Feature Photo: Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
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2019 LEAGUE ALL-STAR PREVIEWS
(Updated as each piece is released)
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Tyler Freeman, SS, Cleveland Indians (Lake County Captains)
The 71st overall pick in 2017 from a California high school, Freeman moved onto the national prospect radar after a huge season in the New York-Penn League last summer. He slashed .352/.405/.511 with 14 stolen bases, showing excellent bat-to-ball skill with a minuscule seven-percent strikeout rate. That elite contact skill has carried over to the full-season level, named to the Midwest League all-star team after slashing .294/.386/.429 in the first half of 2019.
Freeman has all the makings of a plus hit tool, frequently barreling balls with a quick and short path. His swing is geared to spray line drives around the field, and the bat speed is here to grow into some sneaky power with any increase in lift. He’s an excellent line drive hitter, squaring up over 25-percent of his balls in play on a line so far this season. Freeman is more fundamental than flashy on defense, playing up average range and fringy arm-strength with a fast transfer. Scouts who saw him last summer raved about his intangibles and leadership, already having improved significantly since turning pro and showing the makeup to continue getting the most out of his tools. Freeman’s potential plus hit tool gives him the chance to be an above-average player, especially if he’s able to tease out more power and/or stick at shortstop in the future.
Xavier Edwards, SS, San Diego Padres (Ft. Wayne TinCaps)
Double-plus speed may have headlined the pre-draft profile for the former Vandy commit, but Edwards’s hit tool really impressed in his limited pro action last year when he slashed a combined .346/.453/.409 over 45 games split between the AZL and Northwest League. It has been more of the same through his first half of full-season ball, as the speedy infielder has electrified the Midwest League to the tune of a .352/.404/.412 slash line with 17 steals (with nearly as many walks as strikeouts) en route to an all-star nod.
Edwards handles the barrel well, and while he won’t hit for much over-the-fence power, he should start to drive the gaps as he gets stronger. His game-changing speed frequently stretches singles into doubles, so there’s extra-base potential even without significant home run outputs. Defensively, he has the athleticism and actions to handle shortstop long term, though his arm is more average than plus and could move him off the position at higher levels. There’s some chance he sticks, but even if not, he’s athletic enough to stay up the middle at 2B or CF given his speed. Edwards’ ceiling is a top-of-the-lineup catalyst with plus defensive and base running contributions. The hitting ability he has shown early in his pro career is exciting, as players with this type of speed can become valuable parts of an offense if they make enough quality contact.
Brice Turang, SS, Milwaukee Brewers (Wisconsin Timber Rattlers)
After a decorated amateur career on the showcase circuit and with Team USA, Turang may have been the victim of some prospect fatigue. He was still a first-rounder, but went later in Day 1 of the draft than many expected, sliding to Milwaukee at #21 overall from a Southern California high school. Turang showed his polish by slashing .283/.396/.352 after signing, reaching the Pioneer League by season’s end and walking nearly as much as he struck out. Despite limited power in his first taste of full-season ball, the same polished hit tool and on-base ability have been on display in the Midwest League this season. Turang was named a mid-seaon all-star after hitting .300 in the first half, once again walking nearly as much as he struck out.
Turang has the physical tools to play shortstop in the big leagues, carrying his 6-foot-1 frame with lean, quick-twitch muscularity. He’s a plus athlete with good actions and body control in the field, showing enough arm for the position with a quick transfer. At the plate, he lacks the present strength and lift in his swing to generate much home run power right now. Turang has a short, efficient stroke that makes lots of contact, and his hitting ability is played up by a very patient approach. He’s fearless going late in counts and shows a mature feel to work pitchers into giving him something to hit. He conservatively projects as a future 50-grade hitter who consistently draws walks, able to grow into 40 or 45-grade power with continued strength gains. It’s more likely what power does develop offensively conveys to game action as gap sting rather than true over-the-fence loft.
Turang’s chances at being an everyday 2-3 WAR contributor center around his ability to stay at short. The potential to develop an average hit tool at a premium position give him the upside of a long-time regular at the 6. His polished and well-rounded game gives a higher floor than most recent high school draftees, even if he winds up falling short of that ceiling.
Ryan Weathers, LHP, San Diego Padres (Ft. Wayne TinCaps)
The son of former major leaguer David Weathers, Ryan has advanced feel for a solid three-pitch mix with polished command for his age. The lefty can work comfortably across his full arsenal throughout the zone and in any count, making him a good candidate to moving quickly through the lower-levels where hitters are bound to be overmatched by his execution. That is exactly what has happened so far, as the 19-year-old southpaw has cruised through the Midwest League in 2019 and is one of the top arms in the circuit’s mid-season all-star game.
Weathers’ fastball works comfortably in the low 90s, touching 95/96 mph, with plenty of deception due to his ability the shield the ball well from hitters. He mixes in an above-average to plus changeup with good fade and excellent deception off of the fastball out of the hand. His curveball is developing, but already plays consistently as a solid average or better offering with room to grow pitch a full grade as he continues to improve its consistency. Provided he can stay healthy, Weathers has a higher floor than most prep arms, as his polish could make him a #4/#5 SP at the very least. He could wind up better than that if his stuff really misses bats at higher levels.
Shane McClanahan, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays (Bowling Green Hot Rods)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 188 lbs. B/T: L / L Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 11m
Though he has been promoted to the Florida State League and won’t be participating in the all-star game, McClanahan was rightfully named to the East Division team after a solid 58 inning effort in the Midwest League. He struck out 74 hitters in those 11 appearances, including four starts where he whiffed seven (or more) opposing batters while allowing less than three earned runs. In his High-A debut last week against Bradenton, McClanahan held the Marauders scoreless through 5.1 innings and struck out 10.
Heading into his draft year at the University of South Florida, McClanahan was seen as a potential top-of-the-draft type of arm. He showed some of the best stuff in the 2018 class early in the spring before falling into a funk closer to June, sliding a bit to the Rays with the 31st overall pick. The control concerns are still there–he’s walking more than 12-percent of hitters this season–but his stuff is just as good, if not a bit better (improving changeup and off-speed consistency). His fastball touches 97-to-98 mph every time out and sits comfortably in the mid-90s, backed up by a power low-80s curve that flashes above-average. It’s still a distant third pitch, but the change shows glimpses of developing into a solid offering. Though it’s thrown hard in the upper-80s, that’s still plenty of separation off his plus fastball, with occasional diving action that gives reason to project up with more reps.
McClanahan is a polarizing prospect, one that would be an impactful mid-rotation starter if he could maintain the same stuff while cutting down his walk rate. Lefties with this type type of velocity and power spin are rare, and there’s a chance he’s still a tweak or two away from harnessing two potentially 60-grade pitches enough to fit as a starter long term. In the event that free passes and shaky control/command always hold him back at higher levels, it’s very easy to envision McClanahan as a bullpen weapon–potentially with multi-inning capability.
Alek Thomas, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (Kane County Cougars)
Thomas was the 63rd overall pick in 2018 draft from a Chicago-area high school. His father is the White Sox Director of Strength and Conditioning, and the time around the big leagues made him far more pro-ready than most cold-weather prep hitters. After putting up big numbers in his 2018 debut, Thomas hasn’t slowed down since moving to full-season ball, slashing .285/.378/.463 for Kane County en route to an all-star bid in the Midwest League.
His feel for the barrel is impressive, especially considering how much pre-pitch movement exists in his swing. Plus hand/eye and an advanced sense of the zone combine for a potential plus hit tool; Thomas has consistently posted above average walk rates, a trait that bodes well for his on-base ability. He makes a lot of hard contact, and though he might not wind up a huge home run threat, there’s sneaky power potential if he can start lifting the ball more. Most of his present contact is low line drives or on the ground, and though he uses the other field well, he trades power for contact by not opening up on pitches to pull. A plus runner, Thomas’ wheels show up in the outfield and on the bases. He’s a stolen base threat and projects to play a solid CF.
The ingredients are here for a well-rounded everyday outfielder who contributes to all parts of the game. Even if he’s short of that ceiling, the base running and defensive ability could still get Thomas to the big leagues in a reserve role. There’s a best-case scenario where he taps into more power and starts showing a true five-tool skill set, something that would move him above the FV 50 tier.
Blaze Alexander, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks (Kane County Cougars)
Alexander was looking like a potential early-round pick in last year’s draft, but an up-and-down senior spring at IMG Academy dropped him to the 11th round. He signed with Arizona for an over-slot $500K bonus in 2018, skipping over a South Carolina commitment by doing so. Alexander had an excellent pro debut, slashing .329/.417/.538 between the Arizona and Pioneer Leagues. Like many teenagers in the Midwest League, he started off slow to begin 2019 battling full-season competition and brutal weather. Alexander has found his footing since, however, slashing .259/.355/.388 since May with an impressive 10-percent walk rate.
His simple, compact swing projects to make lots of contact, and there could be some power coming given a wiry-strong frame. Alexander has some chance to remain at shortstop, where his cannon arm is a weapon and allows him to play deep. His game requires some projection, but the tools are here for a low-end regular or solid role player who can move around the field. Alexander’s arm-strength is unique–among the better infield throwing arms in the minors–which could allow him to play almost any position on the field in a utility role considering his plus athleticism.
FEATURED SCOUTING REPORTS
Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays (Bowling Green Hot Rods)
Elite hitting tools with unique mix of power and zone control, one of baseball’s best prospects; production at the plate (relative to age and level) compares to top offensive prospects of the last few years.
Nolan Gorman, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals (Peoria Chiefs)
Huge power potential gives the ceiling of an impactful middle-of-the-lineup bat; swing/miss issues and struggles versus LHP have been exposed a bit this year.
Brailyn Marquez, LHP, Chicago Cubs (South Bend Cubs)
High-ceiling lefty with ceiling of power mid-rotation starter; plus fastball touches the upper-90s with chance for above-average secondary.
Jose Soriano, RHP, Los Angeles Angels (Burlington Bees)
Physical, athletic righty with effortless high-90s heat and flashes of a power curve; poor changeup, control/command risk factors that need to improve to profile as a long term starter.
OTHERS OF NOTE
|Eric Marinez||OAK||Beloit Snappers||RHP||Video||Spotlight|
|Easton McGee||TAM||Bowling Green Hot Rods||RHP||Spotlight|
|Chris Betts||TAM||Bowling Green Hot Rods||C||Video|
|Robinson Pina||LAA||Burlington Bees||RHP||Spotlight|
|Jerar Encarnacion||MIA||Clinton LumberKings||OF||Video||Spotlight|
|Henry Henry||SDP||Fort Wayne TinCaps||RHP||Video||Spotlight|
|Jose Chacin||LAD||Great Lakes Loons||RHP||Video|
|Buddy Kennedy||ARI||Kane County Cougars||3B||Spotlight|
|Will Benson||CLE||Lake County Captains||OF||Video||Spotlight|
|Delvin Perez||STL||Peoria Chiefs||SS||Spotlight|
|Matt Ruppenthal||HOU||Quad Cities River Bandits||RHP||Video||Spotlight|
|Jeremy Pena||HOU||Quad Cities River Bandits||SS||Video|
|Riley Thompson||CHC||South Bend Cubs||RHP||Video||Spotlight|
|Andy Weber||CHC||South Bend Cubs||SS||Video|
|Adam Hill||MIL||Wisconsin Timber Rattlers||RHP||Spotlight|
|David Fry||MIL||Wisconsin Timber Rattlers||C||Video|
|Jesus Lujano||MIL||Wisconsin Timber Rattlers||OF||Spotlight|