FIRST IMPRESSIONS: G. Torres, J. Flaherty, Field, Bader, German

First Impressions is a look at recent call-ups, a snapshot of their early progress so far in the majors. Initial BaseballHQ.com minor league write-ups for all of the players in today's column can be found in the News tab on their individual PlayerLink pages. Because the majority of these players have accumulated less than 100 AB or 50 IP, small sample size warnings apply to the analysis here.

 

First Impression: Gleyber Torres (SS, NYY)

CALLED UP: 4/22/2018
BHQ.COM RATING: 9B
CURRENT ROLE: Starting 2B
POTENTIAL ROLE: Starting 2B/SS
2018 MINORS STATS: Scranton (AAA)—49 AB, .347/.393/.510, 3 2B, 1 HR, 0.50 Eye, 1 SB

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ========  =======  ====  =======  =====
2017^ 201  .280   N/A   13   75   N/A     N/A    117/N/A   N/A  100/20%   8/ 7
2018  139  .302  .272    6   73   116  30/27/42  143/135   23%  107/ 5%  10/ 2
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs

It's been pretty much a dream debut so far:

  • Torres's underlying power skills support his impressive HR total thus far, thanks to plus hard contact and a high FB%. His hr/f in the minors in 2017 was 12%, so we might see some regression there.
  • The .300 BA probably won't last for long though, as his power and line-drive stroke are undermined by a below-average contact rate. His batting average over the last 31 days is .282 over 85 AB, much closer to his current xBA. Long-term, with his skills, it wouldn't take much more contact for him to become a legit .300 hitter.
  • His stolen base output has been a little disappointing, but his speed skills have been merely league average, both in 2017 and 2018, and while he racked up double-digit steals in Single-A in 2015-16, his numbers have come down considerably since then.
  • There will be cold spells. In fact, he might be in one right now—he's 10-for-43 (.233 BA) over his last 12 games, with only one HR and a 67% contact rate.

For Torres to be doing this at age 21 speaks to how high his ceiling is—he was rated the No. 5 prospect on our BaseballHQ.com preseason Top 100—and while there's no guarantee he'll keep up this torrid pace all season long, even a modest scale-back in performance would likely keep his value pretty strong. Our current BaseballHQ.com projection for the remainder of 2018 is a .254/.333/.441 line with 13 HR and 9 SB, which projects out to $17 in R$. And if you're a Torres keeper league owner, you should be feeling quite happy with your investment.

 

First Impression: Jack Flaherty (RHP, STL)

CALLED UP: 9/1/2017, 3/29/2018, 4/28/2018, 5/15/2018
BHQ.COM RATING: 9D
CURRENT ROLE: Starting pitcher
POTENTIAL ROLE: Starting pitcher
2018 MINORS STATS: Memphis (AAA)—2.27 ERA, 31.2 IP/5 GS, 2.1 Ctl, 11.8 Dom, 5.9 Cmd

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  SwK  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ===  ===
2017^ 149  2.66   N/A  2.1  7.4  3.5     N/A    30/80   N/A  N/A  N/A  100
17-MLB 21  6.33  4.50  4.2  8.4  2.0  48/22/30  32/62   21%  63%  14%   64
2018   39  3.20  3.53  2.3  9.6  4.2  43/18/39  31/78   12%  54%  12%  132
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
MLB    61  4.30  3.79  3.0  9.2  3.1  45/20/36  31/71   15%  57%  13%  108
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs

His second go-round in the majors is going much better than his first:

  • Flaherty struggled with his control in his 2017 debut, and has managed to cut his walks nearly in half in 2018. However, his FpK casts doubt on whether he can keep it up, and suggests we could see his Ctl rate push above 3.0.
  • His elite Dom rate has better support, and should help keep him afloat even if his walk rate does rise. He's been getting more swinging strikes with his change-up in 2018, raising his whiff percentage on the pitch from 4.4% to 22.2%, even though he throws it less often (4.0%) than any of his other pitches.
  • He's also made gains vs. LHB compared to 2017, raising his Dom from 5.6 to 7.6, and his Cmd from 1.2 to 2.1.

The 22-year-old Flaherty has No. 2 starter upside (and was ranked 41st on our BaseballHQ.com Top 100 Prospects), and though his opportunity came via injury to Adam Wainwright, he currently has the second-best xERA and the highest BPV among St. Louis starters, so he could have a shot at sticking around even when Wainwright returns. Throwing more first pitch strikes will go a long way toward helping him maintain this early success, though his career MLB skills—including a 3.79 xERA—offer a pretty good example of how he can still make things work even with a few more walks. He seems well on his way to becoming a rising star in a deep Cardinals rotation.

 

First Impression: Johnny Field (OF, TAM)

CALLED UP: 4/12/2018
BHQ.COM RATING: 6B
CURRENT ROLE: Starting LF
POTENTIAL ROLE: Reserve OF
2018 MINORS STATS: Durham (AAA)—14 AB, .261/.303/.425, 2 2B, 0 HR, 0.50 Eye, 0 SB

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ========  =======  ====  =======  =====
2015# 432  .218   N/A    6   71   N/A     N/A    116/N/A   N/A  133/N/A  10/14
2016^ 450  .237   N/A    5   72   N/A     N/A    103/N/A   N/A  116/N/A  10/13
2017+ 445  .227   N/A    5   74   N/A     N/A     94/N/A   N/A   94/N/A  10/11
2018  121  .248  .253    2   70    96  41/22/37  132/112   19%   90/15%   6/ 3
#Double-A MLEs
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs
+Triple-A MLEs

There are some intriguing skills here:

  • Field is not a top prospect, but he has owned a slightly above-average power/speed combo during much of his time in the minors, and has consistently posted double-digit HR and SB, something he's well on his way to also doing in the majors if his playing time holds up.
  • His low contact rate and poor plate discipline makes him a batting average liability, and given his MLE BAs in the minors, there's a good chance his BA will fade a bit, especially if his PX regresses toward his xPX.
  • He's had large platoon splits so far, batting .304 with a .877 OPS vs. LHP, compared to .213 and .644 vs. RHP, but it appears that's been largely driven by hit rate swings--he has a 35% hit rate against LHP, and 27% against RHP. His other skill splits are pretty even: 74% contact, 0.17 Eye, 137 PX vs. LHP, 68% contact, 0.04 Eye, 129 PX vs. RHP.

The 26-year-old Field's performance has no doubt been a surprise to many fantasy owners, and has probably caused single-season deep league owners to snatch him up. With Kevin Kiermaier out for at least a few more weeks and few other good OF options available, the Rays seem committed to giving Field a long look, and with enough playing time, his power/speed combo gives him the potential to provide decent value for the remainder of 2018. But barring a true breakout, he's likely the kind of flawed, low BA/OBP player who teams will look to replace with a better option, so his long-term outlook remains cloudy.

 

First Impression: Harrison Bader (OF, STL)

CALLED UP: 7/25/2017, 9/1/2017, 4/3/2018
BHQ.COM RATING: 8C
CURRENT ROLE: Reserve OF
POTENTIAL ROLE: Starting OF
2018 MINORS STATS: None

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ========  =======  ====  =======  =====
2016^ 465  .235   N/A    6   68   N/A     N/A     98/N/A   N/A   98/N/A  15/10
2017+ 431  .254   N/A    6   71   N/A     N/A     93/N/A   N/A   89/N/A  16/12
17-MLB 85  .235  .219    5   72    98  44/16/39   85/109   13%  110/16%   3/ 2
2018  107  .262  .264    8   72    95  47/29/25   98/ 77   26%  150/28%   5/ 6
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
MLB   192  .250  .245    7   72    95  46/23/31   93/ 91   19%  138/23%   8/ 8
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs
+Triple-A MLEs

He's got nice upside with some areas to work on:

  • Bader's third stint in the majors has gone better than his previous two, and he's shown across-the-board improvements in batting average, power, and speed. But an unsustainable LD% is propping up his BA a bit, xPX suggests his power skills aren't quite where they need to be, and he's unlikely to keep up a 26% hr/f (he had a 16% rate in Triple-A in 2017). His MLB career line probably provides a more accurate assessment of his current abilities.
  • He's showcasing his speed skill at the major league level, but his stolen base success rate in the minors--28-for-50 (56%) in Double-A and Triple-A—indicate that he still has work to do, though he's 8-for-11 (73%) so far in the majors.
  • His platoon splits have been quite extreme. For 2017-18 combined, he now has a .352 BA and 1.092 OPS vs. LHP, with 76% contact and a 188 PX. Against RHP, he has a .210 BA, .581 OPS, 70% contact rate and 53 PX.
  • Over the last 31 days, he has a 0.07 Eye. Pitchers might start to exploit that.

The 24-year-old Bader is a mix of tantalizing potential (his power/speed combo appears to give him eventual 20 HR, 20 SB upside) and frustrating flaws, especially in plate discipline. He's getting playing time while Marcell Ozuna and Dexter Fowler are struggling, but probably doesn't have the skill strength to take one of the outfield spots permanently in 2018. There's enough talent here to make him a player worth continuing to monitor though, both in the short-term and long-term.

 

First Impression: Domingo German (RHP, NYY)

CALLED UP: 6/10/2017, 6/15/2017, 7/16/2017, 4/7/2018
BHQ.COM RATING: 7C
CURRENT ROLE: Starting pitcher
POTENTIAL ROLE: Starting pitcher
2018 MINORS STATS: None

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  SwK  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ===  ===
2017^ 109  4.17   N/A  3.0   6.1  2.7     N/A    33/74   N/A  N/A  N/A   71
17-MLB 14  3.14  3.72  5.7  11.3  2.0  55/21/24  31/79   13%  61%  11%   84
2018   41  5.44  4.20  4.1   9.6  2.3  39/25/37  29/61   14%  62%  14%   78
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
MLB    56  4.85  4.06  4.5  10.0  2.2  42/24/34  30/66   14%  62%  13%   78
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs

His 2018 performance has been a mixed bag:

  • German's ERA has been inflated by a 61% strand rate, but his xERA is still only 4.20, thanks to shaky Ctl and Cmd.
  • On the other hand, his FpK and minor league MLE Ctl suggest he has the ability to lower that walk rate, and if that were to happen, his elite Dom and SwK would turn him into a much more valuable pitcher.
  • Then again, his results over his last four starts have grown much, much worse: 8.14 ERA, 5.04 xERA, 4.3 Ctl, 7.3 Dom, 1.7 Cmd, 35 BPV. Though his underlying skills (61% FpK, 13% SwK, 36% fly ball rate) remain relatively unchanged during that period.

Jordan Montgomery's Tommy John surgery has likely extended the window of opportunity for the 25-year-old German, but the Yankees are not going to be patient with him if he can't provide better results. There's reason to believe he can do it, but even so, his best-case scenario for 2018 is probably a low-4s ERA. His MLB Dom rates make him an arm worth tracking beyond this season, as that's a solid building block for him to work with.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.