by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Obviously there are always prospects whose stock is rising and falling, given their performances. While it’s impossible to pinpoint all of them, here are a few players whose early season numbers are sending then to either soar or sink (all stats are through Saturday):
Ranger Suarez – Philadelphia Phillies – Left-Handed Pitcher
Suarez wasn’t on radars entering the season, and it’s likely he’s still being lost in the shuffle behind rotation mate Sixto Sanchez (and others). However with the way he’s started the season we need to pay attention as he has the potential to fully breakout as a viable prospect before long.
Besides being left-handed, reports have his velocity up this season (touching 94 mph). It’s a small sample size (44.2 IP) and the 21-year old has only thrown 248.2 IP over parts of six seasons in the organization. That said, his underlying metrics this season are eye-popping:
- Strikeout Rate – 11.28 K/9
- SwStr% – 12.4%
- Walk Rate – 2.62 BB/9
- Groundball Rate – 63.0%
- GO/AO – 3.06
He’s always been a groundball pitcher (1.56 GO/AO for his career) and shown good control. It’s the strikeouts that have taken a significant step up, and that can be tied to his improved velocity. Sam Dykstra of MILB.com posted the following quote from Suarez’ current pitching coach, Brian Sweeney (click here for the full article) to explain the improvement:
“As his delivery got better, he’s got even better, and a lot of that came last year at Williamsport working with [pitching coach] Hector Burris. … It’s got more rhythm, and the way he uses his legs more has gotten better the more he develops. His velocity has jumped by becoming a more effective leg user, and that’s allowed him to add command as well.”
It’s not going to take long for others to start noticing the performance. His value is quickly rising and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him pushed to Double-A in the near future (though he will face an innings limit, having never thrown more than 80.2 IP in a season).
Stock – Quickly Soaring
Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers – Left-Handed Pitcher
Obviously his home ballpark hasn’t helped his performance, as he owns a 5.81 ERA and 1.58 WHIP while pitching at Triple-A (Pacific Coast League). That said, there are still significant concerns in the underlying metrics that go beyond the ballpark.
While Hader has been plagued by home runs this season (2.63 HR/9), and at least part of that can be tied to his location. Of course he’s given up more home runs on the road (8) than at home (6), despite pitching the same 24.0 innings. He’s also never been a groundball pitcher, and it’s not like Miller Park is going to be a favorable spot to pitch (GO/AO):
- 2014 – 0.77
- 2015 – 0.87
- 2016 – 0.87
- 2017 – 0.98
His control has also been abysmal, with a 5.44 BB/9. While it wasn’t a major issue coming up through the minors, he does now own a minor league career 4.0 BB/9 so we can’t say that it wasn’t of at least some concern. Unless he can fix it, the issues will remain.
With his strikeout stuff it’s possible that the Brewers ultimately decide he’s a better fit for the bullpen, though we haven’t quite reached that point. Regardless, with home run and control concerns it’s going to be impossible to fully trust him regardless of the role he’s utilized in. He needs to make some big improvements if he wants to thrive in the Majors and barring a quick and significant turnaround, he may not even get that opportunity in ’17 unless it’s in a relief role.
Stock – Falling
Jordan Humphreys – New York Mets – Right-Handed Pitcher
While their development of pitchers have been the bigger story of the Mets farm system in recent years, currently they are overloaded with offensive prospects (Ahmed Rosario & Dominic Smith). However it’s allowed Humphreys to fly a bit under the radar, though that won’t last much longer.
In eight starts (51.2 IP) at Single-A he’s posted an impressive 1.57 ERA and 0.70 WHIP. You wouldn’t think that it could get better, but it does. How about an 11.32 K/9 vs. a 1.22 BB/9? That is an elite ratio, and while he doesn’t generate a significant number of groundballs (42.2%) it’s certainly not a hindrance.
His stuff isn’t overpowering by any means, but he knows how to use it. Here’s how MLB.com has described his arsenal:
“Humphreys has advanced feel for sequencing his four-pitch mix and knows how to attack hitters on both sides of the plate. His fastball operates at 90-94 mph with good riding life, and it pairs nicely with a curveball that will flash above average with good shape and improving depth. Humphreys’ changeup plays firm, but is effective against left-handed hitters, and he’ll also mix in a slider.”
It’s a good mix, and one that should allow him to be a starter at the highest levels. Of course he’s not quite as good as his current ratios look, but he’s certainly taken a step in the right direction and deserves to be on our radar.
Stock – Trending Up
Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: