Minor League Roulette: Prospect notes for the week ending July 9

Kevin Cron, Diamondbacks, Diamondbacks prospects, Arizona Diamondbacks
Kevin Cron - Salt River Rafters - 2016 Arizona Fall League

Feature Photo: Kevin Cron, 1B, Diamondbacks

Minor League Roulette

With the 4th of July fireworks gone, the All-Star game returning and major league trade deadline just around the corner, baseball has once again reached the time of year when household names might find themselves on the move, and some prospects may be finding new homes. There are several minor league All-Star games on the horizon, including the Eastern League and the Triple-A mid-summer games, but it’s business as usual elsewhere, and Emily and Jared are featuring several players who haven’t lost their stride.

From young Yankees shortstop Jorge Mateo making his way through the Eastern League, to Florida State League southpaw Matt Hall (Tigers) dominating High A hitters, there’s plenty to discuss and you can bet we have you covered.

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


Kevin Cron, 1B, Diamondbacks (Double-A Jackson, Southern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’5” / 245 lbs.     B/T: R/R       Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 24y, 1m
Season Stats: .291/.380/.530 88 H, 21 2B, 17 HRs, 61 RBIs

Everywhere you look these days, the Crons are finding a way to grab attention. Kevin, the younger brother of C.J. Cron (1B, Angels), is doing his best to keep that pattern going. Back for his second stint in Double-A this season, the Diamondbacks’ 2014 14th-round pick out of Texas Christian has been more a polished prospect than in 2016, starting with a four-point drop in his strikeout percentage from 25.9% in 2016 to 21.5% in 2017. The 6-foot-five corner infielder has displayed that famous family power, boosting his ISO this season to .237, up from .217 last season. Over his last seven games with the Generals, Cron has 10 hits over five multi-hit games, including four doubles, three home runs and 10 RBIs. While Cron’s bat appears ready for Triple-A, his defense remains raw, as he has committed a combined 19 errors over his last two seasons at the Double-A level at first base. While Cron’s bat does the talking, he will need to improve his glove to gain stronger consideration for advancing to Triple-A.


Renato Nunez, DH, Athletics (Triple-A Nashville, Pacific Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 220 lbs.    B/T: R/R     Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 23y, 0m
Season Stats: .257/.319/.563 78 H, 19 2B, 24 HRs, 57 RBIs

Since signing as an amateur free agent with the Athletics in 2010, Nunez’s plus raw power has been his calling card while he moves through the A’s organization at a steady pace. After hitting .250-plus over his first five pro seasons, Nunez struggled in 2016 with Triple-A Nashville, with his strikeout percentage jumping to 21.4% from 15.9% in Double-A the previous year. Although Nunez had a down year overall in 2016, he offset the strikeout-rate by hitting 23 home runs, and he was rewarded with a September call-up. Nagging injuries limited Nunez to just nine games at the big league level last September, but he made up for lost time with a standout winter in the Venezuelan Winter League. In 2017, Nunez returned to the Sounds and while his strikeouts remain a concern, his power has emerged even further, producing a spike in his ISO to .306 over 347 plate appearances this season. Last week, Nunez again found a way to flash that raw power, rocketing a pair of home runs and plating five RBIs for Nashville. Defensively, Nunez has been a third baseman for most of his career, but he has also played some first base and left field the past two seasons, as the A’s look for a long-term home for his glove. The 23-year-old has arguably the quickest wrists in the A’s system, and plus power potential from the right side of the plate. He needs to continue to improve his plate discipline, but Nunez should get another shot in the big leagues at some point this season. In the meantime, he’ll show off his power in the Triple-A All-Star Home Run Derby this week in Tacoma. Nunez was featured in the “On the Horizon” section of 2080’s Oakland A’s Organization Review earlier this year.


Jerrick Suiter, 1B/OF, Pirates (Double-A Altoona, Eastern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 180 lbs.       B/T: L/L     Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 7m
Season Stats: .318/.399/.506 49 H, 9 2B, 6 HRs, 28 RBIs (Promoted to Double-A on May 8)

During his three-year career at Texas Christian, Suiter didn’t exactly draw rave reviews for his offense, hitting only three triples while going without a home run. Despite his lack of power, his athleticism and versatility as a former two-way player led the Pirates to select Suiter with their 2014 26th-round pick. Now in his fourth season with the Pirates organization, Suiter’s production at the plate has improved dramatically. Suiter had only a pair of extra-base hits in High A prior to his promotion in May, but he has started off his Double-A tenure swinging a good bat and he’s currently carrying a five-game hit streak, with two doubles, a pair of home runs and seven RBIs for the Curve. Suiter’s pitch recognition has improved in Double-A, and his season’s OBP between two levels has jumped more than 60 points from last year to a combined .389. With his ISO at a career-high .173, Suiter is starting to make noise as a legitimate prospect..


Here’s a Player to Watch


Matt Hall, LHP, Tigers (High A Lakeland, Florida State League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 200 lbs.      B/T: L/L     Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 23y, 8m
Season Stats: 85.0 IP, 83 H, 25 ER, 27 BB, 92 SO, 2.65 ERA

Hall, the Tigers’ 2015 sixth-round pick first grabbed serious attention in 2016 when he went 8-0 with Class A West Michigan before making the jump to High A Lakeland midseason. From the beginning, the question has been whether Hall’s stuff would translate to getting outs at the higher levels. Riding a 60-grade curveball as his money pitch, the 6-foot tall southpaw also features a below-average fastball that struggles to scrape 91 mph, and a below-average changeup. Understanding of the effectiveness of his plus curveball has allowed him to mix the three offerings well enough to find his stride in his return to High A this season, and he’s doing so in dominating fashion. In addition to raising his strikeouts-per-nine innings to 10.0 this season, Hall is keeping the ball on the ground to the tune of a 1.59 GO:AO ratio, and he’s allowed just three home runs over his 85 innings pitched. His control is improving as well, and he’s dropped his walk rate from 3.5 BB/9 in 2016 to 2.9 BB/ this year. Following a seven-inning scoreless outing on Saturday, Hall extended his scoreless streak to 30 consecutive innings over his last five starts. A late-season jump to Double-A should produce the truest test for Hall.


Players Who Stood Out to Jared


J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley, International League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 180 lbs.          B/T: L/R            Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 22 y, 4m
Season Stats: .215/.328/.326 58 H, 9 2B, 5 HRs, 32 RBIs

Crawford got off to a very slow start this season, fighting until nearly the end of June to get his batting average to stay above .200. A groin injury cost him eight games in June, and since he has returned, Crawford has looked more like the hitter with the kind of feel for the strike zone and bat-to-ball skills that prompted 2080’s Nick Faleris and Dave DeFreitas to rank him only behind Mickey Moniak in the Phillies’ farm system this year (read the whole 2017 Phillies organization review here). Since July 1, Craford is hitting a respectable .273 and he’s hit safely in seven of his last 10 games, including for home runs. A lingering thumb injury from 2015 may have sapped some of Crawford’s power last season, but his recent run suggests a healthy finish to the year is possible, and with the pop returning to the bat, there’s reason to be encouraged that he can still salvage a productive season of development.


Jake Burger, 3B, White Sox (Class A Kannapolis, South Atlantic League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 210 lbs    B/T: R/R       Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 0m
Season Stats: .375/.444/.500, 3 H, 2 2B, 0 HR, 1 RBI    (Promoted to Class A July 7)

Burger has only played in five professional games since the White Sox selected him in the first round (#11 overall) last month out of Missouri State, but he is already displaying the above-average hit tool that initially attracted Chicago to him down in Class A Kannapolis. After a brief stint in the Arizona Rookie League to get his feet wet, the former 2016 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team member was assigned to the Class A South Atlantic League, where he promptly responded by going 3-for-3 with a double in his first game on Friday. The third baseman attracted the most pre-draft attention for his ability to hit for both average and power, however, he also has a strong arm that suits him well at the hot corner, and he moves well at the position despite his larger frame.


Anthony Misiewicz, LHP, Mariners (Double-A Arkansas, Texas League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 190 lbs.          B/T: R/L       Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 22y, 5m
Season Stats: 13 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 13 SO    (Promoted to Double-A on July 6)

Misiewicz has made a couple of back-and-forth trips between the Double-A Texas League and the High A California League this season, and Double-A seems to suit him better. Most recently, Misiewicz moved up a level for a start last Thursday, and he was nearly flawless in seven innings of work I the Travelers’ 3-0 win over the San Antonio Missions. Misiewicz gave up only one hit and walked two while striking out six, making the case that he is deserving of a regular starting spot with Arkansas. The southpaw’s low- to mid-90s fastball is his best pitch, and he supports it with a mid-70s curveball that he can throw for strikes, as well as a decent changeup.


Here’s a Player to Watch


Jorge Mateo, SS, Yankees (Double-A Trenton, Eastern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’6” / 220 lbs.       B/T: R/R       Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 10m
Season Stats: .442/.529/.744, 19 H, 4 2B, 1 HR, 14 RBIs (Promoted to Double-A on June 27)

Mateo has taken the jump to the Double-A Eastern League in stride – actually it’s been with big strides. His slash line will undoubtedly come down to earth, but in the meantime, he has been putting on a show at the plate for fans in Trenton. Mateo has a nine-game hitting streak that started just after he was promoted from the Florida State League, which includes a 4-for-4, 4 RBI game on July 1, and a 2-for-5, 5 RBI game the next night. His defense at shortstop might be suspect enough to force a move to second base, and he’s even taking reps in center field this year to test his utility and take advantage of his speed, but Mateo has surprising pop with his bat that comes from his natural strength and quickness. He’s also a burner on the bases, with 11 triples and 28 stolen base attempts in 31 attempts to-date. With Gleyber Torres (SS, Yankees) out for at least the rest of this season, Mateo has the opportunity to prove he can play sturdy defense up the middle of the infield, while swinging a good bat and make himself the most talked-about Yankees’ shortstop prospect.


Key Minor League Transactions

  • Minnesota Twins outfield prospect Zack Granite has finally earned a visit to the majors following a .359/.412/.492 performance with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings over 59 games.
  • Blue Jays prospects Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are on the move. After dominating the Midwest League with Class A Lansing, the teenage prospects will be promoted to High A Dunedin following their participation in the MLB Futures Game on July 9.


Notes of Interest

  • Marty Anderson, signed by the New York Mets out of the independent Frontier League on July 2, made his debut in affiliated ball, striking out 10 in four innings against Staten Island.
  • How is Yankees prospect and left-fielder Clint Frazier handling the pressure since his call-up to New York on July 1? The outfielder posted his first career three-hit outing on Saturday, which included a walk-off three-run home run and 4 RBIs in a win over the Brewers.


What We’re Reading

  • Ashe Russell (RHP, Royals), Kansas City’s first-round selection (#21 overall) in 2015, is stepping away from baseball to take a mental break, Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star writes. Russell has struggled mightily since signing with the Royals in 2015, and has not played beyond Rookie-level ball, where he has made just 13 starts without a win. He had not pitched in 2017 prior to the announcement.