Feature Photo: Tyler Krieger, SS/2B, Indians
We’re back this week with in-depth looks at seven prospects, including Carter Kieboom (SS, Nationals), Mitchell White (RHP, Dodgers), Tyler Krieger (SS/2B, Indians), Matt Gage (LHP, Giants), Jimmie Sherfy (RHP, Diamondbacks), and a pair of Mariners’ right-handers that could be seeing time with the big league club by the end of the year – if not sooner. Also, don’t forget to follow our full season of prospect spotlights by bookmarking our 2017 Prospect Spotlight Library and 2017 Prospect Video Library.
2080 PROSPECT SPOTLIGHTS
Carter Kieboom, SS, Nationals (Class A Hagerstown, South Atlantic League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st 2017): 19y, 7m
Possessing big-time bat speed, a keen eye, and a preternatural ability to barrel baseballs, the Georgia prep product slipped down draft boards last June despite displaying one of the better hit tools in the draft class due to some teams’ concerns over his ability to stick at shortstop, and doubts that the power would play at a corner-infield position should a move become necessary. Washington took advantage of the conservative market, popping Kieboom with the 28th overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft and inking the former Clemson commit to an under-slot $2 million deal. In return, Kieboom has rewarded the Nats with a blistering start this year, slashing .333/.402/.590 through 27 games and 117 plate appearances.
Kieboom was particularly abusive towards Sally League arms over his past three series, slashing .385/.415/.821 and launching four dingers and five doubles over 41 plate appearances. The in-game power production, both recently and over the course of the full season, is a positive sign, though the pop is still largely geared to the pull side, and projection of the tool remains closer to 50/55 than a true plus weapon. Defensively, Kieboom remains a mixed bag at shortstop. He’ll regularly flex above-average arm strength to go with solid range and hands, but also displays a lack of fluidity at times in his lower half, impacting his ability to finish at the margins of his zone and periodically detracting from the accuracy on his throws.
Because of the bat speed and his ability to make loud contact across the zone, it’s easy to envision Kieboom as at least a significant doubles threat at maturity, once he learns to drive the opposite-field gap more effectively. That, combined with over-the-fence power to the pull side and a chance for a true plus hit tool, would make him a first-division regular regardless of his ultimate position. – Nick J. Faleris
Mitchell White, RHP, Dodgers (High A Rancho Cucamonga, California League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/207 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st 2017): 22y 4m
Seen by some in the industry as a bit of a reach in the 2nd round in last year’s draft, White picked up right where he left off at Santa Clara missing bats and getting ground-balls. His large frame allows him to create excellent angle to the plate and the life on this fastball combined with the hard fork-ball he throws positions him to continuously show hitters the top half of the baseball. In his 22 innings pitched post draft last season, he struck out over 10 batters-per-nine innings while posting a 2.70 GO:AO rate. He started off hot this season, giving up only one hit over his first two starts and striking out 11. He has had a couple bumpy starts recently that have caused his ERA to balloon, but settled in on May 9th and carved up the San Jose lineup to the tune of one hit and eight strikeouts over four innings.
White sits in the low 90’s with the heater, but has an extra gear when needed, getting up to 96. His best pitch is the sinker, but the 12-to-6 curveball is average now, with a chance to be above average and the forkball is at a 55-grade, with a chance to get to plus. When he is around the zone and working ahead, he can be incredibly hard to square up. However, he tends to fall behind for stretches and create his own trouble — he then has to challenge hitters, and he sees the stuff flatten out up in the zone. He has yet to give up a bomb this year, which is an accomplishment in California and speaks to the quality of the stuff even when he isn’t locating. But the Cal League bats will heat up right along with the temperatures, and the ballparks will start to look small. White is on the right track with his 12.12 SO/9 and 2.23 GO:AO ratio over 26 innings this season, but his walk rate is almost 5.0 BB/9, a stat that will make him susceptible to crooked numbers and prevent him from going deep into games. White has the stuff to pitch deep and eventually fulfill that good number-four-starter potential if he can reign in the walks. – Dave DeFreitas
Tyler Krieger, SS/2B, Indians (Double-A Akron, Eastern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/170 lbs B/T: S/R Age (as of April 1st 2017): 23y 3m
After being part of an Israel team that surprised in the early rounds of this year’s World Baseball Classic, Krieger has adapted well early on to the Double-A level, and he’s begun to show some of the strength and pop that Cleveland expected would arrive when they drafted him in the fourth round out of Clemson in 2015. Krieger is still quite slender and wirey, but his actions are extremely smooth and efficient with an athletic quickness that will make it hard for him to be overmatched at the dish. He creates a bit more leverage from the left side, but the bat speed is comparable from the right side, despite his early struggles versus lefties this year. He will play all of 2017 at age 23, but it is fair to say that he is a year behind due to 2014 shoulder surgery that caused him to miss much of his draft year, and that’s likely impacting him a bit last season.
He has plenty of room to continue to add strength, so the .140 ISO mark he’s posted through 86 Double-A at-bats is no fluke. He makes a lot of contact and has very good feel for the strike zone, as evident by his 16:12 SO:BB rate. He has only one home run thus far in 2017, but the nine doubles show he is squaring balls up – given his bat speed, feel for the zone, and overall athleticism, it isn’t a stretch to think that this kid could grow into the .150-to-.170 ISO range. He has played only second base since being drafted, however he can handle shortstop provided that his surgically repaired right arm isn’t an issue. Ultimately, the bat is what will keep him in the lineup, but the glove is more than adequate, making him a great fit for that popular super-utility role in the not-too-distant future. – Dave DeFreitas
Matt Gage, LHP, Giants (Double-A Richmond, Eastern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/240 lbs B/T: R/L Age (as of April 1st 2016): 24y, 3m
Gage has progressed quickly through the Giants’ system after being drafted in the 10th round of the 2014 draft, and he’s proven himself a worthy pick. His first full pro season in 2015 was split between Class A Augusta, where he made 15 starts, and a late season bump straight to Double-A Richmond, where he made an additional 7 starts to total 116 innings. For the combined season, he showed plus control (1.8 BB/9) and struck out a solid 7.8-per-nine innings, though he did give up his share of contact (1.284 WHIP) due to some in-zone command issues.
Now starting his third pro season and back with Richmond, the command issue remains, though the sample size is still limited. In two separate viewings on April 25 and May 5, he showed above-average control of his 50-grade fastball and was consistently commanding it to all quadrants with arm-side run. The pitch was sitting 87-to-88 mph early, but the velo bumped to a more consistent 90-to-92 mph as the games progressed. His 50-grade slider sat 77-to-80 mph and showed solid depth and bite. This was a swing-and-miss pitch for him, and he flashed a second effective version of the offering that showed more strike-to-ball sweep. His command of the pitch was inconsistent, however, and it would back up on him at times into the fat part of the zone and lead to hard contact. His third pitch is a 50-grade changeup, a pitch he can really sell thanks to solid arm-speed replication, and coming in with late tumble in the 80-to-84 mph range. It was more effective when his fastball velo was up in the higher range, but again, command was inconsistent.
Through his first six starts this season, he has thrown 26 innings and given up 35 hits, for a 1.65 WHIP and .324 BAA, so command, especially of the secondaries, remains an issue, as his mistakes are being left in-zone and are getting slapped around. It’s also not helping that his SO/9 and BB/9 are trending in the wrong direction (career low 1.89 SO/BB ratio in 2017, versus 3.12 in 2016 and 4.39 in 2015), so he’s working with a lot of traffic on the bases.
To keep a starter’s profile intact, he’ll need to improve command of his secondary pitches and keep his mistakes in the lower third of the zone to keep the ball in the park, and prevent advanced hitters from waiting him out for an in-zone mistake – otherwise he may start to see some time out of the bullpen, where the fastball/slider combination may play up in shorter stints. – Alexis Collins
Jimmie Sherfy, RHP, Diamondbacks (Triple-A Reno, Pacific Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/175 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st 2017): 25y, 3m
Through five weeks of action, the former Oregon Duck has dominated, allowing just eight hits and one earned run in 12 1/3 innings of work. Most importantly, the max-effort righty has walked just one batter in his 11 appearances while striking out 15 – a big turnaround from a 2016 campaign that saw him average 3.9 BB/9. The command is still fringy, with Sherfy frequently missing his spots within the zone, but thus far in 2017 he has managed to keep a better handle on his delivery and has worked with a more consistent and balanced tempo, helping him to hit his release point and execute more effectively.
Sherfy earned his first two saves of the season in back-to-back appearances this past week, working 2 1/3 scoreless innings and allowing one hit (an infield single) and no walks while striking out four. He mowed through eight hitters in just 24 pitches, 19 of them for strikes, and just one of the four balls in play made it into the air. With his mid-90s fastball working effectively to both sides of the plate, Sherfy was able to fully leverage his mid- to upper-80s power slider as a freeze pitch both early and late in the count, regularly buckling knees.
Despite the vestiges of more erratic and unwieldy times still observable on occasion, Sherfy’s ability to better work in rhythm and limit the extent to which he overthrows, or speeds through his mechanics – has been a welcome sight. If he can continue to build upon his progress – keeping his arm on time, more regularly working ahead in the count, and limiting the number of sliders he hangs up in the zone – there’s a clear path for him to emerge as a quality contributor in the Arizona bullpen at some point this summer. – Nick J. Faleris
Andrew Moore, RHP, Mariners (Triple-A Tacoma, Pacific Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0’’/185 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1, 2017): 22y 9m
The Mariners have one of the weakest farm systems in the big leagues, but Moore has been a bright spot in a system to-date. The M’s second-rounder from the 2015 June draft made his Triple-A debut Tuesday evening, and he showed the makings of a future number four or number five starter.
Moore has a high-3/4’s arm slot that gives him some slight downward angle despite standing just 6-feet tall. He keeps his front side high prior to releasing the ball, which adds some deception. Moore likes to work quickly and will quick-pitch occasionally to keep hitters off balance.
During this viewing, Moore’s fastball sat 91-to-93 mph with some arm-side bore to the inner half of the plate. Moore attacks the strike zone early and often with the fastball, and showed the ability to command it as well (2.56 career BB/9). He also displayed a two-seam version sitting 90-to-91 mph that had some arm-side run.
Moore also displayed a curveball 75-to-76 mph that he threw for strikes early in the count and used for put away. The pitch had 12-to-6 shape, but it lacked meaningful depth when he used it for put away in this look. His curveball is currently fringe-average, but it has the potential to be average because it comes in on the same plane as his fastball. The changeup was Moore’s best secondary pitch during this outing. It had good velocity separation from the fastball at 80-to-82 mph, with a good arm action and some arm-side fade and sink, but it did flatten out up in the zone on occasion. He has good control of the changeup, but doesn’t command it consistently.
Moore still needs to improve the command of his secondary pitches, however that shouldn’t be a problem given his plus makeup and pitchability. With that said, his call to The Show might come sooner than expected because of the injuries that are currently plaguing the M’s starting rotation. – Spencer Hansen
Rob Whalen, RHP, Mariners (Triple-A Tacoma, Pacific Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2’’/220 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1, 2017): 23y 3m
Whalen was acquired along with right-hander Max Povse in November 2016 in a deal that sent former sixth overall pick in 2014, Alex Jackson (C/OF) to the Braves – one of several off-season acquisitions that Mariners general manager Jerry DiPoto made to bolster the M’s pitching depth.
Whalen has a repeatable delivery with moderate effort from a 3/4’s arm slot and finishes in an athletic fielding position. He also showed some feel for sequencing and changing hitter’s eye level. He displays a four-seam fastball that sits 89-to-92 mph (T93) that, despite a lack of plus velocity, he does a nice job of challenging hitter’s both up in the zone, and on the inner half of the plate.
Whalen’s slider sat 81-to-83 mph, but it tended to stay flat. During this viewing he left the pitch up in the zone and over the plate several times, but was lucky enough to escape with little damage done. Having said that, he does a good job of controlling the slider, but he does need to improve his command, both inside the strike zone and for put-away. The curveball was Whalen’s best secondary offering with 12-to-6 shape and sharp bite when he used it as an out-pitch. It sat 74-to-76 mph with good depth, and he also used the pitch as a get-me-over offering early in the count as well. Whalen also displayed a changeup at 82-to-84 mph, but was used mostly on the outer half of the plate versus lefties to get ahead. At times the pitch had some arm-side fade, but it lacked consistent movement. He doesn’t seem to have much confidence in his changeup, given how seldom it’s used.
Whalen spent most of the first month on the DL with a right shoulder inflammation, so one could assume the M’s want him to build up his innings count should they need him as a starter, given the recent slew of injuries to their major league staff. He has a ceiling as a fourth or fifth starter, but it’s more likely he becomes a spot-starter or long-relief guy. – Spencer Hansen