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Second Half A-Ball Six Pack (Pt. 1)
Nate Handy does a deep dive on 6 Single-A Prospects
*Editor Note: Because Nate is so in-depth and adds video, which is awesome, we have to break this post into two parts. Because these post are sent via email, Gmail limits the size. So I am breaking it into two parts.
It’s only polite to bring a sixer over when a pal invites you to his man cave for the first time, right? Here are six cheap, muddy, don’t-get-your-hopes-up-but-still-might-turn-into-a-party cold ones for you. As will be the case with most of the players formally brought up in the Dugout by yours truly, preface with this; if you’re paying for these players, or even rostering them right now, you might be doing this wrong. Of course spec size of your league matters, but here are six young bats I’ve been (or started) watching closely. A few have already been formal B-Side selections, and a few are on my shortlist for 2024.
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SS/2B/3B Junior Tilien
A+ Brooklyn (NYM)
20 yo, 0% Fantrax Rosters
Generically speaking, if you’re putting up gaudy numbers, you’re most likely getting rostered. “Breakouts,” “pop-ups,” “blips,” whatever you want to call them aren’t found scouting stat lines, or at least, surface-level numbers. I dare say, these days, with animals like Chris on the prowl, players not lighting up the surface-level production but passing the under-the-hood tests aren’t where you find them either. It’s starting to feel like video, catching glimpses of what a player could be turning into, might be the place to get this done. This, in part, is why you’ll find three St. Lucie Mets (one former) on this list.
St. Lucie is one of two places you can tune into Florida State League games. Last May I caught a young teenage shortstop I’d never heard of blast a three-run shot that registered an impressive EV. Revisiting Tilien as the season progressed, specifically back-dooring Savant data, I’d continually notice games whereupon his name was dominating the hardest-hit ball list. He stacked three to four batted balls of 95ish+ EV on the day, and he did this on occasion. Tuning in to watch, although he may not scream poster child of what this technique break-down hack likes to see in hitters, it wasn’t without some good stuff. With darn near zero dynasty popularity, he was an easy B-Side selection heading into the year.
The FSL isn’t where you go to use a young hitter’s production as his measuring stick for future outcomes, in my opinion. We’ve seen plenty of young hitters slash mediocre or meh lines, produce pedestrian counting stats, and the like, only to move along and start doing it; Nolan Gorman, Jasson Dominguez, and Endy Rodriguez are some decent contemporary examples. The park factor stuff is well documented; heavy air, pitcher-friendly trade winds, etc., but the style of pitching prospect some of the organizations throw out down there plays into it too. The Pirates, Blue Jays, Yankees, Marlins, and others aren’t short on extra feral arms producing crazy good spin and velocity; precarious for young hitters seeing such wild quality on a daily basis for the first time.
Tilien has quietly had an impressive season (or at least in terms of getting through the FSL gauntlet), earning a promotion to Brooklyn about a month ago. Here’s his time at St. Lucie 2023 which seemed to be picking up at the end:
I won’t be getting into a bunch of number wang this session, you can pick out what you like or hate on your own there, but I’ll leave it at this…it seems Tilien has enough athleticism to stay in the dirt defensively while hitting the ball hard without too many zero quality PAs. He’s getting his swings in too, which is a quality I look for in young guys in A ball. If they’re doing it responsibly (without chasing/striking out a lot) they may be taking a path of growing into a truly dangerous hitter amongst the big boys. I’ve found him to be a bit inconsistent mechanically, at least from what little I know on the subject matter, trying to hack as best I can for a guy on his couch, but there have been pretty moments. Namely, the stillness in his swing/head while producing damage on a variety of pitches and locations. Like this game-winning two-out top of the ninth home run off an 0-0 secondary, his third series with Brooklyn. A pitch a dare say more selective types aren’t gonna win a game on:
Tilien is off to a nice start in High A, .258/.303/.484 3 HR over his first 17 games. If he hums along the rest of the way like this, he puts in off-season work, and takes a little jump developmentally, we may find a 21-year-old infielder putting up some numbers and getting his feet wet in AA by the end of 2024. That would get attention. I’m not betting on it, because proper B-siding involves no real buy-in. A league with 900 specs seems fitting, but isn’t really happening. Will he really hit? He’s swinging the bat to find out at least.
CF/LF/3B Wilfredo Lara
A St. Lucie (NYM)
19 yo, 1% FantraxRoster
Our second young Met is an @MattyBackpack special, as he turned me onto him, and I’m still quite interested. Wilfredo Lara is seventh in the FSL in home runs (10) and he wasn’t in the league the first month. Leaping all but Jared Serna seems quite doable, and at the pace he’s on, he may even catch him. That alone is a noteworthy feat in the FSL. This wasn’t his hardest-hit ball of the season, but close to it:
St. Lucie has had a rough season, but their lineup isn’t short of interesting prospects. Along with Lara and Tilien, a guy we are going to get into next and first-round pick Jett Williams spent a lot of time together in this lineup. Here’s how some of their numbers compare:
Vs the league average of hitters with 100 or more PAs (a few days old):
Lara doesn’t earn A+ video reviews from me at the plate, but it might just depend on what kind of narrative or young hitter you seek. Is he a technically sound guy? I don’t think so, but there are praiseworthy elements, like fast hands. Is he strong, twitchy, capable of producing bat speed, and athletic enough to produce results without being perfect? I’d say so. He’s raw, and sloppier (don’t think he transfers energy fantastically). To use pitching jargon on a hitter, you may say he’s got good stuff but needs polish. So if you wanna spin it he can get cleaned up and take off, look at the production when he’s sloppy, or he’s a sloppy hack that won’t last….that’s just your choice. Either seems fine by me, but what doesn’t is the lack of shots being taken by large league owners. I’ve got some shares there, picked up when Matty touted him early May, and he’s stuck on my rosters. Take that for what you will.
Having only been tuning into at-bats, I can’t speak on Lara’s glove. He’s played a lot of positions as you can see below, and although some are touting him as a utility type, one can’t help but wonder if you have a lot of positions in A ball, you may not have one at all.
Lastly, there have been many highly touted international signees over the years hitting A ball riding athleticism and strength as calling cards who don’t do anything at the plate. At the very least this fiery young Dominican isn’t one of them, both in popular reputation and lack of production.
CIF Jacob Reimer
A St. Lucie (NYM)
19 yo, 2% FantraxRos
I happened to catch this 0-0, 87 mph changeup by Cole Kirschsieper get sent 433 feet (107.5 mph EV) live:
…and it wasn’t the first time I caught Reimer destroying a baseball, nor anything all that new. Reimer is well known by folks who follow preps year long, but wasn’t one who has gotten much dynasty attention. It’s starting to change though as his Fantrax ownership rate has increased by 1.8% the last week or so. Reimer is also the new #12 ranked prospect in a quietly intriguing Mets system by a well-established prospect publication. The 2022 fourth-round pick from Yucapia, CA (775K signee) was on a heater before spending some time on the IL:
His season-long numbers:
Big raw power with question he has a swing to produce home runs has and is the story. Reimer isn’t swing-happy and doesn’t whiff. He’s got real hitting ability but he just doesn’t barrel baseballs. As much as I try and stay away from such talk, he has launch angle problems if home runs are going to be part of the fun. MLB clubs all knew this story, and it’ll be interesting to see if any changes come. Hitting more home runs sure seems like a question a (most likely) future first baseman will have to ask himself if he wants to make the bigs.
At the end of the day, it’s his career, and he’s gonna do him. But for us, if Reimer starts putting it in the air, there could be plenty of dynasty love coming. He’s still a teenager, and I always find it interesting: if Reimer went to college and spent the next couple of years discovering his swing with an eye on a bigger draft pay day, we’d maybe never talk about the above, but when young players do such things in pro ball, the propensity to start defining who they forever are creeps in. I’ve got a share or two in 30s, and holding to see what happens early next season after an offseason. Big power minus typical warts; lack of discipline, over-aggressiveness, and poor contact skills doesn’t grow on trees.