Minor League Report: Spring Training

After a long winter, one that feels like it is still going on here in Pittsburgh, we get baseball again. Many dynasty league owners have started their baseball seasons months ago, and now we get to see those shiny new toys in action.

If you are a returning reader, thanks for coming back. If you are new, this space is going to undergo a slight change. Other than this week, things will be a little more notes based – hitting on a few more names rater than getting an extra few sentences on a specific guy.

This first installment will be prospects that had a good spring training because, well… the minor league season is way too young to say anything about. When spring training is the bigger sample size, you know the other sample isn’t worth noting. I didn’t consider guys that broke camp with the team, except Franchy Cordero, but he is on the DL so he didn’t count to me.

As always feel free to comment below to ask about a player not listed: someone you want a more in-depth read on, someone for next week, or anything else. Also give me a follow on Twitter at the new handle @AGerm40.

Kyle Tucker
.409/.438/.818, 5 HR, 21 RBI, K%: 18.8, BB%: 6.3, 2 SB

Tucker, right now, is the only true blue chip prospect on this list. Ranked in the top-20 by most, Tucker possesses huge upside in a plus hit tool and plus power.

Heading into spring he had no real chance of making the MLB roster, but his strong performance turned heads enough that it at least became a question in Houston’s already crowded outfield. Tucker other than being traded (which I would be shocked if the Astros dealt him) or the Astros offense crumbling won’t be more than a September call-up. His spring may have been overshadowed a bit, and forgotten about now, after the likes of Ohtani, Vlad, etc. garnering the spotlight.

I doubt you can get him in a trade now, but if there is a buying opportunity this might be your last chance before his owner takes him off the table completely.

Keston Hiura
.419/.438/.548, 1 HR, 7 RBI, K%: 25, BB%: 3.1, 0 SB

He might be the first prospect from the 2017 draft to make the majors, well the first one with any fantasy relevance.

Hiura gets a lot of comparisons to Willie Calhoun in the sense that both are great hitters, but neither really have a position. I think Hiura is more likely to find a regular position, but I think Calhoun is a better hitter. He had elbow issues last season and it cropped up a little bit during spring training. The Brewers are reportedly going to take the really cautious approach and DH him until that issue goes away. Miller Park offers a great hitting environment for him if he makes the majors. I don’t think the hot spring changes his major league ETA at all.

There is potential for him to make his debut this year even with what seems to be a crowded Brewers lineup. The second base position there isn’t crazy blocked, it just has a lot of average players with Villar, Sogard, Perez.

Alex Verdugo
.324/.361/.618, 2 HR, 6 RBI, K%: 16.7, BB%: 5.6%, 0 SB

I have flipped on Verdugo a few times. Typically liking him then deciding I don’t. Then seeing a note of some kind and liking him, seeing stats and then not. I am back on the train, but not all aboard if that makes any sense.

His hit tool is one of the better ones among prospects that are more than just slap hitters. My issue with Verdugo has never been with the hit tool; it has been exactly how much else will there be. He gets raves as a top-50 prospect and will make the jump to even more. With the launch angle “revolution” I think he can develop more power.

I saw or heard this recently and I cant remember where, it was in reference to Josh Bell: hitting the ball hard is the hard part, changing the launch angle is easy.

Last year Verdugo had a 47.7% ground ball rate, 28.5% flyball rate, and 18.3% line drive rate. That line is very similar to Yonder Alonso in 2016 before his change in 2017 where he changed to 34.9% groundball, 29.1% flyball, 25.5% line drive. If he can change his swing to produce near that he could shoot way up in value. As of now his rates remind me more of Christian Yelich.

I might miss out on Verdugo because I have not fully bought in that he is going to change, but if I see signs of a change early enough I am going to do what I can to get him – I just might be too late and I can live with that.

Sheldon Neuse
.310/.375/.621, 5 HR, 15 RBI, K%: 23.4, BB%: 9.4, 0 SB

He has been getting hyped by a few outlets, and I believe as just a deeper flier, and I do agree with that. I just don’t want anyone getting overly excited and reading it the wrong way. There is an average to above average hit tool and the same for power.

He really burst onto the scene with a great AFL, after he had a really nice year making three different stops at A, high-A, and AA. He feels like the prototypical A’s player. Solid hitter, not a ton of power but enough to always keep you interested. The good news is he has no splits issues, and in the Athletics organization that is even better news.

In anything shallower than 15 team mixed Neuse is just a trade chip to me. A guy that you add, hope the hype builds enough then you flip. In those types of leagues he reminds me of a lower end starter and I don’t like investing in guys that I think will turn into that.

Franchy Cordero
.343/.465/.714, 2 HR, 6 RBI, K%: 30.2, BB%: 16.3, 0 SB

I wasn’t on the Cordero bandwagon most of the spring, but towards the end of spring training I fell into prospect love. Cordero feels like the quietest, close to the majors, potential five category fantasy star there is. Now yes there is risk, and yes star might be a stretch, but there is that potential.

I think his short stint failure last season left a bad taste in fantasy owner’s mouths, but don’t forget he hit .326/.369/.603 in the minors in 93 games with 17 homers and 15 steals, albeit in the PCL. He has big time speed and enough power to make 20/40 a realistic annual possibility. Hunter Renfroe is (or should) be relegated to part time and Cordero should get a look over Pirela.

Cordero is currently on the DL, but should be back soon.

Ryan O’Hearn
.400/.447/1.000, 5 HR, 13 RBI. K%: 26.3, BB%: 7.9%, 1 SB

I feel like I have been on O’Hearn for years, waiting for the Eric Hosmer departure so O’Hearn could get the job. Then in walks Lucas Duda. I wouldn’t be surprised if Duda was part of a July sell for the Royals and O’Hearn turned into the every day first baseman sometime in August.

He has fallen a little since I got excited about him way back in 2015 when he hit 27 homers – he hit 22 in each of the next two seasons, but O’Hearn’s power potential could still be in the upper 20 homer range and maybe the juiced balls could get him to 30 if he makes enough contact.

O’Hearn is really only an add in deep leagues, something 20 teams or deeper. The first base pool is so deep and O’Hearn isn’t going to be in the top half of that group.

Rogelio Armenteros
16 1/3 IP, K: 24 (38.7%), BB: 7 (11.3%), 3.31 ERA, 1.04 WHIP

Armenteros has been great in the minors through his first three seasons. He has struck out at least a batter per inning every season.

The issue with Armenteros is he doesn’t really have a singular great pitch. His fastball sits in the low to mid 90s and he has a decent changeup, but nothing that really is plus according to scouts. The good news is he has a large repertoire including a four and two seam fastball, a curve, slider, and the change.

In the majors he will either need to develop one, or two, of those into a plus pitch or manage to keep them all average to above average I wouldn’t be surprised if he is part of an Astros deadline deal at some point and that could help him get into a major league rotation this season.

For fantasy terms he feels like he will be an ownable starter, but not a must own every season.

Domingo German
15 2/3 IP, K: 17 (25.8%), BB: 6 (9.1%), 2.30 ERA, 1.09 WHIP

I wasn’t going to include anyone in the majors, but German got the call after I decided who I was going to pick for this list.

German’s best pitch is a mid 90s fastball that has some nice movement on it. He also has an above average curve and change. German might end up as a reliever long term, but for now he has 10 start potential this season. It already looks like he will be the guy the Yankees go to whenever they need a starter rather than Chance Adams.

 

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Andy Germani

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I am a lifelong Pittsburgh sports fan and a graduate from Penn State. Baseball was my first love and I still play to this day in an adult baseball league. I always love helping people with their questions on Twitter so feel free to follow me and ask questions.