The Pending Free Agency Doom of Bryce Harper is Healed and…Forgotten???
At the end of the 2017 season, Nationals all-world super-prospect Victor Robles made his arrival to Washington and showed some of the power and speed (two triples) that made him the No.4 prospect (MLB.com, I, personally, had him No.6) in all of baseball heading into the 2018 season. He would, likely, be in Washington right now if not for his hyperextended elbow, which shelved him on April 9th at Triple-A Syracuse. Sadly, his injury has opened the door for a new player, Juan Soto, who is never going to give up his spot.
Soto was a highly ranked prospect in his own right. He signed for $1.5 million in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic. At the tender age of 19, he has obliterated every minor league level, posting a .362/.434/.609 line, with 30 doubles, eight triples, 20 bombs, and a 66:58 K:BB in all of 512 minor league plate appearances. He played in all of eight games at Double-A before jumping to the majors, where he has done nothing short but continue to rake, posting a .344/.447/.641 line in his first 20 games and 76 plate appearances (going into Friday’s game).This is one teenager who has lived up to the hype. As someone who has watched the entire career of Bryce Harper, I can comfortably say that Juan Soto’s arrival will make his departure from Washington an easier pill to swallow. For all of the love that Harper receives, and don’t get me wrong – he is a gifted player, he hasn’t had the career that warrants the type of contract that some sad team will inexcusably hand him and Scott Boras after the 2018 season. Sure, he has youth on his side – he’ll be just 26 this October- but youth and prior production doesn’t lead to years of production in later seasons. You can look at the contracts of Jason Heyward with Chicago, Chris Davis in Baltimore, and Jacoby Ellsbury in New York for the possible void of truth in that type of logic.
Harper’s best season was his 2015 MVP campaign. He followed that up with a down 2016, an injury-shortened 2017, and an interesting start to the 2018 season. He’s leading the NL in both home runs (19) and walks (50), while currently sporting the worst average of his career (.224). Despite that low average, his OPS would rank the 3rd highest of his career. The .213 BABIP doesn’t help, nor does his ability (or inability) to hit against the shift. There was an amazing article on his lack of success this season at Fangraphs that you should read, and the trends have continued since the article was published on 6/5. Still, who in their right mind would bank $300 million or the $400 million that some think it would take over a decade to a player who peaked at 22? The Nationals should feel comfortable not being that team. They have Max Scherzer through 2021 and Stephen Strasburg through 2023, Robles could be another producer, while Soto has, albeit in a small sample size, proven that his minor league, video-game-like production could be his norm at the top level. This is a team that can build in more productive ways than the franchise debilitating super-contract that would come with re-signing their star.
Juan Soto, a 19-year-old who became the first teenager to hit two home runs and walk once in the history of Yankee Stadium, a young man they call the “Childish Bambino”, a young man who can’t possess a Budweiser but does possess the barreling bat of a dynamic veteran, has taken over the future of the franchise in Washington. As fans watch Harper have a season of three outcomes, they can see this star in the making give a glimpse of life without the hard-nosed, oft-injured star, resting comfortably in what the future holds.
When Ronald Acuna Jr. takes the field on Wednesday night in Cincinnati, the Atlanta Braves will see their 20-year-old star-in-the-making make his Major League debut, which seems long-awaited due to Acuna’s time in the minors that was to avoid service time issues in later seasons, having apparently turned down an extension that was similar to the one that the Philadelphia Phillies handed out to rookie utility player Scott Kingery this spring.
Now, the supposed generational talent will showcase his skills and become a possible All-Star, knocking out the playing time of OF Preston Tucker, who just a few days was leading the league in RBI. Certainly, Acuna’s prospect star shines a bit brighter than that of Tucker, and nearly every other prospect in the minors, which is why his arrival could change not only the Braves’ season but the future of baseball.
The process that the Atlanta Braves began several years ago is beginning to take shape right now. Utilizing talented young players like Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Max Fried, A.J. Minter, and Luiz Gohara, the Braves have introduced the first wave of a stacked system that will change the recent lack of success that has come along with Atlanta’s rebuild. With the upcoming free agency of Washington Nationals’ OF Bryce Harper, the entire National League East could be up for grabs as soon as 2019, and the Braves have positioned themselves to begin another dynasty, even after losing several players due to idiotic management by former GM John Copolella.
As a 19-year-old in 2017, Acuna played at three minor league levels, compiling the below statistics:
These numbers have allowed scouts to compare him to Mike Trout, who has compiled a massive 56.5 bWAR in his eight seasons. The power and speed combination overshadow the swing-and-miss in his game, as well as the 20 times that he was caught stealing, but, even if anyone did spend time saying those numbers need to improve, he is young enough to make adjustments and strengthen the already gaudy ability that he has.
Fantasy baseball players will have a hard time getting the young star, as he has been stashed in most leagues; however, if you’ve got people who, somehow, don’t know who he is or what he could become, then have at it and go grab him NOW!
I don’t mean that he’s a giant bird, but he has caused Reds fans significant psychological grief for quite some time. It is hard to grasp what he is doing with his skill-set, as he can’t seem to figure out how to utilize his only tool worthy or ranking – speed.
Hamilton’s speed is what makes him a viable option in centerfield for the Reds. Ok…his speed and the fact that he is wearing a glove on his left hand. Beyond that, Hamilton has worn out his welcome as an everyday player, and it is time that Cincinnati does something about this problem.
This isn’t about 12 at-bats in 2018. This isn’t about the time that he was a huge jerk at the annual Cincinnati Reds Caravan – so much so that Reds’ Hall of Famer (yes, team-only) Eric Davis told him to slow down and enjoy the moment when a fan is in front of him. This has everything to do with the fact that as Hamilton makes his 2,000th career Major League plate appearance on Thursday in Pittsburgh, that he’ll be trying to improve upon his career .247/.297/.333 career line, his 19.5% strikeout rate, and his 33.7% flyball rate. Better yet, with his speed, Hamilton needs to improve upon his BABIP (yes, there is some luck involved in this number, but a few more balls not in the air would improve this statistic), which is just above league average at .304 for his career.
As the great (fake) skipper from the American classic Major League, Lou Brown, taught the legendary Willie Mays Hayes – with some negative reinforcement, “With your speed, you should be hitting the ball on the ground and be legging them out. Every time I see you hit one in the air, you owe me 20 push-ups.”
Sadly, in his nearly 2,000 plate appearances, Billy Hamilton hasn’t figured it out.
With the lack of adjustment on his part, there is a better solution than another putrid season of 600 plate appearances with rancid production, and that is to make Billy Hamilton into a super-utility player.
The 4-man outfield rotation doesn’t need one of those players on a daily basis, especially at the cost of Adam Duvall in left, who is one of the top offensive left fielders in baseball (look it up, it’s a weak position), or Jesse Winker, who needs plate appearances to get acclimated to MLB pitching to afford the Reds an opportunity to see what they have. In addition to Duvall and Winker, Scott Schebler has shown that his bat doesn’t need a platoon-mate, and the Reds can certainly use his power as he can patrol center in a respectable manner.
Certainly, the defense would take a hit for the Reds without Hamilton running around, but when the pitching staff is as patchworked together as it is, how many balls is Hamilton going to rob from 10 rows up in the outfield? And, when they’re playing from behind, how are they going to come back from deficits when you have two easy outs in the lineup (Hamilton and the pitcher’s spot)?
As a super-utility player, Hamilton can avoid the lineup several times per week, while providing breaks at short, second, and center. He’d need to take some time in Louisville to reacquaint himself with the infield; however, he was a shortstop prior to moving to center to streamline his promotion when the Reds still had Zack Cozart and Didi Gregorius in the system at short. This role also allows the Reds to use Hamilton in a pinch-runner role on days that he isn’t in the lineup in key spots, opening up the opportunity for him to run as effectively as he did upon his call-up in 2013 when he stole 13 bases and had just 19 plate appearances. Finally, this role would eliminate the need to carry Phil Gosselin or Cliff Pennington, allowing the club to carry an additional relief pitcher.
Billy Hamilton can run. Billy Hamilton can field. In an age where offense is aplenty, defensive wizardry is sought after, and speed is at a premium, he is still finding a way to make himself the weakest link in the chain. Fortunately for Hamilton and the Cincinnati Reds, there are better solutions to the team’s needs that the soon-to-be 28-year-old can take over. It just takes a little creativity to make Hamilton a viable piece to the Cincinnati Reds’ puzzle again.
With the season starting tomorrow, it’s time to embarrass myself by attempting to predict various records and awards for the 2018 season. It tends to go miserably each season, and I don’t expect anything different this year. Still, it is fun to look back on each season, so here goes nothing!
It isn’t easy to repeat as champions, but Hinch has the depth, talent, and analytic skills necessary to adapt to the game and become a legend. Hinch will have more young talent on the way, which he’ll utilize effectively again while guiding Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman into a new stratosphere of superstardom this season.
The Brewers will win at least 90 games in 2018 with a below-average pitching staff. How? Because Counsell will find a creative way to juggle all of the offensive talent that the Brew Crew has accumulated over the offseason. Yes, Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain will make a big impression, but they’ll do so with Ryan Braun, Eric Thames, and Domingo Santana getting enough playing time to also be useful pieces…all thanks to Counsell’s tinkering.
I’m really going out on a limb, here. It’s incredible to think about Trout turning 27 this August. He is one of those generational types of players who you begin to think, “ho-hum, another 30+ bomb and 7+ WAR season.” We shouldn’t think that, though! Trout has two MVPs (and two 2nd place finishes) and six All-Star games under his belt before he reaches the so-called prime of his career. Lord help the pitchers if he gets better than he already has been. Just a reminder, he hit 33 bombs and led the league in OPS (1.071) last season while walking more than he struck out (90:94 K:BB) in just 114 games.
Goldy has been an excellent player for the last several years, despite dealing with inconsistent talent and several injuries to his supporting cast. Luckily, this is the year that it all breaks right for the Diamondbacks and Goldschmidt will get the recognition that he has deserved. In what will be his sixth straight All-Star season, the humidor is the only thing that will be able to contain the bat of this superstar.
Another boring pick, Kluber has the boring personality, robotic approach, and dominating stuff to remain focused and prepared for a 3rd CYA. He is the anchor of, arguably, the best rotation in baseball, and will continue mowing down the competition while leading the Indians to another Central title.
Jorge Polanco‘s misstep with a PED could open the door for the former No.5 overall pick. He isn’t going to provide sexy power numbers, but the Twins have Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier for that. Gordon will get on base, steal some bases, and use the gaps at Target Field in ways that would make my wife’s abuse of the Target One Spot look weak. Women be shoppin’!
He’s only going to the minors to allow the Braves an extra year of service. They were working on a Scott Kingery-type of deal for the future star, but if it doesn’t work out, Acuna will be up for good before your taxes would be considered late. That’s April 17th if you still need to do them. Hurry.
We’ll see how wrong I am when October rolls around. Enjoy another awesome MLB season!
Below is a list of the top 100 prospects in MLB, as compiled by a non-scout, Language Arts teacher and father. With it being the holiday season, what better gift than to begin prospecting for your fantasy teams right now? Brief write-ups for top 25 only. Enjoy, comment, and share…share a lot!
1. Ronald Acuna, ATL, OF
Acuna is the Mike Trout of prospects. He can do everything well. He’ll be in Atlanta as soon as the Braves can guarantee an extra year of service time.
2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR, 3B
The kid can hit, which is exactly what his father could do. He more than held his own as an 18-year-old in Advanced A-ball last season. He’ll continue to move quickly, likely filling third in Toronto by May of 2019.
3. Gleyber Torres, NYY, SS
Torres may be a little overrated here, but he will be an impressive player due to consistently improving parts of his game as he moves up through the system. Last season, his plate discipline drastically improved. He will be a very useful player in New York, but not as a shortstop.
4. Eloy Jimenez, CWS, OF
Jimenez has massive power potential. He had a .947 OPS last season at age 20, reaching Double-A for the White Sox. He’s a large man who continues to improve his hit-tool while showcasing his power.
5. Shohei Otani, LAA, RHP/OF
We will see just where Otani becomes most valuable pretty quickly. Due to an injury to his pitching elbow, it may be alongside of Trout in the outfield more often than not. Otani is a gifted talent, but, as always with these imported talents, we’ll need to see how it translates to MLB.
6. Victor Robles, WAS, OF
Robles has moved quickly, reaching the majors last season at the age of 20. He reminds me of Starling Marte with a little less speed (and, hopefully, fewer PEDs), but, if Bryce Harper leaves via free agency after 2018, Robles will be ready to step in as an impact talent.
7. Kyle Tucker, HOU, OF
The rich get richer in Houston. Tucker is an impressive offensive talent. He doesn’t have the same type of swing and miss to his game as George Springer, but he could be a similar producer from the left side of the plate.
8. Brendan Rodgers, COL, SS
Rodgers will always get Troy Tulowitzki comps due to being in the Rockies system and being a shortstop; however, no matter how gaudy the numbers may look, he has some flaws. He only walked 14 times in 400 plate appearances last year, something to monitor as he moves up. MLB will eat him up if he doesn’t make adjustments, but he is a legitimate power bat at a prime position, so he still warrants this ranking.
9. Nick Senzel, CIN, 3B
The Reds have a lot of young talent, but they’ll make room for Senzel, even if it means Eugenio Suarez moving off of third or Senzel possibly getting time at second. Senzel can do a little of everything and will move quickly towards the “Queen City”, giving their fans someone worth watching other than Joey Votto.
10. Michael Kopech, CWS, RHP
Kopech can absolutely bring it. His arm is electric…so much so that he is still erratic, at times. He had 172 Ks and just six home runs allowed in 134.1 innings last season, reaching Triple-A at just 21 years of age.
11. Francisco Mejia, CLE, C
Mejia will never look intimidating at just 5’10”, but he just hits the ball. It is what he has done since he became a professional. He earned a very limited look during Cleveland’s push to the playoffs last season, but the Indians will have to find a role for him, possibly a utility role, to get him more reps with the big club in 2018.
12. Brent Honeywell, TB, RHP
The Rays may be losing Alex Cobb to free agency and could be shopping Jake Odorizzi in a trade, but they have Honeywell ready to step in if they want to open a spot in their rotation for him. The 22-year-old made 24 starts in Triple-A in 2017, striking out 172 in 136.2 total innings last year.
13. Fernando Tatis, Jr., SD, SS
As a shortstop prospect, Tatis should probably be in the top five of this list; however, he needs to show he can adjust to the upper levels before totally jumping to the top of a list. He manhandled the Midwest League as an 18-year-old last season, posting impressive numbers, including a .910 OPS, before jumping to Double-A for San Antonio’s playoff push. He struck out 17 times in 55 at-bats there, but he should start the season in Advanced-A ball and get an opportunity to continue growing and showing mad skills at a more appropriate pace.
14. Lewis Brinson, MIL, OF
The Brewers have a gluttony of young outfield talent, but they’ll need to make room for Brinson very soon, possibly making Keon Broxton a part-time player or moving Domingo Santana in a trade, as they were rumored to be doing. Brinson can fill-up the stat sheet, but he likely won’t hit at the level that his Pacific League-inflated numbers showed in 2017.
15. Triston McKenzie, CLE, RHP
McKenzie could be a monster for the Indians. He has impressive stuff and just as impressive results to this point in his career. He needs to put some beef on his frame (he is listed at 6’5″, 165 pounds) to become another workhorse for the Tribe, but the stuff is there to become a No.1 or No.2 starter.
16. Walker Buehler, LAD, RHP
Buehler made several unimpressive appearances out of the Dodgers bullpen in 2017, but he is a starter in the long run. He has moved quickly, as he should’ve as a college arm, jumping four levels to MLB last season. He’ll slow it down a bit and get more experience in Triple-A before arriving and becoming a solid No.2 or No.3 starter for the Dodgers.
17. Forrest Whitley, HOU, RHP
Whitley’s numbers are crazy good and his 6’7″, 240-pound frame and stuff will make him an incredible workhorse for the Astros. He had 143 strikeouts in 92.1 innings last season, reaching Double-A at the age of 20. He could make a few starts for Houston late in 2018, but a better ETA is Spring of 2019…for good.
18. Bo Bichette, TOR, SS
Bichette somehow gets overshadowed by another prospect in the Jays’ system, but he is just as important for their future…and he has put up more impressive numbers than Vlad, Jr.! He hit a ridiculous .362/.423/.565 as a 19-year-old, reaching Advanced A. The 41 doubles and 14 bombs show that he could continue to improve his power numbers in the future. He’s a star in his own right.
19. Mitch Keller, PIT, RHP
Keller caught my eyes in 2016 due to his 19 walks and 138 strikeouts in 130.1 innings, but he continued to show pitchability in 2017, reaching Double-A at the age of 21. He has allowed just 12 home runs in 293.1 career minor league innings, walking just 80. He has Tyler Glasnow ahead of him in the system, but he could make some noise if the Pirates end up dealing Gerrit Cole and other players while beginning a new rebuild.
20. Hunter Greene, CIN, RHP/SS
Greene is another possible two-way player, but the Reds really like the fastball, which can hit triple-digits, and overall stuff. Also a shortstop in high school, he was rated as the top talent in the 2017 draft and almost missed the signing deadline before finally signing on with Cincinnati. A tremendous athlete, it’s anyone’s guess as to where he ends up in the long-run, but he could accel at either position.
21. Austin Meadows, PIT, OF
Meadows has been around for what seems like forever. He’s still blocked in Pittsburgh, unless they trade Andrew McCutcheon, but he hasn’t done himself any favors by being injured so frequently while moving up through the system. He could afford more seasoning because of that; however, he could be a doubles machine upon his promotion.
22. Willy Adames, TB, SS
Adames hasn’t taken massive steps forward offensively, but he continues to produce consistently at each stop in the minors. He seems to be someone that you can count on for about 30 doubles, 12 homers, 10 stolen bases, and a .270/.360/.415 line, which isn’t bad at all for a shortstop!
23. Alex Reyes, STL, RHP
Reyes may have lost his luster after missing all of last seasons due to Tommy John surgery, but don’t forget about him. An innings-limit could hold him back, but he had the stuff to be a Carlos Martinez light. Keep in mind, his control wasn’t elite prior to the injury, so he could struggle with location…that’s just him.
24. Alex Verdugo, LAD, OF
Another prospect who is blocked by talent ahead of him, Verdugo is a hitter. He isn’t going to hit for tons of power, but he would be an excellent leadoff hitter to set the table for Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, and company in Los Angeles.
25. Luis Robert, CWS, OF
Robert had the luxury of getting the next biggest deal after Yoan Moncada out of Cuba, getting $26 million. He has power, speed, and an awesome approach at the plate. He should move quickly this year and could settle into a full-time role in Chicago by the middle of 2019, possibly sooner due to the lack of outfield talent on the current Chicago roster.
26. Brendan McKay, TB, LHP/1B
27. Luiz Gohara, ATL, LHP
28. MacKenzie Gore, SD, LHP
29. Austin Hays, BAL, OF
30. Kolby Allard, ATL, LHP
31. A.J. Puk, OAK, LHP
32. Royce Lewis, MIN, SS
33. Leody Taveras, TEX, OF
34. Kyle Wright, ATL, RHP
35. Nick Gordon, MIN, SS
36. Franklin Barreto, OAK, 2B/SS
37. Franklin Perez, DET, RHP
38, Willie Calhoun, TEX, 2B
39. Mike Soroka, ATL, RHP
40. Cal Quantrill, SD, RHP
41. Justus Sheffield, NYY, LHP
42. Jesse Winker, CIN, OF
43. Juan Soto, WAS, OF
44. Kyle Lewis, SEA, OF
45. Mickey Moniak, PHI, OF
46. Jorge Mateo, OAK, SS
47. Anthony Alford, TOR, OF
48. Jay Groome, BOS, LHP
49. Scott Kingery, PHI, 2B
50. Jack Flaherty, STL, RHP
51. Blake Rutherford, CWS, OF
52. Christian Arroyo, TB, 3B/SS
53. Ryan McMahon, COL, 1B
54. Yadier Alvarez, LAD, RHP
55. Dylan Cease, CWS, RHP
56. Jake Bauers, TB, 1B/OF
57. Chance Sisco, BAL, C
58. Michel Baez, SD, RHP
59. Michael Chavis, BOS, 3B
60. Sixto Sanchez, PHI, RHP
61. Chance Adams, RHP, NYY
62. Jorge Alfaro, PHI, C
63. Luis Urias, SD, 2B/SS
64. Alec Hansen, CWS, RHP
65. J.P. Crawford, PHI, SS
66. Danny Jansen, TOR, C
67. Kevin Maitain, LAA, SS
68. Adrian Morejon, SD, LHP
69. Matt Manning, DET, RHP
70. Tyler O’Neill, STL, OF
71. Jesus Sanchez, TB, OF
72. Adbert Alzolay, CHC, OF
73. Domingo Acevedo, NYY, RHP
74. Carter Kieboom, WAS, SS
75. Estevan Florial, NYY, OF
76. Taylor Trammell, CIN, OF
77. Stephen Gonsalves, MIN, LHP
78. Dustin Fowler, OAK, OF
79. Luis Ortiz, MIL, RHP
80. Jon Duplantier, ARZ, RHP
81. Tyler Mahle, CIN, RHP
82. Austin Riley, ATL, 3B
83. Jeren Kendall, LAD, OF
84. Keston Hiura, MIL, 2B
85. Alex Faedo, DET, RHP
86. Corey Ray, MIL, OF
87. Jose De Leon, TB, RHP
88. J.B. Bukauskas, HOU, RHP
89. Ian Anderson, ATL, RHP
90. Corbin Burnes, MIL, RHP
91. Joey Wentz, ATL, LHP
92. Miguel Andujar, NYY, 3B
93. Erick Fedde, WAS, RHP
94. Harrison Bader, STL, OF
95. Bobby Bradley, CLE, 1B
96. Yusniel Diaz, LAD, OF
97. Jhailyn Ortiz, PHI, OF
98. Starling Heredia, LAD, OF
99. Max Fried, ATL, LHP
100. Ryan Mountcastle, BAL, SS
Atlanta is so hot this time of year, and nothing is much hotter than “The Freeze”, a man in an uncomfortably tight leotard who uses his blazing speed to embarrass challengers in between innings. However, “The Freeze” isn’t the hottest thing within the Braves’ new SunTrust Park. That label belongs to its short-term first baseman, Matt Adams.
Adams was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals on May 20th, just two days after their All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman had his left wrist broken after being hit by a pitch. Since landing in the “A-T-L”, Adams has a .948 OPS with eight homers and 21 RBI in 24 games and 106 plate appearances.
“Big City” had become pretty useless in St. Louis, as the club decided to move Matt Carpenter to first base, with Jedd Gyorko, Aledmys Diaz, and Kolten Wong bringing “stability” to the rest of the infield. With Diaz in the midst of a sophomore slump and Wong dealing with injuries after his own bouts of ineffectiveness over the last two seasons, the Cardinals aren’t the same, competitive club as they seem to annually be. Still, they felt that Adams wouldn’t cut it in the outfield, even after his whopping 34 inning test-run in five starts there this season, taking a 19-year-old first base prospect in return to rid themselves of the 6’3″ slugger, even as the club rosters the likes of Tommy Pham, Chad Huffman, and Jose Martinez as options in left field today.
St. Louis’ focus on defense in left field has been the Braves’ offensive gain, and the Braves would be wise to continue to reap the benefits of Matt Adams when Freeman returns in July.
The Braves are in an interesting situation. Yes, they have the new stadium. Yes, they have an interesting blend of talent on their roster; however, they are in the midst of a rebuild, despite the presence of Matt Kemp, R.A. Dickey, and Bartolo Colon on their roster. Dealing Matt Adams at the deadline, or whenever Freeman returns, would benefit the club tremendously, as several teams could be interested in the slugger for their own playoff push.
Atlanta sits 10 games out of first place entering play today. Adams may be of value to a team like, say, the Yankees, whose first basemen have hit just .195/.298/.345 with eight home runs and 23 RBI all season (see Adams’ stats again since joining Atlanta!). Another team that could make some noise, if everyone gets healthy, would be Seattle, who could use an upgrade over Danny Valencia, who is the main culprit in the Mariners’ first basemen hitting just .244/.300/.368 with just six homers all season.
With an already crowded outfield and the likes of Ronald Acuna and Dustin Peterson racing their way to Atlanta and through the minors, the Braves should only consider Adams as a tradeable asset and not a piece of their future. If he continues to produce, his price tag only increases, but the club shouldn’t alter their current roster by trying to hold on to another solid first baseman…unless Major League Baseball suddenly adds the DH to the National League.