St Louis Cardinals – 2016 UTR Organizational All-Stars – Pitchers

cardinals

While information gathering to begin my 2014/2015 review of the Cardinals, I saw a list of past UTR-OAS pitchers slated to be bumped from minor league camp and used to plug holes in the big club roster during Spring Training. It could be a great opportunity for 2015 OAS Jack Flaherty, Daniel Poncedeleon, Artie Reyes, and 2015 OAS Austin Gomber to make an impression, according to Jesus Ortiz at the St. Louis Dispatch. Flaherty immediately hit our radar in his pro debut with the GCL Cardinals in 2014. The former 1st round pick hails from the same high school as Max Fried and Lucas Giolito, who were  drafted in 2012. The 6’4″- 205 lb. righty repeated on my list after his 2015 season, which earned him the “Solid Stash” tag. While Flaherty ranks as a Cardinals Top 5 prospect (Baseball America), Daniel Poncedeleon (9th Rd- 2014) has remained under the radar and was my 2015 “One to Watch.”  The now 25-year old right-hander probably has the most at stake, in trying to make a splash to St Louis. He just missed the 2015 UTR-OAS ranking and completed a solid Double-A stint in 2016. The other Reyes arm in the Cardinals’ stable, Artie or Arturo, is the epitome of UTR with his 40th round draft status in 2013. Artie Reyes has moved through the system and saw most of his time at Triple-A Memphis, after a taste in 2015. He proved to be hittable in 2015 (12.8 H/9), but keeps balls in the park (0.3 HR/9). He reversed the trend in 2016 with a promising 8.8 H/9 rate, but gave up 12 home runs in 107.2 innings (1.0 HR/9). Watch him closely in Spring Training during outings on the main field. Chances are, that if you hear the name Reyes during Spring ball it will be Artie, since top pitcher Alex Reyes will miss the 2017 season with Tommy John surgery.
The 2015 UTR-OAS was highlighted by 4th round (2014) pick Austin Gomber, who tore-up the Midwest League. The Cardinals rewarded Gomber with a Spring Training invite after last season and he kept the train rolling in 2016. He makes a repeat appearance below in the runner-up slot. It’s actually been tough for true UTR’s to crack the Cardinals list, with the like of Gomber, Flaherty, and 2015 OAS Luke Weaver. One young arm to remember and was my 2016 “One to Watch” the 20-year old David Oca. He’s another pitcher that appeared on my list after the 2014 season with the DSL Cardinals. He made his U.S. debut in 2015 and over four seasons sports a strikeout rate of 23.5 % in 250.2 innings. He only saw two months during the 2016 season in the Appy League, so it may be worth tracking him when he gets his first full season at LoA, hopefully next month. Most the above names seem to be a call-up away to St. Louis, so let’s see what crop of new UTR’s will be filling their void.
 
 Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
 
1. RHP Matt Pearce – 25 / .135     *Legit UTR*

  • 22 years old – (HiA Palm Beach / Double-A Springfield / Triple-A Memphis)
  • 13th round – 2014
  • Pearce just turned 23 this week and has already seen time at HiA Palm Beach (HiA) and Triple-A Memphis. He Ranked in the #5 slot last season and blew away his (9) Factor Score, but held his TPS rate steady. He would blow-up as a prospect if he could only miss more bats. Known more as a finesse pitcher, Pearce’s peripherals were promising across three levels in 2016. In work-horse fashion, Pearce threw 163.2 innings and posted a 3.08 ERA and 1.057  WHIP. Look for the 6’3″- 205 lb. right-hander to spend more time at Double-A in 2017.
2. LHP Austin Gomber – 19 / .091   *Solid Stash*

  • 22 years old – (HiA Palm Beach / Double-A Springfield)
  • 4th round – 2014
  • Gomber is the lone lefty in a right-hander dominated system, which increases his fantasy ‘stash’ value. What lacks in Pearce, you will find in Gomber. The imposing 6″5″- 235 lb. pitcher registered very Pearce-comprable ERA and WHIP stats, but his 8.2 K/9 rate makes him a bit more attractive.
3. RHP Junior Fernandez – 17 / .129    *Legit UTR*
  • 19 years old – (LoA Peoria / HiA Palm Beach)
  • International Free Agent – 2014
  • Fernandez has held is own despite facing much older competition, and being the youngest pitcher in the Florida State League. The teenage righty was added to the Spring Training roster recently to fill the void from injuries and other pitchers playing the World Baseball Classic. This is good news, as quality time spent working on his command of a plus- fastball (that can run up into the high 90’s) is nothing but positive. He also exhibits a plus change-up, which could place his ceiling as a late-inning reliever. He holds onto his #3 spot, earning the “Legit UTR” stamp.
4. RHP Sandy Alcantara – 14 / .086   
  • 20 years old – (LoA Peoria / HiA Palm Beach)
  • International Free Agent – 2013
  • To be honest, I had to back track into last years’ spreadsheet to see how close Alcantara came from making the 2015 UTR-OAS roster. If you look back to 2015, he was so close and almost got the “One to Watch” for 2016. Wow, I missed that one, as the 20-year old averaged 28.8 strikeout percentage over two levels. Joseph Werner over at ProspectDigest.com reported that hasn’t happened since Tyler Glasnow in 2014.
5. RHP Ryan Helsley – 14 / .074
  • 21 years old – (LoA Peoria)
  • 5th round – 2015
  • OK UTR Fans…..remember this kids name. And I state that with the same enthusiasm as I did back in 2011 with Trevor Rosenthal at LoA Quad Cities. I then drafted him prior to the 2013 fantasy season and he’s still on my roster. My system hit on Rosenthal when he was starting games, thus making his way as the Cardinals’ closer when the rotation was busting at the seams with arms. Don’t rule out that he could return back to his roots with Seung hwan Oh projected to be the closer in 2017. So here’s Helsley, a starter, but I project him to be the future closer, with his fastball touching triple-digits (100 mph). The now 22-year old was the best kept secret in 2016 with LoA Peoria and has yet receive the deserved ink….so he’ll get it here. He made 11 appearances (9 starts) in the Appy League in 2015 posting a 2.01 ERA over 40.1 innings. He jumped to full season LoA and went 10-2 with a 1.61 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.3 SO/9 rate (109 K’s) in 95 innings. I always try to select a true UTR (below 5th round draft pick) as my “One to Watch”, but Helsley makes the 2017 choice too obvious.
 
 
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
 
 1. RHP Landon Beck –  10 / .081    *Legit UTR* 
  • 24 years old – (LoA Peoria / HiA Palm Beach)
  • 25th round – 2014
  • Beck was a 2014 UTR-OAS as a starter. Back then, I wrote about the abundance of relief arms within the Cardinal system and that Beck would probably remain as a starter. The table has turned with Beck having the most saves (11) of any reliever in the Cards system below Double-A.
 2. RHP Tyler Bray –  / .077    
  • 24 years old – (LoA Peoria / HiA Palm Beach)
  • 26th round – 2014
3. RHP Rowan Wick –  / .068   
  • 23 years old – (LoA Peoria / HiA Palm Beach)
  • 9th round – 2012
  • A converted outfielder that throws in the upper 90’s along with deception. Could be decent future set-up guy.
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Pittsburgh Pirates – 2016 UTR Organizational All-Stars – Pitchers

pirates-logo

I have been a life-long Pittsburgh sports fan..through and through. I’m also at the age where a lot of high school friends were Dallas Cowboys fans when the moniker “America’s Team” was just starting to incubate. I do take the hard-line stance that if you live in Pennsylvania, you should be rooting for either the Steelers or the Eagles. I’ll give those a pass if they want to hang their loyalties on Buffalo, Washington, NY Giants or the NY Jets. But never to Baltimore or Cleveland, as you can surely understand. But how sweet it was to have the Steelers win four Super Bowls during my Junior and Senior High School days, especially two against those Cowboys. It was savagely sweet to see your “Cowboy loving” best friend actually breakdown to “bawling” tears while watching the Super Bowl together that January night in 1979. My Steelers are always in the playoff hunt and the Penguins keep things going for me once football comes to an end. But once the hockey season ends, that let-down feeling creeps through the door, knowing that I have to sweat through a Pirates’ 162-game season. We all know the history, the toils of the Pirates. My last cries of jubilation came in October 1979. What a braggart I was that year… Super Bowl and a World Series title in one year. Now, I have to get excited for a possible Wild Card play-in game, which seems will be the norm with the Cubs’ dynamo now churning.
I can’t explain whether it’s the close relationship as a Pirate fan or if my system has been working, hard hitting on Pirates UTR’s. The battle cry of my fellow Pirate fan nephew the last several years has been..”the calvary is coming.” He’s mainly been referring to the lumber, but I’vebeen waiting on the arms. Top drafts picks like Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon could finally see a full season as rotation-mates at PNC Park this season, but a whole bevy of UTR pitchers are about to arrive to help round out the staff. 2014 UTR’s Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl will be the first to arrive. My system actually latched onto Glasnow during my writings at MLBDepthCharts in his 2012 debut season. He solidified my stance the following year with LoA West Virginia and became my #1 ranked TPS Pirates pitcher on my UTRMinors.com debut list in 2014. Glasnow had a ridiculous combined score FS/TPS score of 15/.059 that season, and was on his way to becoming the Pirates #1 prospect. Kuhl joined the OAS list behind Glasnow at #3 at 12/ .130 going 13-5 with a 3.35 ERA. According to RosterResource, Kuhl should occupy the #4 rotation spot coming out of Spring Training, after  14 decent starts in 2016. If Kuhl should falter in 2017, there are other UTR-OAS right behind him awaiting the opportunity. Both are not homegrown Pirate farmhands. Steve Brault was the Baltimore Orioles top OAS in 2014 and was traded to Pittsburgh in 2015. Trevor Williams could be the real sleeper in 2017. He came over to the Pirates in 2015 after becoming one of my Organization All-Stars for the Marlins in 2014. The wait list doesn’t stop there with: Nick Kingham, Casey Sadler, Brandon Cumpton, Josh Lindblom. These pitchers were all once touted by me before the launch of this site. I had predicted Lindblom as a future relief arm for the LA Dodgers, which occurred in 2011 and part of 2012 before being sent to Philadelphia. The Pirates acquired Lindblom after his successful conversion to a starter in the Korean Baseball League.
A new crop of UTR-OAS began to emerge for the Pirates over the last two seasons. In Tyler Glasnow fashion, my system immediately hit on Mitch Keller during his debut year with the GCL Pirates. He posted a nice .085 TPS that season, then took his lumps in the APPY League the next year, before going down with a forearm issue. He returns as a UTR-OAS for 2016, taking the top spot. 2016 “One to Watch” Yeudy Garcia had a worthy season with HiA Bradenton this past season, but just missed making the list. Austin Coley (2016 Pre-Season “Just off the Scope”) does repeat in 2016, thanks to a strong month of May, but faded the last month of the season.
The relief side of things for the Pirates upcoming are the likes of 2013 “One to Watch” Dovyadas Neverauskas. The 24-year old keeps the ball in the park (5 HR’s in his last 126.1 IP and 16% FB rate in Triple-A) and should finally make it to PNC in 2017. Also look for Montana DuRapau and Jhondaniel Medina to arrive in Pittsburgh, especially if Tony Watson is dealt, which will shake-up the whole Pirate bullpen. An intriguing arm within the Pirates stable is ex-Red Sox top pick in Pat Light. I predicted Light as a bust when he somehow chiseled his way into the Boston 2014 UTR-OAS roster. He made a renaissance this past season in the relief role at the Triple-A level with Boston and Minnesota, but it never carried over to his MLB stints. Let’s see if  Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage can conjure-up the magic to harness Light’s mechanics and his fastball (up to 100 mph) into a closer, should Watson be sent packing.
 
 
 
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
 
 1. RHP Mitch Keller – 21 /  .089  *Solid Stash*
  • 20 years old – (LoA West Virginia / HiA Bradenton)
  • 2nd round – 2014
  • Keller missed most of 2015 with forearm issues, but returns to the OAS circle after a terrific 2016. TPS tapped Keller during his pro debut in 2014 with the GCL Pirates, scoring a .085 metric. The Pirates rewarding Keller with a late start at HiA Bradenton where he pitched six shutout innings with 7 strikeouts and only 1 walk. That ratio was about par for the 124.1 innings at LoA West Virginia, paralleling to a 7.28 K/BB ratio. Many scouts rave about Keller’s control over his command, exciting news for a kid only 3 seasons removed from high school. Keller was the Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
2. RHP JT Brubaker – 18 / .101  
  • 22 years old – (LoA West Virginia / HiA Bradenton)
  • 6th round – 2015
  • Brubaker was also challenged with a promotion to HiA Bradenton mid-season, and endured a roller-coaster ride. The took the ball in the Florida State League Championship and pitched his first scoreless HiA outing that secured the FSL title for the Marauders.
3. RHP Logan Sendelbach – 17 / .126
  • 22 years old – (LoA West Virginia)
  • 10th round – 2015
  • Sendelbach started his first full season with West Virginia as hot as any Pirate minor league pitcher. In five April starts, Sendelbach threw 27.1 innings allowing 4 earned runs, 3 walks and 14 strikeouts. He then battled inconsistencies for the rest of the season, especially an increase in his flyball rate. He has a way to go to reach a possible ceiling as a back-end starter.
4. LHP Austin Coley – 15 / .142  
  • 24 years old – (HiA Bradenton)
  • 27th round – 2014
  • Prior to the 2016 season, I placed Coley “Just Off the Scope.” He led Bradenton with 12 wins and 139.1 innings this past season, finishing with a 1.33 WHIP.
5. RHP Bret Helton – 15 / .124
  • 22 years old – (LoA West Virginia)
  • 9th round – 2015
  • Helton slides into the final slot with an outstanding month of August. In five starts, Helton posted a 2.57 ERA, allowing eight earned runs over 28 innings.
 
 
 
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
 
 1. RHP Tate Scioneaux – 12 / .080    
  • 23 years old – (LoA West Virginia / HiA Bradenton)
  • 39th round – 2015
2. RHP Jess Amedee – / .070    
  • 22 years old – (LoA West Virginia)
  • 27th round – 2014
2. RHP Scooter Hightower – / .097    
  • 21 years old – (Short-Season West Virginia / LoA West Virginia)
  • 15th round – 2015
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Milwaukee Brewers – 2016 UTR Organizational All-Stars – Pitchers

brewers

With the Milwaukee Brewers, I felt like just providing you with the 2016 UTR-OAS list instead of reviewing the UTR’s from previous seasons. That’s where the Brewers system is and has been for sometime with regards to UTR’s. Most mentioned from 2014 were on the cusp of either Double-A or were soon to be 25-year old’s and off the radar. The only notables from that year were Tyler Wagner and Damien Magnifico who have both reached the MLB level. It had to get better in 2015 and some ways, it did. Wei-Chung Wang was selected during the 2013 Rule 5 draft from the Pirates and pitched from the bullpen in Milwaukee in 2016. My “One to Watch” selection prior to the 2015 season was Angel Ventura, who then made the OAS roster that season. Ventura handled his advancement to HiA Brevard County and Double-A Biloxi in 2016. His stats were to be expected, except the spike in home runs allowed. He gave up as many in 2016 (12) than he did in his five previous seasons (13). Cody Ponce was a 2nd rounder from 2015 who received only 2 starts in the Pioneer League before a promotion to LoA Wisconsin. One would expect a repeat to LoA in 2016, but the Brewers tend to be aggressive and sent the 22-year old to HiA Brevard County. In 17 starts, Ponce posted an outstanding 22% K and 5% BB ratios, but was somewhat unlucky with a .348 BABIP. We’ll see if the push will continue with Ponce only seeing 118 innings of full season ball. His average control and straight-line fastball could be suspect at the Double-A level, without the seasoning at the lower level. Without a doubt, Ponce figures heavily into the future the Brewers rotation. One-time Uber-UTR Josh Hader, who I touted hard during his early time with Houston in 2014 will be in Milwaukee this season. Brandon Woodruff slid into the last spot on the 2015 UTR-OAS. The 11th round pick in 2014 had a 2016 that placed him into the future rotation discussion for the Brewers. I recommended readers to take a flyer on Jorge Ortega, as he displayed outstanding control. This didn’t carry over into 2016, as things went off the rail at the start of July, and Ortega was shutdown for the season. Just off my scope prior to the 2016 season were Freddy Peralta, Daniel Missaki, and David Burkhalter. Peralta and Burkhalter are both very young and should continue to be tracked. Missaki, who came over to the Brewers along with Peralta from Seattle in 2015, has yet to see action in a Brewers uniform. Let’s see if this years UTR-OAS roster can provide some excitement for the Brewers:
 
 
 
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
 
 1. RHP Jon Perrin – 20 / .100   
  • 23 years old – (LoA Wisconsin / HiA Brevard County / Double-A Biloxi)
  • 27th round – 2015
  • Perrin got the opportunity to see LoA ball in his debut season, which isn’t too shabby for a 27th round pick. He must have impressed the Brewers staff with his 34:4 K/BB rate in 39.2 innings of work. They had to be absolutely giddy at the start of the 2016 season, when Perrin pitched 36 innings at Wisconsin and registered a 47:1 rate with a 2.50 ERA. The big bodied (6’5″- 220 lb.) righty was promoted to HiA and got a one start taste of Double-A, and enjoyed success. Perrin throws a soft fastball with sink and deception that commands both sides of the plate. Overall projection is tough to call from his sophomore season and one should see more Double-A innings. He could become a back-of-the-rotation innings-eater.
 2. RHP Brandon Woodruff – 14 / .077
      • 23 years old – (HiA Brevard County)
      • 11th round – 2014
      • Before (or if) Perrin can take residency as a #4 or #5 type, Woodruff may fill that role sometime in 2017. Another big bodied right-hander, Woodruff led all of the minor leagues last season with 173 strikeouts in 158 innings. He never missed a beat from HiA to Double-A in registering a 27% K-rate over both levels. Of course, he was the Brewers Minor League Pitcher of the Year and could possibly rank within the Top 1o of Brewers prospects.
4. RHP Marcos Diplan – 12 / .074
      • 20 years old – (L0A Wisconsin / HiA Brevard County)
      • International Free Agent (Texas) – 2013
      • The Rangers traded Diplan, Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel to the Brewers in the Yovani Gallardo on January 2015. The aggressive Brewers gave Diplan a shot at LoA after only seeing seven Pioneer Leagues appearances with Texas. He finished 2016 with HiA Brevard County and should return with the Manatees to start 2017. If he builds upon his 2016 success early on, he could be one of the youngest arms in Double-A at 20-years old.
5. RHP Bowdien “Bubba” Derby – 12 / .120
      • 22 years old – (HiA Brevard County)
      • 6th round (Oakland) – 2015
      • The Brewers sent Khris Davis to the Athletics for Derby and Jacob Nottingham prior to the 2016 season. Just before that deal, I listed Derby “Just Off the Scope” for Oakland during my “One to Watch” post. If my top three can work their way into the Milwaukee rotation over the next couple years, then Bubba Derby’s ceiling maybe that of a swing-man from the bullpen. That was basically the plan once Derby came over from Oakland, but the Brewers gave him a shot in the Brevard County rotation and was surprised with the results. If he heads to the new HiA affiliate (Carolina) to start 2017, I would look for Derby to work from the bullpen.
5. RHP Eric Hanhold – 12 / .146
      • 22 years old – (HiA Brevard County)
      • 6th round – 2015
 
 
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – (Factor Score) / TPS
 
1. LHP Quintin Torres-Costa – 7 / .071
  • 21 years old –  (LoA Wisconsin / Pioneer League Helena)
  • 35th round – 2015
2. RHP Nate Griep – 6 / .085
  • 22 years old –  (LoA Wisconsin)
  • 8th round – 2015
3. RHP Aaron Myers – 6 / .085
  • 22 years old –  (AZL Brewers / Pioneer League Helena)
  • Non-Drafted Free Agent – 2015
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Cincinnati Reds – 2016 UTR Organizational All-Stars – Pitchers

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If you’re in full rebuild mode with your fantasy team, look toward the Cincinnati Reds for your pitching needs. Both the rotation and bullpen seriously need a influx of young arms to become stable and bring the Reds back into the N.L. Central hunt. If you been a frequent visitor to this site, you should have some of these up-and-coming arms in your watch list.
Lets’ go back to 2013 (pre-UTRMinor’s days) when our content was with another site. My UTR Breakout pick was Sal Romano, who is now a Cincinnati Top 10 prospect. The Reds UTR pitching in the low minors was messy at that time and I had a difficult time naming a “One to Watch”. I mentioned using the Reds system as a case-study for my system, and now jumping ahead almost three years later, I can say (with modest confidence) that the Reds study has improved my system. Using this year’s version of the UTR-OAS, in providing a review since our our debut, my success rate has grown exponentially. The sifting for Sal Romano prior the 2013 season was the catalyst for this success.
My first UTR roster for the Reds on this site started with Jeremy Kivel, being my “One to Watch” prior to the 2014 season. He was coming off the previous season with the AZL Reds posting a 9.9 K9 rate, but needed improvement in command and control; typical for a drafted high school arm. He finished with similar numbers after the 14′ season in the Pioneer League, but hitters found holes with a 12.0 H/9 rate. He’s been moved into the bullpen, making it to HiA last season, but still is giving up too many free passes. Things could still click for Kivel, but the clock is now ticking for the 23-year old. Sal Romano made the UTR-OAS roster in 2013, along with others who would become the group to make the Reds stable, as I mentioned above. Amir Garrett, who’s now the Reds top pitching prospect, first appeared in 2014 as a 22nd round pick (2011) and just completed his first full season. He would repeat in 2015 and earned the “Legit UTR” tag; and I recommended him as a “Solid Stash.” If you took that advice last February, Garrett should be scoring you fantasy points sometime this season in Cincinnati. A couple more two-timers are Nick Travieso and Wyatt Strahan. Travieso was exposed at Double-A Pensacola (4.1 BB9) and has had trouble repeating his delivery. A commitment to the bullpen may be forth-coming for the former 2012 1st rounder.  Strahan was looking to vault into HiA Daytona in 2016 after a successful full season with LoA Dayton. He only saw four starts before succumbing to an injury, requiring Tommy John surgery and will miss a portion of the 2017 season. Ben Lively was also part of the 2014 roster, but the Reds traded him to Philadelphia the following year. Another kid from 2014 that I thought would be a fast mover within the system was Ismael Guillon, but more on him below.
On to the 2015 UTR-OAS roster, where Tyler Mahle could become the next UTR Sal Romano. Unlike Romano, Mahle made the 2015 list with the #1 Factor Score and #4 TPS as a 20-year old in LoA. I would name him as the “One to Watch” going into the 2016 season and he just missed being listed as a Top 100 prospect on many tout lists for 2017. He does repeat this year, and just like Amir Garrett, he will be affixed with the “Legit UTR” and “Solid Stash” net. That will also go for Jose Lopez, who registered in as the #1 TPS in 2015 and is the top ranked UTR-OAS for 2016. Tejay Antone comes in at #4 below to make another UTR-OAS appearance. Antone is a true under the radar type, as he doesnt get much press being a 5th round pick from 2014. UTR followers should continue watching his progress in 2017 with him getting a taste of Triple-A in 2016 as a 22-year old.
With a system such as the Reds, it pays heed to whats happening in the Dominican Summer League. Last year, my spreadsheet boasted a couple teenagers worth noting, and lefty Wennigton Romero maybe the most promising. The Reds brought the 18-year old over to the States after just one DSL season. Romero posted a 5.75 K/BB ratio and 1.20 WHIP facing hitters over 2.5 years older. 19-year old Luis Alecis also had a solid U.S. debut with the AZL Reds. The projectable 6’3″ 190lb right-hander went 2-2 with a 3.26 ERA in 47 IP and rated just over a K and half an inning (9.6).
 
 
 
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
 
1. RHP Jose Lopez – 17 / .093       *Legit UTR / Solid Stash 
  • 22 years old – (LoA Dayton / HiA Daytona)
  • 6th round – 2014
  • Lopez came into his debut season having missed all of 2014 (Seton Hall Pirates) due to Tommy John surgery. He impressed with a 3-2 record and 3.00 ERA in 15 appearances (14 starts), and ranked as my 2015 Reds #1 TPS UTR Organizational All-Star. The effect of the surgery was a thing of the past in 2016, as Lopez threw 148 innings and held  his K/BB ratio near steady at 3.50, compared to 2015. Not bad, considering he had bouts of inconsistency, his ERA took a hit during the last three months of the season and he struggled to keep runners on base. More importantly, I’m impressed that Lopez has kept his TPS at a sub 1.00 (.078 in 2015) in only his second season. Watch Lopez. He could be sneaky good in 2017, and if you have the roster spots, take a flier and stash him. 
 2. RHP Tyler Mahle – 17 / .098       *Legit UTR / Solid Stash 

  • 21 years old – (HiA Dayton / Double-A Pensacola)
  • 7th round – 2013
  • Rock solid would be used to describe the season had by Mahle in 2016. It damn near came to a coin flip between him and Lopez for the top spot. Without a doubt, the righty would haven’t gotten the nod if it wasn’t for the June promotion to Double-A,  thus dropping from the UTR radar. Either way, they both deserve the tags given, especially Mahle, who’s trajectory is just starting to peak, as he could be in the Cincy rotation by mid-2018. Mahle was one of the youngest pitchers in Double-A last season, but impressed just the same despite posting a 4.92 ERA in 71.1 innings. He faded toward the end of the season, so let’s take a look at his stats, minus those last four Pensacola starts. In his first 10 of 14 starts, Mahle went 5-2 with a 3.54 ERA (53.1 IP), struck out 46 while issuing 15 walks. Overall for the season, he posted a 21% K and 7% walk rates. One wouldn’t describe him as a dominant pitcher, as his fastball only reaches the lower 90’s. His calling card would be the plus command and near plus change-up. Like Jose Lopez, his TPS hovers around .100 which should excite fantasy players for a pitcher this young in the upper minors.
3. LHP Ismael Guillon – 15 / .060
  • 21 years old – (HiA Daytona)
  • 18th  round – 2012]
  • I really had hopes of Guillon taking off after making the UTR-OAS roster in 2014. He missed all of 2015 with a torn latissimus muscle in his back. It was a tough call whether Guillon would return as a UTR-OAS, as he only made 13 starts in 32 appearances. Returning from injury, and also being the top UTR lefty in the system, I give Ismael the nod knowing that the Reds handled him with kid gloves. He could be a decent up and down type working from the bullpen and thats were he might hold the most fantasy value. Keep a watchful eye on him. He just turned 25 last week and thus drops from my UTR radar for 2017. Had I not included Guillon in the Top 5, then Jacob Constante would have found the list. Constante is a hard-throwing lefty who did struggle in his first season at LoA, but showed flashes and scored a Factor Score of (11). His TPS (.147) on the other hand, brought his struggles front and center.
4. RHP Tejay Antone – 14 / .128
  • 22 years old – (HiA Daytona / Triple-A Louisville)
  • 5th round – 2014
  • Antone makes it back-to-back OAS mentions and once again, comes in at #4. He improved his Factor Score by two, but increased his TPS +19 due to the spike in HR’s allowed over 2015. That year, Antone only allowed 2 home runs over 158 innings while at LoA Dayton along with a 62% groundball rate. He almost matched his IP in 2016, but surrendered 16 home runs. The good news is that the rest of peripherals held steady. It could be that his stuff became suspect in the jump to HiA. He does throw a low 90’s fastball with decent movement, an above average changeup and breaker. Just turning 23 in December, the 6’4″ 205 lb right-hander could be a sleeper at Double-A Daytona in 2017.
5. LHP Jose Valenzuela – 13 / .095  
  • 18 years old – (DSL Reds)
  • International Free Agent – 2015
  • In his debut season as a pro in the Dominican Sumer League, Valenzuela went 2-3 with a 2.04 ERA while racking up 61 K’s and only 13 walks over 66.1 innings.
 
 
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
 
 1. RHP Jimmy Herget – 18 / .058  
  • 22 years old – (HiA Daytona)
  • 6th round – 2015
  • Herget and Ohanain (below) were also neck-to-neck within my system and I could have just placed a tie for the top relief spot. Herget earns the spot with his performance at a higher level. The 6’3″ 170 lb. righty absolutely dominated the Florida State League with 24 saves in 50 appearances, and 83 K’s in 60.2 innings (32%). He also oppressed right (1.97 BA / .532 OPS) and left-handed batters (.226 BA / .613 OPS). Herget is a side-armer who throws mid-90’s fastball, along with a wicked slider that baffles the lefty hitters. His ceiling could be in the late-inning role with the big club by 2018.
2. RHP Sarkis Ohanian – 18 / .050  
  • 22 years old – (LoA Dayton)
  • 9th round – 2015
  • Ohanian jumps from the #3 TPS rank in 2015 to the runner-up spot, thanks to Alejandro Chacin and the missing season from Zack Weiss. Chacin was removed from UTR status after spending all of 2016 with Double-A Pensacola. He earned my “ASAP Roster Add” in the 2015 UTR-OAS mention and followed-up by making 30 saves with Pensacola. It’s unknown whether his stuff will mark him as the future closer in Cincy or if he’ll just end-up in middle relief role. Weiss was a “Legit UTR” and was on target to possibly make the Reds bullpen sometime in 2016, but a Spring Training injury nagged him throughout 2016. Weiss never logged an inning of work, and reports are unsure when (and if) he will in 2017. Back to Ohanian, he finished his first full season in LoA Dayton and proved he’s more than a control pitcher. He hammered Midwest League hitters with 61 strikeouts in only 35.1 innings of work and a 1.58 FIP, compared to his 3.31 ERA.
3. RHP Ariel Hernandez – 10 / .068  
  • 24 years old – (LoA Dayton / HiA Daytona)
  • International Free Agent (SF Giants) – 2008
  • Hernandez has been around awhile. He was signed in 2008 by the Giants as an 18-year old and languished within the Giants system for 5 seasons, never getting beyond the Arizona League. The Giants released the right-hander in March 2015 and Hernandez landed in the Indy League (Frontier). The Diamondbacks then signed him a month later, but lost him to Cincinnati in the 2015 Rule 5 draft. Fast-forward a year later and Hernandez finds himself on the Reds 40-man roster. Soon to turn 25-years old, Hernandez may have finally settled in and could be a late bloomer. He still needs to harness his control, which is the only blemish to his periphials in 2016. He posted skimpy 4.2 H/9 rate (29 hits in 62 IP), 10.7 K/9 rate, but a horrific 5.7 BB/9 rate. It will interesting to see what he can do at Double-A Pensacola in 2017.
Posted in 2016, 2016 Post Season UTR Organizational All-Stars, Articles, Pitchers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chicago Cubs – 2016 UTR Organizational All-Stars – Pitchers

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In a wisp of a season, the dark shadows of the Billy Goat curse and Bartman have been pushed into the annals of history. The misery of the 71 year drought without a National League title and the 108 years vacant of a World Series  championship disappeared like a Lake Michigan wave hitting the shores of North Avenue Beach. Theo Epstein is the jinx-buster, joining the Cubs in 2011 after being the architect of the Red Sox’s first World Series title in 86 years back in 2004. Epstein and the front office constructed the Cubs from the bottom-up, relying on homegrown products out of the farm system. First round picks of Kyle Schwarber (2014) and Kris Bryant (2013) were the main cogs towards the Fall Classic, along with trade pieces Anthony Rizzo (2012) and Addison Russell (2014). The biggest piece in the whole puzzle was the trade from the Baltimore Orioles that brought Jake Arrieta to Wrigley. But don’t be fooled thinking the Cubs solely focused their re-build on hitters. Their MLB staff remains solid with a patchwork of outstanding arms to hold down the fort, while some young pitchers simmer their way up the ladder. My UTR-OAS, including this years version, continues with some of the same cast of familiar names. My first roster in 2014 debuted with Paul Blackburn, Duane Underwood, Daury Torrez, and Rob Zastryzny. All expect Torrez were top draft picks still under the radar, as they just completed their first full seasons. Blackburn was listed as a “Solid Stash” when he made my list again in 2015. Near the 2016 trade deadline, he was sent to the Seattle Mariners and then later traded to the Athletics. In Oakland, Blackburn could join a rotation chock full of former UTR’s in Sean Manaea, Kendall Graveman, and Jharel Cotton. Underwood repeated in 2015 and of course, I recommended my readers with the “Solid Stash” tag. Zastryzny dropped from the UTR radar when he spent most of 2015 at Double-A Tennessee, but worked his way to Wrigley Field with a late season call-up last season.  Daury Torrez also appeared as a 2015 OAS and was moved into the bullpen in 2016. Continue to keep an eye on him if your fantasy league values relief pitchers. As an extra tip……remember another decent bullpen arm that could surprise in 2017 in James Pugliese. The right-hander has always scored in the top 1/3 on my Cubs spreadsheets since 2013.  Another top pick from the 2014 OAS that faded was Tyler Skulina. The 4th rounder from 2013 struggled with his control in 2015 and saw the return of bouts of wildness in 2016.
New names that appeared in 2015 were Jonathan Martinez, Jeremy Null, and Trevor Clifton. The Cubs fell in love with Martinez after he came over from the Dodgers in 2014. They have pushed him after his successful 2014 campaign in the Midwest League. The then 21 year old backed it up with an outstanding 2015 season at HiA Myrtle Beach going 9-2 with a 2.56 ERA. He repeated HiA in 2016, getting a taste of Double-A and appears in #5 slot below. Null is a 15th round pick from 2014 and completed a solid HiA season in 2016, just coming up short of making the roster. Trevor Clifton has been a fast-riser within the Cubs system and sure to crack the Top 10 with his performance at Myrtle Beach. Clifton garnered his old 2015 #4 TPS spot for 2016.
On the International side for the Cubs, notables on my list included Andri Rondon (2016 Watch List), Oscar De La Cruz (2015 UTR-OAS), and Santiago Rodriguez. De La Cruz went through three levels in 2016 and is the front runner for the “One to Watch” in 2017. His Factor Score of (10) had him within my Top 1o prospects for the Cubs.
 
 
 
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Factor Score) / TPS
 
 1. RHP Preston Morrison – 21 / .088   
  • 23 years old – (LoA South Bend / HiA Myrtle Beach)
  • 8th round – 2015
  • I tend to shy away from other prospect lists in order not to place bias when I encounter close calls within my rankings. During my research, I will take a peek from other blogs that mirror Marc’s and my work. It’s interesting to see some of the same pitchers ranked on those sites, listed as a fringy arm. Morrison fits that type, but I disagree, as he could follow the same path as Trevor Clifton. As a polished college arm out of TCU, the right-hander had a stretch this past summer where he tossed 45.2 innings allowing only one earned run, while striking out 47 and walking six. His success continued after his promotion to HiA Myrtle Beach which is where his assignment should be to start the 2017 season.
2. RHP Erick Leal – 20 /  .121
  • 21 years old – (HiA Myrtle Beach / AZL Cubs)
  • International Free Agent (Arizona) – 2011
  • Leal came over to the Cubs from the Diamondbacks prior to the 2013 season in the Tony Campana deal. The then 18-year-old was assigned to the AZL Cubs to start the 2014 season and he posted an unbelievable 6.50 K/BB ratio over 48.2 innings. I predicted a breakout for the 2014 season, which is currently labeled as the “One to Watch.” Zoom ahead three seasons and Leal should continue to be watched. He quietly returned to UTRMinors and I was surprised after running my numbers that he came in as the UTR-OAS runner-up. Turning only 22 in March, Leal still has plenty room to grow and to improve his three pitch arsenal.
3. LHP Ryan Kellogg – 19 / .107   *Solid Stash*
  • 23 years old – (LoA Kane County)
  • 5th round – 2015
  • Kellogg crowbarred his way into the Arizona State rotation as a freshman and went 11-1 with a 3.15 ERA. He, again, posted 100+ innings over his sophomore and junior seasons, combining for a 17-5 record over that time. He’s a presence on the mound with his 6’6″ 230 lbs frame, but he doesnt come at you with power. His fastball only registers in the upper 80s and low 90s range, so he’s more of a finesse pitcher working hitters into favorable counts. He finished his first full season at Kane County, putting up similar numbers to those he posted at ASU. Kellogg could be a true sleeper within the Cubs’ system.
4. RHP Trevor Clifton – 18 / .078    *Solid Stash*
  • 21 years old – (HiA Myrtle Beach)
  • 12th round – 2013
  • I was right on par with Trevor Clifton, tabbing him as my “One to Watch” selection for the 2016 season. He shot up the Cubs prospect rankings going into 2017, cracking the Top 10. From a fantasy perspective, Clifton is the type of pitcher where you wish you’d see him hovering in the middle-of-the-pack; and making an in-season waiver pickup on the righty. That won’t be case come next month during many drafts, as Clifton had an eye-opening 2016 season. It’s hard to keep the UTR persona when you receive the Carolina League and Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year awards.
5. RHP Jonathan Martinez – 15 / .140   

  • 22 years old – (HiA Myrtle Beach / Double-A Tennessee)
  • International Free Agent (LA Dodgers) – 2011
  • The Cubs fell in love with Martinez after receiving him from the Dodgers in the Darwin Barney deal back in 2014. TPS hasn’t felt that love quite yet, though Martinez has performed decently, already being pushed to Double-A as a 22 year old.
 
 
 
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – (Factor Score) / TPS
 
1. RHP Pedro Araujo – 12 / .062
  •  22 years old – (LoA South Bend / HiA Myrtle Beach)
  • International Free Agent – 2011
2. RHP Ryan McNeil –  9 / .072
  •  22 years old – (HiA Myrtle Beach)
  • 3rd round – 2012
3. RHP James Farris –  9 / .077  *Legit UTR*
  •  24 years old – (HiA Myrtle Beach / Double-A Myrtle Beach)
  • 9th round – 2014
Posted in 2016, 2016 Post Season UTR Organizational All-Stars, Articles, Pitchers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 St. Louis Cardinals – Organizational All-Star Hitters

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  • Julio Rodriguez – 19 yo
    • 4.23/.994 – PAG/APPA – (DSL) 
    • 2016 stats:  .322/.400/.580;   .980 OPS;   10 doubles, 7 home runs

Yesterday, we presented the Pittsburgh Pirates UTR OAS; and in compiling the inner-division rival of the Cardinals list, incredible depth was one thing that stood out. With the exception of right field, the Pirates were strong in the high minors at every single position. Such is the same with the Cardinals. And it starts once again at catcher. With catcher Yadier Molina‘s career on the downward side of its slope, 2012 – 2nd rounder Carson Kelly is considered the heir apparent to the position. Kelly boasts a minor league career 2.85/.787 P/A score, but it’s his defense that gets rave reviews. He shifted from third base to catching full-time in 2014 and in three short season’s has already become what some in the organization call “a gifted receiver.” He’s a leader in the clubhouse, a minor league Gold Glove winner and has off-the-charts makeup. Not bad wouldn’t you say? So, this allows us here to take our time to dig deep and find that/those next kid(s) and this year offered a real strong OAS choice in 6’0″- 195 lb. Dominican Julio Rodriguez. Signed in February 2016, the polished righty swinger started his pro career in the Dominican Summer League. He ended the season ranking second on the DSL squad in home runs, RBi’s, slugging percentage and OPS. He also posted a .994 fielding percentage and threw out 43 percent of would-be base stealers. Rodriguez may carry the “age/’level” stigma until the Cardinals can challenge him to produce at a higher level against older competition. But 2016 proved that he may possess the goods to do it. Place him on a deep, deep level prospect watch list. 

  • 1B – Andrew Knizner – 21 yo
    • 3.57/.851 – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Johnson City) 
    • 2016 stats:  .319/.423/.492;   .915 OPS;   12 doubles, 6 home runs;  21:21 BB:K 

Sometimes in baseball we hear managers, coaches or GMs say, “We will find a place to put him” when discussing players who can really hit, but have no true, fundamental defensive home. Well, that can work inside the UTR OAS series as well. Thus is the case with this year’s Cardinals first base OAS selection Andrew Knizner. The Cardinals drafted the 6’1″- 200 lb. junior in the 7th round of the 2016 draft out of North Carolina State and assigned him to Rookie Johnson City of the Appalachian League. Knizner made his mark early on in his college career earning Freshman All-American honors in 2014 as a third baseman. The following season the Wolfpack moved him behind the plate; and although he made rapid defensive strides, some say his overall offensive game fell behind. However, he still maintained a high batting average (.317) during his first year in transition. Knizner closed out his college career with a .312/.364/.420/.784 slash line along with 26 doubles and 15 homers. To say Knizner made a smooth transition to pro ball would be an understatement. He lead the J.C. Cardinals squad in home runs and RBis (42), while ranking in the top three in on-base percentage, slugging, OPS and total bases (91). He lead the Johnson City roster in games played at both catcher and first base. In fact, he logged nearly as many games at first (19) than behind the plate (21). So, the phrase, “We’ll find a place to play him” is why I placed him as my OAS first basemen instead of at catcher. I chose him as my first baseman because I needed to find room for him (and his bat) on this list. He’s learning a new position and he’s hit everywhere he’s played. He’s the quintessential under-the-radar player. It’s scary to think that Knizner, who’s continued to perform at the plate despite the position switch, has the potential to become even better the more he finds comfort at his new position. A true sleeper in the Cardinals system.

  • 2B – Eliezer Alvarez – 21 yo
    • 3.66/.850 – PAG/APPA – (LoA Peoria) 
    • 2016 stats:  .332/.404/.476;   .879 OPS;   36 doubles, 6 triples, 6 home runs;  36 stolen bases

In his first three years as a pro from 2012 to 2014 , 5’11”- 165 lb. Dominican Republic native Eliezer Alvarez combined to bat .238 with 13 doubles, 10 triples, 4 home runs and 19 stolen bases. We here at UTRMinors used to use the term “breakout” to describe a prospect we feel could be in line for a breakout performance the following season. Well, if we were to rename that feature, I might have to title it after this year’s UTR OAS second baseman for the cardinals, Eliezer Alvarez. To say the 2011 free agent signee broke out would be a colossal distortion of the facts. In 2015, for Johnson City, Alvarez started to show break out signs, as he clubbed a team leading 20 doubles while ranking within the top J.C. top three in hits (64), runs scored (32), RBi’s (31), stolen bases (9) and total bases (92). Now, you’d think that this was it, Alvarez’ big season, where he put himself on the map with the likes of fellow international star prospects like Edmundo Sosa and Magneuris Sierra. Alvarez was giving us just a taste and blasted us with production that surpassed both Sosa and Sierra, all within his first taste of full-season ball. His 36 steals lead the Midwest League while his 36 doubles ranked second behind only Cubs uber-prospect Eloy Jimenez‘ 40. With this kind of statistical explosion, it’s hard to tell where Alvarez’ ceiling is. However, the ceiling of making it to the major leagues may not be too far away. He should be a target of any and every minor league portion of fantasy. 

  • 3B Casey Turgeon  – 23 yo
    • 2.93/.712 combined – PAG/APPA – (LoA Peoria – 2.13/.596;  HiA Palm Beach – 3.82/.829;  Double-A Springfield – 1.70/.472) 
    • 2016 stats:  .257/.376/.410;   .785 OPS;   15 doubles, 3 home runs

While the Cardinals are stacked high with intrigue at catcher, first base and second base, the cluster isn’t quite as high at the hot corner. From the DSL all the way through Triple-A, 2015 – 4th rounder Paul DeJong is primarily the only third basemen in the system that actually resembled one in 2016. The 6’1″- 195 lb. righty came to the organization from Illinois State in 2015 with massive power potential and he showed it off this season pounding 29 doubles for Double-A Springfield. In fact, DeJong hit 22 of the 57 home runs hit by Cardinals who played a majority of their games at third this season. That’s 37 percent of the entire organizations home runs from the hot corner. However, the UTRMinors caveat is that DeJong played a full season at Double-A, so he’s outside of our HiA and down criteria. This brings me to Casey Turgeon, who lead all third basemen HiA down in walks (33), on-base percentage (.376), slugging (.410) and OPS (.785) in only 54 games across three levels. The scouting report on Turgeon coming out of college was that he’s a patient, top-of-the-order type hitter, but if he could only hit for more power, he might be discussed much more than he is. Sadly, the power has yet to come as a pro, as Turgeon has only eight round-trippers in three minor league seasons. Turgeon will probably spend all of 2017 in Double-A and turn 25-years-old soon after the upcoming season ends. I hope he has a nice breakout season, possibly playing left field, as he’s seen considerable time there. But otherwise, my primary hope is that someone deeper inside the third base depth chart has his own breakout, giving us UTR folk something more worthy to chew on. 

  • SS Tommy Edman  – 21 yo
    • 4.09/.871 – PAG/APPA – (Short Season) 
    • 2016 stats:  .286/.400/.427;   .827 OPS;   14 doubles, 5 triples, 4 home runs;  19 stolen bases. 

One thing I’ve learned as I get older is how defiant I am when it comes to the use of acronyms in text messaging. Sure, I, like everyone else, have found myself using the proverbial  “lol” or “smh” every so often. But one particular acronym I found myself instantly shouting recently was “OMG”, which most know stands for “Oh my God.” The reason was because in several 2016-2017 post season top prospect publications, I was stunned at the inconceivable omission of 2016 – 6th round draft choice Tommy Edman. All the Stanford University draftee did in his pro debut was rank in the top five of every offensive statistical category on the State College Spikes and rank first in the New York-Penn League in runs scored (61) and walks (48). He came to the Cardinals with a scouting report of a great hit tool (and he’s hit), no power (but hit 14 doubles, 4 home runs and a .315 extra-base percentage), good speed (ranked 3rd in the NYPL in steals) and superior plate discipline with 48 walks to only 29 strikeouts this season. In the late-September 2016 Baseball America chat on the New York-Penn League Top 20, a reader asked about Edman. Chat moderator Michael Lananna said that Edman came away from the NYPL with reports that he’s a “better version of David Eckstein” and he has advanced plate discipline and a feel for the strike zone that resembles that of major leaguer Ben Zobrist. So, how can a guy have all those traits, yet be snubbed when it comes to placement on a top prospect list? Probably because of what he’s “projected” to become, not based on what he’s produced. Let’s see how things progress. I’m strongly rooting for Edman to prove mainstream publications wrong, After all, once upon a time, several prognosticators once said a little second baseman in the Astros system named Jose Altuve (a four-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger, two-time A.L. batting champion) was too small.

  • LF Matt Fiedler – 21 yo
    • 3.54/.836 – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Johnson City) 
    • 2016 stats:  .325/.386/.487;   .874 OPS;   20 doubles, 4 home runs;  8 stolen bases

When Jim and I write about the kids we bring attention to on the website, our simple goal is to share individual stats, stat comparisons and possible projections based on the landscape of the organization at press time. But one of the greatest things is finding those crooked facts, those intriguing stories surrounding the kids we select, even if it’s a backstory or something interestingly noteworthy. The Cardinals selected the 5’10”- 195 lb. righty out of the University of Minnesota in the 9th round of the 2016 draft. The fun fact about Fiedler is that he pulled off an extremely rare feat in a March 18, 2016 game versus Utah State. Fiedler completed the baseball hat-trick hitting a home run (his first on the season), stealing a base (his 3rd) and notching win (his third) after tossing 6 innings of 6 hit, 2 run ball. Yes, the baseball hat trick. In his three year career with the Golden Gopher’s Fiedler batted .337 with 12 homers and 72 RBi’s and on the mound compiled a 11-5 record with a 4.61 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. But what the Cardinals saw when they drafted him was a bat-first prospect; and his production didn’t skip a beat upon his assignment to Johnson City. Fiedler’s 20 doubles ranked first in the Appalachian League while his 64 hits, .325 batting average and 96 total bases all ranked him within the APPY League’s top 10. With Feidler’s supreme versatility, his ceiling is difficult to gauge. His home is either in the outfield or on the mound (with a fastball clocked in the low-90s), but how can you take a guy who can hit like this out of the batter’s box? Whatever the Cardinals decide to do, I’m a fan regardless. 

  • CF – Wadye Ynfante – 18 yo
    • 3.65/.852 combined: – PAG/APPA – (DSL – 4.04/.912;  GCL – 0.50/.158) 
    • 2016 stats combined:  .308/.404/.419;   .823 OPS;   15 doubles, 1 home run;  9 stolen bases

This off season, the Cardinals leaped into the free-agent market signing center fielder Dexter Fowler to a 5 year-$82 million dollar deal. This takes Fowler and the Cardinals to the year 2021, and places an impact veteran at the top of their lineup. What the signing also does is places pressure on 22-year-old top center field prospect Harrison Bader in a little bit of limbo. The 2015 – 3rd rounder out of the University of Florida spent time in both Double and Triple A this season where he bashed 19 doubles, 19 home runs and stole 13 bases. I believe Bader will spend all of 2017 in Triple-A, but what will St. Louis do if they feel Bader is ready to contribute? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, this year’s OAS choice Wadye Ynfante has plenty of time to polish his game, and he did a good job of it in 2016. The Cardinals signed the 6’0″- 160 lb. righty to a free-agent contract in February 2014 and assigned him to the Dominican Summer League. In his first season of pro ball, he failed to impress batting .200 with only 10 extra-base hits in 46 games. Ynfante repeated the DSL in 2015 and was a totally different player. In only three more games played than in 2014, he lead the DSL squad in hits (66), batting (.311) and total bases (97) and ranked second in doubles (16), RBi’s (34), slugging (.458), OPS (.820) and a 3.73/.782 P/A score. This helped earn Ynfante the 2015 Cardinals Dominican Player of the Year award.  The Cardinals like Ynfante. He has good size, good arm strength, and a good combo of power, speed and the ability to simply put the bat on the ball. There’s absolutely no reason to rush Ynfante with the high minors and major league level secured for the next several seasons. Ynfante should spend all of 2017 in the GCL, but if he bolts out of the gate, he could see a promotion to Rookie Johnson City by the end of the regular season. 

  • RF – Brian Sanchez – 20 yo
    • 5.00/1.109: – PAG/APPA – (DSL) 
    • 2016 stats:  .349/.433/.642;   1.075 OPS;   13 doubles, 15 home runs

In the much documented fantasy league that Jim and I share (the PFL), of all the players  sitting on my roster, Cardinals right fielder Stephen Piscotty is the one who draws the most trade interest. After all, what’s not to like? The 2012 – 1st rounder out of Stanford has a career 3.12/.744 P/A score in the minors and so far, in 216 games as a major leaguer, his mark is even better at 3.24/.773. That’s an average of 3+ fantasy points per day folks. The math equates to 525 fantasy points, and I’ll take that eight days a week out of a 26-year-old right fielder who’s yet to reach his prime. He’s the pillar of consistency in reference to P/A score and that speaks well for N.L.-only fantasy owners. Piscotty is under team control with his arbitration years coming between 2019-’21, and he can become a free agent in 2022. So, this leaves more than enough time for St. Louis to sort out what’s going on down in the minors; and in 2016, there wasn’t much besides 20-year-old Dominican Summer League slugger Brian Sanchez. Now, I’ve see incredible P/A scores in my day, but what Sanchez did in 2016 was almost beyond comprehension. The only other prospect I recall finishing a season with a PAG/APPA score of 5.00/1.000 or higher was Cleveland’s Bobby Bradley, who churned out a 5.36/1.188 in his 39 game pro debut in the Arizona League. Now listen, I’ve stated in the past that I’m not big on player comparisons. I’m not comparing Bradley and the 6’2″- 180 lb. Sanchez. I’m here to report stellar 2016 performances and for one to think that Sanchez or even Bradley can sustain that type of production over a full season is a bit nonsensical. However, Sanchez put on quite a show in the DSL this season. His league leading 15 home runs more than doubled second place finisher’s seven, smacked by fellow 2016 UTR OAS mate, catcher Julio Rodriguez. Sanchez also lead the league in RBi’s (76), total bases (149) and ranked second in the league in slugging percentage (.642) and OPS (1.075). If it doesn’t appear that I’m too excited about Sanchez, despite his stat explosion this season, you’re right. It’s great and it was a lot of fun to watch take place this season, as he made my UTR Hitters of the Day post 11 times during the season. But let’s be honest. Sanchez cannot sustain that level of production, he’s yet to see American soil and he’s looking up at one of the premiere young right fielders in the game in Stephen Piscotty. For UTRMinors sake, I hope Sanchez becomes the next Babe Ruth. But for the sake of pure averages, just enjoy Sanchez while the sparks can still fly. 

Posted in 2016, 2016 Post Season UTR Organizational All-Stars, Articles, Hitters | Leave a comment

2016 Pittsburgh Pirates – Organizational All-Star Hitters

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  • Taylor Gushue – 23 yo
    • 2.44/.613 – PAG/APPA – (HiA Bradenton) 
    • 2016 stats:  .226/.282/.357;   .639 OPS;   17 doubles, 8 home runs  

After going through all of the Pittsburgh Pirate catchers from HiA down, I didn’t want my favorite boyhood team to begin their UTR Organizational All-Star series like this. Simply put, the performance of the Pirates catching in 2016 was downright poor. I know the old saying about hindsight, but I said it then and I’ll say it again, “Why did Pittsburgh deal away 2013 – 1st round draft pick Reese McGuire?” He was in Double-A and possessed the defensive chops to (probably) contribute (now), but the fact is, he wasn’t hitting. So, the former Kentwood HS (WA) draftee was dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays along with starting pitcher Francisco Liriano and Double-A outfielder Harold Ramirez for starting pitcher Drew Hutchison. In the end, it just didn’t make sense to me to let go of a 21-year-old catcher who still had a ton of room to grow. With McGuire now gone, 2016 was the year 2014 – 4th rounder from the University of Florida, Taylor Gushue came to the forefront in the UTR sense. The 23-year-old former Gator led all Pirate backstops Triple-A down in doubles, home runs, runs scored and RBi’s. Of course that’s easy to do when you’re playing full season ball, but his .351 extra base percentage also topped all Bucco catchers. Aside from being a growing hitter, Gushue, more so brings a big glove, with a .993  fielding percentage in 225 career games behind the plate. I expect the switch-hitter to spend all season in Double-A Altoona this season, which aside from hitting in the Florida State League in 2016, could determine how real of a prospect Gushue really is or could be. Looking forward, however, forces me to think with major league backstop Francisco Cervelli signed through the 2019 season, and Gushue poised to see Double-A this year, that 26-year-old Venezuelan Elias Diaz may be ready to make a giant leap this coming season. Diaz has suffered injury after injury including a nagging right elbow and a left leg infection. For the sake of the Pirates, I really hope he stays injury free because the kid can really play. 

  • 1B Chase Simpson – 24 yo
    • 3.12/.753 – PAG/APPA – (HiA Bradenton) 
    • 2016 stats:  .235/.329/.407;   .736 OPS;   18 doubles, 8 home runs  

Being a life long Pirate fan, it’s a right of passage around Spring Training time that my close friends and I discuss the overall scene surrounding the Pittsburgh Pirates. The current MLB lineup, the “should have done’s” with their roster and the ever so popular “should they do’s.” Of course the minors play a big part in these discussions; and while scanning over the Pirates first base situation, it’s abundantly clear (to me at least) that they need to clean out the cupboard. Since Jim and I began this year’s UTR OAS series, I’m not sure I’ve seen such a glut of competent first basemen as great as this one in one organization. The common sentiment among my friends is that the Pirates should have/could package a few of their first base prospects in a trade to help strengthen needs at other positions because, make absolutely no mistake, Josh Bell is the future (and the now) at first base. In fact, the 2011 – 2nd rounder out of Dallas Jesuit College Prep (TX) became an instant legend in the Steel City in only his second at-bat in a Pirates uniform, hitting a grand slam off of Cubs reliever Adam Warren on a warm Pittsburgh night; and a great friend and I were there to see it. This is not my video clip. It comes via YouTube user Tim Wonder, however this was basically our view of Bell’s first career home run/grand slam; and as a result, PNC Park practically shook off of its foundation. So, as a UTR guy, this pretty much means that my OAS choice is simply a matter of form; to point out who else had a good season. Chase Simpson led all HiA and down first baggers in PAG/APPA, but as a 24-year-old, the 2014 – 14th rounder out of Wichita State will not qualify as UTR next season with his 25th birthday a mere eight days ago. I love Josh Bell. I love everything about him, as should all Pirate fans. But do not discount the others playing directly below him in the minors, especially Venezuelan righty slugger Jose Osuna. If readers remember, Osuna was my Pittsburgh Pirates UTR OAS first base selection back in 2014 (here’s what I had to say). At that time, the organization decided to shift then outfielder Josh Bell to first base full-time. Was it a good move? Obviously. But this leaves a very potent bat sitting behind another potent bat. And in my humble opinion, something needs done about that. Do I think Osuna is better than Bell? No. But Osuna is much more talented than several other minor league organization’s first basemen. I believe Bell is a star, yet also believe Osuna needs a chance. It just may not come at first base; or in Pittsburgh.

  • 2B Mitchell Tolman – 22 yo
    • 2.98/.677 – PAG/APPA – (LoA West Virginia) 
    • 2016 stats:  .267/.370/.371;   .741 OPS;   20 doubles, 8 home runs  

With 2009 free-agent signee (D.R) Alen Hanson and former UTR OAS selection (2014) Max Moroff receiving all of the high minors love (and 2016 major league time to boot), Pirate second basemen in the mid/low minors offered up quite a strew of prospects and stats. 2014 – 7th rounder out of the International Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico Nelson Jorge posted the top P/A scores among all regular second basemen, but I had to temper the enthusiasm due to the 20-year-old Jorge logging this year’s scores in his third consecutive season playing in the Gulf Coast League. Jorge didn’t necessarily lead me to this year’s Pirates UTR OAS choice, Mitchell Tolman. The 22-year-old University of Oregon draftee’s 2016 season did that all by itself. The Pirates took the 5’11”- 195 lb. lefty in the 7th round of the 2015 draft and assigned him to Short Season West Virginia. He came to the organization with a scouting report that didn’t have much flash, but one with a purpose. MLBPipeline.com’s Jim Callis said after the Pirates selected Tolman in 2015, “He has average-at-best tools, but he knows what he’s doing with the bat.” He certainly did batting .319 with a .433 on-base percentage and .883 OPS in his three years with the Oregon Ducks. With the Black Bears of the New York-Penn League, Tolman kept hitting the ball posting a slash line of .304/.407/.411/.807; and ranked third in the league with 33 walks. This year, Tolman was seemingly the glue that held the LoA West Virginia Bears squad together. His 71 walks not only lead the South Atlantic League, but ranked second in the entire Pirates organization (including the majors) behind only fellow second baseman Max Moroff‘s 90. Tolman is a good prospect. I think he’s underrated which is why he’s garnered UTR love; and please watch him as he ascends through the minors. He could surprise us, but could ultimately reach his “projected” ceiling of a solid utility man.

  • 3B Connor Joe – 24 yo
    • 2.81/.679 – PAG/APPA – (HiA Bradenton) 
    • 2016 stats:  .277/.351/.392;   .743 OPS;   26 doubles, 5 home runs  

The third base vector for the Pirates offers the same situation as the last two infield positions I covered: high ceiling prospects and plenty of depth. But this time, the depth isn’t sitting at the higher levels. I’m not going to pull any punches here when I say that Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang could be an superstar in the major leagues. He is among Pirate faithful and in his two seasons since signing a four-year $11MM contract in January 2015, he’s batted .273 with 36 home runs, 120 RBi’s, an .838 OPS and has delivered clutch hit after clutch hit. But damnit, Kang, keep your ass out of trouble. Kang has two years left with fifth year option, which gives the Pirates time to sort out their minor leaguers. A couple of top draft choices had nice seasons in 2016. First round draft choice in 2015, Ke’Bryan Hayes posted a P/A of 2.79/.663 between the Gulf Coast League and LoA West Virginia this year. The son of former major leaguer Charlie Hayes, Ke’Bryan’s six homers led all third base prospects HiA down. Another first rounder, this time in 2016 out of Wake Forrest, Will Craig logged a season similar to that of Hayes. The 6’3″- 210 lb. righty registered a pro debut P/A of 2.75/.631, 12 doubles and drawing more walks (41) than strikeouts (37). Pretty good for a pro debut. However, the UTR in me wonders with two high profile, former first round picks manning the hot corner, where has all of the love gone for the other first rounder, 2014’s Connor Joe? All the former University of San Diego alum did was top both Hayes and Craig in P/A score this season. I’m not going to say Joe is a better prospect. We try not to do that here, but he can’t be ignored. Although, the question is, “Where will he ultimately play?” I said inside my aforementioned first base OAS bio about Jose Osuna, the Pirates need to package some of these prospects in a trade to help bolster a major league need. With Craig and Hayes in tow, Joe would be a nice corner infield trade piece for an organization weak at both positions. 

  • SS Kevin Newman – 22 yo
    • 2.81/.679 combined – PAG/APPA – (HiA Bradenton – 3.66/.794;  Double-A Altoona – 3.10/.705) 
    • 2016 stats combined:  .320/.389/.426;   .814 OPS;   21 doubles, 5 home runs;  10 stolen bases;  43:36 BB:K ratio  

Of all the infield positions I’ve covered so far for the Pirates, shortstop is the only where there was any sort of decent separation between my top performer, the first runner up and the rest of the grouping. In fact, for this year’s UTR OAS choice, 2015 – 1st round draft choice Kevin Newman, it wasn’t even close. In fact, not only did Newman’s combined P/A score out-perform the rest of the organization’s shortstops, so did his individual level splits. The first runner up to Newman’s OAS crown this season was first-year Dominican Rodolfo Castro, who posted a 2.93/.713 P/A score in 56 games for the Dominican Summer League squad. At 17 years old, he led the DSL squad in hits (52), runs scored (27), doubles (15), RBI’s (29) and total bases (79). Castro has a long way to go before he’s considered an impact talent, but that’s a pretty darn good start. Keep a close eye on him. Add 2014 – 1st rounder Cole Tucker and 22-year-old fourth-year minor Pablo Reyes to the P/A mix this year as well, after Reyes came in with a 2.85/.715 score. But ladies and gentlemen, the Pirates minor league shortstop show begins and ends with Newman. After starting his pro career with West Virginia of the New York-Penn League, in just two seasons, the two-time Cape Cod League batting champion (which has never been done before) has already blazed a trail all the way to Double-A Altoona and is poised to start 2017 with Triple A Indianapolis. Newman may be the most polished hitter in the entire Pirates organization; and it wouldn’t shock me to see Newman supplant Jordy Mercer as the Pirates new full-time shortstop before the end of the 2017 season. I love everything about Kevin Newman. If you’re in a fantasy league that either allows drafting minors with major leaguers or a league with a separate minor league draft, take the University of Arizona draftee with confidence, knowing you’ll eventually have a hitter who could bat .300+, steal bases and hit (possibly) 15 homers a year from atop a major league lineup. 

  • LF Jordan Luplow – 22 yo
    • 3.19/.781 – PAG/APPA – (HiA Bradenton) 
    • 2016 stats:  .254/.363/.421;   .784 OPS;   23 doubles, 10 home runs;  60:78 BB:K ratio  

The recent announcement of the Pittsburgh Pirates major league outfield shuffle left a not so prominent ripple amongst baseball enthusiasts. Probably because no matter how you look at it, regardless of where former National League MVP and 5-time All-Star Andrew McCutchen, 28-year-old Dominican Starling Marte and 2016 breakout star Gregory Polanco play, they are still (in my humble opinion) the most talented outfield trio going in the National League today. However, what this shift does do in a fantasy and financial sense is add service years to a position. With Marte in left field last season, we were looking at a player signed through 2019 with option years in both 2020 and ’21. With Marte now moving to center field and McCutchen to right, Gregory Polanco makes the transition to the left side of the diamond, and all of a sudden the Pirates have a 25-year-old who’s yet to see his prime, signed through 2021 with option years in 2022 – ’23. This gives us fantasy players and Pirate fans alike more time to see what’s going on in left field down  in the minors. In 2016, this pointed me right to Jordan Luplow. The Pirates drafted the 6’1″- 190 lb. righty out of Cal State University Fresno in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft and immediately assigned him to Rookie Jamestown. In 62 games, Luplow logged a 3.08/.737 P/A and led the Jammers in hits (61), walks (27) and ranked second with six homers and 10 stolen bases. He ascended to LoA West Virginia the following year; and in his first taste of full-season ball, Luplow ranked fourth in the Sally League with 36 doubles and 59 walks while compiling a 3.70/.843 P/A score. This past season the Visalia, CA native sat within the Florida State League top 10 in runs scored (63) and walks (60). Here’s another in a long line of cases where a player, due to the talent surrounding him, might not receive due diligence. We’re used to that here, but in reality, it’s never a bad thing to add another name to a deep, deep level prospect watch list.  

  • CF Austin Meadows – 21 yo
    • 3.57/.884 combined: – PAG/APPA – (Short Season West Virginia – 1.40/.412;  Double-A Altoona – 4.07/.963;  Triple-A Indianapolis – 3.27/.834) 
    • 2016 stats combined:  .266/.333/.536;   .869 OPS;   25 doubles, 11 triples, 12 home runs;  17 stolen bases  

As each regular reason rolls along and Jim and I tabulate daily stats for the UTR Hitters of the Day and UTR Pitching Performances posts, we make both physical and mental notes on players that we know (for certain) are (currently) cruising under the radar. This is basically the springboard toward the guys who make our off-season UTR OAS lists. One player that was a near lock to make this year’s Pittsburgh Pirates Organizational All-Star list was 22-year-old Colombian native Tito Polo. He began the season with LoA West Virginia and received a promotion to HiA Bradenton in mid-June. He was having by far his best season as a pro and by the end of September, Polo had compiled a 3.85/.843 P/A score, much higher than his career mark of 3.16/.775. However, the MLB Trade deadline deal that sent starting pitcher Ivan Nova to the Pirates ended my hope of revealing the 5’9″- 185 lb. Polo as this year’s breakout star. Polo, along with HiA Bradenton starting pitcher Stephen Tarpley, was one of the players-to-be-named-later and finished out his season wearing a Tampa Yankees uniform. This leaves me with a choice I did not want to make, but being that I use P/A scores, and real good ones to boot, as equal qualifiers, Pirates #1 prospect Austin Meadows is my choice. My goodness do I love this kid. He’s a pure a hitter as they come with raw, yet untapped power, speed on the base paths and near unmatched defense with both the glove and arm strength. There’s no reason to believe Meadows won’t make his major league debut in 2017. He has top-of-the-order impact talent; and if you’re in a minor league start up draft, be confident viewing Meadows as a top 10 overall pick.  

  • RF Jeremias Portorreal – 19 yo
    • 2.96/.710 combined: – PAG/APPA – (DSL – 3.05/.724;  GCL – 2.50/.625) 
    • 2016 stats combined:  .256/.375/.378;   .753 OPS;   10 doubles, 6 triples;  31:35 BB:K 

I was hoping I would make it through the 2016 Pittsburgh Pirates UTR Organizational All-Star series with a more-than-worthy prospect at every position. But what’s the old saying? “All good things must come to an end.” After scanning through all of the right fielders from the DSL up through HiA, it was evident that they need major help at the position. Several kids posted noteworthy P/A scores, but with a caveat. 2012 free agent signee out of the Dominican Republic Henrry Rosario posted a 4.04/898 P/A score this season, which is great, but Roasario has yet to make it past Rookie Appalachian League and will be 24-years-old the day before MiLB’s Opening Day. I could have chosen 2014 UTR OAS (at catcher) Kevin Krause. The 2014 – 9th rounder out of Stoney Brook University (NY) lead all right fielders in batting (.273), on-base percentage (.400) and steals (10). But this time I’m going pure UTR to close out the Pirates for 2016. Jeremias Portorreal was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, but he didn’t see game action until the following year. He was scouted as an advanced hitter with growing power and the organization assigned him to the Dominican Summer League. In his first two seasons as a pro, he struggled batting .199 with 13 doubles, 9 triples and only three home runs in 104 games. This past season he took a nice step forward, but I’m not going to sit here and say the 6’3″- 190 lb. lefty is the second coming of Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte or Andrew McCutchen. However, he’s a UTR prospect that had a decent enough season for die-hard or niche Pirates fans to put him on their position vector. From both the long and she short view, the mediocre-at-best situation in right field just might be what aforementioned first base prospect Jose Osuna needs. I could see him shifting there full time, making Pirate fans completely forget about the dismal state of those who, with a move, would immediately fall behind Osuna on the right field depth chart. 

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