As ever, the daily and special reports are free, a labor of love, a sharing information and analysis to contribute to a community of educated supporters. Knowing how those players reached Arlington, their successes and struggles, makes their first pitches and first at-bats some of my favorite events of the season. For better and worse, that’s especially true in a season like 2021. Hopefully, when Joe Barlow, Curtis Terry, Yonny Hernandez and Yohel Pozo made their MLB debuts, you knew more about them and what to expect than the average fan. And when Josh Jung, Cole Winn and Jack Leiter get their turns, you’ll know more about them, too.
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Round Rock was rained out, and the rest of the system was off, So here's a quick rundown of Baseball America's preseason top-30 prospect list and my opinions on how their outlooks have changed (which may or may not coincide with BA's updated rankings):
1. IF Josh Jung
Outlook: Up. Injuries and a covid scare have limited him to 42 games, but he’s used them to mitigate concerns about whether he could offer more than doubles to right-center.
2. C Sam Huff
Outlook: Slightly Down. Perhaps a harsh assessment, as I don’t like to blame players for being hurt. Still, hamstring and knee injuries have kept him off the field for much of the season and out from behind the plate for all of it. Despite some truly awe-inspiring displays of power, his overall production, strikeout rate, and contact rate aren’t any better than Anderson Tejeda. Breaking camp as one of Texas’s catchers in March 2022 seemed a safe assumption if not a certainty six months ago. Now, not so much. Catchers require more patience than children.
3. OF Leody Taveras
Outlook: Slightly Down. Despite that grade, Taveras is a better player than four months ago, when he batted his way off the MLB roster and looked lost in early May. His respectable raw power is increasingly present in actual games, and he’s reaching base at a decent clip. I still hold to my assessment that if he can just hit some, he brings enough in the field and on the bases to be a two-win CF, and if not that, then hopefully a valuable 4th OF.
4. RHP Dane Dunning
Outlook: Slightly Up. Dunning entered 2021 as a not-quite-established starter and will leave it as established.
5. RHP Cole Winn
Outlook: Up. He’s going to be an MLB starting pitcher.
6. IF Justin Foscue
Outlook: Up. Like Jung, Foscue hasn’t played as much as we’d like, but even in that abbreviated time he hit well enough to earn an August promotion to Frisco.
7. IF Maximo Acosta
Outlook: unchanged. Acosta’s stats don’t jump off the page, but stat-scouting rookie-level shortstops is among the most dubious of activities.
8. IF Luisangel Acuna
Outlook: Slightly up. Acuna has justified his high ranking and performed well across the board as a 19-year-old in full-season ball. Lately, he’s played exclusively at second.
9. RHP Hans Crouse
Outlook: Up. The now-departed Crouse is both worse and better than before. He’s no longer the flamethrower of Draft Day, but as I and others have noted, that’s been the case for some time. On the other hand, he looks much more like a pitcher than a mere flamethrower.
10. IF Anderson Tejeda
Outlook: Down. So, so down. Tejeda’s weaknesses have swallowed him whole in 2021. Still, he remains a talented prospect, and I’m not done with him yet.
11.RHP Kohei Arihara
Outlook: Slightly down. I have a hard time thinking of players like Arihara as prospects even though they’ve yet to play in the Majors. In any case, he was pitching well enough in the early going before a finger contusion and aneurysm that required shoulder surgery. Anything involving shoulders makes me nervous, but hopefully he can return to form.
12. OF Bayron Lora
Outlook: Slightly down. Texas's costliest 2019 international signing was unable to make a stateside debut in 2021, and his 39 strikeouts are the most in the Dominican Republic. Obviously, it’s far too early to draw any conclusions.
13. C Jonah Heim
Outlook: Up. Heim has established himself as no worse than a #2 catcher. With an OBP bump, he's a #1. He hasn't reached base much but compensates with decent power. Defensively, he’s among the best in baseball at framing pitches.
14. IF Sherten Apostel
Outlook: Slightly down. Apostel has always needed time to acclimate to each level, and two leg injuries have reduced his entire 2021 to acclimation. A strong September would be nice (remember, the minor league season ends much later than usual this year).
15. RHP Ronny Henriquez
Outlook: Unchanged. The 21-year-old has a 5.40 ERA in AA and has been bedeviled by homers, but he’s generating plenty of misses and avoiding walks.
16. IF Davis Wendzel
Outlook: Slightly down, at most. Not his fault, but Wendzel has played in only 27 games all year, and a third of those were on rehab. On the plus side, he’s held up well to an aggressive AA assignment.
17. OF Steele Walker
Outlook: Slightly down. Walker has been okay, but only okay, and I’m hoping for more in the late going from the 25-year-old. He can play center, but it’s hard to imagine him being a primary centerfielder, so the bat carries the load.
18. IF Evan Carter
Outlook: Up. Carter quickly showed the glowing reports weren’t mere puffery before an injury stripped away most of his season.
19. C David Garcia
Outlook: Slightly down. Garcia is hitting better of late and might deserve an “unchanged” outlook by season’s end. That said, the Rangers took a calculated risk by adding him to the 40 after 2019, but if they hadn’t and hypothetically had to make their 40 additions right now, I don’t think Garcia would be one of them.
20. IF Yeison Morrobel
Outlook: Unchanged. The 17-year-old hasn't played in the US rookie league as had been speculated, but he's doing fine in the DR.
21. RHP Ricky Vanasco
Outlook: Unchanged. Out for the year after surgery.
22. RHP Owen White
Outlook: Unchanged. Maybe an incomplete or "slightly down" grade is more appropriate, as he’s missed nearly all of the season with a broken hand. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt based on limited but positive reviews.
23. IF Danyer Cueva
Outlook: Unchanged. I honestly know very little about him. He’s playing regularly in the DR, and that’s good enough for now.
24. RHP Kyle Cody
Outlook: Slightly down. Cody never got on track and is coming up on four months missed with a shoulder impingement. He might be back in September.
25. RHP Demarcus Evans
Outlook: Slightly down. Evans’ walk and strikeout rates aren’t much different than Joe Barlow, but he’s been hit more. He’s an up-and-down reliever just like last year, so in that sense his status hasn’t changed, but his former 95-with-a-power-curve repertoire has evolved into 91 with a cutter and slider. Sometimes he looks terrific, but absent better command (never his forte), he’s going to have trouble locking down a well-defined role.
26. LHP Joe Palumbo
Outlook: Down. Palumbo hasn’t looked anything like the prospect of 2017-2019, and even at his best the issues needing work persist. Injuries haven't helped.
27. IF Chris Seise
Outlook: Down. Seise draws raves from onlookers, and I’ve enjoyed my limited looks at him. Unfortunately, he’s played only 31 games during 2018-2021, and it’s not as though he’s a mature, polished prospect who just needs to stay healthy.
28. LHP AJ Alexy
Outlook: Up. Alexy’s 1.80 ERA is a little flattering, but he’s made good progress in 2021 and justified the 40-man spot bestowed on him last winter. I’m not quite there on him sticking as a starter, but I’m more optimistic than at any previous time.
29. RHP Avery Weems
Outlook: Up. Weems has the best SO/BB ratio (6.8) in the system among starters, and there’s more to him than just good control.
30. OF Bubba Thompson
Outlook: Slightly up. Thompson hasn’t had a great year, but he’s shown he can handle AA, not a sure thing entering the season.
AAA: Jake Latz
AA: Cody Bradford
High-A: already rained out
Low-A: Gavin Collyer