June 9, 2016
Evaluating the California League All-Stars
Yesterday the California League All-Star roster was announced for the upcoming Cal-Carolina League All-Star Game at Lake Elsinore. On paper it’s the weakest crop by a good bit in the three years I’ve been covering the league, but there are certainly still plenty of fantasy-relevant names littering the roster that bare some discussion. Let’s take a look at some of them, and then I’ll follow it up with some notes on a few of the more notable non-All Stars from around the league as well.
Travis Demeritte, 2B, Texas Rangers (High Desert Mavericks) – Demeritte is a prototypical boom-or-bust fantasy prospect, with the latter the more likely outcome. He frequently loses his mechanics with wild swings from the heels, and after taking the Cal League by storm in April the book has gradually circulated on him and pitchers have been much more successful at keeping him in the yard and off the bases of late. He’s got a ton of strength and bat speed though, and the ability to provide a useful power-speed combination at a shallow position, though it’s likely to come with a low AVG. He’s in the conversation to be a top-150 dynasty prospect at this point, but it’s a high-risk profile and managers would do just as well to move Demeritte now if they’re able to before Double-A pitchers sink their teeth into him.
Dinelson Lamet, RHP, San Diego Padres (Lake Elsinore Storm) – Lamet snuck into the back end of our pre-season Padres Top 10, with Bret noting the distance he’d need to travel to gain fantasy relevance. He’s taken a whole bunch of steps toward that end in the season’s first couple months, and they’ve taken him up to Double-A as of a couple days ago. In addition to the excellent fastball-slider combination he showed me, he’s also reportedly made some strides with his changeup of late. The profile still leans toward that of a reliever, and he’s still on the fringes of the conversation about dynasty league prospects, even in leagues that roster 200 of ‘em. But a successful handful of starts at Double-A could turn Lamet into a sneaky mid-season pickup in deep leagues.
Chris Shaw, 1B, San Francisco Giants (San Jose Giants) – Shaw gets the standard treatment that all-bat first-base prospects get in the scouting community, but as someone with looks at him dating to the Cape League a couple summers ago I’m here to tell you that he can hit, and he can definitely hit bombs. He’s a big, stiff, ogre of a player, but there’s nuance and looseness to his swing. He uses his hands well, and there isn’t a ton of wasted movement that goes into generating his coil and leverage. His plate coverage and strength allows him to fight off and even drive balls away, and the power he produces isn’t going to come at the expense of a terrible batting average. San Francisco is literally the worst place in the big-league world for left-handed power, and that’s a bummer. But Shaw will get his numbers, and bracketing the current organization he’s probably on the very short list of fantasy prospects to come through the Cal this spring.
Ryan Castellani, RHP, Colorado Rockies (Modesto Nuts) – I had the unfortunate honor of catching Castellani’s most recent start at Lancaster, and he didn’t have it on a night where you really didn’t want to be the guy that didn’t have it at Lancaster. The result: three dingers among nine earned runs in five innings. Castellani was a relatively raw projection second-round pick out of high school by the Rockies in 2014, and they’ve handled him accordingly with kid gloves in the time since. He flashed the ingredients of a mid-rotation starter with pleasant groundball tendencies in this look, but he also showed as quite raw with his repeatability and execution. Prep pitcher who remains majority projection and looks down the barrel of a future home in Coors Field? Yeah, not really a dynasty league asset to chase.
C.J. Hinojosa, SS, San Francisco Giants (San Jose Giants) – Hinojosa was expected to flower into a top draft pick after an excellent freshman year at Texas, but then he stagnated in his sophomore season and tanked hard amid a wrist injury in the spring of his draft year, leading to him falling all the way to the 11th round last summer. He’s subsequently done nothing but hit since signing, and currently sits second in the Cal with a .330 average. Based on my looks he’s going to have to continue to do so at every level if he’s going to warrant the dynasty attention he’s starting to receive. He’s not a great defensive player, and holding down shortstop at higher levels seems like it’ll be a stretch. He doesn’t run particularly well either, and the swing isn’t really geared to lift the ball with any regularity. He tracks pitches well though, with a nice command of the zone and solid bat-to-ball skills. But for our purposes he’s more likely an empty average at second base in a better-case scenario.
Luis Urias, 2B, San Diego Padres (Lake Elsinore Storm) – Urias may just be the best pure hitter in the league this year, and that’s all the more impressive considering he’s also one of the youngest hitters in the league. He’s not particularly fast, and the power is all but non-existent, but he shows an outstanding ability to barrel baseballs and shoot line drives and hard grounders to every corner of the yard. There’s some utility profile here, as he’s spent some time at the hot corner in addition to his regular work at second. The fantasy upside isn’t the greatest, in that he—like Hinojosa above—profiles as an empty-average type. But he’s shown some awfully sound fundamentals in the box, and there’s enough projection for raw power that points leaguers in particular should take notice of Urias as a potential doubles machine down the line.
Colby Blueberg, RHP, San Diego Padres (Lake Elsinore Storm) and Rodolfo Martinez, RHP, San Francisco Giants (San Jose Giants) – Along with the recently promoted Yimmi Brasoban and Jose Torres, these guys are the guys to watch for those of you in deep and/or Holds leagues where shutdown middle relievers are valuable. Martinez and Brasoban are both barrel-chested righties with closer stuff and high-leverage mound presence, while Torres hits 97 from the left side with the kind of life that transcends a situational relief tag, and he profiles as a late-inning reliever in a good ‘pen. And Blueberg… I don’t know what to tell you about him, other than that he gets outs, and then he gets more outs, and then he gets more outs. He generates one of the more unique release points you’ll see, and backs it up with a low-90’s fastball and feel for a couple secondaries to create nightmare at-bats.
Bobby Boyd, CF, Houston Astros (Lancaster JetHawks) – Boyd has shown as much improvement as anyone I’ve seen on the regular this spring, though it remains a tough profile. He’s posted run times consistently north of plus, and his instincts on the bases and quick pick-up give him all of the tools to become a stolen base threat at the highest level. The swing is very flat on balance, though he’s shown an encouraging ability to open up and turn on velocity in recent looks, with hard line drive contact replacing chopped groundballs. His offensive profile will be highly contact-dependent, and he doesn’t make quite enough of it to justify enthusiasm in the profile. Speed is speed though, and if the recent growth continues there may be something of a Jarrod Dyson-type fantasy profile here.
Steven Duggar, OF, Giants – Has been my favorite under-the-radar position player seen to date. Taken in the sixth round last summer, he’s a very solid all-around player, with excellent command of the zone, an advanced approach, and solid-average pull-side pop. He’s also a borderline double-plus runner who hasn’t quite figured out how to use the blazing speed on the bases yet. If he ever does this is the kind of skillset that can evolve into a poor man’s A.J. Pollock. He’s an especially interesting speculation play in OBP leagues, where his mid-teens walk rate in over 500 pro plate appearances is supported by his foundational skill in the box.
Johan Mieses, OF, Dodgers – I tabbed Mieses as a potential breakout prospect, and while that breakout hasn’t happened, he’s still shown plenty of flashes of the plus raw power and explosively quick bat that made him a deep dynasty league flyer over the winter. Mieses’ biggest problem right now is ongoing trouble identifying breaking balls, and right-handed pitchers have exploited him with increasing regularity by spinning balls into the dirt and letting him take care of the rest. He gets pull- and homer-happy still as well, as young hitters with his kind of talent are want to do, and the offensive development has been fairly stagnant this year. He’s a longer-term project at this point left for the deepest of leagues, but he has physical talents you just can’t teach.
Yusniel Diaz, OF, Dodgers – Diaz is the other super young, electric Dodger outfield that hasn’t produced enough yet to warrant an All-Star selection, but very well could one day. The youngest position player in the league, he came out of the gate with a hyper-aggressive approach that has since toned down some, and the raw ingredients of an average to above-average hit tool are there, along with plenty of nascent power. It’s unclear how much of the power will eventually play, as the swing isn’t geared towards generating a ton of lift and he struggles to turn on the ball middle-in. He’s also not a natural base-stealer despite plus speed underway. It’s a high-variance skill set that will need to hit a high percentile to turn him into a strong fantasy option, and it’s going to take a bunch of time for that to happen (if it does).
Wes Rogers, OF, Rockies – You want speed? Rogers has speed. Some of the most explosive speed in the minors, in fact. As of this writing the former fourth rounder is sitting on 90 steals in 99 attempts thus far in his young career. He’s raw at the plate, with long levers that lead to an uneven barrel delivery and some contact issues. But he seems to understand who he is at the plate as well, and he shows a fairly advanced command of the strike zone, boding well for his on-base abilities. This is the kind of player that if he can figure out how to get on base at north of a .300 clip in the big leagues can be an extremely useful fantasy piece.
Grant Holmes, RHP, Dodgers – The Dodgers’ first-rounder two years ago out of high school, Holmes has shown strikeout stuff amid some battles with his command thus far at High-A. Prep arms in general make for weaker dynasty league assets, and ones that don’t flash top-of-the-rotation stuff are all the more dicey as investments. Holmes has all the makings of a quality rotation piece down the line, but the lag time and a limited ratio ceiling make for a less-valuable fantasy prospect than the real-life profile. His name recognition and solid performance thus far in the Cal make him a decent piece of trade bait.