Here are some prospects who are somewhat overlooked but certainly still worthy of your attention. We wrote up the National League Central on Friday and the American League Central on Saturday. We did the National League East Monday morning, the American League East Monday afternoon, and the National League West this morning.
Houston Astros: Rogelio Armenteros, RHP: A Cuban, Armenteros signed for a mere $40,000 in 2014. He had an outstanding 2017 season, posting a combined 2.04 ERA in 124 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with a stellar 146/38 K/BB and just 91 hits allowed. He was completely unfazed by the Pacific Coast League. Other than a bad outing on March 6th he was effective this spring, posting a 3.77 ERA in 14 innings with a 20/7 K/BB.
Age 23, Armenteros has a low-90s fastball that plays up due to the contrast with his excellent change-up. His curveball and slider are average in themselves but he throws strikes with everything and posts consistently high whiff rates. Don’t underestimate him.
Los Angeles Angels: Jesus Castillo, RHP: Originally signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Venezuela in 2011, Castillo has been traded twice, first to the Chicago Cubs in 2013 then to the Angels in 2016. He opened 2017 in Low-A but finished in Double-A, effective at each level with an overall 3.32 ERA in 125 innings, 118/26 K/BB.
Age 22, Castillo features a low-90s power sinker as his key pitch, resulting in a 1.89 GO/AO ratio last year. His curveball and change-up are workable. The Angels reportedly view him as a potential number four starter due to his strike-throwing ability. If he moves to the pen, he could be more dominant in a per-inning basis.
Oakland Athletics: Kevin Merrell, INF: The Athletics drafted Merrell in the compensation round in 2017 out of the University of South Florida. His pro debut was successful, .320/.362/.424 with 10 steals in 31 games in the New York-Penn League, and he’s seen brief action with the big league team in spring training, going 6-for-15 (.400) with two steals.
Age 22, Merrell is a 70-grade speedster with a line drive approach and a chance for some gap power. Good range and instincts help cover for a marginal arm at shortstop, though he may be a super-utility player in the long run. Speed should make him an attractive speculative investment for fantasy owners.
Seattle Mariners: Braden Bishop, OF: A third round pick in 2015 from the University of Washington, Bishop had a fine 2017 season between High-A and Double-A, hitting a combined .306/.393/.413 with 60 walks and 22 steals in 480 at-bats. He played for the Mariners in spring camp, going 10-for-27 (.370) with a stolen base but also fanned nine times.
Age 24, Bishop is a 60/65 runner who uses his speed on the bases well and is an excellent defensive outfielder. He’s improved his strike zone judgment, enhancing his leadoff potential, and swing adjustments enabled him to tap his doubles power. His makeup and personality are also big positives.
Texas Rangers: Isiah Kiner-Falefa, UT: The Rangers drafted Kiner-Falefa in the fourth round in 2013 from high school in Honolulu, Hawaii. He has since established himself as one of the most versatile players in the minor leagues while making enough progress with the bat to make him a viable big league prospect. He hit .288/.350/.390 last season in Double-A.
Age 23, Kiner-Falefa came into pro ball as a shortstop but has seen action everywhere except the pitching mound. His best positions are third base and second base but he’s also a pretty solid defensive catcher, still playable at shortstop, and has put in some innings at all three outfield spots. He has a very good arm, runs a tick above-average, and is obviously willing to try anything to get to the majors.
As a hitter he lacks home run power but is a stolen base threat, hits doubles, and has made strides improving his patience at the plate. With most teams using giant pitching staffs these days, someone with this kind of versatility and an even fair bat can have a long career.