It’s prospect list season and this year LL is doing our own in-house rankings of the top 50 prospects in the organization. You can find further explanation and our methodology at the hub for the series. So far we have done almost the first ten of our group of fifty, 50-47 and 46-43; today we close out the 40s and head for the 30s with maybe the most diverse group yet.
Again we have two pitchers and two position players, and the pitchers, at least, couldn’t be more different, other than both being drafted in 2018: a polished college reliever with a unique arm slot who projects to move quickly, and a prep prospect who is all long limbs and dreams. Both position players are international acquisitions: one who has struggled with injuries and another who possesses some impressive MLB bloodlines.
Following an illustrious high school career that concluded with a sub-2.00 ERA season and being named All-Nebraska Second Team, Hoffman found himself extending his baseball career and pursuit of his big league dreams by playing a Kansas-based Hutchinson Community College. After two fine but hardly eye-popping seasons, the projectable right-hander landed at Texas A&M, where he struggled through winter and fall workouts. As the season drew near, Head Coach Rob Childress evoked a little tough love on Hoffman, who had been ranked by his teammates and coaching staff as the worst pitcher on the team.
“You watch him play catch and the way his body works and the way his arm works, it’s probably the way he should have been throwing all along,” Childress says. “It was easy to make that change based on his performance in the fall — he certainly wasn’t going to help us doing what he did in the fall. To have almost three base runners allowed an inning isn’t a recipe for success.”
When Hoffman initially met Childress’ suggestion with some resistance, his coach provided a particularly persuasive argument for the frustrated (now) reliever to make the change:
“You can either commit to your team [and make the change] or not and don’t play”
After committing to the change, which coincided with a move from a starting role to a spot in the bullpen, Hoffman’s collegiate career made a heel-turn as he opened the season with 17.1 consecutive scoreless innings, racking up 21 punchouts over that time. Armed now with a 2-seam fastball in the low 90’s with heavy sinking action as well as a sweeping slider and devastating change-up, the once-reluctant submariner joins Wyatt Mills, Collin Kober, and Jack Anderson as another deceptive groundball generator with some intriguing strikeout upside. -BT
First, the good news: Jimenez’s 102 games played last season were a career-high for him. Now the bad news: even with that, he still had two separate stints on the DL, one that cost him most of April and another in late June. Durability is a real concern for the feather-light outfielder, who plays a solid, rangy outfield defense but has a troubling propensity to get into fights with walls out there (and lose). Jimenez’s walk rate has never been stellar, but it nose-dived into the 5% range this season en route to a wRC+ of 87 in the offense-happy Cal League. With Kyle Lewis, Dom Thompson-Williams, and Jake Fraley all poised to hold down the outfield at Double-A Arkansas, Jimenez seems slated to return to Modesto to see if he can improve on a disappointing 2018. Just watch out for those outfield walls. -KP
Move over, Ryan Rowland-Smith, there’s a new hyphen in the organization. The Mariners scrimped and saved in their earlier-round picks in 2018 and it paid off when they were able to pay DCS a bonus of $325,000, well over slot value for an 11th-round pick, and enchant him away from Seattle University. With Casetta-Stubbs just a brief jaunt down the road in Vancouver (WA), the Mariners were able to get a fairly complete picture of the righty and his arsenal, which includes a sinking fastball that’s rapidly gaining velo and a slider that flashes plus. DCS is still learning how to wrangle all six-feet-four of him into smooth pitching mechanics—his draft video package definitely looks like a kid on a hill chucking the pill as hard as he can and letting the limbs fall where they may—and because of the risk factor regarding prep pitching prospects, we have him toward the back end of our list. The Mariners on-boarded DCS to pro ball gently, having him pitch just a tad over six innings after signing on with the organization. By this time next year we should have a much clearer picture of what the Mariners might have found in the 11th round. -KP
Astute baseball fans (aka readers of Lookout Landing) will likely recognize the name Cesar Izturis, a former MLB shortstop who was an All-Star for the Dodgers back in 2005. His son, Cesar Izturis Jr., projects to have a similar profile — strong defense and perhaps just enough of a bat to get by. If he’s going to make the bigs, the younger Izturis will likely need to bulk up a bit (note that “145 lbs.” above??) and hit better than the .245/.304/.298 line he showed in rookie ball in 2018. It’s early yet, and his pedigree & makeup figure to help him develop, but his ceiling might be more of a utility infielder than anything else. The younger Izturis is trilingual: he speaks English, Spanish, and baseball, and the Mariners have already sent him up to Triple-A to fill in at times. If nothing else, he’s the kind of guy you want in a clubhouse. -GB