to roughly his minor league career numbers.
Judge has shown improvement in all the right places for a young hitter. He’s put himself in position to be an easy top 15-20 pick in fantasy leagues next year and is on his way to turning into the guy we always wanted Giancarlo Stanton to be.
On the pitching side of things in the Bronx we have to go with Jordan Montgomery here, especially since my crush Chance Adams is still biding his time in the minors despite rumors of a call-up coming soon. Seriously though, check out Adams’ numbers. Overmatching minor league hitters.
Back to Montgomery though. Montgomery is the type of guy that constantly gets overlooked in prospect circles, especially fantasy baseball ones. He’s a guy that was advertised as a strike thrower with four average offerings, but no above-average ones, and he limits free passes while keeping the ball in the yard. From the left side he’s 90-93 with the fastball (four-seam and two) with a slider, curveball and changeup. It turns out the slider has actually been a legit out pitch since he arrived in the Bronx though, so perhaps some old reports carried too much weight here.
You ever heard why people don’t like short pitchers? It’s simply because of the angle the ball takes when it comes out of the pitchers’ hand towards the plate. Taller guys are also physically closer to the plate when they release the ball which obviously can be an advantage.
The thing with Montgomery is he’s 6-6. He also throws from an extreme over the top release point. He also does well in the spin rate metrics according to Eno Sarris (here) if you care about that sort of thing, which I don’t. Montgomery was ranked 13th in a deep Yankee system pre-season by Baseball America.
Montgomery has a really high floor. High floors have nice value and thats what were seeing right now. In the Friends with Fantasy Benefits dynasty league I was able to scoop up Montgomery before he was called up. It’s a 20-team league with QS. In this league Montgomery is the 65th ranked pitcher. Sandwiched around Kyle Hendricks and Jake Odorizzi. Nice!
He hasn’t had nearly the fantasy impact this year that Aaron Judge has, but Montgomery’s arrival and moderate success will force myself and other prospect evaluators to invest a little more heavily in high floor arms in the future.
Who would have predicted Andrew Benintendi would only be the second best rookie outfielder in this division? Not me. But Benintendi is pretty much exactly living up to the hype. His .273/.345/.429 line has to be exactly what fantasy owners expected from a guy that recorded just barely over 100 at-bats last year. He’s even chipping in 8 homers and 8 steals and providing owners with five category contributions just like they expected.
AB was my pre-season number one fantasy prospect in baseball. I was in the minority as most had Yoan Moncada and you can’t really argue that. My argument was AB had the higher floor and would be making an immediate impact this season while you might have to wait the entire season for Moncada. So far so good on that.
Using Baseball-Reference.com’s adjusted splits tool, if you take what AB has done this season and stretch it out into a full seasons worth of at-bats you’re looking at 24 homers, 24 steals, 93 RBI and 93 runs. Wow. He’s been exactly what fantasy owners needed and currently sits 25th in the FWFB dynasty league (OBP instead of AVG) dynasty league amongst outfielders.
I think I may have to adjust my initial power predictions for AB.
This is what I wrote over the winter: “I think a good comp for Benintendi is Chase Utley in his prime with slightly less power/OBP. (From 2006-10 Chase Utley put up a cumulative slash of .290/.399/.520 and averaged 35 doubles and 27 homers. Sounds perfect to me). Knock the power and OBP down ever so slightly and there’s Benintendi.”
I still think thats pretty spot on but he might get there a season or two before I would’ve ever thought.
On the pitching side this is where I finally get to write about Kope…oh shit nevermind. There actually hasn’t been much to write about on the pitching side for the Sawx. Jay Groome made one terrible appearance in Low-A before going down with an injury. Roniel Raudes was mediocre himself in Low-A before going down with an injury as well. Maybe they are faking these injuries so Dombrowski doesn’t deal them?
Those were the only two Red Sawx arms in my fantasy top 10, which is here.
Brian Johnson was someone I’ve written about in the past and he appears to be successfully fighting off his anxiety issues so far which is really great news. He’s also had shoulder and elbow injuries in the past and was also struck in the face with a line drive and missed some time. He was a former two-way star at the University of Florida and many people actually preferred him as a 1B.
On the mound he has four pitches but the stuff has backed up since college. This is what I wrote entering 2016:
“The former two way star in Gainesville struggled in his one MLB start before his season ended with an elbow injury. Johnson features a fastball that varies from the high 80s or low 90s with plus movement. His best pitch is either his curveball or sinking changeup, as they both play up due to his above average command. Johnson has put up ridiculous numbers throughout his professional career to this point. Despite that, his ceiling is still only that of a mid-rotation starter because he currently lacks an out pitch. Johnson needs to be owned in deeper leagues and even though he won’t put up big strikeout numbers, he will be in a big league rotation for years. ETA: 2016.”
Sounds a lot like Montgomery, but who knows where the stuff is for Johnson at this point. He’s the perfect guy to take a shot on in 20 team leagues though.
If you wan’t an underrated prospect in the Red Sox system look no further than Michael Shawaryn. He was the Sox 5th round pick out of the University of Maryland and is the guy who is always going to be better than you think. He’s got above-average to maybe even plus command, a little bit of a deceptive motion, and just flat out knows how to pitch. Only reason he dropped to the fifth round was because scouts thought he was battling an injury as the stuff backed up a bit as his season came to a close. Turned out it was just fatigue. He’s a bulldog on the mound, and a guy I could see becoming Chuck Anderson’s favorite pitcher. He takes the ball everyday. Here’s a stat for you from the guys over at baseballdraftreport.com. Shawaryn pitched over 100 innings more than A.J. Puk, and over twice as many as Alec Hansen did in their college careers. I’ll round out my staff with guys like this all damn day. 84 strikeouts in just over 58 innings across two levels of A-ball is nice.
It’s the Orioles so you know we aren’t going to mention any pitchers here, and I’m not really being a smart ass there just honestly aren’t any standout performances to chirp about. Keegan Akin and Cody Sedlock have been entirely too hittable for two college arms in Low-A, and Tanner Scott has looked really good so far but he’s still walking too many and legitimately only throwing three innings every five days. Weird. Baltimore is attempting to turn him into a super reliever it appears. He has the stuff for it. Oh, and are you sitting down? Good. You’re going to be shocked when I tell you this but…but.. Hunter Harvey is hurt. I was shocked and couldn’t believe it either. He’s thrown 12 2/3 innings since 2014.
Trey Mancini came into this year with 14 at-bats in the majors under his belt. He hit three bombs and added a double.
This year he has 142 at-bats. Eight doubles and nine homers. Good stuff. Came in to the season with a reputation for being a lefty masher, which he still is except in 2017 so far he’s actually hitting righties harder.
Getting him into the lineup in Baltimore has proven to not be as difficult as I thought because Mancini has spent a majority of time in left so far. He had never played there before, but they have gotten away with hiding him there. What he’s doing this year at the plate is right in line with his minor league career, but the numbers will dip below that before the season ends. He’s been in the lineup four of the last five American League games, and has also recently started in LF in an NL park. Grab him if you can because he could be a nice power source in deeper formats now that he appears to be getting the at bats.
Cedric Mullins is an underrated prospect getting some publicity now, and he probably should’ve gotten some sooner based on what he did last season. He was a 13th round pick out of Campbell in 2015 and stands at 5’8, so easy to see why he fell through the cracks. He just returned from missing over a month with an injury and looks to have some upside in a system that lacks it. He hit .273 with 14 homers and 30 steals last year.
Tim Beckham’s early season surge has been nice. He’s been a nice cheap (free?) add in a lot of leagues I’m sure. Just don’t go hitching your wagon to the former number one overall pick. He’s striking out over 33% of the time and only hitting .270 despite a .377 BABIP. He’s been a high BABIP guy in his professional career so far, but not sure he can survive a 30-40 point dip. You’ll definitely bank however many of the nine homers you were able to collect while he was in your lineup though.
I let you down pre-season though when I didn’t include Jacob Faria on in my Rays top ten. I’m sorry. I’ll explain myself though. He just flat out walked too many guys. And I typically prefer fastball-changeup guys like this, but he doesn’t posses even an average breaking ball. (The Rays must not mind, traded for Jose De Leon this winter too). The presence of Honeywell and De Leon also presented roadblocks to Faria reaching the majors. He looked good in his spot start against the White Sox though, going 6 1/3 with 5 Ks and 2 BBs with only three hits allowed. The delivery has a bit of funk to it but he’s going to be susceptible to blow up starts in the future because of the shaky command (Longenhagen placed a 40 on it). He misses a lot of bats though and that is always sexy.
I hope the Rays draft a bit safer next week, at least with their top pick. Consecutive years of taking tooled up high upside/high bust risk guys like Garrett Whitley and Josh Lowe can be disastrous if they don’t pan out. Not saying they won’t pan out, still plenty of time, but taking some lesser risk college bats might be my play this year for them.
Nobody will tell you more about how they were right about something than Donald Trump. Well maybe us fantasy analysts are guilty of this too.
Just sit back, grab your favorite cold beverage and bask in the scouting reports I dropped for you on Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette pre-season.
I’m typically very reluctant to place a 17-year old at the front of any team prospect list, but Guerrero has made it incredibly hard for that not to happen here. Despite being three and a half years younger than the average APPY Leaguer, Guerrero slashed .271/.359/.449 with 8 homers, 12 doubles, 3 triples and 15 stolen bases in 62 games. Thats good for a 122 wRC+. The Blue Jays gave Guerrero $3,900,000 to sign in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic (even though he was born in Canada). Initially Guerrero was looked at as a guy that was 100% going to be a first baseman down the line, now there’s a fighters chance he sticks at his preferred position of third base for at least a few seasons. The Jays wanted Guerrero to feel as comfortable as possible after they gave him the big bonus and essentially let him pick where he wanted to play, which is what the Red Sox did with Moncada. Baseball America comped Guerrero Jr. to Edwin Encarnacion and I love the comp. The plus hit and double plus power is insane. There’s a chance he’s in the bigs before he turns 21.
He’s currently slashing .335/.443/.489 with 15 doubles and 4 bombs/4 steals.
I’m extremely aggressive ranking Bichette here but the dude just crushes the ball. Offensively Bichette has easy 25 homer pop due to his plus bat speed, strength, double-plus raw power, and mature plate approach. The average speed doesn’t hurt either. He was one of the best prep hitters the state of Florida had ever seen and he followed that up by destroying the GCL in his limited 82 at-bat sample by hitting .427/.451/.732! with 9 doubles, 2 triples, 4 homers and a perfect 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts. I’m in love with this offensive profile and he doesn’t get cheated up there taking monster hacks. The main knock is he’s not going to stick at shortstop but honestly who cares because he will have the bat for wherever they stick him. That left side of the infield in Lansing is going to put on some massive power displays during batting practice, but him and Vlad Jr. may not do the pitchers any favors defensively. Bichette is a nice get in dynasty formats and is someone I’m scooping up everywhere.
He’s currently slashing .382/.454/.618 with 21 doubles, 3 triples, and 6 bombs/7 steals.
I recently sat on a game when these two rolled through the Midwest League field nearest me, and I was blown away by both. So much easy raw power and both guys are faster than you think. I’m extremely bullish on both of these two and have been aggressive on them from the start. I have video of four at bats by each of these guys on my phone and I may or may not watch them every night before bed.
On the pitching side of things for the Jays its been ugly on the farm. Reid-Foley has been better of late but he’s striking out less and walking more, thats never good. T.J. Zeuch was a favorite of mine before the draft and he’s been fine for someone with his stuff in High-A. Currently on the DL with an undisclosed injury to monitor his innings it seems (Dodgers just announce it like that for now on please). Former child model and family friend of Charlie Sheen Conner Greene isn’t missing enough bats to carry much fantasy upside pitching in Toronto and in the AL East. Ditto for Jon Harris. Remember when Harris had first overall pick buzz for like 24 hours two years ago? Good times.
I do like Justin Maese. Little known Jays arm that I saw when they rolled through town, and it was a bit of a unicorn outing. The super rare nine inning complete game. Maese has three on the season! I liked his athletic delivery and low 90s fastball. Decent curveball and slowed release point down significantly on changeup but was effective overall.
Sorry peeps. It was a long one, but I barely write so I figured I would since my major league team is a trash heap at the moment. Just to see how many of you actually made it down to the bottom of the page, here’s a trivia question for you. Tweet me the answer at @mdthompfwfb on twitter. I’ll talk to the big guy (Justin Mason) about maybe working out some sort of prize for reading this. So just tweet us both.
With Mike Trout hurt, Aaron Judge is on pace to lead the American League in OPS. Who is the only player in history to lead the AL in OPS in their rookie season? (qualified hitters only)