Feature Photo: Demi Orimoloye, OF, Brewers
In this week’s look around the minor leagues, Yankees left-hander Justus Sheffield looks to be developing into a future number four starter at Double-A Trenton, while Yankees outfielder Estevan Florial is making consistent hard contact and doing some damage down at in Class A Charleston. Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Brewers outfielder Demi Orimoyole and second baseman Tucker Neuhaus are showing off plenty of power for the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – but it’s coming at the expense of some eye-popping strikeout rates.
2080 Prospect Spotlights
Demi Orimoloye, OF, Brewers (Class A Wisconsin, Midwest League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/225 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 20y, 5m
Orimoloye has a strong, athletic build with thick, muscular legs and a barrel chest. Drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 draft by the Brewers, Orimoloye shows athletic movements for his size, but is still a very raw player.
Orimoloye has a simplistic load with a small stride generating above-average power using his strength and a lengthy upward swing path. The length in his swing is contributing to a lofty 28.9% strikeout rate and causing some inconsistent contact, and he’ll need to develop his power beyond his present pull-side pop and learn to use all fields (all seven of his home runs are to left field), but overall, the ingredients are there to produce above-average power numbers in the major leagues. His is producing some pop for the Timber Rattlers this year, (13 doubles, four triples, and seven homers in 258 plate appearances), and is patient in getting his pitch to hit. However, part of his rawness comes in his inconsistent ability to drive his selected pitch.
Defensively, I saw him in right field, where his average arm plays up due to his accurate throws, and he already have five assists this year. Presently, Orimoloye’s defensive reads are below average but with that said, his above-average athleticism should help him improve his reads and reactions and become a more consistent defender with more experience.
He has a fringe-average home-to-first times with limited first-step quickness (4.35 seconds on average) but his speed plays average on the basepaths, and he is a threat to run (14-for-19 on stolen bases this year) thanks to good acceleration, which also plays well in the field.
Orimoloye’s carrying tool will be his power, however, and he will have to cut his strikeout rate and expand his power to all fields to advance. His raw tools translate to a high-risk ceiling of a Role 50, average everyday corner outfielder, but realistically I think he settles in at a Role 40, fourth-outfielder type, bringing his power off the bench. – Nick Janssen
Tucker Neuhaus, 2B, Brewers (Class A Wisconsin, Midwest League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/190 lbs. B/T: L/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 11m
Neuhaus was a second-round choice of the Brewers in 2013, and after missing most of the 2016 season with a broken finger, he is back with the Class A Timber Rattlers after being there for the 2015 season. Through 62 games Neuhaus is having the best power campaign of his career, with 19 doubles, nine home runs, and 32 RBIs, though he’s slashing just .232/.290/.443 with a 29% strikeout rate through 252 plate appearances.
Neuhaus has a tall athletic build with room to fill out. He has very little motion in his setup and load, and what follows is a smooth, compact stroke that covers the middle-in pitch more effectively than pitches away. Neuhaus generates power numbers from getting on plane early and finishing on a slightly upward path creating lift with backspin to drive the ball. He shows an aggressive approach, and has walked just 15 times so far this season (6%), and his power is mostly to the pull side at present, though he flashes some ability to drive the ball the other way. He projects as more of a pure pull hitter.
Defensively, he is best suited for second base, with an average arm and range and with quick hands and smooth actions that allow him to make all the plays at the position with an average grade.
Neuhaus is fringy from home-to-first, with 4.35 second times, and he doesn’t display the extra gear to be a base-stealing threat as his jumps/reads are average, but he runs just well enough underway to avoid being a baseclogger.
Neuhaus has the tools to set a Role 40 second baseman as his ceiling, but it comes with high risk profile because of the high strikeout rate and his limited defensive utility, and what is presently an aggressive pull-side approach at the plate that will need to mature. A more realistic role is that of a Role 30 player because he offers little benefit to a 25-man roster outside of his power bat carrying tool. – Nick Janssen
Estevan Florial, OF, Yankees (Class A Charleston, South Atlantic League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/185 lbs. B/T: L/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 19y, 5m
After a big 2015 season that landed him Dominican Summer League Player of the Year honors, Florial struggled to adjust Stateside last season when he moved straight from the Short-Season A Appy League to High A Tampa. The gangly, 19-year-old Haitian is a very good athlete with a projectable frame and loose, athletic actions. He has above-average bat speed from the left side of the plate and gets good barrel exit with some present power to both gaps. Given the easy actions and strength projection, it is not a stretch to think that Florial will grow into above-average in-game power at maturity with the ability to drive the ball out to all fields.
Through 225 at-bats in 2017, Florial has an excellent damage rate with 25 extra-base hits, including eight home runs — four of which have been to center field and left field. His .419 BABIP is indicative of his consistent hard contact through the first half of the season, and while he may be feasting on the general lack of quality off-speed stuff at the level, the ability to barrel balls up on a regular basis bodes well for the youngster moving forward.
That all said, when he has faced better command guys and average off-speed stuff, the swing and miss has been easily exploited. As of June 14, he sits at a 31.9% whiff rate, easily his highest as a pro. The approach isn’t terrible right now, but he does have some fastball-hunter in him, and once he gets down in the count, his aggressive nature at the dish can get the better of him as he will expand the zone. But as poor as a 30-plus percent strikeout rate is, Florial has also walked 10.4% of the time, a sign that the the approach will get more consistent as he matures. As he advances, the fewer pitches to hit that he will see will be a challenge and test his aggressive nature, but the ingredients are there for him to make enough contact to let his power play as he climbs the ladder.
Defensively, his above-average run tool and plus arm give him the tools to eventually become an offensive-minded center fielder. His reads can be inconsistent, but at least some of that has to do with his inconsistent focus, which is more of a maturity issue than it is a lack of ability.
The Yankees are in no hurry with their prospects these days with the success they are enjoying at the big league level, so expect Florial to play the majority of 2017 in the Sally League, with eyes on getting him High A (and potentially some Double-A) at-bats in 2018. If he continues to progress along this track, New York could be looking at another Curtis Granderson (RF, Mets)-type of talent come 2020. – Dave DeFreitas
Justus Sheffield, LHP, Yankees (Double-A Trenton, Eastern League)
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/200 lbs. B/T: L/L Age (as of April 1st 2017): 20y, 11m
Sheffield was drafted in the first round (#31 overall) by the Indians and was traded to the Yankees on July 31, 2016 as part of the deal that netted the Tribe lefty reliever Andrew Miller. He struggled at times last season with command of his pitches at Class A ball across both organizations, averaging 3.62 BB/9, but it was offset by a solid 9.07 SO/9 rate, and earning a late call up to Double-A Trenton at the end of last season. Now in his first full season with Double-A Trenton at 21 years old, he’s pitching with maturity and confidence beyond his years.
Sheffield has a smaller frame for a pitcher, with a high leg lift and repeatable delivery, and what he lacks in height he makes up for with his ability to generate arm speed and life on his fastball. In my viewing on June 2, his above-average fastball sat 93-to-95 mph (T96) and he commanded the pitch well, keeping it in the bottom half of the zone. His second offering is a hard slider that grades as average, siting 84-to-87 mph and showed late break and some tilt to generate swing and miss on the pitch, though it can flatten out at times and get left up in the zone. He also has an average changeup, sitting in the low 80s, which he commanded well to both sides of the plate though he used it infrequently.
Just three full seasons into his pro career, Sheffield has shown to be durable, having already thrown 342 innings and yet to land on the disabled list. He has pitched into the fifth inning of all but one of his 12 starts this season, displaying his ability to turn over lineups and limiting the damage when he does give up hits (9.25 H/9 rate). He’s dropped his BB/9 rate to 3.0 this season to help limit the traffic on the bases, which is a good developmental sign. If the control profile can stabilize at average, he shows solid potential as a future number four starter. – Alexis Collins