Featured Photo: Brady Singer, RHP, Royals
Editor’s note: Players are listed with the affiliate with which they ended the 2018 regular season.
Brady Singer, RHP, Royals (Rookie AZL Royals, Arizona League)
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/210 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (as of September 1, 2018): 22y, 0m
The Royals selected the athletic righty with the 18th overall pick in last year’s draft, inking him to a $4.25 million bonus after a stellar amateur career at the University of Florida. After a long college season, Singer didn’t pitch in an official game this summer. I saw him toe the rubber this October during instructs.
Singer stands tall over the mound and uses an abbreviated windup and up-tempo delivery to create deception on his 91-to-93 mph fastball. He drops down to a low three-quarters slot, and the pitch is especially tough for righties to pick up. His low release point creates excellent natural tailing action, showing movement to all parts of the zone. Singer’s athletic delivery projects to at least average command within the zone, allowing the fastball to grade as a future above-average pitch. The go-to secondary is a sharp slider at 81-to-83 mph, showing sharp bite and hard two-plane break out of the zone. It was inconsistent in this look, but it projects to another 55-grade pitch, working well as a backfoot option to lefties or chase pitch away to same-side bats. Singer’s third pitch is a mid-80’s change up that works well off his sinking fastball, showing similar action at release with separation and fade. The change is his least refined pitch, but he has feel to locate it off the edge of the plate. Considering his pitchability and athleticism, it aggressively projects as another above-average pitch down the road.
Instructional league is Singer’s first action as a pro, and in this look he showed the makings of a mid-rotation starter with feel for three pitches and the ability to fill the zone. With solid present stuff and feel, Singer could be fast-tracked to the big leagues, with his changeup the primary developmental hurdle remaining.
Yohanse Morel, RHP, Royals (Rookie AZL Royals, Arizona League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/170 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (as of September 1, 2018): 18y, 0m
The Royals acquired the strong, athletic Morel from Washington as part of the Kelvin Herrera (RHP, Nationals) trade in June, after the Nats had signed him as raw outfield convert just prior to his 17th birthday as a J2 IFA from the Dominican Republic in 2017. Morel made his state-side debut in the AZL last year, striking out over a batter per inning in his 43.2 innings of work. I caught a look at him during instructs this October.
Morel has grown well beyond his listed 6-foot, 170-pound frame, now closer to a physical and athletic 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. He has a strong starter’s frame and at barely 18-years-old, he projects to add a few ticks of velo to his arsenal. Morel’s athletic delivery has a burst of downhill acceleration to home plate from a three-quarters slot, with a clean and fast arm action. He doesn’t generate much angle from the arm slot, but gets solid tailing action on the fastball to all parts of the zone. Morel can already command the pitch to both sides of the plate, and if he grows into more velocity, the fastball can be a future 55- to 60-grade pitch. His best secondary is a changeup at 86-to-87 mph. Despite fringy separation, he keeps it from the same slot as his fastball and it flashes quality fade that allows it to play against both righties and lefties. It projects to plus with continued development. Morel’s slider was 82 mph and crude, bouncing the two he showed. There’s tight spin and some bite on the pitch, and while it takes some dreaming, the slider has the ingredients of at least an average pitch.
At 18-years-old, and still yet to appear off the complex, Morel is a long way off from the majors. The ingredients are all here for a mid-rotation starter, as Morel’s frame and athleticism project well for continued gains in both stuff and command.
Sherten Apostel, 3B, Rangers (Short-Season Spokane, Northwest League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/200 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (as of September 1, 2018): 19y, 5m
A big teenage third baseman from Curacao, Apostal was acquired in August by Texas from Pittsburgh as a PTBNL in the Keone Kela (RHP, Pirates) trade-deadline deal. The Pirates signed Apostal in the 2015 J2 free-agent signing period as a projectable 16-year-old for $200,000. I saw Apostal in Bristol for four games in August, right before he was traded to the Rangers. My first looks at him in a Texas uniform came this October during Instructional League.
Apostel’s physicality stands out immediately, standing 6-foot-2 and looking every ounce of his 215-pound listed weight. Power is the calling card here, and he shows present 55-grade raw pop that projects to plus once he fills out and firms up. Apostel is a free swinger with an aggressive approach, but he shows solid zone awareness, and the ability to take a walk (22% walk rate in 175 PA’s) . With loose hands and average feel for the barrel, he’s able to punish both fastballs up, and average spin in the zone, and he’s showing it in games already. His swing has length and violence, limiting the hit tool to future 40-grade that will pair with average game power. Defensively, Apostel is currently fringe-average at the hot corner with below-average foot speed. His footwork is solid for his size, and the glovework and transfers workable, making Apostel capable of sticking at the position early in his career or in short spurts. As he matures, he is likely to to move across the infield to first base, or give the corner outfield a try. His arm is plus, adding value and versatility if he’s ever in a utility role moving between corner positions.
Apostel’s absolute best-case ceiling looks something like Nolan Jones (3B, Indians), right down to the potential move to first base, but I’m skeptical that he makes enough contact to profile as a regular. Apostel has power upside and some on-base ability, profiling as a Role 45 three-true-outcomes type of player, with the defensive utility to be a strong bench bat and make occasional starts at three positions.
Jeison Guzman, SS, Royals (Class A Lexington, South Atlantic League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/180 lbs. B/T: L/R Age (as of September 1, 2018): 19y, 10m
The Royals signed Guzman to a robust $1.5 million as part of their high-upside 2015 international free agent class. Now 19, Guzman has grown into his body, looking a strong 6-foot-2 and at least 185 pounds. He started his 2018 campaign repeating the Appalachian League before a call to Class A Lexington in July. I saw Guzman in 2017 and recently got to check in on him for two instructional league games.
Since my 2017 look, Guzman has matured physically and added polish. In prior looks, he relied on his plus arm too much at shortstop while showing a game clock in need of refinement. My instructs looks showed a more confident and mature defender, attacking balls with more intent. With his physical growth and average lateral footwork, Guzman fits best as a third baseman. His approach has also matured, although he still gives away too many at-bats. He expanded the zone less in instructs and he showed some feel to look to the opposite field. Guzman is more of a power over hit prospect. He has grown into 50-grade raw power with strength in his wrists and on the body, but his swing length and barrel feel will likely expose him against higher-quality arms. There’s enough athleticism and strength to project a future 40 hit tool with 45 game power, and he adds 55 speed.
Guzman’s toolset could work in a full-time regular role if he can stick at shortstop. I think he’ll be stretched there making him a tweener at third base where he may excel defensively but fall short with the stick to profile. The likely projection for Guzman is as a utility infielder who’s able to play strong defense at 3B and 2B, and be a fringe-average defender at SS. With his athleticism, he could also patrol a corner-outfield spot.
Luis Curbelo, 3B, White Sox (Class A Kannapolis, South Atlantic League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/185 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (as of September 1, 2018): 20y, 9m
The White Sox inked the well-built infielder to an over-slot $700,000 signing bonus in the sixth round of the 2016 MLB Draft. After missing all but three games of the 2017 season due to a knee injury, Curbelo spent 2018 in Class A Kannapolis, scuffling to a .237/.282/.338 slash line with troubling peripherals. He struck out in over 25% of his plate appearances, while only walking at a 5% clip. I’ve seen Curbelo a few times this season, starting in Extended Spring Training, then again in early May, and during his present stint in Instructs.
Curbelo split time at third base and shortstop in 2018, but he has outgrown shortstop and fits a better long-term profile at the hot corner where a 55-grade arm profiles well. That said, there’s much more pressure on the bat to fit a regular big-league profile at third base. He has average raw power, with the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field when he dials in a fastball, but his strikeout issues stem from serious issues with quality spin pitches. He chases frequently and struggles to lay off soft stuff out of the zone, leading to a low-grade hit tool projection that’s likely to diminish his game power to 40 grade at maturity. Curbello’s ceiling is as a utility infielder with some pop off the bench. Based on the lack of an approach and on-base ability, Curbello’s glove will need to be sharp to find a role. He will need to turn a corner in 2019 to maintain prospect status and could wind up a 4A type if no one tool winds up carrying the profile.
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