Bernie on the Scene: Are they Ready to Graduate?

Bernie on the Scene: Are they Ready to Graduate?

This article is part of our Bernie on the Scene series.

This is my third and final article on viable prospects for next season. Maybe they are ready to graduate to the big leagues.

Given a potential change in the MLB Basic Agreement regarding service time requirements to achieve free agency, player graduations to the big leagues might be in a state of confusion. However, that should sort out over the offseason.

Gabriel Arias, SS/2B, Cleveland Indians
6-1, 217
Bats: Right
Age: 21
Signed as an international free agent by the Padres from Venezuela in 2016 (when Arias was just 16)

Gabriel Arias received a $1.9M signing bonus from the Padres. He was traded to the Indians in the deal that sent Mike Clevinger to San Diego in 2020.

I am very bullish on Arias. I think he has surprising power for a middle infielder from a frame that is strong and powerful. He should also hit for a decent batting average and steal a few bases.

Arias can play both shortstop and second base, and play them well. He has an incredibly strong arm and would be an upgrade on defense for Cleveland at either position. That's why I think he is knocking on the big-league door. And I think he is their future shortstop.

Because Arias can hit to all fields with good bat control, he could slot nicely at the top part of the batting order. He does need to work on shortening his swing a bit and becoming a bit less aggressive at the plate. 

Scouting

This is my third and final article on viable prospects for next season. Maybe they are ready to graduate to the big leagues.

Given a potential change in the MLB Basic Agreement regarding service time requirements to achieve free agency, player graduations to the big leagues might be in a state of confusion. However, that should sort out over the offseason.

Gabriel Arias, SS/2B, Cleveland Indians
6-1, 217
Bats: Right
Age: 21
Signed as an international free agent by the Padres from Venezuela in 2016 (when Arias was just 16)

Gabriel Arias received a $1.9M signing bonus from the Padres. He was traded to the Indians in the deal that sent Mike Clevinger to San Diego in 2020.

I am very bullish on Arias. I think he has surprising power for a middle infielder from a frame that is strong and powerful. He should also hit for a decent batting average and steal a few bases.

Arias can play both shortstop and second base, and play them well. He has an incredibly strong arm and would be an upgrade on defense for Cleveland at either position. That's why I think he is knocking on the big-league door. And I think he is their future shortstop.

Because Arias can hit to all fields with good bat control, he could slot nicely at the top part of the batting order. He does need to work on shortening his swing a bit and becoming a bit less aggressive at the plate. 

Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: Patience is required, but I think he is a very viable option for 2022. On some team, if not Cleveland.

Riley Greene, OF, Detroit Tigers
6-3, 200
Bats: Left
Age: 20
1st-round pick in the 2019 draft out of Paul J. Haggerty High School in Oviedo, Fla.

Greene received a $6.18M signing bonus from Detroit.

Greene has a wiry frame, and since he's still only 20, he may add more strength. For now, some think he is a "defense first" player. That's incorrect. He can hit. I think he'll hit big-league pitching for a high average and hit his share of home runs with a measured stroke. He is smooth and has sneaky power.

Greene is above average in the outfield, and has a strong arm that can play any of the three positions. 

We have to remember that Greene was a high school pick. The Tigers need outfielders. He fits their profile. He's a hard worker. He knows the game well. And he has strong tools. It all adds up to a potential spot on the club at some point next season. 

Scouting Grade: 60

Fantasy Relevance: I think the guy makes the big time late in 2022, and I think he'll start to really hit in 2023. He's very well worth a stash.

Vidal Brujan, 2B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays
5-10, 180
Bats: Both
Age: 23
Signed as international free agent by the Rays out of Dominican Republic in 2014

Believe it or not, Brujan was given only $15,000 when he signed with Tampa Bay. He is earning well beyond that paltry sum.

Having received big-league experience, Brujan is still considered a prospect — and a good one. The Rays are so loaded with middle-infielders (including Wander Franco) the team is giving Brujan a chance to make it as an outfielder as well as a middle infielder. That makes him more valuable in fantasy baseball.

Brujan has really good speed. That's clearly his best tool. He will use that speed to be disruptive on the bases and to track down balls in the outfield. But he can also hit for average. 

I don't project power from his frame, but with a short, quick swing, I can see him spraying the ball all over the field and hitting the gaps with some darts. And I could see his singles being as good as a double. He'll steal bases.

Playing time may be an issue with a deep Rays roster, but he'll get his chances. 

Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: If he plays, he scores, he steals bases and he gets some extra base hits. I do think he'll play. Speed changes games.

Alek Thomas, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
5-11, 175
Bats: Left
Age: 21
2nd-round draft pick out of Mount Carmel High School in Chicago in 2018

The Diamondbacks gave Thomas a $1.2 signing bonus. Make no mistake, the Dbacks are desperate for a player like Thomas to graduate to the big leagues. They now play Ketel Marte in center, but he can move back to second base, which is a huge hole for Arizona.

Thomas is finishing his season in Triple-A, and he's hitting well. At two classifications, he has double-digit homers this year.

Thomas has a very credible hit tool and should hit his way on base, and then use his very, very good speed to steal. He's a complete player, and one who will help the Dbacks score more runs, something they must do.

The weakest part of Thomas' game is his throwing arm, which is well above average. His speed helps in center, but runners could take advantage of him on the bases.

The Dbacks have quality outfielders in the system, and Thomas is right up there as one of their best. I see him as a left fielder in the big leagues. 

Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: I don't see overwhelming power, but the bat-to-ball skills are well above average, and he could help a fantasy manager.

Shane Baz, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
6-2, 190
Age: 22
1st-round pick by the  Pirates out of Concordia Lutheran Highs School in Tomball, Texas

Baz was the No. 12 overall player drafted in 2017 and received a $4.1M signing bonus. He was traded by Pittsburgh in the deal that sent Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow to the Rays for Chris Archer. Ouch!

I saw Baz in the Arizona Fall League in 2019. The stats weren't good, but the stuff was there for all to see. He struck out 14 in 11 innings, but he walked eight.

Baz has a big arm, with a very solid mid-90s fastball and a wicked slider. He has to command that combination, but it could carry him to a major role when his development concludes. He also throws a changeup and a mediocre curve.

Scouts see some issues with his delivery that include his inconsistent release point and maintaining balance. But I think he will overcome that and throw more strikes. 

The Rays take their time with prospects, so I'm not as sure about when Baz will see the big-league mound for good. But I like his upside. 

Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: I would not hesitate to try to get Baz as a late-round flyer, and without a doubt in a keeper league.

Ryan Pepiot, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
6-3, 215
Age: 24
3rd-round pick in the 2019 draft out of Butler University

Ryan Pepiot was given a $550,000 signing bonus. 

With almost the ideal body for a pitcher, Pepiot has a very good repertoire that includes a fastball, slider, curve and changeup. His fastball is 90-95, with good movement. He is really good at mixing in a well above-average changeup to alter the balance of the hitter. His changeup is better than his fastball, and that says a great deal. He still needs to work on the curve and slider, but he has the stuff to be a valuable asset for the Dodgers.

His issue has been control. If he can control his repertoire, he could be a very stable arm in a future Dodgers rotation. He has the ability to use all his pitches to get that third strike, but not falling behind in counts will be a big issue.

He won't be an ace, but Pepiot has the goods to be a solid back-end of the rotation starter on a good team like the Dodgers. 

Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: I think he is worth a late-round stash, but there are plenty of pitchers like him. The difference with him? He pitches for the Dodgers.

Tyler Freeman, SS/2B, Cleveland Indians
6-0, 190
Bats: Right
Age: 22
2nd-round pick in the 2017 draft out of Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

The Indians gave Freeman a $816,500 signing bonus.

Now sidelined with a shoulder issue that required surgery, Freeman is seen as an outstanding middle-infield prospect for a Cleveland team that is loaded with middle-infield candidates.

Of the players I have seen, he and Gabriel Arias are the cream of a very deep crop of infielders currently in Cleveland's development system.

Freeman is an athletic guy with an ability to hit for average, but with little to no power. The power may come later. There is little doubt he will hit big-league pitching for a solid batting average.

The shoulder issues Freeman is experiencing may impact his graduation date. He's a good shortstop, but there are now concerns about his arm being able to hold up at that position. That's why I project him to be a second baseman-maybe with Arias at short.

His contact rate, his ability to see and recognize pitches, his patience and his ability to drive the ball are all qualities in his favor. But, that shoulder issue could really set him back. It may be possible that he recovers in time to make up at-bats in the coming Arizona Fall League. 

Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: I'm holding off until I see how he recovers from labrum surgery.

HEADING HOME

Hopefully, I will be on vacation without my computer or any devices when you read this. As a result, I won't be able to respond to your comments until I return at the end of the week.

Please know that I will be getting to your requests for player evaluations in the coming articles. I know who they are, and I'll be getting to them well before fantasy baseball draft season.

• I have to say that adding left-handed balance in the lineup has made a tremendous difference for the Yankees. Credit them with getting it right at the trade deadline, as opposed to the Red Sox who sat back and did little to improve their team.

I do look for the Rays and Yankees to battle it out in September. Should be great. Also, the Dodgers and Giants could have an epic finish, with the Padres collapse.

There are some interesting pennant races, but with football season in the windshield, baseball fan interest will probably dwindle even more. Only those teams that are still in the hunt can count on fans showing up at the parks or watching on TV. But we still have our fantasy teams to manage, so we'll be watching.

• It is now official. Diamondbacks lefty Caleb Smith was suspended for using an illegal substance in his glove. He still insists it was a combination of sweat, resin and whatever. He appealed his suspension. Good luck with that. I clearly think MLB is glad to have caught two pitchers, just to prove a point.

• Few pitchers have been negatively impacted by the sticky substance issue more than the Indians reliever James Karinchak. His stuff has not been the same since Steve Stone called attention to the black blotch in his glove. He is now a mess on the mound.

• Who knew the Giants would lead all of baseball in hitting home runs? Not me.

• Yes, Luke Voit is showing the Yankees his value. He has no intention of giving up first base to anyone — and that includes Anthony Rizzo. Voit is vocal about how good he is. He's backing his words with actions.

• The Brewers starting pitching trio will be tough to beat in the postseason. I wouldn't want to face Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta if they are healthy. Not even the Dodgers can match that trio at this time, IMO. If the Dodgers were healthy, then yes. Not without Kershaw and Bauer, for sure. Yankees? No. Rays? Not really. White Sox? Maybe a month ago, but not now. I worry about their arms falling off. Braves? No. Phillies? No. Giants? Maybe, but they have to be at their very, very best.

The Brewers will be able to trot out those three in a row. That could be enough to take them to the World Series. And yes, I hope that happens. Sorry to fans of other clubs, but I am a huge Brewers believer. And I believe in the White Sox as well. But I'm thinking their balloon could burst with burnt out pitching — both the rotation and the pen.

• Thank you for following me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff and for reading my work. 

• And have a great week while I'm gone. Leave me your comments and player profile requests. I'll get to them.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bernie Pleskoff
Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
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