Featured Photo: Brendan Rodgers, SS, Rockies (Double-A Hartford)
2080 Baseball pro-side evaluators have been in the field since March getting up-close and in-person looks at the game’s top prospects. Below is a summary of all of our notes and video covering the Team USA participants in this year’s MLB Futures Game. We hope you enjoy! –Adam McInturff
Also check out the World Team Preview Piece (here).
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Dylan Cease | RHP | White Sox (Double-A Birmingham, Southern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1, 2018): 22y, 3m
Cease’s up-and-down start to the season made him tough to get a read on, but a string of consistent starts has pushed him to Double A and has the stock trending upwards entering the Futures Game.
The fastball sat 96-to-97 mph in my April look, reaching the 98-to-99 mph range a handful of times. If he runs into trouble at higher levels as a starter, it’s because of fastball command that still is a grade worse than his walk rates. Even when he’s technically in the zone with his fastball, Cease can miss spots often. He has the arm-strength to bail the in-zone location out to some degree, but the development of the actual command likely is the determinant in the “starter versus reliever” debate. His 75-to-77 mph curveball is the primary off-speed pitch, showing above-average potential with flashes of sharp, late action when he finishes it. A new wrinkle as a mid-80s slider that shows hard cut action to his glove side. Cease’s changeup is still a work in progress: there’s separation on the pitch at 82-to-84 mph, but it’s at the expense of arm speed and deception. He telegraphs the CHG and it straightens out over the plate.
Opponents have hit just .178 across Cease’s last six starts, and his 0.93 WHIP and 7.8% walk rate since June hint that he’s figuring out his delivery. I see Cease as a late bloomer, though his stuff and potential impact are worth the wait. He will get every chance to stay in the rotation, where the ceiling is a true front-three rotation piece if he can develop enough control and pitchability. The swing/miss ability gives the fallback of an impact reliever. -Adam McInturff
Jo Adell | OF | Angels (High A Inland Empire, California League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/208 B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1, 2018): 18y, 11m
Going into the 2017 MLB Draft, Adell was viewed as an elite athlete from the prep ranks with questions about his ability to hit at the pro level. The Angels went all in, taking a shot on his huge ceiling with the tenth overall pick last June. He answered questions about the readiness of his bat after signing, slashing .325/.376/.532 in his pro debut between the Arizona and Pioneer Leagues.
Adell is a top-scale runner who projects to stay in centerfield. A plus arm and quality range will be assets in a corner outfield spot if he outgrows the middle of the field as his physical 6’3’’, 210-pound frame matures. Adell’s present raw power grades as a 60 and could get as high as 70 with strength gains, giving him massive power potential. His ultimate role will be determined by how much contact he is able to make, and if he’s able to consistently bring the raw power into game situations. The biggest concern is swing length; he moves his hands away from his body during the pitch, often getting the bathead through the zone late. He has the strength and batspeed to drive any fastball, but he’s often out on the front foot against off-speed pitches and struggles to recognize spin.
Adell has flown up prospect lists (ours included) because of how many questions he has answered about the feel to hit. The stock is trending upwards as much as any player in the minor leagues heading into the Futures Game. In the first half of his first full professional season, Adell has mashed his way to High A Inland Empire and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. There still are things to tone down offensively, though his athleticism and youth make me a firm believer he will be able to make adjustments. If he makes enough contact to tap into the raw power, Adell’s five-tool skillset could make him a star. -John Eshleman
Taylor Trammell | OF | Reds (High A Daytona, Florida State League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/195 B/T: L/L Age (as of April 1, 2018): 20y, 7m
Taken 35th overall out of Mount Paran Christian School (Kennesaw, GA) in 2016, Trammell’s blend of athleticism and baseball polish has wowed scouts since he signed. He takes an athletic left-handed swing with plus bat speed, maintaining good balance in his lower half. Trammell’s stroke produces force without requiring excess length or movement, giving him the potential to hit for both average and power. His raw instincts and polish show up at the plate and on the bases, where he takes a healthy amount of walks and is a constant threat to steal. In his first full professional season, Trammell walked in 12-percent of plate appearances while stealing over 40 bases–both elite rates, especially for a player his age. On defense, the rangy center fielder can remain at the position moving forward, though some feel like a fringy arm makes him a better fit in left field than an outfielder with true all-three-spots versatility. He still might add some weight as his frame matures, but he has the build to retain speed while adding strength.
Last season, the only teenagers to combine for a .270-plus average, double-digit home runs, and 30-plus stolen bases were Ronald Acuna Jr.(CF, Braves), Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, Padres), and Trammell. That’s elite company, and while Trammell isn’t included in the conversation with Acuna and Tatis in prospect circles right now, his ceiling isn’t much lower. His instincts and feel to hit, paired with the physicality and power/speed toolset, are what make Trammell so unique. Entering the Futures Game, Trammell continues to up his stock and is now a top 50 prospect in the game. -Adam McInturff
- Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates (Triple-A Indianapolis) -Adam McInturff
- Brendan Rodgers, SS, Rockies (Double-A Hartford) -Adam McInturff
- Keston Hiura, 2B, Brewers (Double-A Biloxi) -John Eshleman
- Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds (Class A Dayton) -John Eshleman
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