First Half Texas League Notes
The Texas League first half has come to a close and a lot of good prospects have rolled through Frisco.
Before I get going into this stuff, I need to define some of the terms I will use. If I’m projecting a player’s overall value I will use these:
Org – organizational player, doesn’t project to major leagues
Role 3 – up-and-down guy, emergency call-up
Role 4 – big league bench player
Role 5 – major league starter (I may describe someone as a low five, which would be a second-division regular, or as a high five, which would be a first division one)
Role 6 – All-Star caliber player
Role 7 – Stud, unicorn
If I want to grade a specific tool, the scouting terms to do so are on a 20-80 (or 2-8) scale, where 5 is average. An 8 is very hard to achieve – Joey Gallo’s raw power and Delino Deshields’ speed are the only two 8 tools which come to mind on the Rangers. Possibly Prince Fielder’s hit tool or Keone Kela’s fastball at its best as well. A 6 is referred to as plus, a 7 plus-plus.
Top Five I’ve Seen:
1. SS Carlos Correa, Corpus Christi/Houston – I think he’ll stick at short, at least for a little while. He’ll also hit .300 with power and speed and do everything well. He’s a unicorn.
2. 3B/LF Joey Gallo, Frisco/Texas – The power didn’t leave and he cut down the swing and miss a little bit. Gallo showed fairly well in a brief big-league stint after destroying the Texas League.
3. OF Nomar Mazara, Frisco/Texas – Baseball Prospectus had Mazara ranked as the #6 prospect in baseball in their mid-season top 50 list. I have a hard time arguing considering the 20 year-old has done just about whatever he wanted to this year. Early on, he worked on working the opposite way and spraying the ball around. In April he hit .323. The last two months he’s focused more on driving the ball. Since the start of June he has eight home runs, five doubles and a triple. He doesn’t expand the zone and he’s got a hit tool and power tool. Role 6.
4. SS Trea Turner, San Antonio/Washington – Turner is capable of manning short and has hit and hit and hit in the minors thus far. Plus speed doesn’t hurt. I have a high role 5 grade on the Nationals new prospect.
5. OF Nick Williams, Frisco/Texas – The improvement to Williams’ approach has been discussed a lot. It’s legit. He still isn’t a hitter who will win any mind games, but a jump in patience has been huge for him. He’s slashing .282/.342/.436 right now and I’ve moved my grade on him to a role 5.
1. RHP Mark Appel, Corpus Christi/Houston – When I saw Appel he looked nothing like a guy who could have gone 1.1. The delivery was all sorts of messed up, with the plant foot everywhere, sometimes even rolling over. The control/command was nonexistent, the slider normally a loopy mess. To throw strikes he had to slow his arm down, moving his FB from mid-90s to upper-80s. However, the last month or so he performed a little better and got a quick promotion to Triple-A where he has a 5.87 ERA. But from what I saw, I’ve got a role 3 and that’s generous.
2. OF Hunter Renfroe, San Antonio/San Diego – The raw power is plus, the bat speed is there, he’s a decent athlete. None of that matters if a player can’t adjust to offspeed. Renfroe likes to sit fastball often, yet rarely sees them and is out of front of offspeeds even when he is guessing correctly. I have seen very little hard contact in the seven or eight games I’ve seen Renfroe and I’ve seen many swinging strikes. Like Appel, he has performed a little better over the past month so development may have come. However, I have a role 4 grade on Hunter Renfroe at the moment.
3. C Jorge Alfaro, Frisco/Texas – Before I start I want to make clear I think Jorge Alfaro will be a major league player. He’s just nowhere close to reaching his ceiling. There were two main areas where I was hoping to see development this year: his catching ability and his approach at the plate. Behind the dish, any improvements were very minor. If I had to guess, most of Alfaro’s career is spent in the outfield. At the plate the approach regressed from a season ago. If he saw a slider on the outer half, the 22-year-old would chase the pitch more often than not. The loud tools – 7 raw power, 8 arm, 5 speed – are still there, but he’s a long ways off and given he requires a 40-man spot already he doesn’t have all that much time to develop. An ankle injury which ended his season does not help the cause. I currently have a role 4 grade on Alfaro, but if he can hit his ceiling you’re looking at a role 6 stud.
4. 1B/OF Matt Olson, Midland/Oakland – A lot of what I expected from Olson I saw: a (maybe overly) patient approach at the plate, a shaky hit tool and some questionable defense. The disappointment comes from the power. After hitting 37 home runs in 2014 and seeing grades of plus-plus on the raw, I was expecting a bit more. The 2014 numbers are skewed by the hitter-friendly California League and at least from what I’ve seen, the raw pop is more of a 55 or 6.
5. 3B Renato Nunez, Midland/Oakland – Nunez struggles stem from a similar problem as Renfroe’s. He likes to hunt fastballs, doesn’t see many and struggles to stay back on the offspeeds. He can smack a heater when he sees one, though.
Arkansas Travelers (Angels):
This is a very bare roster. If you squint you might be able to find a big leaguer in 2B Sherman Johnson but he has struggled to produce thus far in 2015 so it’s hard to put anything more than a role 3 grade on him.
Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros):
Pitchers Lance McCullers and Vincent Velazquez moved on to the bigs before I was able to catch them and are both doing well (2.33 and 4.15 ERAs respectively).
Other players of interest on the roster include 2B/OF Tony Kemp, 1B Conrad Gregor, 3B Colin Moran, RHP Chris Devenski, RHP Jandel Gustave. Kemp is at least capable of manning both second base and center field and has had lots of minor league success (.315/.408/.415 career line, .357/.449/.422 in Double-A this year) but has struggles catching up to fastballs. He will take part in the Futures Game this year. Gregor, Houston’s 2013 4th-rounder out of Vanderbilt, shows off some above average raw power in batting practice but has yet to see that transfer to game action as he has just four home runs. Moran was a 2013 1st-rounder and was acquired from Miami in 2014. He is a skinny dude right now without much it the way of power but a good hit tool and an overly aggressive approach.
Out of the pitchers Chris Devenski is the one to look at as a future big league contributor. Through 66 innings he has walked just 16 and has an ERA of 1.23. He refers to his plus change as the “Circle of Death” and this is the pitch which may carry him to the top level. I have him as a front of the pen reliever. Jandel Gustave touched 99 when I saw him but the fastball tended to be straight and the slider inconsistent. He is 22, meaning he is a minor league free agent after the season as a J2 signing.
Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers):
There’s quite a few noteworthy guys in Frisco. INF Drew Robinson has played at short, adding to his versatility. He has now played 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, LF and RF. He is, however, still really struggling to hit, fastballs especially. C Pat Cantwell hasn’t exactly hit well this year, either, but he’s a plus defensive catcher so I have a role 3 on him. I think he’ll see some big league time in his career. OF Chris Garia has 80 speed but no semblance of an approach at the moment.
RHP Jake Thompson keeps chugging along nicely. The fastball is down a couple ticks and the slider down a grade from a season ago but his changeup is improved a bit and the FB/SL have come along slowly as the season wears on. If you remember in 2014, his stuff reportedly jumped around the time he was traded in July. LHP Andrew Faulkner is a guy I think will be a lefty reliever on a big league roster. He needs to cut down the walks, though, as does RHP Jose Leclerc whose stuff flashes really good. At his best you could squint and put a 6 on everything but the control/command is far from refined and the stuff, especially the curve, inconsistent. RHP Jesus Pirela, LHP Juan Grullon and LHP Will Lamb are pen arms that have some intrigue, in that order. Pirela was signed out of the Mexican League in the offseason and has shown a two big league caliber pitches in his FB and SL while striking out 10 per nine. Grullon disappeared for a few years after signing on a J2 deal awhile back. After finding big success in the hitter-friendly California League, the southpaw hasn’t seen the same numbers since his promotion to Frisco. Stuff-wise, Will Lamb took a little step back from 2014 but the control was much better. Now in AAA and a lefty, the 24 year-old has a chance to try and force himself into the picture if he can continue his success (0 R in 7.2 IP for Round Rock).
Midland Rockhounds (Athletics):
SS/2B Chad Pinder is slashing .296/.358/.444 and hasn’t shown me a reason to believe he can’t hit. C Carson Blair has a good glove, a patient approach and lots of swing and miss. Blair could be a nice role 3 minor league free agent pickup for the Athletics.
Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Royals):
OF Lane Adams still has range in center and plus raw power and speed, 3B Hunter Dozier has a 6 glove and 6 arm but the bat has lagged. OF Terrance Gore is the fastest man in minor league baseball. I was out of town the only time top prospect SS Raul Mondesi came through Frisco healthy.
San Antonio Missions (Padres):
OF Travis Jankowski is fast, can play center field and can hit. He has K’ed at a 12.3% clip, walked at an 11.4% rate, is hitting .313 and has 23 stolen bases. He’s a good player who I have a role 5 grade on. RHP Colin Rea and RHP Bryan Rodriguez are two guys I think we see time in a major league bullpen someday. RHP Casey Kelly is not the same pitcher he was as a top prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization. RHP Tayron Guerrero can throw hard but struggles to throw strikes and has an inconsistent secondary.
Springfield Cardinals (Cardinals):
Tulsa Drillers (Dodgers):
I wasn’t able to catch Tulsa when they came through town but from everything I’ve heard SS Corey Seager and 18 year-old RHP Julio Urias are entirely legit.