2019 LEAGUE ALL-STAR PREVIEWS
(Updated as each piece is released)
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Nick Allen, SS, Oakland Athletics (Stockton Ports)
Allen landed a well over-slot bonus in 2017’s third round out of high school, lauded at the amateur level for his excellent defense, solid contact skills, and polished instincts. It took some time for his bat to show any life at the pro level, but his prospect stock is trending up after a .296/.367/.455 showing in the first half en route to an all-star bid in the California League.
Allen is quite short, listed at only 5-foot-8 and perhaps an inch or two beneath that. While he won’t ever be much of a power threat, the bat-to-ball skill is plus and his ability to shoot the gaps has improved with strength gains. Allen makes consistent line drive contact to both fields, rarely striking out and putting pressure on the defense with solid speed. His mix of quickness and instincts makes him a stolen base threat, projecting for double-digit swipes over a full season. Allen’s best tools are on defense, where he’s extremely polished at shortstop with a very quick first step and the fastest transfer many scouts have seen in years. His raw arm-strength is more average than plus from the deep hole, but Allen’s footwork and release play it up given the speed with which he gets rid of the ball.
Though he’s certainly cut from a different cloth than the tall, offensive-minded shortstop of today’s era, the sum of Allen’s parts could make him a throwback everyday infielder that sets the table at the top of a big league lineup. He will need to hit and reach base enough to fulfill that ceiling, though his offensive improvements in 2019 suggest the bat is trending in the right direction. Even if Allen falls short of that upside, his defensive wizardry and fundamental game raise the floor and could make him a bench piece.
Jeter Downs, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (Rancho Cucamonga Quakes)
Downs was the 32nd overall pick from a Florida high school by the Reds in 2017, heading to the Dodgers in the off-season mega-deal that included Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and Matt Kemp. Named an all-star in the California League, he’s enjoying a power spike in the hitter-friendly circuit. Downs has upped his ISO by nearly 80 points and has almost matched his home run total from all of last year in the first half of 2019.
An athletic 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, the 20-year-old looks the part in the middle infield. Despite easy actions and soft hands at shortstop, he’s an iffy bet to stick at the position and scouts are split on his long-term defensive home. Downs will boost his chances at a significant big league role by proving capable at the 6, though he’ll need to improve his range to all sides and get more comfortable going back on popups. With an arm that’s more average than plus, there’s a chance Downs winds up at 2B long term. At the plate, he brings good power to the table for an infielder with a contact profile that bodes well for future home run outputs. Downs is putting more than 50-percent of his balls in play in the air for the second consecutive season, giving hope his power surge isn’t just a California League mirage. He appeared more focused on driving the ball than making contact or reaching base in my four-game look, with a consistent hole covering the outer-third of the plate—especially on off-speed. Though he certainly hits with a presence in the batter’s box, Downs’ low motor on the offensive side of the ball has concerned scouts this season.
With defensive improvements at shortstop—or if he can become a solid-average hit/power producer, no matter where he plays—Downs’ ceiling is an everyday big leaguer in the middle infield. Downs will only turn 21-years-old in July, so there’s plenty of time to dream on some improvements across the board. The fairly high likelihood he stays at a center-diamond position, coupled with his ability to drive the ball, can make him a solid role player even if he falls short of his FV 50 upside.
Lazaro Armenteros, OF, Oakland Athletics (Stockton Ports)
The Cuban outfielder signed with much fanfare, agreeing to a $3 million amateur bonus with the Athletics in 2016. He showed big power potential in the Midwest League last year with questionable contact ability, and it has been much of the same so far in 2019 for High-A Stockton. Named to the California League All-Star Game, Armenteros slashed .227/.356/.437 in the first half this season.
A chiseled 6-foot and 182 pounds, Armenteros is a plus athlete and physical specimen. He looks more like a center-diamond defender and plus runner than his tools play in games, however, as a below-average arm limits him to LF and he isn’t very aggressive on the bases. The calling card here is power potential, as Armenteros puts on a show in BP with 60-grade raw to the pullside. There are ample questions about how much of that juice will translate to games, partially due to his stiff, unorthodox setup that causes length and lacks much natural rhythm. He whistles the bat through the zone with speed and strength, but a locked front arm bars off the inner-third of the plate and limits his present barrel control. Armenteros’ approach is geared to pull fastballs, and while his track record of drawing walks helps buoy a feast-or-famine mentality, the strikeout numbers will have to come down in order to have much big league value. He whiffed in above 30-percent of his Midwest League plate appearances in 2018, and that number has snowballed to over 40-percent this year in High-A.
The raw ingredients of a slugging corner outfielder are here, but the 20-year-old has a ways to go from a hit tool perspective to reach that ceiling. Hitters that strike out at the rate he has–especially through A-Ball–rarely ever cut into that number very much. This type of player needs to clear 25-30 HRs to be a FV 50 (or better) contributor on a corner, and though he’s a low-probability prospect, Armenteros at least has the raw power to have a puncher’s chance at finishing that type of slugger. A best-case scenario for this low-average, high-strikeout, right-handed corner profile is the man currently patrolling LF for Oakland, Khris Davis. More realistically, Armenteros falls a bit short of that upside given the burden of his strikeout numbers.
Cal Raleigh, C, Seattle Mariners (Modesto Nuts)
Raleigh was Seattle’s third-rounder in 2018 from Florida State. He has moved quickly through his first year of pro ball, performing well last summer in the Northwest League and named an all-star this year in the California League after skipping over Low-A entirely. I got a quick live look at the 22-year-old backstop during the circuit’s mid-season all-star game this June.
A large, broad 6-foot-3, Raleigh has good physicality for catching and the raw power to match. His ability to drive the ball from both sides of the plate is intriguing—especially at a premium position—and he put that pop on display during the league’s home run derby prior to the all-star game. There’s some length to his swing, and despite fairly manageable strikeout rates so far, Raleigh has the look of a hitter that might always come with some swing and miss once he gets to higher levels. He was seen as a bat-first prospect coming out of the draft, and while that’s still largely true, he has made strides blocking and receiving. Raleigh’s arm, transfer, and footwork all are works in progress, but there’s reason to hope he’ll develop into at least a playable, if not average, defender behind the plate.
Raleigh has most value if he sticks at catcher; he only fits at 1B otherwise, and this type of offensive profile is much more generic there. He won’t turn 23 until after this season, and it’s possible to project on his glove considering 2019 is Raleigh’s first full year of pro ball. In the best case scenario, he develops into an average defender behind the plate while getting to the power enough to fit as an offensive-minded everyday backstop. Short of that, Raleigh’s floor is a bopping second option at catcher or standard one-dimensional slugger if he’s forced to move to 1B.
Jameson Hannah, OF, Oakland Athletics (Stockton Ports)
Hannah was Oakland’s second-rounder in the 2018 Draft from .Dallas Baptist. After a solid showing in his New York-Penn League pro debut, the A’s skipped him over the Midwest League entirely and assigned Hannah directly to High-A Stockton. Though he still hasn’t shown much pop to date, Hannah’s polished hit tool has been on display in 2019. Named a California League all-star at mid-season, the 21-year-old outfielder slashed .273/.337/.382 in the season’s first half.
Hannah’s compact left-handed stroke–paired with good feel for the zone and an advanced approach–makes him a potential top-of-the-lineup option. He projects as a solid to average hitter at the big league level, with enough sting to the gaps for doubles power. Defensively, Hannah covers plenty of ground in the outfield and shows closing speed running balls down to both sides. While he has split most of his innings between CF and RF this year, a fringy to below-average arm likely limits him to CF or LF in the big leagues. He’s more of an average runner than plus, able to steal the occasional bag on the strength of his instincts as opposed to burning speed.
Hannah would profile as an everyday outfielder with more power, though at 5-foot-9, it’s unlikely he develops into much of a home run threat. Despite his solid feel for the barrel, he’s a bit of a tweener given an average glove in CF without big power. The likely outcome is a quality fourth outfielder or low-end regular, with enough hitting ability and defensive versatility to spot start in an extra role. Hannah could finish a tick more than that if he proves capable of playing an above-average CF full-time.
FEATURED SCOUTING REPORTS
MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres (Lake Elsinore Storm)
Potential front-of-the-rotation lefty with incredible mix of stuff, pitchability, and polish for his age.
Ryan Rolison, LHP, Colorado Rockies (Asheville Tourists)
Solid-average stuff across the board with plus control/command; high-floor prospect with mid-rotation upside.
Luis Campusano, C, San Diego Padres (Lake Elsinore Storm)
Prospect stock is trending up given improvements at the plate; solid defensive ability with chance for above-average hit tool at premium position.
Heliot Ramos, OF, San Francisco Giants (San Jose Giants)
Toolsy outfielder has consistently been among the youngest players in each league he has played in as a pro; everyday upside on a corner with chance to be more if he sticks in CF.
Esteury Ruiz, 2B, San Diego Padres (Lake Elsinore Storm)
Unusual speed/power tools for wiry middle infield build; needs work at 2B and might wind up a jack-of-all-trades defender if he can learn the outfield.
Connor Wong, C, Los Angeles Dodgers (Rancho Cucamonga Quakes)
Improving defensively at catcher with intriguing power potential for the position; contact and strikeout issues could be problems.
Gabriel Arias, SS, San Diego Padres (Lake Elsinore Storm)
Young, toolsy middle infielder with power potential and strong arm; hitting ability, approach, and future defensive home are long term questions.
OTHERS OF NOTE
|Kyle Bradish||LAA||Inland Empire||RHP||Video||Spotlight|
|Oliver Ortega||LAA||Inland Empire||RHP||Video||Spotlight|
|Donovan Casey||LAD||Rancho Cucamonga||OF||Video|
|Devin Mann||LAD||Rancho Cucamonga||2B||Video||Report|
|Logan Salow||LAD||Rancho Cucamonga||LHP||Video|
|Camilo Doval||SFG||San Jose||RHP||Video||Spotlight|