With the 2018 Amateur Draft draft now completed, teams are working quickly to get those newly drafted players signed. We are working to bring you a review of those drafts, starting next week. As such, this week is my last dive into the minor leagues to bring you some names in advance of those draft reviews.
My first player was going to be Daniel Poncedeleon of the St. Louis Cardinals. However, they called him up on Monday, June 11. I was going to talk about his recovery from a Victor Caratini (Cubs) line drive. Video here. Poncedeleon now wears a carbon-fiber insert in his cap, much like Matt Shoemaker (Angels), and it’s probably just a matter of time before more pitchers are being proactive in that manner, just like batters are now wearing more face-guards.
Instead of providing deeper details on him, we’ll simply wish him the best. (He’s looked great thus far in AAA in 2018. Maybe a little BB/9 control issue … but otherwise Poncedeleon absolutely looks ready for the challenge.) Let’s have a look at three other players: two pitchers and one first baseman. Let’s start with our position player:
Name: Peter Alonso (Mets)
Height: 6-3 Weight: 245 Throws: Right Bats: Right
Born: December 7, 1994 (Age: 23), Tampa, FL
College: University of Florida
Drafted: Amateur Draft 2016 (June);
2nd Round, 64th Overall by the Mets
Prospect Rank: #4 (Mets)
Currently Playing: AA Binghamton Rumble Ponies
Having recently acquired Alonso as my 1B of the future in one Dynasty League, I soon after stumbled across a blog insisting that Alonso hasn’t gotten the call because of some of his own deficiencies: 7-38 mini-slump, defensive issues (6 errors on the year), a large jump from AA to MLB, and a current Giancarlo Stanton-like HR/FB ratio of 23.4% (in addition to the Mets’ roster management ineptitude).
After starting 11-2, the Mets have fallen. Hard. They’ve gone 17-32 in the 49 games since starting 11-2. (Reference point: the Marlins started 4-9 and since their opening 13 games are 20-33 since. But wait, let’s compare apples to apples and just look at each teams’ last 49 games: Mets 17-32 vs. Marlins 19-30. Seriously? The Marlins are better than the Mets over the last 49? (We all knew the Marlins would be bad this year, but did we really believe that they would be better than the Mets (at any point)? I know I sure didn’t.)
Injuries have absolutely not helped. But every single team has a seat on that ship. (Granted, some teams [and positions] have more seats than others, like Nationals’ outfielders or Diamondbacks’ starters, but no team is immune to injuries.) But if you just begin by having a look at the Mets’ depth chart and their performances to date, you’d realize they were in trouble long ago. From attempting to resurrect Adrian Gonzalez’s career to using Jay Bruce as the backup first baseman to the Todd Frazier signing at third, none of these have panned out.
Gonzalez truly is A-gone, as he’s now looking for a new gig.
Bruce has regressed to almost identical numbers as to when he was traded to New York in 2016 by Cincinnati.
Frazier is supplying some power, but continues to bring down the career AVG. Good news here is that at least Frazier is getting on base more (walk percentage is around 13.1%, a little shy of 2017’s number, but still much higher than the rest of his MLB career).
Dominic Smith has proven overmatched at the MLB and subsequently the AAA level on his return there.
So where does that leave us? That leaves us with the #4 prospect in the Mets’ organization, Peter Alonso, comfortably cruising along in AA. In his time spent in AA, Alonso has collected 255 ABs (300 PAs) over 73 games and in that opportunity has amassed: 17 HRs, 0.310 AVG, 0.413 OBP (45 BBs, 56 Ks), with a 0.982 OPS.
Knowing that baseball has peaks and valleys and thus small sample sizes should be discarded, I’m electing to focus on half-a-season’s worth of games. Further understanding that most teams leave their top-end prospects at the AA level to compete against other organizations higher-ranked prospects (rather than having them in AAA for extended periods of time competing against older prospects, players who are no longer prospects (but are still productive against minor league players), and lifelong minor league veterans). Every now and again, you’ll see a prospect who just needs polishing and practice rather than developmental time in AA, so some top prospects will garner time in AAA. It’s really a combination of what the team as a whole needs. (Think the Blue Jays and how they were letting Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (Blue Jays) just obliterate AA pitching. Guerrero proved there wasn’t much more he could do in AA, but the Blue Jays weren’t ready for him to just “sit” at AAA. And maybe they really did want him to work on his defense in AA.
Back to Alonso … he’s proven that he can hit and admittedly, he probably could use some additional defensive training. His success at AA against some of the league’s best prospect-level competition suggests to me that he could be successful with the Mets at the MLB-level. With the release of Gonzalez, the failings of Smith, and need of Bruce in the outfield (due to injuries and other performance-based issues), now seems to be the perfect time to call up Alonso and give him a chance to show what he can do. I have already stashed him for 2019. Who knows, maybe I’ll get him some at bats out of him a little early? I surely hope so.
Name: Logan Allen (Padres)
Height: 6-3 Weight: 200 Throws: Left Bats: Right
Born: May 23, 1997 (Age: 21), West Palm Beach, FL
Drafted: Amateur Draft 2015 (June);
8th Round, 231st Overall by the Red Sox
Prospect Rank: #8 (Padres)
Currently Playing: AA San Antonio Missions
Logan Allen is making his own waves at AA for a Padres’ farm system that continues to grow stronger. Acquired by the Padres in 2015 in the Craig Kimbrel trade with the Red Sox, he has continued working his way up the prospect ranking: #16 (2016), #13 (2017), and #8 this year.
Allen does a pretty good job of controlling baserunners (1.167 WHIP) by limiting hits, allowing only 56 hits in 73.2 IP thus far in 2018. While opponents are only hitting 0.210 against him on the season, Allen is a little more giving on the free passes, offering up 30 over those same 73.2 IP, or 3.67 per 9 innings. By further developing his control (coming in at 50 on the 80-scale), he’ll be able to bring down that WHIP even further.
At the beginning of his professional career, Allen had a high-80s fastball (55). As he has matured and strengthened, he now operates in the 92-94 MPH range and the fastball has late life. Allen also possesses a change-up (60) and a curve (50) to complete his three-pitch arsenal. As 2018 has unfolded, he’s continued to improve across the board, setting himself up to potentially be the “next man up” for the Padres when they need someone to fill a rotation spot. With Joey Luchessi still on the DL (another player who no previous AAA experience), Eric Lauer (#9 pre-season Padres ranking and a standout 2017 between A+ and AA) not fully seizing his opportunity with the big club, and the Padres only 6.5 GB of first in the West, there is still a lot to play for. And the Padres have access to the talent to compete.
Allen should definitely be in that mix and I believe he’ll get the call this summer. If he can get his BB/9 down below 3.00 and his K/9 back over 10.00 (currently at 9.77), those may be the two metrics I’d look for to roster him prior to being called up. Otherwise, I’m waiting on the Padres to make the call and then confident in his ability when they do.
Name: Taylor Widener (Diamondbacks)
Height: 6-0 Weight: 195 Throws: Right Bats: Left
Born: October 24, 1994 (Age: 23), Aiken, SC
College: University of South Carolina
Drafted: Amateur Draft 2016 (June);
12th Round, 368th Overall by the Yankees
Prospect Rank: #4 (Diamondbacks)
Currently Playing: AA Jackson Generals
A second pitcher covered this week that was traded to his current club. Widener was part of the three-team trade that sent brought Steven Souza Jr. to Arizona from Tampa Bay as well as sent Brandon Drury to the Yankees. Anthony Banda, former top prospect for the Diamondbacks, was also sent to the Rays, but now he’s another victim to TJS. (The final trade pieces were prospect Nick Solak from the Rays to the Yankees and two players to be named later from the Diamondbacks to the Rays.)
Yes, hindsight is 20-20. And yes, Souza has done nothing in 2018 (yet). But looking at performances to date and the composition of this trade, it looks like Arizona is the big winner. As alluded to previously, the Diamondbacks’ rotation has just been decimated by injury: Taijuan Walker (TJS 2018), Robbie Ray (strained oblique), and Shelby Miller (TJS 2017). They have even gone so far as to bring in Clay Buchholz, who has actually pitched well for them. But through these injuries to their rotation, as well as the 3 significant positional injuries (A.J. Pollock, Souza, and Jake Lamb) and 2 bullpen injuries (Braden Shipley and Jorge De La Rosa), somehow Arizona is still in first place. Their 18-7 March/ April absolutely helped, but they’re still holding on to first, currently with a 3 game lead over the Dodgers.
Widener, recently selected to the 2018 AA All-Star game, is having a dominating year down in Jackson, Tennessee for the Diamondbacks. Through 12 starts (61.2 IP), Widener has a 1.038 WHIP (44 hits, 20 walks), 77 strikeouts (11.24 per 9), 2.77 ERA, with less than 1 HR per 9 as well as an oAVG of 0.196. To say that Widener has been dealing in Jackson is an understatement. Widener has three quality starts on the season (he’s a combined 10 outs away from five more), and has only two rough outings on his ledger: April 6 vs. Jacksonville and May 9 at Chattanooga. Otherwise, Widener has been the type of consistent, innings-eating, out-generating force that the Diamondbacks are looking for. So much so, that they brought in Buchholz. Fortunately, the Buchholz experiment has worked to date.
When that experiment inevitably fails or another misfortune befalls the starting rotation, Widener is ready for the call. I like the kid’s make-up and believe he’ll succeed. I’ll be watching for the call as well and when it comes be scooping him up for the start.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned next week as we unpack the 2018 Amateur Draft, one division at a time.
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