2018 Texas League Top 20 Chat

Image credit: Keibert Ruiz (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

Kegan Lowe: Hey y’all! Thanks for all the questions so far. And if you haven’t submitted your questions yet, go ahead and get them in now. I’ll try to answer as many as I can. Let’s go!

Jose (Louisville, Kentucky): 

    If you had to guess right now, do you think Tatis’ swing and miss issues will carry over into the majors and make him merely a good player rather than a recurring all-star, or will he continue to show the ability to make adjustments and be one of the top players in the league?

Kegan Lowe: It would be fitting to start at the top, so let’s tackle this question on Fernando Tatis Jr. No one I spoke with around the Texas League seemed to have any long-term concerns regarding Tatis’ swing. Yes, his strikeout rate was 27.7 percent, which is slightly higher than you’d like. But at the same time he was a 19-year-old in Double-A and he proved to be one of the best all-around hitters in the league, when healthy. He ranked No. 1 on this list for a reason, and he’s currently ranked No. 2 on BA’s Top 100 Prospects. I’d expect him to continue to make adjustments and lower his K rate as he gains more experience.

DH (Pittsburgh): 

    How do you suppose the Dodgers’ catcher situation works out? Will Smith & Keibert Ruiz both seem capable of being #1 guys.

Kegan Lowe: I think our rankings make it pretty clear that we rate Keibert Ruiz higher than Will Smith at the moment. Ruiz is only 20 years old and more than held his own in the Texas League this season. Now, Will Smith could very likely get to the majors before Ruiz, especially considering he is three years older and spent a chunk of time in Triple-A this season. However, if I’m only betting on one guy to be the Dodgers’ catcher in five years, give me Ruiz. Perhaps more interesting is Smith’s ability to play third base. Even if Smith never becomes the Dodgers’ full-time starting catcher, he could prove to have enough defensive versatility to still become a lineup regular one day.

dave (grayson, ga): 

    Did BA not do lists for short season leagues? Or did they just not make the print issue?

Kegan Lowe: Quick side note here. We did rank all short-season leagues. They will be published in the next issue of the magazine. We start with Triple-A and work our way down, and all of the leagues don’t fit in one issue. I’d imagine the short-season Top 20 chats will be sometime in the next two weeks, as well, so be on the look out for that.

DeacFan (Winston-Salem NC): 

    I know Parker Dunshee may not be a flashy prospect, but he has put up steadily impressive numbers. What does he need to do to get in the national radar?

Kegan Lowe: Always willing to answer a question from a Deacs fan, and Dunshee was actually a tough one for me. If you just look at his numbers at Double-A, they were actually very similar to Jesus Luzardo’s, who is obviously the top-ranked pitcher on this year’s TL list. To be fair, Dunshee is much older and more experienced than Luzardo, so maybe that speaks more to how good Luzardo was this season. Anyway, the reports on Dunshee’s stuff wasn’t overwhelming. He’s still upper 80s with the fastball, touching low 90s. Obviously, if he keeps putting up a 2.01 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning at Triple-A next season, then the A’s will have no choice but to give him a look in the majors. But for now, I still wasn’t confident enough that the stuff matched the statistics. Hopefully Dunshee will prove me wrong in the future.

Jerry (Austin): 

    Did Hooks’ pitchers Brandon Bielak or Akeem Bostick receive any consideration?

Kegan Lowe: Brandon Bielak actually would have been the next Corpus Christi player—pitcher or position player—to make this list, if it was extended. All of the reports I got back on him were solid. Low- to mid-90s fastball with a solid curveball and changeup. Still think he needs to work on his commanding his pitches in the zone, but I talked to at least one TL manager who was confident he’ll be a big leaguer in the future, even if it’s carving out a role as a 6th or 7th inning piece or as a long reliever.

Carl (San Antonio): 

    What are the chances DJ Peters can actually fix those holes and be a middle of the order bat?

Kegan Lowe: Ha, I think that’s the million dollar question, right? There’s no denying that Peters has produced outstanding power numbers recently and all of the reports I’ve received on his defensive ability were encouraging, as well. But it’s also true that his strikeout rate keeps increasing while his walk rate is decreasing year after year. If he can ever figure those two things out then he has the chance to be a special talent. And I think it’s a testament to just how much ability he already possesses that he ranks on a list as strong as this one with a strikeout rate north of 34 percent.

Johnny (Phoenix): 

    Granted, it is a AA league, but particularly for an 8 team league, the Texas League seemed pretty deep this season. Is that a fair analysis?

Kegan Lowe: I haven’t been doing this as long as most of the other people at BA, but yes, I’d say that’s a fair analysis. We rank every minor league from one star to five stars based on prospect strength, and people much smarter than me gave the Texas League four stars. I think the league was especially strong at the top this season, with players like Tatis, Luzardo and Ruiz making an impact at Double-A at an incredibly young age. And that’s without counting players like Forrest Whitley, Chris Paddack, Gavin Lux and others, who played in the Texas League this season but just didn’t have enough innings or at-bats to qualify.

Dave (SF): 

    Does past performance impact ranking? Specifically if Richie Martin was scouted this year without any prior track record would he rank higher? Thanks!

Kegan Lowe: That’s an interesting question, especially in the case of Richie Martin. On one hand, I think he gets the added benefit of being a first-round pick, which means scouts and GMs clearly saw top-level talent in him years ago. So when he does have a breakout season, like he did in 2018, I think you’ll find people that say, “Well, that was always there. Now he’s just figured it out.” And as a result, he may get pushed up list like this. But at the same time, anyone that saw Martin in 2016 or 2017 might be skeptical of his 2018 and might err on the side of caution until he hits this way consistently, year after year. That’s a long-winded way of saying I think it works both ways. So maybe I got his ranking exactly right? Ha, no chance, but we can all hope!

Kyle (Chicago, IL): 

    Where would Whitley have ranked, had he qualified?

Kegan Lowe: These are always tough questions, because had he qualified means he would have pitched more, which could help him or hurt him depending on the results and reports. If you just take our current BA Top 100 Prospects, Whitley ranks No. 7 overall, which would put him behind Tatis (No. 2) but ahead of Luzardo (No. 12) among players in the Texas League this season. Now, we don’t exactly line up the League Top 20s based off the BA Top 100, and Luzardo pitched really well this season, but I think it’s safe to say Whitley’s prospect status is still in-line with those two even after somewhat of a “lost” season.

Lola (Washington): 

    Are people sleeping on Cobrin Martin’s upside, particularly if he develops his 3rd and 4th pitches? What would you say his upside is if it all comes together?

Kegan Lowe: I don’t really know how to tell if people are sleeping on Corbin Martin or not. He obviously ranked in the top 10 of a pretty strong (especially at the top) Texas League list and, as I wrote in line one of my write-up, there was at least one evaluator who thinks he could be in the middle of a big league rotation—and succeed—as soon as 2019. He already has two above-average pitches in his fastball and slider. So if you’re suggesting he could improve to the point where he has four above-average pitches to go along with above-average command, I see no reason why he couldn’t be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in the big leagues. We obviously took some jumps there with assumptions, but “if it all comes together” then he could be an impactful big league starting pitcher.

Bob (St. Louis): 

    Did you receive feedback on any other prospects on Springfield’s roster?

Kegan Lowe: Sure. LHP Evan Kruczynski and SS/2B Tommy Edman would have been the next two Cardinals to make the list, among those who qualified. Kruczynski showcased a strong four-pitch mix and gets good angle on his fastball with his 6-foot-5 frame. I don’t think any of his secondary pitches project as plus pitches, but it was his first full season of pro ball, so to already be impressing and producing in Double-A is obviously encouraging. As for Edman, I know he went up to Triple-A and did some impressive things for Memphis in the playoffs. Reports I got on him from his time in the Texas League said he could play either shortstop or second base in the future, although he projects better at second base due to an average arm. He could fill-in at shortstop if needed, however. A switch-hitter, he hit much better against lefthanders (.350/.398/.470) than he did right-handers (.281/.333/.379) in the Texas League, which matches up with the reports I received that his RH swing is ahead of his LH swing at the moment. Admittedly optimistic, I had one TL manager tell me he could see Edman being an offensive second baseman in the majors, hitting .280-.300 and stealing 25-30 bases in a season. I’ve taken awhile on this question so I need to move on, but I’ll add that I also heard good things about righthanders Connor Jones and Anthony Shew for Springfield as potential names to watch.

Johnny (Phoenix): 

    Some intriguing guys in Midland’s outfield this season. Skye Bolt struggled early then after a trip to Stockton finished the year strongly in Midland. Luis Barrera played very well for Midland and Tyler Ramirez had an up and down year. What did you hear about those 3?

Kegan Lowe: Midland was an interesting club to report on because I was repeatedly told that after Luzardo and Murphy, you could line up the next several prospects in numerous ways. Of the three you mentioned, Luis Barrera was probably the most impressive (albeit in a much smaller sample size) in the Texas League, due mostly to his display of an advanced hit tool. Scouts I talked to also really liked Ramirez’s swing, and he’s always been a guy who has hit at every level. He doesn’t necessarily have the power profile of a typical left fielder, so proving he can play center field on a consistent basis would help his overall profile tremendously. As for Bolt, there’s no denying he has always been a very toolsy player, even back to his time at UNC. You mentioned his on-field inconsistencies, and I think figuring out a way to iron those out—especially at the plate—is most vital to his chances of becoming a big leaguer.

Warren (New London): 

    Where do you see Fernando Tatis in the batting order going forward? His bad start coincided with the period when he hit third; then he scored 68 runs in 70 games hitting leadoff.

Kegan Lowe: Let’s finish where we started: Fernando Tatis Jr. Lineup construction is largely dependent on the rest of the talent surrounding you, in my opinion, so this is a tough one to answer. But my guess would be that Tatis could hit anywhere in the order and be successful. I personally wouldn’t read too much into his bad start being because of him hitting third. That seems highly speculative and it’s way too small of a sample size anyway. If I had to pick one (or two) spot(s) in the order for Tatis to hit, I’d still pick second or third. But if you told me he was the Padres’ next great leadoff hitter, I wouldn’t be shocked either.

Kegan Lowe: And with that, I’m out of here! Don’t forget to come back to our website tomorrow and in the upcoming weeks as we continue to roll out the rest of the League Top 20s. Sounds like the Carolina League Top 20 will be released tomorrow morning, meaning J.J. Cooper will likely be chatting tomorrow afternoon. And thanks again for all the questions! So long, everybody!

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