We all know the household names in baseball. Most, but not every team has a star. Some have multiple big-name players. We know who they are.
There are some players in Major League Baseball that don’t have total name recognition. Fans of their teams may know them, but they are a bit more obscure at this point in their careers.
I want to highlight a few of those players that have gotten either my attention or the attention of the media in general. I am selecting no more than one player from a given club.
Obviously, with my selection limited to one player per team, I will be omitting some of the more obscure players that should be getting a bit of attention as well. Perhaps I will pick some of those up in a future article.
Note: This is not an article about prospects I like. This is more about players that have had a taste of the big leagues and may crack the 25-man roster with a bigger role next year. But that certainly isn’t guaranteed.
Many, many of the players I list below are products of the soon-to-begin Arizona Fall League. That’s where I am introduced to tomorrow’s big leaguers before they graduate. The Fall League has given me a head start look at players that often become key components of their big league clubs.
YOAN LOPEZ-RHP-ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
There is quite a back story behind Lopez. To this day, he remains one of the very questionable signings of a stormy former Arizona Diamondbacks front office.
Lopez pitched in the Cuban Series National, the highest professional league in Cuba. He defected from Cuba in 2014 and gained the interest of several major league clubs including the Yankees, the Padres, and the Giants. But it was the Diamondbacks that ultimately signed Lopez in 2015. In July, 2016 Lopez left the Double-A Mobile Bears with the intention of quitting baseball. It was the second time he left a club in his young career. He sighted personal reasons for his departure, but he ultimately returned and has worked his way through the Dbacks organization.
Now at the age of 25, Lopez has been promoted to the parent club. The Diamondbacks have used Lopez out of their bullpen, as he made his major league debut September 9, 2018. In a 9-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves, Lopez pitched to 3 batters in the 9th inning. He yielded 3 hits, 2 home runs and 3 total runs. His debut provided a cold chill to Dbacks fans and front office watchers.
The 6-foot-3, 185 pound Lopez has always had good velocity on his fastball, ranging from 94-97 miles per hour. It has been his command and control that have been his major issues. He has three credible pitches to use, including the four-seam fastball, a curve and a changeup.
Lopez has thrown in five games for Arizona this season. He has pitched to a 6.75 ERA in his 4 innings of work, as he has faced only 16 batters. Interestingly, 3 of the 4 hits against him occurred in his first outing against the Braves.
Signed under the leadership of then team guru Tony La Russa and general manager Dave Stewart, Lopez was given a signing bonus that is said to have exceeded $8MM, it is likely the team and the current front office, as well as ownership are hoping to get at least some return on their money. Having long departed the Dbacks, the Lopez signing and the ultimate results remain part of the La Russa/Stewart legacy from their tumultuous time in the Arizona front office. Now it remains to be seen if Lopez can provide any type of help going forward.
TOUKI TOUSSAINT-RHP- BRAVES
And the tandem of La Russa and Stewart strike again. Touki Toussaint was a 1st round selection of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2014 First Year Player Draft. Chosen with the No. 16 overall pick, Toussaint was deemed a highly regarded right-handed pitcher out of Coral Springs Christian Academy in Coral Springs, Florida. The trade sent Bronson Arroyo and Toussaint to Atlanta for infielder Phillip Gosselin. To this day it remains one of the worst Diamondbacks deals ever. But without a doubt, sending Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson and pitcher Aaron Blair to the Braves for pitchers Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier takes the cake for the most one-sided, horrible mistakes in Dbacks history. Miller was a bust for Arizona the season before having Tommy John surgery. He is injured once again and cannot pitch this year. Inciarte and Swanson are thriving in Atlanta. As is Touki Toussaint. But the Toussaint deal to shed the Arroyo salary ranks near the top of the awful La Russa era transactions.
Toussaint was dispatched to Atlanta in an effort to save the balance of a ridiculous $9.5MM contract given to Arroyo. There was a buyout fee as well, picked up by Atlanta. In total, the Braves took millions off the Dbacks books. They also took Toussaint as well.
Toussaint is a 6-foot-3, 185 pound right-handed pitcher with a repertoire that includes a sinking fastball, a four-seam fastball, a curve and a splitter. He has been pitching professionally for five years and carried a 26-38 minor league record before being promoted to the parent Braves. Always a starter, Touki has started 106 minor league games, pitching to a 4.08 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP.
Still very young at only 22, Touki made his big league debut with the Braves against the Miami Marlins August 13, 2018. He went 6 innings, yielded 2 hits and 1 earned run while getting the win. He has appeared in 5 games, starting 4 of them. He currently has a 4.30 ERA.
Clearly, the Dbacks could use a pitcher like Touki Toussaint in their organization. He has his entire pitching career ahead of him and is still learning the nuances of major league pitching. But without a doubt, he is a pitcher to know for the future. And just another nightmare for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Not many people outside Chicago know the name Dave Bote. Cubs fans know him well.
I was very impressed with Bote when I first saw him playing for Mesa in the 2017 Arizona Fall League. He hit .333 in the fall with 4 home runs and 14 RBIs. In the short season, it was an outstanding display of plate discipline and hitting. He showed his power, his agility and his baseball acumen while playing in 19 AFL games.
Bote has played in 66 games for the Cubs this year. Hitting only .232, Bote has 6 homers and 27 RBIs as he fills in nicely at 3B, 2B, 1B, SS, LF and CF. He has played them all for the Cubs. And he is likely to stick with them as a super utility type player going forward.
Bote is a rare exception to the rule. It isn’t common for a player chosen in the 18th round of a draft to escape the minor leagues and have an impact on their parent club. But that’s where the 6-foot-1, 210 pound Bote was drafted by the Cubs in 2012. He was selected out of Faith Christian Academy in Arvada, Colorado.
A right-handed hitter, Bote doesn’t have the buzz around his name in the same manner as his Cubs teammates Kris Bryant, Javier Baez or Anthony Rizzo. But Bote has played a very important role in keeping the Cubs in contention to win another World Series title. Due to his versatility, Bote can be called upon at any time to offer quality production from anywhere on the field at any time in the game.
When Bote played in the Fall League, he had the same role. He played 2B, 3B, SS and LF. And he played them all well. His home run power is a great team asset.
ALEX BLANDINO-2B/3B- REDS
Blandino is another Fall League Alum, having played in the league in 2015. While I didn’t see the type of tools I saw from David Bote two seasons later, I was still impressed enough with Blandino to label him a potential major league player. That can’t be said for everyone playing in the league.
Blandino, 25, is a right-handed hitter with good plate discipline and good eye-hand coordination. A solid contact hitter, Blandino doesn’t hit for much power. And he doesn’t have any one tool that will carry him to a big league job year in and year out.
Signed in the 1st round by the Reds after the 2014 draft, Blandino has a .261 minor league batting average.
This year Blandino was promoted to the parent Reds and has hit .234/1/8 in his 147 plate appearances. He has walked 13 times in his 68 games.
Blandino’s time with the Reds has been put on hold. He required knee surgery and will be out for the rest of this season. When he returns, he will have to fight for a utility role and continue to show enough offense to find playing time as the major utility player for the parent club. And that may be difficult, as the Reds have quite a few versatile infield/outfield type fringe players that could claim a role as a 25-man roster utility player in the future.
The Rockies have a high profile middle-infield prospect waiting in the wings. There is no question the club is in an enviable position with rookie Brendan Rodgers on the cusp of entering the major leagues. The highly touted Rodgers is scheduled to play in the upcoming Arizona Fall League.
Rodgers and MVP candidate shortstop Trevor Story could form a terrific one-two punch for years in the middle of the Rockies infield. Which one plays each position remains an unknown, because each can excel at both.
Does Garrett Hampson muddy the waters? Is rookie Hampson a candidate to win a job away from Brendan Rodgers?
Hampson has played in 17 games for the Rockies this season, mostly when D J LeMahieu was out hurt. He’s hit .269 and showed that he is a capable utility player. And I think that is his role going forward. Hampson will be the middle-infielder off the bench next season as I review the matter in September, 2018. That can change. If Rodgers doesn’t hit in the fall and spring and if Hampson tears it up in Arizona next March, Rodgers could spend more time in development.
Hampson is still only 23. He will turn 24 in October. But even at his young age, he has done enough to convince the Rockies Brass that he has a future.
A 3rd round pick in the 2016 draft from Cal State Long Beach, Hampson has vaulted through the Rockies system and found himself playing in a major league game July 21,2018 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. I was at that game when he started and got a hit in four plate appearances. He drove in a run and walked as well. Hampson played well in the series in his role spelling the injured LeMahieu.
Hampson has hit .315 in his three minor league seasons. He doesn’t have much power, but his speed is very good. His speed is probably his best and most advanced tool. He can steal bases, and he has done so everywhere in his career.
I admit I wasn’t very impressed when I saw Verdugo play for Glendale in the 2016 Arizona Fall League. Maybe his .140 batting average had everything to do with it. But he looked totally lost. He looked overmatched against pitchers that were adequate, but not all great. Verdugo played in 13 games, so the sample size wasn’t great.
But frankly, Verdugo has always been on the Dodgers prospect radar among scouts and analysts. I can see why. I get that he has a .309 lifetime (five seasons) batting average in his minor league development program. He has a total of 41 home runs, and power isn’t his best tool. He can run a bit, and he plays a good center field. A high school pitcher, Verdugo is a fine athlete with a strong arm.
I have heard the criticism of Verdugo’s lackadaisical approach on the field. I saw some of that myself in the Fall League. He can overcome that.
This past season he hit .329 at Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League, a fine season. He also hit 10 home runs in his 379 plate appearances.
He has played for the parent Dodgers this season and is hitting .254, holding his own against very high quality pitching. And at only 22, he has a bright future ahead.
The former 2nd round draft pick out of Sahuaro High School in Tucson has a chance to break into the 2019 Dodgers lineup as an outfielder capable of playing any of the three positions. At an even 6-foot-0, Verdugo still generates lots of interest among scouts and analysts and is someone to watch carefully going forward. I see him as a candidate for the centerfield role.
Freddy Peralta is one of those pitchers that continues to intrigue me. I watch him and I like him. I watch him and I wonder why I liked him, because many times I don’t. I have assigned him a grade of 50-which is an average pitcher. But really, I want to revisit that, because he may have more upside than just an average pitcher.
Peralta was an international signing by the Brewers out of the Dominican Republic. He began in the 2014 Arizona Rookie League and progressed from there. He has worked his way all the way to the parent club in a very short amount of time.
Now only 22, Freddy Peralta has pitched 15 games for the Brewers. He has a 6-4 record and a 4.34 ERA. His WHIP is 1.15 and he is striking out an average of 11.2 hitters per 9 innings. And that’s it. That’s why I like him. He can miss bats with very deceptive stuff. But he walks an average of 4.8 batters per 9 innings. And that’s it. That’s why I get frustrated with him. Too many bases on balls. Then I remind myself he’s still only 21.
Why the Brewers brought him up this year in a pennant race is beyond me. That have lots of marginal arms to use and they could have kept Peralta in development. But they see what I see. The guy can go from a 93-94 miles per hour fastball to a wicked 75 miles per hour curve to a split-finger at 83. Those three pitches with deception just change the balance and the eye-level of the hitter so much they make him credible as a pitcher.
I see a very bright future for Peralta as a major league pitcher. Maybe better than the 50 grade I’ve assigned him.
I feel compelled to get this out of the way early. Corey Oswalt is no relationship to Roy Oswalt.
Like many Mets pitchers, Oswalt is big and strong at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds. He was a 7th round draft pick by the Mets in 2012 out of Madison High School in San Diego, California.
As has been the case with most of the players in this piece, I first saw Oswalt pitch in the Fall League. He pitched for the Scottsdale club in 2016, and he was impressive. He struck out 21 in 27 innings, but his command and control issues led to 11 walks. He was far from a finished product, but he showed the potential of a good pitcher.
Now 24, Oswalt has made it to the parent club and has thrown in 15 games, compiling an ERA of 6.31 and a WHIP of 1.36. Walks are still a bit of an issue, but he has yielded 61 hits in 55.2 innings pitched.
Oswalt isn’t overpowering on the mound. He throws a four-seam fastball at 90-91 miles per hour. The rest of his repertoire is average at best, but it’s complete. He has a changeup, a sinking fastball, a slider, a curve and a cutter. Perhaps he is trying to be too fine and perhaps he is throwing too wide a variety of pitches. Regardless, Oswalt isn’t getting guys out.
His curveball is his best pitch, but a hitter can catch up with the velocity and spin.
Oswalt will continue to audition for time on the big league mound going forward. If the Mets choose to break up their array of dynamic starters, Oswalt might factor in as a replacement. While he has good stuff, I think his future remains as a starter rather than in the bullpen.
We haven’t really seen the depth of the Marlins organization at the big league level yet. They made some trades that have yielded a few solid players. But Magneuris is an interesting name to know.
At 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, the left-handed hitting Sierra is a speedy outfielder with potential to get more playing time in the future. He may be only a 4th outfielder, but he can chase down fly balls and steal bases if given the chance.
Signed out of the Dominican, Magneuris Sierra came to the Marlins from the Cardinals in the trade of Marcell Ozuna to St. Louis. So he does have perceived value.
Basically a center fielder, Sierra can also be deployed on a corner, but his speed in the middle of the outfield is helpful.
Sierra doesn’t have power, but he can handle a bat and stroke gap doubles and triples, increasing his value with pure speed. I do think his overall profile will increase on a Miami team that could soon have Monte Harrison and Lewis Brinson, former Brewers outfielders in their outfield as well.
Without question the Marlins will continue to get a complete facelift, and Sierra should be able to carve out a role in their future.
Roman Quinn has very good speed, but he still needs instruction on base stealing. He can get the job done, but I don’t think he trusts himself yet totally at this early stage of his career.
Drafted by the Phillies out of Port St. Joe High School in Florida, Quinn was a 2nd round pick. The 5-foot-10, 170 pound outfielder is a switch-hitter, increasing his value.
When I saw him in the 2014 Arizona Fall League it was way too early in his career for him to make any type of autumn statement. In fact, he was way overmatched. But at the time there was lots of buzz about Quinn’s speed in baseball circles. He lived up to his early career press clippings by stealing 14 bases in his 24 games played. He finished the season hitting .250.
In 2016 Quinn stole 36 bases in 45 tries. This year while playing for the parent Phillies, Quinn has stolen 8 bases in 10 attempts. If he is to remain in the big leagues, he will have to show the team he can run by stealing bases and taking the extra base when appropriate.
Quinn has a bright future in the outfield. He is a .297 hitter for Philadelphia in his 40 games played. He doesn’t have much power, but he can smoke doubles and triples to the gap and can be very dangerous on offense.
A quality centerfielder, Roman Quinn will have to continue to make contact and get on base to be provide the type of production the team needs. His .358 on-base percentage this year provides a good clue as to how he can help the Phillies continue their winning ways.
Quick is worthy of note due to his former 1st round draft status with the San Francisco Giants. Tired of waiting for Crick to develop, the Giants traded the 49th overall pick in the 2011 draft to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the deal that brought Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco. Ironically, McCutchen is now gone from the Giants, and so is Crick.
Early in his career, Crick was viewed as a flame-throwing starter. Drafted out of Sherman High School in Texas, Crick was hitting close to 100 miles per hour in some of his early outings.
I don’t know why they did this, but the Giants sent Crick to the Arizona Fall League when he was only 20. He had brief exposure to Class-A Advanced, but only for a total of 14 games. All were starts. Frankly, I feel the Giants needed pitching so badly at the time that they rushed Crick.
He was mediocre to good at times, but he had walk rates that hovered between 6 and 9 walks per 9 innings in most of his years with the Giants.
Now pitching out of the Pirates bullpen, Kyle Crick seems to be a viable option for low-leverage situations. While I once thought he could close games, I still have concerns about wildness and an out-pitch that escapes him when he tries to amp it up too much.
Crick still throws hard. He’s a 95-97 miles per hour fastball pitcher with a changeup that sits 7 to 8 miles per hour less at 89. He also throws a low-80’s slider, which is the second most frequently used pitch in his repertoire.
Crick may have found a home with Pittsburgh.
Not to be confused with the pitcher of the same name, this Javy Guerra is a shortstop for the San Diego Padres.
A 2012 Boston Red Sox international signee from Panama, Guerra is not the Padres middle-infielder that gets most of the buzz. Those accolades belong to Fernando Tatis Jr., Luis Urias, Esteury Ruiz and Gabriel Arias. Guerra and Urias are the only two currently on the team’s 40-man roster. Others will follow, as soon as this December.
Guerra, however, has at least had a bit of a chance to get on the major league diamond. He has played in five Padres games this year, hitting a very weak .111 in his 10 at-bats. It is far from a true sample-size.
I include Guerra in this piece because he is a capable left-handed hitting shortstop. There are always teams looking for utility infielders, and Guerra may fit the bill for a club looking for a left-handed hitting infielder.
I saw Guerra play for Peoria in the 2017 Arizona Fall League, where he played in 12 games and hit .261. He played well in the field and showed that at least his glove may be worthy of a look.
After the Red Sox signed Guerra, they traded him to San Diego in 2015 in a deal that included pitcher Logan Allen, infielder Carlos Asuaje and OF Manuel Margo heading to the Padres for closer Craig Kimbrel. Asuaje has received lots of playing time on both the 2017 and 2018 editions of the Padres. He and Tatis Jr. as well as Urias have the middle-infield covered for San Diego for years to come.
Nonetheless, Guerra is a good player and deserving of a look by some organization in need of a shortstop.
Now disabled with a torn labrum in his shoulder, Steven Duggar may recover well enough to claim the centerfield position for the 2019 San Francisco Giants.
Duggar is a 6-foot-2, 189 pound fleet-footed outfielder with the ability to play quality defense. He has little to no power, and fits the bill of a typical average centerfielder.
Duggar was a 6th round draft choice out of James F. Byrnes High School in Duncan, South Carolina. He made his major league debut this year in July after four minor league seasons.
I got to scout Duggar in the 2017 Arizona Fall League, where he hit .263, stole 9 bases in 10 attempts and played hard in the field. In fact, I wanted to see Duggar run more often when he got on base and I was often frustrated that he held back. Perhaps that was the manager’s decision. I feel he could have swiped 15 bases with his speed and good baseball instincts. He was on base a lot, finishing the short season with a .367 on-base percentage.
Using a good eye at the plate, Duggar is patient, knows the strike zone, and is a very capable top-of-the-order type hitter. He makes contact, but is selective in his approach at the plate. My concern now is that his shoulder injury will limit his stolen base attempts when he does return.
The Giants traded for Andrew McCutchen, typically a solid center fielder. However, they realized McCutchen was better for them in the corner of the outfield before they moved his contract to the New York Yankees. There will be room on the Giants roster for Duggar once he is fully healthy.
Still a rookie, Harrison Bader is making his presence known in St. Louis. I don’t think lots of people outside of the area even know who Bader is.
Bader was a 3rd round 2015 pick of the Cardinals out of the University of Florida. He is a right-handed hitter with good speed, good baseball instincts and an overall complete set of major league quality skills.
Bader, the 6-0 foot 195 pound right-handed hitting outfielder plays solid defense and can probably play any of the three outfield positions. He has played all three in his 161 total games in St. Louis.
When I saw Bader play for Glendale in the 2016 Arizona Fall League I was impressed with the way Bader played with a smooth, confident approach. He didn’t let emotion enter his game, playing with a cool confidence and steady approach on his way to a .283 batting average that fall. He hit two homers, but drove in a significant 16 runs. He also had two doubles and a triple, and stole four bases, showing off some pop and some speed.
The Cardinals have revamped their outfield, and it seems like Bader has carved a space for himself in their outfield for the future. He can win games in subtle ways. He may not knock the ball out of the park with any regularity, but a 15 to 20 home run season isn’t out of the question.
There is no question Juan Soto has earned the tremendous buzz surrounding him this season. He and the Braves Ronald Acuna are tremendous players, both having mind-boggling seasons. And Victor Robles, another Nationals outfielder is certainly really, really good. But so is Andrew Stevenson, a guy we barely read or hear about.
Left-handed hitting Andrew Stevenson is only 6-foot-0, 183 pounds. Like Acuna and Robles, he isn’t tall. But like both of them, Stevenson holds his own regarding strength and athletic ability. He has some talent, but he doesn’t grade higher than a 45-a utility player.
A 2015 2nd round draft pick out of St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette, Louisiana and LSU, Stevenson is a true multiple-tool player. But no one tool is overwhelming.
My first lengthy looks at Stevenson came in the 2016 Arizona Fall League when he played for Glendale. He hit a whopping .353 in 21 games and was one of the best overall players in the league. He hit 2 homers and drove in 12 while stealing 9 bases in 11 attempts.
He hasn’t live up to that season since, but he is capable of being a solid hitter, a good base runner and a good defender in the outfield. He just needs more time to adjust to major league pitching.
He got his first look for the parent club in 2017 when he hit .158 in 66 plate appearances. Now in 2018 he is getting another chance. He is hitting .250 in his 780 trips to the plate. Most importantly, Stevenson has struck out 22 times, which has me concerned. He has only 4 walks.
I think Stevenson is a better overall player than he has shown so far in brief major league looks. Left-handed hitters are no longer scarce in baseball, so he will have to show improvement to stick with Washington in the future. He will likely be a 4th outfielder.
On a radio show last week I said I felt the Dodgers would win the National League West by three games over the Rockies. The Dodgers pitching has been the difference, and they seem to all be getting healthy now. The final week decides the league. The Rockies will not go away quietly.
Someone who has a significant role with the Diamondbacks told me last week he felt that the current Mike Hazen administration finally has the franchise in the right direction. He felt the La Russa/Stewart duo set the club back years. And he’s right.
Keep your eye on the Royals Adelberto Mondesi. He’s had a tremendous season and he could be a threat to steal tons of bases while hitting a nice share of home runs for the Royals going forward. I’m impressed with the duo of Mondesi and Whit Merrifield up the middle in the Royals infield.
I’ve been watching the White Sox Daniel Palka at the plate. He’s a huge guy who looks much heavier than his listed 6-0, 220 pounds. He’s a left-handed hitter with a hitch in his swing. But he has 26 homers and 62 RBIs while being used mostly as a designated hitter against right-handed pitchers. He’s a guy that can probably hit 30 homers with 450 at-bats.
Speaking of the White Sox, I remain amazed that highly touted Yoan Moncada is still taking an incredible number of called third strikes. His passive approach is robbing him of the full use of outstanding gap double power. He has to be more aggressive at the plate.
After the Indians beat the White Sox last Wednesday, Terminal Tower, a skyscraper in downtown Cleveland was lit up in red and blue colors to honor the Indians. A white W was atop the tower. When the Browns beat the Jets on Thursday night football, the same Terminal Tower was lit in orange with the same W atop the tower.
In Chicago, when the Cubs win, a white flag with a blue W is placed atop Wrigley Field. Thousands of travelers on the cities elevated trains pass Wrigley on their way home from work and see the afternoon game symbol of victory.
Left-handed hitting Christin Stewart will be a good addition to the Tigers for the future. He has some true pop in his bat.
I saw Oliver Perez get a W in a game earlier this week after pitching to just one batter. Isn’t that a bit ridiculous? Carlos Carrasco pitched his heart out, went in to the 7th, struck out 11, gave up one run and wasn’t credited with the win. He had yielded a Daniel Palka homer and left the game trailing 1-0. For getting one out later in the game, Perez was awarded with the W when Cleveland rallied late. The W statistic and how it is administered must be revisited.
In their first 4 trips to the plate in separate games Friday night, the Gurriel brothers hit 4 home runs. Lourdes hit two, scored twice and drove in two runs for Toronto. Yuli hit two home runs, scored two runs and drove in six for Houston. Hats off to the pair of Cuban born brothers now playing stateside.
The Atletics Khris Davis has incredible power. I think he should be discussed in the AL MVP conversation. He shouldn’t win, but he should be in the conversation.
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