Bernie on the Scene: 20 Homers and 20 Stolen Bases for These Prospects

Bernie on the Scene: 20 Homers and 20 Stolen Bases for These Prospects

This article is part of our Bernie on the Scene series.

Today I'm offering some scouting reports/profiles on prospect players who have both power and speed. Having a player with those two dynamic tools on a fantasy roster can help win a league.

These prospects were among several who hit 20 homers and stole 20 bases in their minor league season.

Remember, speed doesn't just mean stolen bases. Speed means stretching a single to a double or a double to a triple. Speed means getting to the ball on defense, allowing the player to remain in the lineup for defensive purposes. And that can mean at-bats.

Shay Whitcomb, INF, Houston Astros
6-3, 202 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 23
The Astros selected Whitcomb in the fifth round of the 2020 draft out of the University of California at San Diego. He signed for $56,000.

Whitcomb spent 2012 at Class-A and Class-A Advanced. He finished with 23 homers, 78 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 35 attempts.

There is some swing-and-miss and high strikeout totals in his game, but the power of the big infielder can't be denied. He played all over this season: at second, short and even at third base. So he can be a Swiss Army Knife type player if and when he graduates to the Astros parent club.

Whitcomb is known as a pure pull-hitter. If he can take pitches to the opposite field, he may be able to improve his overall offensive performance. But, that said, his right-handed swing is pretty powerful.

He can build up a head

Today I'm offering some scouting reports/profiles on prospect players who have both power and speed. Having a player with those two dynamic tools on a fantasy roster can help win a league.

These prospects were among several who hit 20 homers and stole 20 bases in their minor league season.

Remember, speed doesn't just mean stolen bases. Speed means stretching a single to a double or a double to a triple. Speed means getting to the ball on defense, allowing the player to remain in the lineup for defensive purposes. And that can mean at-bats.

Shay Whitcomb, INF, Houston Astros
6-3, 202 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 23
The Astros selected Whitcomb in the fifth round of the 2020 draft out of the University of California at San Diego. He signed for $56,000.

Whitcomb spent 2012 at Class-A and Class-A Advanced. He finished with 23 homers, 78 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 35 attempts.

There is some swing-and-miss and high strikeout totals in his game, but the power of the big infielder can't be denied. He played all over this season: at second, short and even at third base. So he can be a Swiss Army Knife type player if and when he graduates to the Astros parent club.

Whitcomb is known as a pure pull-hitter. If he can take pitches to the opposite field, he may be able to improve his overall offensive performance. But, that said, his right-handed swing is pretty powerful.

He can build up a head of steam on the bases, and catchers have to be aware that he hunts stolen bases.

Whitcomb projects as a third baseman due to limited range and a lack of first-step quickness.

Whitcomb opened eyes this season, but he's the type of guy who will have to do it again at the next level to prove he belongs as a major league infielder. Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: If Whitcomb is promoted to Triple-A, he will have to hit and show the power and speed more consistently for us to get excited about his prospects as a fantasy chip. However, he's worth waiting for to see what happens.

Romy Gonzalez, SS, Chicago White Sox
6-1, 215 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 25
Romy Gonzalez was selected in the 18th round of the 2018 draft out of the University of Miami.

Gonzalez played 10 games for the White Sox this past season. However, he spent the season at Double-A and Triple-A. 

He finished 2021 hitting 24 homers and stealing 24 bases in 30 attempts. Gonzalez drove in 61 runs for the season.

The White Sox have liked Gonzalez' power, but his stolen bases are a true bonus. He can hit the ball to his pull-side with strength and a quick swing. But he remains a bit too aggressive at the plate, and strikeouts are an issue.

A big guy, he doesn't have the softest hands or the best range at shortstop. He will not make White Sox fans forget Tim Anderson. That said, he may not have a true position on the big league club. Some think he'll end up at third base. He may also figure in the outfield.

Overall, Gonzalez is going to have to continue to hit for power and steal bases to gain the attention of the White Sox brass. He could really struggle hitting for average, which could be an issue. Scouting Grade: 45

Fantasy Relevance: I just don't know how much of a future a guy who has reached 25 has on a club like the White Sox who are pretty set at most positions. I'm avoiding him, but i can always be persuaded if he continues to hit the ball out of the park.

Zach Watson, Baltimore Orioles
6-0, 160 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 24
Watson was a third-round draft pick by Baltimore in the 2019 draft out of Louisiana State and they signed him for $780,400.

Watson was a starter in center field for LSU. 

This past season, Watson hit 21 homers and stole 24 bases in 30 attempts combined at Double-A and Triple-A. He drove in 66 runs.

Just to be clear, Watson is a defense-first player. He's a good centerfielder, and that's probably why he could be part of the Orioles' future. I don't think he will hit for average, as his .248 average this season showed us.

But the power and speed combination he flashed can't be ignored. He gained some attention with that combination of tools. So, if you're looking for speed from an outfielder, he's your man.

Watson has a slow bat. He doesn't have the type of hitting mechanics that will translate to batting average or a heavy load of extra base hits. Scouting Grade: 45

Fantasy Relevance: I think there are speedy outfielders with poor hitting skills all over. I'm not going to get excited about Watson until he can show he belongs.

Oswaldo Cabrera, INF, New York Yankees
5-10, 145 
Bats: Both
Age: 22
Oswaldo Cabrera was signed for $250,000 out of Venezuela in 2014. And, yes, Cabrera is another among the good fielding infielders from Venezuela, but he is not anything close to above average on defense. Good. Not great. I think he can play anywhere in the infield, with the exception of first base.

At Double-A and Triple-A this year, Cabrera hit 29 homers and stole 21 bases in 26 attempts. He drove in 89 runs.

Cabrera has improved as he gets a bit more experience. Still only 22, he is adding depth and strength to his frame. He has quick hands at the plate, and if he continues to add on to his slender body, he could be a force in the infield. That power can't be ignored.

Cabrera probably has enough arm strength to play third base, and that's where many scouts feel he will wind up. But remember, he isn't very big. He will have to keep getting stronger to be a force as a major league player. Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: I just don't see Cabrera as a New York Yankees type player. But, he's so young, we can't rule him out.

Josh Lowe, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
6-4, 205 pounds
Bats: Left
Age: 23
The Rays selected Josh Lowe in the first round of the 2015 draft out of Pope High School in Marietta, Georgia and was the 13th player taken in that draft.

Lowe received a $2.6M signing bonus from Tampa Bay, and he's the brother of Nathaniel Lowe of the Texas Rangers.

Lowe played two games for the Rays in 2021. We have to remember that Tampa Bay is usually very careful about promoting their players. They won't bring up a player before his time.

This year at Triple-A Durham, Lowe hit .291/.381/.535 with 22 homers and 26 stolen bases. He did not get thrown out trying to steal.

Lowe was originally signed as an infielder. However, the Rays, as they do best, evaluated him and changed his position. They want him in the outfield.

Frankly, I've watched lots of Lowe in the Arizona Fall League, and I just don't think he has enough in the tool box to be a regular outfielder — but maybe he plays four games a week. However, I do think he can contribute coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter or playing as a defensive replacement in those other games. He makes a solid utility option for the Rays, unless we see that he can continue to hit the ball out of the park on his pull side. He may be capable of 30 home runs. He's clearly capable of hitting the balls to the gap. Scouting Grade: 50, barely.

Fantasy Relevance: Watch the power output in the coming year. Will he make the big club as a utility guy? Will he return to Triple-A and try to hit more homers? He's still young, and he could improve in a number of areas. And don't forget — he's a former first round pick.

Matthew Barefoot, OF, Houston Astros
6-0, 205 
Bats: Right
Age: 24
Barefoot was a sixth-round draft pick for the Astros out of Campbell University in North Carolina.

The Astros gave Barefoot a $150,000 signing bonus.

Barefoot spent his season at Class-A, Class-A Advanced and Double-A. Obviously, the Astros are moving him in their system, which is very telling. He hit 20 homers, drove in 68 runs and stole 21 bases in 25 chances. He hit .258/.311/.477. He has an even slate of tools, with nothing really outstanding. He runs well, but he isn't a burner. Above average, but not anything close to being considered a jackrabbit on the bases.

He's a right-handed hitter; left-handed thrower. One wonders if he will try to switch-hit at some point? He does hit the ball hard when he makes contact, basically using his pull side.

Like many young players, Barefoot is aggressive at the plate. That usually means strikeouts, and he struck out 135 times this season. If he doesn't make it as a hitter, Barefoot has pitched in his past. He could be like Anthony Gose and covert to the mound, using a fastball that sits at 94-miles per hour. Scouting Grade: 45

Fantasy Relevance: I won't be too impressed yet. He doesn't profile as the type of player that can make the adjustments required to be a regular at the big league level.

HEADING HOME:

We have seen some spectacular pitching so far in the postseason. In particular, Corbin Burnes, Charlie Morton, Logan Webb and Walker Buehler were just terrific. Sadly, Morton and Buehler had to watch games slip away from them. 

I clearly don't get why Tony La Russa didn't use Michael Kopech in the first two games? La Russa  had a chance to salvage Game 2 by inserting Kopech early. He failed to do that. He also took sure-handed outfielder Adam Engel out of the game when he inserted Cesar Hernandez at second base and moved Leury Garcia to right. It didn't work. I was very wary at the time of those moves. I don't think La Russa has been sharp at all, and Dusty Baker out managed him. Badly.

I don't get why MLB played the entire season with their new designated runner on second to start extra innings but abandoned that in the playoffs? I think fans liked the new twist. And teams were getting used to it. What was the logic in dumping that?

I do think the designated hitter will be universal in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

With all the available networks for the postseason, MLB put games on MLB Network — not all fans have that option.

I will be attending the Arizona Fall League almost every day starting Wednesday. Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff for updates on players assigned to the league.

For the next three or four weeks, all my scouting reports will be targeted at Arizona Fall League players. They are highly regarded by their respective clubs, and I will highlight them. Even if I've written about the player before, I will offer my most recent evaluation after seeing the player in the Arizona Fall League.

So for the next few weeks, I am targeting AFL players and not as many reader requests. I'll try to get in a couple of those as well, so keep the requests coming in the comments section below. I'll do my best to include them.

Thanks for reading. Follow me @BerniePleskoff. Have a great week.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bernie Pleskoff
Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
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