(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
I am serious, and don’t call me Seuly.
Now that I have that joke out of the way we can move on to prospects talk. We’re two weeks into the MLB season now, and all full-season Minor Leagues are up and running with Opening Day weekend out of the way. Many prospects across every level have gotten off to hot starts this year, including some very dominant outings from pitchers. It’s still very early in the season, so there’s no telling just how these players will fare the rest of the way, but for now, let’s take a look at what they have done so far.
Confession time: I have been down on Ohtani since Day 1. I felt that he was being significantly overrated and that he wouldn’t live up to the hype. While I’m not ready to change my mind on him just yet, his performance over the last week is making me take a step back and think about it. Ohtani had a flashy performance at the plate during the week, going 6-for-13 with three home runs and seven RBI, before his bit outing on the mound on Sunday. He was able to take a perfect game into the seventh inning, and finished with 12 strikeouts, while allowing no runs on one hit and one walk over seven full innings of work. He’s not going to be able to keep up these kind of performances over the course of a full season, but it may be getting time to admit that he will live up to the hype.
Matias wasted no time getting off to a hot start this season, as he homered twice in his first game and hit four home runs over the first three games for Lexington. The 19-year-old is now hitting .421 over 19 plate appearances, leading the South Atlantic League with four home runs and nine RBI. Over the last two seasons, Matias has shown the potential to hit 15 home runs over a full year and he’s off to a good start at reaching that mark this year. The big thing to keep an eye on this year with Matias is to see if he will start stealing bases at a higher rate than he has previously. Despite scouting reports saying that Matias has the potential to have double-digit steals, he is 4-for-9 in stolen base attempts over the last two years. Matias already has one stolen base this year, which is hopefully a sign he will be running more in 2018.
After going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his first game, Villanueva came back with a vengeance in his second start, going 3-for-3 with three home runs and five RBI. Over the years he had displayed potential for a lot of power in the Rangers and Cubs minor league systems, and his three homer game last week showed just what he can do when given the chance. Since that big night however, Villanueva is hitting .167 with eight strikeouts over 19 plate appearances. Things will turn around for the 26-year-old as he continues to adjust to major league pitching, and it’s not unthinkable that he could end up with 20 home runs by the end of the year.
After getting roughed up for a 7.84 ERA and 1.960 WHIP last season in the Appalachian League, MacGregor was determined to show he’s better than those numbers show, and he got off to a good start of proving that on Friday. Pitching 5 1/3 innings against the Greenville Drive, MacGregor allowed two runs — one earned — on four hits and one walk while striking out a career-high 12 batters. That one outing accounted for 19 percent of his career strikeout total across 73 innings over the last two years. He is 20 years old this season, and this first start could potentially be the beginning of a breakout year for the former second-round pick. MacGregor’s next start will come later this week against the Hickory Crawdads, where he will be able to show whether or not Friday’s game was just a fluke.
RHP Shane Bieber—Akron RubberDucks (Cleveland Indians)
Bieber made a big splash in the minor leagues last season, with 162 strikeouts and only 10 walks — yes just 10 — over 173 1/3 innings across three levels of the Indians’ organization. Getting the Opening Day start for Akron, Bieber wasted no time showing that last season was not a fluke as he threw six shutout innings, allowing only two hits while striking out nine. The biggest thing fantasy owners should look for this year from Bieber is whether or not he can lower his hit rate from 9.6 H/9 in 2017. While Triston McKenzie might be the big-name pitching prospect for Cleveland, Bieber is very quickly making a name for himself as he pushes his way closer to the major leagues.