Bernie on the Scene: Intriguing Young Prospects We Should Know

Bernie on the Scene: Intriguing Young Prospects We Should Know

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

I'm continuing with my series on Arizona Fall League prospects who I think have a chance to be among the 10 percent of prospects who make the big leagues.

Of course, there is no guarantee. Most of these players are still young and have much to prove.

Nick Gonzales, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
Bats: Right
5-10, 195 
Age: 22
Nick Gonzales is a 2020 first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates out of New Mexico State University. The Pirates signed the No. 7 overall pick for $5,432,400. And for the Pirates, that's a real commitment. He'll play at the big league level. Take it to the bank — just like Gonzales did.

Gonzales spent 2021 at Class-A Advanced, where he hit .302/.385/.565/.950 with 18 home runs and 54 RBIs. He stole seven bases in nine attempts.

In the Fall League, he is hitting .317/.417/.390/.807 with no homers and five RBIs. He has stolen one base in as many attempts.

I have really liked what I've seen this fall from Gonzales on both sides of the ball. He's a very smooth defensive middle-infielder with good, soft hands and quick feet. His range is solid and his arm strength is major-league average. He has played better in the Fall League than his press clippings and scouting reports would lead one to believe.

But the Pirates like Gonzales for his bat. It plays. His contact skills are superb. He can find the barrel of the bat regularly and has the ability to hit the

I'm continuing with my series on Arizona Fall League prospects who I think have a chance to be among the 10 percent of prospects who make the big leagues.

Of course, there is no guarantee. Most of these players are still young and have much to prove.

Nick Gonzales, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
Bats: Right
5-10, 195 
Age: 22
Nick Gonzales is a 2020 first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates out of New Mexico State University. The Pirates signed the No. 7 overall pick for $5,432,400. And for the Pirates, that's a real commitment. He'll play at the big league level. Take it to the bank — just like Gonzales did.

Gonzales spent 2021 at Class-A Advanced, where he hit .302/.385/.565/.950 with 18 home runs and 54 RBIs. He stole seven bases in nine attempts.

In the Fall League, he is hitting .317/.417/.390/.807 with no homers and five RBIs. He has stolen one base in as many attempts.

I have really liked what I've seen this fall from Gonzales on both sides of the ball. He's a very smooth defensive middle-infielder with good, soft hands and quick feet. His range is solid and his arm strength is major-league average. He has played better in the Fall League than his press clippings and scouting reports would lead one to believe.

But the Pirates like Gonzales for his bat. It plays. His contact skills are superb. He can find the barrel of the bat regularly and has the ability to hit the gaps with a measured swing. His hitting mechanics belie his age. We won't see much power in Gonzales, but he does have the ability to hit the gaps and take pitches on a line to the deepest part of the field. He has really quick hands through the ball, and that results in back spin and depth.

Gonzales has shown enough speed to get on base and steal. I see him as a top-of-the-order hitter with the ability to get on base, steal and score runs. But he isn't a burner. He just has good running skills and advanced baseball acumen. Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: Gonzales is an above-average hitter for average. He has speed to steal bases and score runs. The power may come, but it is doubtful we can count on that. He may play second base or shortstop, both positions that will fit well with his profile. But I like him better at second.

Bryson Stott, SS/2B, Philadelphia Phillies
6-3, 200 
Bats: Left
Age: 24
Stott is a first-round draft pick (No. 14 overall) of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019 and was signed for $3.9M out of University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

Stott has a very measured and sweet left-handed swing. He is very disciplined and doesn't chase pitches he can't hit. He will make a pitcher work to get him out. His advanced mechanics at the plate are very obvious — especially in a league with so many young, free-swinging hitters.

Stott is really good at taking the pitch where it is thrown, using the entire field to his advantage. As a left-handed hitting shortstop, he can be a real gem in the Phillies future lineups. I haven't seen much true, raw power from Stott, but he is clearly capable of hitting the gaps and collecting extra bases with above average speed. I'm not sure Stott will ever be built for power as a shortstop. But he is built to be a reliable hitter for a good batting average. In the Fall League, Stott is hitting .375/.500/.550/1.050 with no homers and 10 RBIs. He has stolen three bases in five attempts.

Stott has enough arm strength and enough range to stick at shortstop. At this juncture, I don't think the Phillies have designs on moving him to another position. He's solid enough at short. Not great, but good. His bat is what could carry his career.

Stott played at Class-A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A this past season, which in itself is a bit unusual for a Fall League player. Now he's in the Fall League. He hit a combined .299/.390/.486/.876 in his 487 plate appearances with 16 homers and 49 RBIs. He stole 10 bases in 14 attempts. I just think he's a really good prospect: Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: I would stash Stott. I don't think he's that far away from a big-league job, and the Phillies seem to be rushing him. As a college player he is pretty advanced and almost major league ready.

Seuly Matias, OF, Kansas City Royals
6-3, 225
Bats: R
Age: 23
Matias was an international free agent from the Dominican Republic signed by the Royals in 2015 for $2.25M.

Big and strong, Matias has had a bit of a rough start Stateside, but the tools and upside are obvious. Right now, he is a raw player with potential. Lots of potential. He had a broken hand early in his career, but he is well beyond that now. But it did cost him playing time.

He played this past season at Rookie Ball, Class-A Advanced and Double-A. He finished hitting a combined .213/.309/.511/.819 with 18 homers and 47 RBIs. The homers are intriguing. The batting average, and 98 strikeouts in 269 plate appearances are not. In the Fall League, Matias is hitting .220/.327/.537/.863 with four homers and 13 RBIs. He has not attempted a stolen base. Four homers in three weeks is solid here in the desert.

I have seen the power in Matias' swing. He'll get there. He may not ever hit for batting average, but the power plays. Good pitching is beating him. Mediocre pitching, of which there is plenty in the Fall League, will yield to his power.

I have little doubt that Matias has "light-tower" power. But he may be one of those guys that can break up a game with a homer and send his team home with a strikeout with the bases loaded. That's who he is…now. 

As a scout, this is the type of guy I project to be a 30 home run hitter, but with little in the way to offer in batting average. Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: Patience is required. Grab and stash. He'll get his chance. But Kansas City offers him a tough home run park. With his power, when the bat meets the barrel, it'll get out in a hurry. Beware the strikeout.

Kody Hoese, 3B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (update from previous report)
6-4, 200
Bats: Right
Age: 24
Kody Hoese was a first-round draft pick of the Dodgers out of Tulane University in 2019. 

He was the No. 25 overall pick, and signed for $2,740,300. He had an outstanding junior season at Tulane, and that led to his stock rising in the draft.

This past season, Hoese hit a combined .196 with two home runs and 20 RBIs at both Rookie and Double-A ball. He stole two bases in four attempts. In the Fall League, Hoese isn't doing much better. He's hitting .208/.269/.208/.476 with no homers and two RBIs.

Hoese has some power in a solid frame. It remains to be seen, however, if that power can manifest over time. So far, he's been a fairly quiet hitter in his career. He should, however, hit for a good enough batting average to keep him in the conversation as a potential Dodgers roster player. But— and we have to remember he was a first-round draft pick — I'm not sure he has a great future for the Dodgers. He may be best served in a trade. Just a thought. So far his career hasn't gone well at all. 

Hoese has plate discipline, and his mechanics are sound. His hands are quick through the ball, he has a good feel for what the pitcher's are using to get him out, and his approach and swing at the plate are measured. He should hit. Should. Will? I'm not sure.

Defensively, he's slow and doesn't have the best range. His arm strength is good, and I can see him playing either third or first at the major-league level. Scouting Grade: 50

The Dodgers have ample reason for concern. He might even be a 45, a utility player, if that.

Fantasy Relevance: I just don't have much excitement for Hoese. He's barely hitting in the Fall League, but he's watching as other hitters are pounding the ball, and he's not even average. I'm not bullish on his future. But he's with the Dodgers. That means something. And he is a first-round draft pick that cost some money. Be careful.

Juan Yepez, 1B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals
6-1, 200 
Bats: Right
Age: 23
The Atlanta Braves signed Juan Yepez out of Venezuela as an international free agent when Yepez was only 16-years-old. He signed for $1M.

He missed time with injury, which set him back. When Freddie Freeman went down with an injury in May 2017, the Braves sent Yepez to St. Louis for Matt Adams.

Yepez has more professional experience than most Fall League players. He has completed his sixth minor league season. He played at both Double-A and Triple-A in 2021, hitting a combined .286/383/.586/.969 with 27 home runs and 77 RBIs. He stole one base in four attempts.

In the Fall League, Yepez is hitting .333/.412/.738/1.150 with four homers and eight RBIs. He has stolen one base in his only attempt.

Yepez is hitting very well in the Fall League, he is showing both an ability to hit for power and batting average. His contact rate is superb, with few strikeouts and loud line drives coming off his bat. He's an impressive player, and just the type of guy who can enhance the Cardinals from a power standpoint.

I have seen a rather measured swing from a player one would think would be hunting home runs. His approach at the plate is very advanced. He can drive the ball with quick wrists and good pitch selection. He knows what he's doing at the plate, and his experience shows.

I have only seen him play first base, and he's adequate at the position. Yes, he has a big body, but he moves fairly well. He lacks the range and quick feet to play third on any type of regular basis. Actually, he's a bit of a below-average fielder, and he'll have to hit and hit with power to stick. But he does have the upside in both those areas. Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: I think he's a much better power-hitting prospect than many have evaluated. He can change a game with that quick, short swing. I like him. He could fall to you, and he might be a reach. But I think he has a chance to help.

HEADING HOME:

One of the more interesting new gimmicks being tested in the Arizona Fall League is the limit on pitcher "disengagements" from the rubber. 

Pitchers will be limited to two step offs (disengagement from the rubber) or pickoff attempts per plate appearance with at least one runner on base. Pitchers may attempt a third pickoff in the same plate appearance, but if the runner returns safely to his base, the pitcher will be charged with a balk.

The rule is intended to speed up the game, and it does. 

Two factors are the most egregious culprits regarding length of games (other than the high pitch counts). Foul balls and throws to first base are deathly boring and fans get restless with both.

A good hitter can make a living by fouling off pitches and wait for something to hit. Pete Rose was great at it. So was Rod Carew. Tony Gwynn. Those type of high-average hitters could spend an eternity at the plate fouling off pitches. In his prime, Brett Gardner was a master.

Often times a pitcher will throw over to first just to give himself a time to regroup. Or get settled. Some times, it is actually to keep the runner close. The disengagement rule is a gimmick. But it makes sense.

Keep in mind that all major rule changes must be approved by the MLB Players Association before they are implemented by MLB. However, in most cases, in the current Basic Agreement, the Commissioner can impose a rules change at his will.

That could change in the new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) currently being negotiated between players and owners.

Do you like this new MLB wrinkle? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks.

Have a great week; a healthy week.

Thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

If there is a player you wish me to profile, please let me know in the comment section of this article. 

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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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