With close to two weeks of game play in the rearview mirror the time to begin tracking production has begun. The overreaction concerns which are magnified at the big league level can be similar as it relates to prospects but the statistics which stabilize the fastest are strikeout rates and walk rates. Yet, it is fun to revel in the ISO spikes and other notes to track if any adjustments are occurring. Alas, below are the five prospects with exemplary starts to the 2019 season.
Daniel Johnson-OF-AA Akron Rubberducks
Johnson, one of the toolsy darlings of spring training, has continued to flash the allure on which the Indians targeted him in the Yan Gomes trade. In thirty-nine plate appearances over nine games Johnson is running a .390 OBP with seven walks, one double, one triple, and two homers. All of this has created an alarming .928 OPS.
If Johnson shows continued contact rate growth to access his plus power, the Indians will have committed grand larceny in the trade of Yan Gomes.
Steven Kwan -OF-A+ Lynchburg Hillcats
Kwan is a slight build at just 5’9″ and 175 pounds with a few discernible skills which are the building blocks of production. In his first 109 professional plate appearances, Kwan has fourteen walks to just ten strikeouts.
Kwan is another player in the long mold of the Indians targeting plus contact rates and good discipline with an eye toward adding on power through continued progression. Right now, Kwan has significantly below average power but with a leap to merely average, the Indians would be exhilarated. Further, Kwan is seven for seven in stolen base attempts so far in his short career.
Above average speed, above average discipline and plus contact skills are a really nice collection of skills for an outfield prospect to carry.
Tyler Freeman-2B/SS-A Lake County Captains
Freeman is a favorite of those at EHC manifesting polished toolset almost unmatched among prep prospects. At just 19 years old, Freeman has spent the past two seasons shredding the baseball first in Arizona and then short-season Mahoning Valley. Freeman has not let his foot off the pedal so far in 2019; with five walks to just one strikeout plus three doubles to the tune of a 154 wRC+. Freeman has ++ contact skills with the next step being either a walk rate leap or power improvement to make him an impact player at second base. If mid-May comes and Freeman is still raking, a more aggressive assignment will be necessary.
Jean Carlos Mejia-SP-A+ Lynchburg Hillcats
At just twenty-two years old having barely thrown a pitch in A+ ball the Indians added Mejia to the 40 man roster in 2019 to avoid losing him in the rule-five draft. Now, the decision is looking brilliant as Mejia has carved up hitters in his first two starts and looks primed to transition to Akron in the coming months.
Mejia boasts an above average fastball running from 92-95 with good extension and elevated perceived velocity. Outside of that, Mejia has a slider than can flash above average and an average or better changeup. Mejia has shown outstanding control to date with two above average pitches there is a real shot at a #4/#5 starter in this profile.
Eli Morgan-SP-A+ Lynchburg Hillcats
Morgan is a fascinating case; a sort of Shane Bieber lite or perhaps Josh Tomlin type who is all command/control with a plus secondary. For Morgan it is a plus-plus changeup. However, below average velocity 87-91 and good but not plus command/control give Morgan a limited projection.
However, against more raw hitters, Morgan’s pitch ability and secondary is the basis of a nice early run in Lynchburg. Through 11 IP, Morgan has 15 strikeouts to just 2 walks and zero earned runs. Morgan’s major tests will come later in AA Akron and likely, Columbus.