Prospect Call Up – Will Smith – C – Los Angeles Dodgers

Prospect Call Up – Will Smith – C – Los Angeles Dodgers

One question that has not been raised about Dodgers catching prospect Will Smith is whether or not he can stick behind the plate. He has a plus arm and plenty of agility behind the plate to make him an above average if not plus as a catcher. The Dodgers love to get their catchers playing other positions, and Smith has turned himself into a serviceable defender at the hot corner and has seen some time at second in the past.

The big question (after he replies “no, not that Will Smith, no not the football player Will Smith…”) is how much will he hit? I am in the minority that feels he can hit enough to be an everyday option behind the plate. He has some leg kick and can get out on his front foot too far and his bat speed is far from elite, but the bat plane allows him to really drive the ball. With the defense he brings to the table and the power he can provide, he only needs to hit .225+ to be a valuable player. I expect him to hit between that .225-.230 with 18-20 home runs should he get an everyday player’s workload.

Depending on how long Austin Barnes is on the shelf, Smith should get every opportunity to take over as the primary backstop ahead of Russell Martin, but the Dodgers do have arguably the best catching prospect in the game, Keibert Ruiz, who could find himself in the mix before too long. Ruiz is still just 20 and at AA so that may be somewhat aggressive, meaning Smith has every opportunity to hold down a job in the big leagues for the rest of the season even after Barnes comes back as he and Barnes both have the ability to play the infield, reducing the roster concerns often created by carrying three catchers.

Prospect Call Up – Mitch Keller – RHP – Pittsburgh Pirates

Prospect Call Up – Mitch Keller – RHP – Pittsburgh Pirates

Coming into the year Mitch Keller was my 29th ranked prospect in baseball and 9th ranked pitcher, and that will likely be the last rankings list he is on here at Three Quarter Slot as he will make his big league debut on Memorial Day evening as he will start the second game of a double-header in Cincinnati. The top ranked Pittsburgh Pirates prospect will try and improve a rotation that is coming off a rough weekend as the club gave up 10-7-11 runs to the Dodgers in a three-game set.

Keller’s fastball can touch triple digits but really sits up to 97 on most days with heavy sink. The delivery is easy and repeatable making him a guy who can eat innings and keep his velo deep into starts. He pairs that with a plus curve with a sharp 11-5 curve that breaks well over two planes. His change is still a tick below average but is on track to develop into an easy average offering.

His delivery can show the ball behind his back some, but the controlled motions and high 3/4 slot allows him to throw all his pitches for strikes and really attacks hitters. If/when the change becomes a solid out pitch, he can become a strong number two starter (there aren’t 30 number one starters so likely the future ace of the staff) who can work deep into games. It will be interesting to see how deep the Pirates let him go in his first start, but as the second starter of a twin billing it may come down to how well the first game goes. Being part of a double-header is always a risk that he gets sent right back down the AAA but, even if he does, it won’t be for long as he might be the second best starter in the organization today.

Prospect Call Up – Kevin Cron – 1B – Arizona Diamondbacks

CJ Cron
C.J. Cron will be joined in the big leagues by younger brother Kevin on Friday night.

There might not be a player in baseball more deserving of a call up than Kevin Cron, who has absolutely crushed the ball at AAA Reno this season. The younger brother of Minnesota Twins first baseman/designated hitter C.J. Cron, Kevin will make his big league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.

The younger Cron was drafted in the third round in 2011 by the Seattle Mariners but opted to attend TCU instead where he did not perform as well as expected and slipped to the 14th round in 2014, when he signed with the D-Backs. He has played 72 games at third base in his career where he is serviceable, but his natural position is at first base where he is a solid defender.

The real strength in Cron’s game is, well, his strength. He hit 12 home runs in just 64 games to start his pro career, then following it up with 27, 26, 25, and 22 home runs in full season ball before hitting 21 home runs in 199 trips to the plate this season. He had climbed into quality prospect status after his first two pro seasons, but a rough 2016 that saw him hit just .222 in his first taste of AA, then fairing even worse in the Arizona Fall League had Cron disappear from the prospect landscape. He bounced back the next season hitting .283, then .309 a season ago in the hitter friendly PCL and is hitting with a ridiculous slash line of .339/.437/.800 this year.

He is 26, making him old for a position prospect, but I fully expect him to be a quality bat in the middle of the D-Backs lineup moving forward. He it tall and has a bit of a leg kick in his swing that can cause him to be a little late at times, but he has really improved the timing between his front foot, hips, and hands allowing them all to move together, creating the plus power.

I don’t expect Cron to put up the crazy numbers he has been posting in Reno at the big league level, but he could easily hit .260 with 25 home runs with regularity, which is really impressive for a guy who has fallen off just about all prospect lists ahead of this season.

Prospect Call Up – Josh Naylor – 1B/OF – San Diego Padres & Cavan Biggio – 2B/OF – Toronto Blue Jays

Cavan Biggio
Cavan Biggio. Courtesy: Aaron Whelan

There is plenty to watch for in Toronto tonight as both Josh Naylor and Cavan Biggio are expected to make their big league debuts on opposing clubs.

I have been on record stating Naylor might be my favorite person in baseball right now, as he regularly has the entire dugout laughing and does a great job keeping a clubhouse loose, but he is a heck of a ballplayer too. Originally drafted 12th overall in 2015 by the (then) Florida Marlins, he was dealt to the San Diego Padres along with Luis Castillo, Jarred Cosart, and Carter Capps in exchange for Andrew Cashner, Collin Rea, and Tayron Guerrero. He has a .285 average in his minor league career, although he has improved upon his average every full season thus far and already has 10 home runs this season.

At 5’11” and 250 lbs., he has every bit the power you would expect and still has plus raw power to tap into, but he is much more athletic than his body type would suggest. He has a lot of moving parts in his swing, but the load always ends up in the same place allowing him to get to the ball quickly with a good line drive swing. In the field he is a quality first baseman but has a strong arm that has allowed the Padres to give him more time in the outfield. He probably fits best as a left fielder, but the arm will allow him to play just fine in right, making him a valuable piece than can legitimately play three of the four corners. It should come as no surprise he doesn’t exactly have a ton or range nor is he a burner on the bases, in fact he is well below average in both categories, but he can get a good head of steam once he gets going and will get some doubles on balls that are borderline.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Blue Jays call up son of Hall of Fame Craig Biggio and one of the top second base prospects in the game, Cavan Biggio. Like his father, he can play multiple positions as he has seen time at first, second, third, left, and right this season as the Blue Jays hope he can be a super utility-man at the big league level, although he may be able to hit his way into regular playing time this season. While his dad was an excellent bat at the top of the lineup, Cavan is more of a power first bat who hit 26 home runs a season ago while posting a batting average that was just north of .250. The bat can get a little long but it creates the launch angle to hit for power where he can be a 20+ HR guy at the big league level.

His best tool after power would be his arm, which is strong enough to play right or third, where he might profile best as he is fringy with range and glove at second. If Cavan does become an everyday player, it will be a win for the Blue Jays, although him being a guy who gets a couple starts a week spelling players at multiple positions is a more likely long term role.