Minor League Roulette: Prospect notes for the week ending July 30

Samad Taylor, Cleveland Indians, Indians prospects
Samad Taylor - 2016 AZL Indians

Feature Photo: Samad Taylor, 2B, Indians    

Minor League Roulette

With another non-waiver MLB trade deadline in the books as of Monday afternoon, organizations now shift their focus towards wrapping their respective seasons or making a push for a postseason position. The Yankees take center stage for us this week, with a former 2013 first-rounder finally getting his first taste of Triple-A action, and a High A right-hander making a quick ascension up the Yankees’ organization ladder.

Also, how hard is it to handle having a famous father? Blue Jays High A infielder Cavan Biggio doesn’t seem to be phased by it. All this, and more, in our latest edition of Minor League Roulette.

Have feedback on any of what you are reading at Minor League Roulette? Let us know by sending an email to mailbag@2080baseball.com.


Players Who Stood Out for Emily


Billy McKinney, RF, Yankees (Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, International League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 205 lbs.    B/T: L/L       Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 22y, 7m
Season Stats: .347/.390/.663 34 H, 7 2B, 6 HRs, 19 RBIs (Promoted to Triple-A on July 1)

Starting off his career as the 2013 first-round pick (#24 overall) for the Athletics, McKinney took a winding path to the Yankees, going first from the A’s to the Cubs in a 2014 trade for RHP’s Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija, and then arriving in New York from Chicago in the trade that sent lefty reliever Aroldis Chapman to eventual World Champs at the 2016 trade deadline. McKinney is a well-rounded player who works a quick swing and the right combination of bat speed and coordination to hit consistently, and lately he can’t seem to stop. Coming off a hairline fracture of his right knee in 2015, McKinney entered the season as a question mark following a 2016 campaign where his power and average both regressed. In the 2080 Yankees Org Review, Dave DeFreitas, Nick Faleris and Mark Shreve referenced the expectations placed on McKinney coming into 2017, “He made a lot more hard contact in the years’ prior to the injury, so provided he is fully healthy, he could return to that level in 2017.” Since his promotion to Triple-A, McKinney has ballooned his ISO to .316 over 25 games, collecting eight hits, two home runs and eight RBIs over his last three games. With the explosion of power at the plate and steady-if-unspectacular defense out in right field, McKinney can’t be far off the Yankees’ radar for a trip to New York. But while his pull-side power would play well in the Bronx, he shouldn’t get too excited just yet – with Clint Frazier (LF) and Aaron Judge (RF) planted in the corners in a tight pennant race, playing time would be hard to find with the big club.


Dakota Hudson, RHP, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis, Pacific Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 6’5” / 215 lbs      B/T: R/R       Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 22y, 6m
Season Stats: 114.0 IP, 111 H, 32 ER, 34 BB, 77 SO, 2.53 ERA (Double-A stats; Promoted to Triple-A on July 29.)

With a dominant 6’5” frame and a fastball that tips the scales as high as 97 mph, Hudson doesn’t seem like he should struggle, but it’s been a matter of taking the natural ability and polishing it to prepare him for a possible major league call-up. With his fastball leading the way, Hudson also works a plus slider that’s known to flash cutter action, followed by a curveball and changeup that both sit as average offerings. Much of the concern surrounding Hudson’s command has dissipated since his college days at Mississippi, and Hudson’s focus as a pro has been on fine-tuning the sink of his double plus fastball and missing bats where possible, and its been working to the tune of a strong 2.15 GO:AO ratio this year. Prior to his promotion to Triple-A on July 29, Hudson walked 2.6 hitters per nine in Double-A, striking out 6.0 per nine. Hudson’s Triple-A debut on July 30 showed some wrinkles that will need ironing, but the combination of velocity and natural stuff have Hudson on track for consideration as a number three starter with the Cardinals over the next two seasons.


Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Phillies (Class A Lakewood, South Atlantic League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 185 lbs. B/T: R/R     Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 18y, 9m
Season Stats: 61.1 IP, 44 H, 17 ER, 9 BB, 59 SO, 2.64 ERA

As a possible top-three prospect at 19 years old, and in just his third year of pro ball, Sanchez is doing something right. He’s got a compact for a starting role, but the native of the Dominican Republic leverages the velocity of his double-plus fastball that can touch as high as 98 mph to handle the brunt of the work out of his three-pitch mix. Sanchez adds an above-average curveball and an average changeup that should land at above-average, if not plus, if his development continues at its present pace. For being as young as he is, Sanchez has displayed eye-catching command of his fastball, releasing it with a solid, repeatable delivery. Sanchez has stayed below 2.0 BB/9 over the past three seasons, and has a stellar 1.2 BB/9 rate over 67 1/3 innings with Class A Lakewood this year. The Phillies are testing out the youngster, letting him stretch out to five-to-six innings per start this season. Most recently, he ran together a pair of scoreless starts for 11 innings, walking three and striking out 10. The highly projectable right-hander will be given plenty of room to develop, and he’s showing the potential to be a future impact piece in the Phillies’ rotation.


Here’s a Player to Watch

Samad Taylor, 2B, Indians (Short-Season A Mahoning Valley, New York-Penn League)
Ht/Wt: 5’10” / 160 lbs          B/T: R/R          Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 18y, 9m
Season Stats: .302/.333/.444 39 H, 5 2B, 4 3B, 11 RBIs

Coming into the home stretch of his first full year of professional baseball, the Indians’ 2016 10th-round pick has translated his high school success to fit the pace of the Indians’ lower levels, and he’s grabbing attention as he goes. Taylor has across-the-board athleticism, above-average speed and a hit tool with enough pop to generate 11 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs with Short-Season A Mahoning Valley. The switch-hitter was originally signed as a shortstop, but has seen only one game there since beginning the season with the Snappers. Taylor has a pair of errors to date at second base, but his footwork should improve and move with more confidence as he adapts to the position, and as his slight frame fills out. Taylor is showing more pop as of late, boosting his ISO to .137 in Short-Season ball and as he develops, the Indians could see a real boost in power in his future as he adds some strength to the frame. The quick hands of Taylor have found success at the plate of late, collecting a combined 12 hits over his last seven games with Mahoning Valley.


Players Who Stood Out to Jared

Ryan Howard, SS, Giants (High A San Jose, California League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 195 lbs.        B/T: R/R       Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 22y, 9m
Season Stats: .321/.354/.408, 125 H, 13 2B, 7 HRs, 41 RBIs

The Giants have a Class A affiliate in the South Atlantic League, but Howard might not know that. After spending the 2016 season with San Francisco’s affiliates in Arizona and the Short-Season A Northwest League, the shortstop jumped straight to the High A California League this season. Howard is not suffering for skipping a grade, so to speak, as he is hitting .321 through the weekend. Though the California League is known for being friendly to hitters, Howard’s compact swing, plus bat speed, and effective knowledge of the zone will play well no matter the level he’s playing. He does not hit for a ton of power, but the pop he does bring is to the pull side, where all seven of his home runs have been hit this season – a power number that works well for the position. Because Howard bypassed the South Atlantic League, it is likely that he will spend the full season in San Jose, despite the fact that he is hitting so well.


Brian Keller, RHP, Yankees (High A Tampa, Florida State League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 170 lbs          B/T: R/R            Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 22 y, 10m
Season Stats: 33 IP, 26 H, 11 ER, 6 BB, 30 SO (promoted from Class A Charleston on July 5)

The right-hander threw his first career complete game shutout on Friday, holding the High A Palm Beach Cardinals to just two hits and one walk in Tampa’s 1-0 win. Keller has pitched three other complete games this season, but each of those were only six innings long because of the games were part of minor league seven-inning double-header games. Keller, drafted out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the 39th round last June, features a fastball that flirts with the middle 90s for now, along with above-average command. Despite being taken so late in the draft, Keller has advanced through the Yankees system quickly. Last season, he climbed his way through three rungs, pitching successfully at the Gulf Coast League, New York-Penn League, and the Appalachian League, boasting a 0.88 ERA in 41 total innings. Keller has continued his ascension in 2017 with his recent promotion from Class A Charleston to High A Tampa.


Yonathan Daza, OF, Rockies (High A Lancaster, California League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 190 lbs    B/T: R/R       Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 23y, 2m
Season Stats: .351/.383/.465, 135 H, 26 2B, 2 HRs, 58 RBIs

Daza has always hit well, but he is putting together a truly breakout season at the plate in 2017. Lancaster is notorious for being hitter-friendly, and the Rockies outfielder has capitalized on the friendly confines of The Hangar. However, his numbers at the plate go beyond just hitting in a ballpark that favors batters. Daza sprays line drives to all fields, and although he does not have a lot of power, even in a league that generally beefs up power numbers, his ability to drive the ball to both alleys has made him a doubles machine. He also impresses with his arm strength in the outfield, even if at times his accuracy is inconsistent. If the young hitter can continue to develop his already impressive hit tool and improve the accuracy of his throws from the outfield, Daza could earn himself a regular corner-outfield spot on the Rockies in the years ahead.


Here’s a Player to Watch

Cavan Biggio, 2B, Blue Jays (High A Dunedin, Florida State League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 203 lbs   B/T: L/R     Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 11m
Season Stats: .247/.350/.376, 88 H, 12 2B, 8 HRs, 50 RBIs

It will be a challenge for Biggio to make his own name in baseball, given his father’s legacy (Craig Biggio, C/2B, Astros, 1988-2007) but the Blue Jays’ second baseman is already rising through their system at a rate that suggests he will get a chance at the major league level fairly soon. After only nine games with the Class A Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League in 2016, Biggio has spent the entirety of this season with High A Dunedin. Last June, 2080’s Nick Faleris noted Biggio’s potentially above-average hit tool, but that his swing mechanics might need some tweaking to increase his ability to make consistent hard contact. He controls his strike zone well, boasting a roughly 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but the former Notre Dame star will need to reduce his strikeouts as he moves up through the system. This season, he has 107 through 96 games to-date.


Key Minor League Transactions

  • Adrian Morejon (LHP, Padres) was promoted to the Class A Fort Wayne TinCaps of the Midwest League on July 26 after making seven starts in the Short-Season A Northwest League. The Padres signed the 18-year-old as a free agent out of Havana, Cuba, on July 7.
  • Tigers High A starter Kyle Funkhouser is moving ahead in his rehabilitation for elbow inflammation. The right-hander moved his throwing distance from 60 to 75 feet and reportedly experienced no pain.


Notes of Interest

  • Norge Ruiz (RHP, Athletics) was tossed from his July 24 start in the California League when a foreign substance was found on his left arm, and he has been suspended for 10 games as a result.
  • Padres RHP Anderson Espinoza will undergo Tommy John surgery, the team announced on Friday. Espinoza was placed on the disabled list on April 6 and had not pitched this season.
  • While a 3-0 victory doesn’t sound like anything special, the Class A West Michigan Whitecaps proved that baseball just gets weird sometimes on July 29. After scoring their third run in the seventh inning, West Michigan had yet to record a hit on the night. The no-hitter for visiting Lake County was broken up in the eighth, following a base hit by the Whitecaps’ Danny Woodrow.


What We’re Reading

  • Keith Sharon of the Orange County Register with the story on the 17-year-old from Hong Kong who traveled to 23 Angels’ games, and caught a Mike Trout home run.