Khalil Lee is off to a hot start hitting .387, but what if I told you he wasn’t leading his team in batting average? What if I told you that a catcher was leading the Blue Rocks in batting average, and that it isn’t Meibrys Viloria or Chase Vallot? That’s right, Xavier Fernandez, a bit of an afterthought in the catching group in Wilmington, is slashing .389/.421/.667/1.088 with a HR and 2 doubles so far in 5 games. Fernandez saw some time behind the dish with the big league club in Spring Training, so it’s obvious that the Royals have a liking towards him. He may not be the prospect that Viloria, Vallot, or Melendez are, but I can absolutely see him playing his way onto a big league roster one day. Just watching Fernandez play, he reminds me of Angels Gold Glove winning catcher Martin Maldonado. He’s obviously not quite that good, but there’s a lot to like about Fernandez moving forward.
Foster Griffin currently leads the team and is second in the Texas League with a 1.00 ERA. He should get two starts this week. Griffin is starting the 11:05 AM game on Monday and should start the Saturday night game at Tulsa. Zach Lovvorn will be the other guy who gets two starts this week as he matches up with former Royal Matt Strahm (sad face with a tear) Tuesday and with Tulsa Sunday.
And our first weekly top prospects report is out!
Khalil Lee and Seuly Matias both made Baseball America’s Prospects Hot Sheet.
The Scoop: When Matias hits it on the sweet spot, the ball screams off his bat at high-end exit velocities. There’s no doubting Matias’ raw power, and when everything is in sync and on time, he looks like a monster. The key for Matias will be his pitch recognition and plate discipline. He’s still a free-swinger who’s vulnerable to chasing both fastballs and breaking pitches off the plate. His .686 sluggling percentage but also 17 strikeouts in 35 at-bats to start the season belie that current state. Becoming a more selective hitter will be critical for him as he faces better pitching.
Matt LaMar of Royals Review thinks the Royals should start offering out extensions.
Of course, they way baseball’s salary structure is constructed, young stars are vastly underpaid according to their talents and older players who achieve free agency are usually overpaid. Though there are varying wrinkles, once a player makes the major leagues he is under team control for six full seasons. Players are capped at the major league minimum for the first three seasons. For the second three seasons, players go through a process called arbitration, and they get increasingly higher salaries in each successive year and are paid in accordance with their performance.
Asher Feltman of Minor League Ball thinks a post-hype prospect to watch is Phillies outfielder Roman Quinn.
In 407 minor league games, Quinn has swiped 173 bases. That’s a stolen base almost every two games. Despite never topping 88 games in a season, he has stolen 30 or more bags in a year five times in his career, including his first three pro seasons and last in 2016, when he also made his MLB debut.
And then over at Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan had a fascinating piece on the Brewers super-reliever, Josh Hader.
Out of a pool of 184 relievers, Hader has had the fourth-highest strike rate, and the third-lowest contact rate. The most similar relievers in these two regards are Edwin Diaz and Aroldis Chapman. Diaz and Chapman are closers, but they’re also mostly one-inning relievers, while Hader is far more flexible. And just to go with one more selection of results, here are the top K-BB% marks for relievers since the middle of August, setting a minimum of 75 batters faced. Hader, for the record, has faced 116.