Featured Photo: Jonathan Ornelas, 2B/3B, Rangers
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Editor’s note: Players are listed with the affiliate with which they ended the 2018 regular season.
Jonathan Ornelas, 2B/3B, Rangers (Rookie AZL Rangers, Arizona League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/178 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (as of September 1, 2018): 18y, 3m
Texas drafted Ornelas out of Kellis H.S. (Glendale, AZ) in 2018’s third round, signing him at slot for just under $623,000. He torched the AZL this summer playing close to home, slashing .302/.389/.459 and stealing 15 bases. I saw the well-rounded infielder play four games this fall during Instructional League.
Ornelas profile is led by a future plus hit tool. He stays back and lets the ball travel deep, getting his hands to the ball directly, spraying line drives around the field. His strong hand-eye coordination shows in his ability to find the barrel on pitches away, and he has enough strength and bat speed to do damage away from his body. He should get to average raw power as his frame fills out, and his high-contact swing and hitter’s instincts will let him get to every bit of it in-game. An instinctual player, Ornelas gets the most of fringe-average foot speed and average lateral quickness, and he’s able to take an extra base or swipe the occasional bag. He plays all over the infield now, but projects better defensively at 2B or 3B than a true SS. With an average arm, he’s likely more of a fit at the keystone, though there’s enough playmaking ability to fit in on the left side of the infield when needed. His overall instincts lend themselves well to picking up a new position if need be.
Ornelas’ hit and power combination gives the ceiling of an everyday regular. He isn’t plus at any one position, but his solid defensive tools give a lot of versatility, and several ways to get into the lineup.
Cole Winn, RHP, Rangers (Rookie AZL Rangers, Arizona League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (as of September 1, 2018): 18y, 9m
The Rangers drafted the athletic prep righty 15th overall in 2018, inking the Californian under slot to a $3.15 million bonus. Texas managed Winn’s workload this summer, and he did not get his first taste of game action until Instructional League, where I saw him in an exhibition appearance against Arizona State this October.
Winn has a strong, sturdy frame, with some upper-body projection that will reach 200 pounds eventually. His delivery is above average, featuring excellent leg engagement to stay online to the plate while staying tall on the rubber and accelerating downhill. There is some head whack, but Winn’s strength helps keep him online. With clean arm action and plus arm speed, Winn has starter qualities. His fastball was 91-to-94 mph with slight armside run and occasional downhill angle. His command was better to the glove side, and when he tired, Winn sailed to his arm side as his body got more ahead of his arm. Given the athleticism and ingredients of a clean delivery, there’s room to project on the fastball command. His best secondary is a 75-to-79 mph curveball with 11-to-6 shape and late bite. His best ones flashed plus and showed swing-and-miss potential, and I expect he can get the pitch there in time. Winn’s mid-80’s changeup is raw, but his flashes of separation and arm-speed sell on the pitch bode well for its development.
Winn has the delivery and stuff of a starter, and while there’s plenty of work to do, the tools are here for a mid-rotation ceiling. He’ll need to iron out parts of his delivery and develop more of a third pitch, but at 18-years-old, there’s plenty of time to hone his craft and make strides across the board.
Liover Peguero, SS, Diamondbacks (Rookie AZL Diamondbacks, Arizona League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/175 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (as of September 1, 2018): 17y, 8m
Still just 17-years-old, Arizona signed the Dominican shortstop for $475,000 as part of their 2017 J2 IFA class. He performed well in his pro debut, playing well enough to reach the AZL for 19 games to close out his season. I caught a look at Peguero this October during Instructional League.
Peguero’s standout tool is his hitting ability. His feel for the zone is advanced for his age, and he shows a patient approach. He’s able to work into hitters counts and barrel up both fastballs and spin, shortening up with two strikes for more barrel control. His plus bat speed, loose hands, and quick wrists all have the look of a future plus hitter. He could grow into average raw power as the frame matures, able to get to all of it in games given his high-contact approach and feel for hitting. Defensively, Peguero has solid actions at short with the lateral movement, instincts, and hands to stick there should he not grow out of the position. A 45-grade arm projects up to average with physical maturity, which should be enough to keep him on the left side of the infield.
Peguero’s offensive upside gives a high ceiling, especially if he’s able to remain at shortstop. He might outgrow the position and move over to the hot corner, but I saw enough mobility at short to project him there as a playable average defender. The projectable ceiling is that of a first-division regular with plus hitting ability and average power, though he’s still years away from big-league ready.
Julian Smith, LHP, Dodgers (Rookie AZL Dodgers, Arizona League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/190 lbs. B/T: R/L Age (as of September 1, 2018): 21y, 2m
The Dodgers drafted the lanky southpaw in the 15th round of the 2018 MLB Draft, signing Smith for an above-slot $152,000 bonus. He missed both the 2016 and 2017 seasons due to Tommy John surgery, and my Instructional League look at Smith this fall was his first live game action as a pro.
Smith stands tall on the mound, his high-3/4’s slot generating excellent plane on his 92-to-95 mph fastball. The pitch has life out of the hand, flashing effective run when he targets arm side. There’s slight cut when he drops under the pitch, though it might not be intentional. He hits spots to his arm side, as heavy tilt to clear his arm prevents the extension required to command across the plate. Both secondary pitches are inconsistent, but they still flash upside: his 76-to-80 mph curveball is the better of the two, showing hammer action and 12-to-6 shape at best. A low-80’s changeup gets quality separation and shows movement. His feel for the changeup is still raw–occasionally slowing his arm to guide the pitch–but there’s a chance it gets to average if he can sell it with more regularity.
With fringy command and plenty of work to do on his secondaries, Smith’s likely future role is in the pen where his big fastball will play to above-average given the command inconsistency. In that scenario, he likely drops the CHG to focus on honing the curve into a second weapon, likely landing him a second 55-grade pitch. I see his ceiling being that of a 7th-inning arm.
Cobie Vance, INF, Athletics (Advanced A Stockton, California League)
Ht/Wt: 5’8”/185 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (as of September 1, 2018): 21y, 0m
Drafted by Oakland in the 18th round of the 2018 MLB draft out as a senior out of University of Alabama, the short and stocky Vance debuted well as an older player in the AZL, slashing .304/.361/.464. He was aggressively pushed to High A Stockton to end the year, where he was understandably overmatched. I saw Vance during Instructional League this October.
Vance has a linear and compact stroke designed for frequent contact. He shows feel for the barrel on different pitch types, and his patient approach helps him work late into counts. His bat-to-ball skills play, but it’s slappy contact without much power behind it. He projects as a 50-grade hitter who gets on base. Undersized and lacking standout bat speed and lift, Vance will never hit for much over-the-fence power. An average runner with quality instincts, he gets the most out of his speed and has the jumps to swipe the occasional base. That feel for the game carries over to the defensive side of the ball, where he’s a 60-grade defender at 3B and 2B with standout playmaking ability. A fringy arm is pushed on the left side of the infield, so over longer stretches he profiles best at the keystone.
Without the ability to play a premium position or hit with power, Vance’s ceiling is a utility player who gets on base from the bench and fills in around the infield. He has the instincts and athleticism to add a corner-outfield spot to his toolset to increase his versatility. I loved the makeup and hustle, and while he won’t be an impactful contributor, the sum-of-the-parts profile help his chances to become a role player.
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