Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: Eloy Jimenez now just one step away
A move up to Triple-A has Eloy Jimenez within shouting distance of the majors, but Kyle Tucker may beat him there, according to Scott White.
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Well, great. Now the other two-way player is injured.
You, of course, know about Shohei Ohtani and his Grade 2 UCL sprain. He's another couple weeks from having his elbow re-evaluated, and while he hasn't been ruled out for the season, Tommy John surgery is still on the table.
Brendan McKay's injury isn't as serious. The Rays first baseman/starting pitcher is expected to miss only about three weeks of high Class A action with a strained oblique. But it's a blow to the whole two-way movement and more ammunition for those who say it can't be done in the modern game. Performance-wise, Ohtani and McKay have both offered a resounding "sure, it can," but durability-wise, the jury's still out.
The Rays aren't deterred, though.
"We know that our game hasn't seen a true two-way player in a while — at least not prior to this year — and so we're approaching this with a lot of humility" Rays vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom recently told MLB.com. "Part of that means not rushing to judgment on a player who's done something successfully for a long time."
Not rushing to judgment, eh? Fair enough. Indeed, the sample is so small here (two whole players) that we should know better than to think correlation implies causation.
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Still, it'd be tempting at this early stage of his development for the Rays to transition McKay full-time to the role he has performed best, which would seem to be starting pitcher. Not all five of his appearances since moving up to high Class A have been brilliant, but he still has 69 strikeouts to just six walks in 48 innings between two stops.
Then again, he also has 36 walks compared to 27 strikeouts as a hitter. A .230 average is much easier to stomach when there's a .428 on-base percentage to go with it.
"His hitting line obviously doesn't match what he's done on the mound so far, but he's shown tremendous strike zone awareness and a really mature approach," Bloom said. "Our staff and Brendan have done a great job communicating about his workload and taking everything into account. We're going to keep our eyes open and keep learning, but it's important that we let this play out."
So there you go. The plan is still in effect, which means even if McKay doesn't remain a two-way player all the way to the majors, he has twice as many paths he could take there, upping his chances of making an impact in some form.
Of course, he's more of a high-end curiosity than somebody who's going to help Fantasy owners anytime soon. Let's turn our attention to some who might.
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
2017 minors: .323 BA (437 AB), 13 HR, 28 2B, .910 OPS, 76 BB, 62 K
2018 minors: .407 BA (202 AB), 11 HR, 18 2B, 1.124 OPS, 20 BB, 21 K
Yup, still hurt. More precisely, Guerrero is about two weeks into his four-week timetable for a strained patellar tendon, at which point he'll almost assuredly need a couple more weeks to find his footing before a promotion is even on the table. I might be tempted to move him down this list if I wasn't convinced he was the alpha and omega of hitting prospects and well worth whatever the wait ends up being. Even if he's delayed until August, that's about the point Rhys Hoskins came up last year, and he was obviously worth the price of admission. Guerrero's combination of power, contact hitting and plate discipline is unlike anything I've ever seen from a 19-year-old.
Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox
2017 minors: .312 BA (333 AB), 19 HR, 22 2B, .947 OPS, 35 BB, 72 K
2018 minors: .317 BA (205 AB), 10 HR, 15 2B, .925 OPS, 18 BB, 39 K
Lo and behold, Jimenez was just promoted Thursday ... to Triple-A, that is. It's an unnecessary step in his ascension but one that nonetheless shows the White Sox are interested in advancing him rather than just running out the clock, so to speak. And director of player development Chris Getz has indicated the 21-year-old isn't far off.
"Certainly when he steps into the box, it seems that you're looking at a guy that plays in the big leagues already," Getz told the Chicago Sun-Times. "At Charlotte [he's] going to run into guys with more experience. Some have pitched in the big leagues, some have been labeled as Quadruple-A types, but what comes with that is more offspeed pitches, pitching backward, maybe locating a little more. So it will be interesting to see how he responds with guys attacking him a little differently."
Interesting, yes, but Gets also said he ultimately expects Jimenez to mash like he has everywhere else. And I think it might only be a couple weeks until the game's second-best hitting prospect proves ready for the next challenge.
Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros
2017 minors: .274 BA (464 AB), 25 HR, 21 SB, .874 OPS, 46 BB, 109 K
2018 minors: .301 BA (266 AB), 9 HR, 8 SB, .864 OPS, 32 BB, 58 K
Since appearing in this space a week ago, Tucker's batting average has risen 26 points. He's as hot as he's been all season, batting .487 (19 for 39) with a homer, five doubles and three steals in his past nine games, and such hot streaks are often the precursor for a promotion. The excuses are running out. He's handling Triple-A as well as anyone could hope for. The Super 2 concerns are more or less behind us. The Astros have the most glaring of needs at the position Tucker plays. I'd be a little more (read: only a little more) confident in Guerrero or Jimenez making an immediate impact, but Tucker adds the base-stealing element that both of them lack. Any day now, I'd say, for this elite prospect.
Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds
2017 minors: .321 BA (455 AB), 14 HR, 40 2B, .905 OPS, 49 BB, 97 K
2018 minors: .305 BA (167 AB), 4 HR, 12 2B, .849 OPS, 19 BB, 39 K
A week ago, I was lamenting how Nick Senzel seemed to be getting his season on track at the worst possible time — i.e., after preseason question marks Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett, who man the two positions Senzel has proven capable of playing, had put to rest any lingering doubts about them. Perhaps not coincidentally, Senzel started his first game at shortstop Saturday. It's a position he handled some in spring training and one he may ultimately have to master to have a job all to himself. Given that he's batting .435 (20 for 46) with a homer and five doubles over his past 10 games (basically since returning from his bout with vertigo), the Reds have to be getting antsy to see him in the bigs.
Forrest Whitley, SP, Astros
2017 minors: 5-4, 2.83 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 92 1/3 IP, 34 BB, 143 K
2018 minors: 12 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 18 K
I realize the Astros' rotation surplus has already forced Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh and Chris Devenski to the bullpen, and if an opening were to develop (or two or three), I don't think we could rule out the possibility of any of them filling it. But if Whitley continues to do the things he has done since returning from 50-game suspension for (non performance-enhancing) drugs, the Astros have to find a spot for him, too, somehow. We're not on the verge of it happening yet. He's still building up his stamina, having yet to throw more than four innings in any of his three starts. But his innings should obviously last through the rest of the season, and as arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball, his talent is unquestioned.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Alex Verdugo, OF, Dodgers
2017 minors: .314 BA (433 AB), 6 HR, 27 2B, .825 OPS, 52 BB, 50 K
2018 minors: .342 BA (184 AB), 6 HR, 13 2B, .895 OPS, 13 BB, 22 K
Verdugo saw some time in the majors when Corey Seager first went down earlier this year, but with Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson enjoying resurgent seasons, there just wasn't room for him in the Dodgers outfield — and still isn't. But he has hit safely in 24 of 26 games since getting sent back down, batting .389 with a .973 OPS during that stretch. With a microscopic strikeout rate, he's clearly one of the minors' best hitters for average, and while his power still leaves something to be desired, he's on a much better home run pace in his repeat season at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Are we really trusting Kemp, Pederson and Yasiel Puig to stay healthy all year?
Keston Hiura, 2B, Brewers
2017 minors: .371 BA (167 AB), 4 HR, 14 2B, 1.033 OPS, 13 BB, 37 K
2018 minors: .335 BA (266 AB), 8 HR, 23 2B, .926 OPS, 17 BB, 57 K
Drafted ninth overall just last year, Hiura recently made the move up to Double-A, where all he has done is hit .383 (23 for 60) with seven doubles in 16 games. In 433 minor-league at-bats dating back to last year, he's hitting .349. He's a natural at the plate, but his defense is still a work in progress (he has started more than half his games at DH), which is why he's not a great bet to overtake Jonathan Villar this year. He's clearly a long-term asset, though.
Matt Thaiss, 1B, Angels
2017 minors: .274 BA (514 AB), 9 HR, 27 2B, .770 OPS, 77 BB, 109 K
2018 minors: .308 BA (260 AB), 12 HR, 19 2B, .906 OPS, 22 BB, 48 K
Though at one time a catcher, Thaiss was at risk of slipping into Fantasy no man's land as a powerless first baseman. He appears to have solved that issue this year, having already exceeded last year's home run total in less than half as many games. An increase in fly balls has a great deal to do with it, and it hasn't come at the expense of his plus contact rate. He still probably won't be a stud at a deep position, but he's not to far behind the Jake Bauers and Dominic Smith types.
Taylor Ward, C, Angels
2017 minors: .258 BA (326 AB), 9 HR, 0 SB, .757 OPS, 57 BB, 60 K
2018 minors: .340 BA (206 AB), 9 HR, 12 SB, .971 OPS, 35 BB, 48 K
Ward was more recently a catcher than Thaiss, which is why he's still listed as such in CBS leagues, but his move to third base this year seems to have made all the difference at the dish. Long lauded for his plate discipline, his .453 on-base percentage got him moved up to Triple-A about two weeks ago, and if he continues down this path, a Eugenio Suarez-like outcome isn't outside the realm of possibilty.
Randy Cesar, 3B, Astros
2017 minors: .297 BA (414 AB), 7 HR, 23 2B, .754 OPS, 33 BB, 108 K
2018 minors: .349 BA (236 AB), 8 HR, 16 2B, .913 OPS, 14 BB, 58 K
In an impossibly deep farm system, Cesar barely even registered as a prospect coming into the year, but a 37-game hitting streak during which he has batted .376 (56 for 149) with seven homers has him front and center now. The 23-year-old doesn't really have a path to the majors, but he's hitting for average for a second straight year and could make for interesting trade bait at the deadline.
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