First, I’d like to thank the folks at Royals Farm Report for the opportunity to write about baseball. I appreciate their passion, energy, and desire to bridge the gab between the fans and Royals minor league players.
When presented with the opportunity to write for Royals Farm Report, I immediately thought of two players I wanted to write about: Arnaldo Hernandez and Jeckson Flores. It just so happens that Drew Osborne has already provided profiles for both Arnaldo and Jecksson, but I’ve enjoyed both players so much I (admittedly selfishly) wanted to expand on his analysis and hopefully provide insight on why Royals fans should follow Arnaldo and Jecksson’s progress.
Jecksson Flores is why I go to baseball games. I have an obsession that leads me to high school, college and minor league games to evaluate players. I carry my radar gun, camera, and take a ton of notes and get even more weird looks from fans around me. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I went to a game to just enjoy the game. I’m always on the lookout for the player few know about. Players like Jecksson Flores.
What’s so special about Jecksson Flores? Before this season nobody thought he was good, let alone a prospect. He isn’t on a single prospect list I can find and if you Google him you’re more likely to find links about Wilmer Flores than Jecksson Flores. Prior to this season, most viewed Flores as “just an org guy” and why wouldn’t they? He’s listed at 5-11 and 145 lbs and his numbers prior to this season were forgettable. Basically, Jecksson Flores contained all the ingredients of NOT being a prospect.
But this season for the Naturals, Flores has become a statistical outlier and, in the process, willed himself into fringe prospect status. There’s a not so small chance that someday he may very well end up in the big leagues. He’s turned himself into an exciting, above average defensive player (at multiple positions), with speed, a strong arm and an intriguing offensive profile.
Repeatedly he made stellar plays in the field ranging from above average to spectacular. Quick fluid feet and efficient lateral movement allow his soft, quick hands to play well at middle infield positions. Consistent fielder, and his energy was infectious, sometimes talking to himself or beating his chest after making a play he knew was good. Has jumped around defensively, in all, I’ve seen Flores play at third, shortstop, second and CF and he has handled them all with ease. His best fit is likely at second and third but has the arm and athleticism to handle shortstop on a short-term basis.
Flores has surprisingly strong wrists, solid barrel control through the zone that leads to consistent solid contact. Despite his size, he has above average raw power, especially pull side, and his in game extra base power is intriguing. He’s mostly a doubles hitter but can hit light tower homeruns on occasion. There are some warning signs that Flores may struggle again in the future such as a .360 BABIP making him reliant on balls in play for his offensive value. However, he’s still slashing .313/.365/.439 and his .361 wOBA and 118 wRC+ are both second for the season for qualified hitters for the Naturals behind Nicky Lopez and his wRC+ presently ranks 12th overall in the Texas League among qualified hitters ahead of a lot of higher profile prospects.
It is not a stretch to say that since Nicky Lopez has moved on, Jecksson Flores is the most productive hitter for the Naturals statistically.
OVERALL GRADES AND FUTURE ROLE
Jecksson Flores’ ceiling is currently a FV40 role/bench player with the Kansas City Royals, with his floor being organizational depth in AAA. Flores is eligible for the Rule 5 draft and will need to be placed on the 40 man roster to be protected.
HIT – 45
POWER – 40
SPEED – 55
ARM – 55
OVERALL FUTURE VALUE – 40
When I first saw Arnaldo Hernandez, the 22 year old Righthander from Venezuela, pitch on June 29, 2018, all I really knew about him was that he was an international signee of the Royals from 2012. But after only one inning I was compelled to tweet…
The 6’0 Hernandez was in control most of the night. The fastball is above average, although it can straighten out, but he attacks with the low to mid-90’s offering up in the zone. The curveball of the 11 to 5 variety has some loopy action that will need to be firmer to be successful at the big leagues, but has the makings of at least an average offering. The changeup is already at least average and has the potential to be an above average pitch and maybe even more.
The compelling part of Arnaldo’s performance that night was how his velocity maintained through the evening and even increased from the stretch.
Arnaldo also showed advanced pitchability for a 22 year old.
The best part of the night was the clamor by the scouts behind me to find out who Arnaldo was. Murmurs of “Have you seen this guy before” abounded. When Arnaldo touched 98 mph in the 4th, one scout went so far as to ask the pitchers charting the game to check Trackman to make sure they could trust their eyes and radar guns.
Arnaldo has a ceiling as a #3 starter in the big leagues, but is more likely a solid 7th or 8th inning reliever due to his build.
Fastball – 45/60
Curveball – 40/50
Changeup – 45/55
OVERALL FUTURE VALUE – 50
Photo Credit – Baseball Census, who does great work and you can visit at www.baseballcensus.com