Previewing the 2018 Hickory Crawdads

Rangers 1st three draft picks. CF) Bubba Thompson, SS) Chris Seise, RHP) Hans Crouse. Photo courtesy of http://www.trbimg.com/img-594804bb/turbine/os-sp-hs-chris-seise-0619

Hey guys, welcome to the 2018 Sally team preview series. I’m excited to get these going again. This is my 3rd year of doing the previews, they make for a great off season project and I learn a ton from them.

Today I’m looking at the 2018 Hickory Crawdads (Rangers).  They’re typically among the most talented teams in the Sally.  With a wide array of high ceiling talent, that’s often a little on the raw side.  They’re always fun to watch though and they’re looking loaded again for 2018.

If interested here’s a look back at last yr’s Hickory preview:  Previewing the 2017 Hickory Crawdads

For those not familiar with the series: I (with some help) speculate on who might be coming to the Sally in 2018.  I scour the rookie levels of each organization and attach scouting reports to many of the players.  But new for this year, I’ll also be interviewing some of my favorite prospectors to find out who they’re most excited about coming out of rookie ball.  Both the high end players and some sleepers to watch for. Also in some of the previews there will be a 2nd prospector (one who sees a ton of one Sally team) talking about some potential returnees that caught there eye in 2017. I’m looking forward to collaborating with some talented people. Some that I know fairly well and others that I’m just a fan of there work.

 

I want to thank Chris Welsh and Mark Parker for agreeing to participate.  Chris Welsh (inthisleague.com) is an Arizona based prospector, he sees a ton of Extended, AZL, Instructs and Fall Lg.   And he runs one of my favorite Prospect Podcasts titled “Prospect 1” It’s all part of the “In This League Fantasy Sports Podcast Network”.   And if you join the “ITL Army” at the Sergeant level or above, you get access to his top 450 prospects list for Dynasty Fantasy baseball, which he updatess several times a year (lots of info about that on the website).  He’s also a great Twitter/Instagram follow (@isitthewelsh), with tons of Prospect Video and photo’s.  I’ve enjoyed his work over the last year or so and it’s an honor to have him here.   He’ll be talking about his live looks at the AZL Rangers ….  Mr Crawdad himself, Mark Parker (crawdadsbeat.com) is here as well.  I’ve known Mark for a couple of years now, he’s a good friend and he’s someone I always look for when I go to Hickory.  He knows the Crawdads and the Sally for that matter as well as anyone (including yours truly)  It’ll be great to finally collaborate with him.  Mark will be talking about some players who may be returning to Hickory in 2018.

At Notes From The Sally, it’s all about live look scouting, once I see the 2018 Hickory Crawdads you can expect write ups on many of the players listed.  Hickory is one of my home clubs, so I see them a lot.

 

Lets meet the notables

 

Cole Ragans, photo courtesy of https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DE95_kQVoAAIljp.jpg

LHP)  Cole Ragans- Turns 20 in December, listed 6’4″ 190 lbs, bats and throws left.  He was drafted 30th overall in the 2016 draft out of high school in Tallahassee, FL.

“Coylio” of Lone Star Ball, has a year in review/scouting report up for Ragans here:  https://www.lonestarball.com/2017/9/7/16264990/cole-ragans-scouting-report-texas-rangers-2017-year-in-review

 

 

Bubba Thompson, photo courtesy of http://image.al.com/home/bama-media/width960/img/sports_impact/photo/ax214-7f9f-9jpg-485ec4588f9fa21f.jpg

CF) Bubba Thompson- Age 19, listed 6’2″ 180 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted 26th overall in the 2017 draft out of high school in Mobile, AL.

John Sickles of Minor League Ball put together a detailed scouting report pre draft.  And you can read that here:  https://www.minorleagueball.com/2017/5/8/15512066/2017-mlb-draft-bubba-thompson-of-mobile-alabama

 

 

Chris Seise, photo courtesy of https://www.orangeobserver.com/sites/default/files/117299_standard.jpeg

SS)  Chris Seise- Turns 19 in January, listed 6’2″ 175 lbs, bats and throws right.  Seise was drafted 29th overall in the 2017 draft out of high school in Winter Garden, FL (Orlando Metro)

“Alex Al-Kazzaz” of Nolan Writin’ quotes a lot of industry sources on Chris Seise here:   Texas Rangers: Team Signs 2017 First Round Draft Pick

 

 

Hans Crouse, photo courtesy of http://www.ocregister.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/0611_nws_ocr-l-pitcher-0351.jpg?w=620

RHP) Hans Crouse- Age 19, listed 6’4″ 180 lbs, bats left and throws right.  Crouse was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft out of High School in Dana Point, CA (Los Angeles Metro)

MLB Pipeline, ranked Crouse as the 7th highest prospect on the Rangers farm back in July and had this to say about the right hander:

“Crouse had one of the best fastballs among high schoolers in the 2017 Draft. He led all NHSI pitchers by averaging 94.4 mph with his heater, which can climb as high as 98 with riding life. There’s power to his breaking ball as well, which can be a plus curveball at its best but devolves into a slider at times, while his changeup is a work in progress.”

“Extremely animated on the mound, Crouse features a lot of effort in his delivery and doesn’t always repeat his mechanics. He does a decent job of throwing strikes but may not have more than average control, and some evaluators believe his approach eventually will land him in the bullpen. He’ll have closer upside if that happens, though the Rangers have every intention of developing him as a starter.”

For the rest of the Rangers top 30, click here:  http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017?list=tex

 

 

Alex Speas, photo courtesy of https://i.ytimg.com/vi/mnbZg2WfuHg/maxresdefault.jpg

RHP) Alex Speas- Turns 20 in March, listed 6’4″ 180 lbs, bats and throws right.  Speas was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft out of High School in Powder Springs, GA (Atlanta Metro).

Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs listed Speas as the 11th overall prospect in the Rangers system back in April and had this to say of the young flamethrower:

“Speas had some of the most electric arm acceleration in the 2016 draft, topping out around 99 with his fastball as an amateur and flashing a plus two-plane breaking ball. But he was a very raw strike-thrower and lasted until pick No. 63. He signed for just over $1 million and wasn’t throwing quite as hard during instructional league, topping out at 95 when I saw him in the fall. He’s been mostly 93-97 this spring and arguably possesses more velocity projection: Speas is quite thin and could add extra heat as he gets stronger.”

“Speas’ arm acceleration lends itself to significant changeup projection, but scouts are focused on monitoring his strike-throwing ability before worrying about him developing a third pitch. (It’s a below average, upper-80s change.) He has 30 command right now and, while his arm is loose and whippy, other aspects of Speas’ delivery are very stiff. Not all scouts are convinced he’s a great athlete or are sure he’s going to develop starter’s control. There’s significant reliever risk here, although if Speas develops even 40 control, he has the stuff to pitch at the back of a bullpen. His ceiling is as high as his strike-throwing ability allows and, if everything comes together, Speas could be a front-end arm. There are just too many developmental hurdles to clear at this point to call it a likelihood.”

For the rest of the Rangers top prospect list, click here:  Top 22 Prospects: Texas Rangers

 

 

Pedro Gonzalez, photo courtesy of http://www.baseballamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Pedro-Gonzalez-Batting-2014-bm.jpg

CF) Pedro Gonzalez- Age 20, listed 6’5″ 190 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed by the Rockies out of the Dominican Republic in 2014 and was the PTBNL in the Jonathan Lucroy trade.

Rich Wilson of “Prospect 361” had Gonzalez as an emerging prospect coming into the year and said this about him:  “The Rockies signed Pedro Gonzalez to a $1.4 million dollars signing bonus in 2014 and the young Dominican is still trying to find his sea legs in professional ball. In 58 games in the Pioneer League, the lanky 6-foot-5 outfielder only hit .230, striking out 77 times while walking only 14 times. His length could always make him strikeout prone, but that same size could allow him to have future plus power. He’s a project but one that the Rockies have a lot invested in him and believe that one day he will turn into an impact bat.”

For tons of live look scouting reports and prospect lists click here:  https://prospect361.com/

 

 

Matt Whatley, photo courtesy of https://cdn.d1baseball.com/uploads/2017/06/01114547/Chad-Spanberger-1.jpg

C) Matt Whatley- Turns 22 in January, listed 5’10” 200, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft out of Oral Roberts Univ (Tulsa, OK)

Rob Ozga of The Baseball draft report had Whatley as the top college catcher in the draft and thought very highly of him coming out.  You can read his thoughts here: https://baseballdraftreport.com/tag/matt-whatley/

Rob is a great resource for all things draft.

 

Alright here’s Chris Welsh from (inthisleague.com) talking about his looks at the AZL Rangers

Question #1  Texas had picks 26 & 29 in the 1st round of the 2017 amateur draft.  And in typical Rangers fashion went upside in selecting prep bats OF Bubba Thompson and SS Chris Seise.  How loud are there tools? What’s there upside and floor?

Chris-  “Bubba Thompson, the first of their picks probably has the higher ceiling with a decent floor, where Seise has a lower ceiling and high floor.   Bubba didn’t display the power most thought in the AZL, but it was all about learning his game. I saw Bubba when he first arrived in the AZL, and then again in the Rangers Instructional game batting next to Leody Taveras. He physically got bigger, and continues to display plus speed, to go with his plus raw power. His biggest problem is still pitch recognition. Looking at Seise, he was actually the one that stood out to me the first time I saw the two. He had 3 hits I believe, stole a base and all around looked toolsy. Seise was promoted before Bubba, but struggled in short-season. Both these guys could steal 20+, but Bubba should hit for more power. A poor mans comp I’d give these two is like a Springer/Correa from the Astros. That’s a lofty comp, and a LOT has to happen to get their, but it’s possible. The downside is Bubba is a Carlos Gomez clone and Seise is a defense first shortstop.”

 

Question #2  Cole Ragans, Alex Speas, Hans Krouse and Ryan Dease.  Were all top 5 round draft picks in the last two drafts.  Did you get a chance to see any of them?  Ceiling? Floor?

Chris-  “Cole Ragans I am very high on. Command on his fastball and change up is already plus. He’s a top 100 prospect already for me. I didn’t see Hans Crouse or Speas, but many raved about Crouse. The delivery I am told is violent, which tends to lead some to think he might be a future reliever. What comes to mind with him is Josh Hader. Ryan Dease I did see in the final AZL game. He’s an intense guy. A no bull if you will. I got that from over hearing him and his approach. His fastball and off speed stuff already is advanced. Dease could be a SP4 or a high end middle reliever. I would lean on the side of a SP4 right now. I think Dease will quietly move up the system putting up good numbers.”

 

Question #3 Any other recent draftees that caught your eye?

Chris- 3) “One name I thought stood out was Tyreque Reed. (8th round pick in the 2017 draft).  He’s a big 1B at 6’2 260 Lbs. He hit .350 in AZL with a .455 OBP. He wasn’t an out of shape 260, he seemed like a built 260. Pretty nimble for his size. Reminded me of like a built Prince Fielder.”

 

Question #4   What was the overall talent level for the Rangers in extended and the AZL squad?

Chris-  The AZL squad for the rangers was pretty loaded. Pitching was pretty high end, but position players were the main attraction. The Padres teams were the most stacked with talent, but the Rangers stood probably middle to high middle of the pact. Similar to the A’s.

 

Question #5  Were there any International signees that stood out in a good way?

Chris- 2016 signing David Garcia looked good in instructs. His body grew and was hitting better. Michael Aparcio physically reminded me of a bigger Odor, down to the beard and all.

 

Question #6  Sleepers? A player or two that you haven’t yet talked about that have a standout tool (impressive raw power) or (plus speed)?

Chris-  Michael Matuella is someone I personally love. I saw his first game during Ext Spring Training when he was out here, and his fastball was really buzzing. The season results for 2017, weren’t amazing, but he stayed healthy, and I think 2018 you’ll seem him jump back into conversation as a top-ish Rangers pitching prospect with Cole and Hans. Another deep name of someone I saw in the AZL was Catcher Francisco Ventura. He reminded me of Willie Calhoun. He’s hit .300 in both 2016 and 2017. He’s a bit small, so maybe he moves off, but I liked his bat.

I want to thanks Chris for the excellent interview.  Give him a follow on Twitter (@isitthewelsh) he’s a great follow. Tons and tons of prospect video.

 

And here’s Mark Parker talking about some potential returnees that caught his eye in 2017:

“Looking ahead to the 2018 Hickory Crawdads, several interesting prospects appear to have a chance to return to L.P. Frans, but how the Texas Rangers want to play that hand with other top-30 prospects may have a chance to factor into those decisions. Two of those likely to return are LHP AJ Alexy and IF Brendon Davis, trade pieces from the Yu Darvish deal with the LA Dodgers. Alexy, who will still be just 19 opening day 2018, showed a lively fastball and at times a tight spin on his curve. He fanned 30% of the hitters he faced, but walked 17% of them as well. The Rangers will want to see more fastball command. Davis, who got a promotion to High-A with the Dodgers before the trade, struggled with Hickory (.182/.300/.273, 28 Ks in 90 PAs). He moved around the IF, but his spot could depend on what the Rangers decide to do with 2017 No. 1 pick, SS Chris Seise, 2016 No.3 pick IF Kole Enright and another potential returnee. It’ll be curious to see what the Rangers do with Anderson Tejeda. After starting the season at short, the Rangers moved him to 2B almost exclusively in June, then back to short after Yeyson Yrizarri’s promotion. Tejeda seemed to get a burst of energy after returning to the position and was trusted enough to be placed in the No. 3 spot of the lineup during the late-season playoff chase by Hickory. But he whiffed 132 times. Nearly every player with that many Ks has returned for a second season, at least at the start. It could be argued that with Seise’s surge and how aggressive the Rangers want to be with him, Tejeda could move around the IF and see some time in LF.”

“A couple of names off the top-30 prospect sheet will bear watching. Catcher Yohel Pozo took a good chunk of the playing time away from South Atlantic League all-star Ricky Valencia in the second half. The 20-year-old posted a .338/.373/.465 in 150 plate appearances. If it’s close, he’s swinging, and he usually makes contact – hard contact. Pozo walked seven times, but struck out just eight. Behind the plate he threw out 13 of 37 base stealers and was quick behind the plate in blocking pitches. His playing time – and where he plays – will depend on how much the Rangers want to see Matt Whatley, their 2017 3rd rounder at Hickory. Whatley follows in the footsteps of former Oral Roberts product Jose Trevino, and is said to have similar makeup. RHP Demarcus Evans (25th round 2015, Petal (MS) High) has a big build (listed politely at 6-4, 240) and a big arm to go with it. Control issues (25 walks out of 140 batters faced) followed him into his first foray at low-A but the kid throws gas (46 Ks) and was nearly unhittable (.198 OBA). The Rangers had him start, but with his fastball at 96+ and a slider, I could see him follow the path of CD Pelham from this year’s squad.”

 

Awesome job by Mark, as usual.  It’s great to finally work with him on a piece.   You can find Mark on Twitter @CrawdadsBeat.   Most of my looks at Hickory in 2017 came early so many of these players I haven’t seen.  Pozo and Evans sound intriguing for sure

 

Around the diamond

Catcher

Matt Whatley

Yohel Pozo –  Turns 21 in June, listed 6′ 175 lbs, bats and throws right. .155 ISO across 2 levels in 2017.  As Mark mentioned he’s aggressive but hits everything he swings at (3.75 BB%, 5% K rate)

Other candidates at catcher:  Isaias Quirez, Melvin Novoa, Clay Middleton

 

If Whatley and Pozo share the job it’ll be interesting to see the time share.  It’s possible one or both could gets AB’s DH and maybe 1B.  So they get there AB’s.

Corner Infield

1B)  Curtis Terry– Age 21, listed 6’2″ 255 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was selected in the 13th round of the 2015 draft out of HS in Lawrenceville, GA (Atlanta Metro).   Terry put up a .209 ISO with Spokane last yr with a 3% BB rate and 25% K rate.  After 3 seasons of short season ball, they’ll probably test him

 

1B-LF) Tyreque Reed- Age 20, listed 6”2″ 260 lbs, bats and throws right.  Reed was drafted in the 8th round of the 2017 draft out of Community College in Fulton, MS.   He put up  .267 ISO, while walking 15% and striking out 18%.  As Chris Welsh said above Reed could be a find.

 

 

1B-3B)  Andretty Cordero–  Turns 21 in May, listed 6’1″ 170 lbs, bats and throws right.  Cordero was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013.  He began the year in Spokane and crushed it.  He got into 44 games with Hickory.  Combined he had a .166 ISO, with 5% and 20% K rates.

 

3B-2B) Kole Enright – Turns 20 in January, listed 6’1″ 175 lbs, bats both and throws right.  He was selected in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft out of High School in Winter Garden, FL (Orlando Metro).  An ISO of .100, with 9% BB and 20% K rates.  Drafted as a bat 1st infielder who so far hasn’t hit but there’s time for him to figure it out.

 

SS-3B-2B  Brendon Davis- Age 20, listed 6’4″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right.  Davis was drafted by the Dodgers in the 5th round of the 2015 draft out of High School in Lakewood, CA (Los Angeles Metro).  Prior to the trade he spent most of his time in 2017 with Great Lakes in the Midwest Lg.  He had a .158 ISO, a 13% BB and 29% K rates.  It’ll be interesting to see how much the power comes as he fills out.

 

3B) Charles Leblanc could be back

 

It’ll be interesting to see who makes the roster and how the playing time is dived up.  I could see Terry and Davis getting most of the starts while Reed sees time at 1B, LF and DH.  Enright gets 4 starts a week spelling Davis at 3B and Tejeda at 2B?

How do you guys see the playing time being dispersed?

Other Corner Infield options: Stephen Lohr (1B, 3B)

 

Middle Infield

SS- Chris Seise

 

SS-2B  Anderson Tejeda- Fast Bat and the ball jumps off of his barrel, pitch recognition skills need work.  Encouraged by his strong finish.

 

2B-3B-LF  Blaine Prescott Could be back

 

 

Other Middle Infield candidates:  Cristian Inoa (SS-2B) Age 18, Yonny Hernandez (2B, SS, 3B) Age 19, Middle Infield looks crowded both could be candidates to return to Spokane.  Ryan Dorrow (2B, 3B, LF) Age 22, 30th rd pick in the ’17 draft.

Outfield

CF-  Bubba Thompson

CF- Pedro Gonzalez

RF-1B Tanner Gardner-  Age 22, listed 6′ 210 lbs, bats left and throws right.  He was drafted in the 9th rd of the 2017 draft out of Texas Tech Univ.

Matt Stockhausen did a fan post on Minor League Ball and liked Gardner as a sleeper.  You can read that here:  https://www.minorleagueball.com/2017/3/17/14961844/a-few-under-the-radar-college-prospects-for-the-mlb-draft-outfielders

Being a college guy he may start his 1st full season up with the Wood Ducks.

 

CF-LF Miguel Aparicio- Turns 19 in March, listed 6′ 165 lbs, bats and throws left.  Signed out of Venezuela in 2015.  Aparicio.  Hit 293, 333, 395 in 70 games with Spokane and earned a late cup of coffee with Hickory.  That’s a .102 ISO with 5% BB and 12.3% K rates.  Looks like he can handle the bat.  We’ll see how far the power comes as he fills out.

 

RF-LF)  Chad Smith- Age 20, listed 6’2″ 200 lbs’ bats and throws left.  He was selected in the 5th round of the 2015 draft out of High School in Snellville, GA (Atlanta Metro).  A 170 ISO with 10% BB and 31% K rates.  Just wrapped up his 3rd season in short season ball.  Will likely be coming to Hickory in 2018.

 

LF-RF  Kobie Taylor- Age 19, drafted in the 15th rd of the 2016 draft.  .174 ISO but 3% BB rate and 33% K rate.  Seems like a candidate to return to Spokane but we may see him in the 2nd half.

Also any of these players could be back

CF-LF-RF  Eric Jenkins

RF-LF  Jose Almonte

RF-LF-2B  Franklin Rollin

 

A lot of traffic in the outfield too

I could see Bubba in CF, Pedro in right and spelling Bubba if he makes the jump. Aparicio in left and Chad Smith jumping between the corners

 

Other OF options: Nick Kaye (RF), Tyler Ratliff (RF-3B) 2017, 17th rd draft pick, Austin O’Bannon (LF-RF), Jonah McReynolds (RF-SS), Darius Day (RF), Justin Jacobs, (RF, 3B) Undrafted free agent.

 

Starting Pitching could be led by all of these recent top draft picks:

LHP- Cole Ragans

RHP- Hans Crouse

RHP- Alex Speas

RHP- Ryan Dease- Turns 19 on April 15th, listed 6’3″ 175 lbs, bats and throws right. Dease was drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 draft.  He reportedly throws a high 80’s to low 90’s heavy fastball.

Plus there’s potential returnees

Demarcus Evans– Age 21, 17.9% BB and 32.9% K rates.  Also as Mark mentioned above a .198 BAA.

 

AJ Alexy- Turns 20 April 21st, listed 6’4″ 195 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 11th round of the 2016 draft out of High School in Elverson, PA.  Similar to Evans, lots of strikeouts and walks and is hard to hit.   Looking forward to seeing both of these guys.

 

RHP) Tyler Phillips- Age 20, listed 6’5″ 200 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 16th round of the 2015 draft out of High School in Pennsauken, NJ (Philadelphia area).  Got 13 starts in Spokane and struck out 25.2% of the batters while walking 3.6%.  The batting average against was .263.  He struggled in a limited look with Hickory.

 

Also potential newcomers from Spokane

Tyree Thompson- Age 20, listed 6’4″ 165 lb, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 26th round of the 2016 draft out of High School in New Orleans.  Across 13 starts he struck out 15.5% and walked 7.8% of batters.  His batting average against was .245.

 

Hever Bueno- About to turn 23, listed 6’2″ 179 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 9th round of the 2016 draft out of Arizona St Univ.  In 11 appearances (8 starts) across 2 levels of rookie ball Bueno struck out 25% of batters while walking 15%.  His batting average against was .243.

 

Lots of depth at SP and lots of talent too.  These guys could be the class of the Sally in 2018.

I hope you got as much out of this as I did.  Big thanks to Chris Welsh (on Twitter @IsittheWelsh) and to Mark Parker (on Twitter @CrawdadsBeat).  I appreciate these guys jumping on, they both did terrific work.

 

Fund Raiser

Notes from the Sally runs entirely on donations from loyal readers.  There’s no advertising, bogging the site down or paywalls.  All you get is content.  2018 will be my 4th season of live scouting the Sally.  I’ve received a ton of great feedback along the way and the site is growing like a weed.  I’m very appreciative and grateful I get to do this.

Looking back on the 2017 season I saw approximately 50 Sally games at 6 different ball parks.  And counting the Appy, the totals grew to 60+ games at 10 different parks.

I learned through trial and error to be aggressive, I can’t sit back and wait for teams to come to my area.  I learned that I couldn’t effectively scout the Sally through only 3 stadiums (Asheville, Greenville and Hickory).  I needed to cast a wider net,  I made 3 trips to Columbia in 2017, 2 to Kannapolis and 1 to Greensboro.  But those runs allowed me to see: Sixto Sanchez, Jake Burger, Braxton Garrett, Adam Haseley, Adonis Medina, Sandro Fabian, Gavin Sheets  and about a dozen other players that otherwise, I would have missed.   If a pitcher is throwing tomorrow 150 miles away that might be my only chance to see him.

I’m not complaining believe me, I’ll do whatever is necessary to properly scout the league.  But it does require more resources (gas, food on the road and hotels).  I never wanted to do this half way and miss 30% of the kids coming through.

If you enjoy the content, please consider contributing to ease the out of pocket cost.  My goal is to raise $800 for the 2018 season.   Any and all donations will be appreciated. Even if it’s just a dollar or two, it all helps the cause.

I attached a Pay Pal button and a link to the site Patreon Account.  Cheers and thank you for your continued support

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