Farm Futures: Top 200 Update and Carolina League Pitchers

Farm Futures: Top 200 Update and Carolina League Pitchers

This article is part of our Farm Futures series.

Each Tuesday I will be profiling a standout performer from a recent game and then provide a snapshot of the success and failure of notable players in a specific league. This week I take a look at a recent performance by the player who checks in as the No. 6 prospect in the minors on the latest top-200: Kyle Schwarber. Then some risers, fallers, new additions, graduations and dropouts in the aforementioned top-200 will be noted followed by a look at what a few (mostly fringe) pitching prospects in the Carolina League have been up to so far this season.

Kyle Schwarber, C, Double-A Tennessee
2-for-4 with two HR, three runs and three RBI in Game 1 of a doubleheader on May 17 against Double-A Jackson

Jackson pitcher Danny Hultzen opened with a steady dose of pitches off the plate in Schwarber's first at-bat, two of which were actually called for strikes. Then on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Schwarber hit a soft grounder up the middle for a fielder's choice at second base. Had it been his teammate Dan Vogelbach hitting, it probably would have resulted in a double play, but Schwarber was able to beat out the throw to first base.

In his second at-bat in the third inning, Hultzen was already out of the game and Schwarber ripped a monster blast out to deep right field off lefty Jordan Shipers. The pitch was up and in but the lack of elite velocity allowed Schwarber

Each Tuesday I will be profiling a standout performer from a recent game and then provide a snapshot of the success and failure of notable players in a specific league. This week I take a look at a recent performance by the player who checks in as the No. 6 prospect in the minors on the latest top-200: Kyle Schwarber. Then some risers, fallers, new additions, graduations and dropouts in the aforementioned top-200 will be noted followed by a look at what a few (mostly fringe) pitching prospects in the Carolina League have been up to so far this season.

Kyle Schwarber, C, Double-A Tennessee
2-for-4 with two HR, three runs and three RBI in Game 1 of a doubleheader on May 17 against Double-A Jackson

Jackson pitcher Danny Hultzen opened with a steady dose of pitches off the plate in Schwarber's first at-bat, two of which were actually called for strikes. Then on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Schwarber hit a soft grounder up the middle for a fielder's choice at second base. Had it been his teammate Dan Vogelbach hitting, it probably would have resulted in a double play, but Schwarber was able to beat out the throw to first base.

In his second at-bat in the third inning, Hultzen was already out of the game and Schwarber ripped a monster blast out to deep right field off lefty Jordan Shipers. The pitch was up and in but the lack of elite velocity allowed Schwarber to easily get the barrel around and take it out.

Shipers was victimized further on the first pitch of Schwarber's third at-bat, as the Smokies' slugger hit a laser down the right field line that stayed up and fair just long enough to clear the fence right by the foul pole for his second home run of the game. It was the kind of hit that goes for a single or a double for most good hitters, or gets fouled off by lesser hitters, but Schwarber's bat speed and brute strength resulted in one of the most impressive homers I've seen from a minor leaguer this season.

In his final at-bat, Schwarber went down swinging, and to say he was swinging for the fences would be a bit of an understatement. He REALLY wanted homer No. 3 on the day. Generals' reliever Richard Vargas threw a 96 mph fastball by Schwarber, but it's hard to really blame him for selling out in an attempt for a third homer in the final inning of a game his team was winning 5-0.

The big question with Schwarber is whether he sticks behind the plate. I don't think anybody can answer this question with any level of certainty who is not employed by the Cubs. That said, I doubt he gets moved off the position without a fair trial at the big-league level, meaning he could maintain catcher eligibility in most formats for at least two years. As a catcher-eligible slugger, Schwarber's ceiling could be Evan Gattis with a .300 or better batting average. That's a borderline first-round pick in most formats. In addition, his lack of elite defensive chops at the position and Miguel Montero's presence could actually benefit fantasy owners, as the Cubs will be less insistent on him catching five or six days per week, and will instead deploy him in the outfield on days he isn't catching in order to keep his bat in the lineup.

Whether or not he should be ranked ahead of Miguel Sano and Joey Gallo, as he is in the latest iteration of the top-200, there can be no denying that he is clearly a top-10 fantasy prospect in the minor leagues.

TOP-200 UPDATE

The latest RotoWire Top-200 prospect rankings went live on the site Friday, May 15. For the rankings to best aid dynasty league owners between now and the next update at the All-Star break, only prospects in the minor leagues at the time of the update were considered. Feel free to direct all comments/questions about the updated rankings to the comments section of this article or @RealJRAnderson on Twitter.

Trending Up (New Rank)

Wilmer Difo (20), Alexander Reyes (22), Billy McKinney (24), Jeff Hoffman (25), Eduardo Rodriguez (26), Michael Conforto (27), Nick Williams (30), Jorge Mateo (31), Reynaldo Lopez (32), Trea Turner (46), Blake Snell (47), Bradley Zimmer (51), Brett Phillips (53), Sean Newcomb (58), Clint Coulter (60), Ketel Marte (63), Gleyber Torres (76), Francelis Montas (80), Edwin Diaz (82), Kyle Kubitza (85), Roman Quinn (90), Peter O'Brien (99)

Trending Down (New Rank)

Jesse Winker (56), Hunter Renfroe (65), Henry Owens (68), Jon Gray (69), Dalton Pompey (72), Robert Stephenson (78), Hunter Harvey (84), Clint Frazier (94), Alex Jackson (95), D.J. Peterson (98), Albert Almora (103), Kohl Stewart (109), Hunter Dozier (118), Franklin Barreto (131), Gabriel Guerrero (151), Luke Jackson (152), Ian Clarkin (154), Travis Demeritte (156)

New Additions (Rank)

Phil Ervin (91), Alex Blandino (101), J.D. Davis (102), Jorge Polanco (114), Jose De Leon (115), Tyler Danish (116), Duane Underwood (120), Dwight Smith (121), A.J. Reed (126), Brian Johnson (127), Trevor Story (128), Jomar Reyes (139), Amir Garrett (147), Kyle Crick (150), Brent Honeywell (155), Wuilmer Becerra (159), Anthony Alford (160), Yoan Lopez (166), Jorge Bonifacio (168), Rhys Hoskins (170), Eric Jagielo (171), Buck Farmer (172), Ricardo Pinto (173), Zach Davies (174), Mallex Smith (180), Luke Weaver (181), Nick Travieso (182), Jacob Nottingham (183), Luigi Rodriguez (184), Luis Lugo (185), Tom Murphy (186), Drew Ward (187), Daniel Mengden (190), Jaime Schultz (191), Robert Gsellman (192), Dustin Peterson (193), Mark Zagunis (194), Victor Roache (195), Zach Lee (196), Sam Travis (197), Gavin Cecchini (198), Tony Kemp (199), Miguel Andujar (200)

Graduations

Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Noah Syndergaard, Jorge Soler, Archie Bradley, Joc Pederson, Carlos Rodon, Steven Souza, Devon Travis, Michael Taylor, Yasmany Tomas, Aaron Sanchez, Blake Swihart, Mike Lorenzen, Mike Foltynewicz, Randal Grichuk, Ryan Brett, Dilson Herrera, Alex Guerrero, Anthony DeSclafani, Eddie Butler, Jake Lamb, Alex Colome, Nate Karns, Roberto Osuna, Eddie Rosario, Andrew Susac, Raisel Iglesias, Maikel Franco; Lance McCullers and Kevin Plawecki (would have been new additions if they were still in the minor leagues)

Dropouts

C.J. Edwards, Chris Bostick, Austin Wilson, Kendall Graveman, Tyler Austin, Jairo Labourt, Garin Cecchini, Kyle Freeland, Gary Sanchez, Nick Kingham, Kyle Zimmer, James Ramsey, Tyrone Taylor, Trevor Williams

Minor League Roundup: Carolina League Pitchers

Duane Underwood, RHP, High-A Myrtle Beach
1.09 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 25 K through 32 innings

Underwood is the best pitching prospect in the Carolina League, but that says more about the league than it does the 20-year-old righty. That is not to say he cannot become a solid starting pitcher in fantasy leagues, but he is not yet a top-100 prospect, though he could be one at the halfway point if he continues this tear through the league. Like the Carolina League, the Cubs' collection of starting pitching prospects leaves a lot to be desired, and the case could be made that Underwood is the best of the bunch. He was ranked 10 spots behind Pierce Johnson in the latest top-200, but it's a case of personal preference at this point, and it's easy to envision Underwood separating himself from the rest of Chicago's minor-league hurlers this summer.

Adam Plutko, RHP, High-A Lynchburg
1.48 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 32 K through 42.2 innings

It's something of a stretch to label Plutko, 23, a prospect worth monitoring in dynasty leagues, but he has demonstrated elite command at every level as a professional, and is in the midst of his best year to date issuing just three walks so far over 42.2 innings. With a 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame, all Plutko needs to be taken seriously in the prospect world is either an uptick in velocity (he currently sits in the low-90s) or for one of his secondary pitches to jump a grade. Given the Indians' recent success with developing starting pitchers, either scenario is possible.

Cody Reed, LHP, High-A Wilmington
1.69 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 35 K through 32 innings

A second-round pick out of Northwest Mississippi Community College in 2013, Reed is having by far his best season as a professional. His 1.95 FIP supports the improved production, and the Royals could have yet another intriguing pitching prospect on their hands. Any southpaw with a 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame warrants attention, and Reed's numbers so far this season only heighten the need to keep tabs on the 22-year-old. The next time the Royals move to promote someone from the Double-A Northwest Arkansas rotation, Reed would seem like an obvious candidate to be the replacement. Once he is facing Double-A hitters, we should get a much better feel for what kind of prospect Reed is.

Mitch Horacek, LHP, High-A Frederick
3.57 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 53 K through 45.1 innings

As a 23-year-old lefty with advanced secondary offerings, and above-average pitch ability, it should be no surprise that Horacek is having a good deal of success at High-A. The strikeouts don't quite line up with the stuff, so we will need to seem him continue to have success against better competition before Horacek gets consideration for the top-200.

Lucas Sims, RHP, High-A Carolina
5.20 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 25 K through 27.2 innings

Sims is the only other pitching prospect in the league on the top-200, and the case could be made that he should have fallen off the list completely, given how much he has struggled in his second go round at High-A. The 21-year-old righty put up a 4.56 FIP and only notched 107 strikeouts in 156.2 innings at the level last season, so it's not like he has a lot of high-end production banked to keep dynasty leaguers committed. It is nice to see that he's missing more bats this time around, but this has not been the full-on breakout campaign many were expecting.

Trey Ball, LHP, High-A Salem
6.03 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 21 K through 31.1 innings

The seventh overall pick in 2013 has as much pedigree as any pitcher in the Carolina League, but Ball's success as a professional has never matched his lofty draft position. It's difficult to envision a dynasty league deep enough to warrant rostering Ball at this point. He is just 20 years old and the fact that he is a 6-foot-5 lefty will afford him all the opportunity in the world, but at some point Ball's lack of production has to be taken into account.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Anderson
James Anderson is RotoWire's Lead Prospect Analyst, Assistant Baseball Editor, and co-host of Farm Fridays on Sirius/XM radio and the RotoWire Prospect Podcast.
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