Feature Photo: Zack Collins, C, White Sox
This weeks highlights include catchers Garrett Stubbs (Astros), Zack Collins (White Sox), and Danny Jansen (Blue Jays), outfielders Hunter Cole (Giants), Dustin Peterson (Braves) and Guillermo Heredia (Mariners), as well as four other top AFL prospects. Our complete Prospect Video Library can be found here.
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One of the most effective bullpen arms in the lower minors in 2016 (2.98 ERA/3.04 FIP, 9.9 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 10 SV in 60.1 IP between Class-A and High-A), Castillo’s production has translated to Arizona in at least one respect, whiffing 10 hitters over 11.1 frames, though he has also walked five and allowed 11 base knocks in route to a 1.50 WHIP during his stay. The 22-year-old righty has shown a two-pitch mix, headlined by a double-plus fastball that has touched 99 mph and comfortably sat 95-to-98 mph, alongside a sharp, late-breaking slider in the middle 80s.
After five years in the Cuban National Series, Heredia signed with Seattle last March and made an immediate impact in the upper minors, slashing .300/.395/.391 with four home runs in 93 games before grabbing a cup of coffee with the big league club later in 2016 (92 wRC+ in 45 games). The 25-year-old has followed suit with a solid AFL campaign (.255/.386/.426, 1 hoe run, 4 stolen bases in 13 games), showing major-league ready tools along the way. Heredia employs a selective, patient approach with plus contact skills and nearly double-plus straight-line speed (4.16 HP-to-1B) that could be usable in a leadoff role. He also showed off his athleticism and quick first-step on defense, tracking down otherwise difficult fly balls with consistency in center field.
Chicago’s consensus top position prospect after being drafted tenth overall last June, Collins mashed six home runs with an .885 OPS in 36 games in High A to commence his pro career. The transition to Arizona has been near seamless for the University of Miami product, who’s slugged .500 with two home runs and a 6:8 BB/K ratio across 28 PAs with Glendale. Strong in his torso and legs, Collins flashes some of the best raw power of any hitter in the fall league, creating lift and easy pull-side power with a smooth stroke that has allowed for solid-average contact. Though I have not gotten a look at the arm, Collins cut down only 14% of attempted basestealers in the Carolina League, and has appeared stiff behind the plate, so the catching skills will need some continued development.
Though Peterson’s pro career had been marred by underperformance, posting a sub-.700 OPS in both Rookie, Class A and High A ball, the former second-round pick enjoyed a breakout in 2016, slashing .282/.343/.481 with 12 home runs in 132 Double-A contests. The 22-year-old has continued to perform Arizona, boasting a .328/.358/.484 slash line through 17 games. Peterson’s power works mostly to the gaps, and he has become more patient and selective at the plate in recent looks, allowing him to stay short to the ball with line-drive trajectories in hitter-friendly counts. With both average range and an average arm, Peterson likely profiles best in left field long term with a chance at a call-up sometime in 2017.
Though atypical in stature, Stubbs staked his claim as one of the more intriguing all-around catchers in the minors in 2016, slashing .304/.391/.469 with 10 home runs, 15 stolen bases and an eye-opening 51% caught stealing rate in 86 games between High A and Double-A. AFL arms have tamed his bat, however, as the 23-year-old has hit just .179 with five extra-base hits. Stubbs has shown quickness, blocking ability and soft hands behind the plate, and in limited looks has displayed an above-average arm. His power works gap-to-gap at present, and while he has shown average contact and an ability to work deep into counts (10 BB/10 K), he has been exposed by defensive shifts as teams load the right side of the infield against him. Dave DeFreitas has seen a lot of Stubbs this year, and filed an updated report.
Acquired by San Diego last winter, Torres navigated his way through three levels of the minors in 2016 (High A, Double-A, Triple-A) and was productive each step of the way, posting a 2.24 ERA and 8.8 K/9 over 64.1 innings in route to a September call-up to the major league roster. The southpaw averaged 95.6 mph with his fastball in the majors, and this fall he has touched 97 mph (93-to-96 mph sitting) with his plus- to doyble-plus heater along with an 86-to-87 mph slider as his lone secondary. While Torres’ delivery is generally low-effort and online to home, filling the zone has been an issue (6:5 K/BB in 8.1 IP), and one that will require more time in the minors before he’s ready to contribute to the Pads’ bullpen.
Fresh off consecutive campaigns in the Double-A Southern League, Vincej has punished AFL arms to the tune of a .379/.453/.727 slash line with four hoe runs, seven doubles and a league-high .348 ISO through 75 PAs. While the power surge has been unexpected and likely somewhat fluky (his best full-season mark is five home runs), Vinecj has displayed above-average contact skills with patience and discipline against AFL arms (12% BB rate). His defensive actions at shortstop project to be at least above average, flashing plus range, quick reactions, a strong arm, and an ability to throw accurately on the run. Given Vincej’s defensive abilities at a premium position, his offensive outburst could put him on a path to contribute to Cincinnati in the near future.
Transitioning to a full-time bullpen role in 2016, Callahan, Boston’s second-round pick from 2012, posted a 3.29 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 8.6 K/9 over 65.2 innings as a late-inning arm with High A Salem. Having packed on muscle to a previously lean frame, the 22-year-old righty now sits consistently at 94-to-95 mph with his plus fastball – reaching back for 97 on one occasion – and he supplements it with a tight slider (perhaps more accurately described as a cutter) in the 87-90 mph range. Callahan’s two-pitch mix has an opportunity to get outs in middle relief down the road, however, getting to that point will require ironing out both his command and control, which plagued him throughout 2016 (5.9 BB/9).
Landing on the disabled list mid-season after injuring his hamate bone in early May, Jansen concluded his 2016 campaign with High A Dunedin by slashing .218/.313/.271 with one home run in 217 PA’s. Making up for lost time has yielded some positives, however, as the 21-year-old has chalked up a .282 average, two triples and a 9:10 BB/K ratio across 80 PAs in the AFL. Strong and maxed out physically, Jansen has shown quality blocking skills behind the plate and an average arm to second (1.99 pop time), which allowed him to cut down 27% of would-be basestealers in 2016. His contact skills have been solid average with a simplified stroke, though, ultimately, he may not hit for anything more than fringe-average power.
Firmly placing himself on the prospect map with a .303/.357/.479 slash line between Class A and High A in 2015, Cole’s first full season at the Double-A level yielded 13 home runs in 126 contests and above-league-average marks in average (.272) and ISO (.150) in a home park that has traditionally suppressed right-handed power. The 24-year-old has two home runs and .635 OPS to his name through 19 AFL contests, though, and has been plagued by several defensive miscues in right field. While he lacks a standout tool, Cole’s combination of solid-average contact, power, defensive versatility (a converted infielder) and an above-average arm projects to hold value to a major league roster as a utility bat off the bench, as his floor.