Featured Photo: Luis J. Garcia, SS, Phillies
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Editor’s note: Players are listed with the affiliate with which they ended the 2018 regular season.
Luis J. Garcia, SS, Phillies (Rookie GCL Phillies, Gulf Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/170 lbs. B/T: S/R Age (as of September 1, 2018): 17y, 11m
Garcia was one of the top J2 prospects on the market in the 2017-18 International Signing Period, coming to terms with Philadelphia for a robust $2.5 million bonus. The Phillies skipped him over the DSL entirely, holding Garcia back in Extended Spring Training before making his pro debut in the GCL this summer. He showed the mix of polish and instincts that made him such a coveted amateur prospect, dominating the circuit with a .369/.433/.488 slash line as a 17-year-old. That performance left the Florida backfields buzzing, and I was impressed with what I saw during my first looks at Garcia during Instructional League.
Garcia’s shorter frame is extremely athletic and twitchy. His actions on both sides of the ball are coordinated, showing great core flexibility and body control. The switch-hitter makes a ton of contact because of quick wrists and a very compact swing. Garcia is slightly more advanced from the left-hand side with better bat speed and hip torque, though he’s plenty good as a righty. He projects to hit for average from both sides of the plate. His pitch ID and ability to control the strike zone are very polished for a teenage hitter, as evidenced by a solid 8% walk rate versus just 11% strikeouts in his debut season. Garcia is a “hit over power” type—and likely always will be—but despite limited present raw power and lift in his swing, the bat speed is there to grow into more ability to drive the baseball as he gets older.
Defensively, he’s a no-doubt shortstop with the body type, range, and playmaking to remain at the position. He has soft hands and incredibly quick transfers, and he can rear back and fire bullets across the infield with plus strength and carry. A plus runner who projects to hold his speed even with strength gains, Garcia will put pressure on the defense both up the line and as a stolen-base threat as he climbs the ladder.
Garcia just turned 18-years-old at the start of October, but he looks ready to tackle Class A to begin next season. His athleticism, youth, and well-rounded toolset combine to form a dynamic prospect who emerged as one of the best players at the complex level this summer. The ceiling is at least that of an above-average regular with a plus hit tool and defense at shortstop. He will be an All-Star if there are any gains in the power department.
Francisco Morales, RHP, Phillies (Short-Season Williamsport, New York-Penn League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4″/180 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (as of September 1, 2018): 17y, 11m
Morales was highly regarded as an amateur prospect in Venezuela, signing with the Phillies for $900,000 as a part of their impressive 2016-17 J2 class. Philadelphia sent him straight to the GCL for his pro debut in 2017, and after being held back in Extended Spring Training to begin last season, Morales showed glimpses of his tantalizing potential by striking out 26% of batters in the NY-Penn League as an 18-year-old.
Morales looks the part of a future workhorse and has filled out significantly since signing. He’s listed at 6’4’’ and 185 pounds but the team recorded him at 6’5’’ and 225 pounds entering Instructional League. He pitches from a low-maintenance, semi-windup delivery that looks capable of handling a starter’s workload. The fastball was 91-to-93 mph in my look, showing consistent downhill angle and slight cut action at times. Considering his body and delivery, it’s easy to see more velocity coming down the road, and Morales was reportedly scraping the 94-to-95 mph range at best this summer. His mid-80’s slider is a separator, showing consistent depth and extra-long shape that’s very tough on righties. Morales missed bats with the pitch across a two-inning outing, and his slider looks to be a future above-average offering in time. A changeup at 87-to-88 mph is less advanced than his other two pitches, overthrown and acting more like a two-seam fastball. It’s enthusing he has a feel for a third at such a young age, however, and I didn’t see anything in the delivery to suggest he can’t make gains with the pitch.
The ceiling is very high for Morales, who will pitch the entire 2019 season as a 19-year-old. It will be interesting to see if the organization feels he can handle a challenging full-season assignment to begin next year. The ingredients are here for a physical mid-rotation starter with an above-average sinker/slider mix.
Elian Rodriguez, RHP, Astros (Rookie GCL Astros, Gulf Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4’/205 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (as of September 1, 2018): 21y, 5m
Houston signed Rodriguez to a $1.9 million bonus out of Cuba, which ranked as one of the largest amateur payouts of the 2017-18 International Period. He has moved through the system slowly ever since, only making his stateside debut this summer as a 21-year-old in the GCL. The statline hasn’t been pretty—Rodriguez has walked more hitters than he has struck out as a pro—but I came away impressed with the body, projection, and tools across an Instructional League look.
At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Rodriguez looks the part of a big league pitcher with a large, athletic frame that’s broad across the shoulders and tapered at the hips. He pitches from a slow-paced semi-windup, and while there’s clearly a focus on streamlining his mechanics, the upper and lower halves still don’t sync up very well. Rodriguez finishes his delivery with some effort, a thwack in the upper-half causing recoil after a high three-quarters slot. The fastball worked between 91-to-94 mph with both two-seam and four-seam grips mixed in. He showed high-spin ride up in the zone on the four-seam and consistent armside run when mixing the sinker, commanding spots better to the third base side of the plate. Rodriguez’ 78-to-80 mph curveball is the separator, a pitch with above-average potential given its flashes of tight spin and sharp downer action. His high-80’s changeup was a crude third pitch, overthrown and acting more like a sinker than a true change-of-pace offering.
Rodriguez is a prospect on the strength of his potential for two above-average pitches in the fastball and curve. He will need to make a ton of strides in the command and pitchability departments to remain in the rotation, though it’s worth noting he’s young enough that he would have been draft eligible as a junior in 2018. Realistically, guys who have big stuff and struggle to find the zone like this wind up in the ‘pen, but I’ll be interested to see if Rodriguez can turn a corner next year—and if he’ll start 2019 with a full-season club after a slow crawl through the lowest rungs of Houston’s system.
Sean Reynolds, 1B, Marlins (Short-Season Batavia, New York-Penn League)
Ht/Wt: 6’7″/237 lbs. B/T: L/R Age (as of September 1, 2018): 20y, 4m
Reynolds drew varying opinions from area scouts leading up to the 2016 MLB Draft. Some preferred him on the mound, and others didn’t turn him in due to a belief he wasn’t signable. Miami, however, saw a premium talent with raw power too enticing to make Reynolds a pitcher to begin his pro career, drafting him as an OF/1B in the fourth round and agreeing to a $600,000 bonus. Reynolds has not yet reached full-season ball after 2.5 years in the Marlins organization, though his 80-grade raw power finally started showing up in games this summer for Batavia.
At 6-foot-7 and 237 pounds, Reynolds has a hulking frame that’s surprisingly athletic. He moves very well for his size, posting nearly average run times up the line and showing speed underway by stealing 13 bases this sumner. Stunning raw power is the calling card here, as Reynolds puts the ball out to all fields from the left side with towering, lofted drives. The ease with which the ball explodes off his bat is rare, and I was reminded of Chris Davis (1B, Orioles) seeing how effortlessly Reynolds creates power in his swing. Unfortunately, his strikeout numbers and ability to hit for average are also Davis-esque: despite leading the New York-Penn League in home runs, he also lead all qualified hitters with a 42% strikeout rate while finishing in the bottom-three in batting average. He won’t ever collect many overall hits, but I saw enough athleticism and looseness in the hands to project increased ability to shorten up his path with more reps. He shows very advanced hitting IQ and zone awareness, and already has an understanding that his profile is truly that of a three-true-outcomes bat.
Defensively, his NBA-sized frame makes an impact at first base, giving infielders a huge target to throw to and showing good footwork and soft hands around the bag. Reynolds touched the lower 90’s on the mound as a high school senior, and his cannon was on display firing across the infield on several occasions.
The comp list for guys with this type of size, athleticism, and raw power is a polarizing one: Reynolds has Adam Dunn (6’6’’/285 lbs., MLB 2001-14, 5 teams) raw power with Corey Hart (6’6’’/240 lbs., 2004-15, 3 teams) speed, but there’s a huge gap between his floor and ceiling given the strikeouts and limited present hit tool. He would be entering his junior year of college if he hadn’t signed as a prep, and given the raw power, Reynolds would be considered one of the top college bats in the 2019 class had he gone to school. There’s 30+ home potential here, but a scenario also exists where he never hits enough to reach that lofty ceiling. Meet Sean Reynolds, one of the most fascinating prospects in baseball.
Jordan Holloway, RHP, Marlins (Short-Season Batavia, New York-Penn League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/190 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (as of September 1, 2018): 22y, 2m
Holloway agreed to an over-slot bonus as a 20th round pick in 2014, signing with the Marlins for $400,000 as a prep arm from Ralston Valley HS (CO), his rise through the system has been slow, and he has yet to pitch above the Class A level as a pro. He was turning a corner in 2017 before succumbing to T.J. surgery and missed most of last season. I caught a look at Holloway building back his innings during Instructional League.
The tall righty appears larger than his 6-foot-4 inch, 190-pound listing, struggling to control his body through the end of his delivery. He pitched from an abbreviated semi-windup delivery and he was obviously was trying to stay simple through release. Holloway has a fairly rigid mechanical operation, though there isn’t much actual effort as he finishes. Imposing velocity is the calling card, running his fastball as high as the 97-to-98 mph range and sitting comfortably in the middle 90’s. His heater shows late hop at the top of the zone but lacks lateral movement, flashing occasional downhill angle when he’s able to hit a low spot. Holloway showed improved command and sink when he pitched down at 93-to-94 mph as opposed to rearing back for something extra. His curveball flashes sharp bite in the 79-to-82 mph range, mixing in more of a get-me-over version at 76-to-77 mph for another look. His arsenal is fairly limited, as both a cutter (90-to-93 mph) and changeup (88-to-90 mph) are crude mix pitches that aren’t often around the plate.
Holloway badly needs to build up innings as a starter for the control and secondaries to refine. It will still be a slow burn—and this type of prospect often winds up a reliever—but his size, velocity, and hard spin make him a prospect. He’s far from a sure thing at this point, though both Holloway’s fastball and curveball have above-average potential.
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