Fantasy Baseball

Fake Scouting Odds & Ends: Texas League, Summer Standouts

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Welcome to another edition of the Fake Scouting series. In this piece, I didn’t really organize things well so we will just go over multiple players from two Texas League games that I attended in the last couple of weeks.

Now is the best time to make those sneaky dynasty baseball moves that set you up for 2019. With the fantasy baseball season winding down and the fantasy football season ramping up, more people lose focus on the end game. While they are watching people smash their faces into each other intentionally, you need to be diligent on the waiver wire to ensure that your team is in optimal form going into the offseason.

Now, not all of these players that I will discuss are worthy of that conversation, but even watch-listing some guys who are interesting can give you a leg up in the offseason and beyond if you play it right. Let’s check out a few guys that caught my eye while hanging out at the minor league parks this summer.

Fake Scouting Odds & Ends: Texas League

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Tulsa Drillers (LAD) at Arkansas Travelers (SEA) – Friday, July 27th

On this particular day, it was a family affair.  My sisters had birthdays on the horizon and we all have busy lives. One of those sisters has a baby, so the other two siblings packed their things and headed to Little Rock, AR for the weekend. My brother-in-law had some free tickets for this game, so the five of us (including the baby) caught some Texas League action! Hell, I even got a live tweet in there.

Look, I was so wrapped up in catch-up conversation with the sisters and brother-in-law that I lost track of the game with regularity. Priorities, right? I didn’t take my handy notebook with me or take many videos. For this game, I’m only going to discuss one player. Cool? Cool.

Kyle Lewis, 23, OF

Lewis was easily the most exciting player on the field for either team. Recently called up from High-A Modesto, Lewis has been struggling a bit in the Texas League. The Mariners’ No. 1 overall prospect wasn’t really dominating his previous level before this move, so maybe this was to be expected. However, when you watch this guy in person, it’s easy to see why the Mariners want him to succeed quickly.

For a towering player of 6’4″, he does a fantastic job of covering his strike zone with his natural bat path. I’m not the biggest fan of the bat-waggle during his load, but when you have hands as lightning-quick as his, you get away with it. He hits the ball with authority with a seemingly effortless swing, as seen above. In this particular case, he shoots the ball through the 1B-2B gap. I love everything about his swing after that strange pre-load bat-waggle.

This dude has a physical presence about him that was surprising to me being just a few rows up. When you think of athletic centerfielders, other than a guy like Jason Heyward, I don’t really expect to see that size. He made some crazy plays in the outfield too, which made spectators ooh and aah.

He’s not the best Texas League player I’ve seen. Shoot, he’s not even the best Texas League outfielder I’ve seen (Khalil Lee). However, he’s got an obvious skill set that is going to make him an interesting fantasy option in a couple of years. Unless he just goes off the rest of this year, I don’t see him making it to the bigs in 2019. There are just too many bodies ahead of him in Seattle. Expect a 2020 call-up with an ability to provide power and speed.

Frisco RoughRiders (TEX) at Northwest Arkansas Naturals (KC) – Sunday, August 12th

This was more of a spur-of-the-moment scouting trip for me. I was a little stressed out from the work week that was and I had lots of friends out of town. So, I decided to just take my mind off of things and head down to the park. Besides, I was able to redeem a previous ticket for a throwback jersey, which is actually pretty cool. Who even knew that these minor league teams had throwback jerseys?!

As a quick aside, I was talking to a very nice lady who had been to many Naturals games in her time here in Northwest Arkansas. She actually had a baseball shirt with the logo ‘Thunder Chickens’ on it. Naturally curious, I asked her what baseball team that was from, expecting her to rant about her son’s little league team. Instead, I got the story of ‘What Could’ve Been’ night and how they took the field as the Thunder Chickens for just one night in 2012. The question I didn’t ask due to shock and dumbfoundedness – “Why the hell was ‘Thunder Chickens’ the runner-up and not the winner?”

Jecksson Flores, 24, 2B

Finally, I have some video on my favorite Naturals player of the 2018 season. Well, that may only be because Khalil Lee is out with a concussion. Hey, someone had to take over the reigns while he was gone!



I think I have said this too often, but this dude is an absolute gamer. He smoked a line drive right at the second baseman on a full count in at-bat No. 1. After a weak popup in his second at-bat on the first pitch, he worked a full count with a couple of smashed foul balls before a hard groundout. It was a telling at-bat and you could tell that he was starting to get some rhythm and timing down.

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The sixth pitch of his fourth at-bat was a ball rocked to the right-centerfield wall for a triple. Well, I should admit that the story from the box score would tell you differently. Known for his speed, Flores was thinking three bags out of the box. He was right for thinking so, as he slid into third base a good half-second before the ball got there. The umpire wrongly called him out on the play though and took away the run-scoring opportunity. Flores ended up making up for it with a double to right-center in his fifth at-bat on a 2-2 count, but it was really a bummer for me that he wasn’t given that triple. All in all, it was a 2 for 6 performance for Flores with a couple of doubles.

Look, I don’t just throw around names for fun if they aren’t in the top 10 of an organization – especially one like KC that wasn’t looking great before the 2018 draft. However, I am a believer in Flores and he is certainly worth the stash in your deep-format dynasty leagues. I’m thinking he gets a cup of coffee in Triple-A this August before receiving a Spring Training invite in 2019.

Kelvin Gutierrez, 24, 3B

Many baseball folks were skeptical of the Kelvin Herrera trade back in June for Kansas City. The tired cliche of ‘they didn’t get enough’ was thrown around like a plastic jug of Fireball Whiskey at a college party. (Yes, I’ve made mistakes – don’t be quick to judge.) However, I believe Gutierrez is going to end up proving those haters wrong.


He’s heating up, people! I witnessed one of these hot days at the plate and it was oddly fantastic. He started his day off with a line drive smoked to right field. Next, he roped a liner into left field for another base hit. After getting walked on four pitches in the fourth inning, he smacked another ball through the 3B-SS gap for another hit. Finally, I used the word ‘oddly’ in the first sentence for a reason. The pitcher for the RoughRiders looked terrified to throw to this man on fire. It was a four-pitch walk with Gutierrez not even flinching at any of them. He did an amazing job of going where the pitch took him today and his pitch recognition was excellent.

So, this could be nothing but a player experiencing a run of good luck. What I see though is a stellar defender who is starting to understand the type of plate discipline that will make him a major league player. By the way, I don’t say ‘stellar defender’ lightly – he turned a ridiculous double play at third base on a glove-side grounder. Like Flores, this guy certainly gets the “ballplayer, period” treatment from this author.

Jose Cardona, 24, OF

I’ve got to be honest here – I had to squint at the RoughRiders roster to find some talent. The three best players are all pitchers and none of them were starting on this day. Sure, Juremi Profar has an interesting last name. However, the most interesting player to me was Cardona. I suppose the Rangers agreed too because he was promoted to Triple-A the next week.

Despite the promotion, I’m skeptical of the guy. The righty had an ‘off’ day in this game, going 0 for 4 with three grounders and an ugly strikeout. Now, one of those would’ve been a hit if the aforementioned Gutierrez wasn’t at third for that insane double play. The other ones didn’t need great plays though and it’s easy to see why he’s pumping out grounders when you break down his swing.

It’s a two-piece timing mechanism with the first being a halt at his front-knee turn. It works for some (see Bryce Harper and Shohei Ohtani), but everything else has to be perfect. Cardona is not quite there as his bat path is much more ‘chop’ than ‘upper-cut’ and his breaking ball recognition was not stellar in this matchup. It’s entirely possible that I caught him on a bad day, but the numbers don’t lie – he doesn’t hit for power.

I hate being negative about players, so I will say that he made a couple of fantastic diving plays in centerfield. While he may never be a viable fantasy option, he could be a name to remember that eats up defensive innings from that hitter you like. Best case scenario, he turns into a speed-only platoon guy like Jarrod Dyson.

News & Notes

For this section, I’m going to highlight a few players in the news for the Texas League. I will cover everything since the start of August.

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  • Unsurprisingly, Jesus Luzardo was promoted to Triple-A Nashville after just destroying the Texas League. I’ve expressed my love for Baby Jesus before. Now, it’s just a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ he makes it to the big leagues.
  • Logan Allen was promoted to Triple-A El Paso recently after doing work for the San Antonio Missions. I wasn’t wowed by him in his start that I saw live, but the numbers say he deserved it and the Padres are aggressive.
  • The Padres were also aggressive with Hudson Potts and Michel Baez, assigning them to the Missions after raking at High-A. Each has gotten off to a cold start, but I like what the High-A statistics say and can’t wait to see them in action.
  • Will Smith was rewarded with a promotion to Triple-A OKC. I actually watched him in that game against Lewis & the Travelers the day before this promotion, so that’s cool. Smith was strangely athletic albeit short and stocky – typical catcher’s build. He’s taking that smooth swing up a level now where I’m sure the Dodgers will try to test him and Keibert Ruiz more at the catcher position.
  •  Taking Smith’s place is Gavin Lux, who definitely deserved a promotion. After hitting for a 0.402 wOBA in High-A and avoiding being lumped into the Manny Machado deal, Lux has taken advantage of his newfound opportunity with Double-A Tulsa (149 wRC+ in 15 games). He’s definitely a player that I’m going to have to watch in person soon.

Thanks!

As always, hit me up with your player requests for these Texas League write-ups. I have seen every team in the league except for the Springfield Cardinals to this point! I’m always looking for more excuses to get out there to Arvest Ballpark. Until then, check out the rest of our great 2018 Fantasy Baseball content.

About Tyler Thompson

Follow me on Twitter at @therealwody. For all the latest news and best advice out there, like us on Facebook, Google+ and Instagram.

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