Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: Eloy Jimenez, Vladimir Guerrero regaining momentum
Eloy Jimenez and Vladimir Guerrero are back to health and back to raking, so are they closing in on a major-league assignment? Scott White looks at them as well as a Mets slugger who's turning heads.
It feels like all year these two have been the best of the prospects to stash, their combination of pedigree, performance and proximity providing a perfect path to Fantasy prominence. But just when they were nearing the peak of that crescendo, injuries upended their hopes and dreams, with Vladimir Guerrero losing six weeks to a knee strain and Eloy Jimenez losing two to a groin strain.
Brace yourself: They're back and better than ever.
Really, the way they've hit the ground running has put to rest concerns that the lost time would delay their arrivals in some meaning way. If anything, their paths are only becoming clearer.
Things could happen fast, in other words, so you're free to get excited again.
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox
2017 minors: .312 BA (333 AB), 19 HR, 22 2B, .947 OPS, 35 BB, 72 K
2018 minors: .326 BA (279 AB), 15 HR, 20 2B, .950 OPS, 23 BB, 46 K
This week's Prospects Report represents the first time I've declared Jimenez more stashable than Guerrero, which isn't to say I think he's now better than Guerrero. It's just that he's been so excellent since returning from his injury, batting .400 (14 for 35) with three homers and four doubles, that I wouldn't be surprised if the White Sox called him up tomorrow. They've entered the excuse-making stage that often precedes such an announcement, with manager Rick Renteria recently making some vague comments about Jimenez's defense (the most time-tested of stall tactics). But late July is the same point when they called up Yoan Moncada last year, and his flaws were far more evident at the time.
Vladimir Guerrero, 3B, Blue Jays
2017 minors: .323 BA (437 AB), 13 HR, 28 2B, .910 OPS, 76 BB, 62 K
2018 minors: .400 BA (235 AB), 12 HR, 22 2B, 1.103 OPS, 21 BB, 26 K
Guerrero has spent the past few days back at Double-A after playing four games at the lower levels. It's where he was playing prior to getting hurt, yes, but this latest stint is considered part of his rehab assignment. Once he's deemed full-go, he'll make the move up to Triple-A, where it may take just a couple weeks like Jimenez has had to break down the door to the majors. Yeah, Guerrero is only 19, so the Blue Jays have no reason to force the issue, but he's the one doing the forcing right now. And do we really think Triple-A is going to slow him down?
If the Blue Jays move Josh Donaldson at some point in August, which would make all the sense in the world given that he's in the final year of his contract, it'll put even more pressure on Toronto to introduce the fan base to the third baseman of the future. Stay tuned.
2017 minors: .297 BA (347 AB), 14 HR, 21 2B, .835 OPS, 24 BB, 53 K
2018 minors: .278 BA (309 AB), 7 HR, 22 2B, .751 OPS, 18 BB, 60 K
The biggest impediment to Mejia's promotion this year — I mean true promotion where he's actually playing regularly and not just on the bench for a day, as was the case a couple times earlier this year — was that the Indians had no interest in introducing him at a position where they have two defensive stalwarts. The 22-year-old is a work in progress behind the plate, but few scouting reports have suggested he won't stick as a catcher. It's just that the Indians weren't in a position to take their lumps there.
The Padres of course are, which is why the Brad Hand trade was good news for Mejia, at least in the short term. He was dealing with a bruised forearm immediately after the trade but recently debuted for the Padres' Triple-A affiliate and is batting .374 with a .976 OPS in 38 games since the start of June.
Tyler O'Neill, OF, Cardinals
2017 minors: .246 BA (495 AB), 31 HR, .820 OPS, 54 BB, 151 K
2018 minors: .308 BA (214 AB), 25 HR, 1.078 OPS, 22 BB, 57 K
What was once the most exciting skill for a minor-league hitter — the ability to put the ball over the fence — has become diluted in the juiced ball era, making it so pure sluggers sometimes have trouble finding a foothold in the majors. But O'Neill looks like a special variety of slugger, performing at what would be a 70-homer pace over a 160-game season. He followed up a three-homer game Sunday with a two-homer game Tuesday.
O'Neill of course already got a stint in the majors this year, homering in three consecutive games back in May, and as the Cardinals slip further out of the playoff picture, they may be inclined to look toward the future rather than waste more at-bats on Dexter Fowler.
Peter Alonso, 1B, Mets
2017 minors: .289 BA (353 AB), 18 HR, .883 OPS, 27 BB, 71 K
2018 minors: .275 BA (335 AB), 24 HR, .944 OPS, 61 BB, 90 K
Speaking of special brands of sluggers, Alonso was renowed for his exit velocity even prior to this year, averaging better than all but three major-leaguers — Aaron Judge, Nelson Cruz and Joey Gallo — last year. So it's no surprise he had the biggest moment of the All-Star Futures Game, actually setting a Statcast record for how high and hard this particular ball was hit:
He's batting just .200 at Triple-A, having done most of his damage over the first 2 1/2 months at Double-A, but he seems to be hitting his stride now, having homered three times in his past five games. With the Mets selling off pieces and seemingly content to play one-time first baseman of the future Dominic Smith in the outfield, they may be looking to ignite the fan base with what could be an exciting slugger over the final two months.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Michael Kopech, SP, White Sox
2017 minors: 9-8, 2.88 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 134 1/3 IP, 65 BB, 172 K
2018 minors: 3-7, 4.29 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 94 1/3 IP, 58 BB, 131 K
Kopech's path to the majors has stalled this year because of some fairly significant control issues — ones he appeared to have overcome down the stretch last season. But according to the Chicago Tribune, Triple-A pitching coach Steve McCatty may have delivered the message the 22 year-old needed to hear just before the All-Star break, telling Kopech to "knock that [bleep] off" when he was fuming at an umpire about borderline calls.
"You have to control yourself out there and understand the situation," McCatty said. "The pitches you complained about, yes, they could have been strike threes and I thought they were. But you have to remember: You were in 3-2 counts, and who got you there?"
Kopech has issued just one walk in each of his two starts since then, striking out a combined 20 in 12 innings. We'll see what comes next for arguably the game's top pitching prospect.
Stephen Gonsalves, SP, Twins
2017 minors: 9-5, 3.27 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 110 IP, 31 BB, 118 K
2018 minors: 10-3, 2.77 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 97 1/3 IP, 56 BB, 97 K
Gonsalves has at times looked like one of the game's top pitching prospects, but the scouting reports have never backed up the numbers. And it may be catching up to him at the final stop before the majors. You could make the case he's having a great year, having allowed just two earned runs over his past eight starts, but he has done it in spite of a disastrous walk rate, leaning mostly on an unsustainable BABIP. And when he cut those walks down to zero in his last start Tuesday, he struck out just four in seven innings. The stuff simply may not measure up, which was the concern all along. Gonsalves could get a look as the Twins begin selling off pieces, but I'm not terribly excited about his potential.
Jesus Luzardo, SP, Athletics
2017 minors: 2-1, 1.66 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 43 1/3 IP, 5 BB, 48 K
2018 minors: 9-4, 2.16 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 83 1/3 IP, 21 BB, 106 K
The prize of the Sean Doolittle deal last year, Luzardo is doing some crazy things for a 20-year-old who should be in over his head at Double-A. The run he allowed in his latest start Wednesday was his first in seven starts, during which he has struck out 38 compared to just six walks in 36 innings. True, he rarely pitches beyond five innings, but that's more at the Athletics' insistence than any fault of his. Only once in those seven starts has he thrown 80 pitches, tossing less than 70 in each of the past five.
"He definitely does limit his pitches," Double-A manager Scott Steinmann told MLB.com. "He goes after hitters, he doesn't get ahead and just kind of toy with them. He's getting ahead, and he's wanting to get them out right away. I love that about the way he pitches. I think it leads to some of the other guys watching that and knowing that they can do it, too. As a 20-year-old, I think he's doing a good job of showing the other guys how to pitch."
As far ahead of the curve as Luzardo seems to be, he could be the game's top pitching prospect a year from now.
Adam Haseley, OF, Phillies
2017 minors: .284 BA (215 AB), 3 HR, 6 SB, .761 OPS, 22 BB, 44 K
2018 minors: .314 BA (369 AB), 8 HR, 7 SB, .820 OPS, 27 BB, 57 K
The Phillies may have blown it by selecting Mickey Moniak first overall in 2016, but Haseley is looking like a hit as the eighth pick in the 2017 draft, showing tremendous bat control from the start and lately flashing some pop with five homers in his past 18 games. He's batting .436 (17 for 39) with three of those homers since his move up to Double-A a couple weeks ago and is looking like a good bet to break into the Phillies outfield next year.
2017 minors: .238 BA (449 AB), 7 HR, 24 SB, .679 OPS, 48 BB, 156 K
2018 minors: .258 BA (391 AB), 20 HR, 32 SB, .860 OPS, 49 BB, 121 K
Speaking of early first-rounders, Corey Ray couldn't even muster a .700 OPS in his first two seasons after the Brewers took him fifth overall, but a few key mechanical adjustments have unlocked his potential this year. The season-long numbers are impressive enough, but 18 of his home runs and 26 of his stolen bases (in 30 attempts) have come since mid-May. And he just keeps getting better, batting .358 (19 for 53) with seven homers and 11 steals (in 11 attempts) in his past 13 games. Clearly, he's back to being a dynasty asset.
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