Bernie on the Scene: Quality Prospects Worth Considering

Bernie on the Scene: Quality Prospects Worth Considering

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

I continue to offer my analysis and profiles of prospect players suggested by readers.

I will always respond to your requests as I will be writing about prospects for quite a while moving forward. Please feel free to leave your requests in the comments section below.

My readers know which prospects they want to learn more about, and I always hope I deliver.

All statistics are through September 17, 2021

Heliot Ramos, CF, San Francisco Giants
6-1, 188
Bats: Right
Age: 22
The San Francisco Giants selected Ramos in the First round of the 2017 draft out of Leadership Christian Academy in Puerto Rico. The Giants signed him for $3,101,700 as the No. 19 player selected.

Ramos has a balanced skill set, doing everything well on the baseball field. He really doesn't have one overwhelmingly strong tool, but his arm strength may be considered by many to be his greatest asset.

A player with a solid power/speed combination, Ramos can likely start for the Giants in centerfield once his development is complete. He will get some competition for a roster spot, but his draft slot and the money he was paid may influence his future. 

Ramos spent his season at Double-A and Triple-A. He's hit only.245/319/.411 with 16 homers and 55 RBI. He stole eight bases in 18 attempts, so he needs work there.

I've never been that high on Ramos. I certainly haven't discovered first-round tools in my personal scouting. 

Naturally strong, Ramos has good bat speed and can take

I continue to offer my analysis and profiles of prospect players suggested by readers.

I will always respond to your requests as I will be writing about prospects for quite a while moving forward. Please feel free to leave your requests in the comments section below.

My readers know which prospects they want to learn more about, and I always hope I deliver.

All statistics are through September 17, 2021

Heliot Ramos, CF, San Francisco Giants
6-1, 188
Bats: Right
Age: 22
The San Francisco Giants selected Ramos in the First round of the 2017 draft out of Leadership Christian Academy in Puerto Rico. The Giants signed him for $3,101,700 as the No. 19 player selected.

Ramos has a balanced skill set, doing everything well on the baseball field. He really doesn't have one overwhelmingly strong tool, but his arm strength may be considered by many to be his greatest asset.

A player with a solid power/speed combination, Ramos can likely start for the Giants in centerfield once his development is complete. He will get some competition for a roster spot, but his draft slot and the money he was paid may influence his future. 

Ramos spent his season at Double-A and Triple-A. He's hit only.245/319/.411 with 16 homers and 55 RBI. He stole eight bases in 18 attempts, so he needs work there.

I've never been that high on Ramos. I certainly haven't discovered first-round tools in my personal scouting. 

Naturally strong, Ramos has good bat speed and can take a pitch to the opposite field. I do think he gets too caught up in driving the ball over the fence. He struck out 122 times in 448 plate appearances; not a good sign. Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: I'm not sure Ramos will offer much help to your roster. He could emerge from the pack of Giants outfield prospects by 2023, but I'm going to hold off on him.

Oscar Gonzalez, OF, Cleveland Indians
6-4, 240
Bats: Right
Age: 23
The Indians signed Oscar Gonzalez out of the Dominican Republic for $300,000 in 2014. It could be a real steal for the frugal Cleveland franchise.

Not many prospect analysts have highly ranked Gonzalez, if they ranked him at all. To my complete surprise, he is not among the MLB.com Top 30 prospects. I used to be on their Pipeline writing team, and I just don't get it.

To me, the strong and powerful Gonzalez has a very bright future in Cleveland. It is possible he and first base prospect Jhonkensy Noel could give the future Guardians a Manny Ramirez/Albert Belle-light combination of sluggers.

At Double-A and Triple-A this season, Gonzalez has smoked 28 home runs in 454 plate appearances. He has driven in 76 runs. He has struck out 94 times but only walked on 21 occasions.

Some scouts have stated Gonzalez has an overly aggressive swing. I'm not sure I agree. He knows he's strong. He knows he's powerful. And I'm sure he knows the Indians need power.

A corner outfielder, Gonzalez could win a job sooner rather than later. Much will depend upon the offseason for the soon-to-become Guardians. George Valera awaits a spot on the parent team as well. However, Gonzalez appears to be more of a slugger than Valera.

Gonzalez still has adjustments to make regarding his approach to breaking balls, but he still has time to iron those out. For me, his approach is very similar to that of slugger Franmil Reyes. Having both in the lineup could be dangerous for opposing pitchers. Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: This is a guy you want to draft and stash.

Nick Pratto, 1B, Kansas City Royals
6-1, 215 
Bats: Left
Age: 22
Pratto was the Royals 14th overall pick out of high school in the 2017 draft, and they gave him a signing bonus of $3.45M.

Pratto played this season at Double-A as well as Triple-A and hit .257/.381/.568 with 29 homers and 83 RBI in 494 plate appearances. He struck out 142 times and walked 76 times.

While the strikeouts are a concern, he certainly did show more power than projections showed at the time he was drafted. True, he was known to be among the best high school hitters in that draft, but his home run rate this year has to be putting a smile on the faces of the Royals brass.

Surprisingly, Pratto is known as a very good baserunner but not because of blazing speed. In fact, his speed is below average, but he runs the bases very well. He could be a rare first baseman capable of stealing bases.

Kansas City is a tough home run park, but look at what Salvador Perez has done this year. A lefty hitter may lean more toward gap power, though.

While the Royals won't rush Pratto (see Bobby Witt), it is very clear that Pratto is on the path to take over first base for Kansas City as early as 2023. Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: Any time I can get a first baseman with power as well as the capability of stealing some bases, I'm in. I think this guy has a really, really bright future. However, he will have to show us he can hit those homers next year for a longer period of time at Triple-A.

Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Colorado Rockies
6-0, 162
Bats: R
Age: 20
The Rockies gave Tovar a signing bonus of $800,000 when they signed the athletic shortstop out of Venezuela in 2017. He was one of three shortstops the team signed with international bonus money that year, with Tovar getting the highest bonus.

The Rockies signed Tovar when he just turned 16, but he has been flying through the team's development program at an aggressive pace.

Tovar is viewed as yet another exceptionally talented Venezuelan shortstop, with superb defensive skills and a very strong and powerful throwing arm. He may be viewed more as a defensive utility player than as a regular. Much will depend on how his bat progresses going forward. Clearly, his hitting stats this season may push Tovar beyond a utility player status. It has for me.

As of this writing, Tovar is the Rockies highest ranking prospect shortstop.

Playing this season at Low Class-A and Class-A Advanced, Tovar has hit .286/321/.468, which is helping him establish himself as a viable hitter. He has 14 home runs and 71 RBI in 464 plate appearances. Tovar has struck out only 57 times and walked just 17 times, which could be an issue moving forward. 

Without question, Tovar has really opened eyes with not only his bat-to-ball skills but his power. Can he keep it up as he advances against better quality pitching? Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: Tovar's season forces us to look at him as a viable future shortstop for the Rockies. If his power and batting skills continue to improve, he should be considered.

Austin Wells, C, New York Yankees
6-2, 220
Bats: Left
Age: 22
Austin Wells was actually selected twice by the New York Yankees. They chose him in the 35th round of the 2018 draft, but he failed to sign and went to the University of Arizona. 

Wells was there again for the Yankees with the 28th selection in the 2020 draft, and he signed for $2.5M.

Wells played this year at Low Class-A as well as Class-A Advanced. He hit .263/390/.477 with 16 homers and 76 RBI. He struck out 113 times but walked an amazing 70 times. That's a fantastic indicator of plate discipline, pitch recognition and patience.

Wells is the highest ranking catcher in the Yankees organization. He has the left-handed power that will fit perfectly for the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium. He should also hit for a good batting average.

The problem right now is Wells' defensive liabilities. Sound familiar? The Yankees have the same issues with Gary Sanchez.  Wells has below-average arm strength and needs a great deal of work on his throwing mechanics. He isn't very mobile behind the plate, which doesn't help. It will take a great deal of work on those mechanics as well as blocking balls for Wells to progress as a full-time catcher. 

Wells is also capable of playing elsewhere. He could end up as a first baseman or left fielder if the Yankees are not satisfied with his play behind the plate. But there is little doubt he will be able to hit big league pitching. Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: A left-handing hitting prospect in the Yankees organization always gets my attention. He's a first-round pick. He'll play somewhere. I think it is safe to grab and stash him.

MJ Melendez, C/DH, Kansas City Royals
6-1, 190
Bats: L
Age: 22
The Royals drafted Melendez out of high school in Miami in the second round of the 2017 draft. He received a $2.1m signing bonus, which was well above slot.

Melendez played this season at Double-A and Triple-A. He hit .278/382./.614, which was quite a good season. He hit a whopping 37 home runs and drove in 85 runs. That's some type of power display, and the type of hitter the Royals will need behind the plate if and when Salvador Perez ever becomes a designated hitter.

Melendez has struck out 101 times, but he walked 70 times in 474 plate appearances.

When I watch video of Melendez, I saw a very strong and powerful frame, and a swing that he is tailoring to hit the long ball. I get that, and he's doing just that. If he used his trunk more in his swing, he might even be better. He does use his forearms and strength in his upper body to really power the ball.

As I stated above with Pratto, Kansas City is a tough place for a left-handed hitter to hit home runs. But clearly, this guy is built for success. Real power. Real strength. And he looks to be very confident at the plate, with a plan of how to attack the pitcher. Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: I think he could be the real deal, and I wouldn't hesitate to roster him and tuck him away.

HEADING HOME:

There is some quiet talk that in their current basic agreement negotiations, the owners have proposed a $100M salary floor for all Major League Baseball teams.

Reportedly, the offer also lowers the MLB competitive balance tax from the current $210M to $180M. The competitive tax is a surcharge paid by teams that exceed the threshold, and usually it impacts the high-market clubs like the Dodgers, Yankees and, upon occasion, the Red Sox.

For example, the Red Sox are expected to finish the year with a payroll of $193M, avoiding this year's tax. The Yankees are projected for a salary of $201M, down from $250M last year. They, too, should avoid the tax. The Dodgers, however, will be spending an estimated $282M, up $60M from last year. They will likely have to pay the tax. Max Scherzer can be a free agent. Will the Dodgers sign him and increase their liability?

Trevor Bauer is being paid for not pitching. He remains on the Dodgers books until his contract expires at the end of 2023. He'll be making over $35M per year by then. How do the Dodgers get out of that? They'll try. But he'll be a huge tax hit.

The Mets you ask? They are projected to spend $203M and avoid the tax. But they have some plans to add to their payroll for next year. And just how did that Francisco Lindor thing work out?

The Baltimore Orioles have an estimated $63M payroll for this year. The Cleveland Indians/Guardians are estimated at $51M. Pittsburgh? Glad you asked. They have an estimated payroll of $47M for this season.

Just imagine the heartburn, acid reflux and hiccups the owners of the Orioles, Indians and Pirates are feeling. Imagine if, indeed, their brethren agree to a salary floor of $100M for the next collective bargaining agreement.

Might those owners sell? I certainly hope so.

I would imagine the new floor would be introduced over time, just so a few owners don't end up in shock or in the hospital with a heart attack. They may all get severe cases of hives.

Phasing in the new floor would make sense.

But I'm not sure the owners and players will agree to a floor. And I haven't confirmed the offer was even made. If the owners agree to a floor, will they also demand a cap? I doubt — and I mean seriously doub — the players will ever agree to a salary cap.

Might the owners want an increase in service time for free agency to get that floor? If so, it will likely be a nonstarter.

But free agency wasn't what it once was for players. Too many are coming up short in their hoped-for bonanza contracts. Some are lucky to hang on.

How long can the owners claim the pandemic has hurt their income?  The argument is getting old and stale. But some parks are plenty empty. Why? They aren't in good markets. They have a bad team. Or, it isn't fun to go to a baseball game in their stadium.

Baseball itself has more problems than they are willing to acknowledge.

Oakland and Tampa win baseball games. But they can't even draw cicadas in the year when cicadas appear (every 17 years, by the way). That shouldn't happen. Fans should be going to those games in droves. But they aren't. And they won't. And baseball still hasn't fixed the problem.

How long does MLB wait for the situation in Oakland to resolve?

Bottom line: Stay tuned. We could see some major issues popping up before the basic agreement expires on December 1, 2021. And look for sharing gambling ad and income money to be at the top of the list of issues.

Thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and for reading my work.

I always welcome your comments and prospect analysis suggestions in the comment section below. Have a great week. And stay healthy.

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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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