by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Which prospects are tearing it up down on the farm? Obviously we can’t name them all, but here are three names that are currently streaking and need to be on all radars:
Jonathan Hernandez – Right-Handed Pitcher – Texas Rangers
The 21-year old has spent the year at High-A and has been dominating all year long. Over his 8 starts (46.1 IP) he’s posted a 1.94 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, showing all of the skills we look for from a pitcher:
- Strikeouts – 12.04 K/9
- Control – 3.11 BB/9
- Groundballs – 53.7%
While luck has played a role (92.1% strand rate) you simply can’t argue with the skills. He’s really put things together of late, with 21 K over 12.0 IP in his past two starts (and 9+ K in four of his past five) and with an overall 16.4% SwStr% it’s hard to argue with the results. Couple that with generally solid control (3.3 BB/9 over his minor league career) and similar groundballs (1.23 GO/AO for his career, 1.30 in ’18) and it’s easy to get excited.
This scouting report, courtesy of Baseball America after his last outing, just adds to it:
Hernandez sat 93-96 mph and touched 97 with significant running life on his fastball. He showcased an 86-87 mph slider that was inconsistent but a swing-and-miss pitch when it was on, and his improving changeup sat a steady 85 mph with fade to neutralize lefthanded hitters. The only hits he allowed were singles—and one was an infield single. He worked in and out with his fastball, kept his slider down and held his velocity and control the whole way to carve through Carolina’s lineup.
He has the potential to be among the biggest breakout starters of ’18 and at his age a trip to Double-A may not be far away.
Kevin Smith – Shortstop – Toronto Blue Jays
A 2017 fourth round draft pick, Smith’s numbers since being selected are eye-popping. Playing this season at Single-A he’s hitting .355 with 7 HR and 12 SB, while adding 23 doubles and 4 triples over 183 AB. Over 445 AB since being drafted he has 48 doubles, 5 triples and 15 HR while also showing plenty of speed (21-for-22 on stolen base attempts).
That type of power and speed would be enough to catch your attention, but a 15.5% strikeout rate courtesy of a 9.3% SwStr% only adds to the intrigue. Obviously he’s not a .355 hitter (he’s benefited from a .403 BABIP), but could he settle in as a .280-.290 (the strikeouts will likely rise as he advances) with power and speed?
You can argue he’s old for the level, as he’s already 21-years old (he’ll turn 22 on July 4), but it’s also impossible to ignore the results. With this many extra base hits coupled with the speed and limited strikeout rate, he is quickly climbing up the rankings.
Matt Thaiss – First Baseman – Los Angeles Angels
The question for the former first round draft pick has generally been his power, but he’s already tied his career high with 9 HR split between Double and Triple-A. He’s been particularly hot as of late (.375 with 4 HR over his past 10 games) and that includes all six games he’s played at Triple-A. With four straight multi-hit games, what’s not to like?
Obviously he’s not the .385 hitter he’s shown at Triple-A, but he’s at .301 overall courtesy of a .326 BABIP and 18.9% strikeout rate. With a 9.7% SwStr% and 13.3% HR/FB (which should only rise as he gains experience and matures) it’s easy to envision things getting even better. With 12 doubles and 3 triples the power should continue to develop.
Albert Pujols is nearing the end of his career, so there’s a natural fit for Thaiss to ultimately step in. While his rise the Majors isn’t imminent, that just gives him more time to develop and learn at Triple-A (putting him in position to thrive quickly).
Sources – MILB.com, Baseball America, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here. Also don’t miss all of our 2018 Preseason Positional Prospect Lists: