Archive for the ‘by Freddy Berowski’ Category

In the AL West there are some prospects that are on the tip of everyone’s tongue—Odor, Correa, Walker, Russell, etc.  There are some players with elite skill sets, while not known by most, still have a good shot at making an impact at the big league level.

23 year-old Reid Scoggins was drafted by the Angels in the 15th round of the 2012 draft.  He has been clocked as high as 101 in college and generally throws in the mid to high 90s.  He has struck out a 117 batters in a little over 85 professional innings.  He has some command issues and is still developing his secondary pitches.  A potential relief ace with a high ceiling, we could see Scoggins in the big league bullpen by 2015.

Astros catcher Tyler Heineman is someone I’ve been high on for some time, since watching him play for the NY-Penn League’s Tri-City Valley Cats.  A switch hitter with power, the 22 year-old is also a good catch and throw guy, who profiles long-term behind the dish.  The 2012 eighth round pick has the potential to not just be an everyday big league catcher, but his tools have him profile as a potential star at the position.

The Rangers Akeem Bostick is a very athletic 6’4”, 180 pound right hander.  A second rounder in 2013, Bostick pitched well in Arizona for the Rangers.  He throws a mid-90s fastball and has good curveball and change-up that have real potential to develop.  At only 18 years old, as he develops, I expect most prospectors will know who he is in a few years.

An 8 year minor league veteran, A’s right hander Arnold Leon, in his age 25 year, is in a make or break season.  Never a top prospect, Leon has been solid in each stop he’s had along the way.  He doesn’t have the potential to be a superstar, but there is probably a half-dozen teams he could start for right now.  He didn’t crack the A’s rotation or bullpen out of Spring Training, but I think that says more for the A’s staff and depth than anything else.  Injuries occur, that’s a part of the game.  Sometimes pitchers don’t succeed.  At some point this season, I think Leon will have his chance with the big club because of this.

The focus of the young pitching in Seattle, for good or bad, is Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen.  There is another name in the M’s system who was lights out at AA Jackson last season that people should be talking about- reliever Carson Smith.  With an unorthodox delivery, Smith doesn’t look like your star pitcher in the making.  But looks can be deceiving.  He has a wicked sinker and slider, combined with his fastball, makes Smith a near major league ready talent.  With the M’s looking to contend this year, if their big league pen struggles in April, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Smith in the bullpen by the end of May.  He has a chance to be a legit- big league closer.


The NL West is filled with top name prospects who have recently debuted and are expected to debut, to much fan-fare, this season.  From Archie Bradley to Yasiel Puig, the names of the best NL West prospects are on the tip of the tongue of most prospectors.  Here are some that you may not be aware of, that could end up making an impact on big league rosters in the not too distant future.

21-year-old toolsie outfielder Noel Cuevas was drafted in the 21st round by the LA Dodgers in 2010.  Cuevas excelled at High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2013, putting together perhaps his finest all-around minor league campaign in full season ball.  In addition to his 66 stolen bases, Cuevas put up a .284/.341/.454 line.  There are two questions surrounding Cuevas coming into 2014.  The biggest question is how he will handle Double-A? Will there be any regression and how much? Will he be able to figure things out and continue to build on his impressive 2013 season?  The second question concerns the Dodgers, with their plethora of talented outfielders, four at the big-league level, three of which are signed to long-term deals, and Joc Pederson waiting in the wings at AAA, is there a place in LA for Cuevas to play?

21-year-old backstop Will Swanner put together an impressive season, all things considered, for High-A Modesto.  A 15th round pick in 2010 out of high school in Carlsbad Ca., Swanner has slowly worked his way up the ranks in the Rockies system over the last four seasons.  The only thing that keeps me from calling 2013 a break-out campaign for Swanner is his horrible April and July months.  A streaky hitter, Swanner can hit for power and average, but strikes out a lot.  His bat it typical for Coors field and I could see him replacing Wilin Rosario behind the dish (with Rosario moving over to first), or vice-versa, in a few years and the Rox are lacking a true first base prospect.  Swanner should begin the season at Double-A, and if he continues to perform and September call-up in 2015 seems likely.

The Giants shelled out big bucks with preemptive strikes to keep Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum this off-season, sacrificing their spending in other areas, one of which, is the bullpen.  That is why Josh Osich is so intriguing to me.  Through his first two pro-seasons, Osich has been on the fast track, spending half the year last year in Double-A Richmond.  With a stellar strike out rate and good walk totals, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Osich is a guy to keep an eye on this spring.  His live arm is something that the Giants could use in a middle relief role.  Osich has the stuff to eventually be an 8th or 9th inning guy, once he gets a few years under his belt.

20-year-old Mallex Smith of the Padres is probably one of the fastest prospects in all of baseball.  Not only is he fast, but he is a smart baserunner as well.  Smith exploded on to the scene in his second pro-season putting up a .367 OBP with 64 steals in 110 games at Class-A Fort Wayne.  Not quite Billy Hamilton territory, but who is?  A speedy centerfielder with range, Smith has shown the ability to get on base and use his speed as a game changer.  Smith will turn 21 this way and looks to kick off the season in Double-A.  If he continues to play like he is now, by the end of the season he should be at Triple-A and be on everyone’s radar.  Look for him to emerge at the top of San Diego’s line-up by 2016.

Rounding out the NL west is Arizona hurler Daniel Gibson.  A 7th rounder in last year’s draft, Gibson was originally drafted by the Brewers in 2010 but chose to play for the University of Florida Gainesville instead.  Especially tough against lefty’s Gibson dominated A-ball in 2013.  With a fastball averaging 92 mph, Gibson profiles as a left-handed specialist at the big league level- not flashy, but every team needs a couple and it gets the job done.  There is a feeling among experts that Gibson may be one of the first players from the 2013 draft class to reach the big leagues, possibly as early as 2014.

The American League East has been a power house over the last decade plus, with the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays, all in the mix for Post Season berths. The Orioles, whose core of Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, were all built through the farm system, as were the Rays core of Longoria, Price and Moore. The Yankees have taken the opposite approach and are largely built around hired guns, whereas the Red Sox have employed a combination. The Jays right now, are in a state of flux, not knowing which way they are going, having traded away some of their best prospects in recent years in an attempt to win now.

One of the diamonds in the rough in the Jays system is first baseman L.B. Dantzler. Drafted in the 14th round of the 2013 draft, the 22-year-old exceeded expectations last year, posting a .302/.385/.504 slash line in 269 plate appearances split between Rookie League and Low-A. A pull hitter, Dantzler’s power rates a 60+ on the 20/80 scale. Dantzler is a converted third baseman and can field the position well. His compact frame gives him good lateral movement. Despite the fact that he strikes out a lot, he still gets on base at a good clip and can hit for average and power. 2014 is an interesting season for Dantzler. If he replicates what he did last year at High-A and Double-A, he will immediately become a player everyone will be watching in the Jays’ system.

With Derek Jeter announcing his retirement effective the end of 2014, one of the things that many fans are left wondering, is who the Yankees have coming up through the system to replace him. The Yankees do not have a top- 10 shortstop prospect, so it is likely, at least in the short term, that the Yankees will look outside the system to fill the hole next off-season. Other than Jeter, every starting position this year will be filled by someone who was developed outside the system (with the possible exception of Brett Gardner if he wins a starting job). This is a far cry from the formula that won them four of five World Series titles in the late 90s. At shortstop, 2013 fourth round draft pick Tyler Wade is a name to keep an eye on. At only 18 years of age, Wade is at least three years away from sniffing the big leagues. He hit well in rookie ball and showed good speed, but struggled a little bit in a brief stint at Low-A Staten Island. Wade profiles well as a top of the line-up hitter, with speed, and is a sleeper to keep an eye on, especially playing in New York.

Red Sox hurler Simon Mercedes has what one scout describes as “a real arm”. The 22-year-old Dominican hurler signed with the Sox in 2012 and pitched in one game. He spend the entire 2013 campaign throwing mostly in relief for low-A Lowell. He excelled against NY-Penn League hitters striking out nearly a batter an inning. A two pitch pitcher, with a plus fastball that hovers in the mid-90s, and plus curveball, the 6’4” 220 pounder has the tools needed to succeed in the big league bullpen. Look for him to begin at High-A in 2014 with a chance to reach Triple-A by the end of the season. I project Mercedes to be an impact arm in the back of the Sox bullpen and could be ready to see big league competition by late 2015.

Acquired by the Rays in the Wil Myers- James Shields trade, very little was known about Leonard in prospecting circles at the time. After the trade, Rays fans knew more than most. Drafted out of high school in 2011 by the Royals, Leonard struggled in his first season in the Rays franchise last year. He runs well for a big guy, and fields first base well. He has a nice fluid swing and can hammer fastballs. The big question is how he handles breaking pitches and that is what he struggled with in 2013. At only 21 years old, he still has a year or two to work out those kinks. If he can learn to at least handle breaking pitches (maybe not drive them but at least handle them), he could profile as a solid, second division, big league regular or right handed part of a platoon.

The Orioles took Stephen Tarpley in the third round of the 2013 draft out of Scottsdale Community College. Previously drafted out of high-school in the 11th round by the Indians, Tarpley chose college over the Tribe. Tarpley stands 6’1” and is a lean 180 pounds and throws three plus pitches with good command- a fastball, slider and change-up. As he works his way up the system over the next few years and continues to refine his pitchers, he will open more and more eyes. He has the ability to strike out a batter and inning and has good enough control to not walk a lot of guys. I think Tarpley will end up earning a call to the big leagues sometime in 2016, and should be a solid middle of the rotation pitcher for the Orioles for some time.

What we have here are prospects that fall outside of most prognosticators Top Ten lists.  There will be names on this list that many prospectors won’t know much about.  The goal here is to share a little bit of information on diamonds in the rough.  Over the next six weeks I will cover a division a week, beginning with the NL East.  You won’t find Noah Syndergaard, Lucas Sims or Brian Goodwin on this list of NL East prospects, instead we kick this list off with Dilson Herrera.

The Mets acquired Herrera, along with Vic Black, from the Pirates last August, in exchange for veterans Marlon Byrd and John Buck.  Herrera will turn 20 during Spring Training, and should see Double-A Binghamton before the year is out.  Like all prospects who are not considered elite, he does have some holes in his game, most notably his strikeout rate, which needs work.  But age 20, this young man’s positives outweigh the negatives.  A middle infielder, he has the potential to be an above average major league second baseman.  He has a very good glove, and his arm strength is the only thing that keeps him from projecting at shortstop.  He has the ability to hit for power, steal some bases, and get on base at a reasonable clip.  His strike out totals (which averaged one per game last year) need to be reduced, or at the very least, not increase as Herrera climbs the ladder.  If he can do that, expect him to join the big club in 2016.

Kyle Jensen of the Marlins has hit at every level, but at age 25, the idea of him being a prospect is closing.  The 2014 season is a make or break for Jensen.  Low batting average and high strike out totals are a concern as those numbers went in the wrong direction each step up the ladder he took.  He has legitimate power, and is in an outfielder by trade who can also play first base.  If he can cut down on his strikeouts just a little bit, and put some of those into balls in play, he could hit .250 at the big league level.  A .250/.330/.480 slash should be good enough to make him a big league regular in Miami.  With as depleted as the Marlins roster is and with as much power as he has, I’m surprised he didn’t get a look from the big club in 2013.  Look for him to compete for the starting first base job this spring.

There were cries of nepotism when the Braves drafted Kyle Wren, son of GM Frank Wren, with their Eighth round pick in 2013.  But it wasn’t the first time Wren had been drafted, having been selected by the Reds in the 30th round of the previous year’s draft.  Wren was quick to dispel that notion putting up a .335/.391/.472 slash line at in Rookie ball, Class A, and High A last year.  Blessed with great speed, Wren is also a smart base runner.  Couple that with the ability to get on base, and Wren is Atlanta’s lead-off hitter of the future.   The way he blazed through A ball last year, I expect him to begin 2014 with Double-A Mississippi, and if he excels as he did in 2013 could make Triple-A before the season’s end.  Wren is also a solid defensive outfielder with a good arm that could play either corner for the Braves.  I expect big things from Wren as there are not many holes in his game.  He could be ready for the big club as early as mid-2015.

The most dangerous hitter in the lineup during his time at Perdue, Cameron Perkins power seems to have disappeared in pro- ball.  He still slugs at a decent clip thanks to a lot of doubles and has been a near .300 hitter with a .346 OBP in his two pro seasons in the Phillies system.  He can play both corners on the infield and outfield, but projects best as a corner outfielder.  He has a good but not great arm and could end up in left field for the big club.  His ability to hit for average with a lot of doubles, coupled with his ability to play multiple positions adequately on the diamond, could mean a long career as a super utility guy.  At 23 years-old, Perkins should see Double- A ball for the first time this year, and it is why we should keep an eye on him.  If he continues to play the way he has without any regression, and I think he will, we could see him up with the big club in 2016.

The Washington Nationals have a young Dominican born twenty year-old catcher in their system that reminds me of a young Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate.  A stellar defender, Pedro Servino can catch and throw with the best of them.  He is a hard worker who after only two short minor league seasons, and season in the Sally League, is starting to develop a reputation in baseball circles as a hard worker, and is developing his command of the English language at a rapid pace.  The one thing he needs to continue to work on is his bat.  He showed flashes of promise in 2013 and his production with the stick has increased dramatically each of the last two seasons- all he has to do now, is start to show a little bit of pop.  I expect Servino to play Double-A ball in 2014 and should be ready to crack the big league line-up in 2016, which will be his age 22 season.  Servino has a chance to be a very good every day major league catcher for a long time.

Delino DeShields (Outfielder- Houston Astros)—DeShields has played most of his pro career as a second baseman but, the Astros recently signed Jose Altuve to a long term extension which necessitates a position shift.  The result is the highly touted DeShields will have to move to the outfield.  DeShields is a gifted athlete who can field the ball well, and might be the fastest guy in baseball next Billy Hamilton.  Questions about DeShields bat abounds, and there is an old saying “You can’t steal first base”. I can think of no player that this fits more than DeShields.  I normally don’t take too much stock in Arizona Fall League stats, however, with DeShields, I will make an exception.  I really need to see what he can do numbers wise against regular elite competition.

Taylor Lindsey (Second Base- Anaheim Angels)—A very good bat for the position and a good defender, I’m sure that the Angels will also be watching their young second baseman closely.  I’m certain, that there will be a direct correlation on how Lindsey performs in the AFL, and what they do with Howie Kendrick this off-season as the club is in dire need of quality major league starting pitching.

Eddie Rosario (Second Base- Minnesota Twins)—An elite prospect in his own right, Rosario is often overlooked  in the Twins system because of the pedigree of Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.  A second baseman with a good glove who can hit for average, Rosario is playing with an eye towards 2014 with the big league club.  This is a chance for Rosario to play with, and against elite talent, and show everyone what he can do.

Sammy Solis (Pitcher- Washington Nationals)—Coming off Tommy John Surgery, Solis spent most of his year at High-A Potomac.  At 24 years old, losing that year-plus of development really hurt his stock.  Solis needs a good showing in the Fall League and needs to continue pitching, with the hopes of spending 2014 at AA and AAA and reaching the show no later than 2015.

Matt Harvey (Pitcher- New York Mets)—Harvey is first MLB All-Star Game starting pitcher to pitch in the Arizona Fall League in the same season that he started the All-Star Game.  Although the Mets have yet to “officially” announce that Harvey will participate, it has been indicated, in the NY Media, that he will.  The goal here is not to improve or work on the game, this is simply to see if Harvey can strengthen his elbow, and rehab successfully enough to avoid Tommy John Surgery, and avoid missing the 2014 season.

September is that special time of year, that time where Major League Baseball teams can expand their rosters from 25 to 40 players.  Extra bodies to give a guy on a  run away contender a break, or maybe a few guys try their hand for a Major League club that is way out of contention so that club can see what they have for next season and beyond.  Or perhaps some players are getting their moment in the show, maybe as a reward for a good minor league campaign.  There are also those teams that are in the thick of a pennant race, looking to get that extra edge and maybe win an extra game or two that could make all the difference between playing on and going home, come September 29.  Those are the players we are focusing on today.


Cincinnati Reds- Billy Hamilton (cf)

The Reds are in a dog fight for the National League Central with Pittsburgh and St. Louis.  Currently 3.5 games behind the Cardinals for first, and 3 games behind the Pirates for the second wild card, the Reds need a spark that can help close the gap.  The Wild Card is a consolation prize known, but no team wants to find themselves in a one and done scenario so the division is what all teams strive for.  Billy Hamilton brings a couple of Major League ready tools to the table that might be able to mean a couple of games in the standings in September.  We all remember what Dave Roberts did on the base paths for the Red Sox in October of 2004, and for a team that is as bereft of speed as the Reds are, I’m sure there will be several opportunities, especially late in games, for Hamilton’s speed to be a factor.  In addition, Shin Soo Choo, a guy with a very good slash line, is not a good defender in centerfield.  Hamilton would make the perfect caddy in late innings that would allow the Reds to shift Choo to a corner.  Hamilton’s glove and elite speed would make him a factor in this year’s NL Central race.


Oakland Athletics- Michael Choice (of)

Coming into today, the A’s sit 2.5 games back of the Texas Rangers for the AL West, in what is a two horse race.  And there is no guarantee, that the team that doesn’t finish first will grab a wild card spot, thanks to the Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Yankees and Indians, who still remain in the wild card hunt.  On July 31, the A’s had a comfortable lead of 4 games on the Rangers.  In the weeks surrounding the deadline, the Rangers made two impact trades- landing Matt Garza from the Cubs and Alex Rios from the White Sox.  Dealing with injuries to numerous pitchers this season, Garza has been a breath of fresh air for Texas, throwing quality innings and winning 3 games in his first five weeks with the club.  And while Rios bat hasn’t quite lit Arlington on fire yet in his 2 and a half weeks in the club, his bat is certainly a welcome presence in the middle of the order.  Oakland didn’t make any upgrades at the deadline, but I think Michael Choice has the skill set, and is ready, to make an impact this September.  The A’s have struggled with their DH slot all season, and Choice’s bat could provide a steady, consistent bat from that spot.  With a slash line of .300/.388/.422 at AAA this season, the 23 year old has proven he has the ability to hit for average and power as well as the ability to take a pitch and work the count and would fit nicely in the 2 or 5 spots in the line-up.


Tampa Bay Rays- Tim Beckham (if) and  Mikie Mahtook (of)

Unlike many of the Rays’ division rivals, they often don’t have the cash to make the big money splash in the off-season or at the deadline.  It is scouting and development that has been key to this team’s success, and if they want to catch the Red Sox, they are going to have to bring up a couple of their top prospects this September, as opposed to waiting for next year’s Super-Two deadline.  Extremely poor second half performances by several members of the Rays offense, specifically James Loney, Kelly Johnson, and Luke Scott, have thrown the Rays offense into disarray.  If Tampa Bay wants to avoid a potential one and done scenario on Sept. 30, or worse, now is the time to throw some life into a sagging line-up.  Bringing up Tim Beckham, at age 23 in his third go around at AAA Durham, to play second base and Mikie Mahtook to take some cuts at designated hitter, or spell an outfielder, might just be the moves the Rays need to make.  The call up of Beckham would give the Rays a good defender with plus speed and doubles power, who they could slot right in the line-up, and if he can hit like he has at AAA this season, he could help ignite the stagnant offense.  And, although Mahtook’s power hasn’t developed as yet as the Rays hoped, he’s put smacked 27 doubles and stolen 25 bases so far at AA Montgomery, and should be able to take enough pitches to have a respectable slash line, while using his running game, as part of a platoon with Luke Scott.

Wilmer Flores, Pure Hitter

Posted: August 15, 2013 in by Freddy Berowski

For the last six years, New York Mets fans and Bowman Prospectors alike have been hearing the name Wilmer Flores.  The young slugger’s star has shone brightly, faded darkly, and once again is burning strong.  Once compared to a young Manny Ramirez, Flores signed as a 16 year-old international amateur free agent out of Venezuela and big things were expected of him from the start.  He received a $750,000 signing bonus and immediately reported to Rookie League Kingsport.  After breezing through Low-A Brooklyn he completed the 2008 campaign at Class-A Savannah, finishing with .307/.347/.468 line on the season.

Entering the 2009, Baseball America ranked the sweet swinging young shortstop as baseball’s 47th best prospect.  Flores struggled mightily throughout 2009, posting a .264/.305/.332 line resulting in a repeat at Savannah the following season.  Following-up on the disappointing 2009 campaign, Flores entered 2010 ranked 88th on Baseball America’s Top 100.  Flores’ numbers improved across the board slightly, but his power was still lower than what was expected of him.  It was around this time that scouts and the front office began to believe that his future may not be at shortstop, as Flores body continued to change.  The range just wasn’t there to be an every day big league shortstop, but there were still believers in the swing.

Flores remained at short for the 2011 season where he ranked 59th on Baseball America’s Top 100.  This is the last time Flores would appear on Baseball America’s annual pre-season rankings.  Flores put up similar numbers at High- A St. Lucie, but his meager power output actually decreased in his age 19 season, with his slugging percentage bottoming out at a mere .380.  After the 2011 season, there were many question marks relating to the kid’s future.

The Mets placed Flores for the third time in High-A St. Lucie to start the 2012 season, and in the process, moved him to third base.  Something seamed to click in the 20 year-old as he posted a .289/.336/.463 line in 64 games, earning a promotion to Double- A Binghamton.  Another position switch followed as he was shifted to second base, where he continued to rake.  Flores put up an even better .311/.361/.494 line in 66 games to finish the 2012 season.  But while he starting to show the promise with the bat that was expected of him when he signed four years prior, with average-at-best defense he was starting to earn the reputation of a hitter without a position.

The Mets started Flores in his age 21 season, at Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League.  Flores did not make the Bowman Top 100 or Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospect list to start the season, but he did nothing but rake from day one.  In 107 games for the 51’s, Flores posted a .321/.357/.531 line, with a league leading 86 RBI and an .887 OPS.  Playing primarily second base, Flores performed adequately enough with the glove that when David Wright went down with a leg injury, the Mets felt confident that he could competently fill the role of Mets’ third baseman.  In his first seven big league games Flores posted a .259/.310/.407 line with a home run and nine RBI.

Unfortunately, the other day Flores twisted his ankle running the bases and there remains a strong possibility that it could land him on the disabled list.  It is clear his long-term position with the club is not third base – as that space is occupied by the team captain – but second base and first base are distinct possibilities.

I see Flores long-term as the New York Mets second baseman, where he will provide average defense and a plus bat.  It has been some time since the Mets system developed an All-Star quality bat and regardless of what position Flores ultimately settles at, he has certainly displayed the tools needed to be a plus big league hitter.  Earlier this year, when asked what position Flores would play, Mets Assistant GM and VP of Player Development and Scouting Paul DePodesta said “hitting in an RBI spot.”