Bernie on the Scene: A Return to Evaluating Prospects

Bernie on the Scene: A Return to Evaluating Prospects

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

Last week I laid an egg.

Nobody read my article.

I wrote about the American League teams I felt could win the World Series. Not a popular piece.

I thought I'd be writing about National League teams this week. Nope. I learned my lesson.

I am returning to doing prospect profiles and evaluations. That is an area of concern to my readers. I respect that. I will answer the call.

All profiles below are updated from any I have written in the past regarding the player. Stats are as of Saturday morning, October 2.

Max Meyer, RHP, Miami Marlins
6-0, 196 
Age: 22
Selected in the first round of the 2020 draft out of University of Minnesota.

The Marlins signed Meyer for a whopping $6.7M. You know what that means, right? Follow the money. Meyer could fall flat in his development and still get to pitch for Miami or be part of a huge trade. His place in Marlins history is likely guaranteed by that signing contract. The Marlins don't just throw money around.

We won't have to worry about Meyer.

Meyer was a closer in college, which could be his role with the Marlins. But, and this is important, he was used as a starter this season at both Double-A and Triple-A.

Meyer threw 106 innings in 23 starts. He finished with a record of 6-3, with all of his record coming at Double-A Pensacola.

Meyer struck out an average of 10.4 hitters per nine, but he walked 3.5

Last week I laid an egg.

Nobody read my article.

I wrote about the American League teams I felt could win the World Series. Not a popular piece.

I thought I'd be writing about National League teams this week. Nope. I learned my lesson.

I am returning to doing prospect profiles and evaluations. That is an area of concern to my readers. I respect that. I will answer the call.

All profiles below are updated from any I have written in the past regarding the player. Stats are as of Saturday morning, October 2.

Max Meyer, RHP, Miami Marlins
6-0, 196 
Age: 22
Selected in the first round of the 2020 draft out of University of Minnesota.

The Marlins signed Meyer for a whopping $6.7M. You know what that means, right? Follow the money. Meyer could fall flat in his development and still get to pitch for Miami or be part of a huge trade. His place in Marlins history is likely guaranteed by that signing contract. The Marlins don't just throw money around.

We won't have to worry about Meyer.

Meyer was a closer in college, which could be his role with the Marlins. But, and this is important, he was used as a starter this season at both Double-A and Triple-A.

Meyer threw 106 innings in 23 starts. He finished with a record of 6-3, with all of his record coming at Double-A Pensacola.

Meyer struck out an average of 10.4 hitters per nine, but he walked 3.5 per nine. It is his lack of refined command that could stunt his growth and keep him from advancing to Miami next season.

Meyer has a very solid fastball/slider combination, backing that with a changeup that is above average in quality and depth. Throwing his fastball at 93-97 and then bringing in his slider can keep the hitter off balance.

Not very big by today's pitcher profiles, Meyer could be a midrotation starter in a rotation that should include Sixto Sanchez and Edward Cabrera among others in the deep Marlins pitching development program. 

Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: I think Meyer will be a good, but not great starter. He has the repertoire to succeed, but he has to iron out some command and control issues. I'd wait a year before jumping on his bandwagon. The Marlins will be slow to promote him if the existing MLB free agency clock remains after the new collective bargaining agreement is completed.

Daniel Espino, RHP, Cleveland Indians
6-2, 205 
Age: 20
Daniel Espino was selected by Cleveland out of Georgia Premier Academy in the first round of the 2019 draft. He was signed for $2.4M as the No. 24 overall pick.

Espino pitched both a Class-A and Class-A Advanced this season. He made 20 starts and finished with a record of 3-8.

His record aside, the Indians like the repertoire of a blazing upper-90s fastball that grades as a 70, as well as a curve and slider. All three of his pitches are high quality, with the curve being the least developed.

Like many young pitchers, walks were a problem for Espino this year. He yielded 3.8 walks per nine, but struck out an average of 14.9 hitters per nine with that electric repertoire. He has the stuff the Indians love as a potential rotation starter.

Espino has "long" arm action, and he may tire early and easily in games. In effect, he may wear out. As a strikeout pitcher, he may go deeply into counts and rack up his pitch counts.

While the Indians don't have a huge financial investment in Espino, the team knows how to develop pitching. He's on their radar. Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: Espino is well worth taking in keeper leagues as a stash. He is at least two seasons away, but if he learns how to pitch and not throw, he'll be solid.

Jeter Downs, SS,/2B, Boston Red Sox
5-11, 195 pounds
Bats: Right
The Cincinnati Reds signed Jeter Downs out of Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami after he was chosen by them in the first round of the 2017 draft.

Downs signed for $1.822M, which was not a great sum for the No. 32 pick.

The Reds traded Downs to the Dodgers in 2018 in the trade that brought Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Yasiel Puig to Cincinnati.

Downs and Alex Verdugo were then a part of the trade that sent Mookie Betts to the Dodgers.

I have never been very bullish on Downs, and this was a lost season for Downs. He played at Triple-A and hit .190/.272/.333/.606 in 405 plate appearances. He struck out 131 times, and while he did hit 14 homers he drove in only 39 runs. In a word, his season was…lost.

When he first arrived on the scene, Downs was a patient hitter capable of using the entire field with a measured stroke. Now, however, I think he hunted home runs and was a disaster.

A good base runner, Downs may be able to steal some bases. But there isn't any one tool that sticks out to me when I watch him play. Scouting Grade: 45

Fantasy Relevance: I see little reason to draft Jeter Downs until he shows he can hit advanced pitching. A huge disappointment for the Red Sox so far, he just hasn't mastered the art of hitting. For that reason, I think he profiles as a utility player, at best. Consider him like you would consider electricity. Don't touch him. At lease not until he puts two good seasons together.

Taj Bradley, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
6-2, 190 
Age 20
Taj Bradley was selected in the fifth round as player No. 150 taken in the 2018 draft. The Rays gave him $747,500 to keep him away from pitching in college.

An outfielder and pitcher in high school, Bradley was one of 10 high school pitchers taken in that draft.

Tampa Bay is known for developing pitchers. They also trade them, as well. But Bradley is coming off a great season this year at Low Class-A and Class-A Advanced. He started 22 games and worked out of the pen in one. He threw 103.1 innings and finished with a 1.83 ERA and 0.929 WHIP. He struck out an average of 10.7 per nine and walked 2.7 per nine.

Bradley features a fastball/slider combination, and both pitchers are well above average. He also throws a mediocre curve and a below average changeup that is a work in progress.

Strong and muscular, Bradley is a physical presence on the mound. He's in excellent condition, and his athletic ability can't be denied. 

Anytime a fifth round pitcher misses bats like Bradley did this season, I take notice. And I did.

Given the Rays history with pitchers, it will be quite a while until we see Bradley on the big league mound. But he'll be worth the wait. Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: His season this year may have put Bradley on more prospect maps. But if you can get him in a keeper league, you will have to be patient.

Kyle Isbel, OF, Kansas City Royals
5-11, 190
Bats: Left
Age: 24
Kyle Isbel was selected in the 3rd round of the 2018 draft out of University of Nevada.

The Royals signed Isbel for $592,000, a bit below slot. 

Isbel is now playing for the major league club, but his rookie status remains.

I was able to scout Isbel in the 2019 Arizona Fall League before baseball and the world shut down due to the pandemic. He hit .315 that fall with a homer and 16 RBIs. It was a good fall.

Known as a very good defensive outfielder, Isbel has enough tools to stick with the team at any of the outfield positions.

In his brief stint with the Royals this season, Isbel is handling good pitching better than one might expect at his age and with minimal experience. He is probably on the club's radar for next season.

Isbel may not offer much power to either the Royals or fantasy managers, but he's a solid player capable of getting on base and maybe picking up double-digit stolen bases. For me, his speed and running ability are the best of his tools.

Not a great hitter, Isbel may give you an average return as a late-round flyer in the outfield. Asking more than average production may be a mistake. Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: I think if you are looking for meh, Isbel is your guy. He won't be much more, but he probably won't hurt you, either.

Joe Ryan: RHP, Minnesota Twins
6-2, 205
Age 25
Joe Ryan was a seventh round selection of the Tampa Bay Rays out of Cal State University, Stanislaus. He was given a $147,500 signing bonus.

Ryan was sent to the Twins from the Rays in the deal that brought Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay.

Ryan has been inserted into the Twins rotation, but he still has rookie eligibility.

The Twins need pitching. They traded Jose Berrios, and Kenta Maeda has had Tommy John surgery. Ryan is being given a golden opportunity, but he's still really a prospect.

Ryan has made five starts for the Twins, throwing 26.2 innings. He has yielded only 16 hits and 12 earned runs. His ERA of 4.05 could be on the high side from what I have observed so far. I think he has outstanding upside. Striking out 10.1 hitters per nine while walking only 1.7 per nine, I like what I have seen so far of his command and control.

Ryan has four pitches in his repertoire. He throws his fastball at 92 to 96 mph and he has a better-than-average slider and an acceptable curve and changeup. The last two pitches need work and refinement.

Ryan fools hitters with a quirky delivery. He has good command of his pitches, and he can hit his spots. He finishes his pitches well with good extension on his delivery. Sound mechanics and a good foundation for an improving repertoire make me rather bullish on his future.

The key to Ryan will be improving his secondary pitches. He will have to get more bite on his curve and improve his changeup to deceive hitters and change their eye levels consistently. Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: You will be getting a regular rotation starter by drafting Ryan. I think he'll be a fixture in the rotation next year. He's a low-round pick, but a sleeper, at that.

HEADING HOME:

I attended four of the last five games of the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland.

At the Friday night game, they had fireworks. Along with the fireworks came a retrospective of the Indians season.

At one point, they showed the announcement of the Indians name being changed to the Guardians. 

A huge, and I mean huge, chorus of boos went up from the stadium. People in Cleveland are not happy about the new name. They may understand a need for a name change (and not all agree on that, either) but they clearly don't like Guardians. And I get that.

————

I can't help but marvel how a healthy Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge have taken the Yankees on their backs, and powered them and our fantasy teams in the last month. Those two guys are now finally becoming what we all thought they could be when they were first united. All it takes is a little good health.

————

Maybe the criticism of Dusty Baker as a manger will now be quieter. He has shown he's a winner…again. Granted, the competition in the AL West wasn't great, but he still had to overcome the Athletics and the Mariners. But frankly, the Angels and Rangers were gifts to the top three division teams.

————

Does Jayce Tingler deserve to be retained as the Padres manager? How about A. J. Preller as their baseball operations guru?  Why are managers usually ushered out the door way before the GM gets the pink slip?

————

In case you missed it, the Chicago Bears are trying to buy Arlington Race Track in Arlington Heights, Illinois. They have submitted the highest bid and await due diligence on their offer. It could mean Chicago and Soldier Field will no longer be home to the Bears. Something just doesn't sit right for me with that news.

————

I will be attending the Arizona Fall League probably every day beginning October 13. I will tweet live from the games @BerniePleskoff and I'll provide scouting reports in my weekly articles.

Have a great week. Please leave me the names of prospects you would like me to profile. Of course, I have to recover from the egg on my face from last week's article — and I hope you like reading about prospects as much as I like evaluating them. 

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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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