Friday, May 31

A Small Top 100 Prospects Replace, Headlined by Ethan Salas and Andrew Abbott

Let’s dive proper into just a few incremental adjustments to the Top 100 prospects checklist, in addition to a few non-Top 100 additions.

Cardinals lefty Matthew Liberatore has had a velo spike — he’s steadily reaching again for 96 and 97 when he desires, and his fastball is averaging 94.5 mph. That’s up a few tick and a half from his common in 2022, when he ran an ERA properly north of 5.00 throughout about 150 mixed innings cut up principally between Triple-A and 7 massive league begins. Libby has had frequent sufficient velocity fluctuations throughout his time as a prospect to anticipate it is going to be a factor he offers with all through his profession, however his repertoire depth and the long-haul projection for his command will allow him to compete even when he doesn’t have his peak stuff. That’s largely why he was saved on the Top 100 this previous offseason though he had a poor 2022.

His FV isn’t altering in mild of the spike (once more, it’s truthful to wager Liberatore’s peak velo will proceed to yo-yo), however his report has been up to date and he’s sliding up about 20 spots, from the very again of the checklist (the place he sat with different bounce-back candidates) into the a part of it that features the opposite main league prepared fourth starters. He’s most likely higher than Jake Woodford is true now, however St. Louis could be burning Woodford’s final choice to swap them one-for-one. Woodford was efficient in aid final 12 months and will shift into that position once more whereas a present ‘pen occupant is sent down instead, but the Cardinals don’t have an apparent candidate for that, as their massive league relievers are largely both pitching properly or are out of choices.

It was rapidly apparent throughout spring coaching that Padres catching prospect Ethan Salas belonged on the Top 100, it simply wasn’t clear precisely the place. He’s been seen by scouts in minor league and prolonged spring coaching video games for the final six weeks, whereas I’ve seen him 5 or 6 instances throughout that stretch, and I now really feel like I’ve obtained a reasonably agency deal with on the place he belongs on the general checklist. Salas simply signed in January (he was the top-ranked participant on this worldwide class), so why ought to his analysis be any totally different in April? Well, a part of what dictates the FV grade of beginner gamers is their distance from the large leagues and the danger that they really aren’t good. Even faculty and well-traveled highschool gamers who generate a good quantity of knowledge are inherently extra risky than gamers who’ve carried out for just a few years within the minor leagues, and that is very true for worldwide signees, who solely generate information like, say, swing-and-miss charges — none of which is publicly accessible, and which groups hold guarded as a result of just some groups hold observe of statistics within the worldwide house — if groups observe it manually.

There have been many high-profile, well-regarded beginner gamers who arrive in professional ball and appear so misplaced and overmatched that you understand fairly rapidly that, at greatest, issues are going to take some time to pan out and, at worst, received’t pan out in any respect. Athletics prospect Robert Puason and Royals prospect Erick Peña are two latest examples of this. After they had been seen going through professional pitching for a short while, even in settings like prolonged spring coaching the place stats aren’t saved, there was alarm that neither was going to hit in any respect. Kevin Maitan, in the meantime, regarded noticeably larger throughout his first Instructional League, with the arrow pointing down fairly rapidly. And whereas I definitely didn’t bury him after seeing him that first fall, it turned out to be a related information level.

Salas is the polar reverse of this, and along with me having seen him do some ridiculous issues in particular person, the tales about his particular person exploits have traveled like wildfire by way of the contingent of scouts who’ve had complex-level protection this spring. He would typically play in minor league spring coaching video games a number of ranges above his teenage friends (for example, in a Double-A recreation with some gamers almost 10 years older than him) and nonetheless carry out. Last Thursday, throughout my most up-to-date look, he swung over high of a back-foot breaking ball earlier than making an adjustment on the subsequent one, dropping the bat head to scoop the ball into the proper subject nook and legging out a triple. Two at-bats later, he flattened his path to get on high of a 95-mph fastball, which he didn’t get all of however nonetheless drove to only shy of the warning observe in useless heart subject. I watched Lourdes Gurriel Jr. do virtually the very same factor within the native massive league recreation later that night time, and he’s 13 years older than Salas.

The bodily instruments and body projection from Salas’ beginner report are all as marketed, and confidence in his hit software has been strengthened by his look through the very early phases of his professional profession. He’s considerably uncooked as a receiver, however that’s typical of a teenage catching prospect, particularly one getting his first constant publicity to pro-quality stuff. Salas does every little thing else properly already. He’s hitting and hitting for energy to all fields, and he has an enormous arm and distinctive lateral agility that ought to make him a ball-blocking wall over time.

Salas presents two conundrums. First, how do you line up a soon-to-be-17-year-old prospect on a continuum of gamers that features guys who’re eight years older than he’s? If we’re in search of an apples-to-apples strategy to triangulate the place a participant like this belongs on a common prospect checklist, it’s logical to look towards the draft. Salas will flip 17 in June, making him youthful on the time of the draft than even Cam Collier was when the Reds chosen him 18th total final 12 months. Still, if we’re evaluating his instruments and athletic projection with the 2023 class, you can also make a reasonably coherent argument that Salas would come off the board second after LSU outfielder Dylan Crews. He doesn’t have the identical statistical efficiency observe document of a Max Clark or a Walker Jenkins, however he has extra typical bodily projection than both of them and performs a extra significant place. Once-in-a-blue-moon draft prospects, like a Crews or an Adley Rutschman, have a tendency to finish up within the 60 FV tier by draft day, whereas Salas appears like he belongs a tier under that because of the relative lack of observe document.

It’s robust to argue that Salas ought to rank forward of Diego Cartaya, Endy Rodriguez, Tyler Soderstrom and the opposite catchers within the 55 FV and above tier as a result of whereas Salas is as proficient as that group, the others have a efficiency observe document you may actually sink your enamel into. Even Miguel Bleis has a 12 months of big on-paper efficiency to hold one’s hat on. And so Salas slides in on the very again of the 55 FV tier. I’ve up to date his report on The Board.

Now, concerning the second conundrum Salas creates. Even as “offline” as I’m anymore, I’m aware of the strain that hype and expectations can placed on younger athletes, and the way quick and intimate their entry to these expectations could be since they carry the important thing to them round of their pockets and scroll by way of them through the idle components of their day. I feel it’s vital to let you know how good this skilled baseball participant may be, however I additionally don’t need the comparatively inconsiderate, snowballing, 280-character knock-on results from saying so to impression Salas’ younger personhood or his profession end result in a detrimental method.

Whether they’re coping with on-line hate or overbearing autograph hounds at their affiliate, to be a extremely good baseball prospect (or an athletic wunderkind of any form) is a a lot totally different expertise now than it was after I began doing this. You can look throughout sports, from girls’s tennis to the NBA, and doubtless produce examples off the highest of your head of younger athletes who appear to have been negatively affected just by having the expertise of being a promising younger athlete. I don’t assume ignoring prodigies is the reply to this subject, and since a lot of the toxicity appears to be generated by and accessed on the web, I’m unsure there’s one — our tradition could begin naturally choosing for individuals who can both deal with anti-social interactions or (gulp) thrive by collaborating in them — however I hope FanGraphs readers bear the detrimental ripple results in thoughts as we monitor Salas’ efficiency.

Anyway, talking of conundrums, the ultimate Top 100 replace pertains to Reds lefty Andrew Abbott, who was so dominant throughout his first three begins at Double-A Chattanooga this 12 months that he posted a detrimental FIP; he’s since been promoted to Triple-A Louisville, the place he made his first begin final night time. Abbott has 43 strikeouts in 20.2 innings to date this season and, after speaking to a scout who has seen Abbott this 12 months and a few in-office analysts information, I’m able to re-evaluate Abbott, although not and not using a key caveat.

Abbott has had a velo spike (every little thing is up about 1.5 ticks throughout the board) and upped his changeup utilization (it’s almost doubled, as much as 14% from 8% to date this 12 months per Synergy), and like plenty of different pitchers, he’s altered his breaking ball form to incorporate extra sweep at the price of downward, vertical drop. It’s attainable he has added a totally new, second breaker to enhance his curveball, which might be a welcome improvement, although it’s not apparent on paper whether or not he’s simply altering the form of 1 breaking ball when he desires to land it within the zone or if he’s utilizing a wholly separate grip. Either method, every of Abbott’s pitches has improved by a minimum of half a grade from his offseason Reds writeup and he has a protracted sufficient observe document of strike-throwing in professional ball to begin to ignore his beginner observe document as a reliever. Remember, Abbott was utterly handed over within the shortened 2020 draft due to his strike throwing at Virginia (he went within the second spherical in 2021), and the mere indisputable fact that he’s now greater than a full 12 months faraway from Charlottesville might be motive sufficient to imagine he’s gotten higher as a pitcher.

Here’s the caveat: as Yahoo’s Hannah Keyser reported firstly of the month, MLB is experimenting with a tacked baseball within the Southern League, the place Abbott’s first three begins happened. Is this having an impression on his (and everybody else’s) efficiency? Here once more I’ve a mix of anecdotal proof from a scout whose org was inquisitive about this, in addition to a entrance workplace member who regarded into it at my request. The common fastball within the Southern League at the moment has three extra inches of induced vertical break (about 20 inches) than is typical throughout professional baseball (about 17 inches). Abbott himself skilled a four-inch induced vertical break improve when in comparison with his 20 Double-A begins final 12 months. Abbott’s fastball, like plenty of the brief, vertical arm stroke lefties within the Clayton Kershaw mechanical mildew, has all the time punched above its weight on account of its using vertical motion and carry, which is a part of why he was an attention-grabbing faculty prospect even when he was sitting 90-92 mph. It’s truthful to conclude {that a} pitch like Abbott’s fastball may be particularly aided by the impacts of the tacked baseball when different points of his supply and fastball form assist actualize all that further motion. The velo uptick and breaking ball alterations have occurred independently of the baseball’s tack, and Abbott is a greater pitcher now than he was a 12 months in the past, however I don’t assume his Double-A dominance is exactly indicative of his new ability stage; his vertical break wasn’t pretty much as good in his first Triple-A begin. He now initiatives as a playoff workforce’s fourth starter.

Next, I’ve a few different Reds adjustments to focus on as I work to combat entropy throughout the prospect lists which were accomplished. First, 23-year-old righty Lyon Richardson is coming back from Tommy John surgical procedure with enormous arm energy, as he’s been sitting 95-99 mph throughout his first 4 begins, all of which have lasted three innings. Richardson has proven this form of velocity for spurts earlier than, however he hasn’t been in a position to maintain it for a starter’s load of innings due to the pandemic and the TJ. He’s been fastball-heavy to date throughout his return. Secondary pitch high quality and efficiency is the first factor standing between Richardson and the Top 100 checklist, and ideally we’ll see him maintain this velo as his innings depend grows. He’s been promoted to Double-A and is on the 40-man roster, however whereas his pitch grades and scouting report have been up to date, I haven’t touched his ETA as I nonetheless assume it’s extra probably {that a} post-surgery innings depend will hold him from getting something greater than a cup of espresso this season. Additionally, 18-year-old infielder Carlos Sanchez has been added to the Reds checklist. You can take a look at his and Richardson’s full scouting reviews on the Reds checklist over on The Board.

In non-Reds/Top 100 tweaks, Braves righty Jared Johnson has touched 99 mph within the time since our Braves prospect checklist printed, so he’s been pushed to their checklist (he was beforehand an honorable point out) and has an up to date report on The Board. I’ve additionally added all three late-20s Padres rookies — Brett Sullivan, Brent Honeywell Jr. (sure, he’s nonetheless a rookie, I forgot too), and Ray Kerr — to The Board since Sully and Kerr are each formally on the taxi squad to and from San Diego now.

Our subsequent full prospect checklist would be the Tigers (I’m in Florida proper now partly to see Lakeland and their prolonged spring group), whereas the Angels’ (the final workforce to begin enjoying prolonged spring coaching video games) and Cubs’ imminent massive leaguers may also roll out quickly.

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