The Hot Stove has been turned off. Big Hype Prospects (and baseball at large) enters the coldest month. Still, we have much to discuss.
Five BHPs In The News
Royce Lewis, 23, SS, MIN (MLB)
41 PA, 2 HR, .300/.317/.550
A former first-overall pick, Lewis showed signs of breakout in 2020 but wasn’t able to take the field. He also lost his 2021 campaign. Encouragingly, he posted a .313/.405/.534 line in 153 Triple-A plate appearances last season. He also hit five home runs with 12 steals and an uncharacteristically high 11.8 percent walk rate. One of the main knocks against him as a hitter is overaggression. Alas, he required surgery on his ACL and is expected to be out until next June or July. While injuries have plagued his early career, he’s still managed encouraging skill growth.
This winter has served as a rollercoaster from the perspective of Lewis’ future role with the Twins. Aggressive offers to Carlos Correa made it seem as if Minnesota had a shot to sign him. Then, as we’re all aware, Correa agreed to contracts with the Giants and then the Mets. The door was open for Lewis to supplant Kyle Farmer at midseason. Now, the Twins are back in on Correa. Recent rumors make it seem as if they have a real shot. If they ink Correa, Lewis will move down the defensive spectrum.
Triston Casas, 22, 1B, BOS (MLB)
(AAA) 317 PA, 11 HR, .273/.382/.481
Casas came up in the last edition of BHP so I’ll refer you there for a description of him as a player. More recently, he’s been tied to the Marlins in trade talks. Miami is shopping its rotation depth while hunting for an impactful lineup presence. Curiously, fan reactions on social media seem opposed to a deal from both perspectives. Red Sox fans have been sold on Casas as a mid-lineup contributor. He certainly seems to check all the desirable hitter boxes – power, discipline, and a decent rate of contact. It’s well established that pitchers are less reliable than hitters from a health perspective. Sox fans would rather discuss dealing the likes of Ceddanne Rafaela as part of a package. Following the DFA of Lewin Diaz – who was once described in similar ways to Casas, Marlins fans are understandably hesitant to burn their pitching depth on a first baseman – a position many view as easy to solve in free agency. The club can stand to upgrade at nearly every offensive position.
Josh Smith, 25, UT, TEX (MLB)
253 PA, 2 HR, 4 SB, .197/.307/.249
A utility man acquired from the Yankees as part of the Joey Gallo trade, Smith technically burned his rookie eligibility last year. He demonstrated the plate discipline and contact rate for which he’s known but struggled with the quality of said contact. He blends a fly ball profile with poor barreled and hard contact rates. His 105.4-mph max exit velocity is well below league average. Fly ball hitters who make consistently weak contact typically don’t start.
Earlier in the offseason, the Rangers were reportedly shopping Smith (and the next guy) for upgrades elsewhere. He’s also in the left field mix – a deep collection of interesting but unestablished outfielders. Connecting a few dots, the Rangers recent interest in Bryan Reynolds could have implications for Smith – either because his path to playing time is that much longer or he’s been dealt to the Pirates. The Rangers are known for a fly ball-oriented approach to their hitting instruction. Smith might benefit from an organization that invests in a more balanced contact profile.
Ezequiel Duran, 23, UT, TEX (MLB)
220 PA, 5 HR, 4 SB, .236/.277/.365
As with Smith, the Rangers perhaps prematurely used Duran’s rookie year. A third baseman who has been forced off the position by Josh Jung, Duran has moderate issues with plate discipline and contact rate. He features above-average raw power as evidenced by a 110.2-mph max exit velocity. However, if he qualified, his 85.9-mph average exit velocity would have ranked among the bottom 20 in the league. Consistency held him back in his debut. Duran doesn’t have an obvious role on the Rangers roster and has much to learn in all facets of his game.
Drey Jameson, 25, SP, ARI (MLB)
24.1 IP, 8.88 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, 1.48 ERA
Jameson is one of several young pitchers battling for a rotation role with the Diamondbacks. After allowing a 6.95 ERA over 114 innings at Triple-A last season, I was skeptical about his ability to fit in a Major League rotation. Four starts did much to assuage my doubts. He’s a gimmicky pitcher who might best be used for short outings or relief work.
Pitch extension – the distance from the rubber when the pitcher releases the ball – is a trait taught by many organizations for a few reasons. The state of the arts suggests pitchers with average or better extension are more likely to have smoother mechanics. Extension also plays with perceived velocity. Jameson has among the worst extension in the league. His reach is short enough to play with hitters’ timing because his offerings feel like the crawl to home plate. It’s not uncommon to see hitters take uncomfortable swings against his two fastballs. Jameson has above-average command and also wields a slider he can throw for called strikes or swings out of the zone. His two fastballs both tunnel well with his two-location slider. Unfortunately, the heaters are very homer prone on account of his poor extension.
Ryne Nelson, ARI (24): Nelson is a typical pitching prospect possessing a four-pitch repertoire. He leans heavily on his fastball which he typically uses up in the zone to draw whiffs and weak fly balls. Neither his slider nor curve have stepped forward as his dominant breaking ball, though both offerings draw 50 grades from multiple evaluators. His changeup still lags behind his other pitches. He could slot into a high-leverage relief role. As a starter, he needs further refinement to become more than an innings eater.
Brandon Pfaadt, ARI (24): Unlike Jameson and Nelson, Pfaadt has yet to cut his teeth in the Majors. His minor league results are the most encouraging of the trio. A fly ball pitcher who generates plenty of swinging strikes and avoids free passes, Pfaadt shows advanced feel for using his repertoire to manipulate opposing hitters. There’s debate as to the quality of his specific offerings. It’s hard to pin down because he seemingly has used at least six distinct pitches.
Lenyn Sosa, CWS (22): Sosa was overmatched in a brief trial during the 2022 campaign, but he performed ably at Double- and Triple-A. He’s currently in the White Sox second base mix, competing with the likes of Romy Gonzalez and Leury Garcia. Scouts typically describe him as a future role player due to below-average athleticism. He habitually expands the strike zone.